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Judges 6     Acts 10     Jeremiah 19     Mark 5


Judges 6

Midian Oppresses Israel

Judges 6 1 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

The Call of Gideon

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” 17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.

Gideon Destroys the Altar of Baal

28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.

The Sign of the Fleece

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.


Acts 10

Peter and Cornelius

Acts 10 1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Peter's Vision

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Gentiles Hear the Good News

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.


Jeremiah 19

The Broken Flask

Jeremiah 19 1 Thus says the Lord, “Go, buy a potter's earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, 2 and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. 3 You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’

10 “Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 11 and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, declares the Lord, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven, and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods—shall be defiled like the place of Topheth.’”

14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the Lord's house and said to all the people: 15 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words.”


Mark 5

Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon

Mark 5 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus's Daughter

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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The Triune God: Good, Beautiful, and True

By Harry L. Reeder III 9/1/2010

     Compare this Psalm with the three statements that follow:

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the
Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
I believe that I shall look upon the
goodness of the Lord in the land
of the living! (Ps. 27:4, 13).

(1) I’m not saying that it is bad or evil, it’s just not the best choice for you.
(2) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
(3) You have your truth, and I have my truth.

     If one stops and thinks through these three statements, it does not take long to realize they are patently absurd. All three illustrate concepts that dominate the way our culture thinks about goodness, beauty, and truth. As a result, all three are undermined in our culture, often perverted, and at best minimized. This has been accomplished very simply. We are preoccupied with ourselves. Self-actualization and self-esteem have become the highest goods of life, where we give all of our affection and adoration. Each of us is an abettor in the relativization of goodness, beauty, and truth, claiming that there is no true truth, only “my truth,” which may or may not be “your truth.” “True truth” is not to be expected. There is no objective beauty; all is simply a matter of personal taste. Certainly nothing is intrinsically good — though it may be permissible to assign goodness out of personal preferences — but unless something is politically incorrect, it cannot be identified as good or bad. It can only be declared as preferred.

     The Word of God clearly challenges our attempt to relativize truth, beauty, and goodness, first by declaring the Word itself true, beautiful, and good, then by revealing these as attributes of the triune God. Truth is a reality because God is truth and cannot lie. Therefore, what God says does not contain truth or become truth — it is truth: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

     Beauty does not claim to be a product dependent upon the evaluation of an onlooker. In other words, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it is the Lord who is beautiful. He is the God of beauty. In Psalm 27:4, David declares a single prayer — that he “might dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” not simply to be in His presence, but specifically “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” A beholder may or may not have the ability to appreciate beauty, but one thing is clear, the beholder does not make beauty, for God is beauty. It is one of His attributes, and therefore what He says and does is beautiful. The question for us is simple, yet profound in its implication: Do we have the Godgiven ability to see the beauty of the Lord, affirm that beauty, and then use His beauty to rejoice in the Lord for His own glory?

     Concerning goodness, do we long to embrace the goodness of the Lord? This is not the flimsy imposter in our society that is determined by the collective assent of what is permissible behavior in a narcissistic culture, nor what is in vogue as a passing fad. The Lord is good. In the same Psalm, David hopes that he will “look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

     So here are two wonderful facts for every Christian: First, truth, beauty, and goodness are living realities because they are the attributes of the living and triune God. His Word reveals Him and, therefore, what is true, what is beautiful, and what is good. His Word warns as to the reality and perversity of the lie, the ugly, and the evil. The warning includes the fact that we bring these from our unassisted hearts as we suppress the glory of God and exalt ourselves. Our sinful hearts have destroyed our ability to love truth, to appreciate beauty, and to do good.

     But the second wonderful fact is the glorious blessing that God, in His grace and glory, hears us when we call upon Him by faith and repentance in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our Redeemer will deliver us from our sin so that we might not only behold truth, beauty, and goodness, but so that we will love truth, beauty, and goodness because we first love Him, the Lord of truth, beauty, and goodness.

     David desired to continually abide “in the house of the Lord” because it is in His sanctuary that we meet the true, the beautiful, and the good. He is the Sanctuary, and now, amazingly, He makes us into His sanctuary. We are the temple of the Lord. So, let’s expand our prayer: O Lord, allow us to behold the One who is true, beautiful, and good. Make us a sanctuary that others may see the truth, beauty, and good of the triune God in Your church. By Your spirit, through Your Son, and for Your glory, may they see You, for there is none like You. True are You, O Lord. Beautiful are You, O Savior. Good are You, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

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     Harry L. Reeder III earned an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and a DMin from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

The Grace of Cheerful Giving

By Frank Cavalli 9/1/2010

     In the last few years, the U.S. economy has faced its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Americans are not out of the woods yet. This financial debacle, fueled by failed mortgages, has rippled through every sector of the economy. The values of homes and investments have plummeted. Consumer confidence has fallen to an all-time low. Millions are out of work, wondering how they will make ends meet. Since charitable giving is one of the first areas to suffer in an economic downturn, churches have felt the pinch and many have been forced to slash budgets and lay off staff. There’s no question we live in challenging times, but with each new challenge comes opportunity.

     Through this crisis, when the idols of our materialistic culture lie shattered on the floor, like Dagon before the ark of the Lord, and the nation’s sense of security is in jeopardy, God has given the church an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that allegiance to Christ results in a distinct set of values and priorities. As we find our joy and treasure in Christ we are set free from debilitating worries about money and an insidious slavery to things. In Adam we worship and serve “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). In Christ our hearts are set aright. Our perception and response to this global economic meltdown ought to be different because we are a peculiar people, a people who no longer belong to this world but to God. Jesus taught that if we love only those who love us and fail to love our enemies, we are no better than the pagans. Likewise, if we are generous and cheerful in our giving only when times are good and our bank accounts are robust, how are we different from the world? Christians in the West have enjoyed an extended season of plenty. In this season of want, perhaps God intends to teach His people some fresh lessons about the grace of giving.

     In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul exhorts the church to give selflessly and cheerfully, inspired by the magnanimity of the Macedonians and Christ Himself. In chapter 9 he offers this summary statement: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (vv. 6–8). It is unbelief and fear of loss that constrain our liberality, but here Paul compares giving to sowing. Seed sown in the soil seems lost, but the farmer knows a season of harvest will follow. As we sow bountifully with faith in the benevolence of God, not only can we expect to reap a harvest of earthly blessings, but we store up for ourselves a good foundation for our eternal future (1 Tim. 6:19).

     In one sense, how we give can be more important than what we give. We must be cognizant of how our giving appears in the sight of God, for He loves a cheerful giver. To give cheerfully is to give without grieving — to give with ease, spontaneity, and pleasure. It is necessary to honor God with our tithes and offerings, yet no sacrifice is pleasing to Him unless it is voluntary. Our Father desires the cheerful obedience of His children.

     Paul cited the Macedonian Christians as exemplars of this spirit. In spite of their poverty and affliction, their joy in Christ resulted in abounding liberality. “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor. 8:2). Severe affliction and extreme poverty do not usually add up to a wealth of generosity. Such circumstances would seem to provide justification for withholding whatever resources one has left in the interest of self-preservation. But their joy in Christ was so abundant that it could not be contained. Joy, like gratitude, seeks expression. The question for the Macedonians was not “How little?” but “How much?” If God’s grace has truly gripped our hearts, we will not be calculating the minimum we can offer, but the maximum we can give to Christ and His church. Cheerful givers always wish they could give more. Our tendency today is to spend beyond our means, but the Macedonians gave beyond their means: “for they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (vv. 3–4). Pleas from the pulpit and desperate appeals from the deacons were unnecessary. God’s people begged to help their brethren in Jerusalem. That’s not something you hear very often.

     How do we account for their extraordinary munificence? Paul attributed it to the grace of God (v. 1). To give sacrificially with joy is not natural; it is supernatural and requires the presence and prompting of the Holy Spirit. Giving is an act of worship and a work of grace.

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     Rev. Frank Cavalli is senior pastor of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Winter Park, Florida. Before the Beginning Began

Building with Conviction

By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2010

     Wherever people come together to worship God, whether it be on a desert island or in a burgeoning metropolis, whether it be on the plains of Africa or in the cold winter of Siberia, people are concerned to worship Him in terms of the good, the true, and the beautiful. In the book of Exodus, we see the origin of the tabernacle, which was the house of God. This was the house where people came to meet with the living God. In order to prepare that house, the Lord gave meticulous instructions, down to the finest details, as to how the place of meeting was to be constructed. We know that homes or houses come in all shapes and sizes. Some are ornate, others are simple, merely providing the basics that are needed for shelter. There are grass huts, tepees, igloos, castles, and Victorian mansions. The tabernacle had a particular design. It was the dwelling place where God would meet with His people. More chapters are devoted in the Old Testament to the building of the tabernacle than are found in the entire book of Romans. This demonstrates the concern our Lord has for how He is worshiped.

