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Judges 4     Acts 8     Jeremiah 17     Mark 3


Judges 4

Deborah and Barak

Judges 4 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died. 2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. 3 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.

4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. 7 And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” 8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9 And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the Kenites, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

12 When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera called out all his chariots, 900 chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. 14 And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15 And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.

17 But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. 20 And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’ ” 21 But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. 22 And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.

23 So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. 24 And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.


Acts 8

Saul Ravages the Church

Acts 8 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

The Healing of Aeneas

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life

36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas.[d] She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics[e] and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.


Jeremiah 17

The Sin of Judah

Jeremiah 17 1 “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars, 2 while their children remember their altars and their Asherim, beside every green tree and on the high hills, 3 on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory. 4 You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

5  Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

See   "Dealing With Disappointment"  below.
  

6  He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

7  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
8  He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

9  The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

"The human heart” wrote Calvin, “has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.” Calvin   Institutes of the Christian Religion

10  “I the LORD search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

11  Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch,
so is he who gets riches but not by justice;
in the midst of his days they will leave him,
and at his end he will be a fool.

12  A glorious throne set on high from the beginning
is the place of our sanctuary.
13  O LORD, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

Jeremiah Prays for Deliverance

14  Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved,
for you are my praise.
15  Behold, they say to me,
“Where is the word of the LORD?
Let it come!”
16  I have not run away from being your shepherd,
nor have I desired the day of sickness.
You know what came out of my lips;
it was before your face.
17  Be not a terror to me;
you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18  Let those be put to shame who persecute me,
but let me not be put to shame;
let them be dismayed,
but let me not be dismayed;
bring upon them the day of disaster;
destroy them with double destruction!


Keep the Sabbath Holy


19 Thus said the LORD to me: “Go and stand in the People’s Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, 20 and say: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21 Thus says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. 22 And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. 23 Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction.

24 “ ‘But if you listen to me, declares the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, 25 then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever. 26 And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the LORD. 27 But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’ ”


Mark 3

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Mark 3 1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

A Great Crowd Follows Jesus

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

The Twelve Apostles

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Tell Us Your Stories

By Collin Hansen 8/1/2010

     Sometimes younger Christians give the impression that we have things figured out. We’re the future. We’ve found the old methods wanting, so we’ve developed new ones. We’re the generation that will strike the right balance where our forebears fell over to one side or the other. We’ve learned from your mistakes. And we don’t mind telling you.

     Older believers recognize this youthful arrogance for what it is. You’ve been there, done that, grown out of it. You wait patiently for us to do likewise. But I want to encourage you not to let us younger believers off the hook so easily. Don’t berate us, for we excel at tuning out what we don’t want to hear. Don’t patronize us, as our pride will kick in and make us defensive. Still, there is one thing you can do: Tell us your stories.

     Your stories give us the perspective we haven’t yet gained with experience. We don’t yet understand how much we don’t know. Our youthful bluster masks insecurity. We stand tall against withering attacks from our peers, but we’ve hardly been tested. We fear that when harder times come our faith will prove ephemeral. But your stories gird us against these doubts. So look underneath our confident exterior. You’ll find that younger Christians actually want to hear from older believers about how God demonstrated His faithfulness in their generation.

     I’m worried, however, that these stories will be lost. Evangelicals suffer from self-inflicted amnesia. Our churches segregate age groups in order to foster relationships between peers. If you’re not deliberate about developing intergenerational friendships, they will not happen. Worse, our relentless effort to contextualize the gospel by chasing new cultural trends leads us to disparage the past. After all, what can the past teach us about spreading the gospel in the age of social media? Innovation is indeed necessary as we take the gospel into all the nations. And those committed to semper reformanda will always re-evaluate their practices by the standard of Scripture. But the line between innovation and fashion appears dangerously faint these days.

     Exceptions give me hope that this unfortunate trend may be reversed. Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazi regime, continues to inspire young Christians to forsake cheap grace and follow the path of costly discipleship. The Ecuador martyrs’ courage has prodded many young believers to reach the unreached with the gospel. Their story gives remarkable power to Jim Elliot’s famous quote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” And I won’t soon forget sitting in Park Community Church on Chicago’s North Side in April 2009 as hundreds of trendy young evangelicals listened to D.A. Carson and John Piper for nearly four hours. Carson and Piper did little more than share their stories of God’s providence displayed over decades of faithful ministry.

     There is consistently strong biblical warrant for encouraging one another by telling these stories of God’s grace. In his charge to Israel, Moses told God’s people: “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you” (Deut. 32:7). And oh, what a story the elders could tell of the God who heard the cries of His people, delivered them from Egypt, destroyed their pursuing enemies in the Red Sea, and sustained them in the wilderness. Yet Psalm 106 details the sad saga of how quickly and often the Israelites forgot what God had done. When still in Egypt, “they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love” (Ps. 106:7). Even after the Red Sea miracle, “they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel” (v. 13). Then, when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai, they worshiped a golden calf. “They forgot their God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (v. 21).

     We Christians live according to the new and better covenant ratified in the blood of Jesus Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. But we are similarly sinful. We need constant reminders that God is good no matter our circumstances. Scripture is the ultimate deposit of these faith-forming stories. So we mine the Scriptures, which were “written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

     But our own testimonies to God’s persevering grace build up the body as well. I can attest to this effect while researching the history of revivals. As I read about the heaven-sent awakenings that broke out during president Timothy Dwight’s tenure at Yale University during the early 1800s, I was inspired to pray boldly that God would set college campuses aflame with revival today. I mourned over the darkness that has since enveloped North Korea but gave thanks for the Pyongyang revival that spread into China and eventually transformed South Korea.

     Maybe God hasn’t used you to lead a revival. But he has revealed his sovereign goodness to you in countless ways both big and small. So tell us your stories. We’re listening.

  Click here to go to source

Per Amazon | Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He previously worked as an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, co-edited 'Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism,' and co-edits the Cultural Renewal series with Tim Keller. He is an elder at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School.

Dealing With Disappointment

By Alistair Begg

     Have you ever been disappointed by events or people? Ever had desires and dreams and hopes that went unfulfilled? We’ve all had them. They are part of the package called life.

     From the human standpoint, Joseph’s life up to this point could be viewed as a series of crushing disappointments and shattered dreams. And in the dungeon in Egypt, he was about to suffer yet another setback: “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Genesis 40:23).

Genesis 40:23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.  ESV

     I imagine that on the day of his release, the man grabbed Joseph by the hand and said, “Joseph, thanks for what you did for me. You can expect to hear from me. I’m your man, Joe.”

     Have you ever heard those words from somebody, and six months later your phone still hasn’t rung? Perhaps someone you thought loved you told you, “I’m yours,” and then left, never to be heard from again.

     How do we deal with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? How do we deal with the fact that people just flat out let us down sometimes? Let’s learn something important from Joseph.

     We can only assume that there was a great expectation in Joseph’s heart as the cupbearer was restored to his position. In those first days after the cupbearer’s release, Joseph’s spirit probably quickened every time he heard a rattling at the door of the dungeon. “They’re coming to release me.”

