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Deuteronomy 19     Psalm 106     Isaiah 46     Revelation 16


Deuteronomy 19

Laws Concerning Cities of Refuge

Deuteronomy 19:1 “When the LORD your God cuts off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.

4 “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5 as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6 lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7 Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8 And if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers— 9 provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

Property Boundaries

14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

Laws Concerning Witnesses

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.


Psalm 106

Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good

Psalm 106

1  Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2  Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3  Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

4  Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5  that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.

6  Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9  He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10  So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11  And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12  Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.

13  But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14  But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15  he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16  When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD,
17  the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18  Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19  They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20  They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21  They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22  wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23  Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24  Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25  They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD.
26  Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27  and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

28  Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29  they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30  Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31  And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32  They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33  for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34  They did not destroy the peoples,
as the LORD commanded them,
35  but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36  They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37  They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38  they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39  Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

40  Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41  he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42  Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43  Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44  Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45  For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46  He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47  Save us, O LORD our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD!


Isaiah 46

The Idols of Babylon and the One True God

Isaiah 46 1  Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
2  They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.

3  “Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
4  even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.

5  “To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
6  Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
7  They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble.

8  “Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9  remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10  declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11  calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

12  “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
13  I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.”


Revelation 16

The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

Revelation 16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
6  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”

7 And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”

8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The Seventh Bowl

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

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What I'm Reading

Why “Closure” Requires A Christian Worldview

By J. Warner Wallace 8/15/2014

     Yesterday the jury came back with a Guilty verdictin my most recent cold-case homicide investigation. As I began to read the press clippings and reports related to the case and the verdict, I noticed several reporters wrote about “closure”. One article cited a police official who said, “We sincerely hope that this verdict brings a moment of comfort and closure to Lynne’s family as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one (emphasis mine).” The families of the victims in my cases often start off hoping they will experience “closure” of some sort, only to find this sense of resolution elusive. As a result, I usually try to prepare the families I work with to be cautious in their expectations. Even if we are able to convict the killer, it’s likely these families will never experience “closure”. This expression is typically defined in the following way:

     clo-sure [kloh-zher] – NOUN:
     1. The act of closing; the state of being closed.
     2. A bringing to an end; conclusion.

     Victim families think they will achieve an end to their suffering; a conclusion to their pain. This simply doesn’t happen. Victim families may find justice, but they probably won’t experience closure. As I reflected on this reality last night, reading through the dozens of news report related to the case, I realized the sense of closure these families are seeking is available to them if they are Christians. The Christian worldview offers all of us the kind of closure we are seeking.

     If atheism is true, we are purely material beings. We are only “molecules in motion”; strictly physical beings whose lives are nothing more than a fleeting, temporal series of causes and events. We are born, we live a certain number of years, and then we die. Stuff happens to us; we like some of this stuff and we dislike some of it. Nothing is transcendently good or bad, right or wrong. Some of us live a long time, some shorter. Some die naturally, some die criminally. Sometimes criminals are brought to justice and sometimes they aren’t. Nothing more can really be said (or needs to be said) about this; it’s just the way it is. In a world like this, “closure” (as we typically think about it) is often impossible to achieve. The guilty verdict cannot bring back Lynne Knight (the victim in my most recent case). It cannot end the sense of loss her family continues to experience. While the case is now closed, the family may still find “closure” difficult to achieve.

     But if the Christian worldview is true, a day is coming when all the evil committed in this world will be reversed. All losses will be returned. All pain will be abolished. For those of us who have accepted the pardon offered by God through Jesus Christ, we will someday be reunited with those we miss today. The heavenly realm of God lacks pain, suffering, regret, or frustration. The justice and mercy of God reign in perfect balance: all wrongs are righted, all questions are answered, all doubt is removed, and all joy is returned. If Christianity is true, this often painful mortal experience will draw to a close, once and for all. We will experience justice and closure.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Are you the king of the Jews?

By Lydia McGrew

     When John describes the transfer of Jesus as a prisoner from the custody of the Jewish leaders to Pilate, he paints a vivid scene. The Jewish leaders take Jesus to the Praetorium early in the morning and rouse Pilate to judge his case. They refuse to enter the Praetorium lest they be ceremonially defiled, so Pilate (no doubt annoyed by being awakened to deal with a disturbance from his difficult subjects) goes out to them. He asks them what accusation they bring against Jesus, and they answer unhelpfully, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” (John 18.30) Pilate urges them to judge Jesus according to their own law, since (he suspects) the matter concerns only some violation of Jewish law. They reply, in a frankly bloodthirsty manner, that they are not authorized to put anyone to death, whereupon Pilate reluctantly re-enters the Praetorium and questions Jesus. 13 Not a word is said in the account John gives of an accusation of sedition or any other political accusation against Jesus. But when Pilate confronts Jesus, the first thing he asks is, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v 33) Why does Pilate ask this, if John’s account tells us all that the Jewish leaders have said against Jesus? Why would Pilate even think that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews?

(Jn 18:30-33) 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” ESV

     Luke alone among the Gospels answers this question. 14 Luke tells of the original accusation like this:

(Lk 23:1–3) 23:1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” ESV

     So Luke’s sources evidently indicated that the Jewish leaders made an accusation of sedition against Jesus, forcing Pilate to intervene in the case. 15 It is worth emphasizing the uniqueness of Luke in this respect, since both Matthew and Mark do have a generally similar scene in which Jesus is turned over to Pilate and Pilate asks Jesus whether he is the king of the Jews (Mark 15.1– 3, Matt 27.11– 12). They do not, however, record that the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of sedition when they brought him to Pilate. They merely mention unspecified charges and accusations. Luke is therefore adding details to this part of the story in some way independently of the earlier Gospels, even if we consider him to have been relying in some measure on Mark and/ or Matthew. Luke is reporting independently, moreover, not only in whole passages that are unique but even in passages that cover the same events and contain similar wording.

     (Mk 15:1–3) 15 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things.ESV

     (Mt 27:11–12) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.ESV

     A skeptic might try to say that John’s and Luke’s accounts are in contradiction to one another, but there is no reason to think so unless one insists on taking them both to be complete accounts of everything that was said between Pilate and Jesus’ accusers. But why should we think that? Witnesses do not always give complete accounts. Rather, they often give accounts of what struck them or what they consider most interesting to mention at the time. It is entirely possible that the accusers said both what John gives and what Luke gives— that at first they grumbled to Pilate that they would not have brought Jesus if he were not an evildoer but that, upon Pilate’s trying to refuse the case and give it back to them to judge according to Jewish law, they made the incendiary accusation of sedition, which would bring a sentence of death from the Roman authorities if upheld. The fact that Luke does not tell about the initial slight insouciance toward Pilate and that John does not tell about the accusation of sedition shows the independence of the accounts from each other. The fact that the accounts fit together, with Luke explaining John, is both evidence of the truthfulness of the accounts and evidence that the sources of the accounts were very close to the facts.

Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

     Lydia McGrew

Speed with God

By Sinclair Ferguson 1/1/2009

     When Sereno E. Dwight included the seventy resolutions in his biography of his great-grandfather Jonathan Edwards, he added the arresting comment: “These were all written before he was twenty years of age.”

     Doubtless the resolutions display the marks of relative youth — references to God are frequent, while references to Christ and to grace are noticeably infrequent. Edwards’ sense of the need for radical consecration was then greater than his ability to show how such devotion would need to be resourced in Christ over the long haul. While this is not wholly lacking, there is no doubt that introspection dominates over divine provision. That notwithstanding, the “Resolutions” provide a very powerful illustration of an often-repeated divine pattern: those the Lord means to use significantly he often deals with profoundly in early years.

     Edwards stood in a great puritan tradition of resolution-forming and covenant-making. Both are lost spiritual arts, substituted at best by life-plans that tend to focus on the externals. Edwards, by contrast, was deeply concerned with the internals. He early grasped the value of a deliberate binding of the conscience to a life of holiness and of expressing such commitment in a concrete, objective, and also very specific way. Thus for him, the practice of keeping a journal (in which half of his resolutions are found) was not merely an exercise in narcissism but a careful guarding of the heart against sin. In addition, Edwards was conscious from his teenage years that dealing with indwelling sin (“mortifying” it in the older terminology) meant a commitment to deal generally with all sin, and also repenting of — and mortifying — “particular sins, particularly” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 15.5; Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5, 8–10.. Indeed, these words of Paul form the unwritten backdrop to a number of the resolutions).

     What can we learn for Christian living today from the resolutions themselves? Here are only three of many outstanding lessons:

     Life is for the glory of God. Resolution 4 epitomizes this: “Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.”

     These words have a Daniel-like ring about them (Dan. 1:8). When coupled with Edwards’s further principle that we learn from Scripture how God is to be glorified in our lives, this is both a life-goal statement and a life-simplifying one. The question, what will most tend to the glory of God in this situation? asked against the background of growing biblical wisdom wonderfully simplifies and clarifies the choices of life. In a world full of apparent complexities, this is an invaluable litmus test to use — not least if, like Edwards, you are a teenager.

(Da 1:8) 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.   ESV

     Life should be lived in the light of eternity. This was, of course, a dominant perspective throughout Edwards’ later life. But it was already powerfully present in his late teens. He sought to relate the whole of life to its end (in both senses of the word). In pain he reflected on the sufferings of hell (resolution 10). He lived from death and judgment backwards into the present (resolution 17), and endeavored to do so as if each hour might be his last (resolution 19). He sought to make future happiness a central goal (resolutions 22, 50, 55). Thus, if living for the glory of God simplifies all of life, living in the light of eternity solemnizes all of life and enables one increasingly to give weight to every thought, word, and deed.

     Life is lived best by those who guard the heart. Edwards guarded his emotions and affections — and his verbal and physical expressions of them — with great care. This emerges in several resolutions (including 31, 34, 36, 45, 58, and 59). Particularly noteworthy is resolution 25. Here he stresses that, if he wishes so to live in a holy manner, he must be “resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.” Whether consciously or not, Edwards here recognized a cardinal element in the original temptation — to malign and thus destroy a sense of the generous love and goodness of God to Adam and Eve (“Has he set you in this garden and forbidden you to eat of all the trees?” see Gen. 3:1).

(Ge 3:1) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
  ESV

     As early as the age of nineteen, therefore, Edwards recognized that if he lost a sense of the greatness and generosity of the divine love, there would be no resources of grace to motivate the life of holiness to which he committed himself in his resolutions. Therein lay wisdom far beyond his years.

     When he penned his final series of resolutions in the summer of 1723, Edwards appears to have been reading through Thomas Manton’s sermons on Psalm 119. He refers to the idea of being open to God found in Manton’s exposition of Psalm 119:26 (sermon 27 in a series of 190). There Manton had given directives for those “who would speed with God.” Edwards was certainly such a young man. Great intellect though he was, he recognized that to “speed with God” was a matter of the heart. That is why all of us — teenagers included — can still aspire today to share the devotion to God he expressed so powerfully in his resolutions.

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     Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sinclair Ferguson Books:

The Gospel of Reality

By Gene Edward Veith 2/1/2009

     Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not enough for many denizens of the twenty-first century. In their search for a more palatable Jesus, novelists such as Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code, feminist theologians such as Elaine Pagels, and their acolytes in the media and pop culture are turning to the apocryphal gospels of the early heretics. These are alleged to contain a valid, alternative version of early Christianity, one that can support today’s feminism and moral permissiveness. But comparing the New Testament Gospels to those written centuries later only confirms that these writings are works of history.

     Do you remember the furor over the recent discovery of an ancient manuscript entitled The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed ? The media reported that the document presented Judas as a good guy who turned Jesus over only because Jesus told him to. The reports implied that the church had gotten it wrong over all these centuries, that Judas was no sinister betrayer but a leading disciple to whom Jesus imparted special knowledge. The media coverage indicated that we would now have to re-evaluate our knowledge of Jesus. The translation became a best-seller and National Geographic, which was behind the publication of the text, made a TV documentary on the subject.

     But have you heard the rest of the story? The media that hyped The Gospel of Judas has not been as vigilant in reporting how scholars have been shooting down all of these claims, to the point of accusing the National Geographic of “scholarly malpractice.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, though, has shown how genuine scholarship got hijacked by media sensationalism, pop-culture superficiality, and commercial temptations.

     The media left out the little detail that the manuscript had Judas not turning in Jesus at His request to atone for the sins of the world; rather, Judas was bent on sacrificing Jesus to a demon named Saklas. So much for this being an alternative Christian tradition.

     But the biggest problem was that the manuscript was dishonestly translated. What the National Geographic translated as “spirit” (with Judas being described as the “13th spirit”) should be rendered as “demon” (with Judas being the “13th demon”). The best-seller said that Judas has been “set apart for the holy generation.” It should read “set apart from the holy generation.” Perhaps the most flagrant mistranslation was leaving out a negative, saying that Judas “would ascend to the holy generation.” The manuscript actually says that Judas “would not ascend to the holy generation.”

     The National Geographic translators rendered the text so that it read the opposite of what it actually said. Apparently, even the Gnostic heretics who wrote this document did not think much of Judas.

     But in today’s religious climate, anything Gnostic has a special appeal. The Gnostics believed that the material world is an illusion and that the spirit is all that counts. Thus, the body and what you do with your body has no significance. For today’s theologians, this means that whether you are a man or a woman makes no difference; such physical details of the body have no bearing on spiritual issues. Thus, we have the Hollywood starlets, notorious for their promiscuity and substance abuse, going on about how “spiritual” they are.

     Far from being a legitimate strain of Christianity — before, allegedly, patriarchal churchmen declared it a heresy so that they could oppress women and construct orthodox Christianity as a way to impose their power — Gnosticism is more like the opposite of Christianity.

     The actual Gospels underscore the difference. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are realistic histories. They are not written in poetry — as were the mythic accounts of Homer and Virgil — but in prose, a style used for history. As C.S. Lewis has observed, if the Gospels are fictional, that would be a miracle in itself, since that kind of realistic prose fiction would not be invented for sixteen centuries. The Gnostic Gospels, by contrast — such as the gospels of Mary Magdalene, Philip, and Judas — are mostly philosophical dialogues modeled after those of Plato. Furthermore, the biblical Gospels draw from the actual, physical world — mangers, weddings, lilies of the field — that the Gnostics rejected.

     The canonical Gospels present a common picture of Jesus. His personality, though unlike any imaginative creation, is recognizable and consistent throughout them all, even the very differently written gospel of John. The picture that emerges from the Gnostic Gospels is very different. In addition to the jargon-ridden philosophical mysticism of the dialogs, we have the petulant child of the Infant Narratives who zaps bullies with his super powers.

     The resurrection accounts of the Gospels are especially telling. Their narratives seem disjointed. But look at them closely. They come from the point-of-view of particular individuals, so that we see through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, Peter, the walkers to Emmaus. That is to say, the narratives are eyewitness accounts.

     Jesus — whose risen body eats fish, bears its scars, and can be touched — is the incarnate Son of God who died by torture and rose again to save us from our sins. That is a historical fact. The false Gospels, and the novels and scholarship that supports them, are pure fiction.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Does the Center Hold?

By Keith Mathison 2/1/2009

     If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true?

     The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to be pleasing to God, it must be consistent with the whole system of biblical teaching. But what does such evangelism look like?

     A classic answer to that question is found in R.B. Kuiper’s little book God Centred Evangelism. This book surveys the entire biblical scope of teaching on the subject of evangelism. Kuiper defines evangelism quite simply as “the promulgation of the evangel.” It is, in other words, the proclamation of the gospel. Kuiper explains that his book “is a plea for God–centered, in contradistinction to man-centered, evangelism.” The book, then, presents a theology of evangelism.

     The first chapters set forth some of the essential theological presuppositions for God-centered evangelism. Kuiper explains that God Himself is the author of evangelism, in that before the foundation of the world, He planned the salvation of sinners. This leads directly into chapter-length discussions of God’s love, His election of sinners, and His covenant. After setting forth these basic theological foundations, Kuiper then deals with various biblical aspects of evangelism, beginning with the sovereignty of God and the Great Commission.

     In the Great Commission, Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of “all nations.” The scope of evangelism, then, is universal. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all. If we truly believe what Scripture tells us about the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, then the urgency of evangelism will become evident. A number of heterodox theologies undermine the urgency of evangelism by teaching that unbelievers will get a “second chance” after death. There is, however, no biblical warrant for such teaching, and to assert it is pure presumption.

     Our primary motivation for evangelism should be love of God and love of neighbor. Those who love God will joyfully obey His commission to evangelize and disciple. Those who love their neighbor will desire nothing greater for them than eternal life. Their aim will be to see God glorified through the salvation of sinners like themselves in order that the church would grow.

     The God-ordained means of evangelism is His own Word. It is through the proclamation of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit effectually works faith in men’s hearts. The specific message of evangelism is the gospel. Paul summarizes this message in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” When those who hear the gospel ask what they must do to be saved, Scripture tells us that the answer is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

     In the final chapters of his book, Kuiper surveys issues such as zeal for evangelism, the biblical method of evangelism, cooperation in evangelism, resistance to evangelism, and the triumph of evangelism. He reminds us that we can proclaim the gospel with great hope, looking forward to seeing the fruits of our evangelism, a time when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before the throne of the Lamb, clothed in white and crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9–10).

     For too long, the church has attempted to achieve a worthy goal through worldly means. Let us heed Kuiper’s plea and leave man-centered Madison Avenue methods behind. May we fulfill the Great Commission in a God-glorifying manner.

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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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Total Surrender

By Kevin Smith 2/1/2009

     Gary Thomas, in his book Seeking the Face of God: The Path To A More Intimate Relationship, makes this statement: “Christian health is not defined by how happy we are, how prosperous or healthy we are, or even by how many people we have led to the Lord in the past year. Christian health is ultimately defined by how sincerely we wave our flag of surrender.” What he is saying is this: a major way to measure our spiritual health is to determine how surrendered we are to God. I believe that many of our greatest struggles in living a healthy, productive Christian life come to us because of our unwillingness to surrender fully to God. Our churches are full of people who are not progressively growing in their surrender to Christ; therefore, many of our churches are spiritually unhealthy. Unhealthy churches are focused on self, more concerned with the size of our buildings and budgets than on the glory of Christ in the salvation and sanctification of His elect from all people groups.

     I am an American, actually an African American; I have difficulty with the concept of surrender. Americans don’t surrender. Surrender means weakness. It means defeat. It means I give up, doesn’t it? Surrendering to God is a challenge even for those who have come to know the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ.

     First, let’s examine the kind of surrender I believe the Lord calls for and then the path to it. The passage that has helped me reflect on this is Romans 12:1–2. God calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. By appealing to us to “present” our bodies to God, the apostle is saying that every Christian is a priest — a believer-priest. This is nothing new, for we see the people of the old covenant referred to as a “kingdom of priests” in Exodus 19:6. The new covenant writers pick this up, as in 1 Peter 2:9 where the church is a “royal priesthood.” As priests who stand before God, we must bring something to Him, not to make atonement but in response to the atonement. What do we offer? The only thing we have is ourselves. The surrender God wants is the surrender of our bodies to Him. Our lives and all that we have are to be at God’s disposal. Paul has spoken about the presenting of the members of our bodies to God as “instruments of righteousness” in Romans 6:12–19. No longer are we to give our legs, arms, ears, and minds to commit rebellion against God. Since we have been justified by Christ, we are to surrender the very members of our bodies to God to do what is good in His sight. Paul speaks collectively of this act in chapter 12, showing that it is a total surrender; nothing is left out. No aspect of our lives is to be outside of devotion to God through Jesus Christ.

     He calls for our offering to be living and holy. Notice, God doesn’t want a dead sacrifice; He wants a living one. He intends for His people to live in joyful surrender to Him, finding our pleasure in Him, instead of worldy pursuits. Naturally, since the Lord our God is holy, an offering presented to Him must also be holy — pure and given to His service alone. As God’s people humbly offer ourselves in holiness, Paul says our churches will increasingly experience “spiritual worship.” How we fight about elements of worship! Some dislike hymns. Some dislike contemporary praise songs. Some dislike instruments. All see their preference as more biblical than the others. But none of us truly worships God unless we are growing in joyful surrender to Christ. It is a perversion of worship to the living God that we offer Him dead sacrifices and everything but our holy bodies. We say we are His, but our lives are tainted with self-righteousness, greed, bitterness, racism, lust, and envy. How, then, can we experience the power of God in our lives and witness? The answer lies in daily surrendering our whole selves to God, singing “I Surrender All,” and trusting God to transform us by His power.

     The path to this surrender is also part of our problem. Our minds are full of the things of this world. We hunger for more and will not be satisfied with less, so we go into debt. Our marriages fail as we pursue the American Dream. Is it any wonder that our children who are catechized and sanitized go off to college and act like pagans? They have not experienced or even seen many examples of total surrender to Christ and the power of God at work in such a worshiping community.

     Why are we to surrender ourselves to God totally? Our heavenly Father has poured out His vast wealth of mercy upon us in Christ. Mercy is God’s compassion given to those who are pitiful. It is similar to grace in that it is underserved. Do we really understand what we are without Christ? God’s people must ask Him to reveal to us our total depravity so that we are enabled to mourn over our sin and our culture’s sin. This is the way to blessedness (Matt. 5:4). The mercies of God in justification, sanctification, election, and glorification through Christ are most clearly seen when we understand the distance between God’s holiness and our spiritual poverty. People and churches who are humbled by the great mercies of God are more likely to grow in the surrender of their lives to Christ day by day. Our worship will be God-centered and our minds renewed by the power of the riches of His love. And by God’s marvelous grace, such churches will be enabled to make disciples of the nations who dwell in their communities.

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     Rev. Kevin Smith is senior pastor of Pinelands Presbyterian Church in Cutler Bay, Florida.

The Gospel of the Gospels

By Daniel Hyde 2/1/2009

     Quick. What are the Gospels? Time is up. Did you answer: “The Gospels are the biographies of Jesus Christ?” When we read the Gospels as biographies only, we basically look at them like trees apart from the proverbial forest. There is a better way to read and hear them. The Gospels are biography, but they are theological interpretations of the life of Jesus Christ with the purpose of proclaiming the coming of the king of Israel and the inauguration of His kingdom over all the earth.

     When read this way, we are enabled to read the gospel in the Gospels as the announcement of the fulfillment of the prophets’ promises. Among their promises were that a king would come to Israel, as the Lord promised to Abram (Gen. 17:6), to Judah (Gen. 49:10), to David (2 Sam. 7:12–13), and to the people of God through Solomon’s song (Ps. 72) and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9). When this king would come, He would usher in a kingdom of peace for all nations (Isa. 2:2–4, 9:1–7). We see this coming king and His kingdom in living color in the Gospel narratives.

     The entrance of the king and His kingdom is expressed in the birth narrative of our Lord. In the genealogy of Jesus He is described as the “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The fourteen generations from Abraham to David moved towards the great king and kingdom of Israel (1:2–6), while the fourteen generations from David to Babylon moved away from that glorious king’s kingdom (1:7–11). With the coming of Jesus the fourteen generations from Babylon to Christ are a restoration of the Davidic kingship and kingdom (1:12–16). The true identity of this baby boy is shown by the travels of the “wise men from the east” (2:1) who traveled to find “he who has been born king of the Jews” in order “to worship him” (2:2).

     John heralded this king’s coming, preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), while our Lord’s own preaching in the synagogue was characterized by an announcement of His kingdom (4:17). Throughout His ministry Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (4:23, 9:35; Luke 16:16), a phrase that means that the kingdom is the subject of the gospel. Our Lord preached His parables to communicate to His disciples “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11 see also vv. 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41–45, 47, 52). Jesus used His identity as king to confound the Pharisees, asking them: “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David’” (22:42). Jesus then pointed out that in Psalm 110, David, “in the Spirit, calls him [the Christ] Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord’” (Matt. 22:43–44a). Jesus’ conclusion was masterful, leaving the Pharisees speechless: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (22:45).

     Even the passion narrative is all about the king and His kingdom, not the sad ending of a biography. When the high priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus, he said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (26:63). Jesus answered, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (26:64). Yet this king would first suffer mocking: “Hail, King of the Jews,” having a scarlet robe placed on His back, a crown of thorns placed on His head, and a reed placed in His hand (27:28–29). Even above His head was placed a placard: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet as John’s gospel makes clear, through humiliation our Lord experienced exaltation: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

     Of course, our Lord’s resurrection is the most powerful proof of His kingship and kingdom gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The reason for this, as James said at the Jerusalem Council, was that the resurrection was the raising up of the fallen tent of David (Acts 15:13–18; see Amos 9:11–12). The king has come and has established His kingdom as the prophets foretold.

     What should this way of reading the Gospels do to us? First, it ought to cause us to read the Gospels with more urgency, for the king has come and His kingdom is at hand. Mark’s characteristic word, immediately, shows us the force of reading and coming to grips with its message (1:12, 18, 21, 23, 29, 42). Second, since the Gospels are not mere biographies, they are not to be read from afar, as if they were only stories of what happened “long ago, far, far away.” We are to participate in these narratives by faith: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). Third, preachers need to preach the Gospels not as historic artifacts, as principles for victorious Christian living, nor as window dressing in Holy Week services, but as urgent accounts of the inauguration of an everlasting kingdom that our king has established in this world. Ministers must preach the gospel from the Gospels and not turn them into new laws.

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     Daniel R. Hyde is the Pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church (Carlsbad/Oceanside, California), Adjunct Instructor of Ministerial Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Adjunct Instructor of Systematic Theology and Missions at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is currently writing his PhD on John Owen’s liturgical theology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Deut. 19; Psalm 106; Isaiah 46; Revelation 16

By Don Carson 6/14/2018

     The justice envisaged Deuteronomy 19 seems to stand a considerable distance from the views that prevail in Western nations today.

     With part of this text’s emphasis, most of us will find ourselves in substantial sympathy: the courts must not convict a person on meager evidence. In the days before powerful forensic tools, this almost always meant that multiple witnesses should be required (Deut. 19:15). Today the kind of evidence thought to be sufficient has expanded: fingerprints, blood-typing, and so forth. Most of us recognize that this is a good thing. But enough reports have circulated of evidence that has been tampered with that the concern of our text is scarcely out of date. Procedures and policies must be put in place that make it difficult to corrupt the court or convict an innocent person.

     But the rest of the chapter (Deut. 19:16-21) seems, at first, somewhat alien to us, for three reasons. (1) If careful judges determine that some witness has perjured himself, then the judges are to impose on that person the penalty that would have been imposed on the defendant wrongfully charged: you are to “do to him as he intended to do to his brother” (Deut. 19:19). (2) The aim is “to purge the evil from among you” (Deut. 19:20). (3) Once again, the lex talionis (the “eye for an eye” statute) is repeated (Deut. 19:21; cf. Ex. 21:24, and the meditation for March 11).

     All three points are looked at very differently in Western courts. (1) Punishment for malicious perjury is usually negligible. But this means there is little official effort to fan the flame of social passion for public justice. You lie if you can get away with it; the shame is only in getting caught. (2) Our penal theorists think incarceration serves to make society a safer place, or provides a venue for reform (therapeutic or otherwise), or ensures that an offender “pays his debt to society.” So much effort goes into analyzing the social conditions that play a contributing role in shaping a criminal that everywhere there is widespread reluctance to speak of the evil of a person or an act. Perhaps that is why revenge movies have to depict really astoundingly horrendous cruelty in one-dimensional monsters before the revenge can be justified. The Bible’s stance is truly radical (i.e., it goes to the radix, the root): judicially, the courts must purge out the evil among you. (3) We incarcerate; we rarely think about the justice of making a punishment “fit” the crime. But that was one of the functions of the lex talionis.

     When one focuses on justice and personal accountability, it is our own judicial and penal system that seems increasingly misguided and alien.

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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 64

Hide Me from the Wicked
64 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3 who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
6 They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     10. There can be no doubt that this great progress has been made from slender beginnings. They could not reach so far at one step, but at one time by craft and wily art, secretly raised themselves before any one foresaw what was to happen; at another time, when occasion offered, by means of threats and terror, extorted some increase of power from princes; at another time, when they saw princes disposed to give liberally, they abused their foolish and inconsiderate facility. The godly in ancient times, when any dispute arose, in order to escape the necessity of a lawsuit, left the decision to the bishop, because they had no doubt of his integrity. The ancient bishops were often greatly dissatisfied at being entangled in such matters, as Augustine somewhere declares; but lest the parties should rush to some contentious tribunal, unwillingly submitted to the annoyance. These voluntary decisions, which altogether differed from forensic strife, these men have converted into ordinary jurisdiction. As cities and districts, when for some time pressed with various difficulties, betook themselves to the patronage of the bishops, and threw themselves on their protection, these men have, by a strange artifice, out of patrons made themselves masters. That they have seized a good part by the violence of faction cannot be denied. The princes, again, who spontaneously conferred jurisdiction on bishops, were induced to it by various causes. Though their indulgence had some appearance of piety, they did not by this preposterous liberality consult in the best manner for the interests of the Church, whose ancient and true discipline they thus corrupted, nay, to tell the truth, completely abolished. Those bishops who abuse the goodness of princes to their own advantage, gave more than sufficient proof by this one specimen of their conduct, that they were not at all true bishops. Had they had one spark of the apostolic spirit, they would doubtless have answered in the words of Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal," but spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). But hurried away by blind cupidity, they lost themselves, and posterity, and the Church.

11. At length the Roman Pontiff, not content with moderate districts, laid hands first on kingdoms, and thereafter on empire. And that he may on some pretext or other retain possession, secured by mere robbery, he boasts at one time that he holds it by divine right, at another, he pretends a donation from Constantine, at another, some different title. First, I answer with Bernard, "Be it that on some ground or other he can claim it, it is not by apostolic right. For Peter could not give what he had not, but what he had he gave to his successors--viz. care of the churches. But when our Lord and Master says that he was not appointed a judge between two, the servant and disciple ought not to think it unbecoming not to be judge of all" (Bernard. de Considerat. Lib. 2). Bernard is spearing of civil judgments, for he adds, "Your power then is in sins, not in rights of property, since for the former and not the latter you received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Which of the two seems to you the higher dignity, the forgiving of sins or the dividing of lands? There is no comparison. These low earthly things have for their judges the kings and princes of the earth. Why do you invade the territories of others?" &c. Again, "You are made superior" (he is addressing Pope Eugenius), "for what? not to domineer, I presume. Let us therefore remember, however highly we think of ourselves, that a ministry is laid upon us, not a dominion given to us. Learn that you have need of a slender rod, not of a sceptre, to do the work of a prophet." Again, "It is plain that the apostles are prohibited to exercise dominion. Go you, therefore, and dare to usurp for yourself, either apostleship with dominion, or dominion with apostleship." Immediately after he says, "The apostolic form is this; dominion is interdicted, ministry is enjoined." Though Bernard speaks thus, and so speaks as to make it manifest to all that he speaks truth, nay, though without a word the thing itself is manifest, the Roman Pontiff was not ashamed at the Council of Arles to decree that the supreme right of both swords belonged to him of divine right.

12. As far as pertains to the donation of Constantine, those who are moderately versant in the history of the time have no need of being told, that the claim is not only fabulous but also absurd. But to say nothing of history, Gregory alone is a fit and most complete witness to this effect. For wherever he speaks of the emperor he calls him His Most Serene Lord, and himself his unworthy servant. [589] Again, in another passage he says, "Let not our Lord in respect of worldly power be too soon offended with priests, but with excellent consideration, on account of him whose servants they are, let him while ruling them also pay them due reverence." We see how in a common subjection he desires to be accounted one of the people. For he there pleads not another's but his own cause. Again, "I trust in Almighty God that he will give long life to pious rulers, and place us under your hand according to his mercy." I have not adduced these things here from any intention thoroughly to discuss the question of Constantine's donation, but only to show my readers by the way, how childishly the Romanists tell lies when they attempt to claim an earthly empire for their Pontiff. The more vile the impudence of Augustine Steuchus, who, in so desperate a cause, presumed to lend his labour and his tongue to the Roman Pontiff. Valla, as was easy for a man of learning and acuteness to do, had completely refuted this fable. And yet, as he was little versant in ecclesiastical affairs, he had not said all that was relevant to the subject. Steuchus breaks in, and scatters his worthless quibbles, trying to bury the clear light. And certainly he pleads the cause of his master not less frigidly than some wit might, under pretence of defending the same view, support that of Valla. But the cause is a worthy one, which the Pope may well hire such patrons to defend; equally worthy are the hired ravers whom the hope of gain may deceive, as was the case with Eugubinus.

13. Should any one ask at what period this fictitious empire began to emerge, five hundred years have not yet elapsed since the Roman Pontiffs were under subjection to the emperors, and no pontiff was elected without the emperor's authority. An occasion of innovating on this order was given to Gregory VII. by Henry IV., a giddy and rash man, of no prudence, great audacity, and a dissolute life. When he had the whole bishoprics of Germany in his court partly for sale, and partly exposed to plunder, Hildebrand, who had been provoked by him, seized the plausible pretext for asserting his claim. As his cause seemed good and pious, it was viewed with great favour, while Henry, on account of the insolence of his government, was generally hated by the princes. At length Hildebrand, who took the name of Gregory VII., an impure and wicked man, betrayed his sinister intentions. On this he was deserted by many who had joined him in his conspiracy. He gained this much, however, that his successors were not only able to shake off the yoke with impunity, but also to bring the emperors into subjection to them. Moreover, many of the subsequent emperors were liker Henry than Julius Cæsar. These it was not difficult to overcome while they sat at home sluggish and secure, instead of vigorously exerting themselves, as was most necessary, by all legitimate means to repress the cupidity of the pontiffs. We see what colour there is for the grand donation of Constantine, by which the Pope pretends that the western empire was given to him.

14. Meanwhile the pontiff ceased not, either by fraud, or by perfidy, or by arms, to invade the dominions of others. Rome itself, which was then free, they, about a hundred and thirty years ago, reduced under their power. At length they obtained the dominion which they now possess, and to retain or increase which, now for two hundred years (they had begun before they usurped the dominion of the city) they have so troubled the Christian world that they have almost destroyed it. Formerly, when in the time of Gregory, the guardians of ecclesiastical property seized upon lands which they considered to belong to the Church, and, after the manner of the exchequer, affixed their seals in attestation of their claim, Gregory having assembled a council of bishops, and bitterly inveighed against that profane custom, asked whether they would not anathematise the churchman who, of his own accord, attempted to seize some possession by the inscription of a title, and in like manner, the bishop who should order it to be done, or not punish it when done without his order. All pronounced the anathema. If it is a crime deserving of anathema for a churchman to claim a property by the inscription of a title--then, now that for two hundred years, the pontiffs meditate nothing but war and bloodshed, the destruction of armies, the plunder of cities, the destruction or overthrow of nations, and the devastation of kingdoms, only that they may obtain possession of the property of others--what anathemas can sufficiently punish such conduct? Surely it is perfectly obvious that the very last thing they aim at is the glory of Christ. For were they spontaneously to resign every portion of secular power which they possess, no peril to the glory of God, no peril to sound doctrine, no peril to the safety of the Church ensues; but they are borne blind and headlong by a lust for power, thinking that nothing can be safe unless they rule, as the prophet says, "with force and with cruelty" (Ezek. 34:4).

15. To jurisdiction is annexed the immunity claimed by the Romish clergy. They deem it unworthy of them to answer before a civil judge in personal causes; and consider both the liberty and dignity of the Church to consist in exemption from ordinary tribunals and laws. But the ancient bishops, who otherwise were most resolute in asserting the rights of the Church, did not think it any injury to themselves and their order to act as subjects. Pious emperors also, as often as there was occasion, summoned clergy to their tribunals, and met with no opposition. For Constantine, in a letter to the Nicomedians, thus speaks:--"Should any of the bishops unadvisedly excite tumult, his audacity shall be restrained by the minister of God, that is, by my executive" (Theodoret. Lib. 1 c. 20). Valentinian says, "Good bishops throw no obloquy on the power of the emperor, but sincerely keep the commandments of God, the great King, and obey our laws" (Theodoret. Lib. 4 c. 8). This was unquestionably the view then entertained by all. Ecclesiastical causes, indeed, were brought before the episcopal court; as when a clergyman had offended, but not against the laws, he was only charged by the Canons; and instead of being cited before the civil court, had the bishop for his judge in that particular case. In like manner, when a question of faith was agitated, or one which properly pertained to the Church, cognisance was left to the Church. In this sense the words of Ambrose are to be understood: "Your father, of august memory, not only replied verbally, but enacted by law, that, in a question of faith, the judge should be one who was neither unequal from office, nor incompetent from the nature of his jurisdiction" (Ambros. Ep. 32). Again, "If we attend to the Scriptures, or to ancient examples, who can deny that in a question of faith, a question of faith, I say, bishops are wont to judge Christian emperors, not emperors to judge bishops?" Again, "I would have come before your consistory, O emperor, would either the bishops or the people have allowed me to come: they say that a question of faith should be discussed in the Church before the people." He maintains, indeed, that a spiritual cause, that is, one pertaining to religion, is not to be brought before the civil court, where worldly disputes are agitated. His firmness in this respect is justly praised by all. And yet, though he has a good cause, he goes so far as to say, that if it comes to force and violence, he will yield. "I will not desert the post committed to me, but, if forced, I will not resist: prayers and tears are our weapons" (Ambros. Hom. de Basilic. Traden.). Let us observe the singular moderation of this holy man, his combination of prudence, magnanimity, and boldness. Justina, the mother of the emperor, unable to bring him over to the Arian party, sought to drive him from the government of the Church. And this would have been the result had he, when summoned, gone to the palace to plead his cause. He maintains, therefore, that the emperor is not fit to decide such a controversy. This both the necessity of the times, and the very nature of the thing, demanded. He thought it were better for him to die than consent to transmit such an example to posterity; and yet if violence is offered, he thinks not of resisting. For he says, it is not the part of a bishop to defend the faith and rights of the Church by arms. But in all other causes he declares himself ready to do whatever the emperor commands. "If he asks tribute, we deny it not: the lands of the Church pay tribute. If he asks lands, he has the power of evicting them; none of us interposes." Gregory speaks in the same manner. "I am not ignorant of the mind of my most serene lord: he is not wont to interfere in sacerdotal causes, lest he may in some degree burden himself with our sins." He does not exclude the emperor generally from judging priests, but says that there are certain causes which he ought to leave to the ecclesiastical tribunal.

16. And hence all that these holy men sought by this exception was, to prevent irreligious princes from impeding the Church in the discharge of her duty, by their tyrannical caprice and violence. They did not disapprove when princes interposed their authority in ecclesiastical affairs, provided this was done to preserve, not to disturb, the order of the Church, to establish, not to destroy discipline. For, seeing the Church has not, and ought not to wish to have, the power of compulsion (I speak of civil coercion), it is the part of pious kings and princes to maintain religion by laws, edicts, and sentences. In this way, when the emperor Maurice had commanded certain bishops to receive their neighbouring colleagues, who had been expelled by the Barbarians, Gregory confirms the order, and exhorts them to obey. [590] He himself, when admonished by the same emperor to return to a good understanding with John, Bishop of Constantinople, endeavours to show that he is not to be blamed; but so far from boasting of immunity from the secular forum, rather promises to comply as far as conscience would permit: he at the same time says, that Maurice had acted as became a religious prince, in giving these commands to priests.

__________________________________________________________________

[586] There is nothing repugnant to this in the statement of Augustine (Ep. 119), that as the teachers of liberal arts and pursuits, so bishops also were often accustomed, in their judicial proceedings, to chastise with the rod.

[587] 120 D120 It is truly unfortunate that these sound sentiments were not heeded by Calvin himself, when, exactly six years before this definitive edition of 1559 was published, he asked the councils of Geneva to arrest the heretic Michael Servetus, brought charges against him, carried on the debate to prove that his heresy was threatening the Church of Christ, and approved of the verdict to put him to death (although he urged beheading instead of burning at the stake). Calvin even wrote a small book defending the death sentence upon Servetus. Today there is a monument on Champel, the hill upon which Servetus perished in the flames. It was erected on the 350th anniversary of the execution, by followers of Calvin. The inscription reads: As reverent and grateful sons of Calvin, our great Reformer, repudiating his mistake, which was the mistake of his age, and according to the true principles of the Reformation and the Gospel, holding fast to freedom of conscience, we erect this monument of reconciliation on this 27th of October 1903.

[588] This is stated by Ambrose, Hom. de Basilic. Tradend. See also August. De Fide et Operibus, cap. 4.

[589] Gregor. Lib. 2 Ep. 5; Lib. 3 Ep. 20; Lib. 2 Ep. 61; Lib. 4 Ep. 31, 34.

[590] Lib. 1 Ep. 43; Lib. 4 Ep. 32, 34; Lib. 7 Ep. 39.

__________________________________________________________________

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




  • Grieve Holy Spirit
  • Psalm 19, Part One
  • Part Two


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2011    Ten Years Later

     The world has changed. We are not the same people we were on September 10, 2001. The events of September 11, 2001, and the events that followed in ensuing years have not only changed America but nations and peoples throughout the world. People are more afraid and less naïve. People are more aware of the differences between world religions and of the different cultures of those world religions. People are either more antagonistic towards the religion of their fathers or they are more committed adherents. There are fewer and fewer merely nominal religious bystanders and more and more radical adherents. In ten short years, we have emerged a changed human race — a race of people with a few different norms and many different perspectives, different words and different definitions of words. Those things that once seemed foreign are now familiar, and those things we thought we would never see are now boldly marching down Main Street and entering our homes in ways we never dreamed possible. It has been a rapidly changing ten years, and most people are still trying to figure out what to make of our brave new world.

     September 11, 2001, is a day that is burned into our memories. In the history of the world, humanity has never been a witness to such horrendous terror via live video footage. It is our generation’s dreadful day of infamy. Ten years later, and we have not forgotten the murdered or their families, the heroes or the villains. Terrorist attacks are not isolated to America, nor are they isolated to a particular time in history. That dreadful day was not the start of something new but the consequence of something very old. The historic evil of that sad day ten years ago is a symptom of the historic evil of the day of the fall of man.

     Since the fall, such sins have been common to all men everywhere, and the works of sinful flesh are evident: terrorist attacks at the hands of committed and conservative Muslims; murderous crusades led by cross-draped and body-armored biblically confused crusaders in the name of Christ; indiscriminate mass murders by fame-seeking, face-masked American high school students; discriminatory holocausts fueled by the psychotic minds of nationally appointed madmen; and government-supported, socially accepted infanticide in the once safe wombs of inconvenienced women and their self-centered, irresponsible “men.”

     Although the horrific events of September 11, 2001, sent shock waves throughout the world, our sovereign God was neither shocked nor surprised, and though the world has changed and will continue to change, the one and only God of the Bible has not changed but is forever changing His world by building His kingdom through the advance of the gospel by His sovereign hand and for His own glory.

     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

     Thirteen Stars and Thirteen Stripes. It was on this day, June 14, 1777, that the Second Continental Congress chose this as the Flag of the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Proclamation making this day "National Flag Day." It was also on this day in 1954, that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Act of Congress which added the phrase "One Nation Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Eisenhower stated: "From this day forward… millions of… school children will daily proclaim… the dedication of our nation… to the Almighty."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

God is a verb,
not a noun proper or improper.
--- R. Buckminster Fuller
No more secondhand God, and other writings.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good,
the good is only temporary;
the evil it does is permanent.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi: (11 April, 1910 - 12 July, 1911)., Volume 11...

He did not die for Himself, so neither did He obey for Himself. In both forms of His obedience He acted for us, as our representative and substitute, that through His righteousness many might be made righteous.
--- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology - (3-Volume Set)

Reality is that which when you stop believing in it does not go away.
--- Philip K. Dick
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 8 / “The Lord Is One”:
     “One” and Contemporary Science


     Indeed, we often feel adrift, without a center. The “global village,” about which we have heard so much, integrates technology and business, not our lives as individuals. What the late Ludwig Lewisohn complained about American Jewry is true of the rest of the world: we have assimilated not on the level of America’s finest thinkers, but on the level of junk literature, mindless television, nihilistic and hedonistic entertainment. As individual men and women, we have succumbed to an “anarchic pluralism” that leads us into a contemporary idolatry in the form of a “sophisticated hedonistic individualism.”6 The Zohar calls such a state the alma de’peruda, the “World of Dis-integration” or, in the powerful imagery later introduced by R. Isaac Luria, the “breaking of the vessels,” that at the beginning of time left the unitary quality of existence shattered. Indeed, social psychologists and philosophers have long characterized human life, particularly modern life, as a state of alienation and estrangement.

     In this milieu of incohesiveness and fragmentation, Judaism bids us recite the Shema. If—and this is an important if—we assume that the theological unity of God reflects the existential unity of humanity, then we must understand the Shema’s message of God as eḥad as a beckoning vision, not as a description of current reality. The unity of God is, unquestionably, not yet a fact; it must await, as the Sifre maintained, eschatological fulfillment. But that fulfillment must not be merely a passive one, relegated only to the heart. If not (yet) a fact, it must be championed as a value. It must motivate an active program so that all of life will move toward realizing that “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth”; that the “World of Disintegration” will one day be replaced by the “World of Unity” and reintegration.

     The disparity between what is and what ought to be, between fact and value, between “the Lord our God is One” and “On that day the Lord shall be One and His Name One,” implies a certain tension. If we are called upon actively to help realize the future, how can we declare that God is one? Yet that is precisely how these two tendencies produce psychologically conflicting results. If we declare that “God is one,” implying that humanity is not unified (as Saadia would have it), then we are not summoned to aggressive attempts to implement His unity by actively inviting redemption and promoting the Messianic program. If, however, the divine unity is a value (as Maimonides holds), so that “the Lord shall be one,” it follows that we have a duty to bring down the Messiah from heaven to earth, as it were. All agree that we believe in the coming of the Messiah; what to do, if anything, to hasten his arrival is where the extrapolations of these two views differ. The former counsels patience, the latter anticipation as we await redemption.

     This is a tension that will never be resolved, not until the coming of the Messiah. It is our fate and destiny to participate in this millennial balancing act, yielding neither to despair nor to the illusion that the “end of history” is at hand.

     The challenge of helping to fulfill the divine yiḥud is therefore a very real one, summoning Jews to pursue the vision of yiḥud Hashem on many levels simultaneously. We are called upon to focus our kavvanah, our intention, when reciting the Shema; to keep alive and flourishing expectation of the Messianic redemption by creating the proper conditions for it, while at the same time rejecting the allure of pseudo-Messianism in any form or shape; to advance the fortunes of the State of Israel, not only for its own sake but also as a possible harbinger of the Messianic era; to ingather the exiles from lands of oppression and from “the four corners of the earth”; to make aliyah ourselves; and so on. And all this is to be carried out without impatience and without demanding immediate gratification. For such an impatience has too often led and can again lead to cataclysmic results.

     In the opinion of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (see also the reference to this in the appendix), the first verse of the Shema fulfills not only the requirement to proclaim the unity of God, but also the mitzvah to love God and to study His Torah. In other words, our love of God and study of Torah must be energized by the grand quest for divine unity. These teachings have special meaning for those who have the good fortune and resolve to devote time regularly to the study of Torah, especially those privileged to study in a community of students and scholars all dedicated to Torah. But they are relevant to all other Jews as well. For our study of the Shema has demonstrated that talmud torah, the ongoing and ever deepening study of Torah, is not isolated from the rest of one’s existence. On the contrary, it represents the unifying force of life, its existential glue. Torah study must therefore never lead us to a paralyzed introversion, to intellectual, spiritual, or communal self-involvement that constrains our concern for those outside our immediate circle. While mastery of Torah requires periods of retreat from society and mundane affairs—as does mastery of any great discipline—Torah must never be regarded as a self-enclosed system that turns its back on the world. Rather, it is the instrument for unifying the world under the Holy One. Therefore the goal of Torah study must be to unify, to bring coherence to our own lives and, in expanding circles, to our community, to our people, and to all humankind.

     Seen from this perspective, the study of Torah becomes more inclusive, comprehending within it the “secular” or worldly disciplines that must be integrated with Torah as part of the drama of unifying the divine Name. Indeed, Torah Umadda, the integration of sacred and “secular” studies, is an ideal of avodat Hashem, the lifelong service of God. For when we expand the boundaries of Torah study, we discover that it constitutes a “unified field theory,” allowing us simultaneously to fulfill the mitzvot of unifying God, loving God, and studying Torah.7

     Viewed from this “activist” standpoint, yiḥud Hashem, as articulated in the first verse of the Shema, becomes not only a holy concept but, even more, an extraordinarily powerful value that energizes the worshiper to spiritual ambition even without the promise of immediate success.

     Perhaps this is one reason that we place our hand over our eyes when reciting the Shema, following the practice of R. Judah the Prince (Berakhot 13a). The gesture declares that yiḥud Hashem is not only an idea in our head, not only a dream in our mind’s eye; it is also a value that governs our conduct, a principle that directs our action, a program that must be carried out by our hands. The hands must do what the eyes envision.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. "The present dread you are under seems to me to have seized upon you very unreasonably. It is true, you might justly be dismayed at that providential chastisement which hath befallen you; but to suffer yourselves to be equally terrified at the invasion of men is unmanly. As for myself, I am so far from being affrighted at our enemies after this earthquake, that I imagine that God hath thereby laid a bait for the Arabians, that we may be avenged on them; for their present invasion proceeds more from our accidental misfortunes, than that they have any great dependence on their weapons, or their own fitness for action. Now that hope which depends not on men's own power, but on others' ill success, is a very ticklish thing; for there is no certainty among men, either in their bad or good fortunes; but we may easily observe that fortune is mutable, and goes from one side to another; and this you may readily learn from examples among yourselves; for when you were once victors in the former fight, your enemies overcame you at last; and very likely it will now happen so, that these who think themselves sure of beating you will themselves be beaten. For when men are very confident, they are not upon their guard, while fear teaches men to act with caution; insomuch that I venture to prove from your very timorousness that you ought to take courage; for when you were more bold than you ought to have been, and than I would have had you, and marched on, Athenio's treachery took place; but your present slowness and seeming dejection of mind is to me a pledge and assurance of victory. And indeed it is proper beforehand to be thus provident; but when we come to action, we ought to erect our minds, and to make our enemies, be they ever so wicked, believe that neither any human, no, nor any providential misfortune, can ever depress the courage of Jews while they are alive; nor will any of them ever overlook an Arabian, or suffer such a one to become lord of his good things, whom he has in a manner taken captive, and that many times also. And do not you disturb yourselves at the quaking of inanimate creatures, nor do you imagine that this earthquake is a sign of another calamity; for such affections of the elements are according to the course of nature, nor does it import any thing further to men, than what mischief it does immediately of itself. Perhaps there may come some short sign beforehand in the case of pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes; but these calamities themselves have their force limited by themselves [without foreboding any other calamity]. And indeed what greater mischief can the war, though it should be a violent one, do to us than the earthquake hath done? Nay, there is a signal of our enemies' destruction visible, and that a very great one also; and this is not a natural one, nor derived from the hand of foreigners neither, but it is this, that they have barbarously murdered our ambassadors, contrary to the common law of mankind; and they have destroyed so many, as if they esteemed them sacrifices for God, in relation to this war. But they will not avoid his great eye, nor his invincible right hand; and we shall be revenged of them presently, in case we still retain any of the courage of our forefathers, and rise up boldly to punish these covenant-breakers. Let every one therefore go on and fight, not so much for his wife or his children, or for the danger his country is in, as for these ambassadors of ours; those dead ambassadors will conduct this war of ours better than we ourselves who are alive. And if you will be ruled by me, I will myself go before you into danger; for you know this well enough, that your courage is irresistible, unless you hurt yourselves by acting rashly."

     5. When Herod had encouraged them by this speech, and he saw with what alacrity they went, he offered sacrifice to God; and after that sacrifice, he passed over the river Jordan with his army, and pitched his camp about Philadelphia, near the enemy, and about a fortification that lay between them. He then shot at them at a distance, and was desirous to come to an engagement presently; for some of them had been sent beforehand to seize upon that fortification: but the king sent some who immediately beat them out of the fortification, while he himself went in the forefront of the army, which he put in battle-array every day, and invited the Arabians to fight. But as none of them came out of their camp, for they were in a terrible fright, and their general, Elthemus, was not able to say a word for fear,—so Herod came upon them, and pulled their fortification to pieces, by which means they were compelled to come out to fight, which they did in disorder, and so that the horsemen and foot-men were mixed together. They were indeed superior to the Jews in number, but inferior in their alacrity, although they were obliged to expose themselves to danger by their very despair of victory.

     6. Now while they made opposition, they had not a great number slain; but as soon as they turned their backs, a great many were trodden to pieces by the Jews, and a great many by themselves, and so perished, till five thousand were fallen down dead in their flight, while the rest of the multitude prevented their immediate death, by crowding into the fortification. Herod encompassed these around, and besieged them; and while they were ready to be taken by their enemies in arms, they had another additional distress upon them, which was thirst and want of water; for the king was above hearkening to their ambassadors; and when they offered five hundred talents, as the price of their redemption, he pressed still harder upon them. And as they were burnt up by their thirst, they came out and voluntarily delivered themselves up by multitudes to the Jews, till in five days' time four thousand of them were put into bonds; and on the sixth day the multitude that were left despaired of saving themselves, and came out to fight: with these Herod fought, and slew again about seven thousand, insomuch that he punished Arabia so severely, and so far extinguished the spirits of the men, that he was chosen by the nation for their ruler.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

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

Proverbs 19:13
     by D.H. Stern

13     A son who is a fool is his father’s ruin,
and a nagging wife is like a leak that keeps dripping.


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

                Get a move on

     In the Matter of Determination. Abide in Me. --- John 15:4.

     The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by the Atonement, then I have to construct with patience the way of thinking that is exactly in accordance with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus, I have to do it myself; I have to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “Abide in Me”—in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. It is not a bandbox life.

     Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances because I say it will hinder my communion with Him? That is an impertinence. It does not matter what my circumstances are, I can be as sure of abiding in Jesus in them as in a prayer meeting. I have not to change and arrange my circumstances myself. With Our Lord the inner abiding was unsullied; He was at home with God wherever His body was placed. He never chose His own circumstances, but was meek towards His Father’s dispensations for Him. Think of the amazing leisure of Our Lord’s Life! We keep God at excitement point, there is none of the serenity of the life hid with Christ in God about us.

     Think of the things that take you out of abiding in Christ—‘Yes, Lord, just a minute, I have got this to do; Yes, I will abide when once this is finished; when this week is over, it will be all right, I will abide then.’ Get a move on; begin to abide now. In the initial stages it is a continual effort until it becomes so much the law of life that you abide in Him unconsciously. Determine to abide in Jesus wherever you are placed.


My Utmost for His Highest

Pieta
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Pieta

Always the same hills
  Crowd the horizon,
  Remote witness
  Of the still scene.

  And in the foreground
  The tall Cross,
  Sombre, untenanted,
  Aches for the Body
  That is the back in the cradle
  Of a maid's arms


Selected Poems, 1946-68

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Part II Genesis


     BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 3:6–7 / When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and be ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 19, 6 / And they perceived that they were naked. Even the one mitzvah that they had was stripped from them. And they sewed together fig [תְּאֵנָה/t'einah] leaves. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai said, "This is the leaf that brought grief [תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah] to the world." Rabbi Yitzḥak said, "You have ruined things! Take a thread and sew it up!"

     "CONTEXT / And they, Adam and Eve, perceived that they were naked. The Rabbis were puzzled: Doesn't an unclothed person realize that he is naked? Even a blind person knows that he is naked. What really happened when Adam and Eve opened their eyes? And what is the verse telling us when it says that they perceived that they were naked? This Midrash imagines that even the one mitzvah that they had, not to eat from the tree, was in a figurative sense stripped from them the way clothing would be stripped off a person. It was then that Adam and Eve realized just how "bare" they were, exposed before God as unable to keep the one command that they had.

     "They sewed together fig [תְּאֵנָה/t'einah] leaves. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai (also called Shimon bar Yoḥai) thought of a pun: the word תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig," sounds like another Hebrew word, תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah, "grief" or "trouble." "This is the leaf that brought grief [תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah] by their eating from the tree, in disobedience of God, to the world." What it brought to the world, apparently, is death. Rabbi Yitzḥak said, It's as if God said to Adam and Eve, "You have ruined things! Take a thread and sew it up!" The text says that they sewed the fig leaves together themselves. Adam and Eve themselves had to make amends for what they had wrecked by mending their own clothing.

     "Most of us have been taught, and therefore assume, that Eve gave Adam an apple. After all, we call the protrusion of the larynx the "Adam's apple," not "Adam's pear" or "Adam's grape." But the Bible text says only that "she [Eve] took of its fruit and ate," never specifying which fruit it was. Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai speculates on the fruit and makes a pun, trying to learn a lesson by connecting the Hebrew words תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig,"תּוֹאֲנָה/to-anah, "grief," and עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה/alei t'einah, "fig leaves." (In reality, the first and third words are from the same root; the second from a different root.) Rabbi Shimon is saying that the remedy has to fit the problem; since the sin was committed with the תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig," which caused grief (תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah)—that is, Adam and Eve's sudden knowledge that they were naked—then the remedy must somehow fit. And it does with עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה/alei t'einah, "fig leaves." The punishment fits the crime, linguistically and, more important, philosophically.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Hosea 14:1–9 Love So Amazing
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "3. God's Promises for the Future

     Though His people may turn away from Him, God will not abandon them, even though He disciplines them, for He is true to His covenant and His promises. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself"
(2 Tim. 2:13, NKJV).

     God pleads with His people to return to Him and forsake the sins that were causing their downfall (Hosea 14:1). He had already told them to plow up their hard hearts and seek the Lord (10:12) and to turn to God for mercy (12:6), but now He talks to them like little children and tells them just what to do. The Lord gives them promises to encourage them to repent.

     He will receive us (
Hosea 14:2–3). God had every reason to reject His sinful people, but He chose to offer them forgiveness. Instead of bringing sacrifices, they needed to bring sincere words of repentance and ask God for His gracious forgiveness. "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:16–17, NKJV).

     He will restore us (Hosea 14:4). God restores the penitent to spiritual health and heals their backsliding (Jer. 14:7). When a person collapses with sickness, it's usually the result of a process that's been working in the body for weeks or months. First an infection gets into the system and begins to grow. The person experiences weariness and loss of appetite, then weakness, and then the collapse occurs. When sin gets into the inner person and isn't dealt with, it acts like an insidious infection: it grows quietly; it brings loss of spiritual appetite; it creates weariness and weakness; then comes the collapse.

     For example, when Peter denied his Lord three times, that sin didn't suddenly appear; it was the result of gradual spiritual deterioration. The denial began with Peter's pride, when he told the Lord he would never forsake Him and would even die for Him. The next stage was sleeping when he should have been praying, and then fighting when he should have put away his sword. Peter should have left the scene ("I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" [Matt. 26:31; Zech. 13:7]); but instead, he followed to see what would happen and walked right into temptation.

     When we confess our sins to the Lord, He forgives us and the "germs of sin" are cleansed away (1 John 1:9) but, as with physical sickness, often there's a period of recuperation when we get back our strength and our appetite for spiritual food. "I will love them freely" describes that period, when we're back in fellowship with the Lord and enjoying His presence. We see the smile of His face, for His anger is turned away.

     He will revive us (Hosea 14:5–8). Hosea pictures the restoration of the penitent as the emergence of new life in a dry field on which the refreshing dew has fallen. (Biblical images must be studied carefully and identified accurately, for the same image may be used with different meanings in different contexts. The dew is a case in point. In Hosea 6:4, it represents the fleeting religious devotion of the hypocrites, while in 13:3, it symbolizes the transiency of the people who think they're so secure. Both Jesus and Satan are represented by the lion (Rev. 5:5; 1 Peter 5:8).) In the summer and early autumn in the Holy Land, the dew is very heavy and greatly appreciated (Ps. 133:3; Isa. 18:4). That's what the word "revive" means: to bring new life. The rich vegetation appears, producing beauty and fragrance where once the farmer saw only ugliness and emptiness. The fallow ground becomes a fruitful garden!

     The closing verse presents us with only two alternatives: rebel against the Lord and continue to stumble, or return to the Lord and walk securely in His ways. The first choice is foolish; the second choice is wise.

     "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life" (Deut. 30:19).


Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Judaism in the period between the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. and the last Jewish revolt against Rome in the early second century C.E. has been characterized in various ways. For German scholars of the late nineteenth and early and mid-twentieth century, such as Emil Schürer and Wilhelm Bousset, this was Spätjudentum, “Late Judaism.” The “lateness” was relative to the teaching of the prophets, and bespoke decline as well as chronological sequence. The decline reached its nadir in rabbinic Judaism, understood as a religion of the Law.

     After the Holocaust, this way of characterizing ancient Judaism was widely (but not universally) recognized as not only offensive but dangerous. It was also inaccurate. On any reckoning, the history of Judaism since the Roman period is longer than the preceding history. Moreover, it is now increasingly apparent that the religion of ancient Israel and Judah before the Babylonian conquest was significantly different from the “Judaism” that emerged after the Exile. It has often been assumed that the reforms of Ezra in the fifth century marked the beginning of Judaism, but in fact we have little historical knowledge about these reforms, or indeed about Ezra himself. Shaye Cohen has argued persuasively that the Greek word Ioudaios originally meant “Judean,” a usage that never disappears, but that “in the latter part of the second century B.C.E. is supplemented by a ‘religious’ or ‘cultural’ meaning: ‘Jew’ ” (Cohen 1999: 3; Mason 2007 disputes the supplementary meaning). The word “Judaism” derives from the Greek Ioudaismos, which first occurs in 2 Maccabees (2:21; 8:1; 14:38), as does its counterpart Hellenismos (4:13). The Jewish, or Judean, way of life was certainly recognized as distinctive before this. It was noted by Hecataeus of Abdera at the beginning of the Hellenistic period (ca. 300 B.C.E.). The right of Judeans, even communities living outside of Judah, to live according to their ancestral laws was widely recognized by Hellenistic rulers, who were probably continuing Persian policy. But there are good grounds for regarding “Judaism” as a phenomenon of the Second Temple period. Accordingly, the period under review in this volume belongs to the early history of Judaism, even if the beginnings should be sought somewhat earlier.

     While some biblical books (Daniel and probably Qoheleth) date from the Hellenistic age, the primary evidence for Judaism in this period lies in literature and other evidence dated “between the Bible and the Mishnah” (Nickelsburg 2005). Accordingly, this has sometimes been called the “intertestamental” period. While this term does not have the derogatory character of Spätjudentum, it does reflect a Christian perspective. Moreover, it obscures the fact that the New Testament itself provides evidence for Judaism in this period, and that some of the important Jewish writings (e.g., Josephus, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch) are contemporary with or later than some of the Christian Scriptures. In recent years, it has become customary to use the label “Second Temple Judaism” for this period (Stone 1984). Again, several relevant Jewish authors (most notably Josephus) worked after the destruction of the Second Temple, but the inaccuracy can be excused on the grounds that many of the later writings are still greatly preoccupied with the Temple and its destruction, and that the restructuring and reconceptualizing of the religion that we find in rabbinic literature did not occur immediately when Jerusalem fell. The Second Temple period, however, must begin with the Persians, and includes the editing, if not the composition, of much of the Hebrew Bible.

     In this volume, we are mainly concerned with the evidence for Judaism between the Bible and the Mishnah. There is still overlap with the later biblical books, and the rabbinic corpus, compiled centuries later, also contains material relevant to the earlier period. No characterization, and no exact delimitation, is without problems, but “Early Judaism” seems the least problematic label available. (The designation “Middle Judaism,” suggested by Gabriele Boccaccini [1991], might be applied more appropriately to the Middle Ages. It is hardly appropriate for prerabbinic Judaism.) The conquests of Alexander are taken as the terminus a quo, on the grounds that they marked a major cultural transition. Several extant postbiblical Jewish writings date from the third or early second century B.C.E., prior to the Maccabean Revolt, which has often served as a marker for a new era (e.g., in Schürer’s History). The reign of Hadrian (117–138 C.E.) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 C.E.) are taken to mark the end of an era, but not the end of Judaism by any means. The rabbinic literature, which later tradition would take as normative, took shape in the following centuries, but it did so in conditions that were very different from those that had prevailed before the great revolts.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 14

     Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. --- Hebrews 5:8.

     If some recording angel were to visit all our homes today, and we were asked to name the experiences that have blessed and taught us most, surely that angel’s book would tell of enrichment brought by God’s gifts of love, home, nature, and the beauty of the world; but page after page would tell how trouble, difficulty, bereavement, disappointment—all the things that hurt and leave a mark—had brought blessing by imparting new depth, new insight, to the soul. (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) And these words that stand written of God’s firstborn child, Jesus, God himself may be using as he looks on others of his children: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

     Isn’t this the great transfiguring discovery, that pain can be creative? You do not just have to bear it negatively; you can use it positively. By the grace of God, you can compel the darkest, bitterest experiences to yield up hidden treasures of sweetness and light. Do not think the trials and troubles are meaningless; one day you are going to look into the face of God and thank him for every sorrow and for every tear you ever shed. The true Christian reaction to suffering and sorrow takes difficulties as a God-given opportunity and regards troubles as a sacred trust and wears the thorns as a crown.

     Let this be added—that the loveliest thing of all about the creative attitude toward suffering is that not only do you develop your own character, but you become a source of blessing and of strength to others.

     There is nothing on earth more beautiful to see than suffering transmuted into love. To say that the bitter cup can be drunk heroically is no more than every brave man or woman knows already, but to say that one soul’s hurt and suffering can distill out life and strength and healing for others—that is the everlasting miracle.

     “Yes,” someone will say, “but how am I to do it? I see now that suffering is not so much a problem to be explained as a challenge to be met, but how am I to meet it?”

     The only answer that can ultimately suffice is God incarnate on a cross, facing there the worst that suffering and evil have ever done on the earth. For still he comes to us, this Christ victorious over all the mystery of suffering and evil, and offers to make his triumph ours.
--- James S. Stewart


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

On This Day
     Entombed Alive  June 14

     Methodius was born in Syracuse, Sicily, an island off the Italian coast famous for its olives, wine, and marble. The schools there afforded him a good education, and he developed political ambitions. The capital of the surviving Roman Empire was Constantinople, so Methodius packed his bags and traveled there, hoping for a post at court. Instead he met a monk who persuaded him to abandon secular pursuits and to enter the ministry. Methodius was eventually noticed by Patriarch Nicephorus who gave him ecclesiastical responsibilities.

     The iconoclastic controversy was tearing the church apart at the time. Should icons and images of Christ and the saints be worshiped? Methodius vigorously argued in the affirmative, but he found himself on the losing side. Patriarch Nicephorus was deposed, and Methodius was condemned, flogged, and imprisoned in a tomb with two thieves. When one of the thieves died, officials refused to remove the body, leaving it to rot where it had fallen. Methodius suffered in this putrid confinement for seven years, and he was little more than a skeleton when released.

     But he immediately resumed his crusade for the worship of idols and relics in the Eastern church. He was summoned before Emperor Theophilus and charged with heresy, but he threw the charges back in the ruler’s face: “If an image is so worthless in your eyes,” he reportedly thundered, “how is it you do not also condemn the veneration paid to representations of yourself? You are continually causing them to be multiplied.”

     Emperor Theophilus died soon thereafter, and his widow, Theodora, took Methodius’s side. Icon worshipers returned to the churches, exiled clergy returned to the empire, and within 30 days icons had been reinstated in all the churches of the capital.

     Methodius was named Patriarch of Constantinople and soon called a council of Eastern churches to endorse his decrees about icons and to institute the Feast of Orthodoxy, celebrating the return of images to the churches. He ruled as patriarch for four years until he died of dropsy on June 14, 847.

     What is an idol worth? It’s merely a false god. Why trust a speechless image made from wood or metal By human hands? What can you learn from idols covered with silver or gold? They can’t even breathe. Pity anyone who says to an idol of wood or stone, “Get up and do something!” Let all the world be silent— The LORD is present in his holy temple.
--- Habakkuk 2:18-20.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 14

     “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” --- Psalm 37:4.

     The teaching of these words must seem very surprising to those who are strangers to vital godliness, but to the sincere believer it is only the inculcation of a recognized truth. The life of the believer is here described as a delight in God, and we are thus certified of the great fact that true religion overflows with happiness and joy. Ungodly persons and mere professors never look upon religion as a joyful thing; to them it is service, duty, or necessity, but never pleasure or delight. If they attend to religion at all, it is either that they may gain thereby, or else because they dare not do otherwise. The thought of delight in religion is so strange to most men, that no two words in their language stand further apart than “holiness” and “delight.” But believers who know Christ, understand that delight and faith are so blessedly united, that the gates of hell cannot prevail to separate them. They who love God with all their hearts, find that his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Such joys, such brimful delights, such overflowing blessednesses, do the saints discover in their Lord, that so far from serving him from custom, they would follow him though all the world cast out his name as evil. We fear not God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.

     Delight and true religion are as allied as root and flower; as indivisible as truth and certainty; they are, in fact, two precious jewels glittering side by side in a setting of gold.

     “’Tis when we taste thy love,
     Our joys divinely grow,
     Unspeakable like those above,
     And heaven begins below.”



          Evening - June 14

     “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face … because we have sinned against thee.” --- Daniel 9:8.

     A deep sense and clear sight of sin, its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves, should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. Alas! that it should be so. Favoured as we have been, we have yet been ungrateful: privileged beyond most, we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. Who is there, although he may long have been engaged in the Christian warfare, that will not blush when he looks back upon the past? As for our days before we were regenerated, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love—light which has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced. Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God’s own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus’ bosom. Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I pray you look at his repentance, and hear his broken bones, as each one of them moans out its dolorous confession! Mark his tears, as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp! We have erred: let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence. Look, again, at Peter! We speak much of Peter’s denying his Master. Remember, it is written, “He wept bitterly.” Have we no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears? Alas! these sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning. My soul, bow down under a sense of thy natural sinfulness, and worship thy God. Admire the grace which saves thee—the mercy which spares thee—the love which pardons thee!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 14

          ROOM AT THE CROSS FOR YOU

     Words and Music by Ira R. Stanphill, 1914–1994

     But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

     Out of the varied experiences of a fruitful life have come the many moving hymns of Ira F. Stanphill. As a child he traveled by covered wagon from Arkansas to New Mexico, then later moved to Oklahoma and Kansas. Converted at age 12, Stanphill began preaching at 22 in revival meetings and later served pastorates in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. At 17 he wrote his first Gospel song and traveled for several years with evangelists, playing the piano, organ, ukulele and accordion.

     Mr. Stanphill began to write his own Gospel hymns, and he employed the unusual practice of creating a text from titles suggested from the congregation during a service. He would explain:

     “The basic reason I have written songs is that I love God and Christ has loved me. Most of my songs are the outgrowth of real experiences with Christ. I think they appeal to people because I have had trials, heartaches, and sorrow in my own life, and I know what I write about.”

     “Room at the Cross” was a title suggested to Ira in 1946 at one of his meetings. He wrote it on a scrap of paper, which he found in his pocket after returning home. Impressed with the title, he quickly wrote both words and music as they appear today. Since then the song has been recorded by numerous Christian artists, translated into Spanish, German, and Italian, and was used as the closing theme of the national broadcast Revival Time for many years. Only eternity will reveal the number who have been directed to Christ through this one Gospel hymn that reminds us that there is always room at the cross for one more sinner.

     The cross upon which Jesus died is a shelter in which we can hide; and its grace so free is sufficient for me, and deep is its fountain—as wide as the sea.

     Tho millions have found Him a friend and have turned from the sins they have sinned, the Savior still waits to open the gates and welcome a sinner before it’s too late.

     The hand of my Savior is strong, and the love of my Savior is long; through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain, the blood flows from Calv’ry to cleanse every stain.

     Chorus: There’s room at the cross for you; tho millions have come, there’s still room for one—Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.


     For Today: Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9, 10, 13; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 2:3.

     No one can hear the message of God’s great love as displayed at Calvary and remain unmoved. Resolve to invite some needy sinner to come to the cross. Share this musical truth with that person ---

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. LV. — ANOTHER passage is adduced by our Diatribe out of Gen. iv. 7.: where the Lord saith unto Cain, “Under thee shall be the desire of sin, and thou shalt rule over it.” — “Here it is shewn (saith the Diatribe) that the motions of the mind to evil can be overcome, and that they do not carry with them the necessity of sinning.” —

     These words, ‘the motions of the mind to evil can be overcomes’ though spoken with ambiguity, yet, from the scope of the sentiment, the consequence, and the circumstances, must mean this: — that “Free-will,” has the power of overcoming its motions to evil; and that, those motions do not bring upon it the necessity of sinning. Here, again; what is there excepted which is not ascribed unto “Free-will?” What need is there of the Spirit, what need of Christ, what need of God, if “Free-will” can overcome the motions of the mind to evil! And where, again, is that ‘probable opinion’ which affirms, that “Free-will” cannot so much as will good? For here, the victory over evil is ascribed unto that, which neither wills nor wishes for good. The inconsiderateness of our Diatribe is really — too — too bad!

     Take the truth of the matter in a few words. As I have before observed, by such passages as these, it is shewn to man what he ought to do, not what he can do. It is said, therefore, unto Cain, that he ought to rule over his sin, and to hold its desires in subjection under him. But this he neither did nor could do, because he was already pressed down under the contrary dominion of Satan. — It is well known, that the Hebrews frequently use the future indicative for the imperative: as in Exod. xx. 1-17. “Thou shalt, have none other gods but Me,” “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and in numberless other instances of the same kind. Otherwise, if these sentences were taken indicatively, as they really stand, they would be promises of God; and as He cannot lie, it would come to pass that no man could sin; and then, as commands, they would be unnecessary; and if this were the case, then our interpreter would have translated this passage more correctly thus: — “let its desire be under thee, and rule thou over it,” (Gen. iv. 7.) Even as it then ought also to be said concerning the woman, “Be thou under thy husband, and let him rule over thee,” (Gen. iii. 16.) But that it was not spoken indicatively unto Cain is manifest from this: — it would then have been a promise. Whereas, it was not a promise; because, from the conduct of Cain, the event proved the contrary.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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