Samson's MarriageJudges 14 1 Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”
4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson's eyes.
8 After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9 He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 And he said to them,
“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.”
And in three days they could not solve the riddle.
15 On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson's wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,
“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.”
Paul in Corinth
Acts 18 1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.
Paul Returns to Antioch18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
The Yoke of NebuchadnezzarJeremiah 27 1 In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. 2 Thus the Lord said to me: “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck. 3 Send word to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the sons of Ammon, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 Give them this charge for their masters: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.
8 “‘“But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11 But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord.”’”
12 To Zedekiah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live. 13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 15 I have not sent them, declares the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.”
16 Then I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets who are prophesying to you, saying, ‘Behold, the vessels of the Lord's house will now shortly be brought back from Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live. Why should this city become a desolation? 18 If they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, then let them intercede with the Lord of hosts, that the vessels that are left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take away, when he took into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: 22 They shall be carried to Babylon and remain there until the day when I visit them, declares the Lord. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.”
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the TempleMark 13 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The Abomination of Desolation14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
The Coming of the Son of Man24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day or Hour32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
It Takes a Church to Raise a Child
By Mark Bates 3/1/2011
I have often heard parents of college students lament that their children return home from school, drop off the laundry, and immediately go out with friends without spending any time with the family. I remember hearing that complaint and thinking, “My little girls will never do that.”
After my daughter’s first semester in college, she came home, dropped off her laundry, and immediately went to see a friend. However, I wasn’t upset. I was thankful. The “friend” that my daughter went to see is the wife of an elder. That my daughter would want to spend time with this godly woman is a testimony to the church.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is also not something parents should attempt to do alone. Thankfully, those in the church don’t have to. They are part of an extended family — the family of God — that can play a vital role in the raising of children.
When a child is baptized, the church remembers God’s covenant promise to bless believers and their children (Gen. 17:7), and it also renews its own commitment to caring for the children. While raising children is primarily the responsibility of parents, it is not exclusively so.
(Ge 17:6–7) 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. ESV
After all, God charged the entire nation of Israel to teach the children (Deut. 6).
How can church members assist parents in raising children to know and love the Lord? There are a number of practical ways.
First, support the children’s ministry in your church. This includes supporting the church budget, but also serving in ministries to children.
When I was in third grade, my family moved to Atlanta. We had been involved in our previous church since its inception. It was the only church I had ever known. Suddenly, I found myself in a new city, a new church, and a new Sunday school class. The Sunday school teacher, Mr. Tinken, greeted me warmly and he helped me get to know the other boys. Mr. Tinken did not have any sons my age, but he loved us and served us faithfully by teaching us. His presence in that classroom week after week fostered my love for Jesus.
Second, speak to the children, not just to their parents. Ask them about their schools, sports, or hobbies. All of these things that we consider “small talk” are ways to enter their world and express love and concern. Through this small talk, relationships of trust develop that can be vital as the child grows older and needs other people to talk to besides just mom and dad.
Third, older adults can have a profound impact on the children in the church family by befriending parents of young children. Many of our young parents did not grow up in Christian homes. They have no models for what it means to disciple their children or to parent in a godly way. Other young parents are often far away from family. Many of these long for mentors who will come alongside them, not merely as dispensers of wisdom, but as encouragers and friends. These parents need someone to remind them that, even when they fail, God is still at work caring for their children.
This is particularly important for single parents or for those who have a spouse who is not a Christian. Parenting is not something a person can do alone. Yet, in our fallen world, many are forced to do so. The church can mitigate the effects of broken families by befriending both the parents and children in singleparent homes. By taking a single mom to lunch, watching her kids while she gets a night out, or even going to the children’s soccer games to cheer them on, church members can have a profound impact on the children from single-parent homes.
My youngest daughter’s school has an annual Grandparents’ Day. Most of the other children have grandmothers who live in town and join in the celebration. However, one of my daughter’s grandmothers died a few years ago. The other lives on the other side of the country. So, a woman in the church volunteered to be her “grandmother.” For the past three years, she has gone with her to Grandparents’ Day and then taken her out for ice cream afterwards. This could have been an awkward, even painful situation for my daughter. However, this dear woman demonstrated what it means for the church to be the family of God by taking the time to love my daughter.
Finally, church members can pray for the children. Our children are part of a great spiritual battle — a battle for their souls. We will not win this battle through better programs or better parenting techniques. God must work in the hearts of our children. So, we must pray for them, even as the apostle Paul prays for the church, that God may give them “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17).
It takes more than parents to raise a child. It takes a family — a large family. Thank God that He has given us the church to be the family of God and blessed us all with the privilege of raising children.
The Goodness of the Law
By R.C. Sproul 3/1/2011
“Oh how I love your law!” (Ps. 119:97). What a strange statement of affection. Why would anyone direct his love toward the law of God? The law limits our choices, restricts our freedom, torments our consciences, and pushes us down with a mighty weight that cannot be overcome, and yet the psalmist declares his affection for the law in passionate terms. He calls the law sweeter than honey to his mouth (Ps. 119:3).
What is it about the law of God that can provoke such affection? In the first place, the law is not an abstract set of rules and regulations. The law reflects the will of the Lawgiver, and in that regard it is intensely personal. The law reflects to the creature the perfect will of the Creator and at the same time reveals the character of that being whose law it is. The law of God proceeds from God’s being and reflects His character. When the psalmist speaks of his affection for the law, he makes no division between the law of God and the Word of God. Just as the Christian loves the Word of God, so we ought to love the law of God, for the Word of God is indeed the law of God.
The second reason why the psalmist has such a positive view of the law is that the law, by revealing God’s character, exposes our fallenness. It is the mirror that reflects our own images — warts and all — and becomes the pedagogue, the schoolmaster that drives us to Christ. The law does not drive us out of the kingdom but it ushers us into the kingdom by directing us to the One who alone is able to fulfill its demands.
God’s law also is a guide for us. The psalmist calls it “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105). The imagery here suggests a person walking on a narrow path on a moonless night, groping in the dark to find the correct way. A wrong turn could result in a fall from a precipice or tripping into painful brambles. But the law serves as a lamp to show us where we should place our feet as we walk. It shows us how not to stray into the way of destruction. In that respect, the law with its light grants wisdom to one who meditates upon it. By this wisdom, we discern what righteousness is and what is the right thing to do in the complex situations of our lives. The light that shines from the law reveals the snares that have been set in our pathway by the enemy and gives us the wisdom to avoid them. It becomes a hiding place, a shield, and the source of our hope.
The law also acts as a restraint upon us. Our nature in the fall is one of lawlessness. The power of conversion rescues us from bondage to sin, but it does not deliver us from all temptations. We need the restraint of law to keep our sinful impulses and fallen inclinations in check. In this regard, we may use the metaphor of the bridle. The bridle and the bit are put on the horse so that the horse can be kept from running wildly into destruction. Speed limits on the highway do not stop speeding, but they do produce a certain restraint to keep impulses under control.
The most wonderful function of the law, however, is that it shows us what is pleasing to God. The godly man is the one who mediates on the law day and night (Ps. 1:2), and he does so because he finds his delight therein. By delighting in the precepts of God, he becomes like a tree planted by rivers of living water, bringing forth its fruit in its season (Ps. 1:3). Our Lord said, “If you love Me keep My commandments” (John 14:15), but we cannot show that love for Him unless we know what the commandments are. A knowledge of the law of God gives to us the pattern of loving obedience. If we love the Lord, we must also love His law. To love God and despise His law is a contradiction that must never be the profile of the Christian. The psalmist says that God hates the double-minded man, and the doubleminded man says that he loves God while at the same time he eschews the law of the Lord (Ps. 119:113). The psalmist says that the precepts, judgments, and testimonies of God are wonderful because they keep the soul and they preserve us from sins dragging us back into slavery and dominion (v. 129). The law in this regard is redemptive — not that we find our redemption by keeping the law, but that the Redeemer is shown to us through the law.
Finally, the psalmist says, “Your word is very pure; Therefore your servant loves it” (v. 140, NKJV). Those things that are pure, that are perfect, are worthy objects of our affection. All of these functions of the law are seen in the sweetness and the loveliness of the law that God reveals. He gives us His law not to take away our joy but rather that our joy may be full. His law is never given in a context of meanness but in the context of His love. We love the law of God because God loves His law and because that law is altogether lovely.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books:
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2011
I’m on a diet. Oops. I’m not on a diet. I’m on a lifestyle change. This has led me to become acquainted with any number of new friends on my plate. I had, until now, heard of vegetables, but had never met any — or at least not any I’d like to invite over for dinner. The more surprising guest at my table, however, has been guilt. Before I went on this lifestyle change, I ate what I wanted. I knew I wasn’t as healthy as I would like to be, but I also took the view that whatever changes needed to be made wouldn’t be made on what I eat. I love food like some people love their pets.
My lifestyle change has changed my lifestyle. Now I have to find foods I like that won’t cause me to overspend my “points.” A nice bowl of ice cream or a hot plate of French fries is the equivalent of blowing the paycheck at the racetrack. When I eat well, I enjoy better-fitting clothes, compliments on my slimmer self, more energy, better sleep, and, best of all, I please my dear wife and children, who love me and want me to be around for decades to come. When I eat poorly, I lose all those benefits and gain both pounds and guilt.
What, then, is the proper motive? Some gurus remind us that we cannot change until we want the change for ourselves. Others encourage a kind of pragmatic calculus, saying that what drives us is net gains in the things we want and net losses in the things we don’t want. Still others encourage us to look outside ourselves, to do well for the sake of those whom we love.
God, from a certain perspective, isn’t terribly particular with respect to our motives. Inside the church there are those who argue that the right and heroic thing to do is the right and heroic thing because it is right and heroic. Spiritual maturity is measured on the Stoic scale. Others suggest that our driving goal must be simply — and alone — to please God. Still others, crasser still, take the view that we should do right in order to do well, that good things happen to those who do good. The thing is that the Bible presents all three motives before us.
Consider Moses’ parting sermon. Deuteronomy ends less with a long catalog of the grace of God in the lives of His people and more with a series of promised blessings and cursings. Moses, speaking the very words of God, is impenitently and flamboyantly crass — obey God and He will bless you in the city. He will bless you in the country. He’ll bless you when you are young and when you are old. He will, if you obey, bless your flocks, your household, your kneading bowl, and your wok. Your goldfish will have baby goldfish that all make the honor roll. Disobey God, on the other hand, and there is no end to how badly things will go. Your cell phone won’t work when your car breaks down in the middle of the traffic jam on your way to see that important client who holds your company’s future in his angry hands.
Jesus, on the other hand, from time to time seems to pick up on the Stoic theme. He reminds us that those who follow after Him must be prepared to pick up the cross. We have to consider the cost. We must deny ourselves. Later on, however, He reminds us that He came to give life abundant, that He is the Good Shepherd. As for His example, Jesus seemed driven by, more than anything else, a desire to delight His Father. He glorified the Father who was glorified in Him.
Is it possible that all these motives have their place? When Jesus commanded that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He told us more which direction to go and less what fuel to use to get there. That said, one motive should have no place with us — guilt. As we seek to grow in our obedience to His law, we must always do so mindful that we fail, mindful that Jesus alone succeeded, and mindful that He succeeded for us. God is through being angry with you. His wrath is gone forever, as far from you as the east is from the west. Fearing His anger, then, won’t be much of a goad toward the good.
Indeed, seeking to keep God’s law in order to keep at bay His wrath is evidence that we are indeed under the law and under His wrath. It is seeking the kingdom of God and our righteousness. Those foolish enough to go this way will spend eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth. Using God’s law to escape His wrath is like using His grace to escape His law — foolish, destructive, and counter-productive. This is how the Gentiles live.
Trust in Him because He commands it and, as Lord of heaven and earth, He is due our fealty and allegiance. Trust in Him because He delights when you do so. Even the angels in heaven rejoice. Trust in Him because at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Trust in Him because He is altogether trustworthy. And all these things will be added unto you.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
Ministering by the Life-Giving Spirit
By David Hall 3/1/2011
Following a 1970s Jesus Movement conversion, I served in youth ministry, where I subjected poor students to nearly every fad imaginable — all, I told myself, to have young people come to Christ. I then served as a pastor, an office I have held for thirty years. Along the way, I have made many blunders — far too many to chronicle here. One mistake that I hope to avoid, however, is ministering with external methods that cannot give life.
Over the last thirty years, I have noticed a great reduction among my repertoire of ministerial gimmicks, while reliance on a smaller number of powerful tools has significantly increased. One thing I’m pretty sure of: this pastor has very little to offer other than God’s Word, and the effectiveness of that depends on the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is good for pastors to know that if our ministry of the Word is to have effect, it must have the Spirit’s anointing. In fact, we must become more aware of the fact that if our ministry is to glorify God, we must decrease as the Spirit’s work must increase.
What I have said reflects the teaching of the apostle Paul. He declared that “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). A grasp of this basic truth is important to our understanding of the law. It is also vital for ministry that lasts.
First, note that this verse puts to rest the idea that heeding every formula, jot, or tittle of the law can save. Obedience to the law was never intended to be understood as the way by which we gain a right standing with God. Paul repeatedly denied that we are justified by the law. He wrote, for example, “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law” (Rom. 3:20) and we are “justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because no one will be justified by observing the law” (Gal. 2:16). He stated later: “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law” (3:11). Paul consistently taught that being right with God is not accomplished by legal obedience or externalistic human performance.
Second, this text affirms that the Holy Spirit is a life-giving person. The Spirit can actually do something that no external method can: produce life. Here Paul describes how true ministry works, assuming implicitly that some ministry works and generates life, whereas other ministry produces lifelessness or death. Further, the means to these varying ultimate ends mirror the radical choices within this verse. Some accord with God’s truth; others do not.
Toward the beginning of 2 Corinthians 3, Paul raises several questions about authenticity. Does he need credentials or letters of commendation to be considered authentic? His answer is that the fruit of his authenticity is seen in the fruit of his disciples’ living Christianity. The Corinthian Christians were products of the Spirit’s life-giving work. Thus, the apostle needs no verification by “the letter.” Paul knew that Christ-transformed lives were far more lasting than ink or stone-chiseled characters.
Paul’s confidence is not in himself, his abilities, or his adherence to formula. He knows that life in the Spirit, unlike legalism, is not extinguishable; neither does he think of his own ministerial competence as derived from official letters. One verse (5) gleefully announces that God makes us sufficient, thus curing our deficiency. God brings our competency, in other words, out of the hole and all the way up to the adequate range.
Any minister who realizes his beginning deficiency will attempt to serve in the power of the Spirit, not the law. The apostle knew this and several other things besides. First, he knew that the letter could kill; that is, one could be outwardly correct but not produce life. Second, he knew that the Spirit generates or cultures life. Third, it is life, the abundant kind that Jesus offered (John 10:10), which the Spirit gives.
With such confidence, Paul was able to face floggings, misunderstandings, shipwrecks, betrayals, and varieties of abuse. He knew that the surpassing greatness of serving Christ and the working of the Spirit was better than relying on human accomplishments.
In like manner, having known that his abilities were “altogether useless,” John Calvin declared that God’s grace, not law-keeping, qualified him “for an office, for which he was previously unqualified.” The contrast here is between an outward-only ministry of the Word versus one that reaches inward and changes hearts, which subsequently reflect behaviors that conform to God’s law.
The Spirit is powerful; He does change lives. Whether it is in counseling, mentoring, evangelism, missions, childrearing, or preaching, we must beg God to send His life-giving Spirit who quickens the Word.
Don’t we need a reformation of lifegiving ministry? And whether respecting the civil, pedagogical, or didactic use of the law, the Spirit should always be sought to give life.
David Hall Books:
- 1 Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici: The Divine Right of Church Government (17th century Presbyterians)
- 2 A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis, Paperback Edition (Calvin 500)
- 3 Did God Create in 6 Days?
- 4 Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights and Civil Liberties (Calvin 500)
- 5 Calvin and Commerce: The Transforming Power of Calvinism in Market Economies (Calvin 500) (The Calvin 500 Series)
- 6 A Heart Promptly Offered: The Revolutionary Leadership of John Calvin (Leaders in Action)
- 7 Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary Celebration (Calvin 500) (The Calvin 500 Series)
- 8 Windows on Westminster: A Look at the Men, the Work and the Enduring Results of the Westminster Assembly (1643 - 1648)
- 9 Paradigms in Polity: Classic Readings in Reformed and Presbyterian Church Government
- 10 The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World (Calvin 500)
- 11 A Manual for Officer Training
- 12 Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (Calvin 500)
- 13 The Practice of Confessional Subscription
- 14 Welfare Reformed: A Compassionate Approach
- 15 The Arrogance of the Modern: Historical Theology Held in Contempt
- 16 Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary (Calvin 500)
- 17 The Millennium of Jesus Christ: An Exposition of Revelation for All Ages
- 18 To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th Anniversary of the Westminister Assembly
- 19 Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights and Civil Liberties (Calvin 500)
- 20 The Millennium of Jesus Christ: An Exposition of Revelation for All Ages
- 21 Election Sermons
- 22 A Manual for Officer Training
- 23 Election Day Sermons
- 24 Holding Fast to Creation
- 25 The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding
- 26 Savior or Servant? Putting Government in Its Place
- 27 Lux: Essays on Calvin and Calvinism
- 28 Post Tenebrae: Essays on Calvin and Calvinism
- 29 Lectures on Integrity: A Review of Confessional Subscription as an Aid for Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
- 30 Summer Reading: Christian Classics
- 31 Declaring Independence
- 32 The Grasses of Florida
- 33 Questioning Politics: Five Essential Queries for Believers to Ask and Answer
- 34 The Westminster Assembly: A Guide to Basic Bibliography
Listening Before Answering
By John Piper 3/1/2011
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question. How many times have I jumped to a wrong conclusion by starting to formulate my answer before I heard the whole question! Often it is the last word in the question that turns the whole thing around and makes you realize that the questioner is not asking what you thought he was.
It is rude to answer a half-asked question. Rude is a useful word for Christians. It means “ill-mannered, discourteous.” The New Testament word for it is aschēmonei. It is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5, where modern versions translate it, “Love is not rude,” but the old King James Version has, “Love doth not behave itself unseemly.” This means that love not only follows absolute moral standards, but also takes cultural mores, habits, and customs into account. What is polite? What is courteous? What are good manners? What is proper? What is good taste? What is suitable? Love is not indifferent to these. It uses them to express its humble desire for people’s good. One such politeness is listening well to a question before you answer.
Not answering a question before you hear it all honors and respects the person asking the question. It treats the person as though his words really matter. It is belittling to another to presume to be able to finish his question before he does.
Careful listening to a question often reveals that the question has several layers and is really more than one question. Several questions are all mixed into one. When you see this, you can break the question down into parts and answer them one at a time. You will not see such subtleties if you are hasty with your answer and not careful in your listening.
A question sometimes reveals assumptions that you do not share. If you try to answer the question on the basis of your assumptions without understanding the questioner’s assumptions, you will probably speak right past him. If you listen carefully and let the person finish, you may discern what he is assuming that you do not. Then you can probe these assumptions before you answer. Often, when dealing at this level, the question answers itself. It was really about these deeper differences.
Questions usually have attitudes as well as content. The attitude sometimes tells you as much as the content about what is really being asked. In fact, the attitude may tell you that the words being used in this question are not what the question is about. When that is discerned, we should not make light of the words, but seriously ask questions to see if the attitude and the words are really asking the same question. If not, which is the one the questioner really wants answered?
Questions have context that you need to know. Many thoughts, circumstances, and feelings may be feeding into this question that we don’t know about or understand. Careful listening may help you pick up those things. It may be that there is just a small clue that some crucial circumstance is behind the question. If you catch the clue, because you are listening carefully, you may be able to draw that out and be able to answer the question much more helpfully.
Questions are made up of words. Words have meanings that are formed by a person’s experience and education. These words may not carry the same meaning for both you and the questioner. If you want to answer what he is really asking, you must listen very carefully. When the possibility exists that his question is rooted in a different understanding of a word, you will be wise to talk about the meaning of the words before you talk about the answer to the question. I find that talking about the definitions of words in questions usually produces the answers to the questions.
Proverbs 18:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know.
And finally Proverbs 18:13 says that it is our “shame” to answer before we hear. What if you are asked publicly, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering …,” and you cut the questioner off by giving your answer about the value of counseling and what counselors might be helpful. But then he says, “Well, actually, what I was going to say was, ‘My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering, now that our counseling is over and things are better than ever, how you would suggest that we celebrate?’” Then you will be shamed for not listening.
I’m still learning to listen with you.
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
Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13
By Don Carson 7/31/2018
Some of us have wondered why God has occasionally used in powerful ministry people blatantly flawed. This is not to say that God should only use perfect people, for that would mean he would be using no people. Nor am I referring to the fact that we all have weaknesses and faults of various kinds. George Whitefield, for instance, despite his enormous stature as a preacher and evangelist, did not fare very well on the marriage front, or in his (misguided) conviction that his son would be healed of his mortal illness. Virtually any Christian leader, whether from biblical times or more recent history, could not stand up under the onslaught of that sort of criticism. No, what I have in mind is the flaw that is so public and awful that one ponders two questions: (a) If this person is so powerful and godly, why the ugly fault? (b) If this person is so filled with the Spirit, why doesn’t that same Spirit enable him to clean up his act?
There are no easy answers. Sometimes it is simply a matter of time. Judas Iscariot, after all, engaged in public ministry with the other eleven apostles — even miraculous ministry — yet with time proved apostate. The passage of time would show him up. But sometimes the flaws are there from the beginning to the end.
That is true, it appears, in the life of Samson. The Spirit of God came upon him mightily; the Lord used him to curb the Philistines. But what is he doing marrying a Philistine woman, when the Law strictly forbade marriage to anyone outside the covenant community (Judg. 14:2)? When his parents warn him of the consequences, he simply overrides them, and they acquiesce (Judg. 14:3). True, they did not know that “this was from the LORD” (Judge. 14:4), in the same way that the selling of Joseph into slavery in Egypt was of the Lord; but that did not make the human actions right.
Samson’s risky bet (Judg. 14:12-13) is more cocksure and greedy than it is wise and honorable. Of course, the Philistines are really cruel in the matter (Judg. 14:15-18, 20), but Samson’s murder of thirty men to fulfill the terms of the wager is motivated less by a desire to cleanse the land and restore the covenant people to strength than it is by personal vengeance. Similar things must be said about his tactics in the next chapter, and about his steamy living in the chapter after that.
It appears, then, that Spirit-given power in one dimension of life does not by itself guarantee Spirit-impelled discipline and maturity in every dimension of life. It follows that the presence of spiritual gifts is never an excuse for personal sin.
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 80Restore Us, O God
80 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, A Psalm.
1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
4 O LORD God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
14. The knowledge of God the Redeemer is obtained from the fall of man, and from the material cause of redemption.
15. In the fall of man, we must consider what he ought to be, and what he may be.
16. For he was created after the image of God; that is, he was made a partaker of the divine Wisdom, Righteousness, and Holiness, and, being thus perfect in soul and in body, was bound to render to God a perfect obedience to his commandments.
17. The immediate causes of the fall were--Satan, the Serpent, Eve, the forbidden fruit; the remote causes were--unbelief, ambition, ingratitude, obstinacy. Hence followed the obliteration of the image of God in man, who became unbelieving, unrighteous, liable to death.
18. We must now see what he may be, in respect both of soul and of body. The understanding of the soul in divine things, that is, in the knowledge and true worship of God, is blinder than a mole; good works it can neither contrive nor perform. In human affairs, as in the liberal and mechanical arts, it is exceedingly blind and variable. Now the will, so far as regards divine things, chooses only what is evil. So far as regards lower and human affairs, it is uncertain, wandering, and not wholly at its own disposal.
19. The body follows the depraved appetites of the soul, is liable to many infirmities, and at length to death.
20. Hence it follows that redemption for ruined man must be sought through Christ the Mediator; because the first adoption of a chosen people, the preservation of the Church, her deliverance from dangers, her recovery after dispersions, and the hope of the godly, always depended on the grace of the Mediator. Accordingly, the law was given, that it might keep their minds in suspense till the coming of Christ; which is evident from the history of a gracious covenant frequently repeated, from ceremonies, sacrifices, and washings, from the end of adoption, and from the law of the priesthood.
21. The material cause of redemption is Christ, in whom we must consider three things; 1. How he is exhibited to men; 2. How he is received; 3. How men are retained in his fellowship.
22. Christ is exhibited to men by the Law and by the Gospel.
23. The Law is threefold: Ceremonial, Judicial, Moral. The use of the Ceremonial Law is repealed, its effect is perpetual. The Judicial or Political Law was peculiar to the Jews, and has been set aside, while that universal justice which is described in the Moral Law remains. The latter, or Moral Law, the object of which is to cherish and maintain godliness and righteousness, is perpetual, and is incumbent on all.
24. The use of the Moral Law is threefold. The first use shows our weakness, unrighteousness, and condemnation; not that we may despair, but that we may flee to Christ. The second is, that those who are not moved by promises, may be urged by the terror of threatenings. The third is, that we may know what is the will of God; that we may consider it in order to obedience; that our minds may be strengthened for that purpose; and that we may be kept from falling.
25. The sum of the Law is contained in the Preface, and in the two Tables. In the Preface we observe, 1. The power of God, to constrain the people by the necessity of obedience; 2. A promise of grace, by which he declares himself to be the God of the Church; 3. A kind act, on the ground of which he charges the Jews with ingratitude, if they do not requite his goodness.
26. The first Table, which relates to the worship of God, consists of four commandments.
27. The design of the First Commandment is, that God alone may be exalted in his people. To God alone, therefore, we owe adoration, trust, invocation, thanksgiving.
28. The design of the Second Commandment is, that God will not have his worship profaned by superstitious rites. It consists of two parts. The former restrains our licentious daring, that we may not subject God to our senses, or represent him under any visible shape. The latter forbids us to worship any images on religious grounds, and, therefore, proclaims his power, which he cannot suffer to be despised,--his jealousy, for he cannot bear a partner,--his vengeance on children's children,--his mercy to those who adore his majesty.
29. The Third Commandment enjoins three things: 1. That whatever our mind conceives, or our tongue utters, may have a regard to the majesty of God; 2. That we may not rashly abuse his holy word and adorable mysteries for the purposes of ambition or avarice; 3. That we may not throw obloquy on his works, but may speak of them with commendatians of his Wisdom, Long-suffering, Power, Goodness, Justice. With these is contrasted a threefold profanation of the name of God, by perjury, unnecessary oaths, and idolatrous rites; that is, when we substitute in the place of God saints, or creatures animate or inanimate.
30. The design of the Fourth Commandment is, that, being dead to our own affections and works, we may meditate on the kingdom of God. Now there are three things here to be considered: 1. A spiritual rest, when believers abstain from their own works, that God may work in them; 2. That there may be a stated day for calling on the name of God, for hearing his word, and for performing religious rites; 3. That servants may have some remission from labour.
31. The Second Table, which relates to the duties of charity towards our neighbour, contains the last Six Commandments. The design of the Fifth Commandment is, that, since God takes pleasure in the observance of his own ordinance, the degrees of dignity appointed by him must be held inviolable. We are therefore forbidden to take anything from the dignity of those who are above us, by contempt, obstinacy, or ingratitude; and we are commanded to pay them reverence, obedience, and gratitude.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2015 Blessed Are the Persecuted
In 2004, I traveled to Iran with a delegation of Protestant Christians from the United States to meet with the vice president of the Iranian parliament. While in Iran, I preached at the Garden of Evangelism in Tehran, which was founded by the twentieth-century missionary William M. Miller. Over the following days, dozens of Iranian Christians told me stories of the many ways they had been persecuted. Many who had been converted to Christ from Islam had been disowned by their families, shunned and despised by their neighbors, or fired from their jobs. Some had been imprisoned, and one man’s father had even been executed. Many of my Iranian brothers and sisters expressed how they lived under the constant threat of persecution. Many told me how much they would love to live in the United States of America because it is a free country where Christians are not persecuted.
Although we in America are by no means under the same kind of persecution as Christians in Iran, we are beginning to face persecution in unprecedented ways. Many of the freedoms my father fought to defend in World War II are at risk of being stripped away from my children. America is changing rapidly. Following the path of Europe, we are entering a day in America wherein Bible-believing Christians are viewed as suspect and even as traitors to humanity. Relativistic tolerance has become America’s religion, and its dogma is tolerance for anything except Christian dogma. Someday, our grandchildren might find themselves admitting to foreign missionaries their desire to live in a free country where Christians are not persecuted.
As Christians of conviction, we will continue to fight for our constitutional freedoms. Yet, in the final analysis, we must always remember that ultimately we fight not against men but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Ultimately, we fight on our knees, praying for all who are in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:2). We are citizens of our nations, and we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As such, we can pray for national leaders even when we must vote against them. We pray for the persecuted and for our persecutors. We love our enemies while praying for their defeat—their coming to the end of themselves in repentance and faith (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 4:12–13).
In the face of persecution, we must not lose hope. We must not fear our enemies but fear the Lord as we stand our ground in the battle ahead. Jesus told us we would be persecuted, but He also told us He has overcome the world (Matt. 5:10–12; John 16:33). Regardless of whether we ever die as martyrs for our faith, we are all witnesses of Christ. Though they may imprison us, shun us, despise us, or kill us, they can never really hurt us. For we conquer by dying — humbly dying to self that we may, under any persecution our Lord sovereignly allows, boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. And when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, not for being obnoxious, we can count ourselves blessed. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired.”
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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
On his third voyage, Columbus sailed south along the east coast of Africa and was caught in the doldrums, a notorious condition of no winds and intense heat. After drifting aimlessly for eight days, the winds returned, but now they were running low on water. Columbus promised to name the first new land he discovered in honor of the Trinity. Sighting an island off the coast of Venezuela this day, July 31, 1498, which coincidentally had three peaks, he gave it the name Trinidad. There they obtained fresh water and in the process were the first Europeans to see South America.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
To be at peace with God
is to be at peace with nature,
and to love God
is to see traces of him everywhere.
--- George H. Morrison
It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends.
But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy
is the quintessence of true religion.
The other is mere business.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
Impatience was one of Israel’s besetting sins, and God was helping them learn patient obedience; for it’s through ‘faith and patience’ that God’s people inherit what He has promised (Heb. 6:12). God is never in a hurry. He knows what He’s doing, and His timing is never off.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God's Power to Work in Your Life (The BE Series Commentary)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. In the mean time, many of the principal men of the city were persuaded by Ananus, the son of Jonathan, and invited Cestius into the city, and were about to open the gates for him; but he overlooked this offer, partly out of his anger at the Jews, and partly because he did not thoroughly believe they were in earnest; whence it was that he delayed the matter so long, that the seditious perceived the treachery, and threw Ananus and those of his party down from the wall, and, pelting them with stones, drove them into their houses; but they stood themselves at proper distances in the towers, and threw their darts at those that were getting over the wall. Thus did the Romans make their attack against the wall for five days, but to no purpose. But on the next day Cestius took a great many of his choicest men, and with them the archers, and attempted to break into the temple at the northern quarter of it; but the Jews beat them off from the cloisters, and repulsed them several times when they were gotten near to the wall, till at length the multitude of the darts cut them off, and made them retire; but the first rank of the Romans rested their shields upon the wall, and so did those that were behind them, and the like did those that were still more backward, and guarded themselves with what they call Testudo, [the back of] a tortoise, upon which the darts that were thrown fell, and slided off without doing them any harm; so the soldiers undermined the wall, without being themselves hurt, and got all things ready for setting fire to the gate of the temple.
6. And now it was that a horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius 30 as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day.
7. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen; and now Cestius lay all night at the camp which was at Scopus; and as he went off farther next day, he thereby invited the enemy to follow him, who still fell upon the hindmost, and destroyed them; they also fell upon the flank on each side of the army, and threw darts upon them obliquely, nor durst those that were hindmost turn back upon those who wounded them behind, as imagining that the multitude of those that pursued them was immense; nor did they venture to drive away those that pressed upon them on each side, because they were heavy with their arms, and were afraid of breaking their ranks to pieces, and because they saw the Jews were light, and ready for making incursions upon them. And this was the reason why the Romans suffered greatly, without being able to revenge themselves upon their enemies; so they were galled all the way, and their ranks were put into disorder, and those that were thus put out of their ranks were slain; among whom were Priscus, the commander of the sixth legion, and Longinus, the tribune, and Emilius Secundus, the commander of a troop of horsemen. So it was not without difficulty that they got to Gabao, their former camp, and that not without the loss of a great part of their baggage. There it was that Cestius staid two days, and was in great distress to know what he should do in these circumstances; but when on the third day he saw a still much greater number of enemies, and all the parts round about him full of Jews, he understood that his delay was to his own detriment, and that if he staid any longer there, he should have still more enemies upon him.
8. That therefore he might fly the faster, he gave orders to cast away what might hinder his army's march; so they killed the mules and other creatures, excepting those that carried their darts and machines, which they retained for their own use, and this principally because they were afraid lest the Jews should seize upon them. He then made his army march on as far as Bethoron. Now the Jews did not so much press upon them when they were in large open places; but when they were penned up in their descent through narrow passages, then did some of them get before, and hindered them from getting out of them; and others of them thrust the hinder-most down into the lower places; and the whole multitude extended themselves over against the neck of the passage, and covered the Roman army with their darts. In which circumstances, as the footmen knew not how to defend themselves, so the danger pressed the horsemen still more, for they were so pelted, that they could not march along the road in their ranks, and the ascents were so high, that the cavalry were not able to march against the enemy; the precipices also and valleys into which they frequently fell, and tumbled down, were such on each side of them, that there was neither place for their flight, nor any contrivance could be thought of for their defense; till the distress they were at last in was so great, that they betook themselves to lamentations, and to such mournful cries as men use in the utmost despair: the joyful acclamations of the Jews also, as they encouraged one another, echoed the sounds back again, these last composing a noise of those that at once rejoiced and were in a rage. Indeed, things were come to such a pass, that the Jews had almost taken Cestius's entire army prisoners, had not the night come on, when the Romans fled to Bethoron, and the Jews seized upon all the places round about them, and watched for their coming out [in the Morning].
9. And then it was that Cestius, despairing of obtaining room for a public march, contrived how he might best run away; and when he had selected four hundred of the most courageous of his soldiers, he placed them at the strongest of their fortifications, and gave order, that when they went up to the Morning guard, they should erect their ensigns, that the Jews might be made to believe that the entire army was there still, while he himself took the rest of his forces with him, and marched, without any noise, thirty furlongs. But when the Jews perceived, in the Morning, that the camp was empty, they ran upon those four hundred who had deluded them, and immediately threw their darts at them, and slew them; and then pursued after Cestius. But he had already made use of a great part of the night in his flight, and still marched quicker when it was day; insomuch that the soldiers, through the astonishment and fear they were in, left behind them their engines for sieges, and for throwing of stones, and a great part of the instruments of war. So the Jews went on pursuing the Romans as far as Antipatris; after which, seeing they could not overtake them, they came back, and took the engines, and spoiled the dead bodies, and gathered the prey together which the Romans had left behind them, and came back running and singing to their metropolis; while they had themselves lost a few only, but had slain of the Romans five thousand and three hundred footmen, and three hundred and eighty horsemen. This defeat happened on the eighth day of the month Dius, [Marchesvan,] in the twelfth year of the reign of Nero.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
"Will you go with me?"
'"No, indeed; you must go alone. I shall not appear at all."
I came across the above passage near the beginning of one of Myrtle Reed's stories— The Master's Violin —and, towards the end, I found this:
'"Iris, I have been miserable ever since I told you I wrote the letters."
And then, in quite another book— Maurice Thompson's Sweetheart Manette —I came upon this: '"Why can't you tell me?" asked Rowland Hatch.
'"I don't know that I have the right," replied Manette.
Now, that word 'because' is very interesting. 'It is a woman's reason,' Miss Reed confides to us. That may, or may not, be so. I know nothing about that. It is not my business. I only know that it is the oldest reason, and the safest reason, and by far the strongest.
Now, really, no man can say why. As Miss Reed says in another passage lying midway between the two quoted: 'We all do things for which we can give no reason.' We do them because. No man can say why he prefers coffee to cocoa, or mutton to beef. He likes the one better than the other because. No man can say why he chose his profession. He decided to be a doctor or a carpenter because. No man can say why he fell in love with his wife. It would be an affectation to pretend that she is really incomparably superior to all other women upon the face of the earth. And yet to him she is not only incomparably superior, and incomparably lovelier, and incomparably nobler, but she is absolutely the one and only woman on the planet or off it. No other swims into the field of vision. She is first, and every other woman is nowhere. Why? 'Because!' There is no other reason.
The fact is that we get into endless confusion when we sail out into the dark, mysterious seas that lie beyond that 'because.' Nine times out of ten our conclusions are unassailable. And nine times out of ten our reasons for reaching those conclusions are absurdly illogical, totally inadequate, or grossly mistaken. Everybody remembers the fable of the bantam cock who assured the admiring farmyard that the sun rose every morning because of its anxiety to hear him crow! The fact was indisputable; the sun did certainly rise every morning. It was only at the attempt to ascribe a specific reason for its rising that the argument broke down. It is always safer to say that the sun rises every morning because. Ministers at least will recall the merriment that Hugh Latimer made of Master More. The good man had been appointed to investigate the cause of the Goodwin Sands. He met with small success in his inquiries. At last he came upon an old man who had lived in the district nearly a hundred years. The centenarian knew. The secret sparkled in his eyes. Master More approached the prodigy. 'Yes, sir,' the old man answered, 'I know. Tenterden Steeple is the cause of Goodwin Sands! I remember when they built the steeple. Before that we never heard of sands, or flats, or shallows off this haven. They built the steeple, and then came the sands. Yes, sir, Tenterden Steeple is the cause of the destruction of Sandwich Harbour!'
When we wander beyond that wise word 'because' circumstances seem malicious; they conspire to deceive us. I remember passing a window in London in which a sewing-machine was displayed. The machine was working. A large doll sat beside it, its hand on the wheel. The doll's hand appeared to be turning the handle. As a matter of fact, the machine was electrically driven, and the wheel turned the hand of the doll. In the realm of cause and effect we are frequently the dupes and victims of a very dexterous system of legerdemain. The resultant quantity is invariably clear; the contributing causes are not what they seem.
I find myself believing to-day pretty much what I believed twenty years ago; but I find myself believing the same things for different reasons. As life goes on, a man learns to put more and more confidence in his conclusions, and to become more and more chary of the reasons that led to those conclusions. If a certain course seems to him to be right, he automatically adopts it, and he confidently persists in it even after the reasons that first dictated it have fallen under suspicion. 'More than once in an emergency at sea,' says Dr. Grenfell, the hero of Labrador, 'I have swiftly decided upon a certain line of action. If I had waited to hem my reason into a corner before adopting that course, I should not be here to tell the tale.' We often flatter ourselves that we base our conclusions upon our reasons. In reality, we do nothing of the kind. The mind works so rapidly that it tricks us. It is another case of legerdemain. Once more, it is the machine that turns the doll, and not the doll that turns the machine. Our thinking faculties often play at ride-a-cock-horse. We recall Browning's lines:
When I see boys ride-a-cock-horse,
I find it in my heart to embarrass them
By hinting that their stick's a mock horse,
And they really carry what they say carries them.
The rugged truth is, that we first of all reach our conclusions. That is the starting-point. Then, amazed at our own temerity in doing so, we hasten to tack on a few reasons as a kind of apology to ourselves for our own intrepidity, a tardy concession to intellectual decency and good order. But whether we recognize it or not, we do most things because. As Pascal told us long ago, 'the heart has reasons which the reason does not know. It is the heart that feels God, not the reason.' When old Samuel Wesley lay dying in 1735, he turned to his illustrious son John, saying: 'The inward witness, son, the inward witness! That is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity!' 'I did not at the time understand him,' says John, in quoting the words with approval long afterwards. But the root of the whole matter lies just there.
My reference to Dr. Grenfell reminds me. The good doctor was questioned the other day as to his faith in immortality. 'I believe in it,' he replied, 'because I believe in it. I am sure of it, because I am sure of it.' Precisely! That is the point. We believe because. And then, on our sure faith, we pile up a stupendous avalanche of Christian evidences. Emerson tells us of two American senators who spent a quarter of a century searching for conclusive evidence of the immortality of the soul. And Emerson finishes the story by saying that the impulse which prompted their long search was itself the strongest proof that they could have had. Of course! Although they knew it not, they already believed. They believed because. And then, finding their faith naked, and feeling ashamed, they set out to beg, borrow, or steal a few rags of reasons with which to deck it. It is the problem of Professor Teufelsdrockh and Sartor Resartus over again. It all comes back to Carlyle's 'Everlasting Yea.' The shame is mock modesty; and the craving is a false one. A woman's reason is the best reason. As the years go by, we become less and less eager for evidence. We are content to believe because. 'I was lately looking out of my window,' Martin Luther wrote from Coburg to a friend, 'and I saw the stars in the heavens, and God's great beautiful arch over my head, but I could not see any pillars on which the great Builder had fixed this arch; and yet the heavens fell not, and the great arch stood firmly. There are some who are always feeling for the pillars, and longing to touch them. And, because they cannot touch them, they stand trembling, and fearing lest the heavens should fall. If they could only grasp the pillars, then the heavens would stand fast.'
'"But how do you know that there is any Christ? You never saw Him!" said poor Augustine St. Clare, the slave-owner, to Uncle Tom, the slave.
'"I feel it in my soul, mas'r—feel Him now! Oh, mas'r, the blessed Lord Jesus loves you!"
'"But how do you know that, Tom?" said St. Clare.
'"I feels it in my soul, mas'r; oh, mas'r, the love of Christ that passeth knowledge."
'"But, Tom, you know that I have a great deal more knowledge than you; what if I should tell you that I don't believe your Bible? Wouldn't that shake your faith some, Tom?"
'"Not a grain, mas'r!" And St. Clare felt himself borne, on the tide of Tom's faith and feeling, almost to the gate of heaven.
'"I like to hear you, Tom; and some time I'll talk more."'
Uncle Tom's argument was the strongest and most convincing after all; if only all we arguers, and debaters, and controversialists could come to recognize it. He believed because. And, now that I come to think of it, Miss Myrtle Reed is wrong in calling it a woman's reason. It is a divine argument, the oldest, and sweetest, and strongest of all divine arguments. I said just now that a man loves a woman just because he loves her, and he could not in a thousand volumes give an intelligent and convincing explanation of his preference. And—let me say it in a hushed and reverent whisper—God loves in much the same way. Listen, and let me read: 'The Lord did not set His love upon you because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you!' He loved because He loved. He loved because.
I intend, therefore, to proclaim the magnificent verities of the Christian gospel. I shall talk with absolute certainty, and with unwavering confidence, about the sin of man, the love of God, the Cross of Christ. If my message is met with a 'why' or a 'wherefore,' I have only one reply—'Because!' There is nothing else to be said. The preacher lives to tell a wonderful love-story. And a love-story is never arguable. 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son!' Why? Because!
Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Till you are entirely His
Let your endurance be a finished product, so that you may be finished and complete, with never a defect.
--- James 1:4 (Moffatt).
Many of us are all right in the main, but there are some domains in which we are slovenly. It is not a question of sin, but of the remnants of the carnal life which are apt to make us slovenly. Slovenliness is an insult to the Holy Ghost. There should be nothing slovenly, whether it be in the way we eat and drink, or in the way we worship God.
Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the external expression of that relationship must be right. Ultimately God will let nothing escape, every detail is under His scrutiny. In numberless ways God will bring us back to the same point over and over again. He never tires of bringing us to the one point until we learn the lesson, because He is producing the finished product. It may be a question of impulse, and again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to the one particular point; or it may be mental wool-gathering, or independent individuality. God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right.
We have been having a wonderful time this Session over the revelation of God’s Redemption, our hearts are perfect towards Him; His wonderful work in us makes us know that in the main we are right with Him; now, says the Spirit, through St. James, “Let your endurance be a finished product.” Watch the slipshod bits—‘Oh, that will have to do for now.’ Whatever it is, God will point it out with persistence until we are entirely His.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
God looked at space and I appeared,
Rubbing my eyes at what I saw.
The earth smoked, no birds sang;
There were no footprints on the beaches
Of the hot sea, no creatures in it.
God spoke. I hid myself in the side
of the mountain.
As though born again
I stepped out into the cool dew,
Trying to remember the fire sermon,
Astonished at the mingled chorus
Of weeds and flowers. In the brown bark
Of the trees I saw the many faces
Of life, forms hungry for birth,
Mouthing at me. I held my way
To the light, inspecting my shadow
Boldly; and in the late Morning
You, rising towards me out of the depths
Of myself. I took your hand,
Remembering you, and together,
Confederates of the natural day,
We went forth to meet the Machine.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass, Alice challenges Humpty Dumpty on his use of a particular word.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
At first glance our Midrash seems simple enough. The Rabbis point out that sometimes the Bible uses the word “tomorrow” and means it literally, and other times it uses the same word more generally. But on a deeper level, the Midrash is warning us: Things aren’t always what they appear to be; words don’t always mean what we think they do.
George Orwell, in his classic novel 1984, showed us what can happen when sinister, instead of silly, individuals become masters of words. Orwell describes “Newspeak,” created by the State to control the individual. The ultimate examples of this new language are the three banners that are found everywhere in Oceania: “War Is Peace.” “Freedom Is Slavery.” “Ignorance Is Strength.” Totalitarianism begins, we are reminded, not with tanks rolling down Main Street but with the control of the printed and spoken word.
Newspeak is fiction, but in many realms of modern life a similar retooling of our language has already taken place. The military has created its own parlance whose purpose is to hide the realities and horrors of war from the public. We no longer hear about “battlefields”; instead, military spokesmen talk about the “theater of operations.” We are told that there was “significant collateral damage,” a euphemistic way of saying that a lot of innocent people were killed when a bomb missed its target. We can’t question or criticize what our government is doing if we don’t understand what it is that they are telling us.
Our Midrash is teaching: Be careful with words, even with those that appear to be simple and obvious; they may mean something entirely different from what we think. Do not accept them at face value. Look beneath the surface, check the context, investigate the source. Be sure that the speaker and the listener share a common lexicon—and a common agenda.
Don’t take language for granted; take it seriously. And do it today. “Tomorrow” may be too late.
Sometimes, we promise to do something “tomorrow,” and we take that very literally. When we don’t do it tomorrow—the letter we were going to write, the phone call we had to make, that important project—then we get angry, upset. We may say, “I didn’t do it when I was supposed to, and it’ll never get done.” But there are many meanings to the word “tomorrow.” It can mean “the day after today,” but it can also mean “in the future, at some later date.”
One of the best known songs of Naomi Shemer, Israel’s greatest modern composer, is מָחָר/“Maḥar,” “Tomorrow.” Composed in 1967 in the wake of the Six-Day War, that song speaks of the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of the modern Israeli, all of which will be achieved “tomorrow.”
Tomorrow when the army takes off its uniforms
Our hearts will turn silent.
After, each person will build with his own two hands
What he dreamed today.
All this is not a fable or a dream.
It’s clear as the afternoon light.
All this will happen tomorrow if not today
And if not tomorrow, then the day after.
Israel has been able to achieve such success in so many areas—agriculture, finance, culture—because the society has said, “We’ll aim to do this today, and if not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then at the very latest the day after tomorrow.” This ideology is reflected in the Hebrew word מָחֳרָתַיִם/moḥoratayim, translated in the Naomi Shemer song as “the day after” or “two days from now” (a doubled form of מָחָר/maḥar, “tomorrow”).
Putting off to tomorrow should not be an excuse to procrastinate. Rather, it should give us the ability to carry out long-range projects in the future—if not tomorrow, then during the tomorrows that follow after.
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
[This delight in prayer] is a delight in God, who is the object of prayer. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) The glory of God—communion with him, enjoyment of him—is the great goal of believers in their prayers. Such delight in prayer is only a spark of the delight that the soul has in the object of prayer. God is the center, in whom the soul rests, and the goal that the soul aims at. According to our perceptions of God are our desires for him; when we see him as the chief good, we will desire him and delight in him as the chief good. There must first be a delight in God before there can be a spiritual delight or a constancy in duty. Delight is a grace, and, as faith, desire, and love have God for their object, so does this. And according to the strength of our delight in the object or purpose is the strength of our delight in the means of attainment. When we delight in God as glorious, we will delight to honor him; when we regard him as good, we will delight to pursue and enjoy him and delight in that which brings us into communion with him. Those who rejoice in God will rejoice in every approach to him. “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). The more joy in God, the more strength to go to him. The lack of this is the reason of our snail-like motion to him. We have no sweet thoughts of God and therefore no mind to converse with him. We cannot judge our delight in prayer to be right if we do not have a delight in God—natural men and women may have a delight in prayer when they have corrupt and selfish ends. They may have a delight in a duty as it is a means, according to their understanding, to gain their purpose, as Balaam and Balak offered their sacrifice cheerfully, hoping to ingratiate themselves with God and to have liberty to curse his people.
--- Stephen Charnock
The Blessed Tie July 31
John Fawcett was converted as a teenager listening to George Whitefield. He joined the Baptists and was ordained on July 31, 1765. He began pastoring a poor church in Wainsgate, finding time here and there for writing. His writings spread abroad, and the little church feared they would lose their pastor to a larger place. Fawcett wondered the same thing, lamenting in his diary that his family was growing faster than his income.
The call came from London’s famous Carter’s Lane Church. “Think of it!” Fawcett told his wife. “They want us in London to take the place of the late Dr. Gill at that great church! It’s almost unbelievable!” The following Sunday he broke the news to his church, then began packing. Books, dishes, pictures, and furniture were crated for the overland journey to the world’s largest city. When the day of departure came, church members assembled and bravely tried to hold their tears. Finally everything was loaded but one box, and Fawcett entered the house to retrieve it. There he found his wife deep in thought. “John,” she said, voice breaking, “do you think we’re doing the right thing? Will we ever find a congregation to love us and help us with the Lord’s work like this group here?”
“Do you think we’ve been too hasty in this?” John asked.
“Yes. I think we should stay right here and serve these people.”
John was silent a moment, for his heart, too, had been breaking. He nodded. “I was so overjoyed when the call came that I never really prayed about it like a minister should.”
They walked onto the porch, called the people together, revealed their change of heart, and amid joyous tears unloaded their wagons. Fawcett stayed at Wainsgate the rest of his life. But not in obscurity. Out of this experience, he wrote the world-famous hymn:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.
--- Philippians 1:9,10.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 31
“I in them.” --- John 17:23.
If such be the union which subsists between our souls and the person of our Lord, how deep and broad is the channel of our communion! This is no narrow pipe through which a thread-like stream may wind its way, it is a channel of amazing depth and breadth, along whose glorious length a ponderous volume of living water may roll its floods. Behold he hath set before us an open door, let us not be slow to enter. This city of communion hath many pearly gates, every several gate is of one pearl, and each gate is thrown open to the uttermost that we may enter, assured of welcome. If there were but one small loophole through which to talk with Jesus, it would be a high privilege to thrust a word of fellowship through the narrow door; how much we are blessed in having so large an entrance! Had the Lord Jesus been far away from us, with many a stormy sea between, we should have longed to send a messenger to him to carry him our loves, and bring us tidings from his Father’s house; but see his kindness, he has built his house next door to ours, nay, more, he takes lodging with us, and tabernacles in poor humble hearts, that so he may have perpetual intercourse with us. O how foolish must we be, if we do not live in habitual communion with him. When the road is long, and dangerous, and difficult, we need not wonder that friends seldom meet each other, but when they live together, shall Jonathan forget his David? A wife may when her husband is upon a journey, abide many days without holding converse with him, but she could never endure to be separated from him if she knew him to be in one of the chambers of her own house. Why, believer, dost not thou sit at his banquet of wine? Seek thy Lord, for he is near; embrace him, for he is thy Brother. Hold Him fast, for he is thine Husband; and press him to thine heart, for he is of thine own flesh.
Evening - July 31
“And these are the singers … they were employed in that work day and night.” --- 1 Chronicles 9:33.
Well was it so ordered in the temple that the sacred chant never ceased: for evermore did the singers praise the Lord, whose mercy endureth for ever. As mercy did not cease to rule either by day or by night, so neither did music hush its holy ministry. My heart, there is a lesson sweetly taught to thee in the ceaseless song of Zion’s temple, thou too art a constant debtor, and see thou to it that thy gratitude, like charity, never faileth. God’s praise is constant in heaven, which is to be thy final dwelling-place, learn thou to practise the eternal hallelujah. Around the earth as the sun scatters his light, his beams awaken grateful believers to tune their Morning hymn, so that by the priesthood of the saints perpetual praise is kept up at all hours, they swathe our globe in a mantle of thanksgiving, and girdle it with a golden belt of song.
The Lord always deserves to be praised for what he is in himself, for his works of creation and providence, for his goodness towards his creatures, and especially for the transcendent act of redemption, and all the marvellous blessing flowing therefrom. It is always beneficial to praise the Lord; it cheers the day and brightens the night; it lightens toil and softens sorrow; and over earthly gladness it sheds a sanctifying radiance which makes it less liable to blind us with its glare. Have we not something to sing about at this moment? Can we not weave a song out of our present joys, or our past deliverances, or our future hopes? Earth yields her summer fruits: the hay is housed, the golden grain invites the sickle, and the sun tarrying long to shine upon a fruitful earth, shortens the interval of shade that we may lengthen the hours of devout worship. By the love of Jesus, let us be stirred up to close the day with a psalm of sanctified gladness.
I’VE GOT PEACE LIKE A RIVER
The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)
Not merely in the words you say,
Not merely in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you …
And see Christ the Lord instead.
For the past month we have been considering the benefits and blessings of being a Christian—joy, peace, contentment … with rivers of living waters flowing out of such a life (John 7:38). Knowing Christ as personal Savior, experiencing the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and living with a glorious hope for eternity should produce a dramatic difference in the personality and lifestyle of every true believer. Christ’s redemptive work provides not only for our eternal glory, but also for a full and abundant life now (John 10:10). A professing Christian who is perceived by his family, friends, and colleagues to be continually sour, contentious, and discontent is a disgrace to the Gospel and a hindrance in the work of evangelism.
May the words of this little spiritual increasingly become our genuine testimony as we earnestly seek to direct others to Christ the Lord:
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.
I’ve got faith like a mountain in my soul.
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.
I’ve got Christ as my Savior in my soul.
For Today: Psalm 107:9; 119:165; Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; 16:33; Philippians 4:6, 7, 11; 1 Timothy 6:6
Ask God to make your life truly reflect the peace, joy, faith and love of His indwelling presence as you seek to be an effective representative for Him. Allow the Holy Spirit to produce the “rivers of living water” in your daily living. Carry this musical message with you ---
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CIII. — THE third contrivance is — ‘that, according to the trope interpretation of the passage, God neither loves all the Gentiles, nor hates all the Jews; but, out of each people, some. And that, by this use of the trope, the Scripture testimony in question, does not at all go to prove necessity, but to beat down the arrogance of the Jews.’ — The Diatribe having opened this way of escape, then comes to this — ‘that God is said to hate men before they are born, because, He foreknows that they will do that which will merit hatred: and that thus, the hatred and love of God do not at all militate against “Free-will”’ — And at last, it draws this conclusion — ‘that the Jews were cut off from the olive tree on account of the merit of unbelief, and the Gentiles grafted in on account of the merit of faith, according to the authority of Paul; and that, a trope is held out to those who are cut off, of being grafted in again, and a warning given to those who are grafted in, that they fall not off.’ —
May I perish if the Diatribe itself knows what it is talking about. But, perhaps, this is also a rhetorical fetch; which teaches you, when any danger seems to be at hand, always to render your sense obscure, lest you should be taken in your own words. I, for my part, can see no place whatever in this passage for those trope-interpretations, of which the Diatribe dreams, but which it cannot establish by proof. Therefore, it is no wonder that this testimony does not make against it, in the trope-interpreted sense, because, it has no such sense.
Moreover, we are not disputing about cutting off and grafting in, of which Paul here speaks in his exhortations. I know that men are grafted in by faith, and cut off by unbelief; and that they are to be exhorted to believe that they be not cut off. But it does not follow, nor is it proved from this, that they can believe or fall away by the power of “Free-will,” which is now the point in question. We are not disputing about, who are the believing and who are not; who are Jews and who are Gentiles; and what is the consequence of believing and falling away; that pertains unto exhortation. Our point in dispute is, by what merit or work they attain unto that faith by which they are grafted in, or unto that unbelief by which they are cut off. This is the point that belongs to you as the teacher of “Free-will.” And pray, describe to me this merit.
Paul teaches us, that this comes to them by no work of theirs, but only according to the love or the hatred of God: and when it is come to them, he exhorts them to persevere, that they be not cut off. But this exhortation does not prove what we can do, but what we ought to do.
I am compelled thus to hedge in my adversary with many words, lest he should slip away from, and leave the subject point, and take up any thing but that: and in fact, to hold him thus to the point, is to vanquish him. For all that he aims at, is to slide away from the point, withdraw himself out of sight, and take up any thing but that, which he first laid down as his subject design.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library