     Putting it in contemporary terms, Joseph would have been saying, “If the phone rings, don’t touch it. It’ll be for me.”

     But the first call wasn’t for Joseph. Neither was the second or the third. And as the days lengthened into weeks and then months, Joseph came to realize there was not going to be a call from the cupbearer.

     We know from Genesis 41:1 that “two full years” passed before anyone came for Joseph. What a disappointment! But dis- appointments happen all the time. It’s an axiom of life that people fail us and let us down. Things we hope will happen and expect to happen don’t go as we anticipate. Even the best of persons will prove to be a disappointment to us at times.

Genesis 41:1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,  ESV

     Why should we be surprised? After all, we in turn fail and disappoint others. We leave projects incomplete and promises unfulfilled. This brings home graphically the words of Jeremiah 17:5: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

     If you’re relying on other people for your hopes and plans, your trust is in the wrong place — even more so if your confidence in yourself or others causes you to cease trusting in the Lord!

     People can be secondary causes of God’s provision for us, but our ultimate confidence must be in Him. Anything less than this will lead us to great disappointment and pain.

Some will love thee,
Some will hate thee,
Some will praise thee,
Some will slight.
Cease from man
And look above thee,
Trust in God
And do the right.

     How did Joseph handle the bitter disappointment of the cupbearer’s faulty memory? Judging by Joseph’s conduct two years later, he kept his confidence anchored in God. If anyone had learned that people often disappoint, it was our man in Egypt!

     Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.

Dr. Alistair Begg Books:

The First Number

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 8/1/2010

     I am the father of eight children. As such, I receive more than my fair share of questions from children, many of which are repeats. That is, not only am I asked by my seven-year old one day and my nine-year-old the next what my favorite color is, but they forget my answer and ask again a week later. My four-year-old will soon learn the same questions, and his little brother after him. They want to know my favorite animal and my favorite food. They have even asked before what my favorite number is. Favorite number? I understand preferring one color to another, as such touches on matters of aesthetics. I understand favorite animals as well, as each different animal uniquely manifests the glory and wisdom of God in creation. Favorite food makes sense too, even if it is just a matter of taste. But favorite number? How would one choose? “Oh, I much prefer 8 because it is divisible by both 2 and 4, whereas poor 9 is only divisible by 3.”

     It is not just children, however, who find something sacred in numbers. Professional athletes have been known to pay tens of thousands of dollars to secure the rights to wear particular numbers on their jerseys. Fans, by the thousands, pay hundreds to wear those same numbers on replica jerseys. Nor is this simply a Western phenomenon. Some among the Chinese are so fascinated by the power of numbers that they will name their restaurants after them. I used to frequent one called 4-5-6. Why this obsession with numbers?

     I suspect the answer is found in Eden. Numbers, because of their abstract nature, may be that place where our thinking grows closest to God’s. We hear in the harmony of music and we see in the dance of the heavenly spheres echoes and reflections of the beauty of not just creation but the Creator. In its place, this is right and proper. We should always marvel at His glory and power. But we must always remember that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. We must not, as Satan tempted us, see numbers as a tool for our own power and glory.

     As the tenth century drew to its conclusion, too many Christians saw in that grand, round number what they thought was a glimpse into the private thoughts of God. The millennium bug bit us, and we caught the fever. Disappointments along these lines, then and now, can be peculiarly damaging, as theologies are twisted and Scriptures denied in order to explain how our math turned out wrong. If we say, “We know from searching the Scriptures that Jesus will return by this date,” and He does not return, we are left with the choice of affirming either that the Bible is not clear, or worse, wrong, or that Jesus did something else important. (See the founding of Seventh-day Adventism for the latter response.)

     As the twentieth century drew to its close, many of us suffered from the same folly. Whether it was 88 Reasons Jesus Will Return in 1988 or even the technological version of millennial fever that we who are Reformed tended to favor, we thought our math would show us the mind and plan of God. We were wrong.

     There is, however, a number that has the power to reveal to us God’s will for our lives — first. Jesus commands that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It’s the only number we need to know. Jesus not only doesn’t tell us to divine the day and the hour, He insists that no man knows this. He doesn’t tell us to cook our numbers so that we might read the future in their tea leaves. He tells us to leave all such foolishness and to be busy about the business of pursuing His kingdom.

     Any study of church history ought to remind us of our folly. When we see the saints a thousand years ago thinking they could read the future, we should learn to better read the past. What they should have seen was hundreds and hundreds of more years of God’s people slowly learning to believe all His promises. What we should see is that we haven’t learned quite as much as we would like to think. Such ought not to discourage us. Instead, it should encourage us. We are not, as some would again have us believe, at the very end of history. We are instead at the beginning of His story. As we more faithfully seek His kingdom, we set the trajectory for centuries to come. We raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they might follow in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. We instruct them in the importance of instructing their children. And as many as are afar off seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. God’s kingdom grows not only wider over time, as the gospel covers the world as the waters cover the sea, it grows more deep as each generation succeeds the last in covenant fidelity.

     Leave the numbers to our one true King. Seek first His kingdom, remembering that there is one faith, one baptism, and one Lord, world without end. Amen.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Crown of Thorns Club

By Chris Donato 8/1/2010

     When was the last time you went to a private social club? If you think that kind of thing is for the elite members of our society alone, guess again. The Yellow Pages are filled with lists of social clubs in which anyone in the neighborhood can become a member. They meet mainly on Sunday mornings — but don’t be foolish enough to wait for an invitation.

     Unfortunately, like most other clubs, this one is designed to keep certain people in and other people out. You will find in it a decidedly internalized and individualized faith, complete with its own set of man-made regulations. You will find in it a group of folks who act as if they are enjoying life to the fullest, no matter where they are or what they are doing. And what do they do? They do exactly what they wish to do. In this Sunday club, then, it comes as no surprise that God Is He Who Exists for Me.

     But in reality, this private social club has been called out of the world of clubs, not to be just another club — albeit a little cleaner (if not a lot less fun) — but to be the anti-club, the place where the mantra above is flipped: I Am He Who Exists for God. Apart from this, we would have no purpose, being left anchorless in a torrid sea, unable to know our worth as creatures among other creatures wrought and redeemed by a transcendent God.

     Recovering a sense of awe over God’s grace and our extrinsic worth (our worth given to us by God in Christ) as God’s people will, at the very least, produce what it has in every generation: worship of the one true God. And worship is, primarily, a collective thing; that is, groups engage in it. No doubt, individuals do as well (though “in secret,” Matt. 6:4, 6, 18). But far and away the focus in Scripture, when it comes to worship, is its corporate dimension.

Sacred Time and Place

     In our time and place, riddled as it is with hyper-individualism and the temptation to live as if God doesn’t exist, we need now more than ever to recapture the biblically defined idea of sacred time and place, not as a building so much as that which presupposes and points to a personal God — the gathering of His people. “For where two or three are gathered in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20). Not one, but two or three. And then the Christ comes. Our Father, His Son the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit inhabit a new temple — the covenant people (see John 14:16–23). It is in our relationship as individuals with and in this new temple that the triune God has promised to open His love to us. In other words, worship is the way through which the love of God is made accessible to His people. “Worship is an immediate and present means of God’s love, making us new creatures and giving us the ever more abundant life now” (C. FitzSimons Allison, Fear, Love, and Worship, p. 19).

