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Deuteronomy 11     Psalm 95-96     Isaiah 39     Revelation 9


Deuteronomy 11

Love and Serve the LORD

Deuteronomy 11:1 You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. 2 And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, 3 his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, 4 and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day, 5 and what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel. 7 For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that he did.

8 “You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess, 9 and that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. 11 But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, 12 a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

13 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. 22 For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours. Your territory shall be from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea. 25 No one shall be able to stand against you. The LORD your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you.

26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. 29 And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not beyond the Jordan, west of the road, toward the going down of the sun, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oak of Moreh? 31 For you are to cross over the Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you. And when you possess it and live in it, 32 you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the rules that I am setting before you today.


Psalm 95

Let Us Sing Songs of Praise

Psalm 95 

1  Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3  For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4  In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5  The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6  Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7  For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8  do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9  when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10  For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11  Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”


Psalm 96

Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

Psalm 96 

1  Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2  Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3  Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6  Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7  Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9  Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

10  Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11  Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12  let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13  before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.


Isaiah 39

Envoys from Babylon

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. 3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”


Revelation 9

Revelation 9 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.

20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

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An Inestimable Treasure

By Robert Oliver 10/1/2008

     The apostles who associated with the Lord during His earthly ministry were still dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. That truth has been transmitted to us in the pages of Scripture. Thus, Peter wrote: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). In the twilight of the apostolic age, the church was being taught her dependence on the written Word of God. So Paul exhorted Timothy “to continue in the things that he had learned.” Timothy had been taught by Paul himself, but now in the face of “times of difficulty” no new source of revelation was to be expected. Timothy has to turn to “the sacred writings.” Through these “the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14–17). He must be edified, but he was also called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” No easy task, “for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:2–4). This relevant warning is pertinent when evangelical churches demand drama and entertainment, and where pulpits are shifted or even destroyed to make room for the band.

     Church history demonstrates a connection between faithful preaching under the blessing of the Spirit of God and love for Scripture. It is a reciprocal action. Where the Bible is loved, true preaching is prized and produces congregations of men and women eager to search the Scriptures for themselves. The Reformation provides superb examples of this process. Some historians have supposed that the English Reformation was driven merely by the political and personal ambitions of monarchs and their courtiers. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the late fourteenth century there had been a long tradition of secret study of illegally-produced English Bibles. When Tyndale’s printed New Testaments were smuggled into the country in the 1520s, they were eagerly received and circulated in the face of bitter opposition. Thus, before the political tide turned, there were already eager students of the Word among the merchants and even artisans. Reaction and persecution in Mary Tudor’s short reign revealed that hundreds of Englishmen were prepared to die rather than deny the Gospel received from the English Bible. Some fled to other countries to worship according to their consciences and pray for the deliverance of their own land.

     From the refugees in Geneva came one of the finest products of the Reformation — the Geneva Bible. This work began when many English men and women were dying in the flames for the sake of the Gospel with little hope of an immediate change. But in the providence of God, when this magnificent version came off the presses, the Protestant Elizabeth had succeeded to the throne with the hope of better days to come. The Genevan translators presented their work to their fellow-countrymen with these words: “We beseech you that this rich pearl and inestimable treasure may not be offered in vain, but as sent from God to the people of God, for the increase of his kingdom, the comfort of his Church, and discharge of our conscience, whom it hath pleased him to raise up for this purpose, so you would willingly receive the Word of God, earnestly study it and in all your life practice it.”

     This was no vain hope, for within a generation a spiritually deprived people had become the most Protestant nation in Europe. Returning exiles were called to English pulpits, bringing their new Bible with them. Zealous Protestants were appointed to strategic positions in the universities. Within a generation England had become a land of the Bible. She was blessed with teachers who took seriously the exhortation of the apostle: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. …Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:13–16).

     Times of spiritual decline have followed, but whenever the work of God has been revived there has been an eagerness for the Word of God. Today there is a plethora of Bible versions available in the English language. Our fathers would be amazed by the number of study resources that are available. Evangelical Christians by definition acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures, but in the Western world hunger for the Word of God is not widespread. Doctrine is dismissed as a luxury not necessary for the man in the pew nor indeed for the man who is anxious to win souls. Public prayers and the weakness of the church in the face of the challenges of humanism, atheism, and non-Christian religions indicate a flickering spirituality. These are dangerous signals. If the candlestick is not to be removed, let us repent and seek a renewed love for what the Genevan men called “this rich pearl and inestimable treasure.” Such a repentance may lead not only to a better understanding, but also lay a foundation for a more widespread and deeper work of God.

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     Dr. Robert W. Oliver is senior pastor of Old Baptist Church in Bradford-on-Avon and lecturer in church history at London Theological Seminary in the UK.

Canon Law

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/1/2008

     The question of canon, like the question of law, is one of authority. We who are Reformed spend a great deal of time and energy speaking about God’s sovereign power. God’s power is more than worthy of our attention and study. We ought to be bowled over, blown away by that power. It, like His law, is something we ought to meditate on. His power, however, is intimately connected to His kingship, His rule. God is not only sovereign in power, but is sovereign in authority. Consider how swiftly Paul moves between the two in Romans 9: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (vv. 14–15). Here God affirms His sovereign authority. There is no law above Him to which He must submit, determining to whom He must show mercy. Next, however, we turn to His power. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you and that My name might be proclaimed on all the earth.’ So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills” (vv. 17–18).

     Then Paul turns back to the question of authority: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” (vv. 19–21). The two are inseparable. God has all power because He has all authority. He has all authority because He has all power. When we sin we foolishly fight against both.

     We, His creatures, are willing to submit only to those standards that we have first accepted. This concept came to us in America through the social contract philosophy of Rousseau, Locke, and Paine. We have bought the lie that we need only to submit to that which we have agreed to submit to. Consider, for instance, the oxymoronic, and perhaps just plain moronic, notion of “making Jesus Lord of your life.” While it is right and proper that we ought to submit to the reign of Christ, He has been Lord of our lives, and even the lives of those outside the kingdom from the moment He ascended to His throne. We don’t make Him Lord, we recognize that He is Lord.

     Following quickly on the heels of social contract theory is the birth of the first truly American philosophy — pragmatism. Here we determine that we will submit only to “that which works.” Our law is goal-oriented, rather than justice-oriented. This system has its own glaring problems. How, one has to ask, do we determine what we mean by “works?” That is, what is the goal? What are we aiming for? With no transcendent law, there is no transcendent end, and we are left still under the sun, chasing the wind. And we chase it still.

     Even within the church we have embraced an understanding of ethics steeped in pragmatism. We are willing to submit to God, only insofar as we are able to understand His wisdom. Why, for instance, would God not want women to serve as elders and pastors if He has so gifted them? Why would God want me to stay married when I’m so miserable in this life? Why would God not want me to eat this fruit that is pleasing to the eyes and desirable to make one wise? God is our Father, and as such He is utterly free to declare, “Because I said so.” His law is grounded not in what it does for us, far less in what we understand that it does for us. His law is grounded in who He is.

     When Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He is commanding that we must set aside our pragmatism. He is telling us that it is not up to us to decide what will “work best.” He is commanding us to set aside our own canons and submit to the wisdom of God. The things that we worry about, He reminds us, are things that our Father has already taken into consideration. He knows that we need food, drink, and clothing. He knows better still that we need to have as our meat and our drink to do the will of God.

     Faith means believing God. When we believe Him, we submit to Him. His wisdom is not found in our own thoughts, our own strategies. His wisdom in found in His Word. Our calling then is simple enough — to fear Him and obey all that He commands. And because we fail at this calling, our calling is likewise that we would both repent and believe the Gospel. He has provided the way into His kingdom. He has given us our marching orders. Our Father has spoken. May He in turn bless us with ears to hear His Word, that we might walk in His way.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Tota Scriptura

By R.C. Sproul 10/1/2008

     In centuries past, the church was faced with the important task of recognizing which books belong in the Bible. The Bible itself is not a single book but a collection of many individual books. What the church sought to establish was what we call the canon of sacred Scripture. The word canon comes from a Greek word that means “standard or measuring rod.” So the canon of sacred Scripture delineates the standard that the church used in receiving the Word of God. As is often the case, it is the work of heretics that forces the church to define her doctrines with greater and greater precision.

     We saw the Nicene Creed as a response to the heresy of Arius in the fourth century, and we saw the Council of Chalcedon as a response to the fifth-century heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius, with respect to the church’s understanding of the person of Christ. In like manner, the first list of canonical books of the New Testament that we have was produced by a heretic named Marcion.

     Marcion’s New Testament was an expurgated version of the original biblical documents. Marcion was convinced that the God of the Old Testament was at best a demiurge (a creator god who is the originator of evil) who in many respects is defective in being and character. Thus, any reference to that god in the New Testament in a positive relationship to Jesus had to be edited out. And so we receive from Marcion a bare-bones profile of Jesus and His teaching, divorced from the Old Testament. Over against this heresy, the church had to define the full measure of the apostolic writings, which they did in establishing the New Testament and Old Testament canon.

     Another crisis emerged much later in the sixteenth century, in the midst of the Protestant Reformation. Though the central debate, what historians call the material cause of the Reformation, focused on the doctrine of justification, the underlying dispute was the secondary issue of authority. In Luther’s defense of sola fide or faith alone, he was reminded by the Roman Catholic Church that she had already made judgments in her papal encyclicals and in her historical documents in ways that ran counter to Luther’s theses. And in the middle of that controversy, Luther affirmed the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura, namely that the conscience is bound by sacred Scripture alone, that is, the Bible is the only source of divine, special revelation that we have. In response, the Roman Catholic Church at the fourth session of the Council of Trent declared that God’s special revelation is contained both in sacred Scripture and in the tradition of the church. This position, called a dual-source view of revelation, was reaffirmed by subsequent papal encyclicals. And so we see the dispute between Scripture alone versus Scripture plus tradition. In that controversy, the issue had to do with something that was an addition to the Bible, namely, the church’s tradition.

     Since that time, the opposite problem has emerged, and that is not so much the question of what is added to Scripture, but rather what has been subtracted from it. We face now an issue not of Scripture addition but of Scripture reduction. The issue that we face in our day is not merely the question of sola Scriptura but also the question of tota Scriptura, which has to do with embracing the whole counsel of God as it is revealed in the entirety of sacred Scripture. There have been many attempts in the last century to seek a canon within the canon. That is to say, restricted portions of Scripture are deemed as God’s revelation, not the whole of Scripture. In this case, we have seen movements that have been described by historians as neo-Marcionite. That is, the activity of canon reduction sought by the heretic Marcion in the early church has now been replicated in our day.

