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Judges 5     Acts 9     Jeremiah 18     Mark 4


Judges 5

The Song of Deborah and Barak

Judges 5 1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day:

2 “That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
that the people offered themselves willingly,
bless the Lord!

3 “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
to the Lord I will sing;
I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.

4 “Lord, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the region of Edom,
the earth trembled
and the heavens dropped,
yes, the clouds dropped water.
5 The mountains quaked before the Lord,
even Sinai before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6 “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned,
and travelers kept to the byways.
7 The villagers ceased in Israel;
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
8 When new gods were chosen,
then war was in the gates.
Was shield or spear to be seen
among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
who offered themselves willingly among the people.
Bless the Lord.

10 “Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys,
you who sit on rich carpets
and you who walk by the way.
11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places,
there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord,
the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel.

“Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.

12 “Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, break out in a song!
Arise, Barak, lead away your captives,
O son of Abinoam.
13 Then down marched the remnant of the noble;
the people of the Lord marched down for me against the mighty.
14 From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley,
following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen;
from Machir marched down the commanders,
and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant's staff;
15 the princes of Issachar came with Deborah,
and Issachar faithful to Barak;
into the valley they rushed at his heels.
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
16 Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds,
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan;
and Dan, why did he stay with the ships?
Asher sat still at the coast of the sea,
staying by his landings.
18 Zebulun is a people who risked their lives to the death;
Naphtali, too, on the heights of the field.

19 “The kings came, they fought;
then fought the kings of Canaan,
at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
they got no spoils of silver.
20 From heaven the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent Kishon swept them away,
the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.
March on, my soul, with might!

22 “Then loud beat the horses' hoofs
with the galloping, galloping of his steeds.

23 “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord,
curse its inhabitants thoroughly,
because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

24 “Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
25 He asked for water and she gave him milk;
she brought him curds in a noble's bowl.
26 She sent her hand to the tent peg
and her right hand to the workmen's mallet;
she struck Sisera;
she crushed his head;
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 Between her feet
he sank, he fell, he lay still;
between her feet
he sank, he fell;
where he sank,
there he fell—dead.

28 “Out of the window she peered,
the mother of Sisera wailed through the lattice:
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?’
29 Her wisest princesses answer,
indeed, she answers herself,
30 ‘Have they not found and divided the spoil?—
A womb or two for every man;
spoil of dyed materials for Sisera,
spoil of dyed materials embroidered,
two pieces of dyed work embroidered for the neck as spoil?’

31 “So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.”

And the land had rest for forty years.


Acts 9

The Conversion of Saul

Acts 9 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, 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. 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. 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 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 18

The Potter and the Clay

Jeremiah 18 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

13 “Therefore thus says the Lord:
Ask among the nations,
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel
has done a very horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave
the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
the cold flowing streams?
15 But my people have forgotten me;
they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
not the highway,
16 making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it is horrified
and shakes his head.
17 Like the east wind I will scatter them
before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
in the day of their calamity.”

18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”

19 Hear me, O Lord,
and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
give them over to the power of the sword;
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22 May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to take me
and laid snares for my feet.
23 Yet you, O Lord, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Forgive not their iniquity,
nor blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.


Mark 4

The Parable of the Sower

Mark 4 1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

A Lamp Under a Basket

21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

The Parable of the Seed Growing

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

No Place for Heresy

By C. FitzSimons Allison 8/1/2010

     Corruption and Reform in the Christian Church could be a title of a work on church history. There has been no age that has not seen this phenomenon occur and reoccur.

     One of the best examples of reform is that which occurred at Cluny in the tenth century in southern France following the darkest times of the Western church after the fall of Rome. It brought a visible seriousness of spiritual discipline that lasted for more than two centuries. The acknowledged founder, Berno of Baume (d. 927), was followed by long-serving, effective leaders. The order reached its height under Hugh (d. 1109) with well over one thousand houses affiliated with the mother monastery of Cluny.

     As Cluny gained power, influence, and wealth, this reform itself needed reform. It too became corrupt, but fortunately it was replaced by the Cistercian reform movement led by the incomparable Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153).

     It is undeniable that the monastic institution and religious orders were instruments in the reform of church corruption over many centuries and that papal authority protected them from lay intrusions. Yet by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the monasteries and papacy were both in dire need of reform.

     The picture of the papacy from 1470 until 1530 drawn by Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam discloses an almost unbelievable degree of immorality, worldliness, corruption, and vice. This led the great Renaissance historian Jacob Burckhardt to say that “Luther saved the papacy.” Martin Luther’s exposure of papal corruption and the resulting Protestant rebellion led the Roman Catholic Church to the reforms of the Council of Trent, which was forced upon a reluctant papacy by the Holy Roman emperor.

     In spite of its failure to deal adequately with Protestant doctrine, Trent established educational standards for clergy, maintained discipline for monasteries and orders, and recovered something of the spiritual role of the papacy that had been lost in its preoccupation with becoming equal with the many competing and warring Italian city-states. An obvious lesson is that at certain times monasteries, lay leadership, the papacy, and religious orders provided positive reform and beneficial roles, but at different times each has shown itself corruptible and in need of reform.

     What, then, is the lesson for today, when the churches are tragically divided and the Christian message is being corrupted by scandals and accommodations to an increasingly corrupt society? Even worse than the scandals is the fact that very rarely in Christian history has the church’s neglect of doctrine been so blatant.

     The Anglican Communion is desperately trying to recover its unity by seeking “bonds of affection” (“The Windsor Report”) rather than bonds of faith. The Roman Catholic influence in Quebec, Ireland, Spain, and Italy is being replaced by secular assumptions and morals. In 1960, fifty percent of the U.S. population belonged to one of the major Protestant denominations. Today only five percent does. The African American mega-churches have been justly accused by Thabiti Anyabwile of departing from biblical teaching in the paths of such classical heresies as Arianism (in The Decline of African American Theology).

     The recent conference at Beeson Divinity School, “The Will to Believe and the Need for Creed,” was a most valuable step in the direction of reform of present corruption in biblical teachings. The confessional movements in the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches, as well as Pope Benedict’s criticism of worldliness, are encouraging developments.

     Many of the pervasive non-Christian beliefs are reactions not to the Christian faith but to misrepresentation of that faith (heresies). The reluctance to even speak of heresy must be overcome with graceful forbearance (not a weak “tolerance”) and confident proclamation of the good news that is orthodox Christian faith.

     Corruption in morals of both clergy and laity needs to be faced honestly. Traditional prayers have properly addressed both life and doctrine. One’s life follows one’s heart. What the heart desires and believes the will will choose and the mind will justify. Hence, starting at behavior is not as effective as starting with the gospel story, the teaching, and the doctrine that speaks to the heart.

     Therefore, the present need for reform is along the lines of corrupt doctrine. Ask an unbeliever what he doesn’t believe and most often you could say, “I don’t believe that either.” Our fallen nature seeks to bend the gospel away from “God so loved the [tangible] world,” thus avoiding the vulnerability of incarnate love. Self-righteousness merely seeks to ask, What would Jesus do? But Jesus is not a mere example. He is God’s reconciling act.

     Our task in being faithful is never to repeat the coercion and compulsion that has given orthodoxy a bad name but to proclaim the gospel that lifts the heavy burden of justifying ourselves and produces joyous love in following the divine vulnerability of Jesus Christ.

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     C. FitzSimons Allison is the retired bishop of South Carolina, who now serves as a pastoral bishop for churches in the Anglican Communion Network, a network of orthodox churches in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

C. FitzSimons Allison Books:

Setting the Stage: The First Millennium

By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2010

     Volumes have been written giving detailed analyses of the extraordinary things that occurred in the first thousand years of church history, events that influenced everything that came after them. In this brief overview, I’m going to look at five dimensions of activity that had monumental impact for the future history of Christianity.

     The first such matter was the rise of the so-called “mono-episcopacy.” By the end of the first century, it was seen that the bishop of Rome had grown exceedingly more influential than other bishops of that period. Within the next century or so, the authority and power of the bishop of Rome was consolidated for all future history of the Roman Catholic Church. The singular authority that became located in the bishop of Rome gave the church a unifying base. The influence of the pope in the first thousand years of the church is almost impossible to measure.

     In that light, we see the second major impact come to the fore — the innovations brought to Christianity by perhaps the most important pope of the first millennium: Gregory the Great. In his activities he consolidated the power vested in the sacraments of the church and spawned the vast sacerdotal system (priests through ordination receiving the ability to act as mediators of God’s grace to man through the sacraments) with which all future Catholicism would be associated.

     A third element that had great influence on the future of Christianity was the rise of the monastic movement. Beginning with the extreme asceticism of people such as Anthony of the Desert (ca. 251–356), this radical brand of self-denial became institutionalized with the rise of various monastic orders, most of which exist to this day. These orders include the Benedictines, the Augustinians, the Franciscans, and others that date back several centuries.

