Various LawsDeuteronomy 22:1 “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.
5 “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
6 “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. 7 You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.
8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.
12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.
Laws Concerning Sexual Immorality13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness.
Sit at My Right HandPsalm 110 A Psalm Of David.
1 The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
Great Are the LORD’s Works
Psalm 111 Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
The Servant of the LORDIsaiah 49:1
Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the LORD,
and my recompense with my God.”
5 And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
7 Thus says the LORD,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
The Restoration of Israel
8 Thus says the LORD:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall feed along the ways;
on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a road,
and my highways shall be raised up.
12 Behold, these shall come from afar,
and behold, these from the north and from the west,
and these from the land of Syene.”
13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See Learning To Rest In God's Faithfulness below.
16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
17 Your builders make haste;
your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.
18 Lift up your eyes around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the LORD,
you shall put them all on as an ornament;
you shall bind them on as a bride does.
19 “Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land—
surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20 The children of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
‘The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart:
‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone;
from where have these come?’ ”
22 Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their arms,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
23 Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 For thus says the LORD:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
that I am the LORD your Savior,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Rejoicing in HeavenRevelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The Rider on a White Horse11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
A ‘Great’ Leader
By Gene Edward Veith 4/1/2009
These days it’s easy to become cynical about politicians, government officials, and other national leaders. Governing a country takes hard-nosed, practical realism. Morality and religion are well and good, many of us say, but someone who follows such ideals in the political arena will be eaten alive. Yet, consider the example of a ninth-century king named Alfred the Great.
In his day England (“Angle-land”) consisted of isolated Germanic tribes whose kings were closer to tribal chiefs than heads of state. The various Angles and Saxons had converted to Christianity thanks to seventh-century missionaries, but holdover practices from paganism such as blood feuds — the vigilante self-policing in which families take revenge against each other — kept the society fragmented and weak.
Though Alfred was the youngest son of the king of the West Saxons (Wessex), his three older brothers each died after brief reigns, so in AD 871, he found himself on the throne. He was twenty-two years old. Almost immediately, the Vikings invaded England.
The pagan “Danes” had made raids on the island for centuries, sailing in on their dragon ships, sacking towns, burning monasteries, and brutally murdering villagers. But then they would leave. This time the Vikings were attacking with huge armies. They had brought their families with them and were planning to stay. Already they had seized much of northern England. Now they were moving south.
King Alfred unified the various tribes against the common threat. He led the Angle and Saxon army and did what no earlier ruler had been able to do — he defeated the Vikings.
In the peace treaty, he allowed the Vikings who had settled in the north to remain. But he insisted that the Viking leaders accept Christianity. They were baptized and agreed to welcome in their territories missionaries and churches. Within a few generations, the newly-Christian “Danes” had assimilated into the rest of Angle-land.
Alfred also codified the law. He brought together many of the traditional laws of the Saxons, writing down the oral traditions. But he also Christianized those laws. He began his written code with the Ten Commandments, followed by the Golden Rule of Jesus. He replaced the blood feuds with a system of fines that would be enforced not by individual avengers but by the king and his officers. He instituted a judicial system, including trial by jury. Essentially, King Alfred established the rule of law.
He also brought education to the land. He established schools with the goal of bringing literacy to every free citizen. Because the English people had few books in their own language, he sponsored translations, including portions of the Bible. Because of the shortage of scholars, the king himself translated books, including theological works by St. Augustine, a treatise on pastoral care for local churches by St. Gregory, the history of Christianity in England by the Venerable Bede, and the Psalms of David.
King Alfred followed his vocation as ruler along the lines of Romans 13. The doctrine of vocation has to do with how God works through human beings. Romans 13 clearly states that God exercises His authority through lawful human authorities. They are “ministers of God” (13:6).
According to Romans 13, the purpose of the ruler’s vocation is to protect their innocent subjects against evildoers. King Alfred did this. Some of his successors did not. A few reigns later, King Ethelred the Unready failed to stop a new Viking invasion, largely because of his fecklessness and incompetence. A Dane, King Canute, made himself king of England.
The last of King Alfred’s line was the son of Ethelred, a devout young man named Edward the Confessor who gained the throne after Canute’s death. King Edward was probably England’s most outwardly pious monarch and was eventually named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. However, he bought into the theology that considered monastic asceticism to be more spiritual than earthly vocations, such as parenthood.
Though he was married, he apparently took a vow of celibacy. He and his wife, out of their non-biblical rejection of God’s gift of married sexuality, had no children. That was the height of irresponsibility for a king in a hereditary monarchy, which requires a lawful successor to avoid throwing the land into anarchy. Compounding this irresponsibility was that he made the French duke of Normandy, who sheltered him when he fled Canute, the heir to the throne. This was William the Conqueror, who would invade England and utterly subjugate the Saxons.
King William illustrates another kind of ruler. Instead of serving his people as Alfred did, William wanted his people to serve him. Instead of punishing evildoers and protecting the innocent, tyrants do the reverse, punishing the innocent and protecting evildoers. This is not what God has called rulers to do. Tyrants do not have God’s authority. They are sinning against God’s authority.
King Alfred was arguably one of England’s founding fathers. English civilization, despite occasional setbacks, would build on its heritage, which the United States shares. Of all the English kings, only Alfred bears the title of “great.” What made him great was the way he lived out his faith in his God-given vocation.
Gene Edward Veith Books:
- 1 God at Work (Redesign): Your Christian Vocation in All of Life
- 2 Spirituality of the Cross Revised Edition
- 3 Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World
- 4 Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood
- 5 Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (Concordia Scholarship Today)
- 6 Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life
- 7 Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture
- 8 State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe
- 9 Reading Between the Lines (Redesign): A Christian Guide to Literature (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series)
- 10 Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind
Learning To Rest In God's Faithfulness
By Alistair Begg
How many times we must relearn the lesson that God is the only unfailing One. He is the only One who is true to His Word on every occasion. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
It appeared to Joseph that he had been forgotten—and he had, by the cupbearer. But he had not been forgotten by his Lord and Master.
What do you do when you are forgotten by people? What do you do when you have taken a few too many blows to the shins, too many elbows in the ribs as you’ve run the race of life? Where do you turn when you are so weary you feel you cannot run another step?
What you do is look away from people and look up. When I am weary and disappointed, I go back to my Bible, where I read:
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
One evening I was on an airline flight, seated next to a young family. The smaller of the two children was seated between her mother and me. We were at the rear of the plane, where the roar of the engines was very pronounced.
In the course of that flight, the mother gathered her wee one into her lap and nestled her under her chin. And the little girl fell sound asleep with her face mashed up against her mother’s breast.
What a wonderful picture of resting in God’s care. This wee one was traveling at six hundred miles per hour in a steel tube thirty-five thousand feet above the ground, and yet she didn’t have a care in the world. She was with her mom, and she knew her mom would hold her fast.
Wouldn’t it be great to be loved like that? To be loved the way a mother loves her precious child? If I could write songs, I’d write a song about that, because that’s the way God loves you and me.
Listen to God’s word to his people through Isaiah: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16).
The hand of God under which His servant Joseph lived was engraved with the young man’s name. So let us learn to rest upon Him, and even the dungeon can become for us a place of peace and comfort.
Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Dr. Alistair Begg Books:
- 1 Name above All Names
- 2 On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work
- 3 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives
- 4 Preaching for God's Glory (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 5 The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances
- 6 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 7 Evening by Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on ESV Version
- 8 Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure
- 9 What Angels Wish They Knew: The basics of true Christianity
- 10 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives
- 11 One Year NIV Devotional: New Testament
- 12 Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives by Alistair Begg (2015-03-01)
The Mission to Slovakia
By Kris Lundgaard 4/1/2009
“We, the Slovak People, bearing in mind the political and cultural heritage of our predecessors…mindful of the spiritual bequest of Cyril and Methodius…adopted this constitution.” Slovakia, lying at the crossroads of East and West in secular Europe, after being dominated for over forty years by a government that was no friend to Christianity, introduced its constitution by acknowledging its debt to two Christian missionaries from the ninth century.
For over a thousand years the Slovaks were unable to establish a state of their own — yet from the ninth century they kept a sense of identity so distinct that they and the Czechs divided Czechoslovakia into two nations in 1993. Much credit for this enduring cohesion belongs to Cyril and Methodius, such that, according to one historian, their “contribution to the establishment and development of central and east European civilization and culture is second to none.”
Why does their work continue to influence a modern, secular nation? Who were they, and what did they do? And what can we learn from them now?
In God’s providence, political expediency brought these missionaries to Great Moravia, a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish Empire that was composed primarily of Czech and Slovak peoples and included much of Moravia and a large area in what is now Slovakia. Prince Rastislav (846–870), in order to stem the influence of Frankish missionaries, asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send “a bishop and teacher…able to explain to them the true Christian faith in their own language.” In 863 Michael sent two brothers from Thessaloniki: Constantine (later Cyril) and Methodius. In spite of wars and the political intrigue of Rastislav and his nephew Svätopluk, who deposed him, Cyril and Methodius and their disciples spread Christianity through Slavic central Europe.
Cyril was a philosopher and one of the most educated men of his time. His brother Methodius studied law and was a gifted administrator. In order to bring the gospel to the Slavs, before they left their home they created an alphabet by adapting Greek letters to represent Slavic sounds. Cyril translated portions of Scripture and the liturgy into what we now call “Old Church Slavonic.” This became the basis of instruction in the seminary and the schools they established. From their foundational work grew a body of literature that shaped the rapidly developing culture.
In 867 the brothers traveled to Rome to show Pope Hadrian II their translations of Scripture and the Slavic liturgy. The Pope approved them, and Slavonic joined Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as an official language of Christian worship. Cyril, sensing that his strength was fading, joined a monastery in Rome, and before dying a few months later in 869, he urged Methodius to return to Great Moravia to continue their work.
When Methodius tried to reenter Great Moravia, he was arrested at the prompting of Frankish priests. In 873 he was finally released, only to be forbidden by Pope John VIII to use the Slavonic liturgy. Methodius defied this order and continued the work he and his brother began.
By the end of the ninth century Methodius had died, the pope had again forbidden the use of Slavonic in worship, and Svätopluk drove many disciples of Cyril and Methodius from the kingdom (which hastened the Christianization of other Slavic peoples). In 907, Great Moravia was overthrown by the Magyars, beginning the thousand-year Hungarian domination of the Slovaks. Yet, within a generation, a deep and indelible stamp had marked a new identity that would eventually become modern Slovakia.
Conflicts with politically motivated civic and religious leaders permeate the story of Cyril and Methodius. That they were able to accomplish anything is remarkable, and that they made such a lasting and far-reaching impact testifies to the grace of God in His mysterious providence.
Due to the influential and powerful preacher Peter Pazmany, the seventeenth-century counter-reformation swept aside much of the work of reformers in the region. Today Slovakia remains predominantly Roman Catholic, visibly marked by its rich Christian heritage. But centuries of secularization in Europe, including the communist era, have undermined the church’s role in the lives of the people. And though the nation has ostensibly shaken off its former oppression, the effects linger; many who lived through the days of the secret police and mysterious arrests remain reluctant to talk about deeply held convictions.
Spiritual leaders in Slovakia today, in order to be effective, will have to find ways to work in a context that is as complex as the ninth century — and their window of opportunity may be just as brief. They must leverage changing laws to their advantage, meet rising needs for English language and professional skills, help resolve ongoing ethnic conflict, and apply the gospel to hearts emptied by failed materialism. Christian workers from other nations must identify with the Slovaks’ lives and traditions. Together they must think deeply about how Jesus transforms nations.
To paraphrase 1 Chronicles 12:32: Slovakia needs leaders like Cyril and Methodius “who have understanding of the times, to know what Slovakia ought to do.”
Beauty and the Best
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2009
There is a tension among the people of God that reflects a delicate balance to which the Bible calls us. Paul, you will recall, argued that in his passion for the gospel, he wished to be all things to all people, that by all means some might be saved (1 Cor. 9:22). On the other hand, Jesus tells the disciples that when they brought the good news and were not received, they were to wipe the dust off of their feet as they left the town (Luke 9:5). They’re both legitimate perspectives on the lost. Where, we wonder, does earnestly contending for lost souls end and pandering to the lost begin?
The worship wars of our own day are driven by this same tension. There is nothing new under the sun. Do we gather together each Lord’s Day to worship the Lord with the most simple language? Should our music aspire for accessibility above all else? Do we want to dumb everything down so that everyone can get it? Is this how we bring in the lost? Or, should our weekly gatherings instead be times of erudite exposition and sublime aural harmonies? Do we, with the former, through our workaday media, communicate a God who is safe? Do we, with the latter — with our highbrow affectations — communicate a God who is inaccessible?
In the ninth century, when the Latin Mass began to be enforced, I’m confident the same discussions took place. Some, I would expect, argued that the Latin Mass carried with it a gravity that communicated the glory of God, a certain sense of mystery and timelessness. Others, I’m quite sure, pointed out that the people for whom Jesus died could not understand what was being said. How can we say that this body was broken for you if you don’t know what we’re saying?
The Bible is a book that not only is full of wisdom but that in turn calls us to wisdom. Wisdom, more often than not, means balance. Wisdom recognizes that there is a real difference between prudent accessibility and the lowest common denominator. Wisdom can tell the difference between a foreign language and a challenging language. It is able to distinguish between self-serving, highbrow tastes and treating matters of import with all due dignity. It recognizes, for instance, that there is a great yawning space between a pastor preaching in a long dead language and a pastor preaching in a clown suit.
As is so often the case, wisdom is often found when we look away from the question at hand, when we step away from the raging debate and look instead to where we agree. When we gather together for worship, we are gathering together, according to the Bible, as a body. We are likewise gathering together as a bride. We are coming to meet our Lord, who comes to renew covenant with us and to feast with us at His table. Now consider how we approach a wedding.
When we come together for a wedding, no one would suggest that for the sake of the dignity of the event we ought to perform the service in Latin. No one would argue that the pastor’s homily ought to be peppered with obtuse language fit only for the seminary classroom. Neither, however, does any bride dream of a day when a man in stained overalls, smelling of a barnyard, looks down at her and asks her the vows: “Well, do yer or don’t yer?” Instead, when we marry we put on our best clothes. We decorate the setting to befit a time of solemnity and joy. We play our best music. We speak in our most gracious tones, and with our most polished grammar. It is our most important “our.” Nobody, I trust, argues that this leaves people out. No one argues that this is somehow inauthentic. No bride would, if her groom showed up in flip-flops and a t-shirt, argue that she sees the heart and that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. That is, the wedding ceremony is not to be marked by the world’s best and highest, but by our best and our highest. It is our most important “our.”
Our worship should bring us together, rather than drive us apart. We have, after all, together been called to worship by our Lord. That is why we use at one and the same time a common language in an uncommon way. We speak so that the gravity of the message might be heard. We are not pandering to anyone, and we rejoice in an audience of One. We play music that can reach the hearts of the congregation in a way far more powerful than silly love songs ever could, seeking to reflect the heavenly chorus.
When we come to worship we come in ourselves still unclean. We as a bride are too besmirched and stained to feign haughtiness. We are too conscious of our own sin to be looking down our noses at others. But we come seeking to be made beautiful, confident that our Groom can bring this to pass. We have given up the world, with all its arrogant slovenliness. We have turned up our noses at the world’s studied indifference to beauty. We do indeed speak English, but it is not the English of the court fool. It is the King’s English.
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
Has Science Buried God?
By Keith Mathison 4/1/2009
One of the most common ways of looking at the relationship between science and faith is the conflict thesis, which posits an inherent conflict between science and religion. The conflict thesis was popularized in the nineteenth century by John William Draper and by Andrew Dickson White. Despite the acknowledged poor scholarship underlying these works, the conflict thesis has persisted among both believers and unbelievers. Today, some scientists, including Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, are asserting that there should no longer be any conflict because science has shown us either that God does not exist or that God almost certainly does not exist.
Not all scientists adhere to the conflict thesis. There are believing scientists such as Francis Collins and John Polkinghorne who argue that science and faith are complementary. Others, such as the atheist Steven Jay Gould, argue that science and faith may coexist because they deal with completely separate subject matter, or in Gould’s terminology, “nonoverlapping magisteria.” In short, there is no agreement on the issue even among scientists. The views of men such as Dawkins, Dennett, and Atkins, however, have been the most publicized, and because of this, there are many who wonder whether science has in fact demonstrated that God does not exist.
There have been a number of books published in an attempt to answer this question. Many of them are quite good, but certainly among the two or three best is a new lay level book by Dr. John C. Lennox entitled God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Dr. Lennox has earned doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Wales. He is presently professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford and fellow in mathematics and philosophy of science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He achieved some recognition in the United States recently when he engaged in a highly publicized debate with Richard Dawkins in Birmingham, Alabama. God’s Undertaker is his response to the arguments made by dogmatic atheist scientists.
God’s Undertaker contains eleven relatively brief chapters. In his first chapter, Lennox demonstrates that the real conflict that exists is not between science and faith but between two competing worldviews: naturalism and theism. This is important because it is the unproven presuppositions of naturalism, rather than empirical evidence, that underlies many of the arguments made by atheistic scientists. In chapter 2, Lennox deals with the difficult and controversial issues surrounding the definition of “science,” while in chapter 3, he deals with the materialistic reductionism of some scientists. Chapter 4 examines some of the many facts about our universe, which, rather than pointing us away from the idea of God, actually provide evidence for God’s existence.
Most of the remaining chapters deal with various arguments related to biological science. Lennox examines and finds wanting the argument made by Dawkins and others that Darwin’s theory disproves the existence of God. In chapter 6, he looks closely at some of the numerous flaws that exist in the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Lennox recognizes that daring to question evolutionary orthodoxy will likely result in being declared a lunatic by the high priests of the Darwinist Inquisition, but he has prepared his own epitaph just in case: “Here lies the body of John Lennox. You ask me why he’s in this box? He died of something worse than pox, On Darwinism — heterodox.” The following chapters deal with the problems involved in a naturalistic conception of the origin of life and of the information in the genetic code, in particular the repeated use of “Darwin of the gaps” arguments by atheists. In chapter 10, Lennox provides devastating evidence of the self-contradictory nature of some of Dawkins’ suggestions as to how life could have originated.
Such topics have been dealt with many times in many books, but rarely have they been dealt with as well as they have been here. In contrast to the shrill and irrational ranting of several of the recent works written by the new atheists, Lennox deals with the subject calmly and rationally, dismantling point by point their often absurd assertions. This is one of those books that comes around every so often that you not only need to read but that you need to have your high school and college-age children and grandchildren read. The metaphysical claims of atheist scientists are one of the main challenges facing young people and adults alike today. Read this book and discover why so many of those claims are vacuous.
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Deut. 22; Psalms 110–111; Isaiah 49; Revelation 19
By Don Carson 6/17/2017
The Old Testament Chapter quoted most often in the New Testament is Psalm 110. It is an oracular Psalm: i.e., it does not so much disclose the experience of its writer as set forth words that the writer has received by direct and immediate revelation — as an “oracle” from God. Perhaps there are even parts of it the psalmist himself did not fathom too well (just as Daniel did not understand the meaning of all that he saw in his visions and was required to record for the benefit of a later generation (Dan. 12:4, 8-10).
In the Psalm, the LORD, Yahweh, speaks to someone whom David himself addresses as “my Lord.” This element, as much as any other, has convinced countless interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, that this is explicitly a messianic psalm, and that the person whom David addresses is the anticipated Messiah.
I shall focus on verse 4: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” Granted that Yahweh here addresses the Messiah, what do his words mean? Two elements attract attention:
First, Melchizedek himself — this is only the second mention of him in the Bible. The first is Genesis 14:18-20: after the defeat of the kings, Abraham meets this strange priest-king and pays him a tithe of the spoils. Various things can be inferred from the brief account (see meditation for January 13), but then Melchizedek drops from view until this psalm, written almost a millennium later.
Second, by this time much has taken place in the history of Israel. The people had endured slavery in Egypt, had been rescued at the Exodus, had received the Law of God at Sinai, had entered the Promised Land, and had lived through the period of the judges to reach this point of the beginning of the Davidic dynasty. Above all, Sinai had prescribed a tabernacle and the associated rites, all to be administered by Levites and by high priests drawn from that tribe. The Mosaic Law made it abundantly clear that Levites alone could discharge these priestly functions. Yet here is an oracle from God insisting that God himself will raise up another priest-king with very different links. Yahweh will extend this king’s mighty scepter from Zion: i.e., his kingly power is connected with Zion, with Jerusalem, and thus with the fledgling Davidic dynasty. And as priest, he will be aligned, not with the order of Levi, but with the order of Melchizedek.
Small wonder the writer to the Hebrews understands that this is an announcement of the obsolescence of the Mosaic Covenant (Heb. 7:11-12). We needed a better priesthood; and we have one.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Don Carson Books:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 65O God of Our Salvation
65 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
11. Another special requisite to moderation of discipline is, as
Augustine discourses against the Donatists, that private individuals
must not, when they see vices less carefully corrected by the Council
of Elders, immediately separate themselves from the Church; nor must
pastors themselves, when unable to reform all things which need
correction to the extent which they could wish, cast up their ministry,
or by unwonted severity throw the whole Church into confusion. What
Augustine says is perfectly true: "Whoever corrects what he can, by
rebuking it, or without violating the bond of peace, excludes what he
cannot correct, or unjustly condemns while he patiently tolerates what
he is unable to exclude without violating the bond of peace, is free
and exempted from the curse" (August. contra Parmen. Lib. 2 c. 4). He
elsewhere gives the reason. "Every pious reason and mode of
ecclesiastical discipline ought always to have regard to the unity of
the Spirit in the bond of peace. This the apostle commands us to keep
by bearing mutually with each other. If it is not kept, the medicine of
discipline begins to be not only superfluous, but even pernicious, and
therefore ceases to be medicine" (Ibid. Lib. 3 c. 1). "He who
diligently considers these things, neither in the preservation of unity
neglects strictness of discipline, nor by intemperate correction bursts
the bond of society" (Ibid. cap. 2). He confesses, indeed, that pastors
ought not only to exert themselves in removing every defect from the
Church, but that every individual ought to his utmost to do so; nor
does he disguise the fact, that he who neglects to admonish, accuse,
and correct the bad, although he neither favours them, nor sins with
them, is guilty before the Lord; and if he conducts himself so that
though he can exclude them from partaking of the Supper, he does it
not, then the sin is no longer that of other men, but his own. Only he
would have that prudence used which our Lord also requires, "lest while
ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them" (Mt.
13:29). Hence he infers from Cyprian, "Let a man then mercifully
correct what he can; what he cannot correct, let him bear patiently,
and in love bewail and lament."
12. This he says on account of the moroseness of the Donatists, who, when they saw faults in the Church which the bishops indeed rebuked verbally, but did not punish with excommunication (because they did not think that anything would be gained in this way), bitterly inveighed against the bishops as traitors to discipline, and by an impious schism separated themselves from the flock of Christ. Similar, in the present day, is the conduct of the Anabaptists, who, acknowledging no assembly of Christ unless conspicuous in all respects for angelic perfection, under pretence of zeal overthrow everything which tends to edification.  "Such (says Augustin. contra Parmen. Lib. 3 c. 4), not from hatred of other men's iniquity, but zeal for their own disputes, ensnaring the weak by the credit of their name, attempt to draw them entirely away, or at least to separate them; swollen with pride, raving with petulance, insidious in calumny, turbulent in sedition. That it may not be seen how void they are of the light of truth, they cover themselves with the shadow of a stern severity: the correction of a brother's fault, which in Scripture is enjoined to be done with moderation, without impairing the sincerity of love or breaking the bond of peace, they pervert to sacrilegious schism and purposes of excision. Thus Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) when, under pretext of a just severity, he persuades to savage cruelty, desiring nothing more than to violate and burst the bond of unity and peace; because, when it is maintained, all his power of mischief is feeble, his wily traps are broken, and his schemes of subversion vanish."
13. One thing Augustine specially commends--viz. that if the contagion of sin has seized the multitude, mercy must accompany living discipline. "For counsels of separation are vain, sacrilegious, and pernicious, because impious and proud, and do more to disturb the weak good than to correct the wicked proud" (August. Ep. 64). This which he enjoins on others he himself faithfully practiced. For, writing to Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, he complains that drunkenness, which is so severely condemned in Scripture, prevails in Africa with impunity, and advises a council of bishops to be called for the purpose of providing a remedy. He immediately adds, "In my opinion, such things are not removed by rough, harsh, and imperious measures, but more by teaching than commanding, more by admonishing than threatening. For thus ought we to act with a multitude of offenders. Severity is to be exercised against the sins of a few" (August. Ep. 64). He does not mean, however, that the bishops were to wink or be silent because they are unable to punish public offences severely, as he himself afterwards explains. But he wishes to temper the mode of correction, so as to give soundness to the body rather than cause destruction. And, accordingly, he thus concludes: "Wherefore, we must on no account neglect the injunction of the apostle, to separate from the wicked, when it can be done without the risk of violating peace, because he did not wish it to be done otherwise (1 Cor. 5:13); we must also endeavour, by bearing with each other, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2).
14. The remaining part of discipline, which is not, strictly speaking, included in the power of the keys, is when pastors, according to the necessity of the times, exhort the people either to fasting and solemn prayer, or to other exercises of humiliation, repentance, and faith, the time, mode, and form of these not being prescribed by the Word of God, but left to the judgment of the Church. As the observance of this part of discipline is useful, so it was always used in the Church, even from the days of the apostles. Indeed, the apostles themselves were not its first authors, but borrowed the example from the Law and Prophets. For we there see,  that as often as any weighty matter occurred the people were assembled, and supplication and fasting appointed. In this, therefore, the apostles followed a course which was not new to the people of God, and which they foresaw would be useful. A similar account is to be given of the other exercises by which the people may either be aroused to duty, or kept in duty and obedience. We everywhere meet with examples in Sacred History, and it is unnecessary to collect them. In general, we must hold that whenever any religious controversy arises, which either a council or ecclesiastical tribunal behoves to decide;  whenever a minister is to be chosen; whenever, in short, any matter of difficulty and great importance is under consideration: on the other hand, when manifestations of the divine anger appear, as pestilence, war, and famine, the sacred and salutary custom of all ages has been for pastors to exhort the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayer. Should any one refuse to admit the passages which are adduced from the Old Testament, as being less applicable to the Christian Church, it is clear that the apostles also acted thus; although, in regard to prayer, I scarcely think any one will be found to stir the question. Let us, therefore, make some observations on fasting, since very many, not understanding what utility there can be in it, judge it not to be very necessary, while others reject it altogether as superfluous. Where its use is not well known it is easy to fall into superstition.
15. A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him. The first end is not very often regarded in public fasting, because all have not the same bodily constitution, nor the same state of health, and hence it is more applicable to private fasting. The second end is common to both, for this preparation for prayer is requisite for the whole Church, as well as for each individual member. The same thing may be said of the third. For it sometimes happens that God smites a nation with war or pestilence, or some kind of calamity. In this common chastisement it behoves the whole people to plead guilty, and confess their guilt. Should the hand of the Lord strike any one in private, then the same thing is to be done by himself alone, or by his family. The thing, indeed, is properly a feeling of the mind. But when the mind is effected as it ought, it cannot but give vent to itself in external manifestation, especially when it tends to the common edification, that all, by openly confessing their sin, may render praise to the divine justice, and by their example mutually encourage each other.
16. Hence fasting, as it is a sign of humiliation, has a more frequent use in public than among private individuals, although as we have said, it is common to both. In regard, then, to the discipline of which we now treat, whenever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it is befitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer. Thus when the Christians of Antioch laid hands on Barnabas and Paul, that they might the better recommend their ministry, which was of so great importance, they joined fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3). Thus these two apostles afterwards, when they appointed ministers to churches, were wont to use prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23). In general, the only object which they had in fasting was to render themselves more alert and disencumbered for prayer. We certainly experience that after a full meal the mind does not so rise toward God as to be borne along by an earnest and fervent longing for prayer, and perseverance in prayer. In this sense is to be understood the saying of Luke concerning Anna, that she "served God with fastings and prayers, night and day" (Luke 2:37). For he does not place the worship of God in fasting, but intimates that in this way the holy woman trained herself to assiduity in prayer. Such was the fast of Nehemiah, when with more intense zeal he prayed to God for the deliverance of his people (Neh. 1:4). For this reason Paul says, that married believers do well to abstain for a season (1 Cor. 7:5), that they may have greater freedom for prayer and fasting, when by joining prayer to fasting, by way of help, he reminds us it is of no importance in itself, save in so far as it refers to this end. Again, when in the same place he enjoins spouses to render due benevolence to each other, it is clear that he is not referring to daily prayer, but prayers which require more than ordinary attention.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2011 Hope For the Broken
Every home is dysfunctional because everyone is sinful. There is no perfect family this side of heaven, and if we were perfect parents, neither we nor our children would need a Savior. When we consider the state of the family at the beginning of the twenty-first century, our tendency is to reflect nostalgically on imagined idyllic days of generations past when families weren’t perfect but pretty close to it, or so we like to think.
As fallen people, born into fallen families, and living in a fallen world, the simple truth is that there has never been a time when families were not dysfunctional. To see this, we don’t need to look at the world around us or even at world history, all we need to do is look at the church and at every family in all of Scripture — from the murderous family of God’s son Adam, to God’s son Israel, to the overwhelming dysfunction of the families recorded in the genealogy of Jesus. We cannot, therefore, idolize families of the past or present, all of which are sinful, and we cannot make our own families or the families of others into earthly gods that can fulfill our every need and be the ultimate source of our joy, peace, and comfort.
This is not to say, however, that there are no examples of God-honoring families in Scripture and in our own day, for indeed there are, but it is to say there are no perfect families that don’t desperately need to know, believe, and apply the gospel of Christ. Although perfect healing will only exist in our eternal home, our present hope for our broken homes is the redeeming, forgiving, reconciling, and transforming gospel of God for God’s people.
We know the content of the gospel, but we fail to trust God’s promises in the gospel, and we fail to apply God’s gospel promises in our lives individually, affecting, in turn, our families. For example, as men, we sometimes think that all we need to do to raise good kids is simply be good dads, when, in fact, what every kid needs to see first and foremost is how his dad loves his mother with a repentant, patient, and sacrificial love that not only swears to die for her (which we’ll likely never have the opportunity to do) but that strives to live for her each and every day, which is precisely what Jesus did for us. Our Lord didn’t merely come and die, He lived for us as well. When we believe and apply the gospel, we will not need to pretend we are sinless but will instead be free to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness as we look to God’s true and faithful Son, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
God showed His love for us by sending His Son to live and die for us, and as men we are to show our love for our families by pointing them to Jesus Christ whose love for us never changes. And though I hear it all the time, there’s no such thing as “falling out of love.” Christian couples don’t ever fall out of love, they fall out of being repentant. The gospel hope for our broken homes is our broken and contrite hearts that turn daily to Jesus Christ and His brokenness for us on the cross as our Savior and Lord.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
“Don’t Shoot Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!” was the order given this day, June 17, 1775, by Colonel William Prescott to colonial troops defending Bunker Hill. They were aiming at the wall of twenty-three hundred British soldiers marching toward them from the Boston Harbor in their bright red uniforms with bayonets fixed. Twice the Americans repelled them til they ran out of gunpowder. Over one thousand British died and five hundred Americans. Colonel William Prescott wrote: “Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
If God asks that you bend,
bend and do not complain.
He is making you more flexible,
and for this be thankful.
--- Terri Guillemets
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition: The Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories that Changed Your Lives
Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler
but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
--- Julian Huxley
Honest to God
Mercy. “Wonderful! Musick in the House, Musick in the heart, and Musick also in Heaven, for joy that we are here.” That night Mercy laughed in her sleep.
--- John Bunyan
The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford World's Classics)
Nothing is lost that is done for the Lord,
Let it be ever so small;
The smile of the Savior approves of the deed
As though it were greatest of all.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
PART II / The Second Verse
Maimonides on “You Shall Love”
Note the implicit relationship between love and fear: our first reaction as we contemplate Nature is, instinctively and impulsively, to feel love. But our reaching out to know the Creator is, intuitively and instinctively, countered and curtailed by the limiting impulse of fear. Maimonides’ use of mi-yad, which we have translated in its usual sense of “immediately,” applied both to love and to fear, fittingly captures this sense of an intuitive reaction, immediate because it is unmediated. (6)
(6) The role of intuition is significant in the works of Maimonides. In the introduction to the Guide, he speaks of momentary flashes of intuition—unmediated by any cognitive act—as both the mode of apprehension of metaphysical knowledge and of prophecy. This epistemology, of course, presents a problem because of Maimonides’ high esteem for metaphysical deduction and clear, logical analysis. Julius Guttmann, who raises this issue, offers no solution; see his Philosophies of Judaism, trans. David W. Silverman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1964), pp. 156f. The most obvious answer, however, is provided by a close reading of our key passage. Here, Maimonides does not speak of the intuitive (mi-yad, “immediately”) reaction as the first response to Nature, but the second. Thus, the love for God comes about after one “contemplates” the wonders of creation and “sees” in them the infinite wisdom of the Divine, and only then does he “immediately” love Him, etc. The same pattern holds for the fear of God: when man “considers” these matters, i.e., the wonders of creation, he “immediately” withdraws into himself in fear, etc. What we have here is a two-step process: first one studies Nature; then this evokes the latent intuitive response of the appropriate religious emotions. Hence, the study of natural science leads to the intuitive reaction of love and fear to the creation. It is later left for the philosopher to elaborate on these responses in the language of metaphysics. This philosophical elaboration, too, involves a flash of insight that is, however, different from the love and fear reactions; it is, as it were, a “normal” epistemological act and one that must then be set down according to all the rules of metaphysical argument.
Yet, despite the fact that love is immediately constrained by fear, Maimonides obviously agrees with the Sages that “love is greater than fear”—thus, he concludes, the halakha focuses on love alone, explaining that the Creator does certain things in order to grant us the opportunity (or will) to love Him. Thus, fear serves a vital but ancillary role to love: it is love that remains the most significant and valuable religious quality.
Let us return briefly to our first observation, that both love and fear emerge from our contemplating the divine wisdom in God’s creation. While Maimonides here points to the creation or Nature as the focus of our contemplation in order to arrive at love, he elsewhere includes more than the cosmos as the object of such contemplation. Thus, in Hilkhot Teshuvah, 10:6, he presents his severely rationalistic view of the love for God, declaring our love to be proportional to our knowledge of Him: “One loves the Holy One only with the mind, thus knowing Him; for love is in accordance with knowledge, whether little or much.” He then advises his reader to immerse himself intellectually in the various branches of wisdom that lead to knowing God (and, thus, to loving Him):
Therefore must a man set aside [time] to understand and comprehend the [various branches of] wisdom and learning that impart to him knowledge of his Creator, depending on man’s capacity to understand and apprehend, etc.
The branches of “wisdom and learning” are not necessarily limited to the natural sciences, although they certainly include them. According to Maimonides, our responses to nature must lead us to and be shaped by proper and correct philosophical speculation.
In his work on the commandments, he broadens the canvas even further: “for He has commanded us to love Him; and that [means] to understand and comprehend His mitzvot and His actions.”7 Here Maimonides includes not only God’s actions—which may well embrace the divine guidance of history as well as His governance of nature—but also “His mitzvot,” His commandments. Maimonides may here be referring indirectly to the study of Torah, repository of the commandments, as a source of inspiration to love God. Writing in his own name, the author of Sefer ha-Ḥinukh, who follows Maimonides, states: “That is, along with reflection in Torah necessarily comes a strengthening of love in the heart.”
To confirm our interpretation that Maimonides did indeed regard study of Torah as a vital source of ahavat Hashem, and not merely an afterthought to his major argument, we need only read further in the same passage, where he cites a proof-text from the Sifre. Maimonides writes, following the aforementioned:
This is the text of the Sifre: It is said, “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:4). But [from this] I do not know how one loves Him; therefore is it said, “And these words which I command you this day shall be in your heart” (ibid. 6:6)—as a result of this you will come to know Him by whose word the world came into being.
The antecedent of “as a result of this” is obviously “these words”; this undoubtedly refers to the words of Torah (or, at the very least, the words of the Shema), not to the contemplation of Nature.
However, we still face a dilemma in the interpretation of Maimonides’ thought. Is Nature, the divine creation of the cosmos, the sole object whose contemplation leads to the love and fear of God—or is the Torah, the direct revelation of the divine Will, equally a source of such love and fear? In the two passages from his legal code, the Mishneh Torah, the first from Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah (“Laws of the Foundations of the Torah”) and the second from Hilkhot Teshuvah (“Laws of Repentance”), he clearly stipulates that Nature is the source that inspires us to love and fear God. Yet in Sefer ha-Mitzvot, his work on the commandments, he identifies that inspirational source both as the commandments (using two synonyms) and as His works, i.e., Nature. Thus, in the Mishneh Torah he mentions only Nature as the source of the two fundamental religious emotions, whereas in Sefer ha-Mitzvot (“Book of the Commandments”) he points to both Torah and Nature, emphasizing the former. (10)
(10) There is no justification for the inclusion of Torah alongside Nature as the source of love and fear by reading this into the closing phrase of Maimonides in his Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah, cited above, or as an addition to it. The same uncertainty about the correct interpretation of the Sifre will be noticed in the comment of Netziv in his Haamek Davar to Deut. 6:7, especially in the addenda to this commentary taken from the author’s manuscript. In the commentary proper he cites the Sifre and takes it clearly to imply that the study of Torah is the means to achieve the love for God. In the addenda, however, he concedes that the plain sense of the Sifre passage would indicate that the contemplation of the creation and Nature are the vehicles to ahavat Hashem and that Maimonides, in the above passage from Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, supports that understanding. However, the Netziv adds, one cannot derive ahavat Hashem from the study of Nature alone; such exclusive contemplation may well lead to an appreciation of the greatness of the Creator, but hardly to loving Him. It may be compared to one who knows that another person is great and worthy of love, but he does not know him personally, so that even if he sees him he cannot love him because he does not truly know him. So, the study of natural science can lead to love only if it is preceded by the study of Torah, for then, to continue the analogy, one knows the other person directly and can then learn to love him. Note the intellectual honesty and also the breadth of Netziv’s own approach—he points to the inadequacy of Nature as a source of ahavat Hashem without disqualifying it altogether and recommends that both study of science and study of Torah together provide the entree to love for God, with Torah taking priority over science (a point he makes often; see e.g., op. cit. to Deut. 4:2). Such breadth and intellectual capaciousness, with the accompanying sensitivity to complexity and subtle nuances, should not be confused with the kind of ambivalence that bespeaks an inability to make up one’s mind for fear of making the wrong choice. For more on the attitude of Netziv on this issue, see my Torah Umadda, pp. 40–1, 44, and 72, note 2. Also see Hannah Katz, Mishnat ha-Netziv (Jerusalem: n.p., 1990), pp. 109–16; however, her use of the term “ambivalent” for Netziv’s breadth of scope and sensitivity to complexity is unfortunate because it implies indecisiveness, which clearly was not part of Netziv’s personality.
Which, then, does Maimonides consider the primary object whose contemplation leads to love: Nature (and, by extension, philosophy, which elaborates upon our love and fear inspired by Nature) or Torah and mitzvot? Is there perhaps a double focus, each holding equal value? Is Sefer ha-Ḥinukh offering a valid interpretation of Maimonides’ view, or is he imposing his own—and apologetic—view?
We now turn to Maimonides’ major philosophical work, the Guide for the Perplexed. Here, our guide Maimonides identifies the cosmos as the source of the intuition and subsequent philosophizing that leads us to love and fear. The two most important passages in the Guide appear in part III. In chapter 28 of this section, he explains that the Torah, “in regard to the correct opinions through which the ultimate perfection may be attained”—ideas such as God’s existence, unity, and power—speaks only in general and apodictic terms, without going into much detail:
With regard to all the other correct opinions concerning the whole of being … the Torah, albeit it does not … direct attention toward them in detail … does so in summary fashion by saying, “To love the Lord” (Deut. 11:13). You know how this is confirmed in the dictum regarding love: “With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). We have already explained in the Mishneh Torah that this love becomes valid only through the apprehension of the whole of being as it is and through the consideration of His wisdom as it is manifested in it.
Here, then, Maimonides points to Nature, its study and philosophical interpretation, as the source of love—as he did in the various passages in the Mishneh Torah.
In chapter 52 of part III of the Guide, Maimonides distinguishes between two categories of commandments: the practical ones, the do’s and the don’ts of scriptural legislation; and the “opinions” or theological propositions taught by the Torah. The former lead to fear of God, the latter to love.
As for the opinions the Torah teaches us—namely, the apprehension of His being and His unity, may He be exalted—these opinions teach us love, as we have explained several times. You know to what extent the Torah lays stress upon love: “With all your heart,” etc. For these two ends, namely, love and fear, are achieved through two things: love through opinions taught by the Torah, which include apprehension of His being as He is in truth; while fear is achieved by means of all actions prescribed by the Torah, as we have explained.
Thus, the Mishneh Torah and the Guide for the Perplexed assert that Nature and the correct philosophical ideas resulting from its contemplation serve as the source of our love for God, while Sefer ha-Mitzvot includes, and appears to emphasize, Torah and the commandments. Is this a trivial inconsistency, or is there something behind Maimonides’ apparent contradictions that reconciles and resolves them? I believe that the latter is the case. The principle operating here is one that characterizes much of Maimonides’ thought, namely, the distinction between ordinary people and the learned elite. (11)
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. He also built the other edifices, the amphitheater, and theater, and market-place, in a manner agreeable to that denomination; and appointed games every fifth year, and called them, in like manner, Caesar's Games; and he first himself proposed the largest prizes upon the hundred ninety-second olympiad; in which not only the victors themselves, but those that came next to them, and even those that came in the third place, were partakers of his royal bounty. He also rebuilt Anthedon, a city that lay on the coast, and had been demolished in the wars, and named it Agrippeum. Moreover, he had so very great a kindness for his friend Agrippa, that he had his name engraved upon that gate which he had himself erected in the temple.
9. Herod was also a lover of his father, if any other person ever was so; for he made a monument for his father, even that city which he built in the finest plain that was in his kingdom, and which had rivers and trees in abundance, and named it Antipatris. He also built a wall about a citadel that lay above Jericho, and was a very strong and very fine building, and dedicated it to his mother, and called it Cypros. Moreover, he dedicated a tower that was at Jerusalem, and called it by the name of his brother Phasaelus, whose structure, largeness, and magnificence we shall describe hereafter. He also built another city in the valley that leads northward from Jericho, and named it Phasaelis.
10. And as he transmitted to eternity his family and friends, so did he not neglect a memorial for himself, but built a fortress upon a mountain towards Arabia, and named it from himself, Herodium 35 and he called that hill that was of the shape of a woman's breast, and was sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem, by the same name. He also bestowed much curious art upon it, with great ambition, and built round towers all about the top of it, and filled up the remaining space with the most costly palaces round about, insomuch that not only the sight of the inner apartments was splendid, but great wealth was laid out on the outward walls, and partitions, and roofs also. Besides this, he brought a mighty quantity of water from a great distance, and at vast charges, and raised an ascent to it of two hundred steps of the whitest marble, for the hill was itself moderately high, and entirely factitious. He also built other palaces about the roots of the hill, sufficient to receive the furniture that was put into them, with his friends also, insomuch that, on account of its containing all necessaries, the fortress might seem to be a city, but, by the bounds it had, a palace only.
11. And when he had built so much, he showed the greatness of his soul to no small number of foreign cities. He built palaces for exercise at Tripoli, and Damascus, and Ptolemais; he built a wall about Byblus, as also large rooms, and cloisters, and temples, and market-places at Berytus and Tyre, with theatres at Sidon and Damascus. He also built aqueducts for those Laodiceans who lived by the sea-side; and for those of Ascalon he built baths and costly fountains, as also cloisters round a court, that were admirable both for their workmanship and largeness. Moreover, he dedicated groves and meadows to some people; nay, not a few cities there were who had lands of his donation, as if they were parts of his own kingdom. He also bestowed annual revenues, and those for ever also, on the settlements for exercises, and appointed for them, as well as for the people of Cos, that such rewards should never be wanting. He also gave corn to all such as wanted it, and conferred upon Rhodes large sums of money for building ships; and this he did in many places, and frequently also. And when Apollo's temple had been burnt down, he rebuilt it at his own charges, after a better manner than it was before. What need I speak of the presents he made to the Lycians and Samnians? or of his great liberality through all Ionia? and that according to every body's wants of them. And are not the Athenians, and Lacedemonians, and Nicopolitans, and that Pergamus which is in Mysia, full of donations that Herod presented them withal? And as for that large open place belonging to Antioch in Syria, did not he pave it with polished marble, though it were twenty furlongs long? and this when it was shunned by all men before, because it was full of dirt and filthiness, when he besides adorned the same place with a cloister of the same length.
12. It is true, a man may say, these were favors peculiar to those particular places on which he bestowed his benefits; but then what favors he bestowed on the Eleans was a donation not only in common to all Greece, but to all the habitable earth, as far as the glory of the Olympic games reached. For when he perceived that they were come to nothing, for want of money, and that the only remains of ancient Greece were in a manner gone, he not only became one of the combatants in that return of the fifth-year games, which in his sailing to Rome he happened to be present at, but he settled upon them revenues of money for perpetuity, insomuch that his memorial as a combatant there can never fail. It would be an infinite task if I should go over his payments of people's debts, or tributes, for them, as he eased the people of Phasaelis, of Batanea, and of the small cities about Cilicia, of those annual pensions they before paid. However, the fear he was in much disturbed the greatness of his soul, lest he should be exposed to envy, or seem to hunt after greater filings than he ought, while he bestowed more liberal gifts upon these cities than did their owners themselves.
13. Now Herod had a body suited to his soul, and was ever a most excellent hunter, where he generally had good success, by the means of his great skill in riding horses; for in one day he caught forty wild beasts: 36 that country breeds also bears, and the greatest part of it is replenished with stags and wild asses. He was also such a warrior as could not be withstood: many men, therefore, there are who have stood amazed at his readiness in his exercises, when they saw him throw the javelin directly forward, and shoot the arrow upon the mark. And then, besides these performances of his depending on his own strength of mind and body, fortune was also very favorable to him; for he seldom failed of success in his wars; and when he failed, he was not himself the occasion of such failings, but he either was betrayed by some, or the rashness of his own soldiers procured his defeat.
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)
by D.H. Stern
and he will repay him for his good deed.
18 Discipline your child while there is hope,
but don’t get so angry that you kill him!
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The uncritical temper
Judge not, that ye be not judged. --- Matthew 7:1.
Jesus says regarding judging—Don’t. The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual. Criticism is a part of the ordinary faculty of man; but in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism. The effect of criticism is a dividing up of the powers of the one criticized; the Holy Ghost is the One in the true position to criticize, He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into communion with God when you are in a critical temper; it makes you hard and vindictive and cruel, and leaves you with the flattering unction that you are a superior person. Jesus says, as a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper. It is not done once and for all. Beware of anything that puts you in the superior person’s place.
There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the mote in your eye, it means I have a beam in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17–20). Stop having a measuring rod for other people. There is always one fact more in every man’s case about which we know nothing. The first thing God does is to give us a spiritual spring-cleaning; there is no possibility of pride left in a man after that. I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
When we do apply the Scripture to the question of which books belong in the canon, we shall see that it testifies to the fact that God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the New Testament canon can be reliably formed. This epistemic environment includes three components:
Providential exposure. In order for the church to be able to recognize the books of the canon, it must first be providentially exposed to these books. The church cannot recognize a book that it does not have.
Attributes of canonicity. These attributes are basically characteristics that distinguish canonical books from all other books. There are three attributes of canonicity: (1) divine qualities (canonical books bear the “marks” of divinity), (2) corporate reception (canonical books are recognized by the church as a whole), and (3) apostolic origins (canonical books are the result of the redemptive-historical activity of the apostles).
Internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. In order for believers to rightly recognize these attributes of canonicity, the Holy Spirit works to overcome the noetic effects of sin and produces belief that these books are from God.
These three components must all be in place if we are to have knowledge of the canon. We cannot know canonical books unless we have access to those books (providential exposure); we need some way to distinguish canonical books from other books (attributes of canonicity); and we need to have some basis for thinking we can rightly identify these attributes (internal work of the Spirit).
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The Ancients of the World
The salmon lying in the depths of Llyn Llifon
Secretly as a thought in a dark mind,
Is not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd
Who tells her sorrow nightly on the wind.
The ousel singing in the woods of Cilgwri,
Tirelessly as a stream over the mossed stones,
Is not so old as the toad of Cors Fochno
Who feels the cold skin sagging round his bones.
The toad and the ousel and the stag of Rhedynfre,
That has cropped each leaf from the tree of life,
Are not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd,
That the proud eagle would have to wife.
The real issue, hidden between the lines of (yesterday’s) Midrash text, is not sex but the future. And questions about the future are asked by every generation of humanity, not only by the generations before the flood. Will we have a posterity? What do we feel when we imagine the problems our descendants will face in the future? Is it a sense of futility—“Tomorrow a flood will come”—or a feeling of possibility—“Do yours and the Holy One, praised is He, will do His”? A sense of powerlessness, or a feeling of potency?
The issue of creating a positive future for ourselves and our children is the subject of the book A Good Enough Parent by the renowned psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim. His point about parenting is simple: we don’t have to be the best parents in the world. And, in fact, trying to achieve perfection may stop us dead in our tracks and prevent us from ever living up to our potential. We just have to be “good enough parents.” Do your best; the rest is out of your hands.
Judaism demands of us to be “good enough people.” We don’t have to be perfect, and we should not judge others for their imperfections. Rather, we must be as fully human as possible, to “do yours” and leave what we cannot do to others, or to the Other. That is to say, we should not let our limited power, our finite years, and our human frailty be excuses for not acting. Rather, we should use our creativity to its fullest potential. While that may not seem like a lot, it will be good enough.
The Bible merely tells us that Lamech’s two wives were Adah and Zillah. We know nothing more about them, or about their relationships with their husband. Our Midrash, however, tells a more elaborate tale: Like many men of his time, Lamech married two wives. One woman would drink a potion that rendered her sterile, so that pregnancy would never ruin her figure. She was the “trophy wife,” kept for her good looks. The other woman’s role was for procreation, as breeding stock. What is the basis of this fantastic tale? As it turns out, it is their names that provide the clues to Adah’s and Zillah’s domestic arrangement. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Yevamot 6:5) gives us the following information:
עָדָה/Adah—for he used to “luxuriate” (מִתְעַדֵּן/mit-ah-den) in her body;
צִלָּה/Zillah—for he used to sit in the “shade” (צִלָּה/zillah) of her children.
So it seems that, in the absence of any other information, the Rabbis made a pun on the women’s names and created a story out of a wordplay. Or did they?
Classical Jewish tradition saw names as much more than just random labels. They were “windows to the soul” that described the very essence of a person. In the words of the Bible, “For he is just what his name says …” (1 Samuel 25:25). You want to learn about a person? Look to his or her name.
The modern Hebrew poet Zelda has written a beautiful poem that speaks of all the “names” that are imposed upon an individual throughout life. This reflects the traditional Jewish view that a person’s name, given by others, conveys his very destiny:
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Now that he had their attention, Joel told the people to stop looking around at the locusts and to start looking ahead to the fulfillment of what the locust plague symbolized: the invasion of a fierce army from the north (v. 20). Unless Joel had some other attack in mind, about which we know nothing, he was probably referring to the Assyrian invasion, during the reign of King Hezekiah, which took place in 701 B.C. (Isa. 36–37). God allowed the Assyrians to ravage the land, but He miraculously delivered Jerusalem from being taken captive. (Why should Joel call the people to repent in order to avoid an invasion that would take place a century later? But they didn’t know when the invasion would come, and their brokenness before God was the means of postponing it. We look back and see that Isaiah 36–37 fulfilled what Joel wrote, but the people of Judah were looking ahead into an unknown future. It’s always right to repent and submit to the will of God. That’s the best way to secure the future.) The prophet gave the people three timely instructions.
“Blow the trumphet!” (Joel 2:1–11) This was real war, so Joel commanded the watchmen to blow their trumpets and warn the people. The Jews used trumpets to call assemblies, announce special events, mark religious festivals, and warn the people that war had been declared (Num. 10; Jer. 4:5; 6:1; Hosea 5:8). In this case, they blew the trumpet to announce war and to call a fast (Joel 2:15). Their weapons against the invading enemy would be repentance and prayer; the Lord would fight for them.
Twice in this passage, Joel tells us that invasion is “the Day of the Lord” (vv. 1, 11), meaning a very special period that God had planned and would direct. “The Lord thunders at the head of His army” (v. 11, NIV). It was God who brought the locusts of the land and God would allow the Assyrians to invade the land (Isa. 7:17–25; 8:7). He would permit them to ravage Judah just as the locusts had done, only the Assyrians would also abuse and kill people. “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation … to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like mire in the streets” (Isa. 10:5–6).
In his vivid account of the invading army, Joel sees them coming in great hordes, “like dawn spreading across the mountains” (Joel 2:2, NIV). Once again, he uses the locusts to describe the soldiers. Just as the locusts had destroyed everything edible before them, so the army would use a “scorched earth policy” and devastate the towns and the land (Isa. 36:10; 37:11–13, 18). The locusts looked like miniature horses, but the Assyrians would ride real horses and conquer the land. (The repeated use of the word “like” in 2:4–7 indicates that Joel is using a simile and not describing the actual army. The locusts looked and acted like an army, and the invading Assyrian army would be like them: numerous, ruthless, destructive, and invincible. When you get to 2:8–11, you are reading about real soldiers in a real battle: for locusts don’t worry about swords.)
The prophet makes it clear that the Lord will be in charge of this invasion; this is His army fulfilling His Word (Joel 2:11). God can use even heathen nations to accomplish His purposes on this earth (Isa. 10:5–7; Jer. 25:9). The awesome cosmic disturbances described in Joel 2:10 are Joel’s way of announcing that the Lord is in charge, for these signs accompany “the Day of the Lord” (3:15; see Zeph. 1:14).
“Rend your hearts!” (Joel 2:12–17) Once again, Joel called for a solemn assembly where God’s people would repent of their sins and seek the Lord’s help. The nation didn’t know when this invasion would occur, so the important thing was for them to turn to the Lord now. But they must be sincere. It’s easy to participate in a religious ceremony, tear your garments, and lament, but quite something else to humbly confess your sins and bring to God a repentant heart (Matt. 15:8–9). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17, NKJV).
The one thing that encourages us to repent and return to the Lord is the character of God. Knowing that He is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Joel 2:13, NIV) ought to motivate us to seek His face. This description of the attributes of God goes back to Moses’ meeting with the Lord on Mt. Sinai, when he interceded for the sinful nation of Israel (Ex. 34:6–7). You find echoes of it in Numbers 14:18 (another scene of Moses’ intercession); Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8, and 145:8; and Jonah 4:2. Such a gracious God would “turn and have pity” (Joel 2:14, NIV). (God is said to “repent” when from man’s point of view He changes His attitude and turns away His wrath. The word “relent” might be a better choice.) Note that Joel’s concern was that the people would once again have offerings to bring to the Lord, not just food on their tables.
But all the people must assemble and then turn to the Lord (vv. 15–17). This includes elders and children, nursing babies and priests, and even the newlyweds who were not supposed to be disturbed during their first year of marriage, not even because of war (Deut. 24:5). The prophet even gave them a prayer to use (Joel 2:17) that presents two reasons why God should deliver them: (1) Israel’s covenant privileges as God’s heritage and (2) the glory of God’s name before the other nations. Moses used these same arguments when he pled for the people (Ex. 32:11–13; 33:12–23).
The Jews are indeed God’s special treasure and heritage (Ex. 15:17; 19:5–6; Ps. 94:5; Jer. 2:7; 12:7–9). To Israel, He gave His laws, His covenants, the temple and priesthood, a special land, and the promise that they would bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:1–5). From Israel came the written Word of God and the gift of the Savior (John 4:22).
Israel was called to bear witness to the other nations that their God was the only true God. How could God be glorified if His people were destroyed and the pagans could gleefully ask, “Where is their God?” (See Pss. 79:10 and 115:2; also Micah 7:10.) The nation had to choose between revival (getting right with God) or reproach (robbing God of glory).
“Believe his promises!” (Joel 2:18–27) Joel now looks beyond the invasion to the time when God would heal His land and restore his blessings to His people. Just as He blew the locusts into the depths of the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea (eastern and western seas), so He could drive the invading army out of the land. In one night, God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, and Sennacherib went home a defeated king (Isa. 37:36–38). The corpses must have created quite a stench before they were buried.
Some Bible scholars believe that Psalm 126 grew out of this event, for it describes a sudden and surprising deliverance that startled the nation. (Judah’s return from Babylonian Captivity was neither sudden or surprising.) “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (v.3) is echoed in Joel 2:21, “Be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things.” Both Joel 2:23–27 and Psalm 126:5–6 describe the restoration of the ravaged earth and the return of the harvests. This fulfilled what Isaiah promised to King Hezekiah (Isa. 37:30).
Without the former rain (March-April) and the latter rain (October-November), the land could not bear its crops; and one way God disciplined His people was to shut off the rain (Deut. 11:13–17). But the Lord promised to give such bumper crops that the harvest would more than compensate for all the people lost during the locust plague and the drought. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25, NIV) is a word of promise to all who return to the Lord with sincere and broken hearts.
“You cannot have back your time,” said Charles Spurgeon, “but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned.… It is a pity that they should have been locust-eaten by your folly and negligence; but if they have been so, be not hopeless concerning them.” (Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications), vol. 35, 217.)
And why will God do this for His deserving people? So that they will praise His name and never again be shamed before the heathen. “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other, never again will my people be shamed” (v. 27, NIV). (There may be a hint here that some of the people were involved in idolatry and needed to turn from heathen vanities and worship only the Lord (Ex. 20:1–6).)
As never before, our lands today need healing. They are polluted by the shedding of innocent blood and the exploiting of both resources and people. We can claim God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 because we are “His people.”
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The censure which Jewish scholars have unanimously passed on Die Religion des Judentums is that the author uses as his primary sources almost exclusively the writings commonly called Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, with an especial penchant for the apocalypses; and only secondarily, and almost casually the writings which represent the acknowledged and authoritative teachings of the school and the more popular instruction of the synagogue. This is much as if one should describe early Christianity using indiscriminately for his principal sources the Apocryphal Gospels and Acts, the Apocalypses of John and Peter, and the Clementine literature. (Moore 1921: 243)
While acknowledging the problem of the date of the rabbinic material, Moore insisted: “it is clear that the author ought not to have called his book Die Religion des Judentums, for the sources from which his representation is drawn are those to which, so far as we know, Judaism never conceded any authority, while he discredits and largely ignores those which it has always regarded as normative” (244).
But as F. C. Porter pointed out in his review of Moore’s own masterwork (Moore 1927–1930), “When Moore speaks of the sources which Judaism has always regarded as authentic, he means ‘always’ from the third century A.D. onward.… Was there then no other type of Judaism in the time of Christ that may claim such names as ‘normative,’ ‘normal,’ ‘orthodox’?” (Porter 1928; cf. Neusner 1981: 9). More fundamentally, one might question whether notions of normativity are appropriate to a discussion of the history of a religion at all. As Jacob Neusner, with all due appreciation for Moore’s goodwill, pointed out: “Moore’s is to begin with not really a work in the history of religions at all.… His research is into theology. It is organized in theological categories, not differentiated by historical periods at all” (Neusner 1981: 7). Neusner was no less critical of Jewish scholarship at the beginning of the twentieth century. The attempt to draw a direct line from the Hebrew Bible to a “normative” Judaism defined by the rabbis was an anachronism, motivated by apologetics (Neusner 1984: 101; Wiese 2005: 213).
The mantle of Moore was taken up half a century later by E. P. Sanders, with some qualifications. Sanders recognizes that the tannaitic literature (i.e., literature traditionally ascribed to the period between 70 and 200 C.E.) cannot be assumed to provide “an accurate picture of Judaism or even of Pharisaism in the time of Jesus and Paul, although it would be surprising if there were no connection” (Sanders 1977: 60). He also recognizes that Jewish literature from this period, including the tannaitic literature, is very varied. Yet he argues that “a common pattern can be discerned which underlies otherwise disparate parts of tannaitic literature” (Sanders 1977: 70), which he describes as “covenantal nomism.” The Law must be seen in the context of election and covenant. It provides for a means of atonement, so that the covenantal relationship can be reestablished or maintained. All who are maintained in the covenant will be saved. Salvation, then, does not depend on purely individual observance of the Law. Sanders finds this pattern not only in tannaitic literature but also in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha, with the single exception of 4 Ezra (Sanders 1977: 422–23). He concludes that his study “lends no support to those who have urged that apocalypticism and legalism constitute substantially different religious types or streams in the Judaism of the period” (Sanders 1977: 423) and denies that apocalypticism constituted a distinct type of religion (Sanders 1992: 8). The case for the compatibility of concern for the Law with apocalyptic beliefs finds strong support in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In Sanders’s view, “covenantal nomism does not cover the entirety of Jewish theology, much less the entirety of Judaism” (Sanders 1992: 262). It is nonetheless an aspect of “common” or “normal” Judaism. Mindful of the criticism directed at Moore, Sanders is careful to qualify the word “normative”: “whatever we find to have been normal was based on internal assent and was ‘normative’ only to the degree that it was backed up by common opinion—which has a good deal of coercive power, but which allows individuals who strongly dissent to break away” (Sanders 1992: 47). The pillars of common Judaism were the belief in one God, the Scriptures, especially the Torah, and the Temple. Within a common framework, considerable variation was possible. Sanders’s approach is focused on practice rather than belief. Even when he draws his data from Josephus or other Second Temple sources, the kinds of issues on which he focuses are generally similar to those that predominate in the Mishnah. Apocalyptic speculations about the heavens or the end of history tell us little about the authors’ daily observances.
Sanders’s portrait of common Judaism is less vulnerable to critique than Moore’s normative Judaism, and it enjoys wide acceptance (see, e.g., Goodman 2002: 38). It does not deny that diversity existed but places the emphasis on what all (or at least most) Jews had in common. One could also place more emphasis on diversity with equal validity. The other end of the spectrum from Sanders is occupied by Jacob Neusner, who insists on speaking of “Judaisms” rather than “Judaism” (e.g., Neusner, Green, and Frerichs 1987: ix). The plural has been adopted by some scholars (e.g., Boccaccini) but is infelicitous: to speak of “a Judaism” requires the overarching concept of “Judaism” in the singular. While Neusner’s insistence that each corpus of Jewish literature (say, the Dead Sea Scrolls) be analyzed in its own right and not read through the lens of another corpus (say, the Mishnah) is salutary, it does not follow that each corpus represents a distinct religious system. Insistence on radical diversity distorts the data just as much as an essentialist approach that would exclude ostensibly Jewish material that does not conform to a norm (see the remarks of Green 1994: 298 on Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism: “Paul’s writings are analyzed in juxtaposition to Judaism rather than as part of it”).
In his recent attempt at a sweeping characterization of early Judaism, Seth Schwartz is sharply critical of Neusner: “I reject the characterization of Judaism as multiple, as well as the atomistic reading of the sources that justifies it” (Schwartz 2001: 9). He continues: “The notion that each piece of evidence reflects a discrete social organization is obviously wrong.” It is not apparent, however, that Neusner associates his different “Judaisms” with “discrete social organizations.” Schwartz goes on to distinguish broadly between “apocalyptic mythology” and “covenantal ideology” (Schwartz 2001: 78–82). He regards these as “incongruous systems”: “The covenant imagines an orderly world governed justly by the one God. The apocalyptic myth imagines a world in disarray, filled with evil; a world in which people do not get what they deserve. God is not in control in any obvious way; indeed the cosmology of the myth is dualist or polytheist.…” The accuracy of this sketch of “the apocalyptic myth” might be questioned, especially with regard to whether God is in control, but there is no doubt that there are real differences here. Schwartz notes “the repeated juxtaposition of the covenant and the myth in ancient Jewish writing” and infers that “though the systems are logically incongruous, they did not for the most part generate social division.” Thus he agrees with Sanders that “apocalyptic Judaism” was not a separate entity. He is also dubious about “covenantal Judaism.” Rather, he supposes that “the apocalyptic myth” was “a more or less fully naturalized part of the ideology of Judaism.” Insofar as he recognizes “incongruous systems,” Schwartz may not be as far removed from Neusner as he thinks, although the latter would surely insist on a greater variety of systems. At the same time, Schwartz can avoid the impression of fragmentation that is conveyed by Neusner’s insistence on multiple Judaisms.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In all these things we are more than conquerors.
--- Romans 8:37.
God is in it with you, and you are in it with God—that is the message of the Cross on the mystery of suffering. (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) And that message means victory. The crucified figure of Christ looks, at first glance, pathetically like defeat. It looks like the climax of all the pathos of the world. But you do not see the Cross aright at first glance. You have to gaze and gaze again. And those who do that make a marvelous discovery. They see, not Christ the pain-drenched sufferer, but Christ the mighty victor. They see the blackest tragedy of this earth becoming earth’s most dazzling triumph.
Isn’t there a wonderful sense of mastery right through the passion narrative? “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Isn’t there royalty in that? See him marching to Jerusalem. Mark well his serenity through the last terrible days. Watch his bearing before Pilate. See him on the cross refusing the drug they offered. Hear the shout that broke on the darkness: “It is finished!” Is that defeat? Yes, it is, but not Christ’s defeat—certainly not that! But the defeat of suffering. The defeat of the mystery of evil and of all the dark tragic powers of life—and Christ’s victory! You are King of glory, O Christ—Conqueror renowned!
“But what has all this to do with me?” you ask.
Surely the answer is clear. If evil at its worst has already been met and mastered, if God has turned suffering’s most awful triumph into uttermost defeat—if that in fact has happened, and on that scale, are you to say it cannot happen on the infinitely lesser scale of your own life, by union with Christ through faith? If you will only open your nature to the invasion of Christ’s Spirit, you will do as he did. “In all these things”—these desolating, heartbreaking things that happen to us, these physical pains, these mental agonies, these spiritual midnights of the soul—“we are more than conquerors,” not through our own valor or stoic resolution, not through a creed or code or philosophy, but “through him who loved us.”
That is the only answer to the mystery of suffering, and the answer is a question: Will you let God reign? The answer is not a theory. It is a life. It is a dedicated spirit, a fully surrendered soul. May that answer be ours!
--- James S. Stewart
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Links in the Chain June 17
Edward Kimball was determined to win his Sunday school class to Christ. A teenager named Dwight Moody tended to fall asleep on Sundays, but Kimball, undeterred, set out to reach him at work. His heart was pounding as he entered the store where the young man worked. “I put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoebox. I asked him to come to Christ.” But Kimball left thinking he had botched the job. Moody, however, left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America.
On June 17, 1873, Moody arrived in Liverpool, England, for a series of crusades. The meetings went poorly at first, but then the dam burst and blessings began flowing. Moody visited a Baptist chapel pastored by a scholarly man named F. B. Meyer, who at first disdained the American’s unlettered preaching. But Meyer was soon transfixed and transformed by Moody’s message.
At Moody’s invitation, Meyer toured America. At Northfield Bible Conference, he challenged the crowds saying, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?” That remark changed the life of a struggling young minister named J. Wilber Chapman.
Chapman proceeded to become a powerful traveling evangelist in the early 1900s, and he recruited a converted baseball player named Billy Sunday. Under Chapman’s eye, Sunday became one of the most spectacular evangelists in American history. His campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, produced a group of converts who continued praying for another such visitation of the Spirit. In 1934 they invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to conduct a citywide crusade. On October 8th Ham, discouraged, wrote a prayer to God on the stationery of his Charlotte hotel: “Lord, give us a Pentecost here. … Pour out thy Spirit tomorrow. … ”
His prayer was answered beyond his dreams when a Central High School student named Billy Graham gave his heart to Jesus.
And Edward Kimball thought he had botched the job!
I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me.
--- John 17:20,21a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 17
“Help, Lord.” --- Psalm 12:1.
The prayer itself is remarkable, for it is short, but seasonable, sententious, and suggestive. David mourned the fewness of faithful men, and therefore lifted up his heart in supplication—when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help; but at the same time he intended honestly to exert himself for the cause of truth, for the word “help” is inapplicable where we ourselves do nothing. There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings of certain professors. The Psalmist runs straight-forward to his God, with a well-considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking, and where to seek it. Lord, teach us to pray in the same blessed manner.
The occasions for the use of this prayer are frequent. In providential afflictions how suitable it is for tried believers who find all helpers failing them. Students, in doctrinal difficulties, may often obtain aid by lifting up this cry of “Help, Lord,” to the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher. Spiritual warriors in inward conflicts may send to the throne for reinforcements, and this will be a model for their request. Workers in heavenly labour may thus obtain grace in time of need. Seeking sinners, in doubts and alarms, may offer up the same weighty supplication; in fact, in all these cases, times, and places, this will serve the turn of needy souls. “Help, Lord,” will suit us living and dying, suffering or labouring, rejoicing or sorrowing. In him our help is found, let us not be slack to cry to him.
The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord’s character assures us that he will not leave his people; his relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us his aid; his gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and his sure promise stands, “Fear not, I WILL HELP THEE.”
Evening - June 17
“Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.” --- Numbers 21:17.
Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: “That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged himself to give all we require. The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it—the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it. Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. “Spring up, O well.” What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith. This Evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all his mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God. Lastly, the well was the object of effort. “The nobles of the people digged it with their staves.” The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us his peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek him in whom are all our fresh springs.
Morning and Evening
JESUS IS ALL THE WORLD TO ME
Words and Music by Will L. Thompson, 1847–1909
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. (Philippians 3:8, 9)
The author and composer of this hymn, Will L. Thompson, was known as the “Bard of Ohio” for his respected musical talents. He wrote many successful secular and sacred songs and he edited and published numerous collections. But it is said of him that his greatest joy was writing and performing simple Gospel songs about his Lord. He has provided Christian hymnody with two such enduring songs that have been mightily used by God: A testimony song for Christians, “Jesus Is All the World to Me,” and an invitation song that has been influential in directing non-Christians to the Savior, “Softy and Tenderly.”
The story is told of a visit that Will Thompson made to D. L. Moody’s bedside as the famed evangelist lay dying. All visitation had been stopped, but when Moody heard that Will Thompson had called, he insisted upon seeing him. “Will,” said Moody, “I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life!” Soon the well-known evangelist entered His eternal rest with these words of invitation that had been used so many times in his evangelistic campaigns once again upon his lips: “Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling—calling, ‘O sinner, come home.’ ”
And the words of this hymn by Will Thompson, published in his hymnal collection of 1904, have since been widely used by believers to express devotion to Christ and dependency upon Him for all of life’s needs:
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall. When I am sad to Him I go; no other one can cheer me so; when I am sad He makes me glad—He’s my friend.
Jesus is all the world to me, my friend in trials sore; I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them o’er and o’er. He sends the sunshine and the rain; He sends the harvest’s golden grain; sunshine and rain, harvest of grain—He’s my friend.
Jesus is all the world to me; I want no better friend; I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend, beautiful life that has no end; eternal life, eternal joy—He’s my friend.
For Today: John 15:14, 15; Philippians 1:21; 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:25.
Reflect on this statement—There are three essentials for a happy life: (1) A faith to live by, (2) a self to live with, and (3) a purpose to live for. Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LVIII. — WHEREFORE I observe, finally, the passages of Scripture adduced by you are imperative, and neither prove any thing, nor determine any thing concerning the ability of man, but enjoin only what things are to be done, and what are not to be done. And as to your conclusions or appendages, and similitudes, if they prove any thing they prove this: — that “Free-will” can do all things without grace. Whereas this you did not undertake to prove, nay, it is by you denied. Wherefore, these your proofs are nothing else but the most direct confutations.
For, (that I may, if I can, rouse the Diatribe from its lethargy) suppose I argue thus — If Moses say, ‘Choose life and keep the commandment’, unless man be able to choose life and keep the commandment, Moses gives that precept to man ridiculously. — Have I by this argument proved my side of the subject, that “Free-will” can do nothing good, and that it has no external endeavour separate from its own power? Nay, on the contrary, I have proved, by an assertion sufficiently forcible, that either man can choose life and keep the commandment as it is commanded, or Moses is a ridiculous law-giver? But who would dare to assert that Moses was a ridiculous law-giver? It follows therefore, that man can do the things that are commanded.
This is the way in which the Diatribe argues throughout, contrary to its own purposed design; wherein, it promised that it would not argue thus, but would prove a certain endeavour of “Freewill;” of which however, so far from proving it, it scarcely makes mention in the whole string of its arguments; nay, it proves the contrary rather; so that it may itself be more properly said to affirm and argue all things ridiculously.
And as to its making it, according to its own adduced similitude, to be ridiculous, that a man ‘having his right arm bound, should be ordered to stretch forth his right hand when he could only stretch forth his left.’ — Would it, I pray, be ridiculous, if a man, having both his arms bound, and proudly contending or ignorantly presuming that he could do any thing right or left, should be commanded to stretch forth his hand right and left, not that his captivity might be derided, but that he might be convinced of his false presumption of liberty and power, and might be brought to know his ignorance of his captivity and misery?
The Diatribe is perpetually setting before us such a man, who either can do what is commanded, or at least knows that he cannot do it. Whereas, no such man is to be found. If there were such an one, then indeed, either impossibilities would be ridiculously commanded, or the Spirit of Christ would be in vain.
The Scripture, however, sets forth such a man, who is not only bound, miserable, captive, sick, and dead, but who, by the operation of his lord, Satan, to his other miseries, adds that of blindness: so that he believes he is free, happy, at liberty, powerful, whole, and alive. For Satan well knows that if men knew their own misery he could retain no one of them in his kingdom: because, it could not be, but that God would immediately pity and succour their known misery and calamity: seeing that, He is with so much praise set forth, throughout the whole Scripture as, being near unto the contrite in heart, that Isaiah lxi. 1-3, testifies, that Christ was sent “to preach the Gospel to the poor, and to heal the broken hearted.”
Wherefore, the work of Satan is, so to hold men, that they come not to know their misery, but that they presume that they can do all things which are enjoined. But the work of Moses the legislator is the contrary, even that by the law he might discover to man his misery, in order that he might prepare him, thus bruised and confounded with the knowledge of himself, for grace, and might send him to Christ to be saved. Wherefore, the office of the law is not ridiculous, but above all things serious and necessary.
Those therefore who thus far understand these things, understand clearly at the same time, that the Diatribe, by the whole string of its arguments effects nothing whatever; that it collects nothing from the Scriptures but imperative passages, when it understands, neither what they mean nor wherefore they are spoken; and that, moreover, by the appendages of its conclusions and carnal similitudes it mixes up such a mighty mass of flesh, that it asserts and proves more than it ever intended, and argues against itself. So that there were no need to pursue particulars any further, for the whole is solved by one solution, seeing that the whole depends on one argument. But however, that it may be drowned in the same profusion in which it attempted to drown me, I will proceed to touch upon a few particulars more.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library