     This assumes that our growth as persons (that is, our development into more fully image-bearing humans) happens only in relation to others — first with God in Christ through His Spirit, and second with the temple of the Most High, His people. Add to this the means of His grace — the preached Word and the Word made visible in the sacraments of baptism and communion — and we’ve got readymade resistance against “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

The Society of Friends

     Such living, or “faithful presence” (to use James Davison Hunter’s phrase in his recently published book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World), means enacting “the shalom of God in the circumstances in which God has placed [us] and to actively seek it on behalf of others” (p. 278). While I won’t presume to tell anybody how this shakes out with respect to politics, business, or even coaching little-league soccer, I can say the Christian club mentality wouldn’t thrive under such conditions, since the very air it breathes (a narcissistic air of superiority) would be sucked out of the room by the selfless embodiment of God’s peace (the practicing of sacrificial love) no matter where we find ourselves throughout the week — but especially as we gather for worship.

     In Ephesians 4, one word, among a few others, sums up its theme: friendship. This probably sounds trite to modern ears, but that might have more to do with how trite our friendships are in this shallow, isolated age. The apostle Paul often exhorts the church in Ephesus to simply act like a society of friends. Chapter 4 of the letter is littered with such exhortations: support each other in love and preserve unity (vv. 2–3); use your gifts to knit the body together and strengthen it (vv. 12, 16); “speak the truth” to one another (v. 25); don’t sin in your anger against a friend (vv. 26, 29, 31); and work an honest job in order to share with those in need (vv. 28, 32).

     In short, practice friendship. For a church without friendship, just like a beautiful woman who turns aside from her dignity, is like “a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (Prov. 11:22).

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     Chris Donato is Director of Communications at Trinity International University, former senior associate editor of Tabletalk magazine, and editor of Perspectives on the Sabbath.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 78

Tell the Coming Generation
78 A Maskil Of Asaph.

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;

ESV Study Bible

Judges 4; Acts 8; Jeremiah 17; Mark 3

By Don Carson 7/21/2018

     The Conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) marks an important extension of the Gospel across several barriers.

     We need to understand who he was. He was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27). Candace was a family name that had become a title, quite like Caesar in Rome. In certain matriarchal governments, it was not uncommon for the highest officials, who would have had ready access to Candace, to be eunuchs (whether they were born that way or castrated), for the obvious protection of the queen.

     This man was equivalent to U. S. Secretary of the Treasury or the like. But although he was an honored and powerful political figure at home, he would have faced limitations in Jerusalem. Since he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27), we must assume that he had come across Judaism, had been attracted to it, and had gone up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. But he could not have become a proper proselyte, since from the Jewish perspective he was mutilated. The Word of God had seized this man, and he had traveled for several weeks to see Jerusalem and its temple.

     In the sheer providence of God, the passage the eunuch was reading, apparently out loud (Acts 8:30 –a not uncommon practice in those days) was Isaiah 53. He asks the obvious question (Acts 8:34): Who is the Suffering Servant of whom Isaiah speaks? “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

     Thus the Gospel reaches outward in the book of Acts. All the first converts were Jews, whether reared in the Promised Land or gathered from the dispersion. But the beginning of Acts 8 witnesses the conversion of Samaritans — a certain people of mixed race, only partly Jewish, joined to the mother church in Jerusalem by the hands of the apostles Peter and John. The next conversion is that of the eunuch — an African, not at all Jewish — sufficiently devoted to Judaism to take the pilgrimage to Jerusalem even though he could never be a full-fledged proselyte; a man steeped in the Jewish Scriptures even when he could not understand them.

     Small wonder that the next major event in this book is the conversion of the man who would become the apostle to the Gentiles.

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

The Frozen Chosen

By Keith Mathison 8/1/2010

     Reformed Christians are often accused of being cold and callous, virtual Stoics or fatalists. We’ve all heard the epithet “the frozen chosen” applied to Reformed believers. We usually protest that such a nickname does not truly describe us, and of course, we all know many brothers and sisters to whom such a name would never stick. But the fact that this nickname, this description of us, is so common should give us pause. Do we sometimes speak and act in ways that give rise to such an idea? Sadly, I believe we do.

     Take grief, for example. I cringe when I think of the number of times I’ve heard completely heartless and, frankly, offensive words come out of the mouths of Reformed Christians when speaking about death. The problem is a lack of biblical balance. As believers, we do now rest assured that when believing loved ones die, they are then in the presence of the Lord, finally free from sin. We also rest assured of the resurrection, when our bodies will be raised incorruptible from the grave. And, trusting the sovereignty of God, we always attempt to be prepared for whatever time God shall choose to call us to Himself.

     To be present with the Lord is a great good. To be free from sin is a great good. For these things it is appropriate to long. This is what John Calvin means when he says, “Let us, however, consider this settled: that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.10.5). But the fact that these things are good does not mean that death, in and of itself, is good. God, in His Word, refers to death as “the wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23). Hell is “the second death” (Rev. 20:6). Paul describes death as God’s “last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). Is an enemy of God good? No. Death is the result of sin. It is an unnatural abomination in God’s creation, an ally of Satan that will ultimately be eradicated. As the apostle John tells us, in the new heaven and earth “death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4).

     Now because believers are in Christ and share in His resurrection, death will not conquer us, but the fact that Christ has taken the ultimate sting out of death for believers does not change the fact that death is still an enemy of God, which will be completely destroyed by Christ. This understanding of death affects the way we look at grief. The fact that believers who die are present with the Lord and that their bodies will be raised means that we do not grieve as unbelievers grieve (1 Thess. 4:13). It does not mean, however, that we do not grieve at all.

     Somehow, many Reformed Christians have gotten it into their heads that to grieve with those who grieve is to deny the belief that a deceased loved one is in the presence of God. Some seem to have convinced themselves that true compassion for the grieving or true hatred of this enemy of God somehow betrays a lack of faith in the sovereignty of God. But who has a greater certainty of God’s sovereignty than Jesus? Who knows better what is on the other side of death for believers? And yet how did Jesus respond when Lazarus died? Did He look at it with a heartless Stoicism? No. Jesus wept (John 11:35). He wept, even though He knew what He was about to do in raising Lazarus back to life.

     Jesus’ response is how we should respond to death in this time between the times. Jesus has already conquered death in His resurrection. He will completely destroy it at the final resurrection of the dead. Here and now, we grieve with those who grieve, not as unbelievers with no hope of the resurrection, but as believers who know death cannot defeat us, but who still hate this enemy of God and the pain and loneliness it causes to our brothers and sisters. We grieve as those who cannot wait to see death destroyed once and for all.