     Perhaps most important in the first thousand years were the ecumenical councils. Of the several ecumenical councils, clearly the two most important were those that were convened in the fourth and in the fifth centuries. The fourth century saw the convening of the Council of Nicaea and the production of the historic Nicene Creed. Here the church gave its definition of the deity of Christ over against the heretic Arius, who argued that though Jesus was the first creature created by God and in that sense the firstborn of God, He nevertheless remained a creature and so was not to be worshiped as the second person of the Trinity.

     The tension that was provoked by the Arian controversy and the years of deliberation and discussion that ensued finally culminated in the Council of Nicaea in 325. In that council the full deity of Christ was affirmed, and Christ, the divine Logos, the second person of the Trinity, was declared to be co-essential and co-eternal with the Father. This formula gave the church a way to distinguish among the persons of the Godhead, while at the same time attributing a singular divine essence to the three. The antitrinitarian Christology of Arius saw the beginning of its defeat with this ecumenical council.

     The fifth century saw the convening of perhaps the most important christological council in all of church history at Chalcedon in 451. Here orthodox Christianity had to fight a battle on two fronts. On the one hand was the opposition to the orthodox view of the nature of Christ in His incarnation by Eutyches. Eutyches was a monophysite — he declared that Jesus had only one nature. This nature was called a single “theanthropic nature,” meaning a divinely human nature or a humanly divine nature. This position, saying that Christ had one nature (Greek: monophysis), obscured both the real deity and the real humanity that were united in the incarnation of Christ.

     On the other side of the debate, the Nestorians argued that if Jesus had two natures, He had to have had two persons as well, so they separated the two natures of Christ into two persons. Over against both heresies, Chalcedon gave its famous formula by which it declared that Christ is truly God and truly man, with the natures perfectly united in such a way that they are not confused — the natures are without mixture, confusion, division, or separation; each nature retains its own attributes. This was a watershed council because it set the boundaries or parameters of christological speculation. The two natures were not to be merged or confused; the human nature, for example, would not be absorbed or swallowed up in the divine nature and vice versa. At the same time, the two natures were not to be separated so as to lose their unity in the one person.

     Throughout history since Chalcedon, the church in virtually every generation has had to face the tendencies of either confusing the two natures or dividing or separating the two natures. Orthodoxy in the fifth century declared that the natures must be distinguished yet never separated. They must be distinguished and never be co-mingled.

     The other noteworthy event of the first millennium was the extraordinary impact of Augustine of Hippo, perhaps the greatest theologian of that millennium. Augustine was called to defend the church against the heresies of the Donatists in their disputes about baptism and, more importantly, against the heretical views of Pelagius, who denied original sin, arguing that even apart from grace the descendents of Adam could achieve lives of perfection. Augustine’s theology of salvation shaped the future history of Christianity, particularly as it helped quicken Luther and Calvin for the Protestant Reformation. At the same time, Augustine’s view of the church solidified the power of the monoepiscopacy and the Roman magisterium for all future generations.

     These five aspects of the first millennium are only illustrative of a vast number of things that in the providence of God developed over this period of time. Sadly, at the end of this millennium, the church was already groping in the darkness and biblical soteriology had declined to such a degree that the gospel was rapidly becoming obscured, even becoming almost totally eclipsed until it was recovered in the sixteenth century Reformation.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

To Be Deep in History

By Keith Mathison 9/1/2010

     The nineteenth century witnessed the conversions of two prominent Anglican clergymen to Roman Catholicism. Both men would ultimately become cardinals in the Roman Church, and both men would profoundly influence Roman Catholic theology. The first was John Henry Newman (1801–1890). The second was Henry Edward Manning (1808–1892). Newman is probably most well known for his involvement in the high church Oxford Movement and for his An Essay On Development Of Christian Doctrine (Notre Dame Series in the Great Books, No 4) (1845). Manning is best known for his advocacy of social justice and for his strong support of the doctrine of papal infallibility following his conversion to Rome. He played a key role in the First Vatican Council (1869–1870).

     What I find most interesting about these two men is their approach to history and what it tells us about the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Newman famously said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” He believed that if one compared the teaching and practice of both Protestantism and Rome to the teaching and practice of the early church, one would be forced to conclude that Rome was the true heir of the early church. Of course, he had to posit a rather complex theory of doctrinal development in order to make such an idea plausible to himself and others not already inclined to agree. But be that as it may, Newman believed that the study of history supported the claims of Rome.

     Cardinal Manning, on the other hand, claimed that for a Roman Catholic, “the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy” and that “the only divine evidence to us of what was primitive is the witness and voice of the Church at this hour” (The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost). In other words, to examine church history in order to find support for the claims of Rome is to demonstrate a lack of faith in the Church of Rome. It is to place human reason over and above faith. If you want to know what the early church taught, all you have to do is look at what the Roman Catholic Church teaches today.

     The Roman Catholic theologian Walter Burghardt expresses the same view in connection with the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, which was defined as dogma in 1950:

     “A valid argument for a dogmatic tradition, for the Church’s teaching in the past can be constructed from her teaching in the present. And that is actually the approach theology took to the definability of the assumption before 1st November 1950. It began with a fact: the current consensus, in the Church teaching and in the Church taught, that the Corporeal Assumption was revealed by God. If that is true, if that is the teaching of the magisterium of the moment, if that is the Church’s tradition, then it was always part and parcel of the Church’s teaching, part and parcel of tradition.”

     Manning and Burghardt are simply being consistent with belief in the infallibility of Rome and of the pope. If the church is infallible, appeals to history, tradition, and Scripture are superfluous. What the church teaches now must be what the church has always taught, regardless of what the actual evidence from Scripture and/or tradition might say.

     Rome truly has no other choice if she wishes to maintain her current beliefs and practices. If she were to appeal to something like the Vincentian Canon (namely, that the true faith, the true interpretation of Scripture, is that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all), the pope would have to give up all claims to supremacy over the entire church, and the bulk of Roman peculiarities and practice would have to be jettisoned.

     Cardinal Newman recognized the obvious difference between the current Roman Church and the early church. He was too deep in history not to see it. He had to develop his famous idea of doctrinal development to explain it. He argued that all the later Roman doctrines and practices were “hidden” in the church from the beginning. They were made explicit over time under the guidance of the Spirit. But the problem that many Roman Catholics fail to see is that there is a difference between development and contradiction. It is one thing to use different language to teach something the church has always taught (e.g., the “Trinity”). It is another thing altogether to begin teaching something that the church always denied (e.g., papal supremacy or infallibility). Those doctrines in particular were built on multitudes of forgeries.

     Cardinal Manning solved the problem by treating any appeal to history as treason. He called for blind faith in the papacy and magisterium. Such might have been possible had the fruits of the papacy over 1,500 years not consistently been the precise opposite of the fruit of the Spirit (Matt. 7:16).

     Cardinal Newman said that to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant. The truth is that to be deep in real history, as opposed to Rome’s whitewashed, revisionist, and often forged history, is to cease to be a Roman Catholic.

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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.

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Across the Great Divide

By Rod Mays 9/1/2010

     I started working with younger men and women (campus ministry) when I was turning fifty. A decade later, I see how this work has transformed my perspective on the church and ministry. I’ve seen the importance of knowing one’s demographic and understanding more about how the individual relates to the whole in today’s cultural environment. I’ve gained a good deal of insight into gender issues and learned a ton about multigenerational interaction. I think I can accurately state that at one time or another, every one of us has been frustrated with the generation just older or younger than ourselves. “Turn up your Beltones!” the younger generation yells. The older generation shouts, “Take those plugs out of your ears!” The solution to the communication gap would be easy if it were as simple as providing hearing aids or eliminating iPods.

     Scripture speaks to multigenerational issues. In 1 Timothy 4–5, Paul gives cautions about how the generations are to treat each another. Youth should not be despised, if the younger believer sets a good example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Older men are not to be rebuked by younger men, but encouraged as one would a father. All generations in the church are to be focused on the same goal — to see people changed by the gospel. Yet there are different styles of relating in the body. Many older believers tend to “keep their distance” and order the struggling among us to “just stop it.” A younger generation will often be more relational, saying, “Let me walk through this with you.” The church can breed alienation by its resistance to engage across generational lines, which can enrage all its members.

     We all know our own generation best. Are we willing to admit our flaws? Do we really trust across generational lines? The church needs the rising generation to assume the responsibilities of a generation of incumbents whose leadership younger men and women have doubted and even ridiculed. Older men and women feel marginalized and defensive toward the attitude of entitlement younger leaders have exhibited. The older generation has been critical of both the methodology and melody of the emerging generations. The fathers and older brothers have often been unwilling to recognize that younger preachers and teachers have, indeed, embraced a fixed theology passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps the younger demographic has embraced the “doctrines of our holy religion” in a kinder, gentler, more “relevant” way. Good biblical mentoring has not been widely practiced by my generation. When it has occurred, there has been a tendency for it to be more theoretical in nature, and it has sometimes developed into a rigid method for passing on traditionalism rather than an encouraging relationship inviting serious theological reflection. When the older generations talk theology, they use the ancient buzzwords and inside, exclusive language. The younger generations fear the theological terms will be a turnoff, because they have felt shut out and rejected by many who use them. Younger men and women want to put their fingerprints on the church but can be resistant to understanding the value of historical, traditional, and biblical structures. Older men and women have struggled with how to “tell the next generation the great things that God has done.”

     A younger generation does not need to be disillusioned by what it perceives as the harsh, angry self-righteousness of older Calvinists. All generations need to learn how to use the awesome biblical language of sovereignty, predestination, and election, and younger generations need to be comfortable using those great words to artfully wield Reformed theology, understanding that the language represents timeless, redemptive truth. There is much to be admired in older and younger generations. There is also enough sin to be shared across generational lines. All generations tend to speak loudly where Scripture is silent and go silent where Scripture is loud. Though it may sound like too much of a generalization, it seems that older generations need to rediscover grace while younger generations need to rediscover holiness.

     As older and younger begin to talk, they may be surprised to discover there really was no gap, only the perception of one. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he, who can no longer listen to his brother, will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.”  Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1954) Paperback

     What an older generation has taken for granted in its theology and commitment to a system of propositions, a younger generation needs to see embodied confessionally, ecclesiastically, and incarnationally.

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     Dr. Rod Mays is the national coordinator for Reformed University Ministries, the campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Jerusalem and Athens

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2010

     What hath Jerusalem to do with Athens? Much in every way. On the negative side, we would do well to remember that the citizens of God’s city, like those in the city of man, are still sinners. Though we are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, though we have been given hearts of flesh, we remain sinners on this side of the veil, not unlike those around us. Thus Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, enjoins us not to do that which still comes all too naturally to us, to fret and worry about our food or our clothing. Such things, He tells us, the heathen worry about.

     On a more positive note, Jerusalem and Athens have this in common: they are ruled by the same Man. That is, Jesus is Lord of both. There is no city over which Jesus does not reign. He is Lord over all of creation. We must be zealous to make this affirmation with boldness. We must, however, do so with care.

     That Jesus is Lord of Athens does not mean that all is well with Athens. We cannot safely assume the city to be safe because our Lord rules over it. Instead, remembering the antithesis, the biblical truth that the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent will war against one another until the kingdom comes in its fullness, the reign of Jesus over Athens means Athens is in trouble. The city belongs to Jesus, and yet it rebels against Him. His lordship is less an imprimatur over the city and more a Sword of Damocles, a constant threat of judgment.

     There is a third thing these cities have in common. Not only does Jesus rule both, not only are both cities populated by sinners, but both are populated by those who bear God’s image. Though the seed of the Serpent is at war with God and His people, they still bear His imprint. We see this theme repeated several times in the Bible. God calls His children to exercise dominion over the creation. The wicked line of Cain is not lazy with respect to exercising dominion. Bearing God’s image, it goes to work, turns mud into bricks, and builds a tower to make a name for itself. That this line does not labor for God’s glory but its own is a sign of sin. That it builds at all is a sign of God’s image. The same is true with respect to worship. In Romans 1, Paul belabors both that all men everywhere worship and that outside of Gods’ active grace in our lives, we all worship creatures rather than the Creator. Because we are God’s image bearers, we worship. Because we are in rebellion, we worship falsely.

     This ought to inform our understanding of how these two cities relate. We do not send out envoys of peace against the enemies of God, beating our swords into plowshares. Neither, however, do we allow our sense of antithesis to cloud our common humanity, or better still, our common bearing of God’s image. Thus, we do not determine that piety demands that we who worship the risen Lord ought to walk on our hands, because the children of darkness walk on their feet. We do not assume that the right thing is for Christians to hate their children because unbelievers love their children. Instead, we thank the Lord of all for all that we still have in common. Instead, we encourage all that is good, true, and beautiful in Athens, knowing that, in the end, it all must belong to the Lord.

     The Athenian Plato was not, contra those who would forget the antithesis, a sadly uninformed but brilliant man whose well intentioned philosophical meanderings can be richly gleaned for wisdom. He was instead, as we all were prior to the work of the Spirit of God in us, an enemy of God. His philosophical thoughts had as their end goal the denying of God. Plato was, with respect to wisdom, deaf, dumb and blind. He could not, according to the Scripture, even see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). There is wisdom, however, in that nugget that suggests “even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.” Plato did not tell us anything we did not already know when he first suggested that the three high virtues are goodness, truth, and beauty. He did, however, speak well, truthfully, and beautifully in so saying. Plato, in drawing our attention to goodness, truth, and beauty, made manifest the image of God in his own life, and in turn taught us how to better recognize that image in others. When unbelieving firefighters act heroically — when they exhibit the good — we have no reason for shame. When unbelieving scientists speak truthfully, we have no reason for shame. When unbelieving musicians create moments of beauty, we have no reason for shame. For these things neither belong in the end to Jerusalem nor to Athens. Instead, they belong to the One who is Lord of both.

     Plato recognized the goodness, truth, and beauty of goodness, truth, and beauty. Jesus is goodness, truth and beauty, and every other perfection infinitely. If we would pursue goodness, truth, and beauty, we must pursue Him. We must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto us.


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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.

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Judges 5; Acts 9; Jeremiah 18; Mark 4

By Don Carson 7/22/2018

     What was Paul's perspective before he was converted (Acts 9)? Elsewhere (Acts 22:2; Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:4-6) he tells us that he was a strict Pharisee, brought up (apparently) in Jerusalem, taught by one of the most renowned rabbis of the day. For him, the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The LAW insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. Surely, therefore, the insistence that Jesus is the Messiah is not only stupid, but verges on the blasphemous. It might lead to political insurrection: the fledgling church was growing, and might become a dangerous block. It had to be stopped; indeed, what was needed was a man of courage like Saul, a man like Phinehas who averted the wrath of God by his decisive action against the perverters of truth and probity (Num. 25), someone who really understood the implications of these wretched delusions and who saw where they would lead.

     But now on the Damascus Road Saul meets the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Whether he had seen him before we cannot be sure; that he sees him now, Saul cannot doubt. And a great deal of his theology, worked out and displayed in his letters, stems from that brute fact.

     If Jesus were alive and glorified, then somehow his death on the cross did not prove he was damned. Far from it: the claim of believers that God had raised him from the dead, and that they had seen him, must be true — and that could only mean that God had vindicated Jesus. Then what on earth did his death mean?

     From that vantage point, everything looked different. If Jesus was under the curse of God when he died, yet was vindicated by God himself, he must have died for others. Somehow his death absorbed the righteous curse of God that was due others and canceled it out. In that light, the entire history of the Hebrew Scriptures looked different.

     Was it not written that a Suffering Servant (see yesterday’s meditation) would be wounded for our transgressions and chastised for our iniquities? Does the death of countless lambs and bulls really take away human sin? Or do we need, as it were, a human “lamb of God,” a human “Passover Lamb”? If the tabernacle and temple rituals are read as pointing to the final solution, what does scriptural texts that promise a new covenant, a great outpouring of the Spirit in the last days (Acts 2:17-21; see Joel 2:28-32)? What place does the promise to Abraham have in the scheme of things, that in Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3)?

     Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes.


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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).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 78

Tell the Coming Generation
78 A Maskil Of Asaph.

8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

9 The Ephraimites, armed with the bow,
turned back on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant,
but refused to walk according to his law.
11 They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them.
12 In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all the night with a fiery light.
15 He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     23. But the crowning folly of all is, that in each of these they make Christ their colleague. First, they say [678] he performed the office of Doorkeeper when, with a whip of small cords, he drove the buyers and sellers from the temple. He intimates that he is a Doorkeeper when he says, "I am the door." He assumed the office of Reader, when he read Isaiah in the synagogue. He performed the office of Exorcist when, touching the tongue and ears of the deaf and dumb man with spittle, he restored his hearing. He declared that he was an Acolyte by the words, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness." He performed the office of Subdeacon, when, girding himself with a towel, he washed the feet of his disciples. He acted the part of a Deacon, when he distributed his body and blood in the Supper. He performed the part of a Priest, when, on the cross, he offered himself in sacrifice to the Father. As these things cannot be heard without laughter, I wonder how they could have been written without laughter, if, indeed, they were men who wrote them. But their most noteable subtlety is that in which they speculate on the name of Acolyte, calling him Ceroferarius--a magical term, I presume, one certainly unknown to all nations and tongues; ako'louthos, in Greek, meaning simply attendant. Were I to stop and seriously refute these things, I might myself justly be laughed at, so frivolous are they and ludicrous.

