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3/1/2019     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     Deuteronomy  5 - 7


Deuteronomy 5

The Ten Commandments

Deuteronomy 5:1 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5 while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:

6 “ ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

7 “ ‘You shall have no other gods before me.

8 “ ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 “ ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 16 “ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

17 “ ‘You shall not murder.
18 “ ‘And you shall not commit adultery.
19 “ ‘And you shall not steal.
20 “ ‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
21 “ ‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

22 “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. 24 And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. 25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

28 “And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! 30 Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’ 32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Deuteronomy 6

The Greatest Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

Deuteronomy 7

A Chosen People

Deuteronomy 7:1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

12 “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. 13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. 25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The Church and the Jewish Question”

By Victoria Barnett

     In an April 1933 essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the first to address the new problems the church faced under the Nazi dictatorship. Despite some astonishing insights, this early essay poses many problems for contemporary readers. Although he called upon the church to defend the victims of state persecution, his defense of the Jews was marked by Christian supersessionism—the Christian belief that Christianity had superseded Judaism, in history and in the eyes of God. “The history of the suffering of this people, loved and punished by God, stands under the sign of the final homecoming of the people of Israel to its God,” wrote Bonhoeffer. “And this homecoming happens in the conversion of Israel to Christ.”

     But Bonhoeffer also realized that Nazism posed a very different challenge for the churches, and it was here that he broke new ground. The church was not just being called to clarify its attitudes toward Judaism and the people of Israel, he noted. The real question was how the church would judge and respond to the Nazi state’s actions against the Jews.

     On this point, Bonhoeffer was explicit about the church’s obligations to fight political injustice. The church, he wrote, must fight evil in three stages: The first was to question state injustice and call the state to responsibility; the second was to help the victims of injustice, whether they were church members or not. Ultimately, however, the church might find itself called “not only to help the victims who have fallen under the wheel, but to fall into the spokes of the wheel itself” in order to halt the machinery of injustice.

     The essay revealed the two levels that would shape Bonhoeffer’s thought and action throughout the Third Reich. On the one level, he saw that the totalitarian doctrine of Nazism demanded a political response from the churches. Completed in the days following the April 1, 1933, boycott of Jewish businesses, "The Church and the Jewish Question" was an explicit ethical commitment to all those persecuted by Nazism. During the same week, he and his brother Klaus met with American theologian Paul Lehmann and drafted a message to US Jewish leader Rabbi Stephen Wise. 3 Bonhoeffer clearly viewed the measures against the Jews as a civil liberties issue (some scholars believe that he was influenced here by his close friendship at Union Seminary with an African American colleague, Frank Fisher, and his direct observation of Fisher’s experiences under racism.)

     On a theological level, however, Bonhoeffer still believed that the “Jewish question” would be resolved ultimately through the conversion of the Jews. He never explicitly abandoned this view, which was widespread throughout the Christian church—even in the ecumenical circles that became most active in helping the Jewish refugees of Nazism.

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     Victoria J. Barnett | About Amazon says, "Victoria J. Barnett served from 2004-2014 as one of the general editors of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, the English translation series of Bonhoeffer's complete works published by Fortress Press. She has lectured and written extensively about the Holocaust, particularly about the role of the German churches, and the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer." Victoria Barnett Books:

Why History Matters To The Christian Faith

By Jonathan Morrow

     Did the events recorded in the pages of Scripture really happen in history? And does it matter? The short answer is…Yes and Yes! BTW the longer answer is still yes and yes…but this is a blog, not a book

3 Reasons Why History Matters To Faith

     Here are 3 reasons why history matters to the Christian faith.

     (1) Biblical faith is not blind faith. Reason and evidence play an important role in the life of faith. God created us as rational beings with the capacity to weigh evidence and draw conclusions about what we are experiencing. We are called to give reasons for faith (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).

     I for one am so encouraged that when John the Baptist struggled with doubt and sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he truly was the long awaited Messiah that Jesus didn’t respond with an austere warning to just have more faith.

     No, Jesus reminded John to pay attention to what he had heard and what he had seen–that will give you confidence of my true identity (cf. Matthew 11:2-5). Mere belief for the sake of belief is not true Christianity.

