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6/19/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Deuteronomy 24     Psalm 114-115      Isaiah 51     Revelation 21


Deuteronomy 24

Laws Concerning Divorce

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Miscellaneous Laws

5 “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.

6 “No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge. 7 “If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

8 “Take care, in a case of leprous disease, to be very careful to do according to all that the Levitical priests shall direct you. As I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. 9 Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt.

10 “When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to collect his pledge. 11 You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge. 13 You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.

14 “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.

16 “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. 17 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, 18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.


Psalm 114

Tremble at the Presence of the Lord

Psalm 114

1  When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2  Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.

3  The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
4  The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.

5  What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
6  O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?

7  Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8  who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.


Psalm 115

To Your Name Give Glory

Psalm 115 1  Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

2  Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3  Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

4  Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5  They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6  They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7  They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8  Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

9  O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
10  O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
11  You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.

12  The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
13  he will bless those who fear the LORD,
both the small and the great.

14  May the LORD give you increase,
you and your children!
15  May you be blessed by the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!

16  The heavens are the LORD’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17  The dead do not praise the LORD,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18  But we will bless the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!


Isaiah 51

The LORD’s Comfort for Zion

Isaiah 51

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the LORD:
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
2  Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
that I might bless him and multiply him.
3  For the LORD comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.

4  “Give attention to me, my people,
and give ear to me, my nation;
for a law will go out from me,
and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.
5  My righteousness draws near,
my salvation has gone out,
and my arms will judge the peoples;
the coastlands hope for me,
and for my arm they wait.
6  Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;
but my salvation will be forever,
and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

7  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
the people in whose heart is my law;
fear not the reproach of man,
nor be dismayed at their revilings.
8  For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool,
but my righteousness will be forever,
and my salvation to all generations.”

9  Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago.
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
10  Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to pass over?
11  And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

12  “I, I am he who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass,
13  and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
and you fear continually all the day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
when he sets himself to destroy?
And where is the wrath of the oppressor?
14  He who is bowed down shall speedily be released;
he shall not die and go down to the pit,
neither shall his bread be lacking.
15  I am the LORD your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name.
16  And I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you in the shadow of my hand,
establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ ”

17  Wake yourself, wake yourself,
stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD
the cup of his wrath,
who have drunk to the dregs
the bowl, the cup of staggering.
18  There is none to guide her
among all the sons she has borne;
there is none to take her by the hand

among all the sons she has brought up.
19  These two things have happened to you—
who will console you?—
devastation and destruction, famine and sword;
who will comfort you?
20  Your sons have fainted;
they lie at the head of every street
like an antelope in a net;
they are full of the wrath of the LORD,
the rebuke of your God.

21  Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted,
who are drunk, but not with wine:
22  Thus says your Lord, the LORD,
your God who pleads the cause of his people:
“Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;
23  and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
who have said to you,
‘Bow down, that we may pass over’;
and you have made your back like the ground
and like the street for them to pass over.”


Revelation 21

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Christians and Justice

By N.T. Wright in Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

     “Well,” I can hear someone say at this point, “the followers of Jesus haven’t made much progress so far, have they? What about the Crusades? What about the Spanish Inquisition? Surely the church has been responsible for more than its own fair share of injustice? What about the people who bomb abortion clinics? What about the fundamentalists who think Armageddon is coming soon so it doesn’t matter if they wreck the planet in the meantime? Haven’t Christians been part of the problem rather than part of the solution?”

     Yes and no.

     Yes: from very early on there have always been people who have done terrible things in the name of Jesus. There have also been Christians who have done terrible things knowing them to be terrible things, without claiming that Jesus was supporting them. There’s no point hiding from this truth, however uncomfortable it may be.

     But also no: because again and again, when we look at the wicked things Christians have done (whether or not they were claiming that God was on their side), we can see in retrospect at least that they were muddled and mistaken about what Christianity actually is. It’s no part of Christian belief to say that the followers of Jesus have always got everything right. Jesus himself taught his followers a prayer which includes a clause asking God for forgiveness. He must have thought we would go on needing it.

     But at the same time one of the biggest problems with the credibility of the Christian faith in the world today is that a great many people still think of Christianity as identified with “the West” (an odd phrase, since it normally includes Australia and New Zealand, which are about as far east as you can go!)—that is, western Europe and North America in particular, and the cultures which have grown from their earlier colonial settlements. Then, when (as has happened recently) “the West” makes war on some other part of the world, particularly when that part happens to be largely Muslim in religion, it’s easy for people to say “the Christians” are making war on “the Muslims.” In fact, of course, most people in the Western world are not Christians, and most Christians in today’s world do not live in “the West.” Most, actually, live in Africa or Southeast Asia. Most “Western” governments do not attempt to put the teaching of Jesus into practice in their societies, and many of them are proud of the fact. But that doesn’t stop people putting two and two together and making five—in other words, blaming Christianity for what “the West” chooses to do. The so-called Christian world continues to get bad press, much of it well deserved.

     That, actually, is one of the reasons why I have begun this book by talking about justice. It is important to see, and to say, that those who follow Jesus are committed, as he taught us to pray, to God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” And that means that God’s passion for justice must become ours, too. When Christians use their belief in Jesus as a way of escaping from that demand and challenge, they are abandoning a central element in their own faith. That way danger lies.

     Equally, we should not be shy about telling the stories which many skeptics in the Western world have done their best to forget. When the slave trade was at its height, with many people justifying it on the grounds that slaves are mentioned in the Bible, it was a group of devout Christians, led by the unforgettable William Wilberforce in Britain and John Woolman in America, who got together and made it their life’s business to stop it. When, with slavery long dead and buried, racial prejudice still haunted the United States, it was the Christian vision of Martin Luther King Jr. that drove him to peaceful, but highly effective, protest. Wilberforce was grasped by a passion for God’s justice on behalf of the slaves, a passion which cost him what might otherwise have been a dazzling political career. Martin Luther King’s passion for justice for African Americans cost him his life. Their tireless campaigning grew directly and explicitly out of their loyalty to Jesus.

     In the same way, when the apartheid regime in South Africa was at its height (with many people justifying it on the grounds that the Bible speaks of different races living different lives), it was the long campaign of Christian leaders like Desmond Tutu that brought about change with remarkably little bloodshed. (I well remember how, in the 1970s, politicians and news commentators took it for granted that change could only come through massive violence.) Tutu and many others did a lot of praying, a lot of reading the Bible with leaders and government officials, a good deal of risky speaking out against the many evil facets of apartheid, and a large amount of equally risky confrontation with black leaders and followers who believed that only violence would work.

     Again and again Tutu was caught in the middle, distrusted and hated by both sides. But under the new post-apartheid government he chaired the most extraordinary commission ever to grace the political scene: the South African Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, which has begun the long and painful process of healing the memory and imagination of a whole country, of allowing grief to take its proper course and anger to be expressed and dealt with. Who in the 1960s or even the 1980s would have thought such a thing possible? Yet it happened; and all because of people whose passion for justice and loyalty to Jesus combined to bring it about.

     These stories, and many others like them, need to be told and retold. They recount the sort of thing that can and often does happen when people take the Christian message seriously. Sometimes taking it seriously, and speaking out as a result, has gotten people into deep trouble, has even led to a violent death: the twentieth century saw a great many Christians martyred not only for their stance on matters of faith but more especially because their faith led them to fearless action in the cause of justice. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazis toward the end of the Second World War. Think of Oscar Romero, shot by an assassin because he was speaking out on behalf of the poor in El Salvador. Think, again, of Martin Luther King Jr.

     They and nine others are commemorated in statues on the west front of London’s Westminster Abbey. They are a reminder to our contemporary world that the Christian faith still makes waves in the world, and that people are prepared to risk their lives out of the passion for justice which it sustains.

     That passion, I have been arguing in this chapter, is a central feature of all human life. It is expressed in different ways, and it can sometimes get twisted and go horribly wrong. There are still mobs, and even individuals, who are prepared to kill someone—anyone—in the distorted belief that, as long as someone gets killed, some kind of justice is being done. But all people know, in cooler moments, that this strange thing we call justice, this longing for things to be put right, remains one of the great human goals and dreams. Christians believe that this is so because all humans have heard, deep within themselves, the echo of a voice which calls us to live like that. And they believe that in Jesus that voice became human and did what had to be done to bring it about.

N.T. Wright Books

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion
Evil and the Justice of God
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3)
Romans (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good
Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues
Acts (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
John (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
Philippians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision
Revelation (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is
The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential
The Lord and His Prayer
1 Corinthians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul: In Fresh Perspective
James (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Letters of John (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Revelation for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meal Jesus Gave Us, Revised Edition
Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
Mark (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2, Chapters 9-16 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
Ephesians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Luke (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and His Recent Interpreters
Paul: A Biography
Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978–-2013
1 & 2 Peter and Jude (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Hebrews (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
Galatians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One (For Everyone)
Colossians and Philemon (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (The New Testament for Everyone)
Colossians & Philemon (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (The New Testament for Everyone)
1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
1 & 2 Thessalonians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
2 Corinthians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
For All the Saints: Remembering the Christian Departed
Luke for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Surprised by Hope Participant's Guide with DVD: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle
Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone)
Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Who Was Jesus?
Twelve Months of Sundays: Biblical Meditations on the Christian Years A, B and C
The Last Word
Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today

Descartes: Not the Father Of Modernity

By Derrick 6/17/17

     With Etienne Gilson’s Theology and the Cartesian Doctrine of Freedom being translated into English for the first time ever at the end of this year, it seemed appropriate to briefly touch on a matter near and dear to it: Descartes was not the father of modernity (feel free to read that in your best Maury Povich voice).

     The standard tale that one often hears typically opens with a flourish, by uttering his famous phrase: cogito, ergo Sum (I think, therefore I am). From there, a story emerges about how Descartes invented a new philosophy in desperate search for new foundational certainties that broke radically with a benighted past. This philosophy, in turn, centered around a shift to the subject, a modernity characterized by epistemology, the search for certainty, a radical mind-body dualism, and the disenchantment of nature now seen as nothing but “extension” or “brute matter,” among other things.

     Typical in this regard then, is the summary offered by Stanley Grenz and John Franke in their book Beyond Foundationalism: “Historians routinely look to the French philosopher René Descartes as the progenitor of modern foundationalism.”[1]

     It turns out, though, that’s not quite right. Lets take the claims of the standard story in order.

     1.) Break From the Past?

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     Derrick | I love biblical studies, theology, and philosophy of all kinds, and learn everyday the truth in the statement "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know." I have a B.A. in Theology/Biblical Studies and a second B.A. in Koine Greek. Im currently working on a M.Div in Advanced Theological Studies, and a Th.M in Systematic Theology, and hope to someday get a Ph.D or two and teach theology and philosophy at the University level.

Elijah And The "Still Small Voice"

By Michael Comins Spring 2001

     Elijah lives in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab, the king who "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (I Kings 16:30). Ahab had married a Phoenician princess named Jezebel who established the cult of Ba'al in the palace and persecuted the Israelite prophets of God. Elijah informs Ahab of God's displeasure with a threat; a drought will ensue until Elijah, on God's behalf, announces the coming rain (ch. 17). Elijah, fleeing the king's wrath, hides in a desert canyon above the Jordan valley. There, he is miraculously fed by ravens until the drought dries up his water supply (17:6). He moves to Phoenicia, where he and his household, once again, are fed in supernatural fashion. God finally commands Elijah to return to Israel, where he challenges the prophets of Ba'al to the famous contest on Mt. Carmel (ch.18). King Ahab and the people gather to see whose sacrifice will be accepted, that of Elijah or the prophets of Ba'al. This is Elijah at his best - angry, daring, dramatic. The fire of God descends from the heavens, consuming Elijah's offering. "Adonai, He is God!" shout the people. Under Elijah's command, they slaughter the prophets of Ba'al. Rain falls shortly thereafter. The text tells us that "the hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah" (18:45)[2] and, with supernatural strength, he runs before Ahab's chariot like a racehorse, as the king returns to his palace. It is hard to imagine a more graced or gifted person. Elijah is God's right-hand man, the people's hero and the king's herald.

     Elijah's story continues in 1 Kings 19.

     When Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them." Frightened, he fled at once for his life. He came to Beer-sheba, which is in Judah, and left his servant there; he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness (vv. 1-4).

     How suddenly Elijah's fortunes have been reversed! God's favorite, the hero of Israel, the worker of miracles who ran before the king's chariot, is now running for his life! Ahab is unwilling or unable to stop his wife, Jezebel. Elijah flees to the southern Israelite kingdom of Judah, and then to its southern border, Beersheba. Not wishing to endanger his servant, he leaves him behind as he flees Jezebel's agents into no-man's land, into the desert.

     He came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die (v. 4).

     Elijah repeats Hagar's experience (Gen. 21:14) and learns the bitter truth of desert travel. If you do not know how to navigate the serpentine dry riverbeds, if you get lost amidst the formless dunes, if you cannot find shade and water, your life can end in one, short day.

     Perhaps Elijah is not surprised at all. It takes many days to travel to Beersheba. In all that time, God does not communicate with Elijah. After years of literally being fed by God, Elijah feels abandoned, his prophetic mission terminated. Perhaps he loses himself in the desert intentionally!

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     [2] Unless otherwise noted, this and all other biblical quotations are from the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh: the traditional Hebrew text and the new JPS translation, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1999).

     Rabbi Mike Comins is the Founder of TorahTrek. He grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA in Near Eastern Studies, and served as regional advisor for the Southern California Federation of Temple Youth and Rosh Eida at UAHC Camp Swig before making aliyah (moving to Israel) at age 26. While guiding Jerusalem for American youth and serving as chairperson of Netzer Olami (the International Reform-Zionist Youth Movement), Mike studied classical Jewish texts for four years at Machon Pardes, a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 1996, he was ordained by the Hebrew Union College – Israeli Rabbinical Program. Exploring his lifelong interest in philosophy and theology, Rabbi Comins’ rabbinic thesis, Borowitz and Beyond: Towards a Hermeneutic Account of I-thou Encounter, received a score of 97 from referee Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr. He holds an MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew University, and worked for five years as education director of Kehilat Kol HaNeshama, a Jerusalem congregation he helped to establish. Upon ordination, Mike earned his license as an Israeli desert guide. He founded “Ruach HaMidbar Desert Trips and Retreats,” leading many trekkers, often rabbis, rabbinical students and students for the ministry, on spiritual journeys through Israel’s deserts and the Sinai mountains.

     Returning to the U.S. in 1998, Rabbi Comins spent his first years back in North America on an extended spiritual sabbatical. He participated in several two-year institutes for rabbis: the Mindfulness Leadership Training program at Elat Chayyim with Sylvia Boorstein, and the Metivta Spirituality Institute, with Boorstein, Arthur Green and Jonathan Omer-Man. He participated in four- and six-week silent meditation retreats at the Spirit Rock meditation center under the tutelage of Boorstein and Jack Kornfield. To date, he has completed five solo wilderness retreats (four days of meditation, prayer and fasting in a small circle, generally known as a Vision Quest) under the guidance of different teachers, notably John Milton of Sacred Passage.

     He founded TorahTrek Spiritual Wilderness Adventures in 2001 while serving the Jackson Hole Chaverim in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for three years. The community’s first resident rabbi, Mike helped the Jackson Jewish community establish itself while developing TorahTrek into a nationally recognized program.

     Currently, Rabbi Comins lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jody Porter. He continues to grow TorahTrek, and devotes himself to writing and teaching. Rabbi Comins also contributes to various books and periodicals.

Michael Comins Books

A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism
Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer Is Difficult and What to Do about It

The Sheer Sound of a Still Small Voice

By Carl McColman 9/24/2012

     "God speaks to us in a whisper," or so said an Episcopal priest I once knew. It was one of his trademark sayings, and the idea was obvious enough: if we want to discern the voice (will) of God in our lives, we had better listen carefully, because it won't come with any amplification.

     While I can't say so for sure, my hunch is that all this came from a reading of 1 Kings 19. In this passage, Elijah, alone on Mount Horeb after fleeing for his life from the rage of Queen Jezebel, encounters a series of awe-inspiring events—a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire—but each time, we are told, God was not in the particular force of nature. And then, after the fire, in the words of the King James Version, comes a "still small voice."

     The narrative goes on to say that at this point Elijah "wrapped his face in his mantle" and went out from where he had been hiding. Then he hears a voice that speaks to him, asks him a question, and gives him direction about what his next move should be.

     The story as found in the KJV seems a bit disjointed. Elijah hears a voice, steps out from the cave, and then hears a voice that speaks to him about what he is doing and where he should be going. Is it the same voice? Was God just sort of clearing his throat the first time?

Click here to go to source

     Carl McColman is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality and The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C. S. Lewis’s Narnia. His blog (www.anamchara.com) is one of the leading online resources devoted to Christian spirituality and mysticism. He regularly conducts retreats and speaks at churches, seminaries, monasteries and other locations on various aspects of both Christian and interfaith spirituality and contemplative practice.

     Carl is a Lay Cistercian — a layperson receiving formal spiritual guidance from Trappist monks in the spirit of both ancient and medieval monastic practice. He first received training in Christian meditation and contemplation at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. Later he received additional training in the art of spiritual direction through the Institute for Pastoral Studies in Atlanta. Carl is also active with the interfaith community in Atlanta, where he is the co-facilitator of an interfaith meditation group.

Valuing Humanity In A Secular Society

By Schluder23 3/22/2015

     I recently had a conversation with a co-worker over lunch about abortion and its current political status in America. It was an interesting discussion but ultimately it ended up with him continually defaulting to his pro-choice position because he “just feels that way.” When asked for the justification for his position, he could not provide anything further than “that’s just how I feel.” Before long it became overwhelmingly clear that he had never heard any of the pro-life arguments that I had been putting forward. He never questioned the pro-choice status quo and couldn’t articulate a reasoned response for his position. He was caught flat-footed and unprepared so he resorted to the emotional plea, “I just feel that way.” For me, it’s incomprehensible how anyone could adamantly hold a position that allows for the destruction of innocent human life. In the end, while he still “felt that way”, he did admit that the unborn were human, abortion was the unjustified killing of an innocent human life, and the act of abortion was immoral. Regardless of these concessions, he felt that a woman should still “have the right” to choose to end the life of the innocent unborn child living within her. He didn’t know why but he “just did.”

     In this brief exchange between Christian philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig and the late atheist Christopher Hitchens concerning the value of humanity, you’ll notice that Hitchens is making the mistake that many atheists make in regardless to their perspective towards religion. It is grossly misplaced. Hitchens complains that the church is politically advocating for causes to ban things like same-sex marriage and abortion in an attempt to “gain power”. Hitchens uses Fyodor Dostoevsky’s quote, “If there is no God, all things are permitted”, but attempts to argue that it can also be said that, “With God, all things are thinkable” because, he reasons, that if God truly exists, why do Christians care what happens in the present because God would ultimately bring justice to those who perform injustices? He’s essentially implying that Christians should sit back and relax because….God’s got this. Well, that answer is much easier than you may think…

     As Dr. Craig brilliantly responded, if God made us in His image and humanity has been endowed with unalienable rights and intrinsic moral value, we should value all life. When Hitchens quoted Dostoevsky, it hurt his point. Hitchens was debating from the atheistic position, and he was morally objecting to how he perceives Christians politically interfering with an immoral agenda that would seek to abolish abortion and same-sex marriage. If Hitchens’ position of atheism is the right position, Dostoevsky’s quote would also be true. Given the truth behind Dostoevsky’s quote describing the philosophical implications of atheism, Hitchens would not be in a position to object to any moral behavior because “all things are permitted.” Hitchens has placed a self-destruct button on his argument by quoting Fyodor Dostoevsky.

     From the historical evidence that we can present for the credibility of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all other philosophical and scientific evidence presented in a cumulative form, the case for Christian theism is truly a death by one thousand paper cuts. Meaning, all the evidence, presented accumulatively, make Christian theism the most likely conclusion of the available worldviews. This Christian apologetic case has the power to transform the way we all view the world we are in. If everyone followed the evidence where it leads, people would be able to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and let it lead them into a personal relationship with Christ. If our hearts and minds were open to the facts, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage wouldn’t be controversial any longer. We would be able to openly speak out against these behaviors without being harshly condemned as someone who’s filled with hate, bigotry, and intolerance.

Click here to go to source

     Schluder23 ????

Interesting Still Small Voice Discussion

By Sermon Index

     Several interesting comments

Click here to go to source

Predictions Fulfilled: Declaring the Things to Come

By Mike Robinson 5/3/2017

     Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were… Or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter… Thus says the LORD … I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me, there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? … I have declared the former things from the beginning; … Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass... Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you... (Isaiah 41:22-23, 44:6-8, 48:3-20).

     Another segment of “proof” for Christianity is the messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The Old Testament foretold the coming of the Messiah in precise detail. The text was written centuries before the coming of Jesus and predicted more than three hundred prophecies about Him. No other founder of any religion can provide a similar prophetic record of their life written down centuries before their birth. Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, David Berg, Muhammad, and Buddha did not supply a widely transmitted, pre-existing written record that accurately predicted the specific details of their lives. Even though proof and evidence are our main apologetics, the evidence is still amazing.

     But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22; italics mine).

     The hundreds of prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, including dozens that were specifically clear, were predicted and foreordained by God (Acts 2:23). The Bible foretold events and historical details about the coming of Jesus prior to His birth. All these predictions came true in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. No other spiritual leader or prophet had predictive material written about their lives recorded before they were born. Jesus Christ had more than three hundred predictions about His life that were fulfilled in exact detail. An agent on The X-Files once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” And only one with extreme power (God’s omnipotence qualifies) to perfectly arrange history could create a future where one man could fulfill hundreds of predictions—most of which were out of a normal man’s control to arrange.

     Then He (Jesus) said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).

     Here are some of the prophecies God gave in the Old Testament concerning Christ:

Click here to go to source

     Mike Robinson | Minister at CCC | christian apologetics, presuppositional apologetics, applied apologetics, christian philosophy, van til, greg bahnsen, william craig, lee strobel, josh mcdowell, norman geisler, timothy keller. Lives in Granbury.

Deut. 24; Psalms 114-115; Isaiah 51; Revelation 21

By Don Carson 6/19/2018

     It is striking how the Mosaic Law provides for the poor.

     Consider Deuteronomy 24. Here God forbids taking a pair of millstones, or “even the upper one” (i.e., the more movable one), as security for a debt (Deut. 24:6). It would be like taking a mechanic’s tools as security, or a software writer’s computer. That would take away the means of earning a living, and would therefore not only compound the poverty but would make repayment a practical impossibility.

     In Deut. 24:10-12, two further stipulations are laid down with respect to security for loans. (1) If you make a loan to a neighbor, do not go into his home to get the pledge. Stay outside; let him bring it out to you. Such restrained conduct allows the neighbor to preserve a little dignity, and curtails the tendency of some rich people to throw their weight around and treat the poor as if they are dirt. (2) Do not keep as security what the poor man needs for basic warmth and shelter.

     In Deut. 24:14-15, employers are told to pay their workers daily. In a poor and agrarian society where as much as 70% or 80% of income went on food, this was ensuring that the hired hand and his family had enough to eat every day. Withholding wages not only imposed a hardship, but was unjust. Still broader considerations of justice are expressed in Deut. 24:17-18: orphans and aliens, i.e., those without protectors or who do not really understand a particular culture’s “ropes,” are to be treated with justice and never abused or taken advantage of.

     Finally, in Deut. 24:19-22, farmers are warned not to pick up every scrap of produce from their field in order to get a better return. Far better to leave some “for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.”

     Two observations: First, these sorts of provisions for the poor will work best in a non-technological society where labor and land are tied together, and help is provided by locals for locals. There is no massive bureaucratic scheme. On the other hand, without some sort of structured organization it is difficult to imagine how to foster similar help for the poor in, say, the south side of Chicago, where there are few farmers to leave scraps of produce. Second, the incentive in every case is to act rightly under the gaze of God, especially remembering the years the people themselves spent in Egypt (Deut. 24:13-22). These verses demand close reading. Where people live in the fear, love, and knowledge of God, social compassion and practical generosity are entailed; where God fades into the mists of sentimentalism, robust compassion also withers — bringing down the biting denunciation of prophets like Amos.

Click here to go to source

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:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 66

How Awesome Are Your Deeds
66 To The Choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.

8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will perform my vows to you,
14 that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     23. In one thing they are more than rigid and inexorable--in not permitting priests to marry. It is of no consequence to mention with what impunity whoredom prevails among them, and how, trusting to their vile celibacy, they have become callous to all kinds of iniquity. The prohibition, however, clearly shows how pestiferous all traditions are, since this one has not only deprived the Church of fit and honest pastors, but has introduced a fearful sink of iniquity, and plunged many souls into the gulf of despair. Certainly, when marriage was interdicted to priests, it was done with impious tyranny, not only contrary to the word of God, but contrary to all justice. First, men had no title whatever to forbid what God had left free; secondly, it is too clear to make it necessary to give any lengthened proof that God has expressly provided in his Word that this liberty shall not be infringed. I omit Paul's injunction, in numerous passages, that a bishop be the husband of one wife; but what could be stronger than his declaration, that in the latter days there would be impious men "forbidding to marry"? (1 Tim. 4:3) Such persons he calls not only impostors, but devils. We have therefore a prophecy, a sacred oracle of the Holy Spirit, intended to warn the Church from the outset against perils, and declaring that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils. They think that they get finely off when they wrest this passage, and apply it to Montanus, the Tatians, the Encratites, and other ancient heretics. These (they say) alone condemned marriage; we by no means condemn it, but only deny it to the ecclesiastical order, in whom we think it not befitting. As if, even granting that this prophecy was primarily fulfilled in those heretics, it is not applicable also to themselves; or, as if one could listen to the childish quibble that they do not forbid marriage, because they do not forbid it to all. This is just as if a tyrant were to contend that a law is not unjust because its injustice presses only on a part of the state.

24. They object that there ought to be some distinguishing mark between the clergy and the people; as if the Lord had not provided the ornaments in which priests ought to excel. Thus they charge the apostle with having disturbed the ecclesiastical order, and destroyed its ornament, when, in drawing the picture of a perfect bishop, he presumed to set down marriage among the other endowments which he required of them. I am aware of the mode in which they expound this--viz. that no one was to be appointed a bishop who had a second wife. This interpretation, I admit, is not new; but its unsoundness is plain from the immediate context, which prescribes the kind of wives whom bishops and deacons ought to have. Paul enumerates marriage among the qualities of a bishop; those men declare that, in the ecclesiastical order, marriage is an intolerable vice; and, indeed, not content with this general vituperation, they term it, in their canons, the uncleanness and pollution of the flesh (Siric. ad Episc. Hispaniar.). Let every one consider with himself from what forge these things have come. Christ deigns so to honour marriage as to make it an image of his sacred union with the Church. What greater eulogy could be pronounced on the dignity of marriage? How, then, dare they have the effrontery to give the name of unclean and polluted to that which furnishes a bright representation of the spiritual grace of Christ?

25. Though their prohibition is thus clearly repugnant to the word of God, they, however, find something in the Scriptures to defend it. The Levitical priests, as often as their ministerial course returned, behoved to keep apart from their wives, that they might be pure and immaculate in handling sacred things; and it were therefore very indecorous that our sacred things, which are more noble, and are ministered every day, should be handled by those who are married: as if the evangelical ministry were of the same character as the Levitical priesthood. These, as types, represented Christ, who, as Mediator between God and men, was, by his own spotless purity, to reconcile us to the Father. But as sinners could not in every respect exhibit a type of his holiness, that they might, however, shadow it forth by certain lineaments, they were enjoined to purify themselves beyond the manner of men when they approached the sanctuary, inasmuch as they then properly prefigured Christ appearing in the tabernacle, an image of the heavenly tribunal, as pacificators, to reconcile men to God. As ecclesiastical pastors do not sustain this character in the present day, the comparison is made in vain. Wherefore the apostle declares distinctly, without reservation, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4). And the apostles showed, by their own example, that marriage is not unbefitting the holiness of any function, however excellent; for Paul declares, that they not only retained their wives, but led them about with them (1 Cor. 9:5).

26. Then how great the effrontery when, in holding forth this ornament of chastity as a matter of necessity, they throw the greatest obloquy on the primitive Church, which, while it abounded in admirable divine erudition, excelled more in holiness. For if they pay no regard to the apostles (they are sometimes wont strenuously to contemn them), what, I ask, will they make of all the ancient fathers, who, it is certain, not only tolerated marriage in the episcopal order, but also approved it? They, forsooth, encouraged a foul profanation of sacred things when the mysteries of the Lord were thus irregularly performed by them. In the Council of Nice, indeed, there was some question of proclaiming celibacy: as there are never wanting little men of superstitious minds, who are always devising some novelty as a means of gaining admiration for themselves. What was resolved? The opinion of Paphnutius was adopted, who pronounced legitimate conjugal intercourse to be chastity (Hist. Trip. Lib. 2 c. 14). The marriage of priests, therefore, continued sacred, and was neither regarded as a disgrace, nor thought to cast any stain on their ministry.

27. In the times which succeeded, a too superstitious admiration of celibacy prevailed. Hence, ever and anon, unmeasured encomiums were pronounced on virginity, so that it became the vulgar belief that scarcely any virtue was to be compared to it. And although marriage was not condemned as impurity, yet its dignity was lessened, and its sanctity obscured; so that he who did not refrain from it was deemed not to have a mind strong enough to aspire to perfection. Hence those canons which enacted, first, that those who had attained the priesthood should not contract marriage; and, secondly, that none should be admitted to that order but the unmarried, or those who, with the consent of their wives, renounced the marriage-bed. These enactments, as they seemed to procure reverence for the priesthood, were, I admit, received even in ancient times with great applause. But if my opponents plead antiquity, my first answer is, that both under the apostles, and for several ages after, bishops were at liberty to have wives: that the apostles themselves, and other pastors of primitive authority who succeeded them, had no difficulty in using this liberty, and that the example of the primitive Church ought justly to have more weight than allow us to think that what was then received and used with commendation is either illicit or unbecoming. My second answer is, that the age, which, from an immoderate affection for virginity, began to be less favourable to marriage, did not bind a law of celibacy on the priests, as if the thing were necessary in itself, but gave a preference to the unmarried over the married. My last answer is, that they did not exact this so rigidly as to make continence necessary and compulsory on those who were unfit for it. For while the strictest laws were made against fornication, it was only enacted with regard to those who contracted marriage that they should be superseded in their office.

28. Therefore, as often as the defenders of this new tyranny appeal to antiquity in defence of their celibacy, so often should we call upon them to restore the ancient chastity of their priests, to put away adulterers and whoremongers, not to allow those whom they deny an honourable and chaste use of marriage, to rush with impunity into every kind of lust, to bring back that obsolete discipline by which all licentiousness is restrained, and free the Church from the flagitious turpitude by which it has long been deformed. When they have conceded this, they will next require to be reminded not to represent as necessary that which, being in itself free, depends on the utility of the Church. I do not, however, speak thus as if I thought that on any condition whatever effect should be given to those canons which lay a bond of celibacy on the ecclesiastical order, but that the better-hearted may understand the effrontery of our enemies in employing the name of antiquity to defame the holy marriage of priests. In regard to the Fathers, whose writings are extant, none of them, when they spoke their own mind, with the exception of Jerome, thus malignantly detracted from the honour of marriage. We will be contented with a single passage from Chrysostom, because he being a special admirer of virginity, cannot be thought to be more lavish than others in praise of matrimony. Chrysostom thus speaks: "The first degree of chastity is pure virginity; the second, faithful marriage. Therefore, a chaste love of matrimony is the second species of virginity" (Chrysost. Hom. de Invent. Crucis.).

__________________________________________________________________

[591] French, "J'use de ce mot de Cleres pource qu'il est commun, combien qu'il soit impropre; par lequel j'entens ceux qui ont office et ministere en l'Eglise."--I use this word Clergy because it is common, though it is improper; by it I mean those who have an office and ministry in the Church.

[592] Vide Cyril in Joann. cap. 50, et Luther, de Commun. Populi, tom. 2

[593] Cyprian, Lib. 1 Ep. 2; Lib. 3 Ep. 14, 26.

[594] Ambros. Lib. 1 Ep. 3; et Oratio habita in Funere Theodosii.

[595] French, "Il y a danger, que de discipline nous ne tombions en une maniere de gehene, et que de correcteurs nous ne devenions bourreaux."--There is a danger, lest instead of discipline we fall into a kind of gehenna, and instead of correctors become executioners.

[596] See a lengthened refutation in Calv. Instructio adv. Anabap. Art. 2. See also Calv. de Coena Domini.

[597] See a striking instance in Ezra 8:21, on the appointment of a fast at the river Ahava, on the return of the people from the Babylonish captivity.

[598] French "Quand il advient quelque different en Chretienté, qui tire grande consequence."--When some difference on a matter of great consequence takes place in Christendom.

[599] 1 Sam. 7:6; 31:13; 2 Kings 1:12; Jonah 3:5.

[600] August de Morib. Manich. Lib. 2 c. 13; et cont. Faustum, Lib. 30

[601] See Chrysostom. Homil. sub. initium Quadragesimæ, where he terms fasting a cure of souls and ablution for sins.

[602] Bernard in Serm. 1 in die Paschæ, censures, among others, princes also, for longing, during the season of Lent, for the approaching festival of our Lord's resurrection, that they might indulge more freely.

[603] 121 D121 Bernard censures, among others, princes also, for longing, during the season of Lent, for the approaching festival of our Lord's resurrection, that they might indulge more freely.

__________________________________________________________________

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


  • Lect 9 Romans 8:5-26
  • L- 10 Rom 8:26-9:16
  • L- 11 Rom 9:7-11:32


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2012    True Love

     God is love, and love never fails because God never fails. Love cannot be separated from God and cannot exist without Him. God’s love is the foundation and definition of love, just as He is the source, fountain, sustainer, and enabler of love. God gives meaning to love, and without Him, love isn’t only worthless but meaningless. Without God as its source and center, that which humans conceive of as love is impatient and unkind, envious and boastful, arrogant and rude, always insisting on its own way, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing and falsehood. Without God, love is nothing more than a hateful lie of Satan.

     Every day we hear people talk about love as if it were some sort of impersonal force and independent energy that alone has the power to change hearts, restore homes, cure diseases, rebuild communities, and unite nations. The world is infatuated with the idea of love. Even the word itself, love, has degenerated into an all-encompassing, catch-all term that seems to be at the heart of a rising one-religion-politically-correct world language—a language of love that has become a religion unto itself. And although the world, the flesh, and the Devil would love to strip love of all its beauty and character in order to make it adaptable to every conceivable context and theology, such would be a futile attempt. For just as God defines God, God defines love.

     In the end, the one, true definition of love will, indeed, win because truth will win, and truth will win because Christ has won, and Christ has won because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. To be sure, we deserve to perish—not just today but for eternity—and we don’t deserve life—neither the life we have today nor life for eternity. The wages of my rebellious sin is death. Consequently, I deserve eternal condemnation just as much as Mahatma Ghandi, Adolf Hitler, and my own children. Every man, woman, and child—no matter how good or bad we think we are—will perish without repenting from self-trust and trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the only truth, the only life, and the only way to the Father. True love means proclaiming the truth. True love means proclaiming the gospel. True love means proclaiming the love of God and the wrath of God, and the most unloving thing we could possibly do is withhold the truth from those who are perishing without Christ—the truth about God’s love, holiness, justice, and grace; the truth about man’s sin, death, and hell; the truth about faith, forgiveness, and an eternal life coram Deo, before the face of God in heaven, where God’s love will reign over us forever.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The first formal “Father’s Day” was celebrated on this day, June 19, 1910. It began in Spokane, Washington, when a woman named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd heard a Mother’s Day sermon at church. She wanted to honor her father, who had raised all six children by himself after his wife died. Sonora drew up a petition, which was immediately supported by the Young Men’s Christian Association and the ministers of Spokane. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon established Father’s Day as a permanent national observance of on the third Sunday of June.

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Life is a tapestry: We are the warp;
angels, the weft;
God, the weaver.
Only the Weaver sees the whole design.
--- Eileen Elias Freeman
The Angels' Little Instruction Book: Learning from God's Heavenly Messengers

The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long.
-- A.W. Tozer
The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life

If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us.
--- Francis Bacon
The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, Volume 2

There is no form of conviction more intimate and irresistible than that which arises from the inward teaching of the Spirit. --- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology - (3-Volume Set)

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 11 / Maharal on “You Shall Love”


     Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague (CA. 1512–1609), popularly known by his acronym, Maharal, was a singular fountainhead of Jewish ideas. He influenced many of the most important Jewish thinkers of succeeding generations, perhaps most especially those associated with Hasidism, beginning in the last half of the eighteenth century. Indeed, his seminal thought had a profound influence on a number of Jewish religious thinkers in the twentieth century as well. We should therefore not be surprised that he brings original insights to the question of ahavat Hashem, the love for God.

     We find a number of different definitions and interpretations of this idea in various places in the Maharal’s prodigious work. In one passage he draws a well-known distinction between love and fear, namely, that love motivates us to observe the positive commandments, whereas fear restrains us from transgressing the negative commandments1—essentially a restatement of Naḥmanides’ famous distinction between the two. (2)

(2)     See Naḥmanides’ commentary on the Torah, to
Exod. 20:8.

     Elsewhere, he delineates two types of fear: one that is independent of love, and the other—the more common—that is but the disguised face of love and therefore only another facet of our love of God:

     The major part of fear derives from love, for one who loves another strives to fulfill his wishes in every possible way, so that the love will be indivisible. He therefore fears to violate [his beloved’s] will even in small matters, for that would negate his love. That is why it is said of Abraham, “for now I know that you are a God-fearing man” (
Gen. 22:12). (3)

(3)     Maharal, Netivot Olam, Netiv Yirat Hashem, chapter 1. What motivates this interpretation is the author’s awareness that Abraham is usually presented as the archetype of God-lover rather than God-fearer; see
Isa. 41:8, 2 Chron. 20:7.

     The Maharal considers this second type of fear, which derives from love, superior to that which is independent of love. (4)

(4)     It is interesting to compare this structuring of fear by Maharal to a similar dichotomy in the analysis of love by R. Baḥya Ibn Pakuda (c. 1050–c. 1156) in the last section of his Ḥovot ha-Levavot (“Duties of the Heart”). Baḥya holds that the love for God is the acme of all religious life, and all other virtues are prerequisite for and preparatory to it. There are two kinds of love, he avers: The lower kind, accessible to most humans, derives from fear. The higher kind, which is independent of fear and of any intended personal benefit, material or spiritual, is reserved for the elite who are prepared to surrender everything, including life itself, for the love of God. Even then, such love is granted to these few individuals only as an act of divine grace; see chapters 4–6 of Ḥovot ha-Levavot.

     What is most significant and novel in the Maharal’s interpretation of ahavat Hashem is his version of the acosmic idea of God, which seems to anticipate, by about two centuries, that developed more elaborately by R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim. He writes:

     The love of man for God that issues from man alone is of no account. For man comes from God, and man returns to Him, just as everything must return to Him. There is nothing other than God; He is one, and there is nothing else.…

     From this point of view we can understand love. This is why it is said, “the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (and immediately thereafter) “You shall love the Lord your God” etc. (
Deut. 6:4, 5). Because He is one, there is nothing in existence in the world that is separate from Him, for all depends upon and is attached to Him, for He is the foundation of all. And that is why love is relevant to God. (6)

(6)     Netivot Olam, Netiv Ahavat Hashem, chapter 1.

     This interpretation is consistent with the Maharal’s general thinking, for he often writes of the longing of the effect to return to its Cause.

     Despite the humanistic bent of the Maharal, which has been much commented upon in recent years, he here discounts the “natural” human religious urge. He dismisses the love for God that emerges from within us, the innate part of the natural life of man as Homo religiosis, as “of no account.” Rather, our spiritual dimension, expressed in our love of God, can be attributed only to the bond of shared reality that ties us to our Creator, the Source of all existence. Only in this metaphysical sense of our ontological indebtedness to God, and in this sense alone, can we be defined as naturally religious beings. The religion we practice to satisfy a psychological need is inferior to the religion that derives from our awareness of humanity’s nothingness without God as the core of existence itself. According to this interpretation, we can now understand the sequence in our passage. The Shema’s proclamation of divine unity leads directly to the commandment to love God. Yiḥud Hashem implies ahavat Hashem.

     Yet here a question naturally arises: given the infinite distance and dissimilarity between God and human beings, how can we be commanded to love God? Indeed, says the Maharal, we are commanded to fear and honor but never to love father, mother, or teacher. The reason is self-evident: love is only possible between equals or near-equals, not between those who are essentially unequal. How, then, is it at all possible to speak of loving God?


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 23.

     Calumnies Against The Sons Of Mariamne. Antipateris Preferred Before Them. They Are Accused Before Caesar, And Herod Is Reconciled To Them.

     1. Now Mariamne's sons were heirs to that hatred which had been borne their mother; and when they considered the greatness of Herod's crime towards her, they were suspicious of him as of an enemy of theirs; and this first while they were educated at Rome, but still more when they were returned to Judea. This temper of theirs increased upon them as they grew up to be men; and when they were Come to an age fit for marriage, the one of them married their aunt Salome's daughter, which Salome had been the accuser of their mother; the other married the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia. And now they used boldness in speaking, as well as bore hatred in their minds. Now those that calumniated them took a handle from such their boldness, and certain of them spake now more plainly to the king that there were treacherous designs laid against him by both his sons; and he that was son-in-law to Archelaus, relying upon his father-in-law, was preparing to fly away, in order to accuse Herod before Caesar; and when Herod's head had been long enough filled with these calumnies, he brought Antipater, whom he had by Doris, into favor again, as a defense to him against his other sons, and began all the ways he possibly could to prefer him before them.

     2. But these sons were not able to bear this change in their affairs; but when they saw him that was born of a mother of no family, the nobility of their birth made them unable to contain their indignation; but whensoever they were uneasy, they showed the anger they had at it. And as these sons did day after day improve in that their anger, Antipater already exercised all his own abilities, which were very great, in flattering his father, and in contriving many sorts of calumnies against his brethren, while he told some stories of them himself, and put it upon other proper persons to raise other stories against them, till at length he entirely cut his brethren off from all hopes of succeeding to the kingdom; for he was already publicly put into his father's will as his successor. Accordingly, he was sent with royal ornaments, and other marks of royalty, to Caesar, excepting the diadem. He was also able in time to introduce his mother again into Mariamne's bed. The two sorts of weapons he made use of against his brethren were flattery and calumny, whereby he brought matters privately to such a pass, that the king had thoughts of putting his sons to death.

     3. So the father drew Alexander as far as Rome, and charged him with an attempt of poisoning him before Caesar. Alexander could hardly speak for lamentation; but having a judge that was more skillful than Antipater, and more wise than Herod, he modestly avoided laying any imputation upon his father, but with great strength of reason confuted the calumnies laid against him; and when he had demonstrated the innocency of his brother, who was in the like danger with himself, he at last bewailed the craftiness of Antipater, and the disgrace they were under. He was enabled also to justify himself, not only by a clear conscience, which he carried within him, but by his eloquence; for he was a shrewd man in making speeches. And upon his saying at last, that if his father objected this crime to them, it was in his power to put them to death, he made all the audience weep; and he brought Caesar to that pass, as to reject the accusations, and to reconcile their father to them immediately. But the conditions of this reconciliation were these, that they should in all things be obedient to their father, and that he should have power to leave the kingdom to which of them he pleased.

     4. After this the king came back from Rome, and seemed to have forgiven his sons upon these accusations; but still so that he was not without his suspicions of them. They were followed by Antipater, who was the fountain-head of those accusations; yet did not he openly discover his hatred to them, as revering him that had reconciled them. But as Herod sailed by Cilicia, he touched at Eleusa, 38 where Archelaus treated them in the most obliging manner, and gave him thanks for the deliverance of his son-in-law, and was much pleased at their reconciliation; and this the more, because he had formerly written to his friends at Rome that they should be assisting to Alexander at his trial. So he conducted Herod as far as Zephyrium, and made him presents to the value of thirty talents.
     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

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

Proverbs 19:21-22
     by D.H. Stern

21     One can devise many plans in one’s mind,
but ADONAI’s plan will prevail.

22     A man’s lust is his shame,
and a poor man is better than a liar.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The service of passionate devotion

     Lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep. --- John 21:16.

     Jesus did not say—Make converts to your way of thinking, but look after My sheep, see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Me. We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a belief or a creed. “If any man come to Me and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple.” There is no argument and no compulsion, but simply—‘If you would be My disciple, you must be devoted to Me.’ A man touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says—‘Now I see Who Jesus is,’ and that is the source of devotion.

     Today we have substituted credal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many are devoted to causes and so few devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of today that does not want Him in any other way than as a Comrade. Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat. The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of the life is its unobtrusiveness. It is like a corn of wheat, which falls into the ground and dies, but presently it will spring up and alter the whole landscape.
(Cf. John 12:24.)


My Utmost for His Highest

St. Julien and the Leper
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                St. Julien and the Leper

Though all ran from him, he did not
  Run, but awaited
  Him with his arms
  Out, his ears stopped
  To his bell, his alarmed
  Crying. He lay down
  With him there, sharing his sores'
  Stench, the quarantine
  Of his soul; contaminating
  himself with a kiss,
  With the love that
  Our science has disinfected.


RS Thomas

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D'RASH


     At the very beginning of Shaḥarit, the Morning service, the following berakhah is found in the traditional siddur: “Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has not made me a woman.” Why would the liturgy direct a man to recite such a blessing? A standard explanation is offered: Men are obligated to observe all the mitzvot found in the Torah. Women, however, are exempt from those commandments that are to be performed at a specific time. (The rationale is that a woman, as a mother, could not simply set aside her children’s needs to do a mitzvah; her responsibility to her children came first.)

     Apologists for the tradition say that the berakhah is merely a formulaic way for men to proclaim to God: We love Your commandments, and we are honored to have been given the responsibility of doing all of them, unlike women, whose exemption means that they only have to do some of them! Others, however, are not swayed by the explanations. “If that’s what the tradition wanted to say, then that’s what it should have said! The blessing, as it has come down to us is offensive, demeaning, and sexist, and has helped to perpetuate the unfortunate impression that women are considered inferior to men!” Beginning in 1946, Conservative Judaism, based on a talmudic variation, rephrased the blessing in its prayer books to a positive formulation: “Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who made me in His image.” Both men and women can recite this berakhah, and both are reminded that men as well as women are created in God’s image.

     Perhaps what Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) meant to say was that men and women are different, and they each have their own natures, and their own roles in life. But what comes across in his proverb (“There is a need for wine and a need for vinegar”) is that women are inferior to men and are sour and bitter. Perhaps what he meant to say about daughters in general was “May you be blessed with much happiness and no sadness.” But what comes across in his prayer (“May there not be for you [a reason to] return here!”) is a father’s desire not to see his child or grandchild again.

     What is actually in our hearts when we say something to another person may be less important than the words that they hear us say. Another proverb tells us that “wise people are very careful about their choice of words.”

     /ANOTHER D’RASH

     The following never actually appears in the traditional collection of midrashic literature, although it could have and, some would say, should have.

     When Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] got old, he needed someone to take care of him—to lead him to the outhouse, guide him to the door, help him dress and eat. His daughter Dena accepted this role, even though it was very difficult. Each Morning, she helped him out of bed and waited while he recited the Morning blessings at his bedside. She then aided him in putting on his tallit and tefillin, allowing him to wrap the strap of the tefillah shel yad by himself. While he recited the Morning prayers, she sat close by, reciting her own. Dena served her father each meal personally, and would not clean the dishes right after the meal, for fear of taking away his study time. Rather, she cleaned up late at night, after her father had gone to sleep.

     While Rabbi Yehudah was too old to leave his home, his son, Rabbi Shimon, spent his days at the study house. Dena never asked her brother to give up his study time to help with their father, even though she sensed the unfairness of the arrangement. And she never showed any resentment toward her father. Rather, Dena felt blessed for every moment she and Rabbi Yehudah spent together.

     When he was on his deathbed, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi asked for a few moments to speak to Dena privately. He took her hand in his and whispered gently into her ear, “I know that you are familiar with my teachings, that you have memorized much of what I have taught. Years ago, I said, ‘Even though there is a need for wine and a need for vinegar, the need for wine is greater than that for vinegar.’ It was wrong of me to compare daughters to vinegar. You have been a good daughter to me. You have taken care of my every need with only love and respect. If I could travel once more to the study house, I would teach, ‘There are many types of wine, and God rejoices in them all.’ ”


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Joel 3:1–16 / Love So Amazing
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "The phrase “bring again the captivity” (3:1) means “reverse the fortunes” or “restore the fortunes” (NIV). Because of the judgments set during the “Day of the Lord,” Israel’s situation in the world will be dramatically changed, and God will deal justly with the nations of the world for the way they have treated His people Israel. Joel gives three important announcements.

     “Nations, prepare for judgment!” (Joel 3:1–8) This great battle will take place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (vv. 2, 12), a site mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. In
verse 14, it’s called “the valley of decision,” referring to God’s decision (decree) to punish the nations. (To make the “valley of decision” a place where lost sinners decide to follow Christ is to twist the Scripture. It is God who makes the decision, and His decision (decree) is to judge and not save. The nations have had their opportunity; now it is too late.) Since the name “Jehoshaphat” means “the Lord judges,” the name “Valley of Jehoshaphat” might well be symbolic, but some students believe it refers to the Plain of Esdraelon where the “battle of Armageddon” will be fought (Rev. 16:16).

     Joel lists some of the sins that the Gentiles have committed against the Jews: scattering them among the nations; selling them into slavery; treating them like cheap merchandise for which people cast lots; plundering the land of its wealth; and taking what belonged to the Lord and using it for their own gods. Of course, many of the tragic experiences that came to the Jewish people were disciplines from God because they had violated His covenant, but the Gentile nations went beyond discipline to exploitation. Jeremiah said to the Babylonians, “[Y]ou rejoice and are glad, you who pillage my inheritance, because you frolic like a heifer threshing grain and neigh like stallions” (
Jer. 50:11, NIV).

     It’s worth noting that God refers to the Jews as “My people” and to the land as “My land.” The wealth is “My silver and My gold.” Even though the Jews have not obeyed the covenant or sought to please the Lord, He has not abandoned them. Even when they rejected their Messiah, God was merciful to them. He has preserved them as a nation and will one day come to their aid and defeat their enemies.

     “Nations, prepare for war!” (
Joel 3:9–15) This passage describes what is generally called “the battle of Armageddon,” when the armies of the nations unite against the Lord and His Christ (Ps. 2:1–3) and gather to destroy Jerusalem (Joel 3:16; Zech. 12–14). Joel compares the battle to the harvesting of grain and grapes, when God will defeat the enemy as easily as a farmer wields a sickle or plucks grapes and crushes them to make wine (Joel 3:13). You will find a similar image in Revelation 14:14–20 when God reaps “the harvest of the earth” and “the vine of the earth” and crushes armies like clusters of grapes.

     Frightening signs from the Lord will accompany this battle (
Joel 3:15; see 2:10, 30–31), signs that Jesus mentioned in His prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:19–27; Luke 21:25–28). Jesus taught that these signs would prepare the way for His personal coming to earth when He will defeat Israel’s enemies, cleanse His people, and establish His kingdom (Zech. 12–14; Rev. 19:11ff).

     
Joel 3:10 commands the nations to arm for battle, even to the point of turning farm tools into weapons, but Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 describe a different scene: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa. 2:4). But Isaiah and Micah are describing the future kingdom, when people will learn war no more and no longer need weapons; while Joel is describing the battle that ushers in that peaceful kingdom.

     “Nations, prepare for defeat!” (
Joel 3:16) The name “Armageddon” is found only in Revelation 16:16, referring to the Plain of Esdraelon where many major battles were fought in Old Testament times. Revelation 16:13–16 informs us that Satan, through his demonic powers, gathers the armies of the nations to fight against God at Jerusalem. But the invasion will fail, because Jesus will return in power and slaughter the enemy, turning the whole “battle” into a supper of flesh for the scavengers of the earth (19:17–19).

     Like a fierce lion, God will “roar out of Zion” and conquer the enemy (see
Amos 1:2, Hosea 11:10–11). When the Lamb becomes a Lion, the nations had better tremble (Rev. 5:5). The lost nations of the earth will perish when He utters His voice in judgment, but to His own people the Lord will be a refuge and a stronghold. “Come, My people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isa. 26:20–21, NKJV). (Pretribulationists believe that the church will be taken to heaven (raptured) before the Day of the Lord breaks upon the world (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9–10). This event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. The saints will then return to the earth with Jesus when He returns in glory to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:11ff; 2 Thes. 2). Prophetic students differ as to the details of the end-times scenario, but they agree that the world will grow hostile against God, the people of God will suffer persecution, and the Lord will return to conquer His enemies and rescue His people. This is what we are asking when we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”)

     A Jewish proverb says, “No misfortune avoids a Jew.” No people have suffered more at the hands of their fellow men than have the Jews. Pharaoh tried to drown the Jews, but instead, his own army was drowned by God (
Ex. 14–15). Balaam tried to curse the Jews, but God turned the curse into a blessing (Num. 22:25; Deut. 23:5; Neh. 13:2). The Assyrians and Babylonians captured the Jews and put them in exile, but both of those great kingdoms are no more, while the Jews are still with us. Haman tried to exterminate the Jews, but he and his sons ended up hanging on the gallows (the Book of Esther). Nebuchadnezzar put three Jews into a fiery furnace, only to discover that their God was with them and was able to deliver them (Dan. 3).

     My friend, the late Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus, gifted missionary to his own people, used to say, “We Jews are waterproof and fireproof; God has blessed us so that nobody can successfully curse us, and we shall be here long after our enemies have perished.” God knows what the nations have done to the Jews, and He will one day settle accounts. Meanwhile, believers must pray for the peace of Jersusalem (
Ps. 122:6) and lovingly witness to them in word and deed that Jesus is indeed their Messiah and Lord.

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

W. E. Vine
     The Divine Utterance at Christ’s Baptism

     To take another instance, difficulty is found in the matter of the words spoken by God the Father out of Heaven when Christ was baptized. Matthew’s record of the words is somewhat different from those of Mark and Luke, and the difficulty seems to lie in this, that each narrative is said to be inspired, and yet two variants of the same utterance are put on record. There is really no difficulty at all, however. Mark and Luke give the actual words, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Matthew gives the import of the declaration rather than the actual words, thus laying emphasis on the fact, while the other writers emphasize the words. Instead of inaccuracy we can observe the work of the Spirit of God in causing Matthew to state the fact in a way appropriate to the character of his Gospel, which sets forth in a special manner the dignity of Christ as the King of Israel. Moreover, the utterances recorded in the Gospel, being in Greek, are translations of the actual utterance, a fact which allows of both variation in form and of Inspiration in the variation.

     The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen

     Another difficulty is in the difference between Matthew’s record of the parable of the wicked husbandmen and those of Mark and Luke. Mark and Luke make the Lord answer His own question as to what the Lord of the vineyard will do (Mark 12:9 and Luke 20:15, 16). Matthew makes His hearers give the answer (Matt. 21:41). The two passages taken together are consistent with the probable facts. It is quite natural to suppose that after the Lord’s question had been answered by His hearers He Himself repeated the answer. Such an occurrence is not infrequent in open-air testimony.

     Jeremiah or Zechariah?

     Matthew is charged with inaccuracy because in reference to the death of Judas and the price paid for the potter’s field he gives as a statement of Jeremiah the prophet what is supposed to be a quotation from Zechariah because the words are something like the words Zechariah wrote (Matt. 27:9, cp. Zech. 11:12, 13). Now in the first place there is considerable difference between the words which Matthew writes and the actual words of Zechariah. It is a curious course of procedure to suppose that Matthew is quoting Zechariah if he is not actually doing so, and then to charge him with lapse of memory or some such mistake because he attributes the statement to Jeremiah. If Matthew had said, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Zechariah the prophet,” a charge of inaccuracy might have been made against him, but he does not say so. It is quite reasonable to suppose that Jeremiah uttered this prophecy orally, and that when Matthew says that it was spoken by him he is simply quoting nonrecorded but well-known words of Jeremiah. Paul quotes words of the Lord Jesus which are not previously written in the Bible (Acts 20:35), and Jude quotes a prophecy of Enoch which is not recorded elsewhere. As to whether Zechariah was himself quoting Jeremiah, that is another matter. Zechariah himself does say, “Should ye not hear the words which the Lord had cried by the former prophets?” (chap. 7:7). The later prophet indeed expressed himself more than once in language like that of the former. Moreover, it was commonly held among the Jews that the spirit of Jeremiah rested upon Zechariah, but apart from all this the so-called inaccuracy is purely imaginary. Certainly there is nothing in this passage that need puzzle anybody very long.


The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set

The Place of Apocalypticism
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     The controversy over the use of the Pseudepigrapha in the reconstruction of early Judaism is due in large part to the prominence of apocalyptic literature. Even pseudepigraphic books that are not formally apocalypses, such as the Sibylline Oracles, the Psalms of Solomon, or the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs have much in common with them, especially in their view of history and eschatology. Only one apocalyptic writing, the book of Daniel, was included in the Hebrew Bible, and the apocalyptic tradition was rejected by rabbinic Judaism. The noncanonical apocalypses were transmitted by Christians, and were not preserved in Hebrew or Aramaic, although Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch and Hebrew fragments of Jubilees have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It has been said that apocalypticism is the mother of Christian theology. R. H. Charles saw it as the link between biblical prophecy and early Christianity, and the view that it was “the child of prophecy” has always been popular in English-language scholarship (Rowley 1944). Bousset, in contrast, attributed its rise to Zoroastrian influence. Other sources, both biblical (wisdom literature, von Rad 1965: 2:315–30) and foreign (Babylonian traditions, e.g., Kvanvig 1988) have occasionally been proposed. Only in the last quarter of the twentieth century has apocalypticism been recognized as a phenomenon in its own right rather than as a mutation (or degeneration) of something else (Collins 1998: 26–42).

     After the great burst of creative energy expended on the Pseudepigrapha in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this literature received little scholarly attention for more than half a century. (This neglect must be seen in the context of a general shift in focus from history of religion to biblical theology in this period.) Many of the more influential scholars who addressed it, such as Rowley and von Rad, were biblical scholars who naturally enough tried to assimilate the strange noncanonical material to biblical categories. Much of the scholarship that purported to deal with “apocalyptic” actually dealt with postexilic prophecy or with the letters of Paul. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, led to renewed interest in Judaism between the Bible and the Mishnah. From the 1970s onward there was extensive work on the Pseudepigrapha both in the United States and in Europe, which bore fruit in the two-volume translation of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by Charlesworth (1983–1985), which included much more material than the older edition of Charles, and the German series of fascicles Jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit. Now the apocalypses came to be studied in the context of the contemporary pseudepigraphic literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls. This in turn led to a change in focus from “apocalyptic” as a kind of theology, usually studied with an eye to its relevance for the New Testament, to the literary genre apocalypse (Koch 1972; Collins ed. 1979).

     Three results of the study of the genre are noteworthy. First, apocalypses are not only concerned with historical eschatology (the end of the present age) in the way familiar from Daniel and the book of Revelation. They are also, even primarily, revelations of heavenly mysteries (Rowland 1983). A whole subtype of the genre is concerned with otherworldly journeys, and this material is important for the early history of Jewish mysticism (Himmelfarb 1993). Second, since only one book in the Hebrew Bible, Daniel, could be said to exemplify the genre, discussion of “apocalyptic” or “protoapocalyptic” in the prophetic literature became increasingly dubious. Third, the genre is not peculiar to Judaism and Christianity, but has important parallels in Persian tradition and throughout the Greco-Roman world, especially in the case of the heavenly journeys (Hellholm 1983).

     Another byproduct of the focus on the genre apocalypse and on the context of the Pseudepigrapha was increased interest in the collection of writings known as 1 Enoch. Charles had already realized that some parts of 1 Enoch were older than Daniel. Interest was greatly increased by the publication of the Aramaic fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Milik 1976). The Italian scholar Paolo Sacchi argued that the root of apocalypticism should be found in the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36), one of the earliest segments of the tradition (Sacchi 1997). The generative question was the origin of evil, and the answer was that it was brought to earth by fallen angels. Sacchi tended to identify apocalypticism with the Enochic tradition, in contrast even to the book of Daniel. His student, Gabriele Boccaccini, has proceeded to argue, in Neusnerian fashion, that 1 Enoch testifies to “Enochic Judaism,” which he further identifies with the Essenes, whom he regards as the parent movement of the Qumran sect (Boccaccini 1998).

     Even if one were to grant that the Book of the Watchers is the earliest Jewish apocalypse, the whole phenomenon cannot be defined only on the basis of its earliest exemplar. The differences between Daniel and Enoch show only that there was some diversity within apocalypticism, and that it should not be restricted to a single social movement. Again, while the books of Enoch were preserved at Qumran (except for the Similitudes), they were not the only, or even the primary source of sectarian ideology, and there is no evidence whatever that would warrant identifying them with the Essenes. Nonetheless, the early Enoch books attest to a kind of Judaism that is significantly different from the covenantal nomism of “common Judaism.” As George Nickelsburg has argued, “the general category of covenant was not important for these authors” (Nickelsburg 1998: 125). Enoch rather than Moses is the mediator of revelation. Unlike the book of Jubilees, which is closely related to Enoch in some respects, there is no attempt to read back Mosaic legislation into the primeval period. Even the Animal Apocalypse, which touches on the exodus and the ascent of Mt. Sinai in the course of a “prophecy” of the history of Israel, conspicuously fails to mention either the making of a covenant or the giving of the Law. In all of this there is no polemic against the Mosaic Torah, but the Torah is not the explicit frame of reference. Moreover, the Enoch literature attests to a soli-lunar calendar different from the lunar calendar that was observed in the Jerusalem Temple (at least in later times), but similar to the one found in Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

     The idea of a movement within Judaism that is not centered on the Mosaic Torah may seem anomalous in the context of the Hellenistic age, but it was not without precedent. The biblical wisdom literature is distinguished precisely by its lack of explicit reference to either the Mosaic Torah or the history of Israel, and it retains this character as late as the book of Qoheleth, which may be roughly contemporary with the early Enoch literature. Charles, then, was not correct when he claimed that “apocalyptic Judaism” “started with the unreserved recognition of the supremacy of the Law.” At least in the case of the early Enoch literature, this was not the case.

     What is true of the Enoch literature, however, is not necessarily true of all the Pseudepigrapha, or even of all apocalyptic literature. The book of Jubilees adapts the myth of the fallen angels from 1 Enoch (Segal 2007: 103–43), and shares with it the solar (364-day) calendar. It can be viewed as an example of “rewritten Bible,” or biblical paraphrase, but it is also an apocalypse, in the sense that it is a revelation mediated by an angel. But the recipient of the revelation is none other than Moses, and the content is a paraphrase of the book of Genesis. Moreover, this paraphrase is informed throughout by a keen interest in halakic issues. The sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls are at once apocalyptic and focused on the exact interpretation of the Law of Moses. The Torah also plays a central role in the apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, which were composed after the destruction of the Temple, at the end of the first century C.E. The relationship between apocalyptic literature and the Torah is illustrated most vividly by 4 Ezra. At the end of the book, Ezra is commissioned to replace the books of the Law that had been burnt. He is given a fiery liquid to drink, and inspired to dictate the books. In all, ninety-four books are written. Of these, twenty-four are made public so that the worthy and unworthy may read them. But the seventy others are kept secret, in order that they may be given to the wise among the people. The extra or hidden books contain “the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom and the river of knowledge.” 4 Ezra is neither critical of the Torah nor opposed to it, but it claims to have further revelation, which provides the context within which the Torah must be understood. This claim of higher revelation is one of the defining characteristics of apocalyptic literature. In the words of Seth Schwartz, “it was a way of compensating for the deficiencies of the covenantal system” (Schwartz 2001: 83). The covenant promised life and prosperity to those who observed it and threatened disaster to those who did not, but life evidently did not work this way. One of the major topics of apocalyptic revelation was judgment after death and the contrasting fates of the righteous and wicked in the hereafter. Belief in life after death was not confined to apocalyptic literature; the immortality of the soul was widely accepted in Greek-speaking Judaism, and the Pharisees, who may have subscribed to apocalyptic ideas to various degrees, believed in resurrection. But belief in the judgment of the dead and a differentiated afterlife is first attested in Judaism in the books of Enoch and Daniel, and it is the primary factor that distinguishes apocalyptic eschatology from that of the prophets (Collins 1997b: 75–97).


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 19

     And [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.… Then [Judas] went away and hanged himself.
---
Matthew 26:75; 27:5.

     Simon of Bethsaida and Judas of Kerioth had possessed all things in common: common opportunities, common associations, common trials and dangers. (Sermons Preached in St Paul's Cathedral) They had witnessed the same works and listened to the same words. They had lived in the same Presence. They had received the same revelation of the same Father from the same hallowed lips. Altogether it might have been thought that their characters must have been cast in the same mold. From what then came this difference?

     From what but in the use or misuse of that mysterious, that fatal, that magnificent gift of God to humanity—free will?

     Both were tempted. Both yielded to the temptation. The same night was fatal to the one and to the other. Just at this moment it might have seemed as if there were little to choose between Peter and Judas. How is it then that Peter rises again, while Judas sinks down, sinks suddenly, sinks irretrievably, sinks forever?

     It was not what Judas had done but what Judas had become that prevented his rising. His guilt was great, but God’s mercy is greater. His guilt was great, but God’s pardon does not nicely calculate less or more.

     Faith and hope are the two requisites without which restoration is impossible—faith in God and hope for the future. With these is life-giving repentance; without these is crushing remorse.

     As long as we look only to ourselves, pardon seems wholly beyond our reach. There is nothing in our own hearts, nothing in our past lives that suggests it. It is well that we should grieve over our sins; it is not well that we should give ourselves up to overmuch self-dissection. Our failings must be our stepping-stones; they must not be our stumbling blocks. We cannot suffer them to cripple our energies or to bar our path. But this will always be the case so long as our gaze is directed solely within. For here we find only feebleness, only vacillation, only ignorance, only failure and sin. Our strength, our consolation, our renewal are elsewhere. It is only when our hearts go forth in faith to God the all wise and almighty, God the merciful, God our Father that the pardon comes, that the pure heart is made and the steadfast spirit renewed within us. This faith Judas did not realize. He knew God only as an avenging judge. He did not know him as a loving Father.
--- J. B. Lightfoot


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

On This Day
     The Nicene Creed  June 19

     During the first three centuries of its life, the church suffered waves of persecution—the shackles, the lash, the sword, the teeth of lions. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312, the persecution ended, and the church considered a problem worse than persecution—heresy. A teacher named Arius from North Africa was denying that Jesus was both fully man and fully God. “There was a time when the Son was not,” taught Arius. He claimed that Jesus is not eternal, not divine, not God. The heresy grew, alarming Constantine. The emperor didn’t understand the debate, but he desired unity in the church. “These questions are the idle cobwebs of contention, spun by curious wits,” he said.

     Constantine called a general council of the church in the small town of Nicaea. Eighteen hundred bishops were invited from across the empire, and each bishop was allowed to bring two other church leaders and three slaves. Traveling conditions were difficult, and fewer than 400 bishops assembled, most from the eastern realm. Many bore marks of persecution. Some were scholars; some were shepherds. Into this motley crew stepped Emperor Constantine, wearing high-heeled scarlet boots, a purple robe, long hair, and a short beard.

     The delegates were soon at each other’s throats. Arius presented his views. Alexander and Athanasius retaliated with orthodox teaching. Finally Hosius, a bishop from Cordova, suggested drawing up a creed. The statement of faith was developed, and Hosius announced it on June 19, 325. It described Jesus Christ as “God from very God, begotten not made, of the same substance as the Father, through whom all things were made … who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered and rose again. … ”

     The creed was adopted, and the doctrine of Christ’s divine nature—a belief both essential and unique to Christianity—was formally affirmed for the first time.

     Christ is exactly like God, who cannot be seen. He is the first-born Son, superior to all creation. Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. … He is the head of his body … the church.
---Colossians 1:15,16,18a.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 19

     “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” --- Acts 2:4.

     Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s benign presence. As sacred oil, he anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water he cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure. As the light, he manifested to us at first our lost estate, and now he reveals the Lord Jesus to us and in us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by his pure celestial ray, we are no more darkness but light in the Lord. As fire, he both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature on a blaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God. As heavenly dew, he removes our barrenness and fertilizes our lives. O that he would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such Morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day. As the dove, with wings of peaceful love he broods over his Church and over the souls of believers, and as a Comforter he dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of his beloved. He descends upon the chosen as upon the Lord in Jordan, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father. As the wind, he brings the breath of life to men; blowing where he listeth he performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained. Would to God, that we might feel his presence this day and every day.


          Evening - June 19

     “My Beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” --- Song of Solomon 2:16, 17.

     Surely if there be a happy verse in the Bible it is this—“My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” So peaceful, so full of assurance, so overrunning with happiness and contentment is it, that it might well have been written by the same hand which penned the twenty-third Psalm. Yet though the prospect is exceeding fair and lovely—earth cannot show its superior—it is not entirely a sunlit landscape. There is a cloud in the sky which casts a shadow over the scene. Listen, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.”

     There is a word, too, about the “mountains of Bether,” or, “the mountains of division,” and to our love, anything like division is bitterness. Beloved, this may be your present state of mind; you do not doubt your salvation; you know that Christ is yours, but you are not feasting with him. You understand your vital interest in him, so that you have no shadow of a doubt of your being his, and of his being yours, but still his left hand is not under your head, nor doth his right hand embrace you. A shade of sadness is cast over your heart, perhaps by affliction, certainly by the temporary absence of your Lord, so even while exclaiming, “I am his,” you are forced to take to your knees, and to pray, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved.”

     “Where is he?” asks the soul. And the answer comes, “He feedeth among the lilies.” If we would find Christ, we must get into communion with his people, we must come to the ordinances with his saints. Oh, for an Evening glimpse of him! Oh, to sup with him to-night!


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 19

          NOW I BELONG TO JESUS

     Words and Music by Norman J. Clayton, 1903–1992

     If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

     God is FOR us—that is good.
     God is WITH us—that is better.
     God is IN us—that is best!

      --- Unknown

     We hear much these days about the problem of homeless people—people of the street with no place to go and no one who cares. Can we really appreciate the terrible state of despair and loneliness experienced by these masses? Man was created by God to enjoy His fellowship and the fellowship of family and friends. All of us have a need to belong to someone and something.

     The greatest “belonging” in life is described by the Heidelberg Catechism, which begins its instruction in this way:

     Question—“What is your only comfort in life and death?”

     Answer—“That I, with body and soul, am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ …”

     This popular Gospel song by Norman Clayton speaks so well about this truth of the mystical union that exists between Christ and the believer—Christ in the believer and the believer in Christ. Who can fathom the mystery of a mortal believer’s spirit being united with the divine Christ—a glorious relationship that begins for the believer at the moment of genuine response to the call of Christ and one that will last for eternity?

     Norman Clayton has authored and composed numerous other fine Gospel hymns, but “Now I Belong to Jesus” is still his most widely used song. This inspiring Gospel song first appeared in Word of Life Melodies No. 1 in 1943. Mr. Clayton writes that one of his greatest thrills in life was hearing a 10-year-old deaf girl sing his song at a camp for handicapped children.

     Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from Him no pow’r of evil can sever; He gave His life to ransom my soul—Now I belong to Him!
     Once I was lost in sin’s degradation; Jesus came down to bring me salvation, lifted me up from sorrow and shame—Now I belong to Him!
     Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me, freed me from sin that long had enslaved me; His precious blood He gave to redeem—Now I belong to Him!
     Chorus: Now I belong to Jesus; Jesus belongs to me—Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.


     For Today: Song of Solomon 2:16; John 10:28; Colossians 1:27.

     Rise above the circumstances of this day and rejoice in the glorious truth that you and Christ are united for eternity. Carry this musical testimony with you ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. LX. — IN these passages, our friend Diatribe makes no distinction whatever, between the voice of the Law and the voice of the Gospel: because, forsooth, it is so blind and so ignorant, that it knows not what is the Law and what is the Gospel. For out of all the passages from Isaiah, it produces no one word of the law, save this, ‘If thou wilt;’ all the rest is Gospel, by which, as the word of offered grace, the bruised and afflicted are called unto consolation. Whereas, the Diatribe makes them the words of the law. But, I pray thee, tell me, what can that man do in theological matters, and the Sacred Writings, who has not even gone so far as to know what is Law and what is Gospel, or, who, if he does know, condemns the observance of the distinction between them? Such an one must confound all things, heaven with hell, and life with death; and will never labour to know any thing of Christ. Concerning which, I shall put my friend Diatribe a little in remembrance, in what follows.

     Look then, first, at that of Jeremiah and Malachi “If thou wilt turn, then will I turn thee:” and, “turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you.” Does it then follow from “turn ye” — therefore, ye are able to turn? Does it follow also from “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” — therefore, thou art able to love with all thine heart? If these arguments stand good, what do they conclude, but that “Free-will” needs not the grace of God, but can do all things of its own power? And then, how much more right would it be that the words should be received as they stand — ‘If thou shalt turn, then will I also turn thee?’ That is; — if thou shalt cease from sinning, I also will cease from punishing; and if thou shalt be converted and live well, I also will do well unto thee in turning away thy captivity and thy evils. But even in this way, it does not follow, that man can turn by his own power, nor do the words imply this; but they simply say, “If thou wilt turn;” by which, a man is admonished of what he ought to do. And when he has thus known and seen what he ought to do but cannot do, he would ask how he is to do it, were it not for that Leviathan of the Diatribe (that is, that appendage, and conclusion it has here tacked on) which comes in and between and says, — ‘therefore, if man cannot turn of his own power, “turn ye” is spoken in vain:’ But, of what nature all such conclusion is, and what it amounts to, has been already fully shewn.

     It must, however, be a certain stupor or lethargy which can hold, that the power of “Free-will” is confirmed by these words “turn ye,” “if thou wilt turn,” and the like, and does not see, that for the same reason, it must be confirmed by this Scripture also, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,” seeing that, the meaning of Him who commands and requires is the same in both instances. For the loving of God, is not less required than our conversion, and the keeping of all the commandments; because, the loving of God is our real conversion. And yet, no one attempts to prove “Free-will” from that command ‘to love,’ although from those words “if thou wilt,” “if thou wilt hear,” “turn ye”, and the like, all attempt to prove it. If therefore from that word, “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” it does not follow that “Free-will” is any thing or can do anything, it is certain that it neither follows from these words, “if thou wilt,” “if thou wilt hear,” “turn ye,” and the like, which either require less, or require with less force of importance, than these words “Love God!” “Love the Lord!”

     Whatever, therefore, is said against drawing a conclusion in support of “Free-will” from this word “love God,” the same must be said against drawing a conclusion in support of “Free-will” from every other word of command or requirement. For, if by the command ‘to love,’ the nature of the law only be shewn, and what we ought to do, but not the power of the will or what we can do, but rather, what we cannot do, the same is shewn by all the other Scriptures of requirement. For it is well known, that even the schoolmen, except the Scotinians and moderns, assert, that man cannot love God with all his heart. Therefore, neither can he perform any one of the other precepts, for all the rest, according to the testimony of Christ, hang on this one. Hence, by the testimony even of the doctors of the schools, this remains as a settled conclusion: — that the words of the law do not prove the power of “Free-will,” but shew what we ought to do, and what we cannot do. .


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Lect 3 Romans 1:2-17
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Lect 4 Romans 1:18-2:10
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Lect 5 Romans 2:11-3:23
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Lect 6 Romans 3:24-5:11
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Lect 7 Romans 5:12-6:23
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Lect 8 Romans 7:1-8:4
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