The Birth of SamsonJudges 13 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11 And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child's manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
21 The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” 24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Paul and Silas in Thessalonica
Acts 17 1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Paul and Silas in Berea10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
Paul in Athens
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
Paul Addresses the Areopagus22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
Jeremiah Threatened with DeathJeremiah 26 1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: 2 “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord's house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. 4 You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’”
7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king's house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Jeremiah Spared from Death16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” 17 And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,
“‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’
20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
24 But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.
The Parable of the TenantsMark 12 1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord's doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
The Great Commandment
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Christ?35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
Beware of the Scribes
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
The Widow's Offering41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Confessions of a Bibliophile
By Keith Mathison 2/1/2011
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bibliophile is “A lover of books; a book-fancier.” Although this is a helpful definition, I’m not entirely sure I want to refer to myself as a “fancier” of anything. I’m from Texas. We either like something or we don’t. We don’t “fancy” things. It’s…unnatural.
However, I do love books, or perhaps, I should say more precisely, I love to read. Always have. When I was a child, I devoured books. Tom Sawyer, the Hardy Boys, anything I could find. When visiting relatives, I would read whatever they happened to have on the shelves, whether Reader’s Digest or Dr. Seuss. I enjoyed them all, but I was especially in love with offbeat stories.
It was not only children’s fiction that interested me. My family owned an old set of the World Book Encyclopedia. I used to sit and read the articles in those volumes for hours on end. When I was maybe ten or eleven, I found an old copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t remember what the first story in the book was, but it was odd, and that appealed to me. Looking back now, as interesting as Poe may be to a person attracted to offbeat stories, I wouldn’t recommend reading his complete works straight through. Side effects may include nightmares.
Sometimes I have read books for the wrong reasons. During my first semester of college, I ran across a three-volume work titled The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a harrowing, often firsthand account of the Soviet Union’s concentration camp system. When I took it to the counter to check it out, the librarian said to me in a rather obnoxious way that no one who started that book ever finished all three volumes, and then he informed me that I would never finish it either. I took that as a challenge and proceeded to plow through two thousand pages of dense narrative on a very unpleasant subject. Although I finished it simply to prove someone wrong, it turned out to be a great book.
Our sovereign Father ultimately used my love of reading to bring me to faith and repentance. As a teenager, I was pathologically shy and withdrawn and depressed (perhaps another reason not to read the works of Poe at the age of ten). I was a complete nihilist without being aware that there was a term for my worldview. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point during my last years of high school, an elderly gentleman from Gideons International was on campus handing out pocket size New Testaments. He gave me a red one. I put it in my backpack and later tossed it in my desk. A year or so later, when I had just about reached the end of my rope, I saw that little New Testament in my desk and decided to read it. I stayed up all night reading and re-reading it. That night I placed my faith in Jesus Christ.
My love of reading did not change, but from this point forward, the content of my reading shifted. I read and re-read the Bible. I went to Christian bookstores and began reading Christian history and theology. For many years, I did not read fiction (unless it was assigned for a class) because I was so busy reading other things. Because I was not led to Christ by another Christian, I was on my own for a while and did end up reading a lot of Christian books that led me down some dead-end paths. God worked this for good too, however.
Our God is a God who has revealed Himself in a book, in words. We learn about God and His will, therefore, by reading. We learn by reading and reflecting on His Word. We also learn by reading and thinking with the church. This means we read and reflect on the insights of our brethren, those who are still with us and those who have gone on before us. We may also learn by reading with discernment the works of those who have spent time “reading” God’s general revelation. This includes works of science, philosophy, history, poetry, and literature.
If I might offer a word of advice and encouragement to my fellow bibliophiles, it is this: As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). Millions of books have been published, and thousands more are published every year. We cannot read them all, so it is best to read the good ones. If you don’t know which books are the good ones, seek the advice of mature Christians. Find recommended reading lists by churches and ministries you trust.
Finally, while we read to learn about our God and His works of creation and redemption, we must not allow a love of reading to supplant our love for Christ. If we do, our books, even our Christian books, become nothing more than idols. All the reading in the world, if it does not ultimately promote our love of Christ and our brethren, is nothing but futility.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Vehicles for Giving the Self: An Interview with Michael Card
By Michael Card 2/1/2011
Tabletalk: Please tell us a little about the sort of ministry you are involved in these days.
Michael Card: The ministry I am involved with these days is fundamentally the same one that’s been going on for thirty years: trying to facilitate biblical understanding through any means available to me. In the past this has been primarily through music, but increasingly I have more opportunities to simply teach, often in connection to concerts.
TT: What project(s) are you working on currently?
MC: I am currently working on volume 2 of a series on the Gospels called “The Biblical Imagination Series.” The project derives its direction and method from William Lane’s statement: “We must engage with Scripture at the level of the imagination.” In my own small way I am trying to advance and develop that idea by working through the gospels.
TT: What are your reasons for composing, recording, and performing music?
MC: I am involved in creating music because I sense a call on my life to do this. My community, a small bi-racial church, originally confirmed the call while I was attending the University of Western Kentucky. Ever since, brothers and sisters who are close have encouraged me. I suppose I will continue in this ministry until they advise me to do something else. I have always felt the community is vital in determining our specific calls.
TT: If someone asks you what you do for a living, how do you respond?
MC: When someone asks what I do for a living, I generally respond that I write. That pretty well covers the full range of what I do.
TT: Do you listen to music that has been written by professed unbelievers? Why or why not?
MC: I listen to all kinds of music. I don’t know for certain if any of my favorite musicians are “professed” unbelievers, but many of them certainly are not followers of Jesus. If you take the notion of general revelation seriously, that is that everyone possesses the image of God to some degree — and creativity is a part of that image-bearing — then people who do not know Him yet still bear His image can produce art that is meaningful as well. The creative rain falls on the just and the unjust.
TT: As you consider the music being written and performed today within the church, what are you most thankful for and what are you most concerned about?
MC: I am most thankful today when I see young writers coming on the scene whose songs clearly demonstrate a devotion to Christ and His Word. It is deeply encouraging to me to sense that His faithfulness is seen through all generations.
TT: What word of counsel would you like to offer those involved in the ministry of writing, recording, or performing music and to those who are church musicians?
MC: If I had a word of encouragement for anyone coming into music ministry, I would say invest yourself in community. Writing and performing music can be an isolating experience and we were meant to create in the context of community. This does not mean exclusively a community of creative or musical people. I especially mean a wider community of people who are not like you, people who live at the level of poverty, people who have a different culture, who are a different color.
TT: Although there are many, is there one lesson the Lord has taught you that you would care to share with us?
MC: One of the most important lessons the Lord has taught me is that you are not your gift. That is, you are not defined by what you do or create. Jesus is a wonderful example of this. He would not allow the crowd to define Him by His considerable gifts, even though they tried to do so. Jesus always points away from Himself and His gifts and thereby wins praise for the Father. We are not our gifts. We are called to give more. Like Jesus, we are called to give ourselves. That is the real purpose behind our gifts; they are vehicles for giving the self.
TT: What has the Lord been teaching you recently (and how has that shaped your recent musical endeavors)?
MC: I am currently working my way through the Gospels. I am seeking to develop a feeling for the flow of the ministry as it is portrayed in the various Gospels. In Mark I am seeing for the first time that at one point (around chapter 7) Jesus’ ministry gets somewhat out of control. Maybe this is not a new idea for some people, but I have never understood it this way. And this is new for me. His followers become almost a mob, reaching out for His gifts and not Him. All of His attempts to focus their attention on the gospel seem to fail. The idea of Jesus’ ministry “failing” in one aspect is new for me.