     (2) The Central claim of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead. If you asked the Apostle Paul, he would agree that faith and history go together. If Jesus “has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). As Nancy Pearcey observes:

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     Per Amazon | Jonathan Morrow (DMin, MDiv, MA) blogs at JonathanMorrow.org. He is the author of Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority, Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, and Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (coauthored with Sean McDowell). He has contributed the chapter “Introducing Spiritual Formation” to Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ and the chapter “How to Question the Bible in a Post-Christian Culture” to A New Kind of Apologist. Jonathan also contributed several articles to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students and has written for Leadership Journal Online (of Christianity Today) and The Stream. He graduated with an MDiv and an MA in philosophy of religion and ethics from the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University where he also earned a doctorate in worldview and culture. Jonathan is currently the director of cultural engagement at Impact 360 Institute where he trains high school and college students in Christian worldview, apologetics, and leadership, and he serves as an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. His books have been featured on shows like FamilyLife Today, Stand to Reason, BreakPoint, In the Market with Janet Parshall, Janet Mefferd Live, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and Apologetics 315. He and his wife have been married for sixteen years and have three children. Connect with Jonathan online at JonathanMorrow.org.
Jonathan Morrow Books:

Does the Earliest Gospel Proclaim the Deity of Jesus?

By Sean McDowell 2/27/2017

     Scholars generally agree that Mark was the first written Gospel.[1] As a result, critics often claim that the doctrine of the deity of Christ does not appear clearly in Mark but emerges later in the Gospel of John.

     While there are certainly explicit claims to deity in John, such as when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), this critical challenge overlooks distinct proclamations of the deity of Christ throughout the Gospel of Mark.

     Here is my contention: From the first chapter until the end, the Gospel of Mark proclaims that Jesus understood himself to be God. Consider six brief examples:

     1. Mark 1:2-3: Mark begins his Gospel by citing a passage from Isaiah 40:3, which discusses how a messenger would come, like a voice of one crying in the wilderness, and “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In the original context, the messenger would prepare the way “for our God.” But Mark substitutes Jesus as the Lord who is coming and John the Baptist as the messenger. In other words, John the Baptist is preparing the way for God himself to come in the person of Jesus Christ.

     2. Mark 2:1-10: In this passage, Jesus heals a paralytic brought to him by four friends. When Jesus first sees him, he says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes instantly object, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They believed the man was paralyzed because he had sinned against God, and yet Jesus had the audacity to claim that he could personally forgive these sins. The scribes are right that only God can forgive sins (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 103:3). Not even the Messiah could forgive sins. In this instance, however, Jesus bypasses the normal route of how forgiveness was received (Leviticus 4:20) and claims to speak with God’s authority. Why? Because he understood himself to be God.

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Books By Sean McDowell

Answering the Galileo Myth

By Tim Barnett 10/18/2016

     Last month, I was speaking at the University of Toronto on the topic Has Science Buried God? The event was held in the medical science building, so it attracted a large number of science-minded atheists and skeptics. In fact, two of the former presidents of the Secular Alliance came out to hear what I had to say.

     During my talk, I pointed out that modern science was birthed out of a theistic worldview. Therefore, far from being a science stopper, it was belief in an orderly God that was the modern science starter. I like how C. S. Lewis put it. He said, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Lawgiver.”

     After my talk, we had a time of Q&A. A young woman named Julianna was the first to put up her hand. “We aren’t going to agree on much,” were the first words out of her mouth. She asked, “If theism is a science starter, then why was Galileo persecuted by the church for doing science? This sounds like the exact opposite of what you’ve said.”

     As Julianna was speaking, I could see other people in the audience nodding their heads in agreement.

     Just the Facts | To answer this question, I had to get all of the facts on the table. There is a very popular view that science and religion are hostile enemies. However, most historians of science regard this as a myth. The idea that religion is at war with science is called the conflict thesis. Galileo’s mistreatment by the Roman Catholic Church is usually given as a case in point, but serious historians of science do not believe that this cultural icon supports the conflict thesis.

     Julianna didn’t have all the facts. She knew Galileo did good science. She also knew the Church silenced Galileo because they didn’t like his conclusion. But she was missing important details of the account, which ultimately led to a misunderstanding of the story of Galileo.