     Perhaps most famous for this in the twentieth century was the German theologian Rudolf Bultmann, who made a significant distinction between what he called kerygma and myth. He taught that the Scriptures contained truths of historical value and of theological value that were salvific in their content, but that those truths were hidden and contained within a husk of mythology. For the Bible to be relevant to modern man, it must be demythologized. The husks must be broken in order that the kernel of truth buried under the mythological husk can be brought to the surface.

     Beyond the radical reductionism of Bultmann, we have seen more recently attempts among professing evangelicals, and even within the Reformed community, to seek a different type of reduction of Scripture. We have seen views of so-called “limited inspiration” or “limited inerrancy.” That is to say, the Spirit’s inspiration of the Bible is not holistic, but rather is limited to matters of faith and doctrine. In this scenario, proponents suggest we can distinguish between doctrinal matters that are of divine origin and what the Bible teaches in matters of science and history, and, in some cases, ethics. Therefore, there are portions within the Bible that are not equally inspired by God. In this case, we see the reappearance of a canon within a canon. The problem that arises is a serious one. Perhaps most severe is the question, who is it who decides what part of the Bible really belongs to the canon? Once we remove ourselves from a view of tota Scriptura, we are free then to pick and choose what portions of Scripture are normative for Christian faith and life, just like picking cherries from a tree.

     To do this we would have to revisit the teaching of Jesus, wherein He said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We would have to change it, to have our Lord say that we do not live by bread alone but by only some of the words that come to us from God. In this case, the Bible is reduced to the status where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. This is an issue that the church has to face in every generation, and it has reappeared today in some of the most surprising places. We’re finding, in seminaries that call themselves Reformed, professors advocating this type of canon within the canon. The church must say an emphatic “no” to these departures from orthodox Christianity, and she must reaffirm her faith not only in sola Scriptura, but in tota Scriptura as well.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Ecclesiastical Myopia

By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2008

     Perhaps the most remarkable statement I ever heard a man utter from the pulpit was: “He has a penurious epistemology, which tends to be myopic.” I was seated in the balcony of the church when that statement was made, and I could not restrain myself from laughing aloud. I nudged my wife Vesta and said, “I just might be the only person in the church who understood what that man said.” What is a penurious epistemology? A penurious epistemology is a theory of knowledge that is poverty-stricken or on the verge of bankruptcy. Such a view of knowledge, if it tends towards myopia, is simply suffering a bad case of near-sightedness. I’m afraid that the American church suffers from a similar sort of myopia.

     Our vision tends to extend only to the borders of our own nation or at best across the Atlantic to western Europe. We tend to think that Christianity is fundamentally a Western religion. Such a view is penurious, indeed. The Bible, through the lips of Jesus, calls the church to extend the reach of the gospel to the corners of the earth — to every tribe, to every tongue, and to every nation. The whole world is the mission of the Christian faith. The strength of Christianity does not stand or fall with the strengths of the church in America or western Europe.

     If in our ecclesiastical myopia we restricted our vision to the United States and Europe, it would be easy for us to become profoundly discouraged, particularly regarding Europe. The historians are saying that western Europe has now entered a post-Christian era where only a tiny fraction of the populace attends church regularly. The beautiful churches that dot the scene on the continent have become museums in many cases.

     Though there still exists a vibrant Christianity in the United States, we have also seen serious decline in the substance of our faith and commitment. The discouragement that ensues from an evaluation of what’s happening in America and in Europe is unwarranted, however, when we evaluate the church from a global perspective.

     Though the Christian faith may be on the wane in certain sections of the West, there is a burgeoning vitality found in Korea, in Africa, in Latin America, and even now in China. The excitement of the discovery of the Reformed tradition in the Ukraine, for example, is contagious throughout the eastern part of Europe and into Russia. Sociologists and historians have predicted that by the year 2050 the strongest center for Christianity will be in Africa and Latin America.

     The good news is that the inroads of the faith in these areas of the globe have been profound. The bad news is that there has been a lack of substantive doctrine feeding the people of these lands — as is often the case with fresh revivals and awakenings to Christianity. So often a syncretism exists in which superstitious elements of animistic religion are mingled and blended with the Christian faith. However, as these churches mature, we can anticipate an increase of sound theology with a diminution of elements of pagan syncretism.

     One of the strongest churches in the world is the church in Korea, which has enjoyed explosive growth over the last forty years. The contagion of that Asian form of Christianity is penetrating all parts of the world. It is not an unusual thing to now see missionaries being sent from the Third World countries into Europe and even into the United States, as the ebb and flow of Christian fervor moves from one geographical spot to another. Many times I have heard people lament the spiritual aridity of America’s New England. The irony is that no part of our nation has ever had a more powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit than New England enjoyed in the Great Awakening during the middle of the eighteenth century. That Great Awakening, however, gave way to unitarianism and secularism. One wonders that if God pours out a profound blessing on a particular geographical region and that blessing is neglected or repudiated, does a kind of ichabod ensue in which God removes His lampstand from their midst, along with His glory (1 Sam. 4:20–22; Rev. 2:5)? We should take heed in this country that the profound spiritual benefits and blessings that we have enjoyed in our brief history may be removed and passed to other nations that are more receptive to the truths of God.

     Here in the West, we have become immunized or inoculated against the deep things of God, living our Christian lives on a superficial plain of churchiness and religiosity. This type of Christianity will not do. It would be no surprise to me if we, in a very short time, will be looking to Africa, to eastern Europe, to Asia, and to Latin America to discover the real power of the Christian gospel.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Spontaneous Compassion

By Joni Eareckson Tada 11/1/2008

     Bureaucracies aren’t programmed to be compassionate. It’s not in the nature of the thing. Take my friend, David Bowie, in his big, bulky wheelchair. After he became a quadriplegic in a car accident and his wife left him, he moved into a cramped one-room apartment and learned to rely on three or four part-time attendants to get him up and put him to bed. Life’s not easy.

     David has been coming to our church for several years now, but not without great effort. He can cope with In-Home Support Services and Medicare, but when it involves getting to and from church, Paratransit is a challenge — the government-subsidized transportation service could care less about picking David up on time, and there are constant regulations along with new drivers with which he must contend. Sundays after worship service often mean sitting with David in an empty parking lot, waiting an hour or more for his ride. It seems my quadriplegic friend is constantly jumping through bureaucratic hoops just to survive.

     Our PCA congregation, Church in the Canyon, consists of 75 or 80 people, and there’s not a one of us who hasn’t tapped his foot, looked at his watch, and felt badly for our friend. Dave Guth, one of our church elders, sighed, “Sometimes Paratransit doesn’t even show up at David’s apartment. Last month, he and his attendant had to take two buses then ‘wheel’ the last mile to church.”

     But Dave Guth felt more than just badly. He felt ashamed. After all, our church recently acquired an unusual gift: a van with a lift. This church elder knew that the real solution to the problem was simply finding available Christians who would be willing to drive our friend to and from church. He started calling the men in our small congregation. He found twelve who were willing to be a part of what he called “Team Transport.”

     Dave Guth designed an Excel sheet and assigned each man to a six-week rotation, one volunteer to pick David up early on Sunday morning, the other to take him to lunch after church and then home. There’s even a maintenance volunteer who, during the week, tops off the gas and oil, allowing the other men to stay focused on driving. If someone can’t make it, Dave asks them to find a replacement from the roster and let him know of the change. He told me: “I encourage the pick-up men to call David Bowie on Saturday evening to confirm everything, and I’ve asked the take-home men not to whisk David away after church — he needs time to fellowship with folks.” It may sound awfully well-ordered, but it’s far from bureaucratic. Why? Because it’s all about compassion.

     As a wheelchair user I’m pretty impressed with Dave Guth’s love for my fellow quad, David Bowie. I’ve been just as impressed with the twelve men of Church in the Canyon — virtually fifteen percent of our church membership is now involved in disability ministry! The result is that our congregation is building itself up as the stronger members care for the weaker (1 Cor. 12:22). After all, believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it. Ephesians 4:16 puts it this way: “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” At Church in the Canyon, we affect one another spiritually by what we are and do individually. Therefore, if we care anything about Christ, who is the head of the body, and other Christians — the rest of the body — we simply must move beyond our comfort zones to compassionately meet needs.

     Last Sunday, I turned around and spotted Dave Guth sitting next to David Bowie and holding his hymnal. I breathed a sigh of relief for my quadriplegic friend. I know firsthand what a blessing it is to have Christian brothers and sisters who serve as the hands of Jesus Christ, carrying the burden and lifting the load. It especially warmed my heart afterward when I saw several families crowd around David. One of the children reached up on tiptoe and stretched his little arms around him to give him a hug. It was the perfect picture of Luke 14:13–14: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

     There’s no way David Bowie could possibly repay the twelve men at Church in the Canyon who are setting aside chunks of their Sundays to spend time helping him. Knowing Dave Guth and the Team Transport men, they wouldn’t want to be repaid. They are the ones receiving the biggest blessing. I got proof of that when Dave Guth, with a big smile and wet eyes, told me yesterday: “James Chung just asked if he could pick up David next week for our men’s breakfast on Saturday morning. And there are plans to bring David to our men’s retreat up in the mountains. This ministry is growing; oh, how the Lord must be pleased!”

     Yes, the Lord must be pleased. I even pictured the Savior adding a few more names to that Excel sheet. Team Transport is growing. And so is the heart of Church in the Canyon.

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     Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends, which reaches families affected by disability with the gospel of Christ. She is author of When God Weeps.

Joni Eareckson Tada Books:

Deut. 11; Psalms 95-96; Isaiah 39; Revelation 9

By Don Carson 6/7/2018

     My parents were rather poor — not with the poverty one finds in the worst of the world’s slums, but poor by North American standards. My Dad was a pastor. Before I was born, still at the end of the Great Depression, Dad took around a little wagon of food that had been collected one Christmas for the poor, and then came home to the flat my parents rented, where the only food for Christmas dinner was a can of beans. My parents gave thanks to God for that — and then even as they were doing so, they were invited out for a meal. I can remember many instances, as I was growing up, when our family prayed that God would meet our needs — huge medical bills when we could afford no insurance, for example — and he always did. When I left home to go to university, my parents scrimped and saved; that year they sent me ten dollars. For them it was a lot of money; for myself, I was financially on my own, and worked and studied. Many times I went two or three days without food, drinking lots of water to keep my stomach from rumbling, asking the Lord to meet my needs, fearful I would have to put studies aside. God always met them, sometimes in the simple ways, sometimes in astonishing displays.