     Is such hatred of God’s last enemy and compassion for its victims “Calvinist”? On the one hand, such a question is irrelevant, but those who doubt that it is “Calvinist” should read some of the letters of Calvin himself. Take Calvin’s letter of April 1541 to Monsieur de Richebourg as an example. Calvin wrote this letter to console him on the death of his son. Calvin writes that when he first heard the news, “I was so utterly overpowered that for many days I was fit for nothing but to grieve.” After consoling his friend with the truths I mentioned above concerning the resurrection, Calvin continues: “It is difficult … to shake off or suppress the love of a father, as not to experience grief on occasion of the loss of a son. Neither do I insist upon your laying aside all grief. Nor, in the school of Christ, do we learn any such philosophy as requires us to put off that common humanity with which God has endowed us, that, being men, we should be turned to stones.” All Calvin urges him to do is refrain from grieving as unbelievers grieve. As Jesus wept, so too did Calvin weep. If we are human, we too will weep.


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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     16. And (to despatch these beasts in their own arena) if any sacrament is sought here, would it not have been much more plausible to maintain that the absolution of the priest is a sacrament, than penitence either external or internal? For it might obviously have been said that it is a ceremony to confirm our faith in the forgiveness of sins, and that it has the promise of the keys, as they describe them: "Whatsoever ye shall bind or loose on earth, shall be bound or loosed in heaven." But some one will object that to most of those who are absolved by priests nothing of the kind is given by the absolution, whereas, according to their dogma, the sacraments of the new dispensation ought to effect what they figure. This is ridiculous. As in the eucharist, they make out a twofold eating--a sacramental, which is common to the good and bad alike, and a spiritual, which is proper only to the good; why should they not also pretend that absolution is given in two ways? And yet I have never been able to understand what they meant by their dogma. How much it is at variance with the truth of God, we showed when we formally discussed that subject. Here I only wish to show that no scruple should prevent them from giving the name of a sacrament to the absolution of the priest. For they might have answered by the mouth of Augustine, [670] that there is a sanctification without a visible sacrament, and a visible sacrament without internal sanctification. Again, that in the elect alone sacraments effect what they figure. Again, that some put on Christ so far as the receiving of the sacrament, and others so far as sanctification; that the former is done equally by the good and the bad, the latter by the good only. Surely they were more deluded than children, and blind in the full light of the sun when they toiled with so much difficulty, and perceived not a matter so plain and obvious to every man.

17. Lest they become elated, however, whatever be the part in which they place the sacrament, I deny that it can justly be regarded as a sacrament; first, because there exists not to this effect any special promise of God, which is the only ground of a sacrament; [671] and, secondly, because whatever ceremony is here used is a mere invention of man; whereas, as has already been shown, the ceremonies of sacraments can only be appointed by God. Their fiction of the sacrament of penance, therefore, was falsehood and imposture. This fictitious sacrament they adorned with the befitting eulogium, that it was the second plank in the case of shipwreck, because if any one had, by sin, injured the garment of innocence received in baptism, he might repair it by penitence. [672] This was a saying of Jerome. Let it be whose it may, as it is plainly impious, it cannot be excused if understood in this sense; as if baptism were effaced by sin, and were not rather to be recalled to the mind of the sinner whenever he thinks of the forgiveness of sins, that he may thereby recollect himself, regain courage, and be confirmed in the belief that he shall obtain the forgiveness of sins which was promised him in baptism. What Jerome said harshly and improperly--viz. that baptism, which is fallen from by those who deserve to be excommunicated from the Church, is repaired by penitence, these worthy expositors wrest to their own impiety. You will speak most correctly, therefore, if you call baptism the sacrament of penitence, seeing it is given to those who aim at repentance to confirm their faith and seal their confidence. But lest you should think this our invention, it appears, that besides being conformable to the words of Scripture, it was generally regarded in the early Church as an indubitable axiom. For in the short Treatise on Faith addressed to Peter, and bearing the name of Augustine, it is called, The sacrament of faith and repentance. But why have recourse to doubtful writings, as if anything can be required more distinct than the statement of the Evangelist, that John preached "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins"? (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).

OF EXTREME UNCTION, SO CALLED.

18. The third fictitious sacrament is Extreme Unction, which is performed only by a priest, and, as they express it, in extremis, with oil consecrated by the bishop, and with this form of words, "By this holy unction, and his most tender mercy, may God forgive you whatever sin you have committed, by the eye, the ear, the smell, the touch, the taste" (see Calv. Epist. de Fugiend. Illicit. Sac.). They pretend that there are two virtues in it--the forgiveness of sins, and relief of bodily disease, if so expedient; if not expedient, the salvation of the soul. For they say, that the institution was set down by James, whose words are, "Is any sick among you? let him send for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14). The same account is here to be given of this unction as we lately gave of the laying on of hands; in other words, it is mere hypocritical stage-play, by which, without reason or result, they would resemble the apostles. Mark relates that the apostles, on their first mission, agreeably to the command which they had received of the Lord, raised the dead, cast out devils, cleansed lepers, healed the sick, and, in healing, used oil. He says, they "anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:13). To this James referred when he ordered the presbyters of the Church to be called to anoint the sick. That no deeper mystery lay under this ceremony will easily be perceived by those who consider how great liberty both our Lord and his apostles used in those external things. [673] Our Lord, when about to give sight to the blind man, spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle; some he cured by a touch, others by a word. In like manner the apostles cured some diseases by word only, others by touch, others by anointing. But it is probable that neither this anointing nor any of the other things were used at random. I admit this; not, however, that they were instruments of the cure, but only symbols to remind the ignorant whence this great virtue proceeded, and prevent them from ascribing the praise to the apostles. To designate the Holy Spirit and his gifts by oil is trite and common (Ps. 45:8). But the gift of hearing disappeared with the other miraculous powers which the Lord was pleased to give for a time, that it might render the new preaching of the gospel for ever wonderful. Therefore, even were we to grant that anointing was a sacrament of those powers which were then administered by the hands of the apostles, it pertains not to us, to whom no such powers have been committed.

19. And what better reason have they for making a sacrament of this unction, than of any of the other symbols which are mentioned in Scripture? Why do they not dedicate some pool of Siloam, into which, at certain seasons the sick may plunge themselves? That, they say, were done in vain. Certainly not more in vain than unction. Why do they not lay themselves on the dead, seeing that Paul, in raising up the dead youth, lay upon him? Why is not clay made of dust and spittle a sacrament? The other cases were special, but this is commanded by James. In other words, James spake agreeably to the time when the Church still enjoyed this blessing from God. They affirm, indeed, that there is still the same virtue in their unction, but we experience differently. Let no man now wonder that they have with so much confidence deluded souls which they knew to be stupid and blind, because deprived of the word of God, that is, of his light and life, seeing they blush not to attempt to deceive the bodily perceptions of those who are alive, and have all their senses about them. They make themselves ridiculous, therefore, by pretending that they are endued with the gift of healing. The Lord, doubtless, is present with his people in all ages, and cures their sicknesses as often as there is need, not less than formerly; and yet he does not exert those manifest powers, nor dispense miracles by the hands of apostles, because that gift was temporary, and owing, in some measure, to the ingratitude of men, immediately ceased.