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Tim Barnett, speaker who trains Christians to think clearly about what they believe and why they believe it, full-time apologist, science teacher, and works part-time at his local church. Tim has degrees in physics and education and is working on an MA in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. Tim lives with his wife and two children in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 25

Teach Me Your Paths
25 Of David.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.

ESV Study Bible

RE: Deut 7:1-2 The Holiness of God

By R.C. Sproul

     Why did God issue such a command? How could He have ordered the slaughter of women and children? Again we find modern attempts to soften the event. A curriculum for high school students prepared by a major church denomination in the United States explained that in light of the New Testament revelation of God’s love we know that God did not ever issue such a belligerent command. The Old Testament is merely the record of a primitive warlike group of Hebrews who tried to justify ruthless policies by attributing them to a divine sanction.

     The writers of the curriculum did not believe that God ever issued such a command. It was to be a case of intrusion of mythology into the biblical record. Such interpretations overlook some vital aspects of the matter. First, there is an historical precedent that is far more severe than the conquest of Canaan—the Flood. In the Flood God destroyed the entire population of the world except for Noah and his family. The Flood was a “conquest of Canaan” on a grand scale. More important is the failure to understand the nature of sin. The assumption of the commentators is that God wiped out innocent people in Canaan. In fact there were no innocent women or children in Canaan. There were multitudes of women living there and multitudes of children. But there was none who was innocent. The conquest of Canaan was an explicit expression of God’s righteous judgment on a wicked nation. He made that point clear to Israel. He also made it clear to Israel that she was also not innocent. It was not as if God destroyed a wicked people for the sake of a righteous people. To the Canaanites God poured out justice. To the Jews God poured out mercy. He was quick to remind the Jews of that:

     (Dt 9:4–6) 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

     6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.


     Three times in this passage God reminds Israel that it is not because of their righteousness that He will defeat the Canaanites. He wanted to make that point clear. Israel might have been tempted to jump to the conclusion that God was “on their side” because they were better than pagan nations. God’s announcement made that inference impossible.

     The holiness of God is at the heart of the issue of the conquest of Canaan. It was because of His holiness that the act was ordained. On the one hand He moved to punish the insult to His holiness that was daily perpetrated by the Canaanites. On the other hand He was preparing a land and a nation for a holy purpose. God commanded that no mercy be shown toward the inhabitants of the land. He explained why in Deuteronomy 7:3-6 above in today's reading.

     God did not choose Israel because Israel was already holy. He chose them to make them holy. Israel was called to be holy in two senses of the word. She was called to be different; to be set apart as a vehicle of God’s plan of redemption. She was also called to be holy in the sense of being purified. Pagan practices were to be absent from her midst. She was to be sanctified by drawing near to God. Salvation for the nations was to come out of Israel. The Promised Land was to be the breeding ground for the coming Messiah. There was no room for pagan shrines and pagan rites. God ordained a scorched-earth policy to purge the land for future salvation.

     We have labored the problems of the acts of divine justice found in the Old Testament. We have tried to show that God’s justice was neither whimsical nor unwarranted. We must add that there is no real conflict between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. It was the Old Testament God whom Christ called “Father.” It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to redeem it. It was this God whose meat and drink it was for Jesus to do His will. It was zeal for the God who slew Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah that consumed Christ. It was the God who destroyed the world by a flood who pours the waters of His grace out to us.

     The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.

     The cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history. God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken upon Himself the sins of the world. Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us. This “for us” aspect of the cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy. It is too astonishing to fathom.

     We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual. As Küng observed, His usual course of action is one of grace. Grace no longer amazes us. We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.

     Perhaps the best illustration of this may be found in the teaching of Jesus:

     (Lk 13:1–5) There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”.

     This is one of the most difficult of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. The question is raised, “What about the people Pilate slaughtered, or the innocent people killed by the falling of the tower? Where was God in these events?” The question under discussion was: “How could God allow these things to happen?” The question is actually a thinly veiled accusation. The issue was, as always, how can God allow innocent people to suffer?

     We can hear the implied protest in the question. The eighteen innocent people were walking down the street minding their own business. They were not engaged in playing “sidewalk superintendent.” They were not heckling the construction workers. They were not running away after robbing a bank. They just were “there,” at the wrong time and in the wrong place. They suffered the consequences of a fatal accident.