Michael Card Books:
- 1 A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament (Quiet Times for the Heart)
- 2 John: The Gospel of Wisdom (Biblical Imagination)
- 3 A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Simon Peter
- 4 Luke: The Gospel of Amazement (Biblical Imagination)
- 5 Matthew: The Gospel of Identity (Biblical Imagination)
- 6 Mark: The Gospel of Passion (Biblical Imagination)
- 7 Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity
- 8 Sleep Sound in Jesus: Gentle Lullabies for Little Ones and Inspirational Devotions for Parents
- 9 THE WALK
- 10 A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross
- 11 A Better Freedom: Finding Life as Slaves of Christ
- 12 The Hidden Face of God: Finding the Missing Door to the Father Through Lament
- 13 Immanuel: Reflections On the Life of Christ
- 14 Tell Me Why: Eternal Answers to Life's Timeless Questions (Tell Me Series)
- 15 Joy in the Journey Through the Year (Through the Year Devotionals)
- 16 Parable of Joy: Reflections on the Wisdom of the Book of John
- 17 The Promise: A Celebration of Christ's Birth
- 18 Close Your Eyes So You Can See: Stories of Children in the Life of Jesus
Rejoice with Trembling
By John Piper 2/1/2011
“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps. 2:11–12)
Serve the Lord with fear…
This command does not cancel out Psalm 100:2: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Serving the Lord with fear and serving the Lord with gladness do not contradict each other. The next phrase from this selection will make that plain (“rejoice with trembling”). There is real fear and real joy. The reason there is real fear is that there is real danger. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). Yes, the elect are safe in Christ. But examine yourself, Paul says, “to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Confidence in Christ is not careless. Our security is rooted in God’s daily keeping, not our past decisions. “[He] is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory” (Jude 1:24). Part of how He keeps us is by awakening the vigilance to rest daily in Christ and not in ourselves.
…and rejoice with trembling.
Fear does not rob us of our joy for two reasons. One is that it drives us to Christ, where there is safety. The other is that even when we get there the part of fear that Christ relieves is the hope-destroying part. But He leaves another part — the part we want to feel forever. There is an awe or trembling in the presence of grandeur that we want to feel as long as we are sure it will not destroy us. This trembling does not compete with joy; it is part of joy. People go to terrifying movies because they know the monster cannot get into the theater. They want to be scared as long as they are safe. For some reason it feels good. This is an echo of the truth that they were made for God. There is something profoundly satisfying about being “frightened” when we cannot be hurt. It is the best when the trembling comes from the grandeur of holiness.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…
God is jealous for His Son. “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). His anger is kindled when the affection designed for Him is given to another. Of course, there is a Judas kiss, but that is not what He has in mind here. The kiss here is the kiss of adoration and submission — perhaps a kiss on the feet as we bow before Him. There is no playing games with God. If we love each other more, we will perish. He will be our highest treasure, or He will be our enemy. The safest place in the universe is at the feet of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. If we choose to turn from Him for another treasure, His wrath will be against us.
…for his wrath is quickly kindled.
The word quickly may not be the best here. The word can mean quickly in the sense of suddenly. Repeatedly in the Bible, God is said to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). Not “quick to anger” but “slow to anger.” Therefore, I am inclined to think Psalm 2:12 means “His wrath can break out suddenly.” In other words, don’t trifle with Him in His patience, because suddenly it may run out and you will be overtaken in wrath. If you go on kissing His creation and not His Son (Rom. 1:25), suddenly you will find the fangs of a serpent in your lip. Don’t presume upon the patience of God (Rom. 2:4).
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The only safe place from the wrath of God is in God. Everywhere outside of His care is dangerous. He is the only hiding place from His own wrath. If you see Him as frightening and try to run away and hide, you will not find a place to hide. There is none. Outside of God’s care there is only wrath. But there is a refuge from the wrath of God, namely, God. The safest place from the wrath of God — the only safe place — is God. Come to God. Take refuge in God. Hide in the shadow of His wings. This is where we live and serve with joyful trembling. It is terrible and it is wonderful. It is like the eye of a hurricane — terror all around, and totally beautiful and calm. Here there is sweet fellowship. Here is quiet, loving communion. Here we speak to Him as to a friend. Here He ministers to our deepest needs. He wants you to come.
John Piper Books:
- 1 Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
- 2 Don't Waste Your Life
- 3 Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- 4 When I Don't Desire God (Redesign): How to Fight for Joy
- 5 A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
- 6 Future Grace, Revised Edition: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God
- 7 When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy
- 8 This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
- 9 Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace
- 10 Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Revised Edition)
- 11 Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
- 12 The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
- 13 Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 14 A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- 15 Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
- 16 God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
- 17 Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ
- 18 The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin
- 19 Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks From a Lifetime of Preaching
- 20 A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 21 The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul
- 22 Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure
- 23 Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition
- 24 The Supremacy of God in Preaching
- 25 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism
- 26 Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
- 27 Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)
- 28 A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
- 29 The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce
- 30 Don't Waste Your Cancer
- 31 Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian
- 32 The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
- 33 Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis
- 34 Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
- 35 Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- 36 The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
- 37 Finally Alive
- 38 A Godward Life: Seeing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 39 Spectacular Sins (Redesign): And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ
- 40 Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
- 41 God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)
- 42 Life as a Vapor: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Faith
- 43 Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
- 44 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood
- 45 What Jesus Demands from the World (Paperback Edition)
- 46 What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
- 47 Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen
- 48 Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- 49 John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
- 50 A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 51 Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
- 52 Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples
- 53 The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
- 54 The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
- 55 The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 56 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 57 A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 58 Quest for Joy (Pack of 25) (Proclaiming the Gospel)
- 59 Ruth: Under the Wings of God
Does the Church Know Her Commission?
By Denny Burk 2/1/2011
Have you ever wished you could have a do-over? Have you ever looked back on a situation in which you know that you really botched the job and you just wish you could have another crack at it? That is the way I often feel when I reflect back on some of my less-than-fruitful efforts at evangelism when I was in college. Back then, I was (to say the least) a little wet behind the ears in terms of my theological convictions. I had a basic understanding of Christ’s substitutionary atonement but little appreciation for how His lordship should inform evangelistic appeals. Anyone watching my approach to evangelism would have been well within his rights to label me an antinomian. Unfortunately, I simply did not know any better. So when I had the opportunity to share the gospel with my frat brother Mark, I really botched it.
I was a Christian, and Mark knew it. Mark was not a Christian, and he knew that as well. Nevertheless, Mark had a kind of respect for me and my faith, and was often curiously probing about spiritual things. I thought he was ripe for the picking. I can remember the night that I had my opportunity to share the gospel with him and to tell him that he needed to believe the gospel and trust Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Mark responded to my appeals with apparent ambivalence. But after a bit of conversation, it became clear that he was not interested in trusting Christ. When I asked him why, he simply responded that he did not want to make that kind of commitment of his life to Christ. He was very happy with his life, and he did not want to muck it up with a new obligation to follow Jesus.
Now I was curious. Here was a guy who had no intellectual objections to the facts of the gospel — Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection. He just did not want to give his life to Christ. How could this be? I did not want his lack of enthusiasm about following Christ to keep him out of heaven, so I counseled him as any unwitting antinomian would. In so many words I told him, “Don’t worry about following Christ as Lord. Just repeat this sinner’s prayer after me, and you can be saved. Perhaps sometime later, God can help you to see Jesus as your Lord.” Mark did not budge. My counsel did not ring true to him, as he sensed that there had to be more to being a Christian than what I was selling. He was right.
In the years subsequent to my conversation with Mark, God worked a Copernican revolution in my own theological outlook. I came to see the solas of the Reformation as more faithfully capturing what the Bible says about salvation. I repented of my antinomian darkness and came to see that I had evangelism all wrong. My antinomian error had blinded me to the particulars of the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20, my translation). I thought I knew the Great Commission, but I really didn’t. I had it all wrong.