     Since the very beginning, from Cain and Abel to the New Testament model, God has required that true worship be done in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God is the source, the fountainhead, and the norm of all that is true. His judgment comes crashing down through the ages on all forms of false worship and idolatry. Idolatry is so pernicious because it distorts and smothers the truth of God. In like manner, God is the source, the fountainhead, and the norm of all that is good. Evil in all of its forms represents a transgression or departure from the good. In the context of worship, goodness is to be part of the focus of attention. Finally, God is the source, the fountainhead, and the norm of all that is beautiful. Just as everything that is true points to God, and everything that is good points to God, so everything that is authentically beautiful also points to the source and fountainhead of that beauty.

     The Old Testament tabernacle was but a shadow of things that were to come. What it foreshadowed was fulfilled in the perfect sacrifice of the incarnate Christ, who was, during His first advent, God “tabernacling” among us. Since the essence of the foreshadowing of the tabernacle was fulfilled in Christ, many have come to the conclusion that we have nothing further to learn from its construction. They say we are not to look at it as a model for New Testament churches, as it has no further significance since Jesus altogether fulfilled its function. Upon taking a second glance however, the question is raised: Are there transferable principles found in the construction of the tabernacle that may be useful for the construction of houses of worship in the New Testament? I believe there are.

     When we look at the instructions for the building of the Old Testament tabernacle, down to the particular threads and linens that were used in the garments of Aaron and the priests, we learn they were designed “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2, 40). But for whose glory were they designed? Not for the human beings who ministered in the tabernacle. Arguably, the glory that is in view is the glory of the Lord. The beauty is to manifest that same glory. It is the beauty of God that is on display in the tabernacle. Since Christ fulfilled all of the aspects of the sacrificial system undertaken in the Old Testament tabernacle, does that mean that God’s concern for His glory and for His beauty has passed away? I think not. God has lost nothing of His glory or of His beauty. The principle of seeking to show forth His glory and His beauty in the places where we meet Him is not something that can be lightly discarded.

     We know this to be the case because the finest materials available to human beings were used to adorn the sanctuary by God’s own command. The most skilled artisans were employed to construct the sacred vessels. The first people mentioned in the Bible as being filled with the Holy Spirit were the artisans whom God selected for this undertaking. Again, His dwelling, His place of meeting with His people, was to manifest His glory and His beauty, indeed the beauty of holiness.

     In our day, we have seen a widespread movement to abandon all the “churchiness” of churches. Instead of using architectural styles designed to call attention to the transcendent majesty of God — the beauty of His holiness and glory — we have moved in the direction of pure functionality. Churches are designed now for creature comfort and for utilitarian purposes. We have even seen the pulpits of churches being removed or the use of portable pulpits so as to not get in the way of productions. Contrarily, in the churches of Christian history, particularly in Reformation churches, the pulpit rose as the dominant feature of the interior of the building, indicating the central importance of the Word of God, the absolute significance of God’s truth. At the same time, the preaching of the Word of God calls the people out of sin and to righteousness, emphasizing the central importance of goodness to the Christian life. Something, then, has been lost in the move to pure functionality.

     In the final analysis, we ask, what happened to beauty? Modern churches tend to look like prefabricated warehouses, or they’re designed to be functional music halls so that the production of music may have center stage. In the Old Testament, the whole person was engaged in worship. The mind was engaged with the Word of God. The music of the choirs and the instruments mentioned in many of the Psalms were part of the design of worship. There was an auditory beauty. There was a visual beauty. There was even an olfactory beauty with the sweet aroma of incense that was part of the experience of worship. All five senses, as well as the mind, were engaged in biblical worship. If we are to worship God fully in truth and in Spirit, we need to incorporate beauty among the gathering of His people wherever possible. This is the model that God followed when He designed the tabernacle, His dwelling place in Israel.

     There’s nothing in redemptive history that would make beauty, goodness, or truth suddenly passé or insignificant. These elements, which point to God, are always and everywhere, in every time and in every nation, significant elements of godly worship.

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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.

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Beyond Reason?

By John C. Lennox 9/1/2010

     Although science with all of its power cannot address some of the fundamental questions that we ask, nevertheless the universe contains certain clues as to our relationship to it, clues that are scientifically accessible. The rational intelligibility of the universe, for instance, points to the existence of a Mind that was responsible both for the universe and for our minds. It is for this reason that we are able to do science and to discover the beautiful mathematical structures that underlie the phenomena we can observe. Not only that, but our increasing insight into the fine-tuning of the universe in general, and of planet earth in particular, is consistent with the widespread awareness that we are meant to be here. This earth is our home.

     But if there is a Mind behind the universe, and if that Mind intends us to be here, the really big question is: What is the purpose of our existence? It is this question above all that exercises the human heart. Scientific analysis of the universe cannot give us the answer. But true science is not embarrassed by its inability at this point — it simply recognizes that it is not equipped to answer such questions. Therefore, it would be a serious logical error in methodology to look only within the ingredients of the universe — its material, structures, and processes — to find out what its purpose is and why we are here. The ultimate answer, if there is one, will have to come from outside the universe.

     But how shall we find this out? I have spent much time over the years arguing that there is evidence of a Mind behind the universe, a Mind that intended us to be here. We too have minds. It is, therefore, not illogical that one of the major reasons why we have been given minds is not only that we should be able to explore our fascinating universe home but also that we should be able to understand the Mind that has given us the home.

     Long before Aristotle, the book of Genesis was penned. It starts with the words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This statement stands in complete contrast with the other mythical cosmogonies of the time — like the Babylonian, in which the gods were part of the stuff of the universe, and in which the world was made out of a god. Genesis claims that there is a creator God who exists independently of the universe, a claim that is foundational to Christianity. The apostle John puts it this way in his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1–4).

     In Greek, the term translated “Word” is logos, which was often used by Greek philosophers for the rational principle that governs the universe. Here we have the theological explanation for the rational intelligibility of the universe, for the fine-tuning of its physical constants as well as its biological complexity. It is the product of a Mind, that of the divine Logos. For what lies behind the universe is much more than a rational principle. It is God, the Creator Himself. It is no abstraction, or even impersonal force, that lies behind the universe. God, the Creator, is a person, and He is not part of the stuff of His universe.

     Now, if the ultimate reality behind the universe is a personal God, this has far-reaching implications for the human search for truth, since it opens up new possibilities for knowing ultimate reality other than through the (scientific) study of things. For people communicate in a way that things do not. People can reveal themselves in speech and thereby communicate information about themselves that the most sophisticated scanner applied to their brains could not reveal. Being people ourselves, we can get to know other people. Therefore, the next logical question to ask is: If the Creator is personal, has He spoken directly, as distinct from what we can learn of Him indirectly through the structures of the universe? Has He revealed Himself? For if there is a God, and He has spoken, then what He has said will be of utmost importance in our search for truth. Here we once again encounter the biblical claim that God has spoken in the most profound and direct way possible. He, the Word who is a person, has become human, to demonstrate fully that the ultimate truth behind the universe is personal. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14).

     This statement is highly specific. It asserts that at a certain time and place, God the Creator encoded Himself in humanity. It is, of course, a staggering claim to supernatural activity of the highest order. Yet, science has not and cannot eliminate the supernatural.

     I submit that, far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point toward His existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by His existence. Inevitably, of course, not only those of us who do science but all of us have to choose the presuppositions with which we start. There are not many options — essentially, just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.

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     John C. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. He lectures on Faith and Science for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Biblical Objectivity

By Nick Eicher 10/1/2010

     My colleague Marvin Olasky tells the story of meeting J.I. Packer prior to a conference at which both were slated to speak on different topics in different rooms at the same time. Dr. Olasky lamented the scheduling and observed that he personally would prefer the theologian’s explication of eternal verities to his own observations on the state of Christian journalism.

     “Nonsense,” replied Dr. Packer. “Think of what revitalizing journalism would do for the cause of Christ in America! It is the most needed sort of pre-evangelism, it is training in Christian worldview, it is an aid to sanctification, and you need to teach people how to do it.”

     That was more than two decades ago, when modern “mainstream” journalism was by some measures near its peak in power and cultural influence in the United States — and Christian alternatives were on the outside looking in. Since then, Dr. Olasky and others have been laying a foundation for revitalized Christian worldview journalism in American culture, and at the same time the economic model that once prospered the news industry as a whole began to collapse.

     What an influential annual media study called in 2007 a transformational moment for the news industry, possibly on par with the invention of the printing press, had by 2008 become a full-blown “crisis in journalism.” That crisis would give way to the “bleakest … annual report” in 2009, followed by more of the same this year. “[T]he metaphor that comes to mind is sand in an hourglass,” says the 2010 State of the News Media Report released this spring. “The shrinking money … is the amount of time left to invent new revenue models… . The industry must find a new model before that money runs out.”

     The pace of decline (about 30 percent) has accelerated. At the time of the Packer-Olasky dialogue, the size of the workforce serving America’s newspaper newsrooms had just about reached its high and had remained relatively stable for twenty years: the difference in the number of working journalists at newspapers across the country in 1987 versus 2006 was just a half a percentage point. But in 2007 and 2008 combined, the rolls declined 15 percent — with further decline predicted.

     What does this mean for God’s people? I would urge that we not rejoice at what might be called a longoverdue comeuppance for a profession so characterized by arrogance, elitism, and cynicism. I want to suggest instead that this represents an opportunity for Christian worldview journalism to grow and be heard, to make a substantial impact on the culture. For just as news media economic models are up for grabs, so too are the journalistic models.

     The prevailing ethic has been “journalistic objectivity,” but that has proven to be a slippery concept. The idea was the journalist would quote the observations of Person A, balanced by the observations of Person B, scrupulously providing equal time to these views in the hope that the truth would emerge from the middle.

     So journalistic objectivity degenerated into little more than a cynical balancing of relative subjectivities. The only remaining “objective truth” was that objective truth is in the eye of the beholder. But if everything is true, then nothing is true. Ask yourself: If nothing is ultimately true or false, right or wrong, good or evil, then what is the point of any journalistic enterprise?

     America’s modern journalistic elite resembled Isaiah’s grim vision of a people who so thoroughly reject a fixed standard of justice and righteousness that “truth has stumbled in the public squares” (Isa. 59:14). But unlike modern journalists, Isaiah emphasized the eternal covenant and pointed to a future redemption. Our Redeemer, in His Farewell Discourse and final prayer, prayed that His redeemed would think and live according to the truth — and added, “your word is truth” (John 17:17). Not that God’s Word is merely true, an adjective, but that God’s Word is truth, the English translation of a Greek noun, the standard of truth against which everything else is evaluated. That is the foundation for a journalism style Dr. Olasky calls “biblical objectivity.”

     “If we value the sola scriptura principle with its emphasis on scriptural clarity concerning essential matters, biblical objectivity makes sense and other approaches have logical flaws,” Dr. Olasky wrote in Journalism and Humility. “After all, if the Bible is God’s Word, can any other words trump His? Since only God knows the true, objective nature of things, doesn’t His book, the Bible, present the only completely objective and accurate view of the world? Shouldn’t our goal be to see the world as much in biblical terms as our fallen and sinful natures allow?”

     What a great calling on the life of a Christian: to seek to chronicle what God is doing in the world — in culture and education, in communities and families, in church and state — and report that in a vivid and engaging way. As “creative destruction” reshapes the field of journalism, I pray that God would stir His people to answer the call to Christian worldview journalism — and provide the reading public to support it.

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     Nick Eicher is publisher of World magazine and CEO of God’s World Publications. He has been a journalist for twenty years.

Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5

By Don Carson 1/1/2018

     The account of the conversion of Cornelius occupies much space in the book of Acts. As the Gospel moves outward from its Jewish confines, each step is carefully charted. First it was the Samaritans, a mixed race with a peculiar view of Scripture. (They accepted only Torah, what we call the Pentateuch.) Then it was the Ethiopian eunuch, who could not be a full proselyte — but (it might be argued) perhaps he would have been one if he had not been mutilated. Then comes the conversion of the man who will be the apostle to the Gentiles (see 9:15). Here in Acts 10 is the conversion of a God-fearer, a Gentile much attached to the Scriptures and to the Jewish synagogue who had chosen not to become circumcised and thus an unqualified proselyte — a convert — to Judaism.

     The apostle whom God prepares to go to Caesarea and preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household is Peter. Peter’s repeated vision concerns ritually unclean food. Three times he is told to kill and eat unclean creatures; three times he declines, viewing himself as under the Law’s food prohibitions. Many have asked how Peter could be so dense, considering the fact that, according to Mark 7:19, Jesus had already uttered a saying declaring all foods clean. But it is far from clear that his disciples understood the ramifications of Jesus’ utterance at the time.

     Mark is writing later, about A. D. 60, long after the Cornelius episode; and, reflecting on what Jesus said, Mark perceives the implications in Jesus’ words that were not grasped at the time. Even the commission to take the Gospel everywhere, or Jesus’ insistence that people would come from all over the world and join the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 8:11), had not brought the pieces together for the apostles. Small wonder, then, that Peter is at this stage still sorting things out.

     So he wakes up and ponders what the vision means. Providential timing makes that point clear. Kosher Jews were always nervous in a Gentile home — but here God sends Peter not only to spend time in a non-kosher Gentile home, but to preach the Gospel there. Initially, no one is more surprised than Peter (Acts 10: 28-29, 34), but it is not long before he swings into a full-orbed presentation of the Gospel to these Gentiles. Even while Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on this Gentile household as he had descended on the Jews at Pentecost, and no one is more surprised than Peter and the Jews traveling with him (Acts 10: 45-47).

     The initial impetus to cross lines of race and heritage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ arose not from a committee planning world evangelization, but from God himself.

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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.

17 Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?”

21 Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22 because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24 and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     30. But from whom, pray, did they receive their unction? They answer, that they received it from the sons of Aaron, from whom also their order derived its origin (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 14, cap. 8, et in Canon. Dist. 21, cap. 1). Thus they constantly choose to defend themselves by perverse examples, rather than confess that any of their rash practices is of their own devising. Meanwhile, they observe not that in professing to be the successors of the sons of Aaron, they are injurious to the priesthood of Christ, which alone was adumbrated and typified by all ancient priesthoods. In him, therefore, they were all concluded and completed, in him they ceased, as we have repeatedly said, and as the Epistle to the Hebrews, unaided by any gloss, declares. But if they are so much delighted with Mosaic ceremonies, why do they not hurry oxen, calves, and lambs, to their sacrifices? They have, indeed, a great part of the ancient tabernacle, and of the whole Jewish worship. The only thing wanted to their religion is, that they do not sacrifice oxen and calves. Who sees not that this practice of unction is much more pernicious than circumcision, especially when to it is added superstition and a Pharisaical opinion of the merit of the work? The Jews placed their confidence of justification in circumcision, these men look for spiritua1 gifts in unction. Therefore, in desiring to be rivals of the Levites, they become apostates from Christ, and discard themselves from the pastoral office.

31. It is, if you please, the sacred oil which impresses an indelible character. As if oil could not be washed away by sand and salt, or if it sticks the closer, with soap. But that character is spiritual. What has oil to do with the soul? Have they forgotten what they quote from Augustine, that if the word be withdrawn from the water, there will be nothing but water, but that it is owing to the word that it is a sacrament? What word can they show in their oil? Is it because Moses was commanded to anoint the sons of Aaron? (Exod. 30:30). But he there receives command concerning the tunic, the ephod, the breastplate, the mitre, the crown of holiness with which Aaron was to be adorned; and concerning the tunics, belts, and mitres which his sons were to wear. He receives command about sacrificing the calf, burning its fat, about cutting and burning rams, about sanctifying ear-rings and vestments with the blood of one of the rams, and innumerable other observances. Having passed over all these, I wonder why the unction of oil alone pleases them. If they delight in being sprinkled, why are they sprinkled with oil rather than with blood? They are attempting, forsooth, an ingenious device; they are trying, by a kind of patchwork, to make one religion out of Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism. Their unction, therefore, is without savour; it wants salt, that is, the word of God. There remains the laying on of hands, which, though I admit it to be a sacrament in true and legitimate ordination, I do deny to have any such place in this fable, where they neither obey the command of Christ, nor look to the end to which the promise ought to lead us. If they would not have the sign denied them, they must adapt it to the reality to which it is dedicated.

32. As to the order of the diaconate, I would raise no dispute, if the office which existed under the apostles, and a purer Church, were restored to its integrity. But what resemblance to it do we see in their fictitious deacons? I speak not of the men, lest they should complain that I am unjustly judging their doctrine by the vices of those who profess it; but I contend that those whom their doctrine declares to us, derive no countenance from those deacons whom the apostolic Church appointed. They say that it belongs to their deacons to assist the priests, and minister at all the things which are done in the sacraments, as in baptism, in chrism, the patena, and chalice, to bring the offerings and lay them on the altar, to prepare and dress the table of the Lord, to carry the cross, announce and read out the gospel and epistle to the people (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24, cap. 8; Item, Cap. Perlectis, Dist. 25). Is there here one word about the true office of deacon? Let us now attend to the appointment. The bishop alone lays hands on the deacon who is ordained; he places the prayer-book and stole upon his left shoulder, that he may understand that he has received the easy yoke of the Lord, in order that he may subject to the fear of the Lord every thing pertaining to the left side: he gives him a text of the gospel, to remind him that he is its herald. What have these things to do with deacons? But they act just as if one were to say he was ordaining apostles, when he was only appointing persons to kindle the incense, clean the images, sweep the churches, set traps for mice, and put out dogs. Who can allow this class of men to be called apostles, and to be compared with the very apostles of Christ? After this, let them not pretend that those whom they appoint to mere stage-play are deacons. Nay, they even declare, by the very name, what the nature of the office is. For they call them Levites, and wish to trace their nature and origin to the sons of Levi. As far as I am concerned, they are welcome, provided they do not afterwards deck themselves in borrowed feathers.

33. What use is there in speaking of subdeacons? For, whereas in fact they anciently had the charge of the poor, they attribute to them some kind of nugatory function, as carrying the chalice and patena, the pitcher with water, and the napkin to the altar, pouring out water for the hands, &c. Then, by the offerings which they are said to receive and bring in, they mean those which they swallow up, as if they had been destined to anathema. There is an admirable correspondence between the office and the mode of inducting to it--viz. receiving from the bishop the patena and chalice, and from the archdeacon the pitcher with water, the manual and trumpery of this kind. They call upon us to admit that the Holy Spirit is included in these frivolities. What pious man can be induced to grant this? But to have done at once, we may conclude the same of this as of the others, and there is no need to repeat at length what has been explained above. To the modest and docile (it is such I have undertaken to instruct), it will be enough that there is no sacrament of God, unless where a ceremony is shown annexed to a promise, or rather where a promise is seen in a ceremony. Here there is not one syllable of a certain promise, and it is vain, therefore, to seek for a ceremony to confirm the promise. On the other hand, we read of no ceremony appointed by God in regard to those usages which they employ, and, therefore, there can be no sacrament.

OF MARRIAGE.

34. The last of all is marriage, which, while all admit it to be an institution of God, no man ever saw to be a sacrament, until the time of Gregory. And would it ever have occurred to the mind of any sober man? It is a good and holy ordinance of God. And agriculture, architecture, shoemaking, and shaving, are lawful ordinances of God; but they are not sacraments. For in a sacrament, the thing required is not only that it be a work of God, but that it be an external ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. That there is nothing of the kind in marriage, even children can judge. But it is a sign, they say, of a sacred thing, that is, of the spiritual union of Christ with the Church. If by the term sign they understand a symbol set before us by God to assure us of our faith, they wander widely from the mark. If they mean merely a sign because it has been employed as a similitude, I will show how acutely they reason. Paul says, "One star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:41, 42). Here is one sacrament. Christ says, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard-seed" (Mt. 13:31). Here is another sacrament. Again, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven" (Mt. 13:33). Here is a third sacrament. Isaiah says, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd" (Isaiah 40:11). Here is a fourth sacrament. In another passage he says, "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man" (Isaiah 42:13). Here is a fifth sacrament. And where will be the end or limit? Everything in this way will be a sacrament. All the parables and similitudes in Scripture will be so many sacraments. Nay, even theft will be a sacrament, seeing it is written, "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). Who can tolerate the ignorant garrulity of these sophists? I admit, indeed, that whenever we see a vine, the best thing is to call to mind what our Saviour says, "I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman." " I am the vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:1, 5). And whenever we meet a shepherd with his flock, it is good also to remember, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). But any man who would class such similitudes with sacraments should be sent to bedlam.

35. They adduce the words of Paul, by which they say that the name of a sacrament is given to marriage, "He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:28, 32). To treat Scripture thus is to confound heaven and earth. Paul, in order to show husbands how they ought to love their wives, sets Christ before them as an example. As he shed his bowels of affection for the Church, which he has espoused to himself, so he would have every one to feel affected toward his wife. Then he adds, "He that loveth his wife loveth himself," "even as the Lord the Church." Moreover, to show how Christ loved the Church as himself, nay, how he made himself one with his spouse the Church, he applies to her what Moses relates that Adam said of himself. For after Eve was brought into his presence, knowing that she had been formed out of his side, he exclaimed, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23). That all this was spiritually fulfilled in Christ, and in us, Paul declares, when he says, that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, and so one flesh with him. At length he breaks out into the exclamation, "This is a great mystery;" and lest any one should be misled by the ambiguity, he says, that he is not speaking of the connection between husband and wife, but of the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church. And truly it is a great mystery that Christ allowed a rib to be taken from himself, of which we might be formed; that is, that when he was strong, he was pleased to become weak, that we might be strengthened by his strength, and should no longer live ourselves, but he live in us (Gal. 2:20).

36. The thing which misled them was the term sacrament. [680] But, was it right that the whole Church should be punished for the ignorance of these men? Paul called it a mystery. When the Latin interpreter might have abandoned this mode of expression as uncommon to Latin ears, or converted it into "secret," he preferred calling it sacramentum, but in no other sense than the Greek term mustepion was used by Paul. Let them go now and clamour against skill in languages, their ignorance of which leads them most shamefully astray in a matter easy and obvious to every one. But why do they so strongly urge the term sacrament in this one passage, and in others pass it by with neglect? For both in the First Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:9, 16), and also in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is used by the Vulgate interpreter, and in every instance, for mystery. Let us, however, pardon them this lapsus, though liars ought to have good memories. Marriage being thus recommended by the title of a sacrament, [681] can it be anything but vertiginous levity afterwards to call it uncleanness, and pollution, and carnal defilement? How absurd is it to debar priests from a sacrament! If they say that they debar not from a sacrament but from carnal connection, they will not thus escape me. They say that this connection is part of the sacrament, and thereby figures the union which we have with Christ in conformity of nature, inasmuch as it is by this connection that husband and wife become one flesh; although some have here found two sacraments, the one of God and the soul, in bridegroom and bride, another of Christ and the Church, in husband and wife. Be this as it may, this connection is a sacrament from which no Christian can lawfully be debarred, unless, indeed, the sacraments of Christians accord so ill that they cannot stand together. There is also another absurdity in these dogmas. They affirm that in a sacrament the gift of the Holy Spirit is conferred; this connection they hold to be a sacrament, and yet they deny that in it the Holy Spirit is ever present.

37. And, that they might not delude the Church in this matter merely, what a long series of errors, lies, frauds, and iniquities have they appended to one error? So that you may say they sought nothing but a hiding-place for abominations when they converted marriage into a sacrament. When once they obtained this, they appropriated to themselves the cognisance of conjugal causes: as the thing was spiritual, it was not to be intermeddled with by profane judges. Then they enacted laws by which they confirmed their tyranny,--laws partly impious toward God, partly fraught with injustice toward men; such as, that marriages contracted between minors, without the consent of their parents, should be valid; that no lawful marriages can be contracted between relations within the seventh degree, and that such marriages, if contracted, should be dissolved. Moreover, they frame degrees of kindred contrary to the laws of all nations, and even the polity of Moses, and enact that a husband who has repudiated an adulteress may not marry again--that spiritual kindred cannot be joined in marriage--that marriage cannot be celebrated from Septuagesimo to the Octaves of Easter, three weeks before the nativity of John, nor from Advent to Epiphany, and innumerable others, which it were too tedious to mention. We must now get out of their mire, in which our discourse has stuck longer than our inclination. Methinks, however, that much has been gained if I have, in some measure, deprived these asses of their lion's skin.

__________________________________________________________________

[664] Ambros. de iis qui init. Mysteriis et de Sacrament.

[665] Calv. adv. Concil. Trident. Præfat. in Catechis. Latinum. Viret. de Adulter. Sacrament. cap. 2-5.

[666] French, "en laquelle toutesfois ils n'ont rien semblable a eux, sinon une folle et perverse singerie";--in which, however, they have nothing like them but a foolish and perverse aping.

[667] The French adds, "du ternps de Sainct Augustin;" --of the time of St Augustine.

[668] De Consecr. Dist. 5, Concil. Aurel. cap. Ut Jejuni de Consecr. Dist. 5.

[669] French, "Auquel ils font semblant de porter une reverence inviolable;"--for whom they pretend to have an inviolable respect.

[670] August. Quæst. Vet. Test. Lib. 3 De Bapt. Parvul. De Bapt. Cont. Donat. Lib. 5

[671] The French adds, "Car, comme nous avoos assez declairé ci dessus, la promesse des clefs n'appartient nullement a faire quelque estat particulier d'absolution, mais seulement à la predication de l'Evangile soit qu'elle soit faite ou a plusieurs, ou a un seul, sans y mettre difference; c'est a dire, que par icelle promesse notre Seigneur ne fonde point une absolution speciale qui soit faite distinctement à un chacun mais celle qui se fait indifferement a tous pecheurs, sans addresse particuliere."--For, as we have sufficiently shown above, the promise of the keys pertains not to the making of any particular state of absolution, but only to the preaching of the Gospel, whether it is made to several or to one only, without making any difference; that is to say, that by this promise our Lord does not found a special absolution which is given separately to each, but one which is given indifferently to all sinners, without particular application.

[672] Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 14, cap. 1. De Poenit. Dist. 1, cap. 2. August. Dictum in Decret. 15. Quæst. 1, Cap. Fermissime.

[673] John 9:6; Mt. 9:29; Luke 18:42; Acts 3:6; 5:16; 19:12.

[674] 134 D134 This distinction in no way calls into question the value of the various sacraments which, in distinct ages, God has been pleased to appoint. To the contrary, it affirms their integrity and value as signs and seals of God's covenant of grace, while emphasizing the fact that they are specifically designed for, applicable within, and valid for particular historical contexts. Calvin draws the obvious inference: some sacraments are not intended for the present age.

[675] The French adds, "Comment accorderont ils cela avec ce qu'ils veulent faire accroire"?--How will they reconcile this with what they wish to be believed?

[676] Isa. 11:2; Ezek. 1:20; Rom. 1:4, 8:15.

[677] Isidor. Lib. 7, Etymolog, allegatim, cap. Cleros. Dist. 21, 33, cap. Lector, et cap. Ostier.

[678] John 2:15; 10:7; Luke 4:17; Mt. 7:33; John 8:12; 13:5; Mt. 26:26; 27:50.

[679] The French adds, "Voila comment la tonsure n'estoit point une chose speciale aux clercs, mais estoit en usance quasi à tous."--See how the tonsure was not a thing peculiar to the clergy, but was used, as it were, by all.

[680] French, "Ills ont eto trompé du mot de Sacrement qui est en la translation commune."--They have been misled by the word Sacrament, which is in the common translation.

[681] Lat. Lib. 4 Dist. 26, cap. 6, et in Decret 27, Quæst. 2, cap. Quæ Societas, etc. Gloss. eod. c. Lex Divina. Ibid. Lib. 4 Dist. 33, cap. 2. et in Decret. 33, Quæst. 2. cap. Quicquid

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


  • Joshua 4:1-24
  • Acts 2:32-41
  • John 13:1-17

#2 Greg Wills   
So Baptist Theological Seminary


 

#3 Aubrey Sequeira   
So Baptist Theological Seminary


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2014    Which Christ?

     Christianity is a creedal religion. You cannot separate Christianity from its ancient creeds. In fact, every true Christian adheres to the ancient creeds of the church, whether he knows it or not. We all have creeds. Whether formal or informal—whether written or unwritten—in one way or another, we all have creeds in which our beliefs are expressed. Many Christians have formal, written creeds to which they adhere. Other professing Christians have informal, unwritten, and unorthodox creeds that can easily change and often do change according to the whims of the individual or his pastor.

     Creeds are concise doctrinal summaries of the doctrines of Scripture, and creeds are subordinate to Scripture as our only infallible rule for faith and life. Although we do not by any means believe creeds are infallible, we do believe that creeds are authoritative insofar as they accurately summarize the teachings of Scripture. While we may not know all the creeds by heart, if we are Christians, we will wholeheartedly affirm them, confess them, and teach them to our children. For if we were to reject the church’s ancient creeds, we would be rejecting Christianity; and if we were to deny an essential creedal formulation about the person and work of Christ, we would be denying Christ.

     On occasion, however, I have heard people passionately reply, “I don’t need the ancient creeds of the church—my only creed is Christ.” But as soon as I ask the question, “Which Christ?” they are quick to provide me with their personal creed about the person and work of Christ. Their personal creed is often heretical, unbiblical, and out of accord with the church’s ancient creeds. I will then patiently try to explain to them that if they do not believe in the Christ of Scripture but believe in a christ of their own making, they will find themselves among those to whom Christ will say, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” For if it is the Christ of the Bible who saves us, we must affirm the one, true Christ of the Bible in order to truly possess the salvation of the God of the Bible.

     Whenever we sing simple songs of faith to our children, such as “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so,” we have formulated a creedal statement about Jesus, His love, the object of His love, our assurance of His love, and the nature of biblical authority. This is the aim of the ancient creeds as they pertain to the person and work of Christ; namely, to help us believe, confess, and proclaim the truth about Christ from sacred Scripture—which Christ Himself authored, fulfills, defends, and proclaims. If we are true Christians who have put our trust in the Christ of the Bible, it is impossible for us not to affirm the church’s ancient creedal statements on the Bible’s teaching. What’s more, we are living in a day when we must not only affirm them but defend them against the onslaught of heretical teachings about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

     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

     He was the only person to sign all four of America’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Articles of Association and the U.S. Constitution. A shoe cobbler by trade, he was also a surveyor and merchant prior to his political career. As a Congressman, he help write the First Amendment, and at age 70 was elected U.S. Senator. Who was he?… Roger Sherman, who died this day, July 23, 1793. Upon hearing the British had surrendered over 5000 troops to the Americans at Saratoga, Roger Sherman exclaimed: “This is the Lord’s doing and marvelous in our eyes!”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


God never usurps the will
or the personality of the believer.
Satan makes slaves;
God makes sons.
--- Derek Prince


We are not at peace with others
because we are not at peace with ourselves,
and we are not at peace with ourselves
because we are not at peace with God.
--- Thomas Merton


Those Evening clouds, that setting ray,
and beauteous tints, sure to display
their great Creator’s praise;
Then let the short-lived thing called man,
whose life’s comprised within a span,
to Him his homage raise.
--- Sir Walter Scott


... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     What is the case of five hundred cities of Asia? Do they not submit to a single governor, and to the consular bundle of rods? What need I speak of the Henlochi, and Colchi and the nation of Tauri, those that inhabit the Bosphorus, and the nations about Pontus, and Meotis, who formerly knew not so much as a lord of their own, but are now subject to three thousand armed men, and where forty long ships keep the sea in peace, which before was not navigable, and very tempestuous? How strong a plea may Bithynia, and Cappadocia, and the people of Pamphylia, the Lycians, and Cilicians, put in for liberty! But they are made tributary without an army. What are the circumstances of the Thracians, whose country extends in breadth five days' journey, and in length seven, and is of a much more harsh constitution, and much more defensible, than yours, and by the rigor of its cold sufficient to keep off armies from attacking them? do not they submit to two thousand men of the Roman garrisons? Are not the Illyrlans, who inhabit the country adjoining, as far as Dalmatia and the Danube, governed by barely two legions? by which also they put a stop to the incursions of the Daeians. And for the Dalmatians, who have made such frequent insurrections in order to regain their liberty, and who could never before be so thoroughly subdued, but that they always gathered their forces together again, revolted, yet are they now very quiet under one Roman legion. Moreover, if eat advantages might provoke any people to revolt, the Gauls might do it best of all, as being so thoroughly walled round by nature; on the east side by the Alps, on the north by the river Rhine, on the south by the Pyrenean mountains, and on the west by the ocean. Now although these Gauls have such obstacles before them to prevent any attack upon them, and have no fewer than three hundred and five nations among them, nay have, as one may say, the fountains of domestic happiness within themselves, and send out plentiful streams of happiness over almost the whole world, these bear to be tributary to the Romans, and derive their prosperous condition from them; and they undergo this, not because they are of effeminate minds, or because they are of an ignoble stock, as having borne a war of eighty years in order to preserve their liberty; but by reason of the great regard they have to the power of the Romans, and their good fortune, which is of greater efficacy than their arms. These Gauls, therefore, are kept in servitude by twelve hundred soldiers, which are hardly so many as are their cities; nor hath the gold dug out of the mines of Spain been sufficient for the support of a war to preserve their liberty, nor could their vast distance from the Romans by land and by sea do it; nor could the martial tribes of the Lusitanians and Spaniards escape; no more could the ocean, with its tide, which yet was terrible to the ancient inhabitants. Nay, the Romans have extended their arms beyond the pillars of Hercules, and have walked among the clouds, upon the Pyrenean mountains, and have subdued these nations. And one legion is a sufficient guard for these people, although they were so hard to be conquered, and at a distance so remote from Rome. Who is there among you that hath not heard of the great number of the Germans? You have, to be sure, yourselves seen them to be strong and tall, and that frequently, since the Romans have them among their captives every where; yet these Germans, who dwell in an immense country, who have minds greater than their bodies, and a soul that despises death, and who are in rage more fierce than wild beasts, have the Rhine for the boundary of their enterprises, and are tamed by eight Roman legions. Such of them as were taken captive became their servants; and the rest of the entire nation were obliged to save themselves by flight. Do you also, who depend on the walls of Jerusalem, consider what a wall the Britons had; for the Romans sailed away to them, an subdued them while they were encompassed by the ocean, and inhabited an island that is not less than the [continent of this] habitable earth; and four legions are a sufficient guard to so large all island And why should I speak much more about this matter, while the Parthians, that most warlike body of men, and lords of so many nations, and encompassed with such mighty forces, send hostages to the Romans? whereby you may see, if you please, even in Italy, the noblest nation of the East, under the notion of peace, submitting to serve them. Now when almost all people under the sun submit to the Roman arms, will you be the only people that make war against them? and this without regarding the fate of the Carthaginians, who, in the midst of their brags of the great Hannibal, and the nobility of their Phoenician original, fell by the hand of Scipio. Nor indeed have the Cyrenians, derived from the Lacedemonians, nor the Marmaridite, a nation extended as far as the regions uninhabitable for want of water, nor have the Syrtes, a place terrible to such as barely hear it described, the Nasamons and Moors, and the immense multitude of the Numidians, been able to put a stop to the Roman valor. And as for the third part of the habitable earth, [Akica,] whose nations are so many that it is not easy to number them, and which is bounded by the Atlantic Sea and the pillars of Hercules, and feeds an innumerable multitude of Ethiopians, as far as the Red Sea, these have the Romans subdued entirely. And besides the annual fruits of the earth, which maintain the multitude of the Romans for eight months in the year, this, over and above, pays all sorts of tribute, and affords revenues suitable to the necessities of the government. Nor do they, like you, esteem such injunctions a disgrace to them, although they have but one Roman legion that abides among them. And indeed what occasion is there for showing you the power of the Romans over remote countries, when it is so easy to learn it from Egypt, in your neighborhood?

          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 21:25-26
     by D.H. Stern

25     A lazy man’s craving will kill him,
because his hands refuse to work—
26     he covets greedily all day long;
but a righteous person gives without holding back.


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

     II | READY-MADE CLOTHES

     Carlyle, as everybody knows, once wrote a Philosophy of Clothes, and called it Sartor Resartus. He did his work so thoroughly and so exhaustively and so well that, from that day to this, nobody else has cared to tackle the theme. It is high time, however, that it was pointed out that with one important aspect of his tremendous subject he does not attempt to deal. Surely there ought to have been a chapter on Ready-made Clothes!

     I am surprised that Henry Drummond never drew attention to the glaring omission, for, if Drummond hated one thing more than another, he loathed and detested ready-made clothes. They were his pet aversion. Ready-made clothes, he used to say, were things that were made to fit everybody, and they fitted nobody. Men are not made by machinery and in sizes; and it follows as a natural consequence that clothes that are so made will not fit men. The man who is an exact duplicate of the tailor's model has not yet been born. How Carlyle's omission escaped the censure of Drummond I cannot imagine. It is true that Drummond was not particularly attracted by Carlyle; he preferred Emerson. I am certain that if Drummond had read Sartor Resartus at all carefully he would have exposed the discrepancy, and Carlyle is therefore to be congratulated on a very narrow escape.

     Drummond's hatred of ready-made clothes is the essential thing about him. I happened to be lecturing on Drummond the other evening, and I felt it my duty to point out that Drummond would take his place in history, not as a scientist nor as an evangelist, nor as a traveller, nor as an author, but as the uncompromising and relentless assailant of ready-made clothes. Unless you grasp this, you will never understand him. He scorned all affectations and imitations. He would adopt no style of dress simply because it was usual under certain conditions. 'He was,' as an eye-witness of his ordination remarks, 'the last man whom you could place by the woman's canon of dress. And yet his dress was a marvel of adaptation to the part he happened to be playing. On his ordination day, when most men assume a garb severely clerical, he was dressed like a country squire, thus proclaiming to fathers and brethren, and to all the world, that he was not going to allow ordination to play havoc with his chosen career. Now this was typical, and it is its typical quality that is important. It applied not to dress alone. It applied to speech. Drummond would affect no style of address simply on the ground that it was usual upon certain platforms or in certain rostrums. Did it fit him? Was it simple, natural, easy, effective? If not, he would not use it. Nor would he adopt a course of procedure simply because it was customary and was considered correct. If, to him, it seemed like wearing ready-made clothes, he would have none of it. Here you have the key to his whole life. Everything had to fit him like a glove, or he would have nothing to do with it. His scientific lectures, his evangelistic addresses, his personal interviews with students, even his public prayers, were modelled on no regulation standard, on no established precedent; they were couched in the language, and expressed in the style, that most perfectly suited his own charming and magnetic individuality.

     Professor James, of Harvard, said of Henri Bergson, the Parisian philosopher, that his utterance fitted his thought like that elastic silk underclothing which follows every movement of the skin. Drummond would have considered that the ideal. Generally speaking, he was impervious to criticism; but if you had told him that a single phrase rang hollow, or that some expression had savoured of artificiality, or that even a gesture appeared like affectation, you would have stabbed him to the quick. It was a great question in his day as to whether he was orthodox or heterodox. Drummond regarded all standards of orthodoxy and of heterodoxy as so many tailors' models.

     Orthodoxy and heterodoxy stand related to truth just as those wonderful wickerwork stands and plaster busts that adorn every dressmaker's establishment stand related to the grace and beauty of the female form. If you had asked Drummond to what school of thought he belonged, he would have told you that he never wore ready-made clothes.

     I tremble lest, one of these days, these notions of mine on the subject of ready-made clothes should assume the proportions of a sermon, and demand pulpit utterance. There will at any rate be no difficulty in providing them with a text. The classical instance of the contemptuous rejection of ready-made clothing was, of course, David's refusal to wear Saul's armour. There is a world of significance in that old-world story. Saul's armour is a very fine thing—for Saul! But if David feels that he can do better work with a sling, then, in the name of all that is reasonable, give him a sling! If he has to fight Goliath, why hamper him with ready-made clothes? I began by saying that Carlyle omitted to deal, in Sartor Resartus, with this profound branch of his subject. But he saw the importance of it for all that. In his Frederick the Great, he tells us how the young prince's iron-handed father employed a learned university professor to teach the boy theology. The doctor dosed his youthful pupil with creeds and catechisms until his brain whirled with meaningless tags and phrases. And in recording the story Carlyle bursts out upon the dry-as-dust professor. 'In heaven's name,' he cries, 'teach the boy nothing at all, or else teach him something that he will know, as long as he lives, to be eternally and indisputably true!'

     Now what is this fine outburst of thunderous wrath but an emphatic protest against the use of ready-made clothes? A man's faith should fit him like the clothes for which he has been most carefully measured, if not like the elastic silk to which the Harvard professor refers. A man might as well try to wear his father's clothes as try to wear his father's faith. It will never really fit him. There is a great expression near the end of the brief Epistle of Jude that always seems to me very striking. 'But ye, beloved,' says the writer, 'building up yourselves on your most holy faith.' That is the only satisfactory way of building—to build on your own site. If I build my house on another man's piece of ground, it is sure to cause trouble sooner or later. Build your own character on your own faith, says the apostle; and there is sound sense in the injunction. It is better for me to build a very modest little house of my own on a little bit of land that really belongs to me than to build a palace on somebody else's soil. It is better for me to build up my character, very unpretentiously, perhaps, on my own faith, than to erect a much more imposing structure on another man's creed. That is the philosophy of ready-made clothes, disguised under a slight change of metaphor.

     I have heard that some people spend their time in church inspecting other people's clothes. If that is so, they must be profoundly impressed by the amazing proportion of misfits. The souls of thousands are quite obviously clad in ready-made garments. Here is the spirit of a bright young girl decked out in all the contents of her grandmother's spiritual wardrobe. The clothes fitted the grandmother perfectly; the old lady looked charming in them; but the grand-daughter looks ridiculous. I was once at a testimony meeting. The thing that most impressed me was the continual repetition of certain phrases. Speaker after speaker rang the changes on the same stereotyped expressions. I saw at once that I had fallen among a people who went in for ready-made clothes.

     The thing takes even more objectionable forms. Those who are half as fond as I am of Mark Rutherford will have already recalled Frank Palmer in Clara Hopgood. 'He accepted willingly,' we are told, 'the household conclusions on religion and politics, but they were not properly his, for he accepted them merely as conclusions and without the premisses, and it was often even a little annoying to hear him express some free opinion on religious questions in a way which showed that it was not a growth, but something picked up.' Everybody who has read the story remembers the moral tragedy that followed. What else could you expect? There is always trouble if a man builds his house on another man's site. The souls of men were never meant to be attired in ready-made clothes. Somebody has finely said that Truth must be born again in the secret silence of each individual life.

     For the matter of that, the philosophy of ready-made clothes applies as much to unbelief as to faith. Now and then one meets a mind distracted by genuine doubt, and it is refreshing and stimulating to grapple with its problems. One respects the doubter because the doubt fits him like the elastic silk; it seems a part and parcel of his personality. But at other times one can see at a glance that the doubter is all togged out in ready-made clothes, and, like a bird in borrowed plumes, is inordinately proud of them. Here are the same old questions, put in the same old way, and with a certain effrontery that knows nothing of inner anguish or even deep sincerity. One feels that his visitor has seen this gaudy mental outfit cheaply displayed at the street corner, and has snapped it up at once in order to impress you with the gorgeous spectacle. How often, too, one is made to feel that the blatancy of the infidel lecturer, or the flippancy of the sceptical debater, is simply a matter of ready-made clothes. The awful grandeur of the subjects of which they treat has evidently never appealed to them. They are merely echoing quibbles that are as old as the hills; they are wearing clothes that may have fitted Hobbes, Paine, or Voltaire, but that certainly were not made to fit their more meagre stature. Doubt is a very human and a very sacred thing, but the doubt that is merely assumed is, of all affectations, the most repellent.

     If some suspicious reader thinks that I am overestimating the danger of wearing ready-made clothes, I need only remind him that even such gigantic humans as James Chalmers, of New Guinea, and Robert Louis Stevenson feared that ready-made clothes might yet stand between the Church and her conquest of the world. Some of the missionaries insisted in clothing the natives of New Guinea in the garb of Old England, but Chalmers protested, and protested vigorously. 'I am opposed to it,' he exclaimed. 'My experience is that clothing natives is nearly as bad as introducing spirits among them. Wherever clothing has been introduced, the natives are disappearing before various diseases, especially consumption, and I am fully convinced that the same will happen in New Guinea. Our civilization, whatever it is, is unfitted for them in their present state, and no attempt should be made to force it upon them.'

