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7/27/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Judges 10:1-11:11     Acts 14     Jeremiah 23     Mark 9


Judges 10

Tola and Jair

Judges 10 1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

Further Disobedience and Oppression

6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him. 7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”


Judges 11:1-11

Jephthah Delivers Israel

Judges 11 1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.


Acts 14

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

Acts 14 1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Paul Stoned at Lystra

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.


Jeremiah 23

The Righteous Branch

Jeremiah 23 1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

Lying Prophets

9 Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me;
all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land mourns,
and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the Lord.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them
like slippery paths in the darkness,
into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
in the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.
13 In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets:
“Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

18 For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
19 Behold, the storm of the Lord!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intents of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.

21 “I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.

23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

33 “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the Lord.’ 34 And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ I will punish that man and his household. 35 Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the Lord answered?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But ‘the burden of the Lord’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man's own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the Lord,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’” 39 therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. 40 And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”


Mark 9

Mark 9 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

The Transfiguration

2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Who Is the Greatest?

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Temptations to Sin

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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Congregational Counseling

By Eric Bancroft 12/1/2010

     Premarital counseling can be an entertaining exercise for an older couple offering guidance to a younger couple. Across from them sit two individuals eager to wed. Apart from occasional disagreements about planning the ceremony, the soon-to-be-newlyweds are prone to think all is well, and their excitement is reflected on their faces. While the mentors don’t mean to discourage the couple, they do mean to equip the couple with counsel that will carry them beyond the honeymoon to the anniversaries to come.

     A church and its new pastor can be like that young couple — eager to get started in the ministry for which they have waited. The candidating process tempts them to believe all will be well. While their enthusiasm is encouraging, they also need some “premarital counseling.”

     Hebrews 13:17 provides a helpful template for understanding the roles and responsibilities of a local congregation and its leaders. The author writes: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

     Using Hebrews 13:17 as a backdrop, here are four ideas on how a congregation can honor the Lord and be a joy to a new pastor as they welcome him:

     Prayer: Pray for your new pastor and his family as they transition to a new ministry. These transitions, while initially exciting, can also be exhausting. During the early days of his new ministry, the pastor will juggle open houses, committee meetings, sermon preparation, and countless personal meetings. People will interview him informally to see if he meets their expectations. At the same time, if he is married and has children, he is responsible for establishing “normal” on the home front, while introducing his family to everything from a new grocery store to a new school.

     Pray for your congregation’s maturity. While surveys have difficulty capturing statistics on depth of relationships, love for Christ, fervor for witnessing, or commitment to unity, these are the marks of a congregation’s faithfulness to Christ. It is to this end that your pastor will be laboring (Col. 1:28–29), and it should be to this end that you are praying.

     Patience: Does the new pastor acquire a clean slate or a template to follow? The congregation inevitably has expectations for their new pastor. While expectations are unavoidable, be patient. You can rightly expect him to preach the Word of God, possess a commitment to personal and corporate holiness, and demonstrate passion for others to know the kindness of God in the gospel. However, hold loosely any additional expectations and preferences for where his time and focus should be spent. There is often much soul care taking place, beyond the view of most.

     Teachability: While good sermons are appreciated, lives impacted by truth are far greater. A pastor’s prayer for his congregation will not differ from Paul’s prayer for the Colossians: “That you may be filled with the knowledge of [the Lord’s] will … so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9–10).

     When interacting with your pastor about his preaching, talk about how the passage gave you new insight. Share how old truths have become new joys through the teaching of God’s Word. Confess former areas of ignorance that have now been purged with the lifegiving Word. Specific and intentional acknowledgements like these encourage a pastor to stay faithful to the Word and its proclamation.

     God clearly identifies the one who catches His eye: “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Like a child who complains about the meal before he even sits down, so is the congregant who enters corporate worship with an unteachable spirit even before the service has begun.

     Encouragement: One whose heart is satisfied in Christ is glad to express that to anyone, including the pastor.

     I recently participated in a monthly tour of my city with elected politicians and community leaders. I was saddened to see how quickly the community leaders complained about all of the action items they believed their elected politicians had not resolved. During an hour and a half of dialogue, only once was a word of encouragement offered. When I asked one of the politicians if it is always like this, he replied, “Every month.”

     Unfortunately, this same tendency can be seen in local churches. Complaining comes naturally while encouragement requires intentionality. Too often people are quick to express disappointment and slow to communicate encouragement. Find yourself contributing to a culture where church members are regularly expressing how the joy of the Lord is found in their lives. Pastors flourish in churches where members are vocal with their thankfulness for the work God is doing.

     Honeymoons are fun but anniversaries are better. While there might be more pictures taken on the honeymoon, there are more memories to talk about on the anniversaries.

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     Rev. Eric Bancroft is senior pastor of Castleview Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

Do We Believe the Whole Gospel?

By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2010

     Unbelief. This one word expresses the judgment Emil Brunner, the Swiss “crisis theologian,” used to describe nineteenth-century liberal theology. The rise of such liberalism was a conscious synthesis between naturalism in the world of philosophy and historic Christianity. Liberalism sought to de-supernaturalize the Christian faith and to restrict the modern significance of Jesus and the New Testament to ethical considerations, particularly with respect to the needs of human beings, and especially with respect to their material needs.

     This provoked a significant dilemma for the organized church, first in Europe and then in America. If an institution repudiates the very foundation upon which it is built and for which it exists, what happens to the billions of dollars worth of church property and its numerous ordained professionals? The clergy were left with nothing to preach except social concerns. In order to maintain a reason for the continued existence of Christianity as an organized religion, nineteenth-century liberalism turned to a new gospel, dubbed the “social gospel.” This was a gospel that focused on considerations of humanitarianism and had at the core of its agenda a commitment to “social justice.”

     The use of the term “social justice” involved an ironic twisting of words. What was in view in this philosophy was basically the redistribution of wealth, following the template of socialism. The false assumption of this so-called social justice was that material wealth can be gained only by means of the exploitation of the poor. Ergo, for a society to be just, the wealth must be redistributed by government authority. In reality, this so-called social justice degenerated into social injustice, where penalties were levied on those who were legitimately productive and non-productivity was rewarded — a bizarre concept of justice indeed.

     The rise in importance of the social gospel provoked a controversy known in church history as the “modernist-fundamentalist controversy,” which raged in the early years of the twentieth century. This controversy witnessed an unholy dichotomy between two poles of Christian concern. On the one hand, there was the classic concern of personal redemption accomplished by Christ through His atoning death on the cross, which brought reconciliation for those who put their trust in Jesus. On the other hand there was the consideration of the material well-being of human beings in this world right now. It included the consideration of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and caring for the poor.

     Many evangelicals at this period in history, in order to preserve the central significance of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gave renewed emphasis to evangelism. In many cases, this emphasis upon evangelism was done to the exclusion of the other pole of biblical concern, namely, mercy ministry to those who were poor, afflicted, and suffering. So glaring was the dichotomy between liberal and evangelical concerns that, sadly, many evangelicals began to distance themselves from any involvement in mercy ministries, lest their activities be construed as a surrender to liberalism.

     The fallacy of the false dilemma takes two important truths and forces one to choose between them. The assumption of the either/or fallacy is that of two particular matters, only one is true while the other is false; therefore, one is required to choose between the true and the false. The either/or fallacy that stood before the church in this period was either the gospel of personal redemption or the gospel of social concern for the material welfare of human beings.

     Even a cursory reading of the New Testament, however, makes it clear that the concerns of Jesus and of the New Testament writers cannot be reduced to an either/or dilemma. The problem with this fallacy, as with all fallacies, is that truth becomes severely distorted. The New Testament does not allow for this false dilemma. The choice that the church has is never between personal salvation and mercy ministry. It is rather a both/and proposition. Neither pole can be properly swallowed by the other. To reduce Christianity either to a program of social welfare or to a program of personal redemption results in a truncated gospel that is a profound distortion.