24. Still, lest they should be able to impose on silly women, their vanity must be exposed in passing. With great pomp and solemnity they elect their readers, psalmists, doorkeepers, acolytes, to perform those services which they give in charge, either to boys, or at least to those whom they call laics. Who, for the most part, lights the tapers, who pours wine and water from the pitcher, but a boy or some mean person among laics, who gains his bread by so doing? Do not the same persons chant? Do they not open and shut the doors of Churches? Who ever saw, in their churches, either an acolyte or doorkeeper performing his office? Nay, when he who as a boy performed the office of acolyte, is admitted to the order of acolyte, he ceases to be the very thing he begins to be called, so that they seem professedly to wish to cast away the office when they assume the title. See why they hold it necessary to be consecrated by sacraments, and to receive the Holy Spirit! It is just to do nothing. If they pretend that this is the defect of the times, because they neglect and abandon their offices, let them, at the same time, confess that there is not in the Church, in the present day, any use or benefit of these sacred orders which they wondrously extol, and that their whole Church is full of anathema, since the tapers and flagons, which none are worthy to touch but those who have been consecrated acolytes, she allows to be handled by boys and profane persons; since her chants, which ought to be heard only from consecrated lips, she delegates to children. And to what end, pray, do they consecrate exorcists? I hear that the Jews had their exorcists, but I see they were so called from the exorcisms which they practised (Acts 19:13). Who ever heard of those fictitious exorcists having given one specimen of their profession? It is pretended that power has been given them to lay their hands on energumens, catechumens, and demoniacs, but they cannot persuade demons that they are endued with such power, not only because demons do not submit to their orders, but even command themselves. Scarcely will you find one in ten who is not possessed by a wicked spirit. All, then, which they babble about their paltry orders is a compound of ignorant and stupid falsehoods. Of the ancient acolytes, doorkeepers, and readers, we have spoken when explaining the government of the Church. All that we here proposed was to combat that novel invention of a sevenfold sacrament in ecclesiastical orders of which we nowhere read except among silly raving Sorbonnists and Canonists.

25. Let us now attend to the ceremonies which they employ. And first, all whom they enroll among their militia they initiate into the clerical status by a common symbol. They shave them on the top of the head, that the crown may denote regal honour, because clergy ought to be kings in governing themselves and others. Peter thus speaks of them: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). But it was sacrilege in them to arrogate to themselves alone what is given to the whole Church, and proudly to glory in a title of which they had robbed the faithful. Peter addresses the whole Church: these men wrest it to a few shaven crowns, as if it had been said to them alone, Be ye holy: as if they alone had been purchased by the blood of Christ: as if they alone had been made by Christ kings and priests unto God. Then they assign other reasons (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24). The top of the head is bared, that their mind may be shown to be free, with unveiled face, to behold the glory of God; or that they may be taught to cut off the vices of the eye and the lip. Or the shaving of the head is the laying aside of temporal things, while the circumference of the crown is the remnants of good which are retained for support. Everything is in figure, because forsooth, the veil of the temple is not yet rent. Accordingly, persuaded that they have excellently performed their part because they have figured such things by their crown, they perform none of them in reality. How long will they delude us with such masks and impostures? The clergy, by shaving off some hair, intimate (Sent. loco cit.) that they have cast away abundance of temporal good--that they contemplate the glory of God--that they have mortified concupiscence of the ear and the eye: but no class of men is more rapacious, more stupid, more libidinous. Why do they not rather exhibit true sanctity, than give a hypocritical semblance of it in false and lying signs?

26. Moreover, when they say that the clerical crown has its origin and nature from the Nazarenes, what else do they say than that their mysteries are derived from Jewish ceremonies, or rather are mere Judaism? When they add that Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul himself, after they had taken a vow, shaved their head that they might be purified, they betray their gross ignorance. For we nowhere read this of Priscilla, while, with regard to Aquila, it is uncertain, since that tonsure may refer equally well to Paul as to Aquila (Acts 18:18). But not to leave them in possession of what they ask--viz. that they have an example in Paul, it is to be observed, to the more simple, that Paul never shaved his head for any sanctification, but only in subservience to the weakness of brethren. Vows of this kind I am accustomed to call vows of charity, not of piety; in other words, vows not undertaken for divine worship, but only in deference to the infirmity of the weak, as he himself says, that to the Jews he became a Jew (1 Cor. 9:20). This, therefore, he did, and that once and for a short time, that he might accommodate himself for a little to the Jews. When these men would, for no end, imitate the purifications of the Nazarenes (Num. 6:18), what else do they than set up a new, while they improperly affect to rival the ancient Judaism? In the same spirit the Decretal Epistle was composed, which enjoins the clergy, after the apostle, not to nourish their hair, but to shave it all round (Cap. Prohibitur, Dist. 24); as if the apostle, in showing what is comely for all men, had been solicitous for the spherical tonsure of the clergy. Hence, let my readers consider what kind of force or dignity there can be in the subsequent mysteries, to which this is the introduction.

27. Whence the clerical tonsure had its origin, is abundantly clear from Augustine alone (De Opera. Monach. et Retract). While in that age none wore long hair but the effeminate, and those who affected an unmanly beauty and elegance, it was thought to be of bad example to allow the clergy to do so. They were therefore enjoined either to cut or shave their hair, that they might not have the appearance of effeminate indulgence. And so common was the practice, that some monks, to appear more sanctimonious than others by a notable difference in dress, let their locks hang loose. [679] But when hair returned to use, and some nations, which had always worn long hair, as France, Germany, and England, embraced Christianity, it is probable that the clergy everywhere shaved the head, that they might not seem to affect ornament. At length, in a more corrupt age, when all ancient customs were either changed, or had degenerated into superstition, seeing no reason for the clerical tonsure (they had retained nothing but a foolish imitation), they betook themselves to mystery, and now superstitiously obtrude it upon us in support of their sacrament. The Doorkeepers, on consecration, receive the keys of the Church, by which it is understood that the custody of it is committed to them; the Readers receive the Holy Bible; the Exorcists, forms of exorcism which they use over the possessed and catechumens; the Acolytes, tapers and the flagon. Such are the ceremonies which, it would seem, possess so much secret virtue, that they cannot only be signs and badges, but even causes of invisible grace. For this, according to their definition, they demand, when they would have them to be classed among sacraments. But to despatch the matter in a few words, I say that it is absurd for schools and canons to make sacraments of those minor orders, since, even by the confession of those who do so, they were unknown to the primitive Church, and were devised many ages after. But sacraments as containing a divine promise ought not to be appointed, either by angels or men, but by God only, to whom alone it belongs to give the promise.

28. There remain the three orders which they call major. Of these, what they call the subdeaconate was transferred to this class, after the crowd of minor began to be prolific. But as they think they have authority for these from the word of God, they honour them specially with the name of Holy Orders. Let us see how they wrest the ordinances of God to their own ends. We begin with the order of presbyter or priest. To these two names they give one meaning, understanding by them, those to whom, as they say, it pertains to offer the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood on the altar, to frame prayers, and bless the gifts of God. Hence, at ordination, they receive the patena with the host, as symbols of the power conferred upon them of offering sacrifices to appease God, and their hands are anointed, this symbol being intended to teach that they have received the power of consecrating. But of the ceremonies afterwards. Of the thing itself, I say that it is so far from having, as they pretend, one particle of support from the word of God, that they could not more wickedly corrupt the order which he has appointed. And first, it ought to be held as confessed (this we maintained when treating of the Papal Mass), that all are injurious to Christ who call themselves priests in the sense of offering expiatory victims. He was constituted and consecrated Priest by the Father, with an oath, after the order of Melchisedek, without end and without successor (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:3). He once offered a victim of eternal expiation and reconciliation, and now also having entered the sanctuary of heaven, he intercedes for us. In him we all are priests, but to offer praise and thanksgiving, in fine, ourselves, and all that is ours, to God. It was peculiar to him alone to appease God and expiate sins by his oblation. When these men usurp it to themselves, what follows, but that they have an impious and sacrilegious priesthood? It is certainly wicked over much to dare to distinguish it with the title of sacrament. In regard to the true office of presbyter, which was recommended to us by the lips of Christ, I willingly give it that place. For in it there is a ceremony which, first, is taken from the Scriptures; and, secondly, is declared by Paul to be not empty or superfluous, but to be a faithful symbol of spiritual grace (1 Tim. 4:14). My reason for not giving a place to the third is, because it is not ordinary or common to all believers, but is a special rite for a certain function. But while this honour is attributed to the Christian ministry, Popish priests may not plume themselves upon it. Christ ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be ordained, not sacrificers to be inaugurated, and his command was to preach the gospel and feed the flock, not to immolate victims. He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, not to make expiation for sins, but duly to undertake and maintain the government of the Church (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; John 21:15).

29. With the reality the ceremonies perfectly agree. When our Lord commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel, he breathed upon them (John 20:22). By this symbol he represented the gift of the Holy Spirit which he bestowed upon them. This breathing these worthy men have retained; and, as they were bringing the Holy Spirit from their throat, mutter over their priestlings, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Accordingly, they omit nothing which they do not preposterously mimic. I say not in the manner of players (who have art and meaning in their gestures), but like apes who imitate at random without selection. We observe, say they, the example of the Lord. But the Lord did many things which he did not intend to be examples to us. Our Lord said to his disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). He said also to Lazarus, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43). He said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (John 5:8). Why do they not say the same to all the dead and paralytic? He gave a specimen of his divine power when, in breathing on the apostles, he filled them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. If they attempt to do the same, they rival God, and do all but challenge him to the contest. But they are very far from producing the effect, and only mock Christ by that absurd gesture. Such, indeed, is the effrontery of some, that they dare to assert that the Holy Spirit is conferred by them; but what truth there is in this, we learn from experience, which cries aloud that all who are consecrated priests, of horses become asses, and of fools, madmen. And yet it is not here that I am contending against them; I am only condemning the ceremony itself, which ought not to be drawn into a precedent, since it was used as the special symbol of a miracle, so far is it from furnishing them with an example for imitation.

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


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coram Deo
     11/1/2014    The True Reformers

     Semper reformanda has been hijacked. It is one of the more abused, misused, and misunderstood slogans of our day. Progressives have captured and mutilated the seventeenth-century motto and have demanded that our theology, our churches, and our confessions be always changing in order to conform to our ever-changing culture. However, semper reformanda doesn’t mean what they think it means.

     Semper reformanda doesn’t mean “always changing,” “always morphing,” or even “always reforming.” Rather, it means “always being reformed.” When it was first used, semper reformanda was part of the larger statement ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed and always being reformed). To make the statement more clear, the phrase secundum verbum Dei (according to the Word of God) was later added, making the statement “The church reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.” It grew out of a pastoral concern that we as God’s people would always be reformed by God’s Word—that our theology would not be merely theoretical knowledge but that our theology would be known, loved, and practiced in all of life. Simply put, that our reformed theology according to God’s Word would be always reforming our lives.

     Fundamentally, Reformed theology is theology founded on and fashioned by God’s Word. For it is God’s Word that forms our theology, and it is we who are reformed by that theology as we constantly return to God’s Word every day and in every generation. At its core, this is what the sixteenth-century Reformation was all about, and it’s what being Reformed is all about—confessing and practicing what God’s Word teaches. God’s Word and God’s Spirit reform the church. That said, mere men are not the true reformers, but rather they are stewards and servants of God’s reformation.

     In this sense, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others were not reformers. Luther and Calvin did not boldly set out to reform the church; they humbly submitted to the reforming truth of the Word and the reforming power of the Spirit. The Word and the Spirit reformed the church in the sixteenth century, and they have been reforming the church ever since. Luther and Calvin were the ones who helped point the church back to Scripture, and Scripture alone, as the infallible authority for faith and life.

     The Reformation isn’t over, nor will it ever be over, because reformation—God’s Word and God’s Spirit reforming His church—will never end. God’s Word is always powerful and God’s Spirit is always working to renew our minds, transform our hearts, and change our lives. Therefore, the people of God, the church, will be always “being reformed” according to the unchanging Word of God, not according to our ever-changing culture.

     click here for article source

     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

     “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on,” wrote poet Carl Sandburg, who died this day, July 22, 1967. Sandburg received the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His two volume history of Abraham Lincoln received such acclaim that he was asked to address a joint session of Congress on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday. Carl Sandburg wrote: “I see America not in the setting sun of a black night of despair …. I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun fresh from the burning, creative hand of God.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7


His words will be purer than the finest gold, the best.…
His words will be as the words of the holy ones,
among sanctified peoples.
Blessed are those born in those days
to see the good fortune of Israel.…
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha ( 2 Volume set)

This one book (the Bible) ... has attracted to it, and had concentrated on it, vastly more thought and has called forth more works, explanatory, illustrative, apologetic, upon its text, its meaning, its geography, its theology, its chronology, its evidences, its inspiration, its origin, than all the rest of the literature of the world put together. An immense bulk of the world’s literature owes its origin to this book.
--- Carlyle B Heynes
The Bible: is it a true book?: An inquiry into the origin, authenticity, history, and character of the sacred writings of Christianity

Each member in the body of Christ is important (1 Cor. 12:12–31), and we all need one another and to minister to one another. Since there’s no competition in the work of the Lord (John 4:34–38; 1 Cor. 3:5–9), there’s no need for us to promote ourselves. The important thing is that God receives the glory.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy (Be Series: Ot Commentary)

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4.24 "Had I perceived that you were all zealously disposed to go to war with the Romans, and that the purer and more sincere part of the people did not propose to live in peace, I had not come out to you, nor been so bold as to give you counsel; for all discourses that tend to persuade men to do what they ought to do are superfluous, when the hearers are agreed to do the contrary. But because some are earnest to go to war because they are young, and without experience of the miseries it brings, and because some are for it out of an unreasonable expectation of regaining their liberty, and because others hope to get by it, and are therefore earnestly bent upon it, that in the confusion of your affairs they may gain what belongs to those that are too weak to resist them, I have thought proper to get you all together, and to say to you what I think to be for your advantage; that so the former may grow wiser, and change their minds, and that the best men may come to no harm by the ill conduct of some others. And let not any one be tumultuous against me, in case what they hear me say do not please them; for as to those that admit of no cure, but are resolved upon a revolt, it will still be in their power to retain the same sentiments after my exhortation is over; but still my discourse will fall to the ground, even with a relation to those that have a mind to hear me, unless you will all keep silence. I am well aware that many make a tragical exclamation concerning the injuries that have been offered you by your procurators, and concerning the glorious advantages of liberty; but before I begin the inquiry, who you are that must go to war, and who they are against whom you must fight, I shall first separate those pretenses that are by some connected together; for if you aim at avenging yourselves on those that have done you injury, why do you pretend this to be a war for recovering your liberty? but if you think all servitude intolerable, to what purpose serve your complaint against your particular governors? for if they treated you with moderation, it would still be equally an unworthy thing to be in servitude. Consider now the several cases that may be supposed, how little occasion there is for your going to war. Your first occasion is the accusations you have to make against your procurators; now here you ought to be submissive to those in authority, and not give them any provocation; but when you reproach men greatly for small offenses, you excite those whom you reproach to be your adversaries; for this will only make them leave off hurting you privately, and with some degree of modesty, and to lay what you have waste openly. Now nothing so much damps the force of strokes as bearing them with patience; and the quietness of those who are injured diverts the injurious persons from afflicting. But let us take it for granted that the Roman ministers are injurious to you, and are incurably severe; yet are they not all the Romans who thus injure you; nor hath Caesar, against whom you are going to make war, injured you: it is not by their command that any wicked governor is sent to you; for they who are in the west cannot see those that are in the east; nor indeed is it easy for them there even to hear what is done in these parts. Now it is absurd to make war with a great many for the sake of one, to do so with such mighty people for a small cause; and this when these people are not able to know of what you complain: nay, such crimes as we complain of may soon be corrected, for the same procurator will not continue for ever; and probable it is that the successors will come with more moderate inclinations. But as for war, if it be once begun, it is not easily laid down again, nor borne without calamities coming therewith. However, as to the desire of recovering your liberty, it is unseasonable to indulge it so late; whereas you ought to have labored earnestly in old time that you might never have lost it; for the first experience of slavery was hard to be endured, and the struggle that you might never have been subject to it would have been just; but that slave who hath been once brought into subjection, and then runs away, is rather a refractory slave than a lover of liberty; for it was then the proper time for doing all that was possible, that you might never have admitted the Romans [into your city], when Pompey came first into the country. But so it was, that our ancestors and their kings, who were in much better circumstances than we are, both as to money, and strong bodies, and [valiant] souls, did not bear the onset of a small body of the Roman army. And yet you, who have now accustomed yourselves to obedience from one generation to another, and who are so much inferior to those who first submitted, in your circumstances will venture to oppose the entire empire of the Romans. While those Athenians, who, in order to preserve the liberty of Greece, did once set fire to their own city; who pursued Xerxes, that proud prince, when he sailed upon the land, and walked upon the sea, and could not be contained by the seas, but conducted such an army as was too broad for Europe; and made him run away like a fugitive in a single ship, and brake so great a part of Asia at the Lesser Salamis; are yet at this time servants to the Romans; and those injunctions which are sent from Italy become laws to the principal governing city of Greece. Those Lacedemonians also who got the great victories at Thermopylae and Platea, and had Agesilaus [for their king], and searched every corner of Asia, are contented to admit the same lords. Those Macedonians also, who still fancy what great men their Philip and Alexander were, and see that the latter had promised them the empire over the world, these bear so great a change, and pay their obedience to those whom fortune hath advanced in their stead. Moreover, ten thousand ether nations there are who had greater reason than we to claim their entire liberty, and yet do submit. You are the only people who think it a disgrace to be servants to those to whom all the world hath submitted. What sort of an army do you rely on? What are the arms you depend on? Where is your fleet, that may seize upon the Roman seas? and where are those treasures which may be sufficient for your undertakings? Do you suppose, I pray you, that you are to make war with the Egyptians, and with the Arabians? Will you not carefully reflect upon the Roman empire? Will you not estimate your own weakness? Hath not your army been often beaten even by your neighboring nations, while the power of the Romans is invincible in all parts of the habitable earth? nay, rather they seek for somewhat still beyond that; for all Euphrates is not a sufficient boundary for them on the east side, nor the Danube on the north; and for their southern limit, Libya hath been searched over by them, as far as countries uninhabited, as is Cadiz their limit on the west; nay, indeed, they have sought for another habitable earth beyond the ocean, and have carried their arms as far as such British islands as were never known before. What therefore do you pretend to? Are you richer than the Gauls, stronger than the Germans, wiser than the Greeks, more numerous than all men upon the habitable earth? What confidence is it that elevates you to oppose the Romans? Perhaps it will be said, It is hard to endure slavery. Yes; but how much harder is this to the Greeks, who were esteemed the noblest of all people under the sun! These, though they inhabit in a large country, are in subjection to six bundles of Roman rods. It is the same case with the Macedonians, who have juster reason to claim their liberty than you have.

          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 21:23-24
     by D.H. Stern

23     Whoever guards his mouth and tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.

24     “Scoffer” is what you call a proud, insolent person
who acts with overweening conceit.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham

     BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

     I have allowed the Mushrooms on the Moor to throw the glamour of their name over the entire volume because, in some respects, they are the most typical and representative things in it. They express so little but suggest so much! What fun we had, in the days of auld lang syne, when we scoured the dewy fields in search of them! And yet how small a proportion of our enjoyment the mushrooms themselves represented! Our flushed cheeks, our prodigious appetites, and our boisterous merriment told of gains immensely greater than any that our baskets could have held. What a contrast, for example, between mushrooms from the moor on the one hand and mushrooms from the market on the other! What memories of the soft summer mornings; the fresh and fragrant air; the diffused and misty sunshine; the sparkle of the dew on the tall wisps of speargrass; the beaded and shining cobwebs; the scamper, barefooted, across the glittering green! It was part of childhood's wild romance. And, in the sterner days that have followed those tremendous frolics, we have learned that life is full of just such suggestive things. As I glance back upon the years that lie behind me, I find that they have been almost equally divided between two hemispheres. But I have discovered that, under any stars,

     There's part o' the sun in an apple;
     There's part o' the moon in a rose;
     There's part o' the flaming Pleiades
     In every leaf that grows.

     And I shall reckon this book no failure if some of the ideas that I have tried to suggest are found to point at all steadily to that conclusion.

     FRANK W. BOREHAM. | HOBART, TASMANIA, JUNE, 1915.

     PART I | A SLICE OF INFINITY

     Really, as I sit here in this quiet study, and glance round at the books upon the shelves, I can scarcely refrain from laughing at the fun we have had together. And to think of the way in which they came into my possession! It seems like a fairy story or a chapter from romance. If a man wants to spend an hour or so as delightfully as it is possible to spend it, let him invite to his fireside some old and valued friend, the companion of many a frolic and the sharer of many a sorrow; let him seat his old comrade there in the place of honour on the opposite side of the hearth, and then let them talk. 'Do you remember, Tom, the way we met for the first time?' 'My word, I do! Shall I ever forget it?' And Tom slaps his knee at the memory of it, and they enjoy a long and hearty laugh together. It is not that the circumstances under which they met were so ludicrous or dramatic; it is that they were so commonplace. It seems, on looking back, the oddest chance in the world that first brought them together, the merest whim of chance, the veriest freak of circumstance; and yet how all life has taken its colour and drawn its enrichment from that casual meeting! They happened to enter the same compartment of a railway train; or they sat next each other on the tramcar; or they walked home together from a political meeting; or they caught each other admiring the same rose at a flower show. Neither sought the other; neither felt the slightest desire for the other; neither knew, until that moment, of the existence of the other; and yet there it is! They met; and out of that apparently accidental meeting there has sprung up a friendship that many changes cannot change, and a love that many waters cannot quench. Either would cross all the continents and oceans of the world to-day to find the other; but as they remember how they met for the first time it seems too queer to be credible. And they lie back in their easy chairs and laugh again.

     That is why I laugh at my books. Some day I intend to draw up a list of them and divide them into classes. In one class I shall put the books that I bought, once upon a time, because I was given to understand that they were the right sort of books to have. Everybody else had them; and my shelves would therefore be scarcely decent without them. I purchased them, accordingly, and they have stood on the shelves there ever since. As far as I know they have done nobody the slightest harm in all their long untroubled lives. Indeed, they have imparted such an air of gravity, and such an odour of sanctity, to the establishment as must have had a steadying effect on their less sombre companions. But it is not at these formidable volumes that I am laughing. I would not dare. I glance at them with reverential awe, and am more than half afraid of them. Then, again, there are other books that I bought because I felt that I needed them. And so I did, more than perhaps I guessed when I bore them proudly home. Glorious times I have had with them. I look up at them gratefully and lovingly. It is not at these that I am laughing. But there are others, old and trusted friends, that came into my life in the oddest possible way. I do not mean that I stole them. I mean rather that they stole me. They seemed to pounce out at me, and before I knew what had happened I belonged to them: I certainly did not seek them. In some cases I never heard of their existence until after they became my own. They have since proved invaluable to me, and I can scarcely review our long companionship without emotion. Yet when I glance up at them, and remember the whimsical way in which we met for the first time, I can scarce restrain my laughter.

     It was like this. Years ago I went to an auction sale. A library was being submitted to the hammer. The books were all tied up in lots. The work had evidently been done by somebody who knew as much about books as a Hottentot knows about icebergs. John Bunyan was tied tightly to Nat Gould, and Thomas Carlyle was firmly fastened to Charles Garvice. I looked round; took a note of the numbers of those lots that contained books that I wanted, and waited for the auctioneer to get to business. In due time I became the purchaser of half a dozen lots. I had bought six books that I wanted, and thirty that I didn't. Now the question arose: What shall I do with these thirty waifs and strays? I glanced over them and took pity on them. Many of them dealt with matters in which I had never taken the slightest interest. But were they to blame for that? or was I? I saw at once that the fault was entirely mine, and that these unoffending volumes had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I vowed that I would read the lot, and I did. From one or two of them I derived as far as I know, no profit at all. But these were the exceptions. Some of these volumes have been the delight of my life during all the days of my pilgrimage. And as I look tenderly up at them, as they stand in their very familiar places before me, I salute them as the two old comrades saluted each other across the hearthstone. But I cannot help laughing at the odd manner of our first acquaintance. It was thus that I learned one of the most valuable lessons that experience ever taught me. It is sometimes a fine thing to sample infinity.

     When I was a small boy I dreaded the policeman; when I grew older I feared the bookseller. And as the years go by I find that my dread of the policeman has quite evaporated, but my fear of the bookseller grows upon me. I had an idea as a boy that one day a policeman, mistaking my identity, would snatch me up and hurl me into some horrid little dungeon, where I might languish for many a long day. But since I have grown up I have discovered that it is only the bookseller who does that sort of thing. And in his case he does it deliberately and of malice aforethought. It is no case of mistaken identity; he knows who you are, and he knows you are innocent. But he has his dungeon ready. The bookseller is a very dangerous person, and every member of the community should guard against his blandishments. It is not that he will sell you too many books. He will probably not sell you half as many as are good for you. But he will sell you the wrong books. He will sell you the books you least need, and keep on his own shelves the intellectual pabulum for which your soul is starving. And all with a view to getting you at last into his wretched little dungeon. See how he goes about it. A friend of yours goes to the West Indies. You suddenly wake up to the fact that you know very little about that wonderful region. You go to your bookseller and ask for the latest reliable work on the West Indies. You buy it, and he, the rascal, takes a mental note of the fact. Next time you walk into the shop he is at you like a flash.

     'Good afternoon, sir. You are specially interested, I know, in the West Indies. We have a very fine thing coming out now in monthly parts . . .'

     And so on. His attribution to you of special interest in the West Indies is no empty flattery. The book you bought on your first visit has charmed you, and you are most deeply and sincerely interested in those fascinating islands. You order the monthly parts and the interest deepens. The bookseller does the thing so slyly that you do not notice that he is boxing you up in the West Indies. He is doing in sober fact what the policeman did in childish imagination. He is driving us into a blind alley, and, unless we are very careful, he will have us cribb'd, cabin'd, and confined before we know where we are.

     It was my experience in the auction-room that saved me. When I had read all these books which I should never have bought if I could have helped it, I discovered the folly of buying books that interest you. If a book appeals to me at first sight it is probably because I know a good deal about the subject with which it deals. But, as against that, see how many subjects there are of which I know nothing at all! And just look at all these books that have no attraction for me! And tell me this: Why do they not appeal to me? Only one answer is possible. They do not appeal to me because I am so grossly, wofully, culpably ignorant of the subjects whereof they treat. If, therefore, my bookseller approaches me, with a nice new book under his arm, and observes coaxingly that he knows I am interested in history, I always ask him to be good enough to show me the latest work on psychology. If he reminds me of my fondness for astronomy, I ask him for a handbook of botany. If he refers to my predilection for agriculture, I inquire if there is anything new in the way of poetry; and if he politely refers to my weakness for the West Indies, I ask him to bring me something dealing with Lapland. The bookseller must be circumvented, defeated, and crushed at any cost. He is too clever at trapping us in his narrow little cell. If a man wants to feel that the world is wide, and a good place to live in, he must be for ever and for ever sampling infinity. He must shun the books that he dearly wants to buy, and buy the books he would do anything to shun.

     Yes, I bought thirty-six books that day in the auction-room; six that I wanted and thirty that I didn't. And some of those thirty volumes have been the charmers of my solitude and the classics of my soul ever since. I do not advise any man to rush off to the nearest auction mart and repeat my experiment. We must not gamble with life. Infinity must be sampled intelligently. But, if a man is to keep himself alive in a world like this, infinity must be sampled. Like a dog on a country road I must poke into as many holes as I can. If I am naturally fond of music, I had better study mining. If I love painting, I shall be wise to go in for gardening. If I glory in the seaside, I must make a point of climbing mountains and scouring the bush. If I am attached to the things just under my nose, I must be careful to read books dealing with distant lands. If I am deeply interested in contemporary affairs, I must at once read the records of the days of long ago and explore the annals of the splendid past. I must be faithful to old friends, but I must get to know new people and to know them well. If I hold to one opinion, I must studiously cultivate the acquaintance of men who hold the opposite view, and investigate the hidden recesses of their minds with scientific and painstaking diligence. Above all must I be constantly sampling infinity in matters of faith. If I find that the Epistles are gaining a commanding influence upon my mind, I must at once set out to explore the prophets. If I find some special phase of truth powerfully attracting me, I must, without shunning it, pay increasing attention to all other aspects. 'The Lord has yet more truth to break from out His Word!' said John Robinson; and I must try to find it. Mr. Goodman is a splendid fellow; but he fell in love with one lonely little truth one day, and now he never thinks or reads or preaches of any other. It would be his salvation, and the salvation of his people, if he would set out to climb the peaks that have no attraction for him. He would find, when he stood on their sunlit summits, that they too are part of God's great world. He would have the time of his life if he would only commence to sample infinity. His people are accustomed to seeing him every now and again in a new suit of clothes. If he begins to-day to sample infinity, they will next week experience a fresh sensation. They will see the same suit of clothes with a new man inside it.

Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Sanctification

     This is the will of God, even your sanctification. --- 1 Thess. 4:3.

     The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. Many of us spend so much time in the place of death that we get sepulchral. There is always a battle royal before sanctification, always something that tugs with resentment against the demands of Jesus Christ. Immediately the Spirit of God begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle begins. “If any man come to Me, and hate not … his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

     The Spirit of God in the process of sanctification will strip me until I am nothing but ‘myself,’ that is the place of death. Am I willing to be ‘myself,’ and nothing more—no friends, no father, no brother, no self-interest, simply ready for death? That is the condition of sanctification. No wonder Jesus said: “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us faint. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus on this point. ‘But it is so stern,’ we say; “He cannot wish me to do that.’ Our Lord is stern; and He does wish me to do that.

     Am I willing to reduce myself simply to ‘me,’ determinedly to strip myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself, and to hand that simple naked self over to God? Immediately I am, He will sanctify me wholly, and my life will be free from earnestness in connection with everything but God.

     When I pray—‘Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,’ He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ puts into me: it is Himself in me.


My Utmost for His Highest

The Evacuee
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                The Evacuee

She woke up under a loose quilt
  Of leaf patterns, woven by the light
  At the small window, busy with the boughs
  Of a young cherry; but wearily she lay,
  Waiting for the siren, slow to trust
  Nature’s deceptive peace, and then afraid
  Of the long silence, she would have crept
  Uneasily from the bedroom with its frieze
Of fresh sunlight, had not a cock crowed,
  Shattering the surface of that limpid pool
  Of stillness, and before the ripples died
  One by one in the field’s shallows
  The farm awoke with uninhibited din.

And now the noise and not the silence drew her
  Down the bare stairs at great speed.
  The sounds and voices were a rough sheet
  Waiting to catch her, as though she leaped
  From a scorched story to the charred past.

And there the table and the gallery
  Of farm faces trying to be kind
  Beckoned her nearer, and she sat down
  Under the awning of salt hams.

And so she grew, a shy bird in the nest
  Of welcome that was built around her,
  Home now after so long away
  In the flowerless streets of the drab town.
  The men watched her busy with the hens,
  The soft flesh ripening warm as corn
  On the sticks of limbs, the grey eyes clear,
  Rinsed with dew of their long dread,
  The men watched her, and nodding, smiled
With earth’s charity, patient and strong.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 5:1–2


     Idiot! Who ever saw a Kohen in a cemetery?

     BIBLE TEXT /
Exodus 5:1–2 / Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go that they may celebrate a festival for Me in the wilderness.” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should heed Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 5, 14 / Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said, “That day was a day of Pharaoh’s reception of ambassadors, and all the kings came to pay him honor. They brought gifts of crowns with which to crown him, for it was the Day of the Cosmocrator [the lord of the world], and they brought their gods with them. After they [the ambassadors and kings] had crowned him, Moses and Aaron were standing by the door of Pharaoh’s palace. His servants entered and said, ‘Two elders ate standing at the door.’ He said to them, ‘Let them come up.’ When they came up, he looked at them—perhaps they would crown him, or perhaps they would give him letters—but they did not even greet him. He said to them, ‘Who are you?’ They said to him, ‘We are representatives of the Holy One, praised is He.’ ‘What do you request?’ They said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go.…’ At that moment he got angry and said, ‘Who is the Lord that I should heed Him and let Israel go? He didn’t even know enough to send me a crown; rather with words [alone] you come to me? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.’ He said to them, ‘Wait for me until I check my book.’ He immediately entered his palace and looked up each and every nation and its gods. He began to read: the gods of Moab, and the gods of Ammon, and the gods of Sidon. He said to them, ‘I searched for his name in my archives but I could not find it.’ ”
     Rabbi Levi said, “A parable: To what is this similar? To a Kohen who had an idiot servant. The Kohen went outside the province. The servant went to seek his master in a cemetery. He began calling to the people standing there, ‘You haven’t seen my master here?’ They said to him, ‘Your master, isn’t he a Kohen?’ He said to them, ‘Yes.’ They said to him, ‘Idiot! Who ever saw a Kohen in a cemetery?’ So too, Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, ‘Idiot—is it the way of the dead to be sought after among the living, or the living from among the dead? Our God is alive; those others you mentioned are dead. But our God is a living God and an eternal King.’ ”

     CONTEXT / Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba takes the very spare biblical text and imagines a much more detailed and dramatic story of Moses’ and Aaron’s encounter with Pharaoh. While purporting to tell us something about the Egyptian court, Rabbi Ḥiyya draws upon Roman custom and language. (Cosmocrator is one of the titles used by the emperor.) We are presented a picture of a king so powerful that all the nations of the world come to pay homage to him—all the kings came to pay him honor—yet at the same time, this king is totally ignorant of the existence of the one true God—Who is the Lord that I should heed him?

     Rabbi Levi builds on Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba’s story. A parable: He likens the great and mighty Pharaoh to a lowly servant (and an idiotic one, at that). We can’t help but wonder if the ridicule of Pharaoh was actually a veiled attack by Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba and Rabbi Levi on the political leadership of their own time and place (early-to mid-fourth century Israel).

     The parable about the idiot servant is based on the law in the Torah that a Kohen, “priest” (one who traced his roots back to Aaron and his family), was not allowed to become “defiled by the dead.” In order to officiate in the Temple service, a Kohen had to be in a state of ritual purity. Contact with or proximity to the dead rendered a person ritually impure and disqualified a Kohen from offering the sacrifices. The priest had to avoid being in the same room with a dead body and also had to stay away from cemeteries. (Exceptions were allowed when the Kohen’s immediate family member had died.) Even after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. by the Romans, the laws concerning the Kohen’s avoidance of contact with the dead remained in effect, either out of reverence to the past or in anticipation of the future rebuilding of the Temple. To this day, many Kohanim (plural of Kohen) do not attend a funeral or enter a cemetery.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 22

     Christ… the wisdom of God. --- 1 Corinthians 1:24.

     Our age is eager in its pursuit of knowledge. (Horatius Bonar, “Divine Philosophy,” in Family Sermons It professes to be a truth-loving and a truth-seeking age. It is quite awake to science and thoroughly in love with its marvels. It has obtained insight into the processes of that which is called “nature.” It has witnessed one substance, and another and another, yielding up their hidden wonders. It has seen earth and sea and air giving out their treasures, and it has wrung the deepest secrets from every region of being. It has taken possession of unreclaimed territory and covered the waste places of former days with verdure and fragrance and beauty.

     Its fields of discovery lie all around us, near and far. Wherever it has turned its steps, it has found stores of truth. What a profundity of miracle there is contained in every ray of light, every drop of dew, every pebble of the brook, every fragment of rock, every blade of grass. What an exemplification of order and law there is revealed in every natural process—the motion of earth and sun and stars, the flow of tides, the rush of the breeze, the braiding of the rainbow on the cloud, the change of seasons, the springing, growth, blossoming, and fruit-bearing of flower and shrub and tree!

     These are the works of God, the laws of God, the daily miracles of God. In all of them wisdom is seen, divine wisdom—wisdom as profound as it is perfect, as incomprehensible as it is glorious, as magnificent in its minuteness as in its vastness—in the grain of sand as in the mighty mountain, in the blush of the unnoticed desert flower as in the splendor of a new-lighted star.

     In all this there is wisdom, wisdom that we do well to study. Yet all these are only parts, mere fragments, and, even when gathered together, they still form only the minutest portion of a whole, whose dimensions are vaster than the created universe—a whole of which nothing less than the infinity of Godhead is the measure. There is some proportion between a drop and the ocean, between the stream and the fountain, between a beam and the sun, between a moment and a million of ages, but there is no proportion between the fragments of wisdom that lie scattered over creation and the great whole, which can be contained in no treasure-house except that which is infinite and divine.
--- Horatius Bonar


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

On This Day
     The Mayflower  July 22

     Many nations originate amid heathenism and are slowly converted to Christ. America is uniquely different. Of all the nations of history, it alone began as a Christian venture and has slowly sunk into heathenism.

     It began during the reign of King James. The Puritans weren’t happy with mere political reform in the church in England; they wanted genuine spiritual reform. James rejected their demands (except for approving a new translation of the Bible), and this left the Puritans unsettled. Some, believing the Church of England beyond help, separated from it into independent congregations of their own. These people became known as Separatists, and King James, viewing them as traitors, “harried them out of the land.”

     In 1607–1608 two groups fled to Holland. One of them, while studying Scripture, concluded that baptism was a rite for believers only (rather than for infants), and the Baptist movement was born. The other group, led by William Brewster and John Robinson, remained in Holland until July 22, 1620, when with packed bags and children in tow, its members sailed back to England and there boarded the Mayflower for the trip of their lives.

•     The Pilgrims arrived off the coast of Cape Cod in November of that year and paused long enough to draw up an organizing charter, the Mayflower Compact, the first written agreement for self-government ever put in force in America.

•     Its words plainly stated the purpose of the first government on American shores: In ye name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James, by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith. Haveing undertaken, for ye glories of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & covenant, & combine ourselves togeather into a Civill body politick; for our better ordering, & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid. …

•     If I promise to make a nation strong, but its people start disobeying me and doing evil, then I will change my mind and not help them at all. So listen to me.
--- Jeremiah 18:9-11a.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 22

     “I am married unto you.” --- Jeremiah 3:14.

     Christ Jesus is joined unto his people in marriage-union. In love he espoused his Church as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Not yet hath the glorious Bridegroom presented his betrothed, perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven; not yet hath she actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as his wife and queen: she is as yet a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar; but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to his heart, precious in his sight, written on his hands, and united with his person. On earth he exercises towards her all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her wants, pays all her debts, allows her to assume his name, and to share in all his wealth. Nor will he ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce he will never mention, for “He hateth putting away.” Death must sever the conjugal tie between the most loving mortals, but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage. In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God; yet there is this one marvellous exception to the rule, for in Heaven Christ and his Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials. This affinity as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock. Let the love of husband be never so pure and fervent, it is but a faint picture of the flame which burns in the heart of Jesus. Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ left his Father, and became one flesh with her.


          Evening - July 22

     “Behold the man!” --- John 19:5.

     If there be one place where our Lord Jesus most fully becomes the joy and comfort of his people, it is where he plunged deepest into the depths of woe. Come hither, gracious souls, and behold the man in the garden of Gethsemane; behold his heart so brimming with love that he cannot hold it in—so full of sorrow that it must find a vent. Behold the bloody sweat as it distils from every pore of his body, and falls upon the ground. Behold the man as they drive the nails into his hands and feet. Look up, repenting sinners, and see the sorrowful image of your suffering Lord. Mark him, as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown, and adorn with priceless gems the diadem of the King of Misery. Behold the man when all his bones are out of joint, and he is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death; God hath forsaken him, and hell compasseth him about. Behold and see, was there ever sorrow like unto his sorrow that is done unto him? All ye that pass by draw near and look upon this spectacle of grief, unique, unparalleled, a wonder to men and angels, a prodigy unmatched. Behold the Emperor of Woe who had no equal or rival in his agonies! Gaze upon him, ye mourners, for if there be not consolation in a crucified Christ there is no joy in earth or heaven. If in the ransom price of his blood there be not hope, ye harps of heaven, there is no joy in you, and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures for evermore. We have only to sit more continually at the cross foot to be less troubled with our doubts and woes. We have but to see his sorrows, and our sorrows we shall be ashamed to mention. We have but to gaze into his wounds and heal our own. If we would live aright it must be by the contemplation of his death; if we would rise to dignity, it must be by considering his humiliation and his sorrow.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 22

          A CHILD OF THE KING

     Harriett E. Buell, 1834–1910

     We are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. (Romans 8:16, 17)KJV

     As children of the heavenly kingdom, we should learn to enjoy and possess the rich spiritual blessings that belong to us as heirs of God’s riches.

•     We have been justified and made acceptable to God—Romans 5:1
•     We have been adopted into God’s royal family—Romans 8:16, 17
•     We have been given a citizenship in heaven—Philippians 3:20
•     We possess the indwelling Holy Spirit—1 Corinthians 6:19
•     We have been placed into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love—Colossians 1:13
•     We have the promise that the best is yet to come—a heavenly home—1 Corinthians 2:9

     Whether you are great or small in God’s kingdom, you are still God’s child. An infant is as truly a child of its parents as is a full-grown person. You are as dear to your heavenly Father as the most prominent member in His family.

     Harriett Buell wrote the words for “A Child of the King” one Sunday Morning while walking home from her Methodist church service. She sent her text to the Northern Christian Advocate, and it was printed in the February 1, 1877 issue of the magazine. John Sumner, a singing school music teacher, saw the words and composed the music without Harriett Buell’s knowledge. The hymn has been widely used since then to remind believers who they really are—bearers of God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and children of the King of kings.

     My Father is rich in houses and lands; He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands! Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full—He has riches untold.
     My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men, once wandered o’er earth as the poorest of them; but now He is reigning forever on high, and will give me a home in heav’n by and by.
     I once was an outcast stranger on earth, a sinner by choice and an alien by birth; but I’ve been adopted; my name’s written down—an heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown.
     A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there! Tho exiled from home, yet still I may sing: All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.
     Chorus: I’m a child of the King! With Jesus, my Savior, I’m a child of the King!


     For Today: Romans 8:14–17; Galatians 4:1– 7; Ephesians 1:5; James 2:5.

     As an heir of God and a citizen of heaven, strive to make your walk and actions consistent with this high calling. Sing as you go ---

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. XCIV. — BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason, — that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.

     And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the un-learned, by vanities of words, and by “oppositions of science falsely so called.” For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.

     And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on. — First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God. — And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit, — that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of “Free-will,” but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as “Free-will”; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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