     With this, Robert Louis Stevenson most cordially concurred. Nobody who knows him will suspect Stevenson of any lack of gallantry, but he always eyed the arrival of the missionary's wife with a certain amount of apprehension. 'The married missionary,' says Stevenson, 'may offer to the native what he is much in want of—a higher picture of domestic life; but the woman at the missionary's elbow tends to keep him in touch with Europe, and out of touch with Polynesia, and threatens to perpetuate, and even to ingrain, parochial decencies far best forgotten. The mind of the lady missionary tends to be continually busied about dress. She can be taught with extreme difficulty to think any costume decent but that to which she grew accustomed on Clapham Common; and to gratify her prejudice, the native is put to useless expense, his mind is tainted with the morbidities of Europe, and his health is set in danger.' We remember the pride with which poor John Williams, the martyr missionary of Erromanga, viewed the introduction of bonnets among the women of Raratonga; but it was not the greatest of his triumphs after all. The bonnets have vanished long ago, but the fragrant influence of John Williams abides perpetually. We sometimes forget that our immaculate tweed trousers and our dainty skirts and blouses are no essential part of the Christian gospel. As a matter of fact, that gospel was first revealed to a people who knew nothing of such trappings. We do not necessarily hasten the millennium by introducing among untutored races a carnival of ready-made clothes.

     And it is just as certain that you do not bring the soul nearer to its highest goal by forcing on it a fashion for which it is totally unsuited. And here I come back to Drummond. During his last illness at Tunbridge Wells, he remarked that, at the age of twelve, he made a conscientious study of Bonar's God's Way of Peace. 'I fear,' he said, 'that the book did me more harm than good. I tried to force my inner experience into the mould represented by that book, and it was impossible.' In one of Moody's after-meetings in London, Drummond was dealing with a young girl who was earnestly seeking the Saviour. At last he startled her by exclaiming, 'You must give up reading James's Anxious Enquirer.' She wondered how he had guessed that she had been reading it; but he had detected from her conversation that she was making his own earlier mistake. She was trying to think as John Angell James thought, to weep as he wept, and to find her way to faith precisely as he found his. Drummond told her to read nothing but the New Testament, and, he said later on, 'A fortnight of that put her right!'

     There lies the whole secret. Our souls no more resemble each other than our bodies; they are not made in a mould and turned out by the million. No two are exactly alike. Ready-made clothes will never exactly fit. Bonar and James, Bunyan and Law, Doddridge and Wesley, Müller and Spurgeon, may help me amazingly. They may help me by showing me how they—each for himself—found their way into the presence of the Eternal and, like Christian at the Palace Beautiful, were robed and armed for pilgrimage. But if they lead me to suppose that I must experience their sensations, enjoy their elations, pass through their depressions, struggle and laugh and weep and sing just as they did, they have done me serious damage. They have led me away from those secret chambers in which the King adorns the soul in beautiful and comely garments, and they have left me a mere wearer of ready-made clothes.

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

                Sanctification

     Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us … sanctification. --- 1 Cor. 1:30.

     The Life Side. The mystery of sanctification is that the perfections of Jesus Christ are imparted to me, not gradually, but instantly when by faith I enter into the realization that Jesus Christ is made unto me sanctification. Sanctification does not mean anything less than the holiness of Jesus being made mine manifestly.

     The one marvellous secret of a holy life lies not in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfections of Jesus manifest themselves in my mortal flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you.” It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification, and imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His word?

     Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ. It is His patience, His love, His holiness, His faith, His purity, His godliness, that is manifested in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy; it is drawing from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in Him, and He manifests it in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is on a different line. In Jesus Christ is the perfection of everything, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfections of Jesus are at my disposal, and slowly and surely I begin to live a life of ineffable order and sanity and holiness “Kept by the power of God.”


My Utmost for His Highest

The Belfry
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                The Belfry

I have seen it standing up grey,
  Gaunt, as though no sunlight
  Could ever thaw out the music
Of its great bell; terrible
  In its own way, for religion
  Is like that. There are times
  When a black frost is upon
One's whole being, and the heart
  In its bone belfry hangs and is dumb.

But who is to know? Always
  Even in winter in the cold
  Of a stone church, on his knees
  Someone is praying, whose prayers fall
Steadily through the hard spell
  Of weather that is between God
  And himself. Perhaps they are warm rain
That brings the sun and afterwards flowers
  On the raw graves and throbbing of bells.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     There was a well-known song several years ago entitled “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” The lyrics spoke to a real problem. Just as “you’ll never find a Kohen in a cemetery” because it’s the wrong place to look, so too love often can’t be found in many of the places we search for it.

     Some people think that just because an establishment is called a “singles’ bar,” it’s a good place to meet like-minded and interesting singles. But there are many stories (some would call them horror stories) of life in singles’ bars, and how unsuccessful, dehumanizing, and demeaning that experience can be. One has only to think of the crude terminology used to describe such a place—a “meat market”—to understand what many people really think.

     Love may not necessarily be found by looking for it, but rather by looking for people who possess it. College students who take a Jewish studies course may find someone who loves to read, to learn, to expand her or his mind. If they attend a Shabbat program at the local Hillel, they’ll likely brush shoulders with those who love to socialize with like-minded people. If they help out at a nearby soup kitchen, they may just bump into someone special, someone whose love of humanity is as great as their own.

     There is nothing wrong with being at a cemetery; in fact, at times, it is a mitzvah. But if we’re looking for a Kohen (at least one with a traditional bent), we’re less likely to find him there than in other places. Similarly, if we’re looking for a soul mate, lover, ideal spouse, or friend, our choice is not only whom to look for, but also where to look.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Did Moses and Aaron actually call Pharaoh an idiot to his face, as the Midrash reports? Such name-calling was not likely to endear the two brothers to the Egyptian leader. Diplomacy requires showing respect to the people we negotiate with, even if they are our enemies. Insults are just not the best way of getting results. “Idiot” was probably an editorial comment added by the Rabbis as they retold the story.

     What about the servant in the cemetery: Did someone actually use the insulting word to him? Though the story is a parable, it is certainly more believable that someone would have called him an idiot not only because he did something foolish, but also because he was a servant. (If people tend to be too respectful of “high” authority, they also show little consideration for those of “lowly” status.) Despite what might have been said to him, we still have to say that it shouldn’t have been said. The word idiot is an inappropriate label with which to tag someone. Not only is it hurtful, it is counter-productive.

     Think about how many times we hear a person apologize before he or she asks something by saying “I know this may sound dumb …” or “I have a stupid question to ask.…” And then consider how many questions never even get asked because of such embarrassment. People will do almost anything to avoid looking foolish. (Perhaps this is the reason that people say that men are notorious for not stopping and asking for directions!)

     Maybe, too, this is a reason why so many Jews stay away from synagogue services: It’s not that they don’t believe in God or in prayer. Rather, they are terrified that if they do come, they will end up looking or feeling foolish because of what they do not know. How much more so if they are offered an honor or are asked to participate in the service!

     The publishing industry has capitalized on this human aversion to looking like a fool by issuing dozens of basic primers in any number of fields with the title “An Idiot’s Guide To …” or “… for Dummies.” This was an ingenious marketing decision. When we’re walking through a bookstore, our eyes are caught by the catchy titles. We can all relate to the sense of inadequacy and the fear of looking like an idiot. We buy the books and only the cashier has to know that we consider ourselves “dummies.” (Of course, if questioned, we can explain that the volume is a gift for someone else.…) We take the book home and study it, so that at least in this field, we never have to appear … like an idiot.

     We don’t know what kind of teacher Rabbi Levi was, but his casual use of the term “idiot” suggests that he could learn a lesson from the poor servant. When someone doesn’t understand what seems to be obvious, maybe it isn’t so obvious after all. What the servant required was not an insult, but instruction.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 23

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

     While in all the regions of creation may be seen portions of this wisdom [of God], only in the Son of God—in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word—is the mighty whole contained. (
Horatius Bonar, “Divine Philosophy,” in Family sermons He, and he only, is “the wisdom of God.”

     By the expression, “the wisdom of God,” is not merely meant that Christ is wise but something more comprehensive. To say that he is infinitely wise is one thing, but to say that he is the wisdom of God is another. We say of the Father, he is infinitely wise, but we cannot say of him, he is the wisdom of God. Of the Son alone can this be said. He is infinitely wise, and he is the wisdom of God.

     All that is in God, all that can come forth out of God is contained in Christ. He is the full representative of the invisible and incomprehensible Jehovah. He is the brightness of Jehovah’s glory and the express image of his person. In the works of creation God has displayed portions of his wisdom, but in Christ he put forth the whole of it, so it can be said of Christ, he is the wisdom of God. Thus, the knowledge of Christ not only transcends all other knowledge, but includes them all; the study of this embodiment of all that is in God is not only superior to but embraces all other studies. Here, we cannot see how Christ could be the discovery of all science, all nature, all things in heaven and earth; hereafter we shall find it so.

     Wisdom is one of the last things that we connect with the name of Christ. We connect with that name salvation, pardon, righteousness, love—but not wisdom. Yet it is wisdom that God especially associates with Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He is perfection, but specially the perfection of wisdom, so that, while each perfection is in him, it is in him in such a way as to demonstrate the wisdom of God. Holiness is in him, but in such a way as to show forth not only itself, but wisdom as well. Each perfection becomes thus not merely a display of itself, but an illustration or embodiment of wisdom.

     It is this wisdom that says, “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old. I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.”
--- Horatius Bonar


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

On This Day
     Arise, It Is Day!  July 23

     Protestantism came of age amid the perils and persecutions of sixteenth-century England partly because of a brave man who was neither preacher nor politician—printer John Day. He was born during the reign of Henry VIII and entered his profession at age 22 during Edward’s brief Protestant rule. He became the most prominent publisher of Protestant materials in London, and was appointed at age 30 by King Edward to publish Poynet’s Protestant catechism. It was a feather in his cap. But when the king was succeeded by his Catholic half sister, “Bloody” Mary, the feather in his cap became a stone around his neck. His best authors perished at the stake, and he himself was imprisoned before somehow escaping abroad.

     John Day spent his European exile traveling around, learning all he could of new printing methods, meeting young apprentices, and planning future work. When Protestant Elizabeth became queen, Day returned to London better equipped than ever. He was the first to print music; to cut, cast, and use Anglo-Saxon type; to introduce mathematical signs; and the first to make Roman and italic types used on the same line as regular print. He included pictures (woodcuts) in his books. And he was the first to print smaller sections of the Bible, which he advertised like this: “Printed in sundry parts for these poor, that they which are not able to bie the hole, may bie a part.”

     After settling securely back into England, Day published all of Latimer’s RS Thomas, then Ridley’s “Friendly Farewell.” But his most famous book was John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which went through repeated printings and became the most important book of its … well, of its Day. Business soared, forcing him into larger quarters near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The sign in front of his new shop featured a man pointing to the sun, saying, “Arise, For It Is Day.”

     And many more Days followed. John had 13 children by his first wife and another 13 by his second. When he died on July 23, 1583, his son Richard carried on the family business of publishing quality Bibles and Christian materials for England and the world.

     The Law of the LORD is perfect; it gives us new life.
     His teachings last forever,
     And they give wisdom to ordinary people.
     The LORD’s instruction is right;
     It makes our hearts glad.
     His commands shine brightly, and they give us light.
     --- Psalm 19:7,8.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 23

     “Even thou wast as one of them.” --- Obadiah 1:11.

     Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need, but instead thereof, the men of Esau made common cause with Israel’s foes. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word thou; as when Caesar cried to Brutus, “and thou Brutus”; a bad action may be all the worse, because of the person who has committed it. When we sin, who are the chosen favourites of heaven, we sin with an emphasis; ours is a crying offence, because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, “What thou? What dost thou here?” Much forgiven, much delivered, much instructed, much enriched, much blessed, shall we dare to put forth our hand unto evil? God forbid!

     A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to thee, gentle reader, this Morning. Hast thou never been as the wicked? At an Evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to thine ear, even thou wast as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, thou wast bashfully silent; and so, to on-lookers, thou wast as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market, and driving hard bargains, wast thou not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity with a hunter’s foot, wert thou not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between thee and them? Is there any difference? Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with thine own soul, and make sure that thou art a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk jealously, lest any should again be able to say, “Even thou wast as one of them.” Thou wouldst not desire to share their eternal doom, why then be like them here? Come not thou into their secret, lest thou come into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world.


          Evening - July 23

     “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” --- 1 John 1:7.

     “Cleanseth,” says the text—not “shall cleanse.” There are multitudes who think that as a dying hope they may look forward to pardon. Oh! how infinitely better to have cleansing now than to depend on the bare possibility of forgiveness when I come to die. Some imagine that a sense of pardon is an attainment only obtainable after many years of Christian experience. But forgiveness of sin is a present thing—a privilege for this day, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus he is fully forgiven. The text, being written in the present tense, also indicates continuance; it was “cleanseth” yesterday, it is “cleanseth” to-day, it will be “cleanseth” tomorrow: it will be always so with you, Christian, until you cross the river; every hour you may come to this fountain, for it cleanseth still. Notice, likewise, the completeness of the cleansing, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”—not only from sin, but “from all sin.” Reader, I cannot tell you the exceeding sweetness of this word, but I pray God the Holy Ghost to give you a taste of it. Manifold are our sins against God. Whether the bill be little or great, the same receipt can discharge one as the other. The blood of Jesus Christ is as blessed and divine a payment for the transgressions of blaspheming Peter as for the shortcomings of loving John; our iniquity is gone, all gone at once, and all gone for ever. Blessed completeness! What a sweet theme to dwell upon as one gives himself to sleep.


     “Sins against a holy God;
     Sins against his righteous laws;
     Sins against his love, his blood;
     Sins against his name and cause;
     Sins immense as is the sea-
     From them all he cleanseth me.”


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 23

          O THAT WILL BE GLORY

     Words and Music by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856–1932

     God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

     Think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven!
     Of taking hold of a hand, and finding it God’s hand,
     Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial air;
     Of feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality,
     Of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm,
     Of waking up, and finding it Home!

--- Unknown

     The text for “O That Will Be Glory” was inspired for author and composer Charles Gabriel by his good friend Ed Card, superintendent of the Sunshine Rescue Mission of St. Louis, Missouri. Ed was a radiant believer who always seemed to be bubbling over with the joy of the Lord. During a sermon or prayer, he would often explode with the expression, “Glory!” (Incidentally, there is a biblical precedent for this practice. See Psalm 29:9.) Ed Card’s smiling face earned him the nickname “Old Glory Face.” It was his custom to close his own praying with a reference to heaven, ending with the phrase “and that will be glory for me!” It is said that Mr. Card had the joy of singing this hymn just before his home going—with the pleasure of knowing that his Christian life had been its inspiration.

     Charles H. Gabriel was one of the best-known and most prolific Gospel songwriters of the early 20th century era. For most of his hymns, Gabriel wrote and composed both the words and music. His Gospel songs were especially used during the large Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns of the 1910–1920 decade. “O That Will Be Glory” has been translated into many languages and dialects.

     When all my labors and trials are o’er and I am safe on that beautiful shore, just to be near the dear Lord I adore will thru the ages be glory for me.
     When, by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in heaven a place, just to be there and to look on His face will thru the ages be glory for me.
     Friends will be there I have loved long ago; joy like a river around me will flow; yet, just a smile from my Savior, I know, will thru the ages be glory for me.
     Chorus: O that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me; when by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me!


     For Today: 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Revelation 14:13

     Reflect on this truth—One moment of heavenly glory will outweigh a lifetime of suffering. Live with the assurance that God’s tomorrow will make today’s struggles worth it all. Anticipate this joy by singing 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. XCV. — I NOW return to Paul. If he does not, Rom. ix., explain this point, nor clearly state our necessity from the prescience and will of God; what need was there for him to introduce the similitude of the “potter,” who, of the “same lump” of clay, makes “one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” (Rom. ix. 21). What need was there for him to observe, that the thing formed does not say to him that formed it, “Why hast thou made me thus?” (20). He is there speaking of men; and he compares them to clay, and God to a potter. This similitude, therefore, stands coldly useless, nay, is introduced ridiculously and in vain, if it be not his sentiment, that we have no liberty whatever. Nay, the whole of the argument of Paul, wherein he defends grace, is in vain. For the design of the whole epistle is to shew, that we can do nothing, even when we seem to do well; as he in the same epistle testifies, where he says, that Israel which followed after righteousness, did not attain unto righteousness; but that the Gentiles which followed not after it did attain unto it. (Rom. ix. 30-31). Concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter, when I produce my forces.

     The fact is, the Diatribe designedly keeps back the body of Paul’s argument and its scope, and comfortably satisfies itself with prating upon a few detached and corrupted terms. Nor does the exhortation which Paul afterwards gives, Rom. xi., at all help the Diatribe; where he saith, “Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded;” (20), again, “and they also, if they shall believe, shall be grafted in, &c. (23);” for he says nothing there about the ability of man, but brings forth imperative and conditional expressions; and what effect they are intended to produce, has been fully shewn already. Moreover, Paul, there anticipating the boasters of “Free-will,” does not say, they can believe, but he saith, “God is able to graft them in again..” (23).

     To be brief: The Diatribe moves along with so much hesitation, and so lingeringly, in handling these passages of Paul, that its conscience seems to give the lie to all that it writes. For just at the point where it ought to have gone on to the proof, it for the most part, stops short with a ‘But of this enough;’ ‘But I shall not now proceed with this;’ ‘But this is not my present purpose;’ ‘But here they should have said so and so;’ and many evasions of the same kind; and it leaves off the subject just in the middle; so that, you are left in uncertainty whether it wished to be understood as speaking on “Free-will,” or whether it was only evading the sense of Paul by means of vanities of words. And all this is being just in its character, as not having a serious thought upon the cause in which it is engaged. But as for me I dare not be thus cold, thus always on the tip-toe of policy, or thus move to and fro as a reed shaken with the wind. I must assert with certainty, with constancy, and with ardour; and prove what I assert solidly, appropriately, and fully.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Judges 6-7
m2-115 5-18-2016 | Brett Meador






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