     We might have expected Jesus to explain it like this: “I am very sorry to hear about this tragedy. These things happen and there is not much we can do about it. It was fate. An accident. As good Christians you have to learn to accept the bad with the good. Keep a stiff upper lip. Be good Stoics! I know I taught you that the One who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. But that was a poetic statement, a bit of hyperbole. Do you realize what a difficult task it is for My Father to run the universe? It gets tiring. Every now and then He must take a nap. On the afternoon in question He was very weary and grabbed forty winks. While He was nodding the tower fell. I am sorry about that and I will report your grievance to Him. I will ask Him to be a bit more careful in the future.”

     Jesus might have said: “I know I told you that My Father notices the landing of every sparrow and that He numbers the hairs on your head. Do you realize how many sparrows there are flying around? And the hairs on the heads! The afternoon the tower fell my Father was busy counting the hairs on the head of a particularly bushy-haired fellow. He was concentrating so hard on the fellow’s head that He overlooked the falling tower. I will suggest that He get His priorities in order and not spend so much time with sparrows and hair.”

     That is not what Jesus said. What He said was, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on my head?’ ” Jesus rebuked the people for putting their amazement in the wrong place. In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I just can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me?”

     We are not really surprised that God has redeemed us. Somewhere deep inside, in the secret chambers of our hearts, we harbor the notion that God owes us His mercy. Heaven would not be quite the same if we were excluded from it. We know that we are sinners, but we are surely not as bad as we could be. There are enough redeeming features to our personalities that if God is really just He will include us in salvation. What amazes us is justice, not grace.

     Our tendency to take grace for granted was driven home to me while teaching college students. I had the assignment of teaching a freshman Old Testament course to 250 students at a Christian college. On the first day of class I went over the course assignments carefully. My experience taught me that the assignment of term papers required a special degree of explanation. This course required three short papers. I explained to the students that the first paper was due on my desk by noon the last day of September. No extensions were to be given except for students who were physically confined to the infirmary or who had deaths in the immediate family. If the paper was not turned in on time, the student would receive an F for the assignment. The students acknowledged that they understood the requirements.

     On the last day of September, 225 students dutifully handed in their term papers. Twenty-five students stood quaking in terror, full of remorse. They cried out, “Oh, Professor Sproul. We are so sorry. We didn’t budget our time properly. We didn’t make the proper adjustment from high school to college. Please don’t give us an F. Please, oh, please give us an extension.”

     I bowed to their pleas for mercy. “All right,” I said. “I’ll give you a break this time. But, remember, the next assignment is due the last day of October.”

     The students were profuse in their gratitude and filled the air with solemn promises of being on time for the next assignment. Then came the last day of October. Two hundred students came with their papers. Fifty students came empty-handed. They were nervous, but not in panic. When I asked for their papers, again they were contrite. “Oh, Professor. It was Homecoming Week. Besides it is midterm and all of our assignments are due in other classes. Please give us one more chance. We promise it will never happen again.”

     Once more I relented. I said, “OK, but this is the last time. If you are late for the next paper, it will be an F. No excuses, no whining. F. Is that clear?” “Oh, yes, Professor. You are terrific.” Spontaneously the class began to sing, “We love you Prof Sproul. Oh, yes we do.” I was Mr. Popularity.

     Can you guess what happened on the last day of November? Right. One hundred and fifty students came with their term papers. The other hundred strolled into the lecture hall utterly unconcerned. “Where are your term papers?” I asked. One student replied, “Oh, don’t worry, Prof, we’re working on them. We’ll have them for you in a couple of days, no sweat.”

     I picked up my lethal black grade book and began taking down names. “Johnson! Do you have your paper?” “No sir,” came the reply. “F,” I said as I wrote the grade in the book. “Muldaney! Do you have your paper?” Again, “No, sir,” was the reply. I marked another F in the book. The students reacted with unmitigated fury. They howled in protest, screaming, “That’s not fair!”

     I looked at one of the howling students, “Lavery! You think it’s not fair?”

     “No,” he growled in response.

     “I see. It’s justice you want? I seem to recall that you were late with your paper the last time. If you insist upon justice you will certainly get it. I’ll not only give you an F for this assignment, but I’ll change your last grade to the F you so richly deserved.”

     The student was stunned. He had no more arguments to make. He apologized for being so hasty and was suddenly happy to settle for one F instead of two.