     Historically, before the outbreak of nineteenth-century liberalism, the church did not seem to struggle with this false dichotomy. For centuries, the church understood her task as both to proclaim the saving gospel of the atoning work of Christ and, at the same time, to follow Jesus’ example of ministry to the blind, to the deaf, to the imprisoned, to the hungry, to the homeless, and to the poor. The ministry of the church, if it is to be healthy, must always be firmly committed to both dimensions of the biblical mandate, that we may be faithful to Christ Himself. If we reject either the ministry of personal redemption or of mercy to the afflicted, we express “unbelief.”

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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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With Passion

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/1/2010

     One of the troubles with trouble is that it can encourage us toward selfishness. When things are going well for us, it is rather easy to feel magnanimous. When challenges come our way, however, suddenly we feel entitled to be focused on ourselves.

     Not so with Jesus. It is more than shocking that the Lord of glory would, as He did in John 13, take on the form of the lowliest servant and wash the feet of His disciples. What makes it all the more potent is that He did this on the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus was within a day of facing not just Roman crucifixion, the most gruesome death one could imagine, but facing the full wrath and fury of His Father poured out on Him. Yet His immediate concern was not this grave challenge before Him but that He might teach one more lesson to His disciples. A few chapters later, His prayers were focused on two things — that God would be glorified in what was about to take place and that God would bless these same disciples. Jesus was thinking of others. In the face of His passion, His passion was those whom He loved.

     Compassion, rightly understood, means entering into the passion, or suffering, of others. It means setting aside our own concerns, our own fears, our own needs, and not just supplying but feeling the needs of those around us. This, ironically, happens not when we have all that we need. It happens instead when we come to understand that we have nothing and that we need nothing. Compassion flows not out of the wellsatisfied but from those who have not. There is, in turn, only one way to do this — to die to self. When my aspirations, my hopes and dreams, my wants are crucified, I enter into liberty. I am free to take up the concerns of others. A dead man has no need to protect his comfort. He has no need to protect his wealth. He has no need at all to protect his reputation. Perhaps Janis Joplin had it right: freedom may just be another word for “nothing left to lose.”

     The Serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. His passion is to build up in us misguided passions. Jesus hungered and thirsted after the will of the Father, yet the will of the Devil is that we would hunger and thirst. He delights to fill us with needs, whereas our Father delights to fill our needs. Jesus spoke to this in the Sermon on the Mount. He encourages us: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:25–26).

     We can die to ourselves not because we are so worthless, but because He has ascribed worth to us. The One who gave us our value, who values us, is the same One who meets all of our needs. We who were dead, He has made alive — and He keeps us alive. He meets our needs daily, such that the last thing we need to worry about is our needs. Now we are free to show forth His compassion because we are indeed filled. We lose our cares when we remember we are dead. We care for others out of our fullness because He has made us alive.

     Our passion, then, ought to be that we would identify with our Lord. We enter into His passion as we put to death all our selfish concerns and fears. When we take on the form of servants and wash the feet of our brothers, we become one with Him in dying to self. But we likewise are called to enter into His resurrection — even His ascension. He has, in Him, made us alive. When He walked out into the garden from His tomb, the Firstborn of the new creation, He blazed the trail where we now walk. When He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He took us with Him. He has, in Him, made us kings and queens, seated in thrones of glory in the heavenly places. He has made us joint heirs with Him, such that we inherit the whole of the world. We have nothing, and so have nothing to lose. We have everything, and so have everything to give.

     When we live with Him, when we seek to live like Him, then we are seeking first the kingdom of God. When we put our desires to death, we are seeking first His righteousness. And when we feast before Him, we feast because all these things have been added to us.

     He has given us one holy passion. He has given us His own passion. He has called us to identify with Him, and, in so doing, we identify with His body, the church. Love your brother. Walk with him. Mourn with him when he mourns. Rejoice with him when he rejoices. And in both instances, know that your Father in heaven mourns and rejoices with you.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Covenant Way

By Susan Hunt 12/1/2010

     “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Ps. 71:18).

     One of the things I feel an urgency to proclaim to our covenant sons and daughters is that “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them… . And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion’” (Gen. 1:27–28).

     Male and female — created equally in God’s image but assigned different, equally valuable functions in His kingdom. This glorious difference points to our glorious triune God.

     The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in substance and power, but each assumes a different function in the accomplishment of our redemption. The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, the Son redeemed us through His blood, and the Holy Spirit applies this redemption to our hearts (Eph. 1:3–14). These functions are not blurred but are so perfectly complementary that they harmonize to accomplish the grand work of redemption that praises His glorious grace (vv. 6, 12, 14).

     To even think about which person of the Trinity or which Trinitarian function is most important is ridiculous. But this exquisite equality does not negate the functional authority within the Godhead. “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).

     The Creator stamped the profound unity and diversity of His nature upon His image bearers. The world has highjacked gender distinctiveness by proclaiming that equality means sameness and that submission is demeaning to women. Worse than diminishing the value of our male and female design and function, this absurdity obscures our reflection of God’s glory.

     “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18).

     God created the man first, indicating headship. Man’s aloneness was not good, so God created a helper. This rich word (Heb., ezer) is often used to refer to God as our helper. Reflecting on how God ministers to us as our helper unfolds the beauty of our female calling. God helps by seeing and caring for the suffering (Ps. 10:14), supporting (20:2), protecting (33:20), delivering from distress (70:5), rescuing the needy and afflicted (72:12–14), and comforting (86:17). These are strong, relational, nurturing, compassionate words. They are covenant words. They characterize our relationship with God and with one another.

     Man and woman are to be fruitful and take dominion by fulfilling their distinctive callings. Satan made his move to torpedo the structure of God’s kingdom by inverting the creation order and going to the woman. When the man and woman sinned, they lost their ability to be and do what God had created and commissioned them to be and do. But God, being rich in mercy, promised the Redeemer who would restore the relationship they lost.

     The man and woman heard the first proclamation of the gospel (Gen. 3:15). The promise would be kept through the offspring of the woman. Adam’s response to this good news was to name his wife, an indicator that he was restored to headship. He named her Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (v. 20). This leaves me breathless. Eve means life-giver. The life-taker was restored to her pre-fall ability to be a life-giving helper because of the gospel.

     Woman’s redemptive calling to be a life-giver is not just biological. The redeemed woman is called to be a life-giver in every season, relationship, and situation. And get this — only redeemed women have the ability to display God’s creation design and redemptive calling. This, too, leaves me breathless.

     Multiplying and taking dominion is still the church’s compelling commission. Headship and submission are still the church’s compelling relational framework for men and women to live out our covenantal privileges and responsibilities. When Paul told Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12), he referred to judicial or governing authority. And he quickly gave the reason: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v. 13). The governance of the church is to reflect the creation order, thus reflecting the character of God, thus reflecting the gospel.

     Headship and submission are God’s ordained order to achieve oneness in marriage and unity in the church. Whenever a woman inverts this order, she becomes a life-taker. Instead of nurturing a sense of place and family in her home and church, she sucks the life out of that relationship/situation. Biblical submission liberates us to make the kingdom reality of God’s female design and calling visible to our families, friends, and neighbors, and to the next generation.

     Why would we rebel against such a high and holy calling? The same reason Mother Eve did — pride. We are vain women and we live in Vanity Fair. We need the gospel, and we need the church and other women to help us know how to orient our lives to the gospel — it’s the covenant way

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     Susan Hunt is a wife, mother, and grandmother, and she is former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. She is coauthor of Women's Ministry in the Local Church.

The Magic Bullet

By Sebastian Heck 12/1/2010

     Within the space of forty-eight hours, one could tour more than a dozen of Europe’s most beautiful historic cathedrals, emblems of Christianity’s once ubiquitous presence. But for the people who live in Europe, and I speak as a German national living in Germany, the familiar-looking steeples and the church bells sounding forth into the night are but tragic reminders of an all-too-distant past.

     What caused this transformation of western Europe from the erstwhile cradle of the Reformation to one of the most secular places on earth within just two centuries? Many reasons could be listed. Among them would be the Enlightenment, higher criticism of the Bible, German liberalism, and finally, not entirely disconnected, the havoc of two World Wars. These all play their part in explaining the current climate in much of western Europe.

     Today, we are faced with the challenging combination of an aggressive “New Atheism,” constant Muslim immigration, negative population growth, and a dwindling Christian presence. In Germany, Italy, and Ireland, evangelical believers comprise at most one percent of the population. In countries such as France, Spain, Austria, and Poland, the percentage is even lower.

     “How can the church possibly survive?” people in Europe are asking. “Is there any hope for us?” While it might be tempting to cave in, throw hands up in the air, and abandon the sinking ship, this is simply not an option. God still has His people there.

     As with our entire Christian walk, our hope does not come from the situation we are in. More often than not, Christian hope actually rises despite the situation. As believers, we are not called to live comfortable and easy lives. We are called to live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). It is “through faith and patience” that we “inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). We are called to suffer even as Christ Himself suffered (1 Peter 2:21). Thus, we are not called to minister, evangelize, and plant churches only in places that promise quick success because they are “white for harvest” (John 4:35), but also in those areas that seem more like valleys of dry bones (see Ezek. 37:1–14).

     Germany is a good illustration of the latter, as it has not seen the almost proverbial “revival of the spiritual” taking places in other parts of the West. It is still, for the most part, simply dead and resistant, truly post-Christian. So, what do we do?

     Some argue for a toning down of theological convictions as the way to go forward, thereby simply repeating the sins of their liberal forefathers. Others turn to pragmatism, arguing that times like these demand a “roll-up-your-sleeves” mentality, not a dotting of the doctrinal i and crossing of the theological t. Yet others argue for “thinking outside the box” when it comes to ministry in a post-Christian world, and by “the box” they usually mean the church. Hope in the church as the sole agent for propagating the gospel has been abandoned by many a pastor and missionary here.

     What many think we need is a magic bullet of missions and church planting that will cut through the rock hard soil of western Europe.

     We agree. We need this magic bullet. And we have it, but, alas, we disagree with the pragmatists and progressives as to where it may be found. It is not to be found in the newest fad but in the nature of the church and the promises given to it.

     In Matthew 16, Jesus makes a promise to Simon Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (v. 18). While there is some debate as to what Jesus meant by “on this rock,” what is clear is the import of Christ’s promise to build His church. Jesus is the originator of His church. He is the builder and keeper of His church. And just as He has charged the disciples with making disciples of all nations, including the spiritual wastelands of Europe, by baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded them, so He has promised to be with His church, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18–20).

     The true church of Christ has always been recognized by the marks of true gospel preaching, baptism, the administration of the Lord’s Supper, and discipline, which are also the means of grace God ordinarily uses and promised to bless. This church is kept by Christ in such a way that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against its mission.

     Admittedly, Christ’s promise to Peter may seem counterintuitive today, especially in Europe. But then again, we must walk by faith, not by sight. We need to rely on God’s promise, draw from God’s strength, and use the means He has given the church. That is our only hope. Such a promise-driven approach to ministry cannot ultimately fail because the church will ultimately survive. This is the magic bullet of ministry if there ever was one.

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     Sebastian Heck is a licentiate in the PCA and the organizing pastor of the Selbständige Evangelish-Reformierte Kirche in Heidelberg, Germany.

Judges 10; Acts 14; Jeremiah 23; Mark 9

By Don Carson 7/27/2018

     Paul had been evangelizing for fifteen years or more, probably largely around the Tarsus area, before this “first” trip is recorded. Doubtless he built up extraordinary experience evangelizing Jews and Gentiles alike, so that by the time he emerges on the scene as a church-planting apostle he is not a young man finding his way, but a mature, seasoned worker.

     (1) It has often been said that everywhere Paul went he started either a revival or a riot, and sometimes both. That’s not quite true, of course. Moreover, a riot is not necessarily a mark of authenticity: as much depends on the context and the hearers as on the preacher and his message and style. But there is at least some truth to the observation, and it is tied to the apostle’s sheer boldness.

     (2) In the early years of the church, the persecution Christians suffered was almost entirely sponsored by Jews. Later, of course, far worse persecution was generated by the Roman Empire, until at the beginning of the fourth century the Emperor Constantine switched sides. But in the beginning it was not so. It is hard to bring this up in our historical context, living as we do this side of the Holocaust. But facts are persistent things.

     One can understand why it was this way. At the beginning, all of the Christians were Jews; for quite awhile, the majority were Jews. In both cases, synagogue discipline was possible within reasonably closed communities. Moreover, in at least some cities influential Jews were well-placed to influence pagan authorities to exert pressure on people that many Jews saw as debasing the Jewish heritage and culture.

     (3) In Lystra (Acts 14:8-20) there is a spectacular example of the fickleness of a mob. At first the pagans try to honor Paul and Barnabas as, respectively, Hermes (the god of communication) and Zeus (head of the Greek pantheon), owing to the healing they had performed in Jesus’ name. Only with great effort could Paul and Barnabas restrain the crowd — which then shortly turns on them when they are stirred up by Jewish opponents who are beginning to dog their steps. The apostolic response was stunning both ways: they do everything they can to turn aside the acclaim (Acts 14:14, 18), and they accept the persecution as something only to be expected by those who enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22).

     (4) On the swing leg home, not more than a few months later, Paul and Barnabas return through the cities where they have already planted churches and appoint elders in each of them (Acts 14:23). Clearly, what is meant by a “mature” elder is entirely relative to the age and maturity of the congregation.

     Reflect on the relevance of these points in your own context.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 78

Tell the Coming Generation
78 A Maskil Of Asaph.

50 He made a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives over to the plague.
51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52 Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55 He drove out nations before them;
he apportioned them for a possession
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
and did not keep his testimonies,
57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel.
60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
61 and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     17. It now remains to see, as was proposed in the last place, what use the common society of Christians derive from laws, judicial proceedings, and magistrates. With this is connected another question --viz. What difference ought private individuals to pay to magistrates, and how far ought obedience to proceed? To very many it seems that among Christians the office of magistrate is superfluous, because they cannot piously implore his aid, inasmuch as they are forbidden to take revenge, cite before a judge, or go to law. But when Paul, on the contrary, clearly declares that he is the minister of God to us for good (Rom. 13:4), we thereby understand that he was so ordained of God, that, being defended by his hand and aid against the dishonesty and injustice of wicked men, we may live quiet and secure. But if he would have been appointed over us in vain, unless we were to use his aid, it is plain that it cannot be wrong to appeal to it and implore it. Here, indeed, I have to do with two classes of men. For there are very many who boil with such a rage for litigation, that they never can be quiet with themselves unless they are fighting with others. Law-suits they prosecute with the bitterness of deadly hatred, and with an insane eagerness to hurt and revenge, and they persist in them with implacable obstinacy, even to the ruin of their adversary. Meanwhile, that they may be thought to do nothing but what is legal, they use this pretext of judicial proceedings as a defence of their perverse conduct. But if it is lawful for brother to litigate with brother, it does not follow that it is lawful to hate him, and obstinately pursue him with a furious desire to do him harm.

18. Let such persons then understand that judicial proceedings are lawful to him who makes a right use of them; and the right use, both for the pursuer and for the defender, is for the latter to sist himself on the day appointed, and, without bitterness, urge what he can in his defence, but only with the desire of justly maintaining his right; and for the pursuer, when undeservedly attacked in his life or fortunes, to throw himself upon the protection of the magistrate, state his complaint, and demand what is just and good; while, far from any wish to hurt or take vengeance--far from bitterness or hatred --far from the ardour of strife, he is rather disposed to yield and suffer somewhat than to cherish hostile feelings towards his opponent. On the contrary, when minds are filled with malevolence, corrupted by envy, burning with anger, breathing revenge, or, in fine, so inflamed by the heat of the contest, that they, in some measure, lay aside charity, the whole pleading, even of the justest cause, cannot but be impious. For it ought to be an axiom among all Christians, that no plea, however equitable, can be rightly conducted by any one who does not feel as kindly towards his opponent as if the matter in dispute were amicably transacted and arranged. Some one, perhaps, may here break in and say, that such moderation in judicial proceedings is so far from being seen, that an instance of it would be a kind of prodigy. I confess that in these times it is rare to meet with an example of an honest litigant; but the thing itself, untainted by the accession of evil, ceases not to be good and pure. When we hear that the assistance of the magistrate is a sacred gift from God, we ought the more carefully to beware of polluting it by our fault.

19. Let those who distinctly condemn all judicial distinction know, that they repudiate the holy ordinance of God, and one of those gifts which to the pure are pure, unless, indeed, they would charge Paul with a crime, [689] because he repelled the calumnies of his accusers, exposing their craft and wickedness, and, at the tribunal, claimed for himself the privilege of a Roman citizen, appealing, when necessary, from the governor to Cæsar's judgment-seat. There is nothing contrary to this in the prohibition, which binds all Christians to refrain from revenge, a feeling which we drive far away from all Christian tribunals. For whether the action be of a civil nature, he only takes the right course who, with innocuous simplicity, commits his cause to the judge as the public protector, without any thought of returning evil for evil (which is the feeling of revenge); or whether the action is of a graver nature, directed against a capital offence, the accuser required is not one who comes into court, carried away by some feeling of revenge or resentment from some private injury, but one whose only object is to prevent the attempts of some bad men to injure the commonweal. But if you take away the vindictive mind, you offend in no respect against that command which forbids Christians to indulge revenge. But they are not only forbidden to thirst for revenge, they are also enjoined to wait for the hand of the Lord, who promises that he will be the avenger of the oppressed and afflicted. But those who call upon the magistrate to give assistance to themselves or others, anticipate the vengeance of the heavenly Judge. By no means, for we are to consider that the vengeance of the magistrate is the vengeance not of man, but of God, which, as Paul says, he exercises by the ministry of man for our good (Rom. 13:8).

20. No more are we at variance with the words of Christ, who forbids us to resist evil, and adds, "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also" (Mt. 5:39, 40). He would have the minds of his followers to be so abhorrent to everything like retaliation, that they would sooner allow the injury to be doubled than desire to repay it. From this patience we do not dissuade them. For verily Christians were to be a class of men born to endure affronts and injuries, and be exposed to the iniquity, imposture, and derision of abandoned men, and not only so, but were to be tolerant of all these evils; that is, so composed in the whole frame of their minds, that, on receiving one offence, they were to prepare themselves for another, promising themselves nothing during the whole of life but the endurance of a perpetual cross. Meanwhile, they must do good to those who injure them, and pray for those who curse them, and (this is their only victory) strive to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:20, 21). Thus affected, they will not seek eye for eye, and tooth for tooth (as the Pharisees taught their disciples to long for vengeance), but (as we are instructed by Christ), they will allow their body to be mutilated, and their goods to be maliciously taken from them, prepared to remit and spontaneously pardon those injuries the moment they have been inflicted. This equity and moderation, however, will not prevent them, with entire friendship for their enemies, from using the aid of the magistrate for the preservation of their goods, or, from zeal for the public interest, to call for the punishment of the wicked and pestilential man, whom they know nothing will reform but death. All these precepts are truly expounded by Augustine, as tending to prepare the just and pious man patiently to sustain the malice of those whom he desires to become good, that he may thus increase the number of the good, not add himself to the number of the bad by imitating their wickedness. Moreover, it pertains more to the preparation of the heart which is within, than to the work which is done openly, that patience and good-will may be retained within the secret of the heart, and that may be done openly which we see may do good to those to whom we ought to wish well (August. Ep. 5 ad. Marcell.).

21. The usual objection, that law-suits are universally condemned by Paul (1 Cor. 6:6), is false. It may easily be understood from his words, that a rage for litigation prevailed in the Church of Corinth to such a degree, that they exposed the gospel of Christ, and the whole religion which they professed, to the calumnies and cavils of the ungodly. Paul rebukes them, first for traducing the gospel to unbelievers by the intemperance of their dissensions; and, secondly, for so striving with each other while they were brethren. For so far were they from bearing injury from another, that they greedily coveted each other's effects, and voluntarily provoked and injured them. He inveighs, therefore, against that madness for litigation, and not absolutely against all kinds of disputes. He declares it to be altogether a vice or infirmity, that they do not submit to the loss of their effects, rather than strive, even to contention, in preserving them; in other words, seeing they were so easily moved by every kind of loss, and on every occasion, however slight, ran off to the forum and to law-suits, he says, that in this way they showed that they were of too irritable a temper, and not prepared for patience. Christians should always feel disposed rather to give up part of their right than to go into court, out of which they can scarcely come without a troubled mind, a mind inflamed with hatred of their brother. But when one sees that his property, the want of which he would grievously feel, he is able, without any loss of charity, to defend, if he should do so, he offends in no respect against that passage of Paul. In short, as we said at first, every man's best adviser is charity. Everything in which we engage without charity, and all the disputes which carry us beyond it, are unquestionably unjust and impious.

22. The first duty of subjects towards their rulers, is to entertain the most honourable views of their office, recognising it as a delegated jurisdiction from God, and on that account receiving and reverencing them as the ministers and ambassadors of God. For you will find some who show themselves very obedient to magistrates, and would be unwilling that there should be no magistrates to obey, because they know this is expedient for the public good, and yet the opinion which those persons have of magistrates is, that they are a kind of necessary evils. But Peter requires something more of us when he says, "Honour the king" (1 Pet. 2:17); and Solomon, when he says, "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king" (Prov. 24:21). For, under the term honour, the former includes a sincere and candid esteem, and the latter, by joining the king with God, shows that he is invested with a kind of sacred veneration and dignity. We have also the remarkable injunction of Paul, "Be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Rom. 13:5). By this he means, that subjects, in submitting to princes and governors, are not to be influenced merely by fear (just as those submit to an armed enemy who see vengeance ready to be executed if they resist), but because the obedience which they yield is rendered to God himself, inasmuch as their power is from God. I speak not of the men as if the mask of dignity could cloak folly, or cowardice, or cruelty, or wicked or flagitious manners, and thus acquire for vice the praise of virtue; but I say that the station itself is deserving of honour and reverence, and that those who rule should, in respect of their office, be held by us in esteem and veneration.

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



  • Servanthood in Leadership 2
  • ... Leadership 3
  • Structural Frame

#1 Tom Steffen  Biola University

 

#2 Tom Steffen   Biola University

 

#3 Tom Steffen   Biola University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2015    The Weight of Shame

     Shame—we all feel it, or at least we should. We are all sinful, and our sin brings shame. Although shame has all but disappeared from our culture’s vocabulary and is largely ignored by many in the church, it exists nonetheless and must be recognized and reckoned with.

     If we are honest with ourselves, and more importantly, honest with God, we cannot help but admit that we feel shame as a result of our sin. Whether we sin in private or in public—and whether we perhaps even pretend not to have it—shame is undeniably real. We feel shame because God in His grace created all human beings with the capacity to feel shame as a consequence of their sin. John Calvin wrote, “Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their wretchedness truly understand the Christian gospel.” If we have never truly felt the shame of our sin, we have never truly repented of our sin. For it is only when we recognize what wretches we are that we are able to sing “Amazing Grace” and know what a sweet sound it truly is.

     Even when we are young children—from the very first moment in our lives when we know we’ve done something wrong—we blush and hang our heads in shame. The question is not whether we feel shame, but what we do with our shame. Some try to hide their shame, some try to ignore it as long as possible, some grow callous and complacent toward their shame, and some wallow in their shame and live their lives in quiet desperation. However, as Christians, we have a place to go with our shame—the foot of the cross. We have a Redeemer who has taken our shame to the cross. So we sing, “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior.”