(Mt 28:19–20) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV
Often when I hear Christians speak about the Great Commission, I wonder whether they are making the same mistake I made. Even those who do not embrace an antinomian point of view (as I once did) often speak as if the Great Commission is merely about scoring converts — getting people to make a profession of faith in Christ. Of course, the Great Commission certainly calls Christians to make converts. Biblically speaking, however, there is much more to it than that. At the heart of the commission is the imperative to “make disciples.”
What does it mean to make a disciple? Matthew’s gospel is filled with Jesus’ teaching as to what a disciple is, but probably the seminal text is from Matthew 16. Jesus defines a disciple in no uncertain terms: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (16:24–25). Jesus calls His disciples to His cross — not a metaphorical cross, but a real one. That means that Jesus calls His disciples to be willing to follow Him to the death.
The implication of this truth for our understanding of the Great Commission is massive. He summons us to invite the nations to treasure Christ in such a way that even if they lose everything — even their lives — it is okay so long as they have Him (13:44). That is why making disciples involves not just the entry-level rite of baptism but also the obligation of “teaching them to obey all that I commanded you.” Where this framework is missing, so is the Great Commission.
Does the church understand this as her commission from Christ? I certainly did not as a college student, but the church of the Lord Jesus Christ must do better than that. The Great Commission excludes the easybelievism and pseudo-gospels of pop spirituality precisely because it commands repentance from sin and faith in Christ crucified and raised for sinners. This is the message the church has been commissioned to preach, and it is the message that the world desperately needs to hear.
Denny Burk Books:
Minutes and Years: The Westminster Assembly Project: An Interview with Chad Van Dixhoorn
By Chad Van Dixhoorn 3/1/2011
Tabletalk: You’ve spent more than a decade studying the Westminster assembly. How did it all start?
Chad Van Dixhoorn: I first encountered a text by the Westminster assembly while my family was on holiday in northern Ontario. We were visiting the Sunday school class of a little Scottish Presbyterian church, and after the initial embarassment of not knowing the “chief end of man,” I discovered the glory of a catechism that began with a one-line answer — clearly the one for me. I had been memorizing the ten-line opening question of the Heidelberg Catechism, and appreciated how much shorter the Westminster Shorter Catechism really was. Years later, I joined a Presbyterian church and was asked to lead a catechism class; in another church, I later lectured through the Westminster Confession. Both experiences proved real blessings, and I came to value these doctrinal summaries as teaching tools.
TT: How did the Westminster assembly itself become the focus of your doctoral research?
CVD: My interest in the Assembly started with my respect for its texts. I then wanted to know about the 120 or so theologians who wrote such thoughtful theological summaries. But as I read books on the Assembly itself, it seemed to me that too many authors were spending too much time quoting each other. When they did refer to an original text by the assembly or its members, they often inferred too much from too little. It was disappointing. And it occurred to me that what we really needed was more access to books and manuscripts (handwritten documents that had never been printed). It also occurred to me that most people studying the assembly had done so in America or Scotland. Most members of the Assembly were called from all over England (joined later by a handful of theologians from Scotland). If any manuscripts had survived, it seemed to me that they’d probably be in England, where most of the assembly’s members had lived and worked. It only takes one fresh idea to get a PhD. That was mine, and after a few years of work on the Assembly, the University of Cambridge said I could have one.
TT: Tell us a little bit about the Westminster Assembly Project and your role in it.
CVD: The project — admittedly not the most elegant acronym — was the brainchild of a fabulous first year of research. I found manuscripts of the Assembly and its members in Cambridge, Oxford, and London. There are millions of words of material, and I wanted people to know about it. So I started an informational website supported by the sale of mugs and t-shirts of Westminster divines marketed as the “Westminster Designs.” It was a great idea (my wife’s), but too time-consuming to maintain. I’m a little better with research than sales.
TT: Is the WAP a team effort?
CVD: Absolutely. What rescued the project from being a tedious information- only site was John Bower’s involvement. John quickly enlisted innocent victims and asked them to transcribe books and manuscripts to produce a searchable database of Westminster Assembly-connected works. He then checked all their work and prepared texts for release to the public. This work continues and we hope to launch a database soon. The project is fulfilling its goals, and we’re very thankful to those who are helping us along.
But just to be clear, the project has two public faces. The first is the critical edition of minutes and manuscripts of the Westminster Assembly that are awaiting publication with Oxford University Press, a work that I did with the assistance of Drs. Mark Garcia, Joel Halcomb, and Inga Jones. The second is the dissemination of material on our website and through publications with Reformation Heritage Books (RHB), done in conjunction with John Bower. John and I are also editing a series of studies on the Assembly, critical texts of the principal documents of the Assembly (John’s handsome study of the Larger Catechism was released in 2010), and an immense series of facsimiles of works by the Assembly and its members, all produced by the project working in conjunction with Joel Beeke, Jay Collier, and their team at RHB.
TT: Tell us about the manuscrip t discoveries. You seem really pleased about them.
CVD: I am. Some people are eager to see the minutes of the Assembly. I’m equally excited about the papers of the Assembly. Those who study the Westminster Confession and Catechisms often wish they had a little more context in which to read some of the less common or more important lines in these important theological texts. Manuscripts and books by members of the Assembly provide this context indirectly, but the manuscripts of the Assembly itself do this directly. The British Academy funded a Europe-wide hunt for Assembly papers and I now know that the Assembly produced over 140 different texts, not counting the thousands of certificates about ministers and candidates that the Assembly was asked to examine in theology. These shed light on the ideas of the Assembly, as well as different words and particular turns of phrases. I also located a journal by an Assembly member that provides information about weeks of debate about which we previously knew nothing.
These manuscripts also shed light on the Assembly’s broader context. It was called during a civil war that was further complicated by Charles I’s kingship over Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. The political unrest of the 1640s was mirrored by religious confusion — these manuscripts and others explain the alliances and tensions that existed between Assembly members, foreign churches, and the House of Lords and House of Commons that formed the Parliament of England. The important shaping role of these events, and the tumultuous world that the Assembly addressed, is evident in these documents.
TT: What became of your doctoral research?
CVD: My postdoctoral work involved taking the minutes, or records of speeches and actions of the Assembly, and preparing them for publication. Most of these minutes, which comprises three volumes, had never been published. They were difficult to read, and nineteenth-century Presbyterians didn’t think the public would find everything interesting, so they published only a large part of the third volume. I knew they were wrong, and so I reproduced the full minutes in the final volumes of my doctoral thesis. What the minutes needed before they could be published was an introduction, thousands of explanatory footnotes and marginal notes, as well as a bevy of appendices and reproductions of surviving Assembly documents. Armed with this apparatus, the reader has a do-it-yourself history of the Westminster Assembly. Most of us have an Eeyore in our lives, and mine assured me that a project of this sort would take ten years. It took twelve.
TT: When wi ll this edition of minutes and pap ers be published?
CVD: Oxford University Press asked if I had any deadlines that they should meet for publication. I started this project before I was thirty, and mentioned that it would be nice to see it finished before I turned forty. They didn’t think my birthday was a pressing deadline, and suggested that the edition will probably appear around Christmas 2011.
TT: How might the publication of these documents affect our understanding of the Westminster Standards?
CVD: This is the million-word question, for that’s about the size of the forthcoming edition. The one-word answer is “context.” If you have the seven volumes of the seven major Assembly texts being published by Reformation Heritage Books and the five much thicker volumes of Assembly minutes and papers from Oxford University Press, you will have — for the first time — every surviving text ever written by the Westminster Assembly. This is really important for those who want to understand the Westminster Standards in depth. We must always read an author in the fullest context possible — we read a paragraph in the light of a book, and a book in the light of the author’s full corpus. This will finally be possible for the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.
Chad Van Dixhoorn Books:
Judges 13; Acts 17; Jeremiah 26; Mark 12
By Don Carson 7/30/2018
Most of Paul's Evangelizing of Gentiles began with the synagogue. His regular procedure when he arrived in a new town was to visit the synagogue and (since it was not uncommon to ask visitors to speak) avail himself of the opportunity to preach the Gospel. This meant that his hearers were a mix of Jews, proselytes (i.e., Gentile converts to Judaism), and God-fearers (i.e., Gentiles who were sympathetic to Jews and Jewish monotheism, but who had not formally converted).
The book of Acts shows that in several instances (e.g., 13:13-48; 17:1-9), the synagogue authorities soon tired of Paul and banned him. At this point many of the proselytes and God-fearers went with him, so that although he was now preaching to a largely Gentile crowd, the core of that crowd had received some exposure to the Old Testament Scriptures. In other words, in such cases Paul was able to preach to people who largely shared with him the vocabulary, facts, and movements of the Old Testament storyline.
But what would Paul do if he were preaching to biblical illiterates — that is, to people who had never heard of Moses, never read the Old Testament, never learned a single item of the Old Testament plotline? Such people would not only have to be informed, but would have to unlearn a lot of notions they had absorbed from some other cultural and religious heritage. We have a glimpse of such an encounter in 14:8-20, when the citizens of Lystra excitedly conclude that Paul and Barnabas are incarnations of Greek gods. The brief report of Paul’s address (Acts 14:15-17) provides a glimpse of the apostolic response.
But it is the account of Paul’s visit to Athens (Acts 17:16-31) that is most revealing. Here, too, Paul began in the synagogue (Acts 17:17), but he also set about evangelizing in the marketplace with whoever happened to be there (Acts 17:17), and this precipitates the invitation to speak at the meeting of the Areopagus. And there, one clearly perceives how the apostle Paul has thought this matter through. In a world of finite gods (often supported by one pantheistic deity), cyclical views of history, sub-biblical understandings of sin, multiplied idolatry, dualism that declares all that is material to be bad and all that is spiritual to be good, tribal deities, and not a little superstition, Paul paints a worldview of the true God, a linear view of history, the nature of sin and idolatry, impending judgment, the unity of the human race and the oneness of God — all as the necessary framework without which his proclamation of Jesus makes no sense. What does that mean for evangelism today?
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:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 79How Long, O LORD?
79 A Psalm Of Asaph.
8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
There are three kinds of civil government; namely, Monarchy, which is the domination of one only, whether he be called King or Duke, or otherwise; Aristocracy, which is a government composed of the chiefs and people of note; and Democracy, which is a popular government, in
which each of the people has power.
ONE HUNDRED APHORISMS, 
CONTAINING, WITHIN A NARROW COMPASS, THE SUBSTANCE AND ORDER OF THE FOUR BOOKS OF THE INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
1. The true wisdom of man consists in the knowledge of God the Creator and Redeemer.
2. This knowledge is naturally implanted in us, and the end of it ought to be the worship of God rightly performed, or reverence for the Deity accompanied by fear and love.
3. But this seed is corrupted by ignorance, whence arises superstitious worship; and by wickedness, whence arise slavish dread and hatred of the Deity.
4. It is also from another source that it is derived namely, from the structure of the whole world, and from the Holy Scriptures.
5. This structure teaches us what is the goodness, power, justice, and wisdom of God in creating all things in heaven and earth, and in preserving them by ordinary and extraordinary government, by which his Providence is more clearly made known. It teaches also what are our wants, that we may learn to place our confidence in the goodness, power, and wisdom of God, to obey his commandments, to flee to him in adversity, and to offer thanksgiving to him for the gifts which we enjoy.
6. By the Holy Scriptures, also, God the Creator is known. We ought to consider what these Scriptures are; that they are true, and have proceeded from the Spirit of God; which is proved by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, by the efficacy and antiquity of the Scriptures, by the certainty of the Prophecies, by the miraculous preservation of the Law, by the calling and writings of the Apostles, by the consent of the Church, and by the steadfastness of the martyrs, whence it is evident that all the principles of piety are overthrown by those fanatics who, laying aside the Scripture, fly to revelations.
7. Next, what they teach; or, what is the nature of God in himself, and in the creation and government of all things.
8. The nature of God in himself is infinite, invisible, eternal, almighty; whence it follows that they are mistaken who ascribe to God a visible form. In his one essence there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
9. In the creation of all things there are chiefly considered, 1. Heavenly and spiritual substances, that is, angels, of which some are good and the protectors of the godly, while others are bad, not by creation, but by corruption; 2. Earthly substances, and particularly man, whose perfection is displayed in soul and in body.
10. In the government of all things the nature of God is manifested. Now his government is, in one respect, universal, by which he directs all the creatures according to the properties which he bestowed on each when he created them.
11. In another respect, it is special; which appears in regard to contingent events, so that if any person is visited either by adversity or by any prosperous result, he ought to ascribe it wholly to God; and with respect to those things which act according to a fixed law of nature, though their peculiar properties were naturally bestowed on them, still they exert their power only so far as they are directed by the immediate hand of God.
12. It is viewed also with respect to time past and future. Past, that we may learn that all things happen by the appointment of God, who acts either by means, or without means, or contrary to means; so that everything which happens yields good to the godly and evil to the wicked. Future, to which belong human deliberations, and which shows that we ought to employ lawful means; since that Providence on which we rely furnishes its own means.
13. Lastly, by attending to the advantage which the godly derive from it. For we know certainly, 1. That God takes care of the whole human race, but especially of his Church. 2. That God governs all things by his will, and regulates them by his wisdom. 3. That he has most abundant power of doing good; for in his hand are heaven and earth, all creatures are subject to his sway, the godly rest on his protection, and the power of hell is restrained by his authority. That nothing happens by chance, though the causes may be concealed, but by the will of God; by his secret will which we are unable to explore, but adore with reverence, and by his will which is conveyed to us in the Law and in the Gospel.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2015 The Dawn of Reformation
The brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, is the morning star. It appears about an hour before dawn. John Wycliffe (c. 1330-84) is often called the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” and for good reason, for his life shone brightly as a forerunner of the Reformation. Jan Hus (c. 1370-1415) worked by the light of this morning star, even as the greater light of the Reformation was about to dawn. Through Wycliffe, God brought light to people who were dwelling in darkness—one of whom was Hus. Hus boldly carried on the controversy that Wycliffe began, the controversy over the final authority of Scripture that would soon engulf the entire continent of Europe in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In fact, Martin Luther (1483-1546), in his debate with Johann Eck, even declared, “I am a Hussite.”
These men were by no means the source of light; they were tarnished mirrors who reflected the one source of light, the Light of the World—Jesus Christ. The living and active Word of God reveals this Light. In His sovereignty, God used these forerunners of the Reformation to direct His people back to His Word. Once Scripture was rediscovered, the light of God’s truth began to shine ever more brightly in the hearts of God’s people, which, in turn, led to the Reformation.
Though Wycliffe died a natural death, his remains were later disinterred, burned, and scattered. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church burned Hus at the stake, even though he was promised safe conduct to and from his trial. It is said that he sang a hymn to Christ as the flames engulfed his body. His remains, like Wycliffe’s, were scattered. Nevertheless, the darkness could not dispel the Light of the World. This light, long obscured but still shining, soon dawned on Europe anew and subsequently throughout the rest of the world.
In his life and death, Hus pointed not to himself, but to the Word of God as our only infallible authority for faith and life. God’s Word proclaims the light of the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. Hus’ message was simple: To know the truth, the church must go to the source of truth—sacred Scripture itself. The Reformers picked up the mantle of Wycliffe and Hus, crying ad fontes, “to the sources.” They implored the church to return to divine revelation, the original text of sacred Scripture by which the Holy Spirit brings life and liberty through the light of the gospel.
As Christians, we know that there is but one true Source of light, and the Holy Spirit will continue to dispel the darkness in the hearts of God’s people through His Word. And one day, when Christ returns and consummates His kingdom, He will transform everything. As we live as Christians in the twenty-first century, we are called to live coram Deo, before the face of God, as we carry the same flaming torch that Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther carried as we boldly proclaim the Light of the World to a dark and dying world.
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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)
by Bill Federer
King Charles gave him a land grant in America in payment of a great debt owed to his father. He then invited all the persecuted peoples of Europe to join him in establishing a colony of religious toleration, as he himself had experienced imprisonment in the Tower of London for converting to the Quaker faith. Calling it a “holy experiment,” he admonished the settlers to work together, naming the first city Philadelphia, meaning “Brotherly Love.” It was there nearly a hundred years later that the Declaration and Constitution were written. He died this day, July 30, 1718. His name was William Penn.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
When Jesus is the reason for worship,
then too much is not enough.
--- the Ramp
A man may well be condemned,
not for doing something,
but for doing nothing.
--- William Barclay
I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy burdened.”
--- St. Augustine
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
What Cestius Did Against The Jews; And How, Upon His Besieging Jerusalem, He Retreated From The City Without Any Just Occasion In The World. As Also What Severe Calamities He Under Went From The Jews In His Retreat.
1. And now Gallus, seeing nothing more that looked towards an innovation in Galilee, returned with his army to Cesarea: but Cestius removed with his whole army, and marched to Antipatris; and when he was informed that there was a great body of Jewish forces gotten together in a certain tower called Aphek, he sent a party before to fight them; but this party dispersed the Jews by affrighting them before it came to a battle: so they came, and finding their camp deserted, they burnt it, as well as the villages that lay about it. But when Cestius had marched from Antipatris to Lydda, he found the city empty of its men, for the whole multitude 28 were gone up to Jerusalem to the feast of tabernacles; yet did he destroy fifty of those that showed themselves, and burnt the city, and so marched forwards; and ascending by Betboron, he pitched his camp at a certain place called Gabao, fifty furlongs distant from Jerusalem.
2. But as for the Jews, when they saw the war approaching to their metropolis, they left the feast, and betook themselves to their arms; and taking courage greatly from their multitude, went in a sudden and disorderly manner to the fight, with a great noise, and without any consideration had of the rest of the seventh day, although the Sabbath 29 was the day to which they had the greatest regard; but that rage which made them forget the religious observation [of the sabbath] made them too hard for their enemies in the fight: with such violence therefore did they fall upon the Romans, as to break into their ranks, and to march through the midst of them, making a great slaughter as they went, insomuch that unless the horsemen, and such part of the footmen as were not yet tired in the action, had wheeled round, and succored that part of the army which was not yet broken, Cestius, with his whole army, had been in danger: however, five hundred and fifteen of the Romans were slain, of which number four hundred were footmen, and the rest horsemen, while the Jews lost only twenty-two, of whom the most valiant were the kinsmen of Monobazus, king of Adiabene, and their names were Monobazus and Kenedeus; and next to them were Niger of Perea, and Silas of Babylon, who had deserted from king Agrippa to the Jews; for he had formerly served in his army. When the front of the Jewish army had been cut off, the Jews retired into the city; but still Simon, the son of Giora, fell upon the backs of the Romans, as they were ascending up Bethoron, and put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carried the weapons of war, and led Shem into the city. But as Cestius tarried there three days, the Jews seized upon the elevated parts of the city, and set watches at the entrances into the city, and appeared openly resolved not to rest when once the Romans should begin to march.
3. And now when Agrippa observed that even the affairs of the Romans were likely to be in danger, while such an immense multitude of their enemies had seized upon the mountains round about, he determined to try what the Jews would agree to by words, as thinking that he should either persuade them all to desist from fighting, or, however, that he should cause the sober part of them to separate themselves from the opposite party. So he sent Borceus and Phebus, the persons of his party that were the best known to them, and promised them that Cestius should give them his right hand, to secure them of the Romans' entire forgiveness of what they had done amiss, if they would throw away their arms, and come over to them; but the seditious, fearing lest the whole multitude, in hopes of security to themselves, should go over to Agrippa, resolved immediately to fall upon and kill the ambassadors; accordingly they slew Phebus before he said a word, but Borceus was only wounded, and so prevented his fate by flying away. And when the people were very angry at this, they had the seditious beaten with stones and clubs, and drove them before them into the city.
4. But now Cestius, observing that the disturbances that were begun among the Jews afforded him a proper opportunity to attack them, took his whole army along with him, and put the Jews to flight, and pursued them to Jerusalem. He then pitched his camp upon the elevation called Scopus, [or watch-tower,] which was distant seven furlongs from the city; yet did not he assault them in three days' time, out of expectation that those within might perhaps yield a little; and in the mean time he sent out a great many of his soldiers into neighboring villages, to seize upon their corn. And on the fourth day, which was the thirtieth of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] when he had put his army in array, he brought it into the city. Now for the people, they were kept under by the seditious; but the seditious themselves were greatly affrighted at the good order of the Romans, and retired from the suburbs, and retreated into the inner part of the city, and into the temple. But when Cestius was come into the city, he set the part called Bezetha, which is called Cenopolis, [or the new city,] on fire; as he did also to the timber market; after which he came into the upper city, and pitched his camp over against the royal palace; and had he but at this very time attempted to get within the walls by force, he had won the city presently, and the war had been put an end to at once; but Tyrannius Priseus, the muster-master of the army, and a great number of the officers of the horse, had been corrupted by Florus, and diverted him from that his attempt; and that was the occasion that this war lasted so very long, and thereby the Jews were involved in such incurable calamities.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
he who values his life keeps his distance from them.
6 Train a child in the way he [should] go;
and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
Life moves along so smoothly with most of us that there seems to be very little difference between one birthday and another; but to this rule there is one brilliant and outstanding exception. There is one birthday on which a man should certainly take a holiday, go for a quiet stroll, and indulge in a little serious stock-taking. That birthday is, of course, the fortieth. A man's fortieth birthday is one of the really great days in his life's little story; and he must make the most of it. I live in a city which boasts a comparatively meagre population. The number of people who reach their fortieth birthday simultaneously must be very small. But in a city of any size some hundreds of people must daily become forty. And if I dwelt in such a place, I should feel tempted to conduct a service every now and again for men and women who were celebrating their fortieth birthday. People so circumstanced, naturally impressed by the dignity and solemnity of the occasion, would welcome such a service, and the preacher would have a chance of sowing the seed in ground that was well prepared, and of the greatest possible promise. The selection of a text would present no difficulty. I can think of two right off—one in the Old Testament, and one in the New—and there must be scores of others equally appropriate. At forty a man enters upon middle life. What could be more helpful to him, then, than a short inspiring word on such a text as Habakkuk's prayer: 'O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make Thyself known!'
I have been recalling, this morning, some painful memories. In my time I have several times known that peculiarly acute species of anguish that only comes to us when we discover a cherished idol in ruins. Men—some of them ministers—upon whose integrity I would cheerfully have staked everything I possessed, suddenly whelmed themselves in shame, and staggered out into the dark. It is an experience that makes a man feel that the very earth is rocking beneath him; it makes him wonder if it is possible for a good man to be somehow caught in a hot gust of devilry and swept clean off his feet. But the thing that has impressed me as I have counted such names sadly on my fingers is that, without an exception, they were all in the forties, most of them in the early forties. Youth, of course, often sins, and sins grievously; but youth recovers itself, and frequently emerges chastened and ennobled by the bitter experience; but I can recall no instance of a man who fell in the forties and who ever really recovered himself. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. I remember that, some time ago, Sir W. Robertson Nicoll quoted a brilliant essayist as saying that 'the most dangerous years are the forties—the years when men begin to be rich, when they have opportunities of gratifying their passions, when they, perhaps, imagine that they have led a starved and meagre existence.' And so, as I let my mind play about these old and saddening memories, and as I reflect upon the essayist's corroboration of my own conclusion, I fancy I could utter, from the very heart of me, a particularly timely and particularly searching word to those who had just attained their fortieth birthdays. Or, if I felt that the occasion was too solemn for speech, I could at least lead them in prayer. And when I led them in prayer, it would certainly be Habakkuk's prayer: 'O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make Thyself known!' It is a prayer for revival and for revelation.
The real significance of that prayer lies in the fact that the supreme tendency of middle life is towards prosiness. Young people write poetry and get sentimental: so do old people. But people in the forties—never! A man of forty would as soon be suspected of picking his neighbour's pocket as of writing poetry. He would rather be seen walking down the street without collar or necktie than be seen shedding tears. Ask a company of young people to select some of their favourite hymns or songs. They will at once call for hymns about heaven or songs about love. So will old people. But you will never persuade middle-aged people to sing such songs. They are in the practical or prosy stage of life. The romance of youth has worn off; the romance of age has not arrived. They are between the poetry of the dawn and the poetry of the twilight. And midway between the poetry of the dawn and the poetry of the twilight comes the panting perspiration of noonday. When, therefore, I find myself face to face with my congregation of people who are in the very act of celebrating their fortieth birthday, I shall urge them to pray with the old prophet that, in the midst of the years, the youthful romance of their first faith may be revived within them, and that, in the midst of the years, the revelations that come at eventide may be delightfully anticipated.
I said just now, however, that I had an alternative text from the New Testament. I have an idea that if my first service is a success, I shall hold another; and, for the sake of variety, I shall address myself to this second theme. Concerning the very first apostolic miracle we are expressly and significantly told that 'the man was above forty years old on whom this miracle of healing was showed.' Now I cannot imagine why that particular is added unless it is to tell those of us who are now 'above forty years old' that we are not beyond the reach of the sensational. We have not outlived the romance of the miraculous. We are not 'too old at forty' to experience all the marvel and the wonder of the grace divine. And, even as I write, I confidently anticipate the sparkle that will light up the eyes of these forty-year-olds as I remind them that that man was above forty years of age upon whom this first triumph of the Church was wrought.
But there are worse things than prosiness. The mere change from the poetry of youth to the prose of middle life need not in itself alarm us. Some of the finest classics in our literature are penned in prose. But within this minor peril lies the germ of a major peril. The trouble is that prosiness may develop into pessimism. And when prosiness curdles into pessimism the case of the patient is very grave. I heard a young fellow in his teens telling a much older man of his implicit faith in the providence of God. 'Yes,' said the senior, with a sardonic smile, 'I used to talk like that when I was your age!' I heard a young girl telling a woman old enough to be her mother of the rapture of her soul's experience. 'Ah!' replied the elder lady, 'You won't talk like that when you have seen as much of the world as I have!' Here, then, at last we have put our finger on the tragedy that threatens us in the forties. Why is it?
The reason is not far to seek. The fact is that at forty a man must drop something. He has been all his life accumulating until he has become really overloaded. He has maintained his interest in all the things that occupied his attention in youth; and, all the way along the road, fresh claims have been made upon him. His position in the world is a much more responsible one, and makes a greater drain upon his thought and energy. He has married, too, and children have come into his home. There has been struggle and sickness and anxiety. Interests have multiplied, and life has increased in seriousness. But, increasing in seriousness, it must not be allowed to increase in sordidness. A man's life is like a garden. There is a limit to the things that it will grow. You cannot pack plants in a garden as you pack sardines in a tin. That is why the farmer thins out the turnips; that is why the orchardist prunes his trees; and that is why the husbandman pinches the grapebuds off the trailing vines. Life has to be similarly treated. At forty a man realizes that his garden is getting overcrowded. It contains all the flowers that he planted in his sentimental youth and all the vegetables that he set there in his prosaic manhood. It is too much. There must be a thinning out. And, unless he is very, very careful, he will find that the thinning-out process will automatically consist of the sacrifice of all the pansies and the retention of all the potatoes.
Now, when I address my congregation of people who are celebrating their fortieth birthday, I shall make a most fervent appeal on behalf of the pansies. Potatoes are excellent things, and the garden becomes distinctly wealthier when, in the twenties and thirties, a man begins to moderate his passion for pansies, and to plant a few potatoes. But a time comes when he must make a stand on behalf of the pansies, or he will have no soul for anything beyond potatoes. Round his potato beds let him jealously retain a border of his finest pansies; and, depend upon it, when he gets into the fifties and the sixties he will be glad that, all through life, he remained true to the first fondnesses of youth.
Not that he will have to wait for the fifties and the sixties. As soon as a man has faced the situation, taken his stand, and made his decision, he begins to congratulate himself upon it. That is one of life's most subtle laws. Let us, then, see how it operates in another field. Sir Francis Jeune, the great divorce judge, said that the eighth year was the dangerous year in wedded life. More tragedies occurred in the eighth year than in any other. And Mr. Philip Gibbs has recently written a novel entitled The Eighth Year: A Vital Problem of Married Life (Classic Reprint), in which he makes the heroine declare that, in marriage, the eighth year is the fatal year.
'"It's a psychological fact," said Madge. "I work it out in this way. In the first and second years a wife is absorbed in the experiment of marriage and in the sentimental phase of love. In the third and fourth years she begins to study her husband and to find him out. In the fifth and sixth years, having found him out completely, she makes a working compromise with life and tries to make the best of it. In the seventh and eighth years she begins to find out herself. Life has become prosaic. Her home has become a cage to her. In the eighth year she must find a way of escape—anyhow, anywhere. And in the eighth year the one great question is, in what direction will she go? There are many ways of escape."' And so comes the disaster.
All this seems to show that the eighth year of marriage is like the fortieth year of life. It is the year in which husband and wife are called upon to make their supreme stand on behalf of the pansies. And supposing they do it? Suppose that they make up their minds that everything shall not be sacrificed to potatoes; what follows? Why, to be sure, the best follows. Coventry Patmore, in his The Angel in the House —the classic of all young husbands and young wives—says that the years that follow the eighth are the sweetest and the fullest of all. What, he asks—
For sweetness like the ten years' wife,
Whose customary love is not
Her passion, or her play, but life?
With beauties so maturely fair,
Affecting, mild, and manifold,
May girlish charms no more compare
Than apples green with apples gold.
Ah, still unpraised Honoria, Heaven,
When you into my arms it gave,
Left naught hereafter to be given
But grace to feel the good I have.
Here, then, is the crisis reached; the stand successfully made on behalf of the pansies; and all life fuller and richer for ever afterwards in consequence. Every man and woman at forty is called upon for a similar chivalrous effort. At forty we become the knights of the pansies, and if we let them go we shall find that at fifty it will be difficult to find even a sprig of heartsease anywhere.