     Today I look at my children, and recognize that although they face new sets of trials and temptations, so far they have never had to face anything resembling deprivation (not getting everything they want doesn’t count!). Then I read Deuteronomy 11, where Moses makes a generational distinction: “Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arme; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country” (Deut. 11:2-3; see Deut. 11:5). No, it wasn’t the children. “But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the LORD has done” (Deut. 11:7).

     What then does Moses infer from this generational distinction? (1) The older generation should be quick to obey, because of all that they have had the opportunity to learn (Deut. 11:8). Here I am, wondering about my children’s limited experience, when the first thing God says is that I am the one with no excuse. (2) The older generation must systematically pass on what they have learned to their children (Deut. 11:19-21); again, the prime responsibility is mine, not theirs. (3) More broadly, God’s provision to the people of the blessings of the covenant, here focused on the land and its bounty, depends on the first two points.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 60

He Will Tread Down Our Foes
60 To The Choirmaster: According To Shushan Eduth. A Miktam Of David; For Instruction; When He Strove With Aram-Naharaim And With Aram-Zobah, And When Joab On His Return Struck Down Twelve Thousand Of Edom In The Valley Of Salt.

1 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
2 You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
3 You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.

4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah
5 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 10.

OF THE POWER OF MAKING LAWS. THE CRUELTY OF THE POPE AND HIS ADHERENTS, IN THIS RESPECT, IN TYRANNICALLY OPPRESSING AND DESTROYING SOULS.

This chapter treats,--I. Of human constitutions in general. Of the distinction between Civil and Ecclesiastical Laws. Of conscience, why and in what sense ministers cannot impose laws on the conscience, sec. 1-8. II. Of traditions or Popish constitutions relating to ceremonies and discipline. The many vices inherent in them, sec. 9-17. Arguments in favour of those traditions refuted, sec. 17-26. III. Of Ecclesiastical constitutions that are good and lawful, sec. 27-32.

Sections.

1. The power of the Church in enacting laws. This made a source of human traditions. Impiety of these traditions.

2. Many of the Papistical traditions not only difficult, but impossible to be observed.

3. That the question may be more conveniently explained, nature of conscience must be defined.

4. Definition of conscience explained. Examples in illustration of the definition.

5. Paul's doctrine of submission to magistrates for conscience sake, gives no countenance to the Popish doctrine of the obligation of traditions.

6. The question stated. A brief mode of deciding it.

7. A perfect rule of life in the Law. God our only Lawgiver.

8. The traditions of the Papacy contradictory to the Word of God.

9. Ceremonial traditions of the Papists. Their impiety. Substituted for the true worship of God.

10. Through these ceremonies the commandment of God made void.

11. Some of these ceremonies useless and childish. Their endless variety. Introduce Judaism.

12. Absurdity of these ceremonies borrowed from Judaism and Paganism.

13. Their intolerable number condemned by Augustine.

14. Injury thus done to the Church. They cannot be excused.

15. Mislead the superstitious. Used as a kind of show and for incantation. Prostituted to gain.

16. All such traditions liable to similar objections.

17. Arguments in favour of traditions answered.

18. Answer continued.

19. Illustration taken from the simple administration of the Lord's Supper, under the Apostles, and the complicated ceremonies of the Papists.

20. Another illustration from the use of Holy Water.

21. An argument in favour of traditions founded on the decision of the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem. This decision explained.

22. Some things in the Papacy may be admitted for a time for the sake of weak brethren.

23. Observance of the Popish traditions inconsistent with Christian liberty, torturing to the conscience, and insulting to God.

24. All human inventions in religion displeasing to God. Reason. Confirmed by an example.

25. An argument founded on the examples of Samuel and Manoah. Answer.

26. Argument that Christ wished such burdens to be borne. Answer.

27. Third part of the chapter, treating of lawful Ecclesiastical arrangements. Their foundation in the general axiom, that all things be done decently and in order. Two extremes to be avoided.

28. All Ecclesiastical arrangements to be thus tested. What Paul means by things done decently and in order.

29. Nothing decent in the Popish ceremonies. Description of true decency. Examples of Christian decency and order.

30. No arrangement decent and orderly, unless founded on the authority of God, and derived from Scripture. Charity the best guide in these matters.

31. Constitutions thus framed not to be neglected or despised.

32. Cautions to be observed in regard to such constitutions.

1. We come now to the second part of power, which, according to them, consists in the enacting of laws, from which source innumerable traditions have arisen, to be as many deadly snares to miserable souls. For they have not been more scrupulous than the Scribes and Pharisees in laying burdens on the shoulders of others, which they would not touch with their finger (Mt 23:4; Luke 11:16). I have elsewhere shown (Book 3 chap. 4 sec. 4-7) how cruel murder they commit by their doctrine of auricular confession. The same violence is not apparent in other laws, but those which seem most tolerable press tyrannically on the conscience. I say nothing as to the mode in which they adulterate the worship of God, and rob God himself, who is the only Lawgiver, of his right. The power we have now to consider is, whether it be lawful for the Church to bind laws upon the conscience? In this discussion, civil order is not touched; but the only point considered is, how God may be duly worshipped according to the rule which he has prescribed, and how our spiritual liberty, with reference to God, may remain unimpaired. In ordinary language, the name of human traditions is given to all decrees concerning the worship of God, which men have issued without the authority of his word. We contend against these, not against the sacred and useful constitutions of the Church, which tend to preserve discipline, or decency, or peace. Our aim is to curb the unlimited and barbarous empire usurped over souls by those who would be thought pastors of the Church, but who are in fact its most cruel murderers. They say that the laws which they enact are spiritual, pertaining to the soul, and they affirm that they are necessary to eternal life. But thus the kingdom of Christ, as I lately observed, is invaded; thus the liberty, which he has given to the consciences of believers, is completely oppressed and overthrown. I say nothing as to the great impiety with which, to sanction the observance of their laws, they declare that from it they seek forgiveness of sins, righteousness and salvation, while they make the whole sum of religion and piety to consist in it. What I contend for is, that necessity ought not to be laid on consciences in matters in which Christ has made them free; and unless freed, cannot, as we have previously shown (Book 3 chap. 19), have peace with God. They must acknowledge Christ their deliverer, as their only king, and be ruled by the only law of liberty--namely, the sacred word of the Gospel--if they would retain the grace which they have once received in Christ: they must be subject to no bondage, be bound by no chains.

2. These Solons, indeed, imagine that their constitutions are laws of liberty, a pleasant yoke, a light burden: but who sees not that this is mere falsehood. They themselves, indeed, feel not the burden of their laws. Having cast off the fear of God, they securely and assiduously disregard their own laws as well as those which are divine. Those, however, who feel any interest in their salvation, are far from thinking themselves free so long as they are entangled in these snares. We see how great caution Paul employed in this matter, not venturing to impose a fetter in any one thing, and with good reason: he certainly foresaw how great a wound would be inflicted on the conscience if these things should be made necessary which the Lord had left free. On the contrary, it is scarcely possible to count the constitutions which these men have most grievously enforced, under the penalty of eternal death, and which they exact with the greatest rigour, as necessary to salvation. And while very many of them are most difficult of observance, the whole taken together are impossible; so great is the mass. How, then, possibly can those, on whom this mountain of difficulty lies, avoid being perplexed with extreme anxiety, and filled with terror? My intention here then is, to impugn constitutions of this description; constitutions enacted for the purpose of binding the conscience inwardly before God, and imposing religious duties, as if they enjoined things necessary to salvation.

3. Many are greatly puzzled with this question, from not distinguishing, with sufficient care, between what is called the external forum and the forum of conscience [582] (Book 3 chap. 19 sec 15). Moreover, the difficulty is increased by the terms in which Paul enjoins obedience to magistrates, "not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Rom. 13:5); and from which it would follow, that civil laws also bind the conscience. But if this were so, nothing that we have said of spiritual government, in the last chapter, and are to say in this, would stand. To solve this difficulty, we must first understand what is meant by conscience. The definition must be derived from the etymology of the term. As when men, with the mind and intellect, apprehend the knowledge of things, they are thereby said to know, and hence the name of science or knowledge is used; so, when they have, in addition to this, a sense of the divine judgment, as a witness not permitting them to hide their sins, but bringing them as criminals before the tribunal of the judge, that sense is called conscience. For it occupies a kind of middle place between God and man, not suffering man to suppress what he knows in himself, but following him out until it bring him to conviction. This is what Paul means, when he says that conscience bears witness, "our thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing each other" (Rom. 2:15). Simple knowledge, therefore, might exist in a man, as it were, shut up, and therefore the sense which sits men before the judgment-seat of God has been placed over him as a sentinel, to observe and spy out all his secrets, that nothing may remain buried in darkness. Hence the old proverb, Conscience is a thousand witnesses. For this reason, Peter also uses the "answer of a good conscience towards God" (1 Pet. 3:21); for tranquillity of mind, when, persuaded of the grace of Christ, we with boldness present ourselves before God. And the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, that we have "no more conscience of sins," that we are freed or acquitted, so that sin no longer accuses us (Heb. 10:2).

4. Wherefore, as works have respect to men, so conscience bears reference to God; and hence a good conscience is nothing but inward integrity of heart. In this sense, Paul says, that "the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (1 Tim. 1:5). He afterwards, in the same chapter, shows how widely it differs from intellect, saying, the, "some having put away" a good conscience, "concerning faith have made shipwreck." For by these words he intimates, that it is a living inclination to worship God, a sincere desire to live piously and holily. Sometimes, indeed, it is extended to men also, as when Paul declares, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). But this is said, because the benefits of a good conscience flow forth and reach even to men. Properly speaking, however, it respects God alone, as I have already said. Hence a law may be said to bind the conscience when it simply binds a man without referring to men, or taking them into account. For example, God enjoins us not only to keep our mind chaste and pure from all lust, but prohibits every kind of obscenity in word, and all external lasciviousness. This law my conscience is bound to observe, though there were not another man in the world. Thus he who behaves intemperately not only sins by setting a bad example to his brethren, but stands convicted in his conscience before God. Another rule holds in the case of things which are in themselves indifferent. For we ought to abstain when they give offence, but conscience is free. Thus Paul says of meat consecrated to idols, "If any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake;" "conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other" (1 Cor. 10:28, 29). A believer would sin, if, after being warned, he should still eat such kind of meat. But however necessary abstinence may be in respect of a brother, as prescribed by the Lord, conscience ceases not to retain its liberty. We see how the law, while binding the external work, leaves the conscience free.