20. Wherefore, as the apostles, not without cause, openly declared, by the symbol of oil, that the gift of healing committed to them was not their own, but the power of the Holy Spirit; so, on the other hand, these men insult the Holy Spirit by making his power consist in a filthy oil of no efficacy. It is just as if one were to say that all oil is the power of the Holy Spirit, because it is called by that name in Scripture, and that every dove is the Holy Spirit, because he appeared in that form. Let them see to this: it is sufficient for us that we perceive, with absolute certainty, that their unction is no sacrament, as it is neither a ceremony appointed by God, nor has any promise. For when we require, in a sacrament, these two things, that it be a ceremony appointed by God, and have a promise from God, we at the same time demand that that ceremony be delivered to us, and that that promise have reference to us. [674] No man contends that circumcision is now a sacrament of the Christian Church, although it was both an ordinance of God, and had his promise annexed to it, because it was neither commanded to us, nor was the promise annexed to it given us on the same condition. The promise of which they vaunt so much in unction, as we have clearly demonstrated, and they themselves show by experience, has not been given to us. The ceremony behoved to be used only by those who had been endued with the gift of healing, not by those murderers, who do more by slaying and butchering than by curing.

21. Even were it granted that this precept of unction, which has nothing to do with the present age, were perfectly adapted to it, they will not even thus have advanced much in support of their unction, with which they have hitherto besmeared us. James would have all the sick to be anointed: these men besmear, with their oil, not the sick, but half-dead carcasses, when life is quivering on the lips, or, as they say, in extremis. If they have a present cure in their sacrament, with which they can either alleviate the bitterness of disease, or at least give some solace to the soul, they are cruel in never curing in time. James would have the sick man to be anointed by the elders of the Church. They admit no anointer but a priestling. When they interpret the elders of James to be priests, and allege that the plural number is used for honour, the thing is absurd; as if the Church had at that time abounded with swarms of priests, so that they could set out in long procession, bearing a dish of sacred oil. James, in ordering simply that the sick be anointed, seems to me to mean no other anointing than that of common oil, nor is any other mentioned in the narrative of Mark. These men deign not to use any oil but that which has been consecrated by a bishop, that is warmed with much breath, charmed by much muttering, and saluted nine times on bended knee, Thrice Hail, holy oil! thrice Hail, holy chrism! thrice Hail, holy balsam! From whom did they derive these exorcisms? James says, that when the sick man shall have been anointed with oil, and prayer shall have been made over him, if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him--viz. that his guilt being forgiven, he shall obtain a mitigation of the punishment, not meaning that sins are effaced by oil, but that the prayers by which believers commended their afflicted brother to God would not be in vain. These men are impiously false in saying that sins are forgiven by their sacred, that is, abominable unction. See how little they gain, even when they are allowed to abuse the passage of James as they list. And to save us the trouble of a laborious proof, their own annals relieve us from all difficulty; for they relate that Pope Innocent, who presided over the church of Rome in the age of Augustine, ordained, that not elders only, but all Christians, should use oil in anointing, in their own necessity, or in that of their friends. [675] Our authority for this is Sigebert, in his Chronicles.

OF ECCLESIASTICAL ORDERS.

22. The fourth place in their catalogue is held by the sacrament of Orders, one so prolific, as to beget of itself seven lesser sacraments. It is very ridiculous that, after affirming that there are seven sacraments, when they begin to count, they make out thirteen. It cannot be alleged that they are one sacrament, because they all tend to one priesthood, and are a kind of steps to the same thing. For while it is certain that the ceremonies in each are different, and they themselves say that the graces are different, no man can doubt that if their dogmas are admitted, they ought to be called seven sacraments. And why debate it as a doubtful matter, when they themselves plainly and distinctly declare that they are seven? First, then, we shall glance at them in passing, and show to how many absurdities they introduce us when they would recommend their orders to us as sacraments; and, secondly, we shall see whether the ceremony which churches use in ordaining ministers ought at all to be called a sacrament. They make seven ecclesiastical orders, or degrees, which they distinguish by the title of a sacrament. These are Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, Acolytes, Subdeacons, Deacons, and Priests. And they say that they are seven, because of the seven kinds of graces of the Holy Spirit with which those who are promoted to them ought to be endued. This grace is increased and more liberally accumulated on promotion. The mere number has been consecrated by a perversion of Scripture, because they think they read in Isaiah that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, whereas truly not more than six are mentioned by Isaiah, who, however, meant not to include all in that passage. For, in other passages are mentioned the spirit of life, of sanctification, of the adoption of sons, as well as there, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. [676] Although others who are more acute make not seven orders, but nine, in imitation, as they say, of the Church triumphant. But among these, also, there is a contest; because some insist that the clerical tonsure is the first order of all, and the episcopate the last; while others, excluding the tonsure, class the office of archbishop among the orders. Isiodorus distinguishes differently, for he makes Psalmists and Readers different. [677] To the former, he gives the charge of chanting; to the latter, that of reading the Scriptures for the instruction of the common people. And this distinction is observed by the canons. In this great variety, what would they have us to follow or to avoid? Shall we say that there are seven orders? So the master of the school teaches, but the most illuminated doctors determine otherwise. On the other hand, they are at variance among themselves. Besides, the most sacred canons call us in a different direction. Such, indeed, is the concord of men when they discuss divine things apart from the word of God.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion



  • Obedience of Faith
  • Cut-Throat Christianity
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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2014    Every Jot and Tittle

     Although we don’t like to admit it, the reason many of us don’t read the Bible regularly is because we are afraid of it. We are afraid of the Bible because we are ignorant of the Bible. Many of the theological words and concepts we come across in the Bible are foreign to us and, therefore, frighten us. When we come across such words, we often don’t know what to make of them. So, we just move on to the next word and, to our own detriment, fail to grasp the full meaning and beauty of the passage we’re reading. This isn’t just the case with big theological words we run into from time to time, but with common words we’re familiar with that appear on every page of the Bible. Part of the reason we move on is because we are often trying to read the Bible simply to get through a particular chapter or book rather than digging into it to study it in its fullness. In fact, the Bible doesn’t ever call us just to read it. Rather, the Bible calls us to study it, to examine it, to devour it, to meditate on it, to let it dwell within our hearts richly, and to hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against the Lord.

     As a pastor, one of my greatest concerns is that people know the Bible for themselves so that they might know God, love God, glorify God, and enjoy God. As Dr. R.C. Sproul and I preach every Sunday at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, we strive to help our congregation know the Bible by preaching verse-by-verse through entire books of the Bible. Recently, I completed preaching 150 sermons through 1 and 2 Corinthians, and in most of these sermons, following the example set by Dr. Sproul, I defined key theological words so that the congregation would be better equipped and unafraid to study Scripture on their own and with their families.

     Some words we come across in the Bible require that we not only examine their meaning, but also the meanings of related words. This is because a word itself is often just one part of a two-part concept—a dichotomy—in Scripture. For instance, when we come across the word blessing, we must also know the biblical and theological distinction between blessing and its opposite, cursing. Similarly, in order to fully grasp the meaning of wisdom, we must examine the meaning of foolishness. If we study one without the other, we do ourselves a great disservice in our understanding and application of the theology of God’s Word. God’s Word is truth—it not only contains the truth, it defines the truth, and it is by that truth we are sanctified. Consequently, the more we know God’s truth, the more we will grow in the grace, knowledge, and holiness of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore study not only the major stories and theological themes of the Bible, but also every word, every jot and tittle, that we might know and love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, coram Deo, before the face of the God who has revealed Himself to us for our eternal good and His eternal glory.