     Jesus Christ redeemed us not only from His wrath and hell in the future but from having to wallow in the mire of guilt and shame in the present. Jesus promised us not only eternal life in the future, but abundant life that begins in the present. Jesus lived and died not only for the guilt of our sin but for the shame of our sin. He endured the cross, despising its shame, so that we would not have to wallow in shame. Our Lord calls us to bring our shame to Him, whereas Satan wants us to bear the constant weight of our shame and wallow in it for the rest of our lives. But if we live each day bearing the shame of yesterday, and we’re worried about the shame of tomorrow, we will never experience the joys of abundant life in Christ today.Ž Therefore, let us lift our weary eyes from gazing upon our shame and fix our eyes of Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     After three years of fighting, the Korean War ended this day, July 27, 1953, with the armistice signed at Panmunjom. Part of a UN “police” action, the greatly outnumber American troops fought courageously against the Communist Chinese and North Korean troops, who were supplied with arms from the Soviet Union. With temperatures sometimes forty degrees below zero, and politicians preventing pursuit of the enemy, there were over 140,000 American casualties. Of her son who served in Korea, Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower said: “He has a mission to fulfill and God will see to it that nothing will happen to him till he fulfills it.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


By the time the average Christian gets his temperature up to normal, everybody thinks he has a FEVER!
--- Watchman Nee

We are so obsessed with doing
that we have no time and no imagination left for being.
As a result,
men are valued not for what they are
but for what they do
or what they have - for their usefulness.
--- Thomas Merton

The beauty of the home is order;
the blessing of the home is contentment;
The glory of the home is hospitality;
the crown of the home is godliness.
--- Unknown

We do not make love in the language of the psychologist;
we make love in the language of the little child.
--- Frank W. Boreham
Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     7. But on the next day, which was the fifteenth of the month Lous, [Ab,] they made an assault upon Antonia, and besieged the garrison which was in it two days, and then took the garrison, and slew them, and set the citadel on fire; after which they marched to the palace, whither the king's soldiers were fled, and parted themselves into four bodies, and made an attack upon the walls. As for those that were within it, no one had the courage to sally out, because those that assaulted them were so numerous; but they distributed themselves into the breast-works and turrets, and shot at the besiegers, whereby many of the robbers fell under the walls; nor did they cease to fight one with another either by night or by day, while the seditious supposed that those within would grow weary for want of food, and those without supposed the others would do the like by the tediousness of the siege.

     8. In the mean time, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, [who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans,] took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod's armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem; he became the leader of the sedition, and gave orders for continuing the siege; but they wanted proper instruments, and it was not practicable to undermine the wall, because the darts came down upon them from above. But still they dug a mine from a great distance under one of the towers, and made it totter; and having done that, they set on fire what was combustible, and left it; and when the foundations were burnt below, the tower fell down suddenly. Yet did they then meet with another wall that had been built within, for the besieged were sensible beforehand of what they were doing, and probably the tower shook as it was undermining; so they provided themselves of another fortification; which when the besiegers unexpectedly saw, while they thought they had already gained the place, they were under some consternation. However, those that were within sent to Manahem, and to the other leaders of the sedition, and desired they might go out upon a capitulation: this was granted to the king's soldiers and their own countrymen only, who went out accordingly; but the Romans that were left alone were greatly dejected, for they were not able to force their way through such a multitude; and to desire them to give them their right hand for their security, they thought it would be a reproach to them; and besides, if they should give it them, they durst not depend upon it; so they deserted their camp, as easily taken, and ran away to the royal towers,—that called Hippicus, that called Phasaelus, and that called Mariamne. But Manahem and his party fell upon the place whence the soldiers were fled, and slew as many of them as they could catch, before they got up to the towers, and plundered what they left behind them, and set fire to their camp. This was executed on the sixth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].

     9. But on the next day the high priest was caught where he had concealed himself in an aqueduct; he was slain, together with Hezekiah his brother, by the robbers: hereupon the seditious besieged the towers, and kept them guarded, lest any one of the soldiers should escape. Now the overthrow of the places of strength, and the death of the high priest Ananias, so puffed up Manahem, that he became barbarously cruel; and as he thought he had no antagonist to dispute the management of affairs with him, he was no better than an insupportable tyrant; but Eleazar and his party, when words had passed between them, how it was not proper when they revolted from the Romans, out of the desire of liberty, to betray that liberty to any of their own people, and to bear a lord, who, though he should be guilty of no violence, was yet meaner than themselves; as also, that in case they were obliged to set some one over their public affairs, it was fitter they should give that privilege to any one rather than to him; they made an assault upon him in the temple; for he went up thither to worship in a pompous manner, and adorned with royal garments, and had his followers with him in their armor. But Eleazar and his party fell violently upon him, as did also the rest of the people; and taking up stones to attack him withal, they threw them at the sophister, and thought, that if he were once ruined, the entire sedition would fall to the ground. Now Manahem and his party made resistance for a while; but when they perceived that the whole multitude were falling upon them, they fled which way every one was able; those that were caught were slain, and those that hid themselves were searched for. A few there were of them who privately escaped to Masada, among whom was Eleazar, the son of Jairus, who was of kin to Manahem, and acted the part of a tyrant at Masada afterward. As for Manahem himself, he ran away to the place called Ophla, and there lay skulking in private; but they took him alive, and drew him out before them all; they then tortured him with many sorts of torments, and after all slew him, as they did by those that were captains under him also, and particularly by the principal instrument of his tyranny, whose name was Apsalom.

     10. And, as I said, so far truly the people assisted them, while they hoped this might afford some amendment to the seditious practices; but the others were not in haste to put an end to the war, but hoped to prosecute it with less danger, now they had slain Manahem. It is true, that when the people earnestly desired that they would leave off besieging the soldiers, they were the more earnest in pressing it forward, and this till Metilius, who was the Roman general, sent to Eleazar, and desired that they would give them security to spare their lives only; but agreed to deliver up their arms, and what else they had with them. The others readily complied with their petition, sent to them Gorion, the son of Nicodemus, and Ananias, the son of Sadduk, and Judas, the son of Jonathan, that they might give them the security Of their right hands, and of their oaths; after which Metilius brought down his soldiers; which soldiers, while they were in arms, were not meddled with by any of the seditious, nor was there any appearance of treachery; but as soon as, according to the articles of capitulation, they had all laid down their shields and their swords, and were under no further suspicion of any harm, but were going away, Eleazar's men attacked them after a violent manner, and encompassed them round, and slew them, while they neither defended themselves, nor entreated for mercy, but only cried out upon the breach of their articles of capitulation and their oaths. And thus were all these men barbarously murdered, excepting Metilius; for when he entreated for mercy, and promised that he would turn Jew, and be circumcised, they saved him alive, but none else. This loss to the Romans was but light, there being no more than a few slain out of an immense army; but still it appeared to be a prelude to the Jews' own destruction, while men made public lamentation when they saw that such occasions were afforded for a war as were incurable; that the city was all over polluted with such abominations, from which it was but reasonable to expect some vengeance, even though they should escape revenge from the Romans; so that the city was filled with sadness, and every one of the moderate men in it were under great disturbance, as likely themselves to undergo punishment for the wickedness of the seditious; for indeed it so happened that this murder was perpetrated on the sabbath day, on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of Divine worship.

     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 21:31
     by D.H. Stern

31     A horse may be prepared for the day of battle,
but victory comes from ADONAI.


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

     VI | THE CORNER CUPBOARD

     Is there a case on record of a really unsuccessful search? I doubt it. I believe it to be positively and literally true that he that seeketh, findeth. I do not mean that a man will always find what he seeks. I do not know that the promise implies that. I fancy it covers a far wider range, and embraces a much ampler truth. Yes, I doubt if any man ever yet sought without finding. When I was a boy I lost my peg-top. It was a somewhat expensive one, owing partly to the fact that it would really spin. I noticed this peculiarity about it whilst it was still the property of its previous possessor. I had several tops; indeed, my pockets bulged out with my ample store, but none of them would spin. After pointing out to the owner of the coveted top the frightful unsightliness of his treasure, and in other ways seeking to lower the price likely to be demanded as soon as negotiations opened, I at length secured the top in return for six marbles, a redoubtable horse chestnut, and a knife with a broken blade. My subsequent alarm, on missing so costly a possession, can be readily imagined. I could not be expected to endure so serious a deprivation without making a desperate effort to retrieve my fallen fortunes. I therefore proclaimed to all and sundry my inflexible determination to ransack the house from the top brick of the chimney to the darkest recesses of the cellar in quest of my vanished treasure. I began with a queer old triangular cupboard that occupied one corner of the kitchen. And in the deepest and dustiest corner of the top shelf of that cavernous old cupboard, what should I find but the cricket ball that I had lost the previous summer? My excitement was so great that I almost fell off the table on which I was standing. As soon as the flicker of my candle fell on the ball I distinctly remembered putting it there. I argued that it was the only place in the house that I could reach, and that my brother couldn't, and consequently the only place in the house that was really safe. The fact that the ball had remained there, untouched, all through the cricket season abundantly demonstrated the justice of my conclusion. My jubilation was so exuberant that it drove all thought of the peg-top out of my mind. There is such a thing as the expulsive power of an old affection as well as the expulsive power of a new affection. My delight over my new-found cricket ball entirely dispelled my grief over my missing peg-top. Indeed, I am not sure to this day whether I ever saw that peg-top again. I may have inadvertently deposited it on a shelf that my brother could reach; but after the lapse of so many years I will endeavour to harbour no dark suspicions. In any case, it does not matter. What is a paltry peg-top compared with a half-guinea cricket ball? I had sought, and I had found. I had not found what I had sought, nor had I sought what I had found. Perhaps if I had continued my search for the peg-top with the enthusiasm and assiduity with which I had lugged the kitchen table up to the corner cupboard, I should have found it. Perhaps if I had searched for the cricket ball with the same zest that marked my quest of the peg-top, I should have found it. But that is not my point. My point is the point with which I set out. I do not believe that a case of a really unsuccessful search has ever been recorded. He that seeketh, findeth, depend upon it.

     The days of the peg-top and the cricket ball seem a long way behind me now, and I am glad that the fate of the queer old corner cupboard has been mercifully hidden from my eyes. But, by sea and land, the principle that I first discovered when I stood on tiptoe on the kitchen table has followed me all down the years. The secret that I learned that day has acted like a talisman, and has turned every spot that I have visited into an enchanted ground. Even my study table is not immune from its magic spell. A more prosaic spectacle never met the eye. The desk, the pigeon-holes, the drawers, and the piles of papers might have to do with a foundry or a fish-market, so very unromantic do they appear. And yet, what times I have whenever I manage to lose something! It is almost worth while losing something just for the fun of looking for it! If a catalogue or a circular will only go astray, all the excitements of a chase lie open before me. And the things that I shall find! I shall come on letters that will make me laugh and letters that will make me cry. Hullo, what's this? Dear me, I must write to so-and-so, or he will think I have forgotten him! And just look here! I must run round and see what's-his-name this afternoon, and fix this matter up. And so I go on. The probability is that I shall no more find the catalogue that set me searching than I found the peg-top in the days of auld lang syne; but what has that to do with it? Look at the things I have found, the memories I have revived, the tasks that have been suggested! Life has been incalculably enriched by the fruits of this search through the papers on my study table. If I do not find the peg-top-papers for which I sought, I have found cricket-ball-papers immensely more valuable, and the rapture of my sensational discoveries renders the fate of my poor peg-top-papers a matter of comparative indifference. The series of thrills produced by such a search is reminiscent of the emotions with which I enjoyed my first magic-lantern entertainment. On they came, one after another, those wonderful, wonderful pictures in the darkness. On they came, one after another, these startling surprises from out these musty-fusty piles of papers. A search is really a marvellous experience. The imagination flies with lightning rapidity from one world of things to another and another as the papers rustle between the fingers. John Ploughman used to say that, even if the fowls got nothing by it, it did them good to scratch. I am not a poultry expert, as I am frequently reminded, but I dare say that there is a wealth of wisdom in the observation. At any rate, I know that, in my own case, the success or failure of my search expeditions stand in no way related to the original object of my quest. I never remember having set out to look for a thing, and afterwards regretted having done so.

     I was wondering the other day if the same principle applied to other people, and I cruelly determined on a little experiment. My girls collect orchids, and much of their time in the city is spent in recounting the foraging expeditions that they have conducted in happy days gone by, and in anticipating similar adventures in the golden times before them. Some of the pleasantest holidays that we have enjoyed together have been spent away in the heart of the bush where Nature runs riot and revels in undisturbed profusion. It is delightful to see them come traipsing along the track through the bush, their faces flushed with the excitement of their foray, and their arms filled with the booty they have gathered. They are tired, evidently, but not too tired to run when they catch sight of us. 'Look at this!' cries one; and 'Isn't that a pretty colour?' asks the other. 'Did you ever see one that shape before?' 'Fancy finding one of these!' And so on. And then the evening is spent in pressing and classifying the treasures they have gathered.

     One day they came back, earlier than usual, and showed us their discoveries.

     'But, oh, father, it was an awful shame! You know that kind that Ella Simpson showed us once, and told us they were very rare? Well, we found one of those, a real beauty, away over in that valley beyond the sandhills; and on the way home we lost it. Wasn't it a pity?'

     'Do you mean the little pale blue one, with the orange fringe?' I inquired.

     'Yes, and it was just in full flower, and ready for picking.'

     'It was a pity,' I confessed, 'for, do you know I specially want one of those. Do you think you could go back and try hard to find one?'

     They agreed. I advised them to search with the greatest care, and to poke into places that they had not disturbed before. They returned an hour later with no further specimen of the blue and orange variety, although on a subsequent date they succeeded in unearthing one, but they were rejoicing over a number of very rare specimens that are now considered among the most valuable in their collection.

     In It Is Never Too Late to Mend, Charles Reade has a story that is right into our hands just here. 'Once upon a time,' he makes one of his characters say, 'once upon a time there was an old chap who had heard about treasure being found in odd places, a pot full of guineas or something; and it took root in his heart. One morning he comes down and says to his wife, "It is all right, old woman; I've found the treasure!" "No, have you, though?" says she. "Yes," says he; "leastways, it is as good as found; it is only waiting till I've had my breakfast, and then I'll go out and fetch it in!" "La, John, but how did you find it!" "It was revealed to me in a dream," says John, as grave as a judge; "it is under a tree in the orchard." After breakfast they went to the plantation, but John could not again recognize the tree. "Drat your stupid old head," cried his wife, "why didn't you put a nick on the right one at the time?" But John was not to be beaten. He resolved to dig under every tree. How the neighbours laughed! But springtime came. Out burst the trees. "Wife," says he, "our bloom is richer than I have known it this many a year; it is richer than our neighbours'!" Bloom dies, and then out come about a million little green things quite hard. In the autumn the old trees were staggering, and the branches down to the ground with the crop; and so the next year, and the next; sometimes more, sometimes less, according to the year. The trees were old, and wanted a change. His letting in the air to them, and turning the subsoil up to the frost and sun, had renewed their youth.' And so poor John found his treasure. It was not exactly the pot of guineas that he sought; but it was just as valuable, and probably afforded him a deeper gratification. He did not find what he sought, but who shall say that his search was unsuccessful? He that seeketh, findeth. There is no case on record of a really fruitless search.

     Mr. Gilbert West and Lord Lyttelton once undertook to organize a campaign to expose the fictitious character of the biblical narrative. In order to make their attack the more damaging and the more effective they agreed to specialize. Mr. West promised to study thoroughly the story of the Resurrection of Jesus. Lord Lyttelton selected as the point of his assault the record of the conversion of Paul. They separated; and each began a careful and exhaustive search for inaccuracies, incongruities, and contradictions in the documents. They were engaged in exposing error, they said, and in searching after truth. Yes, they were searching after truth, and they sought with earnestness and sincerity. They were searching after truth, and they found it. For when, at the appointed time, they met to arrange the details of their projected campaign, each had to confess to the other that he had become convinced of the authenticity of the records and had yielded to the claims of Christ! Here was a search! Here was a find! They sought what they never found, and they found what they never sought. Was the search unsuccessful? Seekers after truth, they called themselves; and did they not find the Truth? Like the Magi, they followed a star in the firmament with which they were familiar. But, to their amazement, the star led them to the Saviour, and neither of them ever regretted participating in so astonishing a quest.

     'And thus,' as Oliver Cromwell finely says, 'to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder, and such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end.' It always seems to me that the old Puritan's lovely letter to his daughter, the letter from which I have just quoted, is the gem of Carlyle's great volume. Bridget was twenty-two at the time. 'Your sister,' her father tells her, 'is exercised with some perplexed thoughts. She sees her own vanity and carnal mind, and, bewailing it, she seeks after what will satisfy. And thus to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder, and such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end. Happy seeker; happy finder! Dear heart, press on! Let not husband, let not anything, cool thy affections after Christ!'

     With which strong, tender, fatherly words from an old soldier to his young daughter we may very well take leave of the subject. 'Happy seeker; happy finder! Dear heart, press on!' Oliver Cromwell knew that there is no such thing as a fruitless search. If we do not come upon our shining treasure in the exact form that our ignorance had fancied, we discover it after a similitude that a much higher wisdom has ordained. But the point is that we do find it. That was the lesson that I learned as I peered into the abysmal darkness of the mysterious old cupboard in my childhood, and the longer I live the more certain I become of its truth.

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


                The way to know

     If any man will do His will,
he shall know of the doctrine …
--- John 7:17.

     The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience. If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience. If things are dark to me, then I may be sure there is something I will not do. Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance; spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.

     No man ever receives a word from God without instantly being put to the test over it. We disobey and then wonder why we don’t go on spiritually. ‘If when you come to the altar,’ said Jesus, ‘there you remember your brother hath ought against you … don’t say another word to Me, but first go and put that thing right.’ The teaching of Jesus hits us where we live. We cannot stand as humbugs before Him for one second. He educates us down to the scruple. The Spirit of God unearths the spirit of self-vindication; He makes us sensitive to things we never thought of before.

     When Jesus brings a thing home by His word, don’t shirk it. If you do, you will become a religious humbug. Watch the things you shrug your shoulders over, and you will know why you do not go on spiritually. First go— at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey what God tells you.


My Utmost for His Highest

Alive
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Alive

It is alive. It is you,
  God. Looking out I can see
  no death. The earth moves, the
  sea moves, the wind goes
  on its exuberant
  journeys. Many creatures
  reflect you, the flowers
  your color, the tides the precision
  of your calculations. There
  is nothing too ample
  for you to overflow, nothing
  so small that your workmanship
  is not revealed. I listen
  and it is you speaking.
  I find the place where you lay
  warm. At night, if I waken,
  there are the sleepless conurbations
  of the stars. The darkness
  is the deepening shadow
  of your presence; the silence a
  process in the metabolism
  of the being of love.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     South of Jerusalem there is an area known as Gush Etzion. At the time of Israel’s War of Independence, there were four kibbutzim in the Etzion bloc that played a strategic role in the defense of Jerusalem. On January 14, 1948, the 450 Jews there were attacked by 1,000 Arab irregulars. The Jews were able to win the first battle but were in desperate need of reinforcements and ammunition. The Haganah sent a group of 38 fighters on the dangerous mission of infiltrating enemy lines and relieving the kibbutzim. Along the way, two things happened. First, one of the soldiers badly sprained his ankle and could not continue. He was sent back to Jerusalem, accompanied by two others, bringing the relief party’s number down to 35. Second, according to Israeli folklore (if not history), the soldiers came across an old Arab shepherd. The officers debated what to do with him. Since it was impractical to take him along with them as a prisoner, they had to decide if they should kill him (so that he could not inform on their presence and position) or if they should let him go.

     Ultimately, they decided not to harm the elderly civilian. They continued on their mission. But the Arabs were alerted, and they ambushed the 35. Every member of the relief party was killed. When the bodies were recovered, they had all been mutilated, some beyond recognition. The soldiers are known in Israeli history as the “Lamed-Hey,” the “35,” and there are streets named for them throughout the country.

     The massacre of the “Lamed-Hey” raises difficult questions: Should soldiers in wartime be expected to behave in a moral way? Is it an oxymoron to speak of “ethical warfare”? How far do you have to go to protect civilians on the other side? Is there really a distinction between the enemy’s soldiers and its civilians? Shooting one old man might have saved 35 lives and opened the way for achieving a critical strategic objective; would it have been justifiable?

     Moses was engaged in warfare with the Egyptians. True, the only force he commanded was his brother Aaron, and his only weapon was a staff, but it was warfare nevertheless. We have to admire Moses as a moral military commander. He gave the enemy ten chances to surrender. In the beginning, he merely inconvenienced the civilian population; it wasn’t until the final stage that loss of life occurred. What is also remarkable is the decision he made not to take a personal role in inflicting the first plague. Though the Nile would still be turned to blood and the Egyptians would be without water, Moses could not allow himself to be the one to carry it out. Leading that attack would have made him callous, ungrateful, and insensitive; it was the Nile, after all, that had saved his life. War is hell, but it is sometimes necessary. For peoples to remain civilized, soldiers and their commanders must maintain their humanity.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Let’s face it: in this case, Moses is a coward. He doesn’t show “incredible sensitivity.” Quite the contrary. Moses is interested only in covering his flanks. He doesn’t say (at least not in the Rabbinic reading of this story), “Hey, God, turning the Nile into blood would cause incredible pain for the Egyptians. I can’t do that, and neither should You. Why not find a punishment more directed to the real villain, Pharaoh?” Instead, Moses relies on the reasoning: “I can’t do it. Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” This gives God the “out” of sending Aaron to do the dirty work.

     Moses only pretends to have clean hands. His hands are really dirtied from his not being more ethical and honest—with both God and himself. Shouldn’t the one in charge take the moral high road, rather than being morally neutral and letting the mission fall on someone else’s shoulders? Let’s go even further: Now that Moses knows that the Nile will become polluted, doesn’t he have an obligation to inform the Egyptians and protect them from harm?

     A generation ago, executives at the nation’s asbestos manufacturers withheld scientific proof that their product was a carcinogen. They knew but told no one. Their product was selling; why give up a good thing? As a result, thousands of people developed asbestos-induced cancers. Some of these executives undoubtedly hid behind excuses like “Hey, I have a wife and kids to support.” Or “I’m a single mother. Should my family starve so that the ‘public good’ is upheld?” Or “This company has paid my salary and provided me health benefits for the past thirty years. Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” These are all simply rationalizations for not taking a strong moral stand.

     Moses could have, and should have, stood up to God. Abraham did it, and he is praised in the Midrash for challenging God. Maybe that’s even what God wanted from Abraham, a moral confrontation. No, we don’t throw a stone into a well from which we have drunk. But neither do we hide behind excuses, just so that everything turns out well for us.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 27

     They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. --- Revelation 12:11.

     See that you love the Lord Jesus Christ with a superlative love, with an overtopping love. The Complete Works Thomas Brooks None have suffered so much for you as Christ; none can suffer so much for you as Christ.

     There is no love but a superlative love that is suitable to the sufferings of Jesus. Love him above your lusts, above your family, above the world, above all your outward contentments and enjoyments. Love him above your very lives, for thus the saints of old have loved our Lord Jesus Christ—with an overtopping love.

     “Let fire, racks, pulleys,” said Ignatius, “and all the torments of hell come upon me, so I may win Christ.”

     Love made Jerome say, “O my Savior, did you die for love of me? a love sadder than death, but to me a death more lovely than love itself. I cannot live, love you, and be longer from you.”

     Sufferings for Christ are the saints’ greatest glory: “Your cruelty is our glory,” said Tertullian.

     Certainly the more Christ has suffered for us, the dearer Christ should be to us. The bitterer his sufferings have been for us, the sweeter his love should be to us and the more conspicuous should be our love to him. Let him be your manna, your tree of life, your Morning star.

     Oh, that our hearts were more affected with the sufferings of Christ! Oh, the infinite love of Christ, that he would leave his Father’s bosom and come down from heaven so that he might carry you up to heaven; that he who was a Son would take the form of a servant; that you of slaves would be made sons and daughters, of enemies would be made friends, of heirs of wrath would be made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; that to save us from everlasting ruin, Christ would stop at nothing, be willing to be made flesh, to be tempted, deserted, persecuted, and to die on a cross!

     Oh, when will the sufferings of a dear and tenderhearted Savior kindle such a flame of love as will still be breaking forth in our words and in our ways, to the praise and glory of free grace? Oh, that the sufferings of a loving Jesus might at last make us all faint with love (Song 2:5)!
--- Thomas Brooks


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

On This Day
     Bond of Blood  July 27

     Donald Cargill was a Scottish Presbyterian when such were outlawed. One listener said his RS Thomas “came from his heart and went to the heart. He spake as never man spake, and his words went through us.” People often complained his messages were too short. But his life proved almost as short as his RS Thomas. His arrest being imminent, he gathered his people and spoke from Isaiah 26. The final words of his last sermon were recorded thus: He exhorted us earnestly to dwell in the clefts of the rock, to hide ourselves in the wounds of Christ, to wrap ourselves in God’s promises, and to make our refuge under the shadow of his wings until these sad calamities pass over.

     On July 10, 1681 Scottish troops burst into the house where Cargill, James Boig, and Walter Smith were sleeping. The men were rousted from bed, tied to barebacked horses, and taken to prison. Soon, two others joined them. All were condemned.

     At the scaffold Cargill put his foot on the ladder, turned, blessed the Lord with uplifted hands, and said, “The Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear, confusion or perturbation of mind than ever I entered a pulpit to preach.”

     After watching Cargill die, Walter Smith ascended the executioner’s block. A hood was placed over his head, but he lifted it and said, “I have one more word to say, and that is that all who love God and his righteous cause would set time apart and sing a song of praise to the Lord for what he has done for my soul. To him be praise.” The hood was replaced, he was forced against the decapitated corpse of his friend, and his head, too, fell.

     James Boig was next. He shouted praise to God, saying he was as calm at the scaffold as he would be at the marriage altar.

     The next to die was William Cuthill, and finally William Thomson—five good men all martyred in Edinburgh on “that never-to-be-forgotten bloody day—27 July, 1681. The hangman hashed and hagged off all their heads with an axe.”

     The LORD gives perfect peace To those whose faith is firm. So always trust the LORD Because he is forever our mighty rock.
--- Isaiah 26:3,4.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 27

     “Exceeding great and precious promises.” --- 2 Peter 1:4.

     If you would know experimentally the preciousness of the promises, and enjoy them in your own heart, meditate much upon them. There are promises which are like grapes in the wine-press; if you will tread them the juice will flow. Thinking over the hallowed words will often be the prelude to their fulfilment. While you are musing upon them, the boon which you are seeking will insensibly come to you. Many a Christian who has thirsted for the promise has found the favour which it ensured gently distilling into his soul even while he has been considering the divine record; and he has rejoiced that ever he was led to lay the promise near his heart.

     But besides meditating upon the promises, seek in thy soul to receive them as being the very words of God. Speak to thy soul thus, “If I were dealing with a man’s promise, I should carefully consider the ability and the character of the man who had covenanted with me. So with the promise of God; my eye must not be so much fixed upon the greatness of the mercy—that may stagger me; as upon the greatness of the promiser—that will cheer me. My soul, it is God, even thy God, God that cannot lie, who speaks to thee. This word of his which thou art now considering is as true as his own existence. He is a God unchangeable. He has not altered the thing which has gone out of his mouth, nor called back one single consolatory sentence. Nor doth he lack any power; it is the God that made the heavens and the earth who has spoken thus. Nor can he fail in wisdom as to the time when he will bestow the favours, for he knoweth when it is best to give and when better to withhold. Therefore, seeing that it is the word of a God so true, so immutable, so powerful, so wise, I will and must believe the promise.” If we thus meditate upon the promises, and consider the Promiser, we shall experience their sweetness, and obtain their fulfilment.


          Evening - July 27

     “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” --- Romans 8:33.

     Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God’s book against his people: he seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ for ever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God’s angry hand—nay, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except “I have absolved thee: thou art acquitted.” For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way, and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ. Do believe it, Christian, that thy sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, “nailing it to his cross.” Go now and mortify it, and the Lord help you to live to his praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear, is gone.

     “Here’s pardon for transgressions past,
     It matters not how black their cast;
     And, O my soul, with wonder view,
     For sins to come here’s pardon too.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 27

          FACE TO FACE

     Carrie E. Breck, 1855–1934

     Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2, 3)

     For some the concept of heaven is a place of peaceful resting. Others envision it as filled with golden streets and sounds of beautiful music. For most of us the thought of reuniting with loved ones is comforting. However, the most thrilling anticipation for every believer when he reflects about heaven is surely the moment of seeing our Savior “face to face.”

     The thoughts so well expressed in “Face to Face” were written by a busy wife and mother who by her own admission could not carry a tune. She had only a sense of rhythm. She said, “I penciled verses under all conditions; over a mending basket, with a baby on my arm, and sometimes even when sweeping or washing dishes, my mind moved in poetic meter.” Living with her husband and five daughters in Portland, Oregon, Carrie Breck was a deeply committed Christian and life-long member of the Presbyterian church.

     Mrs. Breck occasionally sent some of her poems to a composer of Gospel hymns, Grant Colfax Tullar, with the hope that he would set them to suitable music. Amazingly, when the verses of “Face to Face” arrived in the mail one day, Mr. Tullar had just completed the music for a song with words that did not fully please him. The lines of Mrs. Breck’s text, however, were a perfect fit for the music he had composed.

     Face to face with Christ, my Savior, face to face—what will it be? When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me!
     Only faintly now I see Him, with the darkling veil between; but a blessed day is coming, when His glory shall be seen.
     What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain, when the crooked ways are straightened and the dark things shall be plain.
     Face to face—O blissful moment! Face to face—to see and know; face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so.
     Chorus: Face to face I shall behold Him, far beyond the starry sky; face to face, in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!


     For Today: Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17

     Anticipate the joy it will be to greet our Savior and to fully “see and know”—when the “crooked ways are straightened” and the “dark things shall be plain.” Share this hope with someone. Rejoice with this musical truth 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. XCIX. — LET him, then, be anathema who shall say, ‘that those things which are of no force in their own places are made to be of force in Paul.’ This, however, is only said, it is not proved. And it is said by those, who understand neither Paul, nor the passages adduced by him, but are deceived by terms; that is, by their own impious interpretations of them. And if it be allowed that this passage, Gen. xxv. 21-23 is to be understood in a temporal sense (which is not the true sense) yet it is rightly and effectually adduced by Paul, when he proves from it, that it was not of the “merits” of Jacob and Esau, “but of Him that calleth,” that it was said unto Rebecca, “the elder shall serve the younger.” (Rom. ix. 11-16).

     Paul is argumentatively considering, whether or not they attained unto that which was said of them, by the power or merits of “Free-will”; and he proves, that they did not; but that Jacob attained unto that, unto which Esau attained not, solely by the grace “of Him that calleth.” And he proves that, by the incontrovertible words of the Scripture: that is, that they were “not yet born:” and also, that they had “done neither good nor evil.” This proof contains the weighty sum of his whole subject point: and by the same proof, our subject point is settled also.

     The Diatribe, however, having dissemblingly passed over all these particulars, with an excellent rhetorical fetch, does not here argue at all upon merit, (which, nevertheless, it undertook to do, and which this subject point of Paul requires), but cavils about temporal bondage, as though that were at all to the purpose; — but it is merely that it might not seem to be overthrown by the all-forcible words of Paul. For what had it, which it could yelp against Paul in support of “Free-will”? What did “Free-will” do for Jacob, or what did it do against Esau, when it was already determined, by the prescience and predestination of God, before either of them was born, what should be the portion of each; that is, that the one should serve, and the other rule? Thus the rewards were decreed, before the workmen wrought, or were born. It is to this that the Diatribe ought to have answered. Paul contends for this: — that neither had done either good or evil: and yet, that by the divine sentence, the one was decreed to be servant, the other lord. The question here, is not, whether that servitude pertained unto salvation, but from what merit it was imposed on him who had not deserved it. But it is wearisome to contend with these depraved attempts to pervert and evade the Scripture.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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