5. Let us now return to human laws. If they are imposed for the purpose of forming a religious obligation, as if the observance of them was in itself necessary, we say that the restraint thus laid on the conscience is unlawful. Our consciences have not to do with men but with God only. Hence the common distinction between the earthly forum and the forum of conscience. [583] When the whole world was enveloped in the thickest darkness of ignorance, it was still held (like a small ray of light which remained unextinguished) that conscience was superior to all human judgments. Although this, which was acknowledged in word, was afterwards violated in fact, yet God was pleased that there should even then exist an attestation to liberty, exempting the conscience from the tyranny of man. But we have not yet explained the difficulty which arises from the words of Paul. For if we must obey princes not only from fear of punishment but for conscience sake, it seems to follow, that the laws of princes have dominion over the conscience. If this is true, the same thing must be affirmed of ecclesiastical laws. I answer, that the first thing to be done here is to distinguish between the genus and the species. For though individual laws do not reach the conscience, yet we are bound by the general command of God, which enjoins us to submit to magistrates. And this is the point on which Paul's discussion turns--viz. that magistrates are to be honoured, because they are ordained of God (Rom. 13:1). Meanwhile, he does not at all teach that the laws enacted by them reach to the internal government of the soul, since he everywhere proclaims that the worship of God, and the spiritual rule of living righteously, are superior to all the decrees of men. Another thing also worthy of observation, and depending on what has been already said, is, that human laws, whether enacted by magistrates or by the Church, are necessary to be observed (I speak of such as are just and good), but do not therefore in themselves bind the conscience, because the whole necessity of observing them respects the general end, and consists not in the things commanded. Very different, however, is the case of those which prescribe a new form of worshipping God, and introduce necessity into things that are free.

6. Such, however, are what in the present day are called ecclesiastical constitutions by the Papacy, and are brought forward as part of the true and necessary worship of God. But as they are without number, so they form innumerable fetters to bind and ensnare the soul. Though, in expounding the law, we have adverted to this subject (Book 3 chap. 4 sec. 6), yet as this is more properly the place for a full discussion of it, I will now study to give a summary of it as carefully as I can. I shall, however, omit the branch relating to the tyranny with which false bishops arrogate to themselves the right of teaching whatever they please, having already considered it as far as seemed necessary, but shall treat at length of the power which they claim of enacting laws. The pretext, then, on which our false bishops burden the conscience with new laws is, that the Lord has constituted them spiritual legislators, and given them the government of the Church. Hence they maintain that everything which they order and prescribe must, of necessity, be observed by the Christian people, that he who violates their commands is guilty of a twofold disobedience, being a rebel both against God and the Church. Assuredly, if they were true bishops, I would give them some authority in this matter, not so much as they demand, but so much as is requisite for duly arranging the polity of the Church; but since they are anything but what they would be thought, they cannot possibly assume anything to themselves, however little, without being in excess. But as this also has been elsewhere shown, let us grant for the present, that whatever power true bishops possess justly belongs to them, still I deny that they have been set over believers as legislators to prescribe a rule of life at their own hands, or bind the people committed to them to their decrees. When I say this, I mean that they are not at all entitled to insist that whatever they devise without authority from the word of God shall be observed by the Church as matter of necessity. Since such power was unknown to the apostles, and was so often denied to the ministers of the Church by our Lord himself, I wonder how any have dared to usurp, and dare in the present day to defend it, without any precedent from the apostles, and against the manifest prohibition of God.

7. Everything relating to a perfect rule of life the Lord has so comprehended in his law, that he has left nothing for men to add to the summary there given. His object in doing this was, first, that since all rectitude of conduct consists in regulating all our actions by his will as a standard, he alone should be regarded as the master and guide of our life; and, secondly, that he might show that there is nothing which he more requires of us than obedience. For this reason James says, "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law:" "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:11, 12). We hear how God claims it as his own peculiar privilege to rule us by his laws. This had been said before by Isaiah, though somewhat obscurely, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us" (Isa. 33:22). Both passages show that the power of life and death belongs to him who has power over the soul. Nay, James clearly expresses this. This power no man may assume to himself. God, therefore, to whom the power of saving and destroying belongs, must be acknowledged as the only King of souls, or, as the words of Isaiah express it, he is our king and judge, and lawgiver and saviour. So Peter, when he reminds pastors of their duty, exhorts them to feed the flock without lording it over the heritage (1 Pet. 5:2); meaning by heritage the body of believers. If we duly consider that it is unlawful to transfer to man what God declares to belong only to himself, we shall see that this completely cuts off all the power claimed by those who would take it upon them to order anything in the Church without authority from the word of God.

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

Conquering the World

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2008

     Thomas Aquinas was a great gift to the church. He stands among the greatest minds the world has ever known. This doesn’t mean, of course, that he did not have his flaws, one of which goes to the heart of his intellectual labors. He saw it as his goal to synthesize the wisdom of Aristotle with the wisdom of the Bible. Now, Aristotle was no intellectual slouch either. That said, Thomas’ goal ought to immediately raise flags for us. Even a dummy like me can see: why would anyone want to synthesize the Bible with anything? What does the Bible lack that Aristotle brought to the table? The Bible is sufficient to tell us that the Bible is sufficient. We don’t need Aristotle — or Aquinas — to remind us that at the end of the day we don’t need Aristotle or Aquinas. What we need is the Bible.

     This propensity for mixing the Bible with our own wisdom did not die with Thomas. Because we are inveterate syncretists, we are inveterate synthesizers. We want to combine our philosophy with the Bible. We want to combine our political theories with the Bible. We want to combine our psychology with the Bible. We want to combine our economics with the Bible. And we want to combine our understanding of the business world with the Bible. Of course, we all ought to believe what the Bible says about each of these things. The trouble isn’t bringing the Bible to bear on questions of wisdom. The trouble isn’t asking what the Bible tells us the state is called to do, nor asking what the Bible tells us about the human soul. The problem is taking a body of “knowledge” built on an unbiblical worldview and then trying to mesh that with the Bible.

     Consider, for a moment, how little Scripture and how much psychology we have in the field of business. Consultants there are eager to tell us of the vital importance of developing a “vision,” of putting together a “mission statement.” While it is always good to know where we are going, it is always better to go back to the Bible. There we are told to mediate on the Word of God. We are told to seek out the wisdom therein. What we are not told is to have a “mission statement.” If anything, we are given a mission statement — seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

     This is not merely Jesus’ mission statement. It is not merely my mission statement. It states the mission for all of us, which means in turn that it states the mission of missions. This is what the church is to be about in every corner of the world. And when the church in one corner reaches out to aid the church in another, this is where that aid ought to be moving.

     Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that the body of Christ is made up of different members. We all have different callings under our one, grand calling. His caution, however, is that too often we confuse our specific calling with God’s general calling. That is, we are seeking to build our own little kingdoms rather than seeking His. When our peculiar mission is driven by our peculiarities rather than His one grand mission, we are upside down and likely in the way. When we seek to syncretize our end with His, we miss our true mission.

     Every Lord’s Day where I worship we confess together our faith. Some Sundays we sing together the Apostles’ Creed. Some Sundays we sing the Nicene Creed. I often remind the congregation that each Lord’s Day we do not worship alone. Instead, we are lifted up into the true and eternal Mount Zion where we meet with the souls of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:22–24). But it is not our local congregation alone that is so lifted up; rather, the church across the globe gathers together there. The Lord’s Day is like a celestial “wave” whereby as the earth spins on its axis the saints of God rise up to give Him praise.

     We are not united, of course, by a common tongue. We do not share the exact same history (though we all have Abraham for our father). We are not of the same skin color. What unites us is our common faith. We confess the same Lord. We have the same mission. Together we are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And together is the only way this will come to pass.

     God has indeed given each of us a part to play, a little mission that works toward the single grand mission. The serpent, however, delights in our confusing the part with the whole. Our glory, however, isn’t found in building up our little corner of the kingdom. Instead, our glory grows only insofar as His kingdom grows. We must decrease, but He must increase. And as we die, so we live. In other words, when we seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us. His kingdom is not only forever, but it is for everywhere. May He be pleased to give us eyes to see that “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does His successive journeys run.” May we see “His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

A Visible Word

By Keith Mathison 11/1/2008

     Robert Bruce (1551–1631) is not a household name, even among knowledgeable Reformed Christians. He was at one time, however, one of the most important leaders in the Church of Scotland. He was the successor of John Knox and James Lawson and preached at the Great Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh. St. Giles holds a prominent place in Reformation history, being the site where Knox preached his first sermon on the Reformation.   Mystery of the Lord's Supper: Sermons by Robert Bruce   contains five sermons preached by Bruce at St. Giles in February and March of the year 1589.

     The Christian Heritage edition of these sermons ( The link above )is a reprint of the 1958 English translation of the work by Thomas F. Torrance (1913–2007). Torrance provides an introduction to the work, describing briefly Bruce’s life and work. Although helpful in terms of its biographical information, the introduction should be read with discernment since in it Torrance espouses the “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” thesis that has been so ably challenged by scholars such as Richard Muller, Paul Helm, and Carl Trueman.

     The five sermons in the book cover a wide range of issues. In the first sermon, Bruce deals with the sacraments in general. He places his entire discussion in the context of union with Christ, saying, “There is nothing in this world, or out of this world, more to be wished by everyone of you than to be conjoined with Jesus Christ, and once for all made one with Him, the God of glory.” God brings about this union by means of the Word and the sacraments. Bruce devotes this first sermon to an examination of four fundamental questions: 1) the meaning of the sacramental sign; 2) the meaning of the thing signified; 3) the union of the sign and the thing signified; and 4) the different ways the sign and the thing signified are given and received.

     Bruce follows the sacramental theology of John Calvin rather than that of Zwingli. Considering the fact that Zwingli’s memorialist view is the dominant view among evangelicals today, Bruce’s language may come as a surprise to those not familiar with the doctrine of Calvin or some of the first Reformed confessions. Bruce begins by noting that the signs are the sacramental elements and the sacramental actions (such as the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine). The thing signified is the whole Christ along with all of His benefits and graces. The sign and the thing signified are not conjoined locally, corporally, or visibly, but are instead joined in a mystical and spiritual manner. As the minister gives the bread and wine, Christ Himself gives His body and blood to believing recipients, and as the believer receives the bread and wine with his hand and mouth, he receives the body and blood of Christ spiritually by faith.