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     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The famous Monkey Trial ended this day, July 21, 1925, as John Scopes, a Highschool biology teacher in Tennessee was fined for teaching a theory of origins called evolution. Williams Jennings Bryan, three time Democratic Presidential candidate, was the prosecuting attorney. He objected to a tooth being presented as proof of humans evolving from apes. Later the tooth was admitted to be that of a pig. William Jennings Bryan, who died five days after the trial, once stated: “I am interested in the science of government, but I am more interested in religion … and I shall be in the church even after I am out of politics.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7


Thus it was fitting that man should be created,
in the first place,
so that he could will both good and evil--
not without reward, if he willed the good;
not without punishment, if he willed the evil.
But in the future life he will not have the power
to will evil;
and yet this will not thereby restrict his free will.
Indeed, his will will be much freer,
because he will then have no power whatever to serve sin.
For we surely ought not to find fault with such a will,
nor say it is no will,
or that it is not rightly called free,
when we so desire happiness
that we not only are unwilling to be miserable,
but have no power whatsoever to will it.
--- Saint Augustine

All that is thought should not be said,
all that is said should not be written,
all that is written should not be published,
all that is published should not be read.
--- Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Tomashov
(the Kotzker Rebbe)

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
here would I touch and handle things unseen,
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon Thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
here drink with Thee the royal wine of heav’n.
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiv’n.
--- Horatius Bonar

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 16.

     Cestius Sends Neopolitanus The Tribune To See In What Condition The Affairs Of The Jews Were. Agrippa Makes A Speech To The People Of The Jews That He May Divert Them From Their Intentions Of Making War With The Romans.

     1. However, Florus contrived another way to oblige the Jews to begin the war, and sent to Cestius, and accused the Jews falsely of revolting [from the Roman government], and imputed the beginning of the former fight to them, and pretended they had been the authors of that disturbance, wherein they were only the sufferers. Yet were not the governors of Jerusalem silent upon this occasion, but did themselves write to Cestius, as did Bernice also, about the illegal practices of which Florus had been guilty against the city; who, upon reading both accounts, consulted with his captains [what he should do]. Now some of them thought it best for Cestius to go up with his army, either to punish the revolt, if it was real, or to settle the Roman affairs on a surer foundation, if the Jews continued quiet under them; but he thought it best himself to send one of his intimate friends beforehand, to see the state of affairs, and to give him a faithful account of the intentions of the Jews. Accordingly, he sent one of his tribunes, whose name was Neopolitanus, who met with king Agrippa as he was returning from Alexandria, at Jamnia, and told him who it was that sent him, and on what errands he was sent.

     2. And here it was that the high priests, and men of power among the Jews, as well as the sanhedrim, came to congratulate the king [upon his safe return]; and after they had paid him their respects, they lamented their own calamities, and related to him what barbarous treatment they had met with from Florus. At which barbarity Agrippa had great indignation, but transferred, after a subtle manner, his anger towards those Jews whom he really pitied, that he might beat down their high thoughts of themselves, and would have them believe that they had not been so unjustly treated, in order to dissuade them from avenging themselves. So these great men, as of better understanding than the rest, and desirous of peace, because of the possessions they had, understood that this rebuke which the king gave them was intended for their good; but as to the people, they came sixty furlongs out of Jerusalem, and congratulated both Agrippa and Neopolitanus; but the wives of those that had been slain came running first of all and lamenting. The people also, when they heard their mourning, fell into lamentations also, and besought Agrippa to assist them: they also cried out to Neopolitanus, and complained of the many miseries they had endured under Florus; and they showed them, when they were come into the city, how the market-place was made desolate, and the houses plundered. They then persuaded Neopolitanus, by the means of Agrippa, that he would walk round the city, with one only servant, as far as Siloam, that he might inform himself that the Jews submitted to all the rest of the Romans, and were only displeased at Florus, by reason of his exceeding barbarity to them. So he walked round, and had sufficient experience of the good temper the people were in, and then went up to the temple, where he called the multitude together, and highly commended them for their fidelity to the Romans, and earnestly exhorted them to keep the peace; and having performed such parts of Divine worship at the temple as he was allowed to do, he returned to Cestius.

     3. But as for the multitude of the Jews, they addressed themselves to the king, and to the high priests, and desired they might have leave to send ambassadors to Nero against Florus, and not by their silence afford a suspicion that they had been the occasions of such great slaughters as had been made, and were disposed to revolt, alleging that they should seem to have been the first beginners of the war, if they did not prevent the report by showing who it was that began it; and it appeared openly that they would not be quiet, if any body should hinder them from sending such an embassage. But Agrippa, although he thought it too dangerous a thing for them to appoint men to go as the accusers of Florus, yet did he not think it fit for him to overlook them, as they were in a disposition for war. He therefore called the multitude together into a large gallery, and placed his sister Bernice in the house of the Asamoneans, that she might be seen by them, [which house was over the gallery, at the passage to the upper city, where the bridge joined the temple to the gallery,] and spake to them as follows:

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 21:21-22
     by D.H. Stern

21     He who pursues righteousness and kindness
finds life, prosperity and honor.

22     A wise man can go up into a city of warriors
and undermine the strength in which it trusts.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The gateway to the kingdom

     Blessed are the poor in spirit. --- Matthew 5:3.

     Beware of placing Our Lord as a Teacher first. If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be—to be pure in heart, to do more than my duty, to be perfectly devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as Saviour before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.

     The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the natural man—the very thing Jesus means it to do. As long as we have a self-righteous, conceited notion that we can carry out Our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to go on until we break our ignorance over some obstacle, then we are willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. ‘Blessed are the paupers in spirit,’ that is the first principle in the kingdom of God. The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility—‘I cannot begin to do it.’ Then Jesus says—
‘Blessed are you.’ That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge of our own poverty brings us on to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works.

My Utmost for His Highest

A Priest To His People
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                A Priest To His People

Men of the hills, wantoners, men of Wales,
With your sheep and your pigs and your ponies,
     your sweaty females,
How I have hated you for your irreverence,
     your scorn even
Of the refinements of art
     and the mysteries of the Church,
I whose invective would spurt like a flame of fire
To be quenched always in the coldness of your stare.
Men of bone, wrenched from the bitter moorland,
Who have not yet shaken the moss from your savage skulls,
Or prayed the peat from your eyes,
Did you detect like an ewe or an ailing whether,
Driven into the undergrowth by the nagging flies,
My true heart wandering in a wood of lies?

You are curt and graceless, yet your sudden
laughter
Is sharp and bright as a whipped pool,
When the win strikes or the clouds are flying;
And all the devices of church and school
Have failed to ripple your unhallowed movements,
Or put a halter on your wild soul.
You are lean and spare, yet your strength is a
mockery
Of the pale words in the black Book,
And why should you come like sparrows for prayer
crumbs,
Whose hands can dabble in the world's blood?

I have taxed your ignorance of rhyme and sonnet,
Your want of deference to the painter's skill,
But I know, as I listen, that your speech has in it
The source of all poetry, clear as a rill
Bubbling from your lips; and what a brushwork
could equal
The artistry of your dwelling on the bare hill?

You will forgive, then, my initial hatred,
My first intolerance of your uncouth ways,
You who are indifferent to all that I can offer,
Caring not whether I blame or praise.

With your pigs and your sheep and your sons
and holly-cheeked daughters
You will still continue to unwind your days
In a crude tapestry under the jealous heavens
To affront, bewilder, yet compel my gaze.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     The Hebrew word for elder, זָקֵן/zaken, is related to the Hebrew word for beard, זָקֵן/zakan. Just as a beard comes with age, so too, the Midrash believes, does wisdom. The young were taught to revere their elders, not out of pity for those who were old and infirm and decrepit, but because those who had lived many years had accumulated much experience and wisdom. These were to be found not in cyberspace, but in the head of a man with a beard who had been blessed with long life and had learned much along the way.

     Imagine a young person, two thousand years ago, having to make a trek across a desert. There were no Jeeps to rent, no guides to hire, no guidebooks to buy. Just one person, on his own, against the elements. How did he know which route to take? Where would he find drinkable water? What hostile tribes and wild animals did he need to look out for? When was the best time to travel? If he wanted to survive, he would go to an elder in the family or the clan, sit at his feet, and learn all that he could. With the elder resided the accumulated experience and wisdom that had been passed down from generation to generation for a thousand years.

     Mark Twain had a classic witticism that wonderfully captures the initial arrogance of youth, and the lessons they come to learn about their elders:

When I was 14, my father was so stupid I could barely stand to have the old man around. When I was 21, I was amazed at how much he had learned in seven years.…
The rabbis had another proverb that tells us about the young who never learned the lesson:…
There are many old camels bearing the hides of young camels on their backs. (Sanhedrin 52a)…
We learn to respect our elders—not simply for their sakes, but for our own.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Let’s make a case for those without beards, youth and women, for Rabbinic literature was written by Rabbis, and these were all men. A lot of them probably had beards. The Rabbis spoke in a language that was quite gendered: It was masculine both in its grammar and its outlook. Thus, the Hebrew word for elder, from the same root as “beard,” denotes someone with knowledge, someone who has something to contribute to the discussion. Those without a beard—females and the young—were too often easily dismissed.

     Yet even the Rabbis themselves realized that wisdom isn’t always dressed in a beard. In the Talmud, in a selection quoted in the Passover Haggadah, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah compares himself to one who is seventy years old. The Rabbis tell us that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was only eighteen at the time. He had only recently assumed the responsibility of being head of the study house and felt as if he were seventy. He was chronologically young but old enough in wisdom (and aged by the burden of leadership) to guide scholars many years older. At age eighteen, Rabbi Elazar was a זָקֵן/zaken, “elder,” even though his beard may not have been long and white.

     In our world, younger people often have knowledge and experience that the elders do not. Our children may surpass us with knowledge of technology. Youngsters race through their homework using the Internet as a tool, while “elders” take longer to do research in books and catalogues.

     And it’s not just a question of age; it’s also one of gender. In the Midrash, we hear few women’s voices. On several occasions, Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir, is quoted in the Talmud for her sagacity and sensitivity. How would the collections of Midrash have read if the feminine perspective had been added throughout? What additional and enriching views would women have added to the Rabbis’ reading of the Bible? How fascinating that the word for counsel and advice, עֵצָה/eitzah, is feminine! We can only guess what women might have contributed then; fortunately, we can hear and benefit from their wisdom now.

     Today, we recognize that the Rabbis often grouped “women and children” into one category, glossing over the significant differences between them. Let’s take advice and wisdom from every source, regardless of age or gender.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 21

     Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
--- Matthew 11:28–30.

     We can always find him where we are. (John A. Broadus, “Come unto Me,” downloaded from the Web site of Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Church, Gainesville, Georgia, at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) And since this is so, go to him as people did when he was on earth. Many testify that they have gone and been heard, and none [have] been sent away empty—go, and you too will hear him say, “Your sins are forgiven.” Go with the same humility the Syrophoenician woman felt when she pleaded that the dogs, though they should not eat the children’s food, might yet have the crumbs that fell under the table—and that she, though a Gentile, might yet have some humble share in salvation. Go with all the earnestness the poor blind man felt. He heard that Jesus was passing, and none could hinder him from crying, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And when the Savior commanded him to be called, they said to him, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Even so, my hearer, Jesus commands you to be called, as you sit in your spiritual blindness. Just as Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak that nothing might hinder him and went eagerly to Jesus, so you go at once to him and ask that you may receive your sight. You too shall hear him say, “Go, your faith has healed you.”

     And go to Jesus just as you are. Do not wait to be ready—don’t think of being prepared, don’t dream of being fit to go. The readiness, the preparation, the fitness—all must be his gift. How wrong to put off your going to him till you have that which he alone can give! You are a burdened sinner—isn’t it so? Jesus invites you, “Come to me.” Do you say you are not sorry for sin as you ought to be? I know you are not. But go to Jesus and ask that he will help you to repent. If you have no faith, ask that he will give you faith. All must come from him. Let him be your Savior and your all.

     You shall find rest. He will not send you away. He came into the world to save sinners—he suffered and died to save sinners—he invited burdened sinners to him. Then take this invitation to yourself—go to Jesus, and your soul shall live. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”
--- Rev. 22:17.
--- John A. Broadus


Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     O Susanna  July 21

     What a difficult life. She was the twenty-fifth child in a Dissenter’s family. Though brilliant, she procured little education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age. She married an older man and bore him 19 children. Nine of them died. Her house burned up, her barn fell down, her health failed, and she lived with a wolf at the door.

     She was Susanna Wesley.

     Samuel and Susanna, married in 1689, began pastoring in dreary little Epworth in 1697. They served there 40 years, enduring hardships like these:

•     Samuel’s salary was so small (and he was so incapable of managing it) that he was thrown into debtor’s prison, leaving Susanna to fend for herself.

•     The two were strong-willed and argumentative. Samuel once prayed for the king and waited for Susanna’s “Amen.” She didn’t say it. “I do not believe the prince of Orange to be the king,” she said spiritedly. “Then you and I must part,” replied Samuel, “for if we have two kings we must have two beds.” They separated, to be reunited only after the king’s death.

•     They also disagreed about Susanna’s ministry, for her Bible lessons drew more listeners than his RS Thomas.

•     Susanna gave birth to a daughter during the election of 1705. The nurse, exhausted by overnight revelry, slept so heavily the next Morning that she rolled on the baby and smothered it.

•     Susanna herself was often bedfast, having to delegate home duties to the children. But several of her children were so wayward that she called them “a constant affliction.”

•     Her brother, having promised her a sizable gift, disappeared mysteriously and was never heard from again.

•     Finally, on July 21, 1731, Susanna described an accident in which her horses stampeded, throwing Samuel from their wagon and injuring him so that he was never well from that day.

     A difficult life. And yet …

     And yet the parsonage at Epworth was destined to become the most celebrated in English history, for from it came two of the greatest evangelists of all time, John and Charles Wesley. And the mother who raised them shook the world.

     … it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the LORD All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work, just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don’t worry. My Spirit is right here with you.
--- Haggai 2:3b-5.


On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 21

     “The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” --- Isaiah 37:22.

     Reassured by the Word of the Lord, the poor trembling citizens of Zion grew bold, and shook their heads at Sennacherib’s boastful threats. Strong faith enables the servants of God to look with calm contempt upon their most haughty foes. We know that our enemies are attempting impossibilities. They seek to destroy the eternal life, which cannot die while Jesus lives; to overthrow the citadel, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. They kick against the pricks to their own wounding, and rush upon the bosses of Jehovah’s buckler to their own hurt.

     We know their weakness. What are they but men? And what is man but a worm? They roar and swell like waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. When the Lord ariseth, they shall fly as chaff before the wind, and be consumed as crackling thorns. Their utter powerlessness to do damage to the cause of God and his truth, may make the weakest soldiers in Zion’s ranks laugh them to scorn.

     Above all, we know that the Most High is with us, and when he dresses himself in arms, where are his enemies? If he cometh forth from his place, the potsherds of the earth will not long contend with their Maker. His rod of iron shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, and their very remembrance shall perish from the earth. Away, then, all fears, the kingdom is safe in the King’s hands. Let us shout for joy, for the Lord reigneth, and his foes shall be as straw for the dunghill.

     “As true as God’s own word is true;
     Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,
     Against us shall prevail.
     A jest, and by-word, are they grown;
     God is with us, we are his own,
     Our victory cannot fail.”


          Evening - July 21

     “Why go I mourning?” --- Psalm 42:9.

     Canst thou answer this, believer? Canst thou find any reason why thou art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told thee that the night would never end in day? Who told thee that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long leagues of the mud of horrible poverty? Who told thee that the winter of thy discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow, and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! For God fails thee not. Dost thou not know that thy God loves thee in the midst of all this? Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God’s love is as true to thee now as it was in thy brightest moments. No father chastens always: thy Lord hates the rod as much as thou dost; he only cares to use it for that reason which should make thee willing to receive it, namely, that it works thy lasting good. Thou shalt yet climb Jacob’s ladder with the angels, and behold him who sits at the top of it—thy covenant God. Thou shalt yet, amidst the splendours of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led thee through them, and wrought thy lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Make the wilderness to blossom like the rose! Cause the desert to ring with thine exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then “for ever with the Lord,” thy bliss shall never wane.

     “Faint not nor fear, his arms are near,
     He changeth not, and thou art dear;
     Only believe and thou shalt see,
     That Christ is all in all to thee.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 21

          ’TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS

     Louisa M. R. Stead, c. 1850–1917

     That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Ephesians 1:12)KJV

     Out of one of the darkest hours of her life—the tragic drowning of her husband— a young mother proclaimed through her tears, “ ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus … and I know that thou art with me, wilt be with me to the end.” As Louisa Stead, her husband and their little daughter were enjoying an ocean side picnic one day, a drowning boy cried for help. Mr. Stead rushed to save him but was pulled under by the terrified boy. Both drowned as Louisa and her daughter watched helplessly. During the sorrowful days that followed, the words of this hymn came from the grief stricken wife’s heart.

     Soon after this Mrs. Stead and her daughter left for missionary work in South Africa. After more than 25 years of fruitful service, Louisa was forced to retire because of ill health. She died a few years later in Southern Rhodesia. Her fellow missionaries had always loved “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and wrote this tribute after her death:

     We miss her very much, but her influence goes on as our five thousand native Christians continually sing this hymn in their native language.

     Out of a deep human tragedy early in her life, Louisa Stead learned simply to trust in her Lord. She was used to “the praise of His glory” for the remainder of her life. Still today, her ministry continues each time we sing and apply the truth of these words:

     ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word, just to rest upon His promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
     O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood, just in simple faith to plunge me ’neath the healing, cleansing flood!
     Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease, just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace.
     I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend; and I know that Thou art with me, wilt be with me to the end.
     Chorus: Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!


     For Today: Psalm 91:4; Isaiah 26:3, 4; Acts 10:43; Romans 1:16, 17; 5:1, 2; Ephesians 1:3–14.

     Express thanks to God for the lessons of trust He has taught you. Sing with this hymn writer—“O for grace to trust Him more!” Carry this musical reminder with you because ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. XCIII. — THIS, therefore, is not the place, this is not the time for adoring those Corycian caverns, but for adoring the true Majesty in its to-be-feared, wonderful, and incomprehensible judgments; and saying, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. vi. 10). Whereas, we are no where more irreverent and rash, than in trespassing and arguing upon these very inscrutable mysteries and judgments. And while we are pretending to a great reverence in searching the Holy Scriptures, those which God has commanded to be searched, we search not; but those which He has forbidden us to search into, those we search into and none other; and that with an unceasing temerity, not to say, blasphemy.

     For is it not searching with temerity, when we attempt to make the all-free prescience of God to harmonize with our freedom, prepared to derogate prescience from God, rather than lose our own liberty? Is it not temerity, when He imposes necessity upon us, to say, with murmurings and blasphemies, “Why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). Where is the God by nature most merciful? Where is He who “willeth not the death of a sinner?” Has He then created us for this purpose only, that He might delight Himself in the torments of men? And many things of the same kind, which will be howled forth by the damned in hell to all eternity.

     But however, natural Reason herself is compelled to confess, that the living and true God must be such an one as, by His own liberty, to impose necessity on us. For He must be a ridiculous God, or idol rather, who did not, to a certainty, foreknow the future, or was liable to be deceived in events, when even the Gentiles ascribed to their gods ‘fate inevitable.” And He would be equally ridiculous, if He could not do and did not all things, or if any thing could be done without Him. If then the prescience and omnipotence of God be granted, it naturally follows, as an irrefragable consequence that we neither were made by ourselves, nor live by ourselves, nor do any thing by ourselves, but by His Omnipotence. And since He at the first foreknew that we should be such, and since He has made us such, and moves and rules over us as such, how, I ask, can it be pretended, that there is any liberty in us to do, in any respect, otherwise than He at first foreknew and now proceeds in action!

     Wherefore, the prescience and Omnipotence of God, are diametrically opposite to our “Free-will.” And it must be, that either God is deceived in His prescience and errs in His action, (which is impossible) or we act, and are acted upon, according to His prescience and action. — But by the Omnipotence of God, I mean, not that power by which He does not many things that He could do, but that actual power by which He powerfully works all in all, in which sense the Scripture calls Him Omnipotent. This Omnipotence and prescience of God, I say, utterly abolishes the doctrine of “Free-will.” No pretext can here be framed about the obscurity of the Scripture, or the difficulty of the subject-point: the words are most clear, and known to every school-boy; and the point is plain and easy and stands proved by judgment of common sense; so that the series of ages, of times, or of persons, either writing or teaching to the contrary, be it as great as it may, amounts to nothing at all.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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