Whether I take as my text the prophet's prayer for a revival and a revelation in the midst of the years, or the story of the man who was more than forty years old when he fell under the spell of the miraculous, I know how I shall close my sermon. I shall close by telling the story of Dr. Kenn and Maggie Tulliver from The mill on the Floss. It will convince my hearers that folk in the forties have a great and beautiful and sacred ministry to exercise. Maggie was young, and the perplexities of life were too much for her. Dr. Kenn was arrested by the expression of anguish in her beautiful eyes. Dr. Kenn was himself neither young nor old, but middle-aged; and Maggie felt a childlike, instinctive relief when she saw that it was Dr. Kenn's face that was looking into hers. 'That plain, middle-aged face, with a grave, penetrating kindness in it, seeming to tell of a human being who had reached a firm, safe strand, but was looking with helpful pity towards the strugglers still tossed by the waves, had an effect on Maggie at this moment which was afterwards remembered by her as if it had been a promise.' And then George Eliot makes this trite and significant remark. 'The middle-aged,' she says, 'who have lived through their strongest emotions, but are yet in the time when memory is still half-passionate and not merely contemplative, should surely be a sort of natural priesthood, whom life has disciplined and consecrated to be the refuge and rescue of early stumblers and victims of self-despair. Most of us, at some moment in our young lives, would have welcomed a priest of that natural order in any sort of canonicals or uncanonicals, but had to scramble upwards into all the difficulties of nineteen entirely without such aid.'
And after hearing that fine story my congregation of folk on the threshold of the forties will return from the quiet church to the busy street humming the songs that they sang at nineteen; vowing that, come what may, the potatoes shall not elbow out all the pansies; and congratulating themselves that the richest wine in the chalice of life still waits their thirsty lips.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The discipline of disillusionment
Jesus did not commit Himself unto them … for He knew what was in man.
--- John 2:24–25
Disillusionment means that there are no more false judgments in life. To be undeceived by disillusionment may leave us cynical and unkindly severe in our judgment of others, but the disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are, and yet there is no cynicism, we have no stinging, bitter things to say. Many of the cruel things in life spring from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts; we are true only to our ideas of one another. Everything is either delightful and fine, or mean and dastardly, according to our idea.
The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way—if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being what he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God and in what His grace could do for any man was so perfect that He despaired of no one. If our trust is placed in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Coming home was to that:
The white house in the cool grass
Membraned with shadow, the bright stretch
Of stream that was its looking-glass;
And smoke growing above the roof
To a tall tree among whose boughs
The first stars renewed their theme
Of time and death and a man's vows.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
There is “tomorrow” now, and there is “tomorrow” at a later time.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 13:11–15 / “And when the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and has given it to you, you shall set apart for the Lord every first issue of the womb: every male firstling that your cattle drop shall be the Lord’s. But every firstling ass you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. And you must redeem every firstborn male among your children. And when tomorrow, your son asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the house of bondage. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, the first-born of both man and beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every first male issue of the womb, but redeem every first-born among my sons.’ ” [authors’ translation]
MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Bo 18 / And when tomorrow, your son asks. There is “tomorrow” now, and there is “tomorrow” at a later time. “Tomorrow” for saying “What does this mean?” is tomorrow at a later time. “Tomorrow this sign shall come to pass” (Exodus 8:19) is tomorrow now. “Tomorrow I will station myself”
(Exodus 17:9) is tomorrow now. “Tomorrow, your children might say to our children” (Joshua 22:24, authors’ translation) is tomorrow at a later time.
CONTEXT / Most modern translations already reflect the fact that the Hebrew word מָחָר/maḥar can mean literally “tomorrow” or idiomatically “some future time,” depending on the context. Thus, the new Jewish Publication Society version of our Bible text is “And when, in time to come [מָחָר/maḥar], your son asks you.…” This Midrash is based on these different meanings of the word מָחָר/maḥar.
There is “tomorrow” now; מָחָר/maḥar can mean the day after this one. And there is “tomorrow” at a later time, when מָחָר/maḥar means “a time to come,” some future day. In the first example, it is obvious from the context of “when your son asks you” that “tomorrow” means “in years to come.” The use of the word מָחָר/maḥar here is not the same as its use in the second example, from the fourth plague against the Egyptians. Moses tells Pharaoh that “Tomorrow this sign shall come to pass” Exodus 8:19). Moses here means “on the next day,” which is when the plague, a swarm of insects, will be brought against the Egyptians.
Another example of the word מָחָר/maḥar is introduced by the Rabbis in our Midrash text. It comes from the story of the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites. Moses tells the Israelites that “Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand” (Exodus 17:9). This will happen on the next day, the more immediate tomorrow. The Rabbis introduce a fourth example of מָחָר/maḥar from the end of the Book of Joshua. There, we read about a dispute between the Israelites who dwell on the west side of the Jordan and the two and one-half tribes—the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh—who possessed the land east of the Jordan. These two and one-half tribes have erected an altar to God, and Joshua and the Israelites are angered by this. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh respond that “Tomorrow, your children might say to our children” that we are not part of the Israelites. In other words, “your children” from the west side of the Jordan may block “our children” from the east side of the river from worshiping God at a shrine “over there.” The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh are saying: We have built an altar on our side of the river as a preventive measure against the future. “Tomorrow” is not the next day, but “in time to come,” as many translations have it.
These four readings of biblical passages highlight the careful manner in which the Rabbis read the sacred text. They understood that the same word can have different meanings based on the context. Part of midrashic methodology is close reading and analysis not only of words but also of context.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
The highest step of delight is a silencing of desire and the banquet of the soul on its desired object. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set)
But there is a [less lofty] delight.
Delight in desires. There is a cheerfulness in labor as well as in attainment. The desire of Canaan made the good Israelites cheerful in the wilderness. There is a beginning delight in motion but a consummate delight in rest and fulfillment.
Delight in hopes. Desired happiness affects the soul—much more, expected happiness. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). Joy is the natural consequence of a well-grounded hope. There may be joy in title as well as in possession.
Delight in contemplation. The consideration and serious thoughts of heaven affect a gracious heart and fill it with pleasure, though that heart is in a wilderness. The near approach to a desired good much affects the heart. Moses was surely more pleased with the sight of Canaan from Pisgah than with the hopes of it in the desert. A traveler’s delight is more raised when nearest the journey’s end, and a hungry stomach has a greater joy when it sees the food approaching that must satisfy the appetite. As the union with the object is nearer, so the delight is stronger. Now the delight the soul has in duty is not a delight of fulfillment but of desire, hope, or contemplation—a delight of the journey, not of the home.
Now this delight in prayer is an inward and hearty delight, seated in the heart. As God is hearty in offering mercy, so is the soul in petitioning for it. There is a harmony between God and the heart. Those purposes that God has in giving are a Christian’s purpose in asking. The more our hearts are in the requests, the more God’s heart is in the grants. The emphasis of mercy is God’s whole heart and whole soul in it (Jer. 32:41). So the emphasis of duty is the Christian’s whole heart and whole soul. As without God’s cheerful answering, a gracious soul would not relish a mercy, so without our hearty asking God does not relish our prayers.
--- Stephen Charnock
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Lame Man July 30
Luther’s Reformation swept over Europe like a flash flood. Most of Germany and Scandinavia became Protestant. England broke with Rome. Switzerland and the Netherlands were largely Protestant, and the Reformation tide rose in France, Austria, Hungary, and Poland. Some expected Spain and Italy to be next.
The Vatican responded in several ways. The Council of Trent addressed church problems. The Inquisition was unleashed. Military and diplomatic efforts were employed. But perhaps the most effective counteroffensive was a religious order established in 1540 by a crippled Spanish nobleman named Ignatius Loyola.
Loyola was born among the Basques of Spain, the youngest of 12 children. He was a reckless youth, frequently in trouble with the law. While serving in the Spanish army, he was crippled for life when a cannonball crashed into his leg. The doctors repeatedly broke and reset the leg without anesthesia, but to little avail. While recovering, Ignatius began reading books about Christ and the saints. “What if I should do great things for God like St. Francis and St. Dominic?” he asked himself in excitement. A new passion rose in his heart, and he fasted, prayed, scourged himself, and experienced hundreds of strange visions.
Out of his experiences came a manual, Spiritual Exercises; and, book in hand, he limped to the University of Paris. He was 38, barely five feet tall, and unwell. But he recruited six students (including Francis Xavier) to the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits.
The Jesuits emphasized knowledge and displayed great intelligence. Loyola lived to see 1,000 men in his order and 100 colleges and seminaries established. The Jesuits became the greatest force in the Catholic Reformation. His work ended, Loyola was seized by a violent gallbladder attack. On July 30, 1556, in intense suffering, he devoted the Evening to prayer, then died. But he left behind arguably the most powerful religious order in the Catholic Church.
Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold! But I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, get up and start walking.” Peter then took him by the right hand and helped him up. … Everyone saw him walking around and praising God.
--- Acts 3:6,7,9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 30
“And when he thought thereon, he wept.” --- Mark 14:72.
It has been thought by some that as long as Peter lived, the fountain of his tears began to flow whenever he remembered his denying his Lord. It is not unlikely that it was so, for his sin was very great, and grace in him had afterwards a perfect work. This same experience is common to all the redeemed family according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone. We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise: “Though all men shall forsake thee, yet will not I.” We eat our own words with the bitter herbs of repentance. When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been, we may weep whole showers of grief. He thought on his denying his Lord. The place in which he did it, the little cause which led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart which drove him to do so again and yet again. Can we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? Will we not make our house a Bochim, and cry unto the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love? May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest ere long we have a tongue parched in the flames of hell. Peter also thought upon his Master’s look of love. The Lord followed up the cock’s warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love. That glance was never out of Peter’s mind so long as he lived. It was far more effectual than ten thousand RS Thomas would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep when he recollected the Saviour’s full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow.
Evening - July 30
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” --- John 6:37.
No limit is set to the duration of this promise. It does not merely say, “I will not cast out a sinner at his first coming,” but, “I will in no wise cast out.” The original reads, “I will not, not cast out,” or “I will never, never cast out.” The text means, that Christ will not at first reject a believer; and that as he will not do it at first, so he will not to the last.
But suppose the believer sins after coming? “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” But suppose that believers backslide? “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” But believers may fall under temptation! “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But the believer may fall into sin as David did! Yes, but he will “Purge them with hyssop, and they shall be clean; he will wash them and they shall be whiter than snow”; “From all their iniquities will I cleanse them.”
“Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,
Nothing from his love can sever.”
“I give unto my sheep,” saith he, “eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” What sayest thou to this, O trembling feeble mind? Is not this a precious mercy, that coming to Christ, thou dost not come to One who will treat thee well for a little while, and then send thee about thy business, but he will receive thee and make thee his bride, and thou shalt be his for ever? Receive no longer the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby thou shalt cry, Abba, Father! Oh! the grace of these words: “I will in no wise cast out.”
Morning and Evening
I KNOW I’LL SEE JESUS SOME DAY
Avis B. Christiansen, 1895–1985
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
Lord, we wait for Thine appearing;
“Even so,” Thy people say;
Bright the prospect is, and cheering,
Of beholding Thee that day.
--- Thomas Kelly
Heaven is not an invention of the human imagination. It is as sure as the promise of Christ in the Scriptures: “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2, 3). The Bible, however, does not tell us a great deal about the specifics of heaven, simply because our mortal minds are unable to comprehend its riches. The main concern of the Scriptures is to acquaint us with the One who has made our entry into heaven possible. Because of His redemptive work in our behalf, seeing Him personally becomes the real glory of heaven for every believer.
We have all heard the expression that “we can become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.” It is possible that we can think and dream about our eternal future to the point that we forget to live effectively for God now. But the greater concern for most of us is that we become so consumed with the enjoyments of this present life that we lose sight of the glories that await us and the anticipation of seeing our Savior. Our hope in Christ for the future should be the real source of joy and strength for our daily lives. It should also be our motive for holy living—“to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12, 13).
Sweet is the hope that is thrilling my soul—I know I’ll see Jesus some day! Then what if the dark clouds of sin o’er me roll? I know I’ll see Jesus some day!
Though I must travel by faith, not by sight, I know I’ll see Jesus some day! No evil can harm me, no foe can affright—I know I’ll see Jesus some day!
Darkness is gath’ring, but hope shines within. I know I’ll see Jesus some day! What joy when He comes to wipe out ev’ry sin; I know I’ll see Jesus some day!
Chorus: I know I’ll see Jesus some day! I know I’ll see Jesus some day! What a joy it will be when His face I shall see; I know I’ll see Jesus some day!
For Today: 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6, 8; Philippians 3:20, 21; Revelation 22:1-5
Let your soul come alive with the thrill of expectation—the glories of heaven and the prospect of personally seeing Jesus. Carry this joy with you as you sing with certainty ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CII. — THE second contrivance is this: — ‘that Malachi does not seem to speak of that hatred by which we are damned to all eternity, but of temporal affliction: seeing that, those are reproved who wished to destroy Edom.’ —
This, again, is advanced in contempt of Paul, as though he had done violence to the Scriptures. Thus, we hold in no reverence whatever, the majesty of the Holy Spirit, and only aim at establishing our own sentiments. But let us bear with this contempt for a moment, and see what it effects. Malachi, then, speaks of temporal affliction. And what if he do? What is that to your purpose? Paul proves out of Malachi, that that affliction was laid on Esau without any desert, by the hatred of God only: and this he does, that he might thence conclude, that there is no such thing as “Free-will.” This is the point that makes against you, and it is to this you ought to have answered. I am arguing about merit, and you are all the while talking about reward; and yet, you so talk about it, as not to evade that which you wish to evade; nay, in your very talking about reward, you acknowledge merit; and yet, pretend you do not see it. Tell me, then, what moved God to love Jacob, and to hate Esau, even before they were born?
But however, the assertion, that Malachi is speaking of temporal affliction only, is false: nor is he speaking of the destroying of Edom: you entirely pervert the sense of the prophet by this contrivance. The prophet shews what he means, in words the most clear. — He upbraids the Israelites with ingratitude: because, after God had loved them, they did not, in return, either love Him as their Father, or fear Him as their Lord. (Mal. i. 6.).
That God had loved them, he proves, both by the Scriptures, and by facts: viz. in this: — that although Jacob and Esau were brothers, as Moses records Gen. xxv. 21-28, yet He loved Jacob and chose him before he was born, as we have heard from Paul already; but that, He so hated Esau, that He removed away his dwelling into the desert; that moreover, he so continued and pursued that hatred, that when He brought back Jacob from captivity and restored him, He would not suffer the Edomites to be restored; and that, even if they at any time said they wished to build, He threatened them with destruction. If this be not the plain meaning of the prophet’s text, let the whole world prove me a liar. — Therefore the temerity of the Edomites is not here reproved, but, as I said before, the ingratitude of the sons of Jacob; who do not see what God has done, for them, and against their brethren the Edomites; and for no other reason, than because, He hated the one, and loved the other.
How then will your assertion stand good, that the prophet is here speaking of temporal affliction, when he testifies, in the plainest words, that he is speaking of the two people as proceeding from the two patriarchs, the one received to be a people and saved, and the other left and at last destroyed? To be received as a people, and not to be received as a people, does not pertain to temporal good and evil only, but unto all things. For our God is not the God of temporal things only, but of all things. Nor does God will to be thy God so as to be worshipped with one shoulder, or with a lame foot, but with all thy might, and with all thy heart, that He may be thy God as well here, as hereafter, in all things, times, and works.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library