     The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted. They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were outraged. This, after only two doses of mercy in the space of two months.

     The normal activity of God involves far more mercy than I showed those students with their term papers. Old Testament history covers hundreds of years. In that time God was repeatedly merciful. When His divine judgment fell on Nadab or Uzzah, the response was shock and outrage. We have come to expect God to be merciful. From there the next step is easy: We demand it. When it is not forthcoming, our first response is anger against God, coupled with the protest: “It isn’t fair.” We soon forget that with our first sin we have forfeited all rights to the gift of life. That I am drawing breath this morning is an act of divine mercy. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything. If He allows a tower to fall on my head this afternoon I cannot claim injustice.

     One of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. We live in a world where injustices happen. They happen among people. Every one of us at some time has been a victim of injustice at the hands of another person. Everyone of us at some time has committed an injustice against another person. People treat each other unfairly. One thing is certain: No matter how much injustice I have suffered from the hands of men, I have never suffered the slightest injustice from the hand of God.

     Suppose a person falsely accuses me of stealing money. Charges are brought against me and I am arrested and sent to prison. Touching my relationship to men, I have been a victim of gross injustice. I have every right to cry out to God and plead for vindication in this world. I can complain about being falsely persecuted. God is angry with men for unjustly putting me in prison. God promises to vindicate me from this injustice some day. Injustice is real and it happens every day in this world.

     The injustices we suffer are all of a horizontal sort. They happen between actors in this world. Yet standing over and above this world is the Great Judge of all. My relationship to Him is vertical. In terms of that vertical relationship I never suffer an injustice. Though men may mistreat me, God never does. That God allows a human being to treat me unjustly is just of God. While I may complain to God about the human, horizontal injustice I have suffered, I cannot rise up and accuse God of committing a vertical injustice by allowing the human injustice to befall me. God would be perfectly just to allow me to be thrown in prison for life for a crime I didn’t commit. I may be innocent before men, but I am guilty before God.

     We often blame God for the injustices done to us and harbor in our souls the bitter feeling that God has not been fair toward us. Even if we recognize that He is gracious we think that He has not been gracious enough. We deserve more grace.

     Please read that last sentence again: We deserve more grace. What is wrong with that sentence? Grammatically it is fine. It has a subject, a verb, and a direct object. There is no need for the editor’s red pencil in that regard. But there is something seriously wrong with the content, with the meaning of the sentence.

     It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. As soon as we talk about deserving something, we are no longer talking about grace; we are talking about justice. Only justice can be deserved. God is never obligated to be merciful. Mercy and grace must be voluntary or they are no longer mercy and grace. God never “owes” grace. He reminds us more than once. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This is the divine prerogative. God reserves for Himself the supreme right of executive clemency.

     Suppose ten people sin and sin equally. Suppose God punishes five of them and is merciful to the other five. Is this injustice? No! In this situation five people get justice and five get mercy. No one gets injustice. What we tend to assume is this: If God is merciful to five He must be equally merciful to the other five. Why? He is never obligated to be merciful. If He is merciful to nine of the ten, the tenth cannot complain that he is a victim of injustice. God never owes mercy. God is not obliged to treat all men equally. Maybe I’d better say that again. God is never obliged to treat all men equally. If He were ever unjust to us, we would have reason to complain. But simply because He grants mercy to my neighbor gives me no claim on His mercy. Again we must remember that mercy is always voluntary. “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.”

     There are only two things I ever receive from God—justice or mercy. I never receive injustice from His hand. We may request that God help us get justice at the hands of men, but we would be utterly foolish to ever ask Him for justice from Himself. I warn my students: “Don’t ever ask God for justice—you might get it.”

     It is the confusion between justice and mercy that makes us shrink in horror when we read the stories of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah. When God’s justice falls, we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy. We must not take His grace for granted. We must never lose our capacity to be amazed by grace. We sing the song, “Amazing Justice.” Our lyrics tend to go like this:

Amazing Justice, cruel and sharp
That wounds a saint like me:
I’m so darn good it makes no sense—
The tower fell on me!

     I remember preaching a “practice sermon” in preaching class in seminary. In my sermon I was extolling the marvels of God’s grace. Like the hymn says, I spoke of “God’s grace, infinite grace.…”

     At the end of my sermon the professor had a question for me. “Mr. Sproul,” he said, “where did you ever get the idea that God’s grace is infinite? Is there absolutely no limit to His grace?” As soon as he asked that question I knew I was in trouble. I could quote him chapter and verse of the hymn that taught me that, but somehow I couldn’t come up with a single word from Holy Scripture that taught God’s grace is infinite.

     The reason I couldn’t find any Scripture to support it is because there is none. God’s grace is not infinite. God is infinite and God is gracious. We experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace is not infinite. God sets limits to His patience and forbearance. He warns us over and over again that someday the ax will fall and His judgment will be poured out.

     Since it is our tendency to take grace for granted, my guess is that God found it necessary from time to time to remind Israel that grace must never be assumed. On rare but dramatic occasions He showed the dreadful power of His justice. He killed Nadab and Abihu. He killed Uzzah. He commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites. It is like He was saying, “Be careful. While you enjoy the benefits of my grace, don’t forget my justice. Don’t forget the gravity of sin. Remember that I am holy.”

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 |  Go to Books Page

I’m Humbled to be an American

By David Murray 2/24/2017

     The letter my family’s been waiting for has just arrived. Nine months after starting the citizenship process, we’ve been asked to attend the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on 15 March for a “Naturalization Oath Ceremony to complete the naturalization process.” Yes, we’ve been approved for US. citizenship! Why have we taken this massive step?

     Calling | When I came here 10 years ago with my family to serve at Puritan Reformed Seminary, I arrived with a deep sense of divine calling. Far from diminishing, the sense of call to serve here has only strengthened over the past decade. As a pastor, I’d never say “Never” about returning to Scotland or moving to another country. If God calls, I must obey. However, at age 51 it’s looking less and less likely that another major life change like that is around the corner.

     Children | My oldest son, Allan, is already an American citizen by virtue of joining the Marine Corps last year. My youngest son, Scot, is also an American citizen, having been born here three years ago. All five of my kids are just about completely “Americanized,” with only the bare remnants of their Scottish accent remaining (sigh!). Their lives are going to be lived here. They are also very much at home in the Dutch Reformed churches here in Grand Rapids. It’s a strong and stable Christian culture that they and we are privileged to be part of.

     Security | While Green Card status is usually renewed quite easily every 10 years, you just never know what might be down the road. Last year, I was concerned about how a possible Clinton administration might view non-citizens who held biblical views on various issues. Getting citizenship provides extra security regarding our status here.

     Loyalty | I want to be able to truly and fully say “our nation” and “our military” when I pray in my congregation. I want my congregation to know that I am 100% committed to them and to this country. I want to be able to vote and take a full part in the electoral process.

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David Murray | Pastor. Professor. Author. Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Adjunct Faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     17. But it will be said that this differs widely from the experience of believers, who, in recognizing the grace of God toward them, not only feel disquietude (this often happens), but sometimes tremble, overcome with terror, [290] so violent are the temptations which assail their minds. This scarcely seems consistent with certainty of faith. It is necessary to solve this difficulty, in order to maintain the doctrine above laid down. When we say that faith must be certain and secure, we certainly speak not of an assurance which is never affected by doubt, nor a security which anxiety never assails; we rather maintain that believers have a perpetual struggle with their own distrust, and are thus far from thinking that their consciences possess a placid quiet, uninterrupted by perturbation. On the other hand, whatever be the mode in which they are assailed, we deny that they fall off and abandon that sure confidence which they have formed in the mercy of God. Scripture does not set before us a brighter or more memorable example of faith than in David, especially if regard be had to the constant tenor of his life. And yet how far his mind was from being always at peace is declared by innumerable complaints, of which it will be sufficient to select a few. When he rebukes the turbulent movements of his soul, what else is it but a censure of his unbelief? "Why art thou cast down, my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God," (Psalm 42:6). His alarm was undoubtedly a manifest sign of distrust, as if he thought that the Lord had forsaken him. In another passage we have a fuller confession: "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes," (Psalm 31:22). In another passage, in anxious and wretched perplexity, he debates with himself, nay, raises a question as to the nature of God: "Has God forgotten to be gracious? has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" (Psalm 77:9). What follows is still harsher: "I said this is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." [291] As if desperate, he adjudges himself to destruction. [292] He not only confesses that he is agitated by doubt, but as if he had fallen in the contest, leaves himself nothing in reserve,--God having deserted him, and made the hand which was wont to help him the instrument of his destruction. Wherefore, after having been tossed among tumultuous waves, it is not without reason he exhorts his soul to return to her quiet rest (Psalm 116:7). And yet (what is strange) amid those commotions, faith sustains the believer's heart, and truly acts the part of the palm tree, which supports any weights laid upon it, and rises above them; thus David, when he seemed to be overwhelmed, ceased not by urging himself forward to ascend to God. But he who anxiously contending with his own infirmity has recourse to faith, is already in a great measure victorious. This we may infer from the following passage, and others similar to it: "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord," (Psalm 27:14). He accuses himself of timidity, and repeating the same thing twice, confesses that he is ever and anon exposed to agitation. Still he is not only dissatisfied with himself for so feeling, but earnestly labors to correct it. Were we to take a nearer view of his case, and compare it with that of Ahaz, we should find a great difference between them. Isaiah is sent to relieve the anxiety of an impious and hypocritical king, and addresses him in these terms: "Take heed, and be quiet; fear not," &c. (Isaiah 7:4). How did Ahab act? As has already been said, his heart was shaken as a tree is shaken by the wind: though he heard the promise, he ceased not to tremble. This, therefore, is the proper hire and punishment of unbelief, so to tremble as in the day of trial to turn away from God, who gives access to himself only by faith. On the other hand, believers, though weighed down and almost overwhelmed with the burden of temptation, constantly rise up, though not without toil and difficulty; hence, feeling conscious of their own weakness, they pray with the Prophet, "Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouths" (Psalm 119:43). By these words, we are taught that they at times become dumb, as if their faith were overthrown, and yet that they do not withdraw or turn their backs, but persevere in the contest, and by prayer stimulate their sluggishness, so as not to fall into stupor by giving way to it. (See Calv. in Psalm 88:16).

18. To make this intelligible, we must return to the distinction between flesh and spirit, to which we have already adverted, and which here becomes most apparent. The believer finds within himself two principles: the one filling him with delight in recognizing the divine goodness, the other filling him with bitterness under a sense of his fallen state; the one leading him to recline on the promise of the Gospel, the other alarming him by the conviction of his iniquity; the one making him exult with the anticipation of life, the other making him tremble with the fear of death. This diversity is owing to imperfection of faith, since we are never so well in the course of the present life as to be entirely cured of the disease of distrust, and completely replenished and engrossed by faith. Hence those conflicts: the distrust cleaving to the remains of the flesh rising up to assail the faith enlisting in our hearts. But if in the believer's mind certainty is mingled with doubt, must we not always be carried back to the conclusion, that faith consists not of a sure and clear, but only of an obscure and confused, understanding of the divine will in regard to us? By no means. Though we are distracted by various thoughts, it does not follow that we are immediately divested of faith. Though we are agitated and carried to and fro by distrust, we are not immediately plunged into the abyss; though we are shaken, we are not therefore driven from our place. The invariable issue of the contest is, that faith in the long run surmounts the difficulties by which it was beset and seemed to be endangered.

19. The whole, then, comes to this: As soon as the minutest particle of faith is instilled into our minds, we begin to behold the face of God placid, serene, and propitious; far off, indeed, but still so distinctly as to assure us that there is no delusion in it. In proportion to the progress we afterwards make (and the progress ought to be uninterrupted), we obtain a nearer and surer view, the very continuance making it more familiar to us. Thus we see that a mind illumined with the knowledge of God is at first involved in much ignorance,--ignorance, however, which is gradually removed. Still this partial ignorance or obscure discernment does not prevent that clear knowledge of the divine favor which holds the first and principal part in faith. For as one shut up in a prison, where from a narrow opening he receives the rays of the sun indirectly and in a manner divided, though deprived of a full view of the sun, has no doubt of the source from which the light comes, and is benefited by it; so believers, while bound with the fetters of an earthly body, though surrounded on all sides with much obscurity, are so far illumined by any slender light which beams upon them and displays the divine mercy as to feel secure.