     In his second and third sermons, Bruce deals specifically with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He looks at the names given to the sacrament in Scripture, the reasons why it was instituted, and objections to the Calvinistic doctrine. He contends that the Supper represents our spiritual nourishment, bears witness of our faith to the world, serves as a sovereign medicine for our spiritual ailments, and is a means of giving thanks to God. In addressing various objections to the Calvinistic doctrine, Bruce offers a fine critique of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

     In the final two sermons, Bruce addresses our preparation for receiving the Lord’s Supper, offering practical advice and admonition to all believers. He urges communicants to test their consciences to determine first whether they are at peace with God and second whether they have love for their neighbor. After an extended discussion of the conscience, Bruce expounds on the absolute necessity of faith for proper reception of the Supper. He observes that true faith will always exhibit certain fruit in the lives of those who have it. He mentions specifically prayer, forgiveness, and compassion.

     It is probably not an exaggeration to say that many, if not most, Christians coming to the Lord’s Table in our day have very little comprehension of what they are doing or why they are doing it. This is a tragic and, frankly, dangerous state of affairs. Christians are warned not to partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner, and they are called to examine themselves and to partake with discernment (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Bruce’s sermons are a remedy for the widespread ignorance that exists in the church today and should be in the hands of every Christian who desires to partake of the Lord’s Supper intelligently and with some understanding of this precious means of grace.

Click here to go to source

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

Keith Mathison Books:


  • Lecture 22
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#1 Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary

 

#2 Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary

 

#3 Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2011    Resisting the Devil

     The nineteenth century French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.” In the providence of God, the Devil has been quite successful in persuading his followers that he doesn’t exist. But we who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ know all too well that he does, indeed, exist, as we wrestle daily against our enemy and the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12).

     Interestingly, and according to God’s sovereign plan, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they might not see the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). The implication is that in having blinded their minds, the Devil’s primary work is focused on his enemy and all His followers. Before our conversion, the Devil was not our enemy, he was our father (John 8:44). At conversion, we gained Christ and, thus, we gained His enemy — Satan himself and all his junior demons. While we know that Satan and his demons can neither indwell believers nor control our minds, we also know that under the sovereign oversight of God they can have great, albeit destructive, influence. We see this throughout Scripture, most vividly in Job’s life and in the lives of Jesus and His apostles. Nevertheless, God, being sovereign over the ends as well as the means to those ends, has called us in His wisdom to “resist the devil” (James 4:7), who “disguises himself as an angel of light” and whose servants “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13–15).

     When reflecting on the The Screwtape Letters, in which the senior demon, Screwtape, wrote letters to his trainee, Wormwood, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment.” While this sort of fictional literature is somewhat intriguing to write, it is by no means amusing. In the spirit of Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, we offer twenty similar letters written from the perspective of a senior demon to a junior demon on issues ranging from racism to cynicism, legalism to criticism.

     The chief aim of these letters is to help Christians “escape the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:26) and to become more keenly aware of our enemy’s deceitful schemes so that we would neither be “outwitted by Satan,” nor “ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor. 2:11), but instead be more “watchful” as he “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”(1 Peter 5:8), knowing that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

     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

     Daniel Boone began to explore Kentucky on this day, June 7, 1769. Six years later he brought the first settlers to Kentucky, founding the fort of Boonesboro. He was captured by the Shawnee Indians and taken to Detroit. There learned the British had incited an Indian attack on the settlement. He escaped and his warning saved the town. As to his faith, Boone wrote to his wife: "The religion I have is to love and fear God, believe in Jesus Christ, do all the good to my neighbor, and myself that I can… and trust on God's mercy for the rest."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

For, after all,
put it as we may to ourselves,
we are all of us from birth to death
guests at a table which we did not spread.
The sun, the earth, love, friends,
our very breath are parts of the banquet....
Shall we think of the day
as a chance to come nearer to our Host,
and to find out something of Him
who has fed us so long?
--- Rebecca Harding Davis
The Classic Works of Rebecca Harding Davis

The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
--- John F. Kennedy
Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America

Broad and firm is the foundation which God has laid for the hopes of his people. It is the rock of ages; Jehovah our righteousness.
--- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology, Vol. II - With Index

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 5 / “The Lord Is One”:
     The Eschatological Interpretation


     In another biblical verse beginning with the words Shema Yisrael (there are only four such verses in all), we find an interesting connection drawn between “sanctification of the Name” and yiḥud Hashem. Maimonides makes the following comment on the verse commanding the kohen mashuaḥ milḥama (the priest-chaplain), on the eve of battle, to address the army of Israel, saying, “Hear O Israel, you are drawing near to battle against your enemies” (Deut. 20:3): “He must know that he does battle for the sake of the unity of God (yiḥud Hashem) … and his intention must be only to sanctify the Name of the Lord” (Hilkhot Melakhim, 7:15). (See also Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher in his Shema Yisrael (undated).) Thus, the notion of unifying God’s Name through our own actions predates and extends beyond the Kabbalah. It is part of the mainstream rabbinic tradition as well: an unredeemed world both reflects and causes the unredeemed state of divinity. This idea is at the heart of the Kaddish prayer, “May the great Name be magnified and sanctified”: we here acknowledge that the divine Name itself is in need of fulfillment and sanctification. (See chapter 15 for the interpretation of the Kaddish by S. Y. Agnon.) The Jewish people can help achieve this cosmic sanctification by fulfilling our duties of obedience by means of performing the mitzvot and studying the Torah. And the Creator can do His part by redeeming Israel and thus vindicating His promise.

     The second element that the Sifre’s view contributes to our understanding of the Shema is that of the coming of the Messiah—which follows logically from the premise of the broken nature of divine unity in our present predicament. It adds the dimension of hope to that of faith, of aspiration to that of affirmation. By introducing this eschatological note into the very heart of the Shema, the Sifre places the Messianic belief front and center in Jewish doctrine. (11)

(11)     This articulates well with what was said above, namely, that the different connotations of “Lord” (Hashem) and “God” (Elohim) are reflected in the two blessings preceding the Shema, which speak of the creation of nature and the direction of history. If we now accept this eschatological interpretation of the last two words, Hashem eḥad, “the Lord is One,” then we have as well a reflection of that theme in the third of the three blessings, that which follows the reading of the Shema, namely, the blessing of geulah, redemption.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 15.

     Antigonus Besieges Those That Were In Masada, Whom Herod Frees From Confinement When He Came Back From Rome, And Presently Marches To Jerusalem Where He Finds Silo Corrupted By Bribes.

     1. Now during this time Antigonus besieged those that were in Masada, who had all other necessaries in sufficient quantity, but were in want of water; on which account Joseph, Herod's brother, was disposed to run away to the Arabians, with two hundred of his own friends, because he had heard that Malichus repented of his offenses with regard to Herod; and he had been so quick as to have been gone out of the fortress already, unless, on that very night when he was going away, there had fallen a great deal of rain, insomuch that his reservoirs were full of water, and so he was under no necessity of running away. After which, therefore, they made an irruption upon Antigonus's party, and slew a great many of them, some in open battles, and some in private ambush; nor had they always success in their attempts, for sometimes they were beaten, and ran away.

     2. In the mean time Ventidius, the Roman general, was sent out of Syria, to restrain the incursions of the Parthians; and after he had done that, he came into Judea, in pretense indeed to assist Joseph and his party, but in reality to get money of Antigonus; and when he had pitched his camp very near to Jerusalem, as soon as he had got money enough, he went away with the greatest part of his forces; yet still did he leave Silo with some part of them, lest if he had taken them all away, his taking of bribes might have been too openly discovered. Now Antigonus hoped that the Parthians would come again to his assistance, and therefore cultivated a good understanding with Silo in the mean time, lest any interruption should be given to his hopes.

     3. Now by this time Herod had sailed out of Italy, and was come to Ptolemais; and as soon as he had gotten together no small army of foreigners, and of his own countrymen, he marched through Galilee against Antigonus, wherein he was assisted by Ventidius and Silo, both whom Dellius, 22 a person sent by Antony, persuaded to bring Herod [into his kingdom]. Now Ventidius was at this time among the cities, and composing the disturbances which had happened by means of the Parthians, as was Silo in Judea corrupted by the bribes that Antigonus had given him; yet was not Herod himself destitute of power, but the number of his forces increased every day as he went along, and all Galilee, with few exceptions, joined themselves to him. So he proposed to himself to set about his most necessary enterprise, and that was Masada, in order to deliver his relations from the siege they endured. But still Joppa stood in his way, and hindered his going thither; for it was necessary to take that city first, which was in the enemies' hands, that when he should go to Jerusalem, no fortress might be left in the enemies' power behind him. Silo also willingly joined him, as having now a plausible occasion of drawing off his forces [from Jerusalem]; and when the Jews pursued him, and pressed upon him, [in his retreat,] Herod made all excursion upon them with a small body of his men, and soon put them to flight, and saved Silo when he was in distress.

     4. After this Herod took Joppa, and then made haste to Masada to free his relations. Now, as he was marching, many came in to him, induced by their friendship to his father, some by the reputation he had already gained himself, and some in order to repay the benefits they had received from them both; but still what engaged the greatest number on his side, was the hopes from him when he should be established in his kingdom; so that he had gotten together already an army hard to be conquered. But Antigonus laid an ambush for him as he marched out, in which he did little or no harm to his enemies. However, he easily recovered his relations again that were in Masada, as well as the fortress Ressa, and then marched to Jerusalem, where the soldiers that were with Silo joined themselves to his own, as did many out of the city, from a dread of his power.

     5. Now when he had pitched his camp on the west side of the city, the guards that were there shot their arrows and threw their darts at them, while others ran out in companies, and attacked those in the forefront; but Herod commanded proclamation to be made at the wall, that he was come for the good of the people and the preservation of the city, without any design to be revenged on his open enemies, but to grant oblivion to them, though they had been the most obstinate against him. Now the soldiers that were for Antigonus made a contrary clamor, and did neither permit any body to hear that proclamation, nor to change their party; so Antigonus gave order to his forces to beat the enemy from the walls; accordingly, they soon threw their darts at them from the towers, and put them to flight.

     6. And here it was that Silo discovered he had taken bribes; for he set many of the soldiers to clamor about their want of necessaries, and to require their pay, in order to buy themselves food, and to demand that he would lead them into places convenient for their winter quarters; because all the parts about the city were laid waste by the means of Antigonus's army, which had taken all things away. By this he moved the army, and attempted to get them off the siege; but Herod went to the captains that were under Silo, and to a great many of the soldiers, and begged of them not to leave him, who was sent thither by Caesar, and Antony, and the senate; for that he would take care to have their wants supplied that very day. After the making of which entreaty, he went hastily into the country, and brought thither so great an abundance of necessaries, that he cut off all Silo's pretenses; and in order to provide that for the following days they should not want supplies, he sent to the people that were about Samaria [which city had joined itself to him] to bring corn, and wine, and oil, and cattle to Jericho. When Antigonus heard of this, he sent some of his party with orders to hinder, and lay ambushes for these collectors of corn. This command was obeyed, and a great multitude of armed men were gathered together about Jericho, and lay upon the mountains, to watch those that brought the provisions. Yet was Herod not idle, but took with him ten cohorts, five of them were Romans, and five were Jewish cohorts, together with some mercenary troops intermixed among them, and besides those a few horsemen, and came to Jericho; and when he came, he found the city deserted, but that there were five hundred men, with their wives and children, who had taken possession of the tops of the mountains; these he took, and dismissed them, while the Romans fell upon the rest of the city, and plundered it, having found the houses full of all sorts of good things. So the king left a garrison at Jericho, and came back, and sent the Roman army into those cities which were come over to him, to take their winter quarters there, viz. into Judea, [or Idumea,] and Galilee, and Samaria. Antigonus also by bribes obtained of Silo to let a part of his army be received at Lydda, as a compliment to Antonius.

          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 18:22-24
     by D.H. Stern

22     He who finds a wife finds a great good;
he has won the favor of ADONAI.

23     The poor man speaks beseechingly,
the rich man’s answer is blunt.

24     Some “friends” pretend to be friends,
but a true friend sticks closer than a brother.


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

                Don't slack off

     Whatever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do.
--- John 14:13.

     Am I fulfilling this ministry of the interior? There is no snare, or any danger of infatuation or pride in intercession, it is a hidden ministry that brings forth fruit whereby the Father is glorified. Am I allowing my spiritual life to be frittered away, or am I bringing it all to one centre—the Atonement of my Lord? Is Jesus Christ more and more dominating every interest in my life? If the one central point, the great exerting influence in my life, is the Atonement of the Lord, then every phase of My life will bear fruit for Him.

     I must take time to realize what is the central point of power. Do I give one minute out of sixty to concentrate upon it? "If ye abide in Me"—continue to act and think and work from that centre—"ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Am I abiding? Am I taking time to abide? What is the greatest factor of power in my life? Is it work, service, sacrifice for others, or trying to work for God? The thing that ought to exert the greatest power in my life is the Atonement of the Lord. It is not the thing we spend the most time on that moulds us most; the greatest element is the thing that exerts most power. We must determine to be limited and concentrate our affinities.

     "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do." The disciple who abides in Jesus is the will of God, and his apparently free choices are God's fore-ordained decrees. Mysterious? Logically contradictory and absurd? Yes, but a glorious truth to a saint.


My Utmost for His Highest

Hyddgen
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               Hyddgen

The place, Hyddgen;
  The time, the fifth
  Century since Glyn Dwr
  Was here with his men.
  He beat the English.
  Does it matter now
  In the rain? The English
  Don't want to come:
  Summer country.
  The Welsh too:
  A barren victory.
  Look at those sheep
  On such small bones
  The best mutton.
  But not for him,
  The hireling shepherd.
  History goes on;
  On the rock the lichen
  Records it: no mention
  Of them, of us.


Collected Poems : R S Thomas

Swimming in the Sea of the Talmud:
     Menahot 29b

     Epilogue

     Text / Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: "When Moses went up on high, he found the Holy One, blessed be He, attaching little crownlets to the letters [of the Torah]. He said: 'Master of the World! What is taking You so long?'

     "Moses was (like many of us) impatient when it came to wanting to acquire the Torah (and to learn the Oral Traditions of the Torah, the Talmud). He couldn't understand the delay. He wanted it now, not later. He (like many of us) thought that desire alone was all that was necessary.

     "But Moses, and we ourselves, have come to understand the complexity and the depth of Torah and Talmud. We have learned, with Akiva, that water can bore a hole in solid rock, but only after quite some time and only by being determined and persistent.

     "He [God] said to him: 'In the future, at the end of many generations, there will be a man, Akiva ben Yosef is his name. One day he will come and teach mountains of laws from each of these little crownlets.'

     "There is an old saying: "God is in the details." Here, in an interesting twist on that idea, we see God focusing great attention on the most minute details of the Torah—the tiny decorative marks that always appear on the tops of seven Hebrew letters. Because of their shape and position, they are called "crownlets." (They are also known as "jots and tittles.")

     "Moses, at first, could not fathom that there was any significance to these seemingly insignificant scribbles. God here explains to him that what initially appears to be of little importance will actually be the basis for "mountains of laws." Even in the crownlets there is much to learn.

     "One of the things that exasperates the newcomer about the Talmud is the endless concern with minutiae. We often wonder: "How could such great thinkers and teachers constantly get bogged down in such small details and concerns?" Hopefully, we have come to understand that in discussing the specific, the Rabbis were really dealing with the general; while focusing on the particular, they were ultimately looking at the universal.

     "Moses and Akiva were similar in many ways: Both were shepherds; both had their lives changed after coming upon a phenomenon in nature (a burning bush, a hole cut into a rock by dripping water); both went on to become great teachers of Torah to their people. Yet what Moses initially saw as a waste of time, Akiva found to be the fertile source of incredible inspiration. How do we account for this difference?

     "Much of it has to do with knowing what to look for. When we approach the Talmud from a western, logical framework, we are puzzled, lost, or turned off. But when we view the Mishnah and the Gemara in the context of the world they came from, we begin to understand things differently. Hopefully, seeing that God spends time on the crownlets, we learn that this is a worthy and an important thing to do.

     "He [Moses] said to Him: 'Master of the World! Show him to me!' He [God] said: 'Turn around, behind you!' He [Moses] went and sat at the back of the eighth row.

     "Jewish learning does not take place merely in the here and now; it crosses all boundaries of time and space. God teaches Moses that in order to truly understand Torah, one has to look to the past, as well as see into the future. We cannot study the Talmud as outside observers reading ancient history. Instead, we must become the colleagues and disciples of the Rabbis mentioned on the pages, learning not just about them, not even from them, but rather with them!

     "The Talmud often reports a teaching in the present tense: "Rabbi Akiva says" (not "said"). Some might explain this merely as a quote from a contemporary source. But there is a deeper way to understand this phrase. In a real sense, Rabbi Akiva is still alive, and he is talking and teaching now. We go back into the past and sit on a bench in his study house, learning at his feet as he lectures to us. Or Rabbi Akiva, like Moses, moves forward in time, dwelling with us, today, counseling us how to apply the ancient teachings to our time and place.

     "He could not understand a thing they were saying and became very despondent.

     "What an irony: Moses, the Lawgiver, Mosheh Rabbenu (Moses our Rabbi), not able to understand anything that was being discussed in Rabbi Akiva's class! The additional irony is that we can recall the time when Akiva knew next to nothing and had to begin his education as a forty-year-old man sitting in with the kindergarten children, learning the alphabet.

     "Akiva and Moses both went through experiences of being totally overwhelmed, of feeling out of place, of wanting to quit and forget about the whole idea of learning. Yet both overcame these feelings of inadequacy, rising to become, respectively, the greatest biblical and talmudic figures. There is a message of comfort here for us: No matter how overwhelmed we may occasionally feel by the sea of Talmud, we should remember we are in good company. And we must also recall that if those before us struggled and achieved, we can do so as well.

     "When they reached a particular matter, his [Akiva's] student said to him: 'Rabbi, where do you know it from?' He said to them: 'It is a law that goes back to Moses at Sinai,' and he [Moses] was comforted.

     "In studying Talmud, there are moments when we are lost and overwhelmed and may feel very depressed; there are also great moments of exhilaration when we achieve significant breakthroughs and enlightenment. Sooner or later, like Moses, we all hear our names called: Because the Talmud is so deep, because it encompasses virtually every aspect of life experience, eventually each of us will find that there is a realm that we recognize, an area that speaks to our own individual circumstances. Mysteriously, that moment often comes just when we least expect it, and precisely when we need it the most. Part of the secret of Talmud study is sticking with it long enough. Another part of the secret is learning how to listen for our name—recognizing our own story in the pages of the Talmud.

     "He returned and came before the Holy One, blessed be He. He said to Him: 'Master of the World! You have such a man, and you gave the Torah through me?

     "To be a Jew is to question God. From Abraham, who argued with God over the morality of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, to Moses, who here challenges God's choice of lawgiver, it has always been our right (and even responsibility!) to stand up to God and ask "Why?" or say "No!" That reverent irreverence is found on every single page of the Talmud. Everything and everyone—including God—is questioned. Every position offered is challenged and taken apart. Nothing is taken for granted, nothing is assumed, nothing is accepted unless it passes rigorous tests. Intellectual integrity is prized above almost everything else. We are never afraid of asking a question, because that is the only sure way to get an answer.

     "He [God] said to him: 'Silence! This is how I planned it to be …' "

     "Humility is a crucial requirement for a student of Talmud: Recognizing our own limitations, understanding that, alone, we cannot become masters of the text. No matter how wise we may be in other readings, we still need guidance and help in order to swim in this sea.

     "Paradoxically, it is Moses' recognition of his unworthiness that makes him truly worthy of passing on the Torah. As always, God has the last word in all arguments: Moses may be right, but God has chosen him nevertheless. And therefore, with God's help, he will succeed. May the same be true of us.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday LIving

Searching for meaning in Midrash
     What Is Midrash?

     The word Midrash derives from the Hebrew root ד־ר־ש/d-r-sh, which means "to search," "to examine," or "to investigate." Midrash can refer to several things:

•    the literary techniques used by the Rabbis to search the
     Bible for hidden or deeper meaning (wordplays and
     gematria [Hebrew numerology] are just two of the many
     methods of Midrash utilized by the Rabbis);
•    the literary product that resulted from such readings
     and interpretations (the Rabbi began his sermon by
     quoting Rabbi Avdimi's Midrash on the giving of the
     Torah);
•    a collection of such interpretations (Midrash Shir HaShirim
     Rabbah is a book containing Rabbinic commentaries
     on the biblical Song of Songs).

     "The term D'rash (from the same Hebrew root) is often used—as it is in this book—to denote a short interpretive piece that is based on a sacred text.

     "In one sense, the process of Midrash began the very first time the Torah was read. In the legal sections, there were always questions about just exactly what the text meant and what was expected of the listener or reader. In the Ten Commandments, for example, we are told "You shall not murder." At first, that law seems pretty clear. But upon further reflection, we realize that many questions might arise: Is self-defense included in the prohibition? Is suicide? What about warfare? The Rabbinic discussions and answers to such legal questions constitute what is known as מִדְרָשׁ הֲלָכָה/Midrash Halakhah.

     "In the narrative portions of the Bible, on the other hand, there was always a curiosity about what was left out of the story. A classic case is the story of Abraham's life, which begins in the Book of Genesis when he was seventy-five years old. We can't help but wonder about his childhood, youth, and middle age, and about how he came to be the person who influenced so much of world religion. The famous tale of how a young Abraham smashed the idols in his father's shop (brought as a Midrash text in this volume) is a response to the desire of the reader to have more information. In addition, Midrash often attempts to smooth over a textual oddity or harmonize contradictory texts. These stories passed down by the Rabbis are known as מִדְרָשׁ אַגָּדָה/Midrash Aggadah.

     "The process of interpretation, which culminates in the midrashic literature, begins in the Bible itself. The entire Book of Deuteronomy is really an explication of the Genesis–Numbers narrative. In Deuteronomy, Moses not only reviews Jewish history but also expands upon it. Thus, the Bible contains the first seeds of its own commentary, with later books often expanding on ideas contained in the Torah. Once the Bible was in its final form, the process of discussions and explanations, which we now call Midrash, began. Readers of the Bible always searched for meaning much as we do today.

     "It is impossible to know for certain when these midrashim (plural of Midrash) were first taught, first written down, first collected, and first edited. Some traditionalists believe that the midrashim are part of the תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה/Torah she-b'al peh, "the Oral Torah," given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai along with the תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב/Torah she-bi-khetav, "the Written Torah"; they were then transmitted orally from generation to generation until they were finally committed to writing so that they would not be lost. Modernists, on the other hand, say that the Midrash is the literary product of brilliant teachers and creative, imaginative writers who lived over several centuries.

     "One of the earliest midrashic texts is familiar to many of us: it is the Haggadah used at the Passover seder. The central portion of the traditional Haggadah is actually a lengthy interpretation of four verses from the Bible, Deuteronomy 26:5–8. These sentences speak of the Israelites' bondage in Egypt and God's rescuing them from their oppression. The Rabbis, in their midrashim, elaborate on the brief tale and flesh out the story of slavery and liberation. A well-known passage (though puzzling to many readers) has Rabbi Yosé ha-G'lili, Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Akiva debating how many plagues afflicted the Egyptians at the sea. Their answers—50, 200, and 250—are derived in classic midrashic style by careful scrutiny of other biblical verses. The point of this Midrash might have been to showcase God's great power and to tell the reader that the punishment that befell the enemies of the Israelites was even greater than imagined. This was a theme that may have touched a chord among the Jews living under Roman persecution.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

According to The Gittith
     Harpers Dictionary


     To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph. Gittith, a Hebrew word appearing in the phrase al ha-gittith. Of uncertain significance, it appears at the beginning of Psalms 8, 81, and 84. It is often left untranslated ('according to the Gittith'), though some translators have sought to explain the term via the Hebrew gath '(wine-)press' or the Philistine city of Gath. Like the similar (and equally mysterious) phrase al ha-sheminith ('on the eighth'), this phrase has been taken to refer to a musical mode, such as exist in traditional Arabic music, or to a particular musical instrument, or even to a particular well-known song that served as a contrafact for the Psalms in question.

HarperCollins Bible Dictionary

Equivalent to Apollyon
     Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

     Equivalent to Apollyṓn, this name is used in Rev. 9:11 for the king of the scorpions that plague the human race. It is taken from the Old Testament (Job 28:22), and is a personification of the place of destruction (Job 26:6 etc.). The Gk. Apollyṓn is influenced by the Septuagint use of apṓleia and the idea of Apollyon as the god of plague and destruction (Aeschylus Agamemnon 1082).

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 Volume Set)

2. Gomer: God Is Holy (Hosea 2:2–13)
     W. W. Wiersbe

     Hosea is preeminently the prophet of love, but unlike some teachers today, he doesn't minimize the holiness of God. We're told that "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16), but we're also reminded that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1:5). God's love is a holy love, not a sentimental feeling that condones sin and pampers sinners.

     The prophet focuses on three particular sins: idolatry (spiritual adultery), ingratitude, and hypocrisy.

     Idolatry (Hosea 2:2–5a). God speaks to the children and tells them to rebuke their mother for her unfaithfulness. Israel was guilty of worshiping the gods of the pagan nations around them, especially the Canaanite rain god, Baal. Whenever there was a drought or a famine in the land, the Jews repeatedly turned to Baal for help instead of turning to the Lord. (See 1 Kings 18–19.) Pagan worship involved sensual fertility rites; and for these rites, both male and female prostitutes were provided. In a literal as well as a symbolic sense, idolatry meant prostitution.( The Hebrew words referring to prostitutes and prostitution (KJV, "whoredom," "harlotries") are used twenty-two times in Hosea's prophecy (1:2, 2:2, 4–4; 3:3, 4:10–15, 18; 5:3–4; 6:10; 9:1). Words connected with adultery are used six times (2:2; 3:1; 4:2, 13–14; 7:4). God looked upon His covenant relationship with His people as a marriage, and He saw their idolatry as marital unfaithfulness. )

     Since the people were acting like prostitutes, God would treat them like prostitutes and shame them publicly. He would no longer claim the nation as His wife because she had broken the solemn marriage covenant and consorted with idols. According to Hebrew law, adultery was a capital crime, punishable by death, but God announced that He would discipline Israel and not destroy her. ( Hebrew law stated that a divorced woman could not return to her former husband and marry him again (Deut. 24:1–4). God gave unfaithful Israel a "divorce" in that He no longer shared His intimacy and His mercies with her (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:1–5). One day He will take her back and restore the broken relationship and heal their land (Isa. 54:4–8; 62:4).)

     Unfaithfulness to the Lord is a serious sin, just as unfaithfulness to one's mate is a serious sin. The man who says he's 90 percent faithful to his wife isn't faithful at all. As Israel was tempted to forsake God for idols, the church is tempted to turn to the world system that hates God and wants nothing to do with God.

     We must be careful not to love the world
(1 John 2:15–17), be friendly with the world (James 4:4), become spotted by the world (1:27), or conform to the world (Rom. 12:2). Each believer and each local church must remain true to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom until He returns to take His bride to the heavenly wedding (2 Cor. 11:1–4; Eph. 5:22–33; Rev. 19:6–9).

     Ingratitude (Hosea 2:5b–9). Instead of thanking the true God for His blessings of food, water, and clothing, the nation thanked the false gods and used those gifts to serve idols. What ingratitude! God provided rain for the land
(Deut. 11:8–17), but the Israelites gave the credit to Baal, the rain god. Because it is God who gives us power to earn wealth (8:17–18) and enjoy the blessings of life
(1 Tim. 6:17), we must thank Him and acknowledge His goodness. What wickedness it is to take the gifts of God and use them to worship false gods!

     God had every right to abandon His people, but instead, He chose to discipline them. The nation would chase after false gods, but Jehovah would block their paths and confuse their plans so that they would stumble on the way. He would take back His gifts and leave the nation as naked as a newborn baby and as barren as a desert.

     It's remarkable how many times God's people are admonished in Scripture to be thankful. I've noted at least fifteen places where we're commanded to "give thanks to the Lord," and Psalm 100:4 and Colossians 3:15 both admonish us to be thankful. Both Jesus and Paul set the example by giving thanks often to the Lord for His blessings. One of the first steps toward rebellion against God is a refusal to give God thanks for His mercies (Rom. 1:21). God will not allow us to enjoy His gifts and at the same time ignore the Giver, for this is the essence of idolatry.

     Hypocrisy (Hosea 2:10–13). The people still enjoyed celebrating the Hebrew festivals, but in their hearts, they gave the glory to Baal and the other false gods that they worshiped. Unfortunately, the same sin was being committed by their brothers and sisters in the temple of Jerusalem (Isa. 1). How easy it is to attend divine services and go through the motions of worshiping God when our hearts are really far from Him (Matt. 15:7–9).

     But the truth would eventually come out, for God would judge His people and expose their hypocrisy. He would take away their blessings and abandon them to their sins, for one of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way. God is holy and will not permit His people to enjoy sin for long or to live on substitutes. Eight times in the Bible we read, "Be holy, for I am holy"; God means what He says.


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

Lessons from the Biblical Scrolls
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     After reviewing the parade of biblical manuscripts from Qumran and the major variants in the MT, SP, and OG that can be seen and appreciated in clearer focus due to the Qumran scrolls, what lessons do they offer? The first headline that immediately flashes is “textual pluriformity.” The pluriformity, however, is not chaos but shows patterns that can be clearly seen and intelligibly classified. There are four principal categories of variation detectable through comparison of the Qumran manuscripts, MT, SP, and OG: (1) orthography, (2) individual textual variants, (3) isolated interpretive insertions, and (4) revised and expanded editions. Studies show that these four types of variation operate on different levels unrelated to each other.

     Orthography

     The six centuries of the Second Temple period saw noticeable development in the Hebrew language, and especially its spelling practices. Scribes, through the insertion of matres lectionis, made early contributions to the interpretational process that concluded with the Masoretes’ vocalization of the texts. Since the text was sometimes ambiguous, the tendency toward fuller spelling was helpful for correct reading and preservation of correct understanding. The matres were inserted at times unintentionally, at times intentionally, insofar as the source text may have had one spelling, but the scribe nonetheless inadvertently or consciously wrote the word as he customarily spelled it, regardless of the source text. Usually the fuller form simply indicated the correct form more clearly and involved no change in meaning. For example, in Isa. 8:19 the ambiguous ha-ʾbwt, which could mean “ancestors,” was correctly vocalized in 1QIsaa as ha-ʾôbôt, “ghosts,” and similarly in the MT as ha-ʾōbôt. But in Isa. 40:6 the ambiguous wʾmr was interpreted in the MT as third person, whereas it was clarified as first person in 1QIsaa.

     Individual Textual Variants

     The human difficulty in accurately copying large amounts of complicated text resulted in readings that differed from the parent text for virtually every ancient manuscript. Many variants were unintentional (e.g., numerous types of errors, inadvertent substitution of lectiones faciliores, loss of letters, loss of one or more words through inattention or parablepsis); others were intentional (clarifying insertions, scribal correction [whether correct or not], additional information, linguistic smoothing, euphemistic substitutions, literary flourishes, theological ideas). This general phenomenon is well known, and the traditional handbooks on textual criticism primarily deal with this level, describing general rules of thumb that remain well founded for judging variants.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 7

     Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. --- Titus 2:13–14.

     [Jesus Christ] gave himself for us with these two objects: first, redemption, that he might redeem us from iniquity, that he might break the bonds of sin and cast the cords of depravity far from us. (Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons)) He died—don’t forget that—died that your sins might die, died that every lust might be dragged into captivity. He gave himself for you that you might give yourselves for him.

     [Second], he died that he might purify us—purify us to himself. How clean we must be if we are to be clean to him! The holy Jesus will only commune with that which he has purified after the manner of his own nature—purified to himself. He has purified us to be his own people, his choice portion. Saints are Christ’s crown jewels, his very own. He carries his people as lambs in his bosom. He engraves their names on his heart. They are the inheritance to which he is the heir, and he values them more than all the universe. He would lose everything else rather than lose one of them. He desires that you who are being disciplined by his grace should know that you are altogether his. You are Christ’s men and women. You are each one to feel, “I do not belong to the world. I do not belong to myself. I belong only to Christ, set aside by him for himself only, and his I will be.” The silver and the gold are his, and the cattle on a thousand hills are his, but he makes small account of them; “the LORD’s portion is his people” (Deut 32:9).

     The apostle says that we are to be “eager to do good.” Would to God that all Christians were disciplined by grace until they became eager to do good! We are not only to approve of good works and speak for good works, but we are to be red-hot for them. We are to be on fire for everything that is right and true. We may not be content to be quiet and inoffensive, but we are to be eager to do good. There is plenty of fuel in the church; what is wanted is fire. Many respectable people are doing as little as they can for any good cause. This will never do. We must wake up. Oh, that all of us were ardent, fervent, zealous! Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle us! We may not go about to get this by our own efforts and energies, but God will work it by his grace. Grace given us in Christ is the fountainhead of all holy impulse. O heavenly grace, come like a flood at this time and bear us right away!
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     The Banner of Jesus  June 7

     London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle sits across from a run-down subway station in the south of London, surrounded by housing projects, bars, and abandoned shops. It is off the tourist path, and average Sunday attendance hovers at 300. Its successful ministry attracts young people and serves a vital need in the inner city.

     Looked at another way, the Metropolitan Tabernacle has never been the same since Sunday Morning, June 7, 1891, when Charles Spurgeon preached there for the last time. He was exhausted in ministry and broken down by denominational conflict. His hair was white, his face lined, his heavy frame weak. He ended his sermon without knowing these would be his last words in the pulpit: These forty years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! And I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen!

     That afternoon his congregation was alarmed to hear that Spurgeon had fallen ill. He lay in bed for over a month, most of the time unconscious, sometimes delirious. London clung to every bulletin, and prayer meetings were held continually at the tabernacle. Months passed. Spurgeon rallied enough in late summer for a trip to the south of France, and hope for his recovery soared. Workers at the tabernacle installed a lift to save him the exertion of the stairs.

     But about midnight, January 31, 1892, Spurgeon breathed his last breath, surrounded by his wife and a few friends in his room at the Hotel Beau Rivage in Menton, France. England was numbed by the news, and 12 days later his funeral cortege was surrounded by 100,000 mourners as it entered Upper Norwood Cemetery in London.

     He was 57. He had worn himself out under the banner of Jesus.

     These are the last words of David the son of Jesse. The Spirit of the LORD has told me what to say. Our Mighty Rock, the God of Jacob, told me, “A ruler who obeys God and does right is like the sunrise on a cloudless day, or like rain that sparkles on the grass.”
--- 2 Samuel 23:1a,2–4.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 7

     “Ye that love the Lord hate evil.” --- Job 40:4.

     Thou hast good reason to “hate evil,” for only consider what harm it has already wrought thee. Oh, what a world of mischief sin has brought into thy heart! Sin blinded thee so that thou couldst not see the beauty of the Saviour; it made thee deaf so that thou couldst not hear the Redeemer’s tender invitations. Sin turned thy feet into the way of death, and poured poison into the very fountain of thy being; it tainted thy heart, and made it “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Oh, what a creature thou wast when evil had done its utmost with thee, before divine grace interposed! Thou wast an heir of wrath even as others; thou didst “run with the multitude to do evil.” Such were all of us; but Paul reminds us, “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” We have good reason, indeed, for hating evil when we look back and trace its deadly workings. Such mischief did evil do us, that our souls would have been lost had not omnipotent love interfered to redeem us. Even now it is an active enemy, ever watching to do us hurt, and to drag us to perdition. Therefore “hate evil,” O Christians, unless you desire trouble. If you would strew your path with thorns, and plant nettles in your death-pillow, then neglect to “hate evil:” but if you would live a happy life, and die a peaceful death, then walk in all the ways of holiness, hating evil, even unto the end. If you truly love your Saviour, and would honour him, then “hate evil.” We know of no cure for the love of evil in a Christian like abundant intercourse with the Lord Jesus. Dwell much with him, and it is impossible for you to be at peace with sin.

     “Order my footsteps by thy Word,
     And make my heart sincere;
     Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
     But keep my conscience clear.”



          Evening - June 7

     “Be zealous.” --- Revelation 3:19.

     If you would see souls converted, if you would hear the cry that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord;” if you would place crowns upon the head of the Saviour, and his throne lifted high, then be filled with zeal. For, under God, the way of the world’s conversion must be by the zeal of the church. Every grace shall do exploits, but this shall be first; prudence, knowledge, patience, and courage will follow in their places, but zeal must lead the van. It is not the extent of your knowledge, though that is useful; it is not the extent of your talent, though that is not to be despised; it is your zeal that shall do great exploits. This zeal is the fruit of the Holy Spirit: it draws its vital force from the continued operations of the Holy Ghost in the soul. If our inner life dwindles, if our heart beats slowly before God, we shall not know zeal; but if all be strong and vigorous within, then we cannot but feel a loving anxiety to see the kingdom of Christ come, and his will done on earth, even as it is in heaven. A deep sense of gratitude will nourish Christian zeal. Looking to the hole of the pit whence we were digged, we find abundant reason why we should spend and be spent for God. And zeal is also stimulated by the thought of the eternal future. It looks with tearful eyes down to the flames of hell, and it cannot slumber: it looks up with anxious gaze to the glories of heaven, and it cannot but bestir itself. It feels that time is short compared with the work to be done, and therefore it devotes all that it has to the cause of its Lord. And it is ever strengthened by the remembrance of Christ’s example. He was clothed with zeal as with a cloak. How swift the chariot-wheels of duty went with him! He knew no loitering by the way. Let us prove that we are his disciples by manifesting the same spirit of zeal.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 7

          WONDERFUL GRACE OF JESUS

     Words and Music by Haldor Lillenas, 1885–1959

     For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

     The wonderful grace of Jesus will be the theme that will echo throughout the corridors of heaven during all eternity. It should also be the joyful exclamation of every Christian now whenever he thinks of Calvary and the deep love of our Savior.

     “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” is one of the most inspiring hymns in our hymnals, and it has been used extensively by both choirs and congregations since it was written and composed by Haldor Lillenas in 1918. Born in Norway, Mr. Lillenas came to the United States as a child. He married Bertha Mae Wilson, a songwriter also, and together they traveled extensively, furnishing songs and choirs for many of the leading song leaders in the country, including the noted Charles Alexander. Mr. Alexander found this hymn, among the approximately 4,000 that Lillenas wrote, to be particularly useful as a mass choir selection in the great crusades in the early years of this century. And the song has remained popular ever since. The reminder of Christ’s “all sufficient grace” that is truly “deeper than the mighty rolling sea” and “higher than the mountain” still moves us to stand in awe each time we sing it in a church service.

     Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin? Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free, for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
     Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost, by it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost; chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty, for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
     Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled, by its transforming power making him God’s dear child, purchasing peace and heaven for all eternity—and the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
     Chorus: Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea; higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me; broader than the scope of my transgressions, greater far than all my sin and shame; O magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!


     For Today: Acts 15:11; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 5:10.

     Contemplate again the “scope of your transgressions” and the forgiveness and love of Christ as He stretches out His hand to you. Praise His precious name as you go singing ---

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. XLVIII. — BUT, setting aside that “Freewill” which the definition defines, let us consider that which the opinion proposes as contrary to it. You grant, that man, without special grace, cannot will good: (for we are not now discussing what the grace of God can do, but what man can do without grace:) you grant, then, that “Free-will” cannot will good. This is nothing else but granting that it cannot ‘apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation,’ according to the tune of your definition. Nay, you say a little before, ‘that the human will after sin, is so depraved, that having lost its liberty, it is compelled to serve sin, and cannot recall itself into a better state.’ And if I am not mistaken, you make the Pelagians to be of this opinion. Now then I believe, my Proteus has here no way of escape: he is caught and held fast in plain words: — ‘that the will, having lost its liberty, is tied and bound a slave to sin.’ O noble Free-will! which, having lost its liberty, is declared by Erasmus himself, to be the slave of sin! When Luther asserted this, ‘nothing was ever heard of so absurd;’ ‘nothing was more useless than that this paradox should be proclaimed abroad!’ So much so, that even a Diatribe must be written against him!

     But perhaps no one will believe me, that these things are said by Erasmus. If the Diatribe be read in this part, it will be admired: but I do not so much admire it. For he who does not treat this as a serious subject, and is not interested in the cause, but is in mind alienated from it, and grows weary of it, cold in it, and disgusted with it, how shall not such an one everywhere speak absurdities, follies, and contrarieties, while, as one drunk or slumbering over the cause, he belches out in the midst of his snoring, It is so! it is not so! just as the different words sound against his ears? And therefore it is, that rhetoricians require a feeling of the subject in the person discussing it. Much more then does theology require such a feeling, that it may make the person vigilant, sharp, intent, prudent, and determined.

     If therefore “Free-will” without grace, when it has lost its liberty, is compelled to serve sin and cannot will good, I should be glad to know, what that desire is, what that endeavour is, which that first ‘probable opinion’ leaves it. It cannot be a good desire or a good endeavour, because it cannot will good, as the opinion affirms, and as you grant. Therefore, it is an evil desire and an evil endeavour that is left, which, when the liberty is lost, is compelled to serve sin. — But above all, what, I pray, is the meaning of this saying: ‘this opinion leaves the desire and the endeavour, but does not leave what is to be ascribed to its own power.’ Who can possibly conceive in his mind what this means? If the desire and the endeavour be left to the power of “Free-will,” how are they not ascribed to the same? If they be not ascribed to it, how can they be left to it? Are then that desire and that endeavour before grace, left to grace itself that comes after, and not to “Free-will” so as to be at the same time left, and not left, to the same “Free-will?” If these things be not paradoxes, or rather enormities, then pray what are enormities?


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Lecture 9: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 10: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 11: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 12: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 13: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 14: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 15: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 16: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 17: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 18: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 19: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary






Lecture 20: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Lecture 21: Old Testament Studies II
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary