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Joshua 7     Psalm 137-138     Jeremiah 1     Matthew 15

Joshua 7

Israel Defeated at Ai

Joshua 7 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

The Sin of Achan

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction.[a] I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise[b] to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

Psalm 137

How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song?

Psalm 137

1 By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows[a] there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

Psalm 138

Give Thanks to the Lord

Psalm 138 Of David.

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Jeremiah 1

Jeremiah 1

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

The Call of Jeremiah

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond[a] branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

13 The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” 14 Then the Lord said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

Matthew 15

Traditions and Commandments

Matthew 15 1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;

9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

What Defiles a Person

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus Heals Many

29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Out of the Many, One

By Anthony Carter 12/1/2009

     In the title “United States of America,” the emphasis is necessarily on the word united. When America was in its infancy and seeking to establish itself as a sovereign nation, it faced many challenges, not the least of which was that King George of England was not interested in letting his colonies in America go free. If these colonies were to establish themselves as a nation apart from British rule, they were going to have to do so by defeating the most powerful army on the earth, namely, the British Army. To do so, it would have to pull together a formidable army out of a scattered rag-tag group of colonial militia. Yet, perhaps the most daunting task in this mission was the pulling together thirteen separate colonies and convincing them of the need to rally around a single vision and mission. This would not be easy.

     Each of these thirteen colonies had been established with its own sense of autonomy and the rhetoric for revolution had only fueled the autonomous spirit. Yet, the Fathers of the Revolution understood the necessity of the unity of these colonies. Therefore, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were commissioned to develop a seal around which unity in colonies could be fostered. The seal that they suggested contained the Latin phrase e pluribus unum — out of many, one.

     The revolutionary call to freedom had the ability to unite in the midst of diversity, and the now ubiquitous e pluribus unum captured it. While the phrase identified the brilliance of our nation’s architects, the understanding of unity in the midst of diversity is something the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for and accomplished nearly two millennia prior.

     In a real sense, e pluribus unum is the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17:20–23 where he asked the Father concerning His disciples that “they (the many) may all be one.” This is rather remarkable when you consider that Jesus knew the disunity among them and the disunity that would arise in the early church. Yet, Jesus prays because the unity for which He prayed is the unity that He would purchase.

     Unity of the faith was created by Christ. It was indeed purchased by Him on the cross and validated in the resurrection. We don’t achieve it as much as we recognize it and seek to maintain it (Eph. 4:3). Yet what is the centralized focus of this unity? With so much diversity in expression within the universal church of Jesus Christ, how are we to understand the unity purchased by Christ, and how are we to be eager to maintain it? I believe we find the answer in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

     As the apostle Paul took up pen to write to the church of Corinth, it would seem that he was writing to the church today. The divisive issues he endeavored to confront sound eerily familiar. It would appear that they were divided by the same things we tend to divide over today. They were divided over popular personalities (1:10–12); church discipline (5:1–6); personal liberties (8:1–13); the Lord’s Supper (11:17–22); spiritual gifts (12:1–31); and even worship (14:26–33). While Paul took time to deal pastorally with each of these issues and more, when it came time to sum up the issue for the Corinthians, he brought them right back to the core fundamental truth that must identify and unify all Christians, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maintaining unity in the above mentioned issues is important and should be pursued. Yet, for Paul they were not of first importance. The thing that Paul posited as the central unifying truth is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see this in the way he concluded the letter.

     In bringing the letter to a conclusion, he told the Corinthians that there is one central truth that unites all Christians. It is the fundamental, uncompromising, indispensable truth that Paul said he first taught them and continued to insist upon — “that Christ died for our sins…was buried…was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). This we are told is that which is of first importance. It is the non-negotiable, the sine qua non of the faith.

     There are many things over which Christians have disagreed, and continue to disagree, yet there cannot be and must not be disunity concerning the fact that the Son of God became man, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead. This, according to Paul, is the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1). Without this our faith, living, preaching, and death is in vain. This identifies and unites Christians all over the world and through time. This is the truth that if denied separates the false from the true believers.

     Ever since the founding of America, there has been much over which Americans have disagreed and even found grounds for disunity. Yet, the United States of America remains the United States because there is one central unifying truth and virtue that always rises above all others — freedom. So also in the church there is one unifying truth. There is much over which Christians find to disagree and unfortunately sow discord. Yet, no matter where the church finds herself or the nature of her expression, if she is true there is the central unifying theme — the gospel. In the gospel Jesus provided the answer to His prayer, e pluribus unum. Out of the many, and through the gospel, we are one.

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     Per Amazon, A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and Point University of East Point, GA, Tony is lead pastor of East Point Church, East Point, GA. Pastor Tony live in East Point GA with his wife and five children.

Anthony Carter Books:

For My Good?

By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2010

     In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.

     However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.

     As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.

     On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.

     The comfort that I enjoy from knowing God’s providence is mixed at times with the knowledge that His providence may bring me pain. I don’t look forward to the experience of pain with a giddy anticipation; rather, there are times when it’s necessary for me and for others to grit our teeth and to bear the burdens of the day. Again, I have no question about the outcome of such affliction, and yet at the same time, I know that there are afflictions that will test me to the limits of my faith and endurance. That kind of experience and knowledge makes it easy to understand the tension between confidence in God’s sovereign providence and our own struggles with anxiety.

     Romans 8:28, which is a favorite for many of us, states that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). There’s no other text that demonstrates so clearly and magnificently the beauty of God’s sovereign providence than that one. The text does not say that everything that happens to us, considered in and of itself, is good; rather, it says that all things that happen are working together for our good. That is the master plan of God’s redemptive providence. He brings good out of evil. He brings glory out of suffering. He brings joy out of affliction. This is one of the most difficult truths of sacred Scripture for us to believe. I’ve said countless times that it is easy to believe in God but far more difficult to believe God. Faith involves living a life of trust in the Word of God.

     As I live out the travail that follows life on this side of glory, hardly a day goes by that I am not forced to look at Romans 8:28 and remind myself that what I’m experiencing right now feels bad, tastes bad, is bad; nevertheless, the Lord is using this for my good. If God were not sovereign, I could never come to that comforting conclusion — I would be constantly subjected to fear and anxiety without any significant relief. The promise of God that all things work together for good to those who love God is something that has to get not only into our minds, but it has to get into our bloodstreams, so that it is a rock-solid principle by which life can be lived.

     I believe this is the foundation upon which the fruit of the Spirit of joy is established. This is the foundation that makes it possible for the Christian to rejoice even while in the midst of pain and anxiety. We are not stoics who are called to keep a stiff upper lip out of some nebulous concept of fate; rather, we are those who are to rejoice because Christ has overcome the world. It is that truth and that certainty that gives relief to all of our anxieties.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Evangelizing Our Children

By E. Calvin Beisner 1/1/2010

     Reformed Christians take comfort from Acts 2:39: “the promise is for you and for your children.” God’s promises are multi-generational. Paul’s assurance that children even of just one believing parent are “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14) reinforces our confidence, as does his statement: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

     We find the root of this comfort in God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7).

     Yet simply being born of believers doesn’t guarantee salvation (Rom. 2:12–29). A child must also be raised faithfully in the covenant (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:6–9; Ps. 78:1–7), and he must believe (John 3:18). Only those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” are children of God (John 1:10–13).

     But if there is no blanket promise of salvation to the children of believers, is there no advantage to being born to Christian parents?

     Yes! There is great advantage. Like the Jews, they are entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). That is a tremendous advantage, for “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23–25).

     What other children hear the Word in the home, grow up in the church where they hear the preaching and teaching of the Word week in and week out, and where their friends and teachers encourage them to believe and obey? Where they learn the great hymns of the faith and soon have them in memory?

     Yet the promise of salvation is to all who believe, and only to them. Far from unconditionally guaranteeing their salvation, the promises of Scripture to believers for their children establish Christian parents’ responsibility to evangelize our children.

     God tells us to command our children to keep the way of the Lord (Gen. 18:19), which includes faith in Jesus Christ. We are to command our children to trust in Jesus for their salvation. We are to teach them the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” and its implication, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Child, God tells you to obey me. I tell you, repent of your sins and trust in Christ.”

     In short, we must evangelize our children. We must tell them the gospel at every opportunity, before and after they ever profess faith.

     That means teaching them that through law comes the knowledge of sin and therefore no flesh will be justified by works of the law but by faith apart from any such works (Rom. 3:19–28). It means repeating to them over and over again, before and after they are admitted to the Lord’s Table: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

     Not only must we evangelize our children, but we also can evangelize them, and our labor will not be in vain. The normal connection between a parent’s faithfully teaching law and gospel to his child and his child’s believing is implicit in one of the qualifications of an elder — he must have “children who believe” (Titus 1:6).

     But how can we evangelize our children? Here are three concrete, practical things you can do to ensure that your children regularly encounter the gospel in a context that will encourage them to believe it.

     First, and foremost in their younger years, involve them frequently, preferably daily, in family worship. Don’t be intimidated. Keep it simple: read a Bible portion, pray, and sing a hymn or chorus or children’s Bible song.

     Second, inculcate the habit of personal devotions. Again, keep it simple. Simply reading a chapter of the Bible and praying are all they need to do. If they want to keep a journal, prayer list, or write notes, that’s fine, but if pushing for it intimidates them, don’t.

     Third, have your children, every Lord’s Day, in the worship of God, under the preaching of the Word, in the fellowship of the saints, partaking regularly of the Lord’s Supper from their earliest ability to confess their faith to the elders. While personal and family devotions are important, the Bible emphasizes corporate worship.

     But the fundamental thing is this: The more they see that we, though we know ourselves sinners, “[believe] to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and [act] differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth,” and principally that they see we “[accept, receive, and rest] upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life,” as the Westminster Confession of Faith describes the acts of saving faith (14.2), the more likely our children will follow in our footsteps (John 5:19).

     You can evangelize your children through family worship, teaching them personal devotions, and faithful participation in corporate worship. And take heart. The promise — believe and you will be saved — is to you and to your children!

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     Dr. E. Calvin Beisner is an OPC elder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship for Creation. He is associate professor of historical theology and social ethics.

Heaven Rejoices

By Keith Mathison 1/1/2010

     I’ve written a handful of books on a variety of topics, and one thing that occasionally happens when you publish a book is that people ask you to sign it. I think of signing autographs as something that famous people do, so it feels a bit awkward to sign a book. I’m happy to do it, however. If you’ve written a Christian book, many people will want something in addition to your signature. They also ask for your favorite verse of Scripture. Many authors will write down a verse such as John 3:16 or Romans 8:28. My favorite verse of Scripture is Zephaniah 3:17.

     Years ago, I was sitting at a conference book-signing table with a prominent Reformed scholar. He saw me writing “Zeph. 3:17” under my signature. When there was a break in the line, he leaned over and whispered: “Show off.” I knew he was kidding me, but his words were important insofar as he was pointing out the obvious fact that Zephaniah is not on many Christians’ “Favorite Books of the Bible” list. When was the last time you read Zephaniah?

     Before looking at Zephaniah 3:17, it may help to know who Zephaniah was. Zephaniah was a prophet of God who was called to bring a message of judgment to the people of Judah in the seventh century BC during the reign of Josiah (640–609 BC), the last of the godly kings of Judah. This was a crucial period in the history of God’s people because these were the final decades leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians in 722. Judah was on the same path of sin and rebellion. Into this context came the prophet Zephaniah.

     Zephaniah’s book begins with one of the most dramatic declarations of coming judgment found anywhere in Scripture. His description of the calamity that is about to fall upon Judah hearkens back to God’s judgment of the earth during the days of Noah. Zephaniah writes (in 1: 2–3):

“I will utterly sweep away
everything from the face of
the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the
heavens and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind from
the face of the earth,” declares
the Lord.

     Here the wrath of God against those who rebel against Him is on clear display. Those who think such language is harsh do not understand the truly evil nature of sin. Most of the book continues along this vein, with Zephaniah pronouncing oracles of impending doom against Judah and against the nations.

     The final section of the book (3:9–20), however, contains two oracles of salvation. This is not unusual in the prophetic books as the prophets move from oracles of woe to oracles of blessing. Zephaniah’s oracles of blessing indicate that judgment is not God’s last word for His people. He begins with an oracle concerning God’s purification of a faithful remnant (vv. 9–13). This is followed by an oracle describing God’s rejoicing with His people (vv. 14–20). In verse 14, God calls upon His people to sing and rejoice (v. 14), for He has taken away their judgments and removed their enemies (vv. 15–16). Then in verse 17, we read what O. Palmer Robertson calls “the John 3:16 of the OT.”

The Lord your God is in
your midst, a mighty
one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with
loud singing.

     God calls upon His people to sing and rejoice in verse 14. Then in verse 17, He sings and rejoices over them. Stop and consider this for a moment. The Lord God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel, rejoices over the remnant. He exults over the faithful with loud singing. Loud singing! Rejoicing! This is not Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover.” This is not the abstract god of the philosophers. This is our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this God, the living God, rejoices over His faithful remnant with gladness and loud singing.

     Does this remind you of any New Testament passage? Consider the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). The father in this parable, who represents God, sees his prodigal son returning home, and what does he do? He runs to him, embraces him, and kisses him. This was not something a dignified, elderly Jewish man did at the time. Jesus tells us there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7). It is not only the angels who rejoice. God rejoices as well. Zephaniah 3:17 vividly reminds us that our Father in heaven is not some distant deist god who cares nothing for us. It is a picture of profound and deep personal love, the kind of love that would sacrifice all for our sake. The kind of love that did sacrifice all for our sake. To Him be all glory, honor, and power.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

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Preach the Word

By Steven Lawson 1/1/2010

     Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

     Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers were raised up by God to lead this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived apostolic Christianity.

     The same was true in the golden era of the puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wildfire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors—John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others—marched upon the British Empire with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken and history was altered.

     The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.

     The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.

     D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher of Westminster Chapel London, stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching—biblical preaching, expository preaching—is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.

     In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in such similar days of shortage. Tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances. What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling—the divine summons to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).

     What is expository preaching? The Genevan reformer John Calvin explained, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” In other words, God is unusually present, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.

     This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace unoffered, no promise undelivered.

     A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.

     Every preacher must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. He must not parade his personal opinions in the pulpit. Nor may he expound worldly philosophies. The preacher is limited to one task—preach the Word.

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.” This remains the crying need of the hour.

     May a new generation of strong men step forward and speak up, and may they do so loud and clear. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

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     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

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Joshua 7; Psalms 137-138; Jeremiah 1; Matthew 15

By Don Carson 7/5/2018

     It doesn't always work like this, of course. Sometimes it is not the case that the sin of one man and his family — in this case Achan — brings defeat upon the entire believing community (Josh. 7). For example, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira brought death only to themselves (Acts 5), and the punishment they suffered induced a godly fear in the rest of the assembly. On the other hand, the sin of David brought tragic repercussions on the entire nation. Perhaps the most frightening cases are those where countless sins are committed by many, many people, and God does absolutely nothing about it. For the worst judgment occurs when God turns his back on people, and resolutely lets sin take its course. Far better to be pulled up sharply before things get out of hand. That is why so much of the previous forty years of wilderness wanderings was given over to the disciplining hand of God: the purpose was as much educative as reformative.

     Whatever is the case elsewhere in Scripture, here the sin of Achan and his family brings embarrassing defeat to the contingent of troops sent to take the little town of Ai. Worse, it brought death to about thirty-six Israelites (Josh. 7:5). In a sense, Achan was a murderer. When in some consternation Joshua seeks God’s face, God rather abruptly says, in effect, “Stop your praying and deal with the sin in the camp” (Josh. 7:10-12). The point is that God had given explicit and repeated instructions. They had been violated. The covenant between God and the Israelites was essentially communal, and so God is determined to teach the entire community to exercise among its own members the discipline that the covenant mandates.

     No doubt there are some substantial differences to bear in mind when one turns to the new covenant. Nevertheless, here too God says some explicit things, and expects the covenant community to exercise discipline (e.g., 1 Cor. 5; cf. 2 Cor. 11:4; 13:2-3). Paul warns us that failure to take disciplinary action in the church, when there has been flagrant violation, endangers the entire community (1 Cor. 5:6). Pastors of churches and leaders of other Christian organizations who ignore this perspective are inviting disaster among all the people they are called to lead. In the name of peace, the real motivation may simply be cowardice, or worse, a failure to take God’s words seriously. The point is reinforced in the second reading assigned for this date: “I . . . will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Ps. 138:2-3).

(1 Co 5:1–13) 5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

(2 Co 11:4) 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.   ESV

(2 Co 13:2–3) 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— 3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.   ESV

(1 Co 5:6) 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?   ESV

(Ps 138:2–3) 2  I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3  On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 71

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
71 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.

22 I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

      19. But faith, they say, cometh by hearing, the use of which infants have not yet obtained, nor can they be fit to know God, being, as Moses declares, without the knowledge of good and evil (Deut. 1:39). But they observe not that where the apostle makes hearing the beginning of faith, he is only describing the usual economy and dispensation which the Lord is wont to employ in calling his people, and not laying down an invariable rule, for which no other method can be substituted. Many he certainly has called and endued with the true knowledge of himself, by internal means, by the illumination of the Spirit, without the intervention of preaching. But since they deem it very absurd to attribute any knowledge of God to infants, whom Moses makes void of the knowledge of' good and evil, let them tell me where the danger lies if they are said now to receive some part of that grace, of which they are to have the full measure shortly after. For if fulness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, since some of those whom death hurries away in the first moments of infancy pass into life eternal, they are certainly admitted to behold the immediate presence of God. Those, therefore, whom the Lord is to illumine with the full brightness of his light, why may he not, if he so pleases, irradiate at present with some small beam, especially if he does not remove their ignorance, before he delivers them from the prison of the flesh? I would not rashly affirm that they are endued with the same faith which we experience in ourselves, or have any knowledge at all resembling faith (this I would rather leave undecided); [631] but I would somewhat curb the stolid arrogance of those men who, as with inflated cheeks, affirm or deny whatever suits them.

20. In order to gain a stronger footing here, they add, that baptism is a sacrament of penitence and faith, and as neither of these is applicable to tender infancy, we must beware of rendering its meaning empty and vain, by admitting infants to the communion of baptism. But these darts are directed more against God then against us; since the fact that circumcision was a sign of repentance is completely established by many passages of Scripture (Jer. 4:4). Thus Paul terms it a seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11). Let God, then, be demanded why he ordered circumcision to be performed on the bodies of infants? For baptism and circumcision being here in the same case, they cannot give anything to the latter without conceding it to the former. If they recur to their usual evasion, that, by the age of infancy, spiritual infants were then figured, we have already closed this means of escape against them. We say, then, that since God imparted circumcision, the sign of repentance and faith, to infants, it should not seem absurd that they are now made partakers of baptism, unless men choose to clamour against an institution of God. But as in all his acts, so here also, enough of wisdom and righteousness shines forth to repress the slanders of the ungodly. For although infants, at the moment when they were circumcised, did not comprehend what the sign meant, still they were truly circumcised for the mortification of their corrupt and polluted nature--a mortification at which they afterwards aspired when adults. In fine, the objection is easily disposed of by the tact, that children are baptised for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit. This answer at once overthrows all the objections which are twisted against us out of the meaning of baptism; for instance, the title by which Paul distinguishes it when he terms it the "washing of regeneration and renewing" (Tit. 3:5). Hence they argue, that it is not to be given to any but to those who are capable of such feelings. But we, on the other hand, may object, that neither ought circumcision, which is designated regeneration, to be conferred on any but the regenerate. In this way, we shall condemn a divine institution. Thus, as we have already hinted, all the arguments which tend to shake circumcision are of no force in assailing baptism. Nor can they escape by saying, that everything which rests on the authority of God is absolutely fixed, though there should be no reason for it, but that this reverence is not due to pædobaptism, nor other similar things which are not recommended to us by the express word of God. They always remain caught in this dilemma. The command of God to circumcise infants was either legitimate and exempt from cavil, or deserved reprehension. If there was nothing incompetent or absurd in it, no absurdity can be shown in the observance of pædobaptism.

21. The charge of absurdity with which they attempt to stigmatise it, we thus dispose of. If those on whom the Lord has bestowed his election, after receiving the sign of regeneration, depart this life before they become adults, he, by the incomprehensible energy of his Spirit, renews them in the way which he alone sees to be expedient. Should they reach an age when they can be instructed in the meaning of baptism, they will thereby be animated to greater zeal for renovation, the badge of which they will learn that they received in earliest infancy, in order that they might aspire to it during their whole lives. To the same effect are the two passages in which Paul teaches, that we are buried with Christ by baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). For by this he means not that he who is to be initiated by baptism must have previously been buried with Christ; he simply declares the doctrine which is taught by baptism, and that to those already baptised: so that the most senseless cannot maintain from this passage that it ought to precede baptism. In this way, Moses and the prophets reminded the people of the thing meant by circumcision, which however infants received. To the same effect, Paul says to the Galatians, "As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Why so? That they might thereafter live to Christ, to whom previously they had not lived. And though, in adults, the receiving of the sign ought to follow the understanding of its meaning, yet, as will shortly be explained, a different rule must be followed with children. No other conclusion can be drawn from a passage in Peter, on which they strongly found. He says, that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:21). From this they contend that nothing is left for pædobaptism, which becomes mere empty smoke, as being altogether at variance with the meaning of baptism. But the delusion which misleads them is, that they would always have the thing to precede the sign in the order of time. [632] For the truth of circumcision consisted in the same answer of a good conscience; but if the truth must necessarily have preceded, infants would never have been circumcised by the command of God. But he himself, showing that the answer of a good conscience forms the truth of circumcision, and, at the same time, commanding infants to be circumcised, plainly intimates that, in their case, circumcision had reference to the future. Wherefore, nothing more of present effect is to be required in pædobaptism, than to confirm and sanction the covenant which the Lord has made with them. The other part of the meaning of the sacrament will follow at the time which God himself has provided.

22. Every one must, I think, clearly perceive, that all arguments of this stamp are mere perversions of Scripture. The other remaining arguments akin to these we shall cursorily examine. They object, that baptism is given for the remission of sins. When this is conceded, it strongly supports our view; for, seeing we are born sinners, we stand in need of forgiveness and pardon from the very womb. Moreover, since God does not preclude this age from the hope of mercy, but rather gives assurance of it, why should we deprive it of the sign, which is much inferior to the reality? The arrow, therefore, which they aim at us, we throw back upon themselves. Infants receive forgiveness of sins; therefore, they are not to be deprived of the sign. They adduce the passage from the Ephesians, that Christ gave himself for the Church, "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26). Nothing could be quoted more appropriate than this to overthrow their error: it furnishes us with an easy proof. If, by baptism, Christ intends to attest the ablution by which he cleanses his Church, it would seem not equitable to deny this attestation to infants, who are justly deemed part of the Church, seeing they are called heirs of the heavenly kingdom. For Paul comprehends the whole Church when he says that it was cleansed by the washing of water. In like manner, from his expression in another place, that by baptism we are ingrafted into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 7:13), we infer, that infants, whom he enumerates among his members, are to be baptised, in order that they may not be dissevered from his body. See the violent onset which they make with all their engines on the bulwarks of our faith.

23. They now come down to the custom and practice of the apostolic age, alleging that there is no instance of any one having been admitted to baptism without a previous profession of faith and repentance. For when Peter is asked by his hearers, who were pricked in their heart, "What shall we do?" his advise is, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:37, 38). In like manner, when Philip was asked by the eunuch to baptise him, he answered, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Hence they think they can make out that baptism cannot be lawfully given to any one without previous faith and repentance. If we yield to this argument, the former passage, in which there is no mention of faith, will prove that repentance alone is sufficient, and the latter, which makes no requirement of repentance, that there is need only of faith. They will object, I presume, that the one passage helps the other, and that both, therefore, are to be connected. I, in my turn, maintain that these two must be compared with other passages which contribute somewhat to the solution of this difficulty. There are many passages of Scripture whose meaning depends on their peculiar position. Of this we have an example in the present instance. Those to whom these things are said by Peter and Philip are of an age fit to aim at repentance, and receive faith. We strenuously insist that such men are not to be baptised unless their conversion and faith are discerned, at least in as far as human judgment can ascertain it. But it is perfectly clear that infants must be placed in a different class. For when any one formerly joined the religious communion of Israel, he behoved to be taught the covenant, and instructed in the law of the Lord, before he received circumcision, because he was of a different nation; in other words, an alien from the people of Israel, with whom the covenant, which circumcision sanctioned, had been made.

24. Thus the Lord, when he chose Abraham for himself, did not commence with circumcision, in the meanwhile concealing what he meant by that sign, but first announced that he intended to make a covenant with him, and, after his faith in the promise, made him partaker of the sacrament. Why does the sacrament come after faith in Abraham, and precede all intelligence in his son Isaac? It is right that he who, in adult age, is admitted to the fellowship of a covenant by one from whom he had hitherto been alienated, should previously learn its conditions; but it is not so with the infant born to him. He, according to the terms of the promise, is included in the promise by hereditary right from his mother's womb. Or, to state the matter more briefly and more clearly, If the children of believers, without the help of understanding, are partakers of the covenant, there is no reason why they should be denied the sign, because they are unable to swear to its stipulations. This undoubtedly is the reason why the Lord sometimes declares that the children born to the Israelites are begotten and born to him (Ezek. 16:20; 23:37). For he undoubtedly gives the place of sons to the children of those to whose seed he has promised that he will be a Father. But the child descended from unbelieving parents is deemed an alien to the covenant until he is united to God by faith. Hence, it is not strange that the sign is withheld when the thing signified would be vain and fallacious. In that view, Paul says that the Gentiles, so long as they were plunged in idolatry, were strangers to the covenant (Eph. 2:11). The whole matter may, if I mistake not, be thus briefly and clearly expounded: Those who, in adult age, embrace the faith of Christ, having hitherto been aliens from the covenant, are not to receive the sign of baptism without previous faith and repentance. These alone can give them access to the fellowship of the covenant, whereas children, deriving their origin from Christians, as they are immediately on their birth received by God as heirs of the covenant, are also to be admitted to baptism. To this we must refer the narrative of the Evangelist, that those who were baptised by John confessed their sins (Mt. 3:6). This example, we hold, ought to be observed in the present day. Were a Turk to offer himself for baptism, we would not at once perform the rite without receiving a confession which was satisfactory to the Church.

25. Another passage which they adduce is from the third chapter of John, where our Saviour's words seem to them to imply that a present regeneration is required in baptism, "Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). See, they say, how baptism is termed regeneration by the lips of our Lord himself, and on what pretext, therefore, with what consistency is baptism given to those who, it is perfectly obvious, are not at all capable of regeneration? First, they are in error in imagining that there is any mention of baptism in this passage, merely because the word water is used. Nicodemus, after our Saviour had explained to him the corruption of nature, and the necessity of being born again, kept dreaming of a corporeal birth, and hence our Saviour intimates the mode in which God regenerates us--viz. by water and the Spirit; in other words, by the Spirit, who, in irrigating and cleansing the souls of believers, operates in the manner of water. By "water and the Spirit," therefore, I simply understand the Spirit, which is water. Nor is the expression new. It perfectly accords with that which is used in the third chapter of Matthew, "He that cometh after me is mightier than I;" "he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Mt. 3:11). Therefore, as to baptise with the Holy Spirit, and with fire, is to confer the Holy Spirit, who, in regeneration, has the office and nature of fire, so to be born again of water, and of the Spirit, is nothing else than to receive that power of the Spirit, which has the same effect on the soul that water has on the body. I know that a different interpretation is given, but I have no doubt that this is the genuine meaning, because our Saviour's only purpose was to teach, that all who aspire to the kingdom of heaven must lay aside their own disposition. And yet were we disposed to imitate these men in their mode of cavilling, we might easily, after conceding what they wish, reply to them, that baptism is prior to faith and repentance, since, in this passage, our Saviour mentions it before the Spirit. This certainly must be understood of spiritual gifts, and if they follow baptism, I have gained all I contend for. But, cavilling aside, the simple interpretation to be adopted is that which I have given--viz. that no man, until renewed by living water, that is, by the Spirit, can enter the kingdom of God.

26. This, moreover, plainly explodes the fiction of those who consign all the unbaptised to eternal death. [633] Let us suppose, then, that, as they insist, baptism is administered to adults only. What will they make of a youth who, after being embued duly and properly with the rudiments of piety, while waiting for the day of baptism, is unexpectedly carried off by sudden death? The promise of our Lord is clear, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). We nowhere read of his having condemned him who was not yet baptised. I would not be understood as insinuating that baptism may be contemned with impunity. So far from excusing this contempt, I hold that it violates the covenant of the Lord. The passage only serves to show, that we must not deem baptism so necessary as to suppose that every one who has lost the opportunity of obtaining it has forthwith perished. By assenting to their fiction, we should condemn all, without exception, whom any accident may have prevented from procuring baptism, how much soever they may have been endued with the faith by which Christ himself is possessed. Moreover, baptism being, as they hold, necessary to salvation, they, in denying it to infants, consign them all to eternal death. Let them now consider what kind of agreement they have with the words of Christ, who says, that "of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 19:14). And though we were to concede everything to them, in regard to the meaning of this passage, they will extract nothing from it, until they have previously overthrown the doctrine which we have already established concerning the regeneration of infants.

27. But they boast of having their strongest bulwark in the very institution of baptism, which they find in the last chapter of Matthew, where Christ, sending his disciples into all the world, commands them to teach and then baptise. Then, in the last chapter of Mark, it is added, "He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). What more (say they) do we ask, since the words of Christ distinctly declare, that teaching must precede baptism, and assign to baptism the place next to faith? Of this arrangement our Lord himself gave an example, in choosing not to be baptised till his thirtieth year. In how many ways do they here entangle themselves, and betray their ignorance! They err more than childishly in this, that they derive the first institution of baptism from this passage, whereas Christ had, from the commencement of his ministry, ordered it to be administered by the apostles. There is no ground, therefore, for contending that the law and rule of baptism is to be sought from these two passages. as containing the first institution. But to indulge them in their error, how nerveless is this mode of arguing? Were I disposed to evasion, I have not only a place of escape, but a wide field to expatiate in. For when they cling so desperately to the order of the words, insisting that because it is said, "Go, preach and baptise," and again, "Whosoever believes and is baptised," they must preach before baptising, and believe before being baptised, why may not we in our turn object, that they must baptise before teaching the observance of those things which Christ commanded, because it is said, "Baptise, teaching whatsoever I have commanded you"? The same thing we observed in the other passage in which Christ speaks of the regeneration of water and of the Spirit. For if we interpret as they insist, then baptism must take precedence of spiritual regeneration, because it is first mentioned. Christ teaches that we are to be born again, not of the Spirit and of water, but of water and of the Spirit.

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

  • Matthew 15:1-11
  • Mat 15:21-28
  • Mat 15:32-39

#1 11-19-1989 / S451 | Jon Courson


#2 11-5-1989 / S449 | Jon Courson


#3 11-12-1989 / S450 | Jon Courson


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2013    A Life of Faith and Forgiveness

     If you travel to Wittenberg, Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, you may find yourself scratching your head wondering how Martin Luther managed to nail his 95 theses to the solid-bronze door of the 500-year-old castle church. It wouldn’t take you long, however, to realize that the bronze door is a relatively new addition. During the Seven Year’s War (1756–1763), the original, wooden door was lost in the great fire that consumed much of the church building in 1760. As a result, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia had the door replaced with the present bronze door, upon which are inscribed Luther’s 95 theses. And while many Christians are familiar with the history surrounding Luther’s 95 theses, most are unaware of their contents. Largely, they address the abuses of the papacy, especially the grandiose abuses of the papacy’s cohorts, pertaining to the supposed power and efficacy of indulgences. Luther’s first thesis is penetrating. It reads, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

     The amazing thing about Luther’s statement is it teaches that repentance is not simply a one-time action, but is that which is to characterize the entirety of a believer’s life. Repentance takes place not only when a sinner is converted to Christ but every day of a believer’s life in Christ. For that is what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us in the fifth petition: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are taught by our Lord to ask forgiveness for all past sins that the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance and even the multitude of sins that we fail to remember.

     The Word of God teaches us that God requires faith and repentance to be justified. Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin—we cannot express true faith without genuine repentance. We cannot trust Christ without turning away from our trust in ourselves. On this point, John Calvin writes in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith but is also born of faith” (3.3.1). Our expression of repentance and faith is not simply relegated to that point in our lives when we “got saved,” nor is it simply that which we proclaim to others; rather, the message of faith and repentance is something we proclaim to ourselves each and every day, reminding ourselves of the gospel and our justified status before God in Christ. We who have been justified on account of God’s grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone have been forgiven fully and finally, and this forgiveness leads to a life of asking forgiveness, forgiving others, and trusting Christ alone every day of our lives as we live coram Deo, before the face of our forgiving Father in heaven.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Once political enemies they became close friends, and died yesterday, July 4th in the year 1826. An awe swept America as these two men, at distance of 700 hundred miles from each other, died on the same day exactly 50 years since they both signed the Declaration of Independence. Their names: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. President John Quincy Adams stated: “A coincidence … so wonderful gives confidence … that the patriotic efforts of these … men were Heaven directed, and furnishes a new … hope that the prosperity of these States is under the special protection of a kind Providence.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Love is spontaneous,
but it has to be maintained by discipline.
--- Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words
than words without a heart.
--- John Bunyan
The Complete Works of John Bunyan: With an Introduction (Classic Reprint)

Whoever loves much, does much.
--- Thomas a‘ Kempis
Thomas a Kempis Selection: 5 Books
... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     PART III / Verses 3–6
     CHAPTER 16 / “With All Your Heart
     and All Your Soul and All Your Might”

     “With All Your Might”

     Most English-language prayer books translate u-ve’khol me’odekha as “with all your might,” a translation undoubtedly derived from the King James translation of the Bible. Although none of the standard Jewish exegetes explains the word that way, it is nevertheless a legitimate translation of the word, for reasons that will become clear presently.

     The Talmud interprets me’odekha, first, as “your money” (kol mamonkha) (15) or “possessions” (so, for instance, Onkelos: u-ve’khol nikhsakh). The second translation is more of an interpretation: “no matter what destiny He metes out to you, thank Him” (a play on the words me’od-middah-modeh). Both talmudic explanations of the word are cited by Rashi in his Bible commentary. (16) Leaving aside the second interpretation as more homiletic than literal, we are left with two alternative translations: “might” or “money/possessions.” There is, however, no need to choose between them. Ramban and Ibn Ezra before him both point to the obvious origin of the word as me’od, “very.” (17) For Ibn Ezra, the phrase translates into “love Him very very much”; Ramban reconciles this understanding with the rabbinic term mamon, “money,” related either conceptually or etymologically—Ramban can be read both ways—to hammon, “multitude” or “large numbers.” “Very-ness” is thus akin to “money” or possessions. Ramban also relates me’od to ḥayyil, which means “wealth,” both of numbers and of substance, and also implies power or might. The word is often translated as “hosts” (indicating large numbers) while at the same time implying the power that comes with large numbers. So, ḥayyil means “soldier” and, in slightly different contexts, simply “might.” All the three alternative meanings—money, might, and multitude—are related to each other, and all derive, directly or indirectly, from the concept of me’od, “very.” We are commanded to love God with “all your very-ness”—with all we have that speaks of power and possessions. (18)

(15)     Mishnah Berakhot 9:1 and Gemara Berakhot 61b.

(16)     This second interpretation is a variation on the theme of “one must bless God for the bad [news] as well as for the good” (Mishnah Berakhot 9:1; see too Berakhot 33b). In a sense, this more imaginative interpretation may be a further example of “very-ness,” in that we must love God in all extremes of emotion—whether very happy or very sad.

(17)     Both in their respective commentaries to
Deut. 6:5.

(18)     In similar fashion, R. Shneur Zalman explains the rabbinic dictum that the mitzvah of charity (tzedakah) is equivalent to all the other commandments put together by saying that a man’s material means are gained at the expense of all his effort and toil and labor, indeed the very juices of his life; hence when he shares this with those less fortunate, he is giving them not just alms but his “vital soul,” part of his very self. See his Tanya, 1:37.

     Now, if indeed “with all your might” means that we must express our love for God by sacrificing our material means, how far must we go in doing so? What, in other words, are the halakhic guidelines that define and limit this obligation?

     R. Baruch Epstein (19) raises the question of whether we are halakhically required, on this basis, to abandon all our possessions and be reduced to utter penury if forced to violate any negative commandment. Is such extreme financial self-sacrifice mandated to avoid any and every transgression, or does it apply only to the cases of the three cardinal sins—murder, idolatry, and certain categories of sexual immorality—concerning which we are instructed yehareg ve’al yaavor, it is preferable to submit to martyrdom? If the latter is the case, then “with all your might/money” carries the same demands as “with all your soul,” but not more than that. That is, we need to surrender all our worldly goods, as well as to submit to martyrdom, only to avoid committing the three cardinal sins.

(19)     Torah Temimah to
Deut. 6:5.

     The most extreme opinion, that of R. Moses Isserles (Rema), author of the famous glosses to the universally accepted Code of Jewish Law, the Shulḥan Arukh, requires we abandon all our material possessions for the sake of our faith, or our love for God, and not only in the case of the three most serious sins. Without identifying them by name, he cites certain Rishonim (Talmudists of the medieval era) who hold that in order to avoid transgressing any negative commandment, we must be prepared to surrender all we possess. Rema does not distinguish between the three major negative commandments mentioned and the entire gamut of 365 such negative mitzvot. (20)

(20)     Rema to Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 248:16.

     R. Epstein questions this decision, basing his opposition on a passage in the Talmud (Berakhot 61b) that records the Rabbis’ puzzlement about why, after being commanded to risk our lives (“with all your soul”) for God, we now have to be commanded to risk our substance as well: surely, if we accept the former obligation, is it not self-evident that we commit ourselves to the latter? The Rabbis respond with a paradoxical but realistic psychological insight: some people would prefer to yield their lives rather than their substance; such people must be made to understand that they have to be ready to sacrifice not only their lives but also their money. In this passage, the Talmud establishes the equivalence of the phrases “with all your soul” and “with all your might/money.” Therefore, just as the former is operative only with regard to the three major transgressions, so too is the latter. For losing all our worldly goods and being reduced to mendicancy is as devastating as losing our lives. We thus should not sacrifice all our worldly possessions under duress (o’nes) except in the case of the three cardinal sins. Such indeed is the decision of R. Abraham Abele Gombiner, (21) who rules that if confronted by robbers who threaten to take all our possessions on Shabbat, leaving us utterly destitute, we are permitted to violate the Sabbath in order to resist, because such financial devastation is tantamount to pikuaḥ nefesh, a risk to life itself. With some hesitancy, R. Epstein inclines to this view over that of Rema. (22)

(21)     Magen Avraham, commentary to Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 248:16.

(22)     In Torah Temimah to
Deut. 6:5, no. 24, he offers the following insight as support: The words be’khol me’odkha are mentioned in the singular (“your”) in the first paragraph of the Shema, but the parallel plural, be’khol me’odkhem, “with all your (plural) might/money,” is omitted in the next paragraph of the Shema, where it belongs for reasons of symmetry after “with all your (plural) heart” and “with all your (plural) soul.” The reason for this omission, he suggests, is that the first paragraph has as its theme “the accepting of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” the very essence of the first verse of the Shema and its implied denial of idolatry. Now, idolatry is one of the three cardinal sins, and here the sacrifice of one’s possessions is equivalent to the sacrifice of one’s very life. However, the second paragraph deals with the mitzvot in general—“And it shall come to pass if you will listen carefully to My commandments,” etc.—and one is not required to sacrifice all one’s worldly goods for transgressions other than the cardinal three—just as one need not suffer martyrdom for them. However, this interpretation comes to grief because of the fact that the second paragraph of the Shema does contain the command to love God “with all your heart” and “with all your soul.” To be consistent, that would have to imply the necessity for martyrdom even in minor cases, such as the other negative commandments, which, however, is certainly not the case. R. Epstein is aware of the question, but his answer is far from adequate. He writes: in this second paragraph, the two elements of heart and soul are not meant to serve as Halakha, directing the offering up of one’s life, but rather as a general expression of intent and love in serving the Creator. This, however, again violates simple consistency, for then “with all your money” could be explained in the same way—as hortatory rather than halakhic.

     Having touched on the phrase “with all your might” from a halakhic perspective, we will now turn to two homiletical but equally compelling insights, the first by a leading hasidic thinker who was radical in his interpretation of our phrase and whose comments are consistent with the general Weltanschauung of the hasidic movement; and the second by his younger contemporary, a leading mitnagdic Talmudist and Torah commentator.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 2.

     Archelaus Goes To Rome With A Great Number Of His Kindred. He Is There Accused Before Caesar By Antipater; But Is Superior To His Accusers In Judgment By The Means Of That Defense Which Nicolaus Made For Him.

     1. Archelaus went down now to the sea-side, with his mother and his friends, Poplas, and Ptolemy, and Nicolaus, and left behind him Philip, to be his steward in the palace, and to take care of his domestic affairs. Salome went also along with him with her sons, as did also the king's brethren and sons-in-law. These, in appearance, went to give him all the assistance they were able, in order to secure his succession, but in reality to accuse him for his breach of the laws by what he had done at the temple.

     2. But as they were come to Cesarea, Sabinus, the procurator of Syria, met them; he was going up to Judea, to secure Herod's effects; but Varus, [president of Syria,] who was come thither, restrained him from going any farther. This Varus Archelaus had sent for, by the earnest entreaty of Ptolemy. At this time, indeed, Sabinus, to gratify Varus, neither went to the citadels, nor did he shut up the treasuries where his father's money was laid up, but promised that he would lie still, until Caesar should have taken cognizance of the affair. So he abode at Cesarea; but as soon as those that were his hinderance were gone, when Varus was gone to Antioch, and Archelaus was sailed to Rome, he immediately went on to Jerusalem, and seized upon the palace. And when he had called for the governors of the citadels, and the stewards [of the king's private affairs], he tried to sift out the accounts of the money, and to take possession of the citadels. But the governors of those citadels were not unmindful of the commands laid upon them by Archelaus, and continued to guard them, and said the custody of them rather belonged to Caesar than to Archelaus.

     3. In the mean time, Antipas went also to Rome, to strive for the kingdom, and to insist that the former testament, wherein he was named to be king, was valid before the latter testament. Salome had also promised to assist him, as had many of Archelaus's kindred, who sailed along with Archelaus himself also. He also carried along with him his mother, and Ptolemy, the brother of Nicolaus, who seemed one of great weight, on account of the great trust Herod put in him, he having been one of his most honored friends. However, Antipas depended chiefly upon Ireneus, the orator; upon whose authority he had rejected such as advised him to yield to Archelaus, because he was his elder brother, and because the second testament gave the kingdom to him. The inclinations also of all Archelaus's kindred, who hated him, were removed to Antipas, when they came to Rome; although in the first place every one rather desired to live under their own laws [without a king], and to be under a Roman governor; but if they should fail in that point, these desired that Antipas might be their king.

     4. Sabinus did also afford these his assistance to the same purpose by letters he sent, wherein he accused Archelaus before Caesar, and highly commended Antipas. Salome also, and those with her, put the crimes which they accused Archelaus of in order, and put them into Caesar's hands; and after they had done that, Archelaus wrote down the reasons of his claim, and, by Ptolemy, sent in his father's ring, and his father's accounts. And when Caesar had maturely weighed by himself what both had to allege for themselves, as also had considered of the great burden of the kingdom, and largeness of the revenues, and withal the number of the children Herod had left behind him, and had moreover read the letters he had received from Varus and Sabinus on this occasion, he assembled the principal persons among the Romans together, [in which assembly Caius, the son of Agrippa, and his daughter Julias, but by himself adopted for his own son, sat in the first seat,] and gave the pleaders leave to speak.

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 20:21-22
     by D.H. Stern

21     Possessions acquired quickly at first
will not be blessed in the end.

22     Don’t say, “I’ll pay back evil for evil”;
wait for ADONAI to save you.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Don’t calculate without God

     Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.
--- Psalm 37:5.

     Don’t calculate without God.

     God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the things we have calculated on without taking Him into account. We get into circumstances which were not chosen by God, and suddenly we find we have been calculating without God; He has not entered in as a living factor. The one thing that keeps us from the possibility of worrying is bringing God in as the greatest factor in all our calculations.

     In our religion it is customary to put God first, but we are apt to think it is an impertinence to put Him first in the practical issues of our lives. If we imagine we have to put on our Sunday moods before we come near to God, we will never come near Him. We must come as we are.

     Don’t calculate with the evil in view.

     Does God really mean us to take no account of the evil? “Love … taketh no account of the evil.” Love is not ignorant of the existence of the evil, but it does not take it in as a calculating factor. Apart from God, we do reckon with evil; we calculate with it in view and work all reasonings from that standpoint.

     Don’t calculate with the rainy day in view.

     You cannot lay up for a rainy day if you are trusting Jesus Christ. Jesus said—“Let not your heart be troubled.” God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command—“Let not …” Haul yourself up a hundred and one times a day in order to do it, until you get into the habit of putting God first and calculating with Him in view.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

In The Clan
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                In The Clan

There was Edward Thomas. He was very good
  Though it was late before even he knew.
  They gave him a gun and sent him away.
  Two months he lasted, until a stray shell
  With his name on it exploded at Arras.

There was Dylan Thomas. He was bloody good.
  Every Evening after the versifying
  He would sit in a bar with the boyos
  Staring cymrically into his whisky,
  Pouring it down his throat like a fish.

There was D M Thomas too. He was OK
  If you liked sex and psychoanalysis and such
  And goings-on in white hotels.
  In time, poetry ceased to be his field,
  But he of course was not Welsh.

Lastly there was Thomas the Church.
  Duw, that was not an easy man to know,
  Unless your name was Puw or Prytherch,
  But those who read his quiet books
  Reach the simple verdict: he was good.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     “Hang on, sweetie, I just have to fax this to my boss …”

     “… Mr. Johnson, I’m sorry, but my son has the chicken pox. I faxed you as much of the report as I could do today. I’ll get to the rest tomorrow, assuming that I don’t get sick. Sorry, gotta run. My husband’s on the other line.”

     “… Honey, could you stop on the way home and pick up something for dinner? Between the chicken pox and the report that was due yesterday, I didn’t have time to make anything for dinner. I know you have a late meeting. We’ll manage on munchies till you get home.”

     Sound like the pilot of the new television series, Supermom Meets Reality? For many of us today, it is probably an all-too-familiar scene. We’re doing a lot of things at once and often not doing them well. We want to be good parents, children, siblings; we want to excel at work; we’d like to keep up various friendships and business relationships; we want to be involved in the affairs of our community. All of these are positive values. Few of us would say, “Don’t care about your family.” Or “Do a sloppy job at work.” Or “Let someone else worry about the quality of life in the neighborhood.”

     However, having good intentions doesn’t mean that we can act on them. People today often bite off more than they can chew, the result being scenes from a sitcom. We’ve been told “You can have it all.” But we can’t, and deep down we know it, even when “all” are good, positive, and enriching values. If an angel can’t do two missions at once, if God cannot demand that divine messengers carry out multiple functions, then there is a message for us humans: We cannot do a whole array of things at once and do them well. To think that we can is a recipe for failure.

     Even when our hearts are in the right place, our heads have to be screwed on properly. We have to be smart enough, and humble enough, to follow the model of God’s angels. Trying to juggle too many balls at once will ultimately leave us with a mess on the floor, our good intentions ruined and our goals unsatisfied.


     Since time immemorial, people have been busy. But “busy” should not be used as an excuse. Women have often been excluded from activities that would be rewarding and enriching to them with phrases like “You can’t have it all.” Translated, this means: “Stay home, raise your children, and keep out of the world of men.” This is patently unfair to women.

     And it’s especially unjust because the real issue is not “doing too much” but “doing it all at once.” “You can’t have it all—at one time.” The concern here should be on focus, on keeping one’s eye on the ball. People can and do have many dimensions. You can be a good mom or dad, a hard-working employee, a devoted son or daughter, a concerned neighbor and friend. It’s just hard to be all of those at the same time. If we can learn to focus on the important concern of that moment, then we can succeed in many roles, one after another.

     The angel Raphael could have done Gabriel’s job but didn’t. Raphael was focused on his own mission; even an angel can’t juggle two things at once. If we think of our family while at work, and constantly pine over the lost time with them, we’ll probably lose focus on our responsibilities there and do poorly. Similarly, if during our time with family we’re busy planning for the next work project, then our time with the people who are important to us may be less than satisfying.

     The secret is really no secret at all. It’s what Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael did: Concentrate on the matter at hand, and then move on to the next concern. When we’re with our families, we can leave the work at the office. At work, we can do a good job so that we can enjoy family later. Done the right way, with the right priorities, we can have it all.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 5

     You will have a covenant with the stones of the field.
--- Job 5:23.

     This vital connection of the outward world with the grandeur or the debasement of human moral nature is one of the great and neglected truths of Scripture. (The unlighted lustre: Addresses from a Glasgow pulpit ) From the story of Eden with its idyllic environment, through the Fall with its curse of thistles and of thorns, on to the last picture of a new-created earth that will be in harmony with new-created humanity, everywhere the Word of God shows us the kinship between nature and human moral life. Think of what Paul says: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” That is the Bible outlook on the world. The world is not a mere stage for a brief play. It is lit by our triumphs, shadowed by our guilt, touched by our sorrows, watered by our tears. By every right thing we do it is made richer. It grows meaner and poorer by every sin we sin. It is ourselves that are impressed upon the world. It is the story of our own hearts we read in nature. We talk of the voices of the winds and waves, but the voices are only the echo of our souls. And that is why, when you get a soul like Christ’s, infinitely beautiful and filled like a chalice with God, the meanest flower that blows has got a glory with which even the glory of Solomon cannot be compared.

     We quicken or deaden everything we see by the life we live and the sins that we commit. For a bad man or woman there is really no summer, just as there is really no heaven.

     What this summer will mean to you and how you will enjoy it is, after all, a moral and spiritual question. To be at peace with God is to be at peace with nature, and to love God is to see traces of him everywhere. As is my heart with God so is the world of this fresh June to me.
--- George H. Morrison

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

On This Day
     Bread and Book  July 5

     When parents grow exasperated with their children, they often need to remember that God frames us all differently, giving each child a unique perspective and personality. George Borrow was born on July 5, 1803, during the age of Napoleon, and George’s soldier-father expected a disciplined and eager son. Instead, George was moody and introspective with a penchant for running away. He was bored with the conventional and intrigued by the odd. He hated school but possessed an insatiable curiosity about herbalists, fortune-tellers, snakes, and dwarfs. He picked up languages with remarkable ease yet adopted a gypsy life, eventually becoming a tinker with cart and pony, selling pots and pans.

     One Evening while sleeping under the stars, George was awakened by a muffled voice saying, “Cut the rope, this is his pony.” By the faint glow of smoking embers, George saw two figures stealing his rig. He leaped on them, and for two hours the men fought and wrestled. Finally, one of the thieves smashed George’s head with a rock, and the rogues threw his body into the underbrush.

     The next Morning, two traveling Welsh evangelists saw a pair of feet sticking from a thicket. They dragged George to a clearing and attended his cuts with a damp cloth. The men gave him some bread and a book before going their way. George sat in the grass for hours, devouring both the bread and the book, a Bible—the Bread of Life. His brilliant mind soon discovered the Lord.

     In coming years, George learned dozens of languages and became a Bible translator. His autobiography, telling his adventures as a colporteur for the British and Foreign Bible Society, is full of breathtaking perils, narrow escapes, imprisonments, and gypsy-like journeys, especially in Spain. This odd man and his remarkable ministry captured the imagination of England and greatly advanced the cause of European Bible distribution.

     Don’t forget how the LORD your God has led you through the desert for the past forty years. He wanted to find out if you were truly willing to obey him and depend on him, so he made you go hungry. Then he gave you manna, a kind of food that you and your ancestors had never even heard about. The LORD was teaching you that people need more than food to live—they need every word that the LORD has spoken.
--- Deuteronomy 8:2,3.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 5

     “Called to be saints.” --- Romans 1:7.

     We are very apt to regard the apostolic saints as if they were “saints” in a more especial manner than the other children of God. All are “saints” whom God has called by His grace, and sanctified by His Spirit; but we are apt to look upon the apostles as extraordinary beings, scarcely subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as ourselves. Yet in so doing we are forgetful of this truth, that the nearer a man lives to God the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart; and the more his Master honours him in his service, the more also doth the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day. The fact is, if we had seen the apostle Paul, we should have thought him remarkably like the rest of the chosen family: and if we had talked with him, we should have said, “We find that his experience and ours are much the same. He is more faithful, more holy, and more deeply taught than we are, but he has the selfsame trials to endure. Nay, in some respects he is more sorely tried than ourselves.” Do not, then, look upon the ancient saints as being exempt either from infirmities or sins; and do not regard them with that mystic reverence which will almost make us idolaters. Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation. It is a Christian’s duty to force his way into the inner circle of saintship; and if these saints were superior to us in their attainments, as they certainly were, let us follow them; let us emulate their ardour and holiness. We have the same light that they had, the same grace is accessible to us, and why should we rest satisfied until we have equalled them in heavenly character? They lived with Jesus, they lived for Jesus, therefore they grew like Jesus. Let us live by the same Spirit as they did, “looking unto Jesus,” and our saintship will soon be apparent.

          Evening - July 5

     "Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." --- Isaiah 26:4.

     Seeing that we have such a God to trust to, let us rest upon him with all our weight; let us resolutely drive out all unbelief, and endeavour to get rid of doubts and fears, which so much mar our comfort; since there is no excuse for fear where God is the foundation of our trust. A loving parent would be sorely grieved if his child could not trust him; and how ungenerous, how unkind is our conduct when we put so little confidence in our heavenly Father who has never failed us, and who never will. It were well if doubting were banished from the household of God; but it is to be feared that old Unbelief is as nimble nowadays as when the psalmist asked, “Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Will he be favourable no more?” David had not made any very lengthy trial of the mighty sword of the giant Goliath, and yet he said, “There is none like it.” He had tried it once in the hour of his youthful victory, and it had proved itself to be of the right metal, and therefore he praised it ever afterwards; even so should we speak well of our God, there is none like unto him in the heaven above or the earth beneath; “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” There is no rock like unto the rock of Jacob, our enemies themselves being judges. So far from suffering doubts to live in our hearts, we will take the whole detestable crew, as Elijah did the prophets of Baal, and slay them over the brook; and for a stream to kill them at, we will select the sacred torrent which wells forth from our Saviour’s wounded side. We have been in many trials, but we have never yet been cast where we could not find in our God all that we needed. Let us then be encouraged to trust in the Lord for ever, assured that his ever lasting strength will be, as it has been, our succour and stay.

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     July 5


     Edward H. Bickersteth, 1825–1906

     I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

     The quest for inner calm and peace has been a universal struggle for mankind throughout the ages. Even for those of us who profess to be followers of Christ, it is difficult to realize with consistency that “God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts.” It often becomes normal for us to make our own plans without consulting Him for His perfect will.

     This comforting hymn, which reminds us that God’s perfect peace is found only in Christ Jesus, was written by an English minister of the Anglican church. Edward Bickersteth, Jr. served as the Bishop of Exeter, England, and became well-known for his many books of RS Thomas, poetry, and hymns.

     While vacationing in August, 1875, Bickersteth heard a sermon on Isaiah 26:3 and was deeply moved by the way this verse reads in Hebrew: “Thou wilt keep him in peace, peace whose mind is stayed on Thee …” The repetition of the word conveyed the idea of absolute perfection. That afternoon while visiting a dying aged relative, Bickersteth read this verse from Isaiah to comfort the man. Then at the bedside he quickly composed the lines of this hymn text just as it reads today.

     From the Hebrew expression of “peace peace” came the beginning phrase of each stanza, “Peace, perfect peace.” Then questions were posed. For each of these five questions Edward Bickersteth supplied a positive spiritual answer.

     As these completed lines were read to the dying relative, they were no doubt a source of great comfort—as they have continued to be for troubled hearts throughout the years.

     Peace, perfect peace—in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
     Peace, perfect peace—by thronging duties pressed? To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
     Peace, perfect peace—with sorrows surging round? On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
     Peace, perfect peace—with loved ones far away? In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
     Peace, perfect peace—our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

     For Today: Isaiah 26:3; 32:17; John 14:27; Ephesians 1:14; Philippians 4:7.

     Experience the perfect peace of God in your life by realizing anew that it is only obtained through the presence of Christ in our lives—He is our peace (Ephesians 1:14). Carry this musical message as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. LXXVI. — THE Diatribe, having thus first cited numberless passages of Scripture, as it were a most formidable army in support of “Free-will,” in order that it might inspire courage into the confessors and martyrs, the men saints and women saints on the side of “Free-will,” and strike terror into all the fearful and trembling deniers of, and transgressors against “Free-will,” imagines to itself a poor contemptible handful only standing up to oppose “Free-will:” and therefore it brings forward no more than two Scriptures, which seem to be more prominent than the rest, to stand up on their side: intent only upon slaughter, and that, to be executed without much trouble. The one of these passages is from Exod. ix. 13, “The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh:” the other is from Malachi i. 2-3, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Paul has explained at large both these passages in the Romans ix. 11-17. But, according to the judgment of the Diatribe, what a detestable and useless discussion has he made of it! So that, did not the Holy Spirit know a little something of rhetoric, there would be some danger, lest, being broken at the outset by such an artfully managed show of contempt, he should despair of his cause, and openly yield to “Free-will” before the sound of the trumpet for the battle. But, however, I, as a recruit taken into the rear of those two passages, will display the forces on our side. Although, where the state of the battle is such, that one can put to flight ten thousand, there is no need of forces. If therefore, one passage shall defeat “Free-will,” its numberless forces will profit it nothing.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Ai Joshua 7
s2-111 3-13-2016 | Brett Meador

Jeremiah 1-2
12-28-2016 / W7243 | Jon Courson

Lect 11  New Covenant
Dr. David Mathewson

Lect 12  People Of God
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Lect 13  People Of God 2
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Lect 14  People Of God 2a
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Lect 15  Image Of God 1
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L16   Image Of God 2
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L17   Kingdom of God Part 2
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L18   New Exodus - Pt 1
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L19   New Exodus - Pt 2
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L20   Messiah/God Pt 1
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L21   Messiah/God Pt 2
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L22   Jesus' Death
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L23   Jesus' Death & Resurrection
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L24   Holy Spirit Pt 1
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