20. The Apostle elegantly adverts to both in different passages. When he says, "We know in part, and we prophesy in part;" and "Now we see through a glass darkly," (1 Cor. 13:9, 12), he intimates how very minute a portion of divine wisdom is given to us in the present life. For although those expressions do not simply indicate that faith is imperfect so long as we groan under a height of flesh, but that the necessity of being constantly engaged in learning is owing to our imperfection, he at the same time reminds us, that a subject which is of boundless extent cannot be comprehended by our feeble and narrow capacities. This Paul affirms of the whole Church, each individual being retarded and impeded by his own ignorance from making so near an approach as were to be wished. But that the foretaste which we obtain from any minute portion of faith is certain, and by no means fallacious, he elsewhere shows, when he affirms that "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," (2 Cor. 3:18). In such degrees of ignorance much doubt and trembling is necessarily implied, especially seeing that our heart is by its own natural bias prone to unbelief. To this we must add the temptations which, various in kind and infinite in number, are ever and anon violently assailing us. In particular, conscience itself, burdened with an incumbent load of sins, at one time complains and groans, at another accuses itself; at one time murmurs in secret, at another openly rebels. Therefore, whether adverse circumstances betoken the wrath of God, or conscience finds the subject and matter within itself, unbelief thence draws weapons and engines to put faith to flight, the aim of all its efforts being to make us think that God is adverse and hostile to us, and thus, instead of hoping for any assistance from him, to make us dread him as a deadly foe.

21. To withstand these assaults, faith arms and fortifies itself with the word of God. When the temptation suggested is, that God is an enemy because he afflicts, faith replies, that while he afflicts he is merciful, his chastening proceeding more from love than anger. To the thought that God is the avenger of wickedness, it opposes the pardon ready to be bestowed on all offences whenever the sinner retakes himself to the divine mercy. Thus the pious mind, how much soever it may be agitated and torn, at length rises superior to all difficulties, and allows not its confidence in the divine mercy to be destroyed. Nay, rather, the disputes which exercise and disturb it tend to establish this confidence. A proof of this is, that the saints, when the hand of God lies heaviest upon them, still lodge their complaints with him, and continue to invoke him, when to all appearance he is least disposed to hear. But of what use were it to lament before him if they had no hope of solace? They never would invoke him did they not believe that he is ready to assist them. Thus the disciples, while reprimanded by their Master for the weakness of their faith in crying out that they were perishing, still implored his aid (Mt. 8:25). And he, in rebuking them for their want of faith, does not disown them or class them with unbelievers, but urges them to shake off the vice. Therefore, as we have already said, we again maintain, that faith remaining fixed in the believer's breast never can be eradicated from it. However it may seem shaken and bent in this direction or in that, its flame is never so completely quenched as not at least to lurk under the embers. In this way, it appears that the word, which is an incorruptible seed, produces fruit similar to itself. Its germ never withers away utterly and perishes. The saints cannot have a stronger ground for despair than to feel, that, according to present appearances, the hand of God is armed for their destruction; and yet Job thus declares the strength of his confidence: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." The truth is, that unbelief reigns not in the hearts of believers, but only assails them from without; does not wound them mortally with its darts, but annoys them, or, at the utmost, gives them a wound which can be healed. Faith, as Paul (declares (Eph. 6:16), is our shield, which receiving these darts, either wards them off entirely, or at least breaks their force, and prevents them from reaching the vitals. Hence when faith is shaken, it is just as when, by the violent blow of a javelin, a soldier standing firm is forced to step back and yield a little; and again when faith is wounded, it is as if the shield were pierced, but not perforated by the blow. The pious mind will always rise, and be able to say with David, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me," (Psalm 23:4). Doubtless it is a terrific thing to walk in the darkness of death, and it is impossible for believers, however great their strength may be, not to shudder at it; but since the prevailing thought is that God is present and providing for their safety, the feeling of security overcomes that of fear. As Augustine says,--whatever be the engines which the devil erects against us, as he cannot gain the heart where faith dwells, he is cast out. Thus, if we may judge by the event, not only do believers come off safe from every contest so as to be ready, after a short repose, to descend again into the arena, but the saying of John, in his Epistle, is fulfilled, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," (1 John 5:4). It is not said that it will be victorious in a single fight, or a few, or some one assault, but that it will be victorious over the whole world, though it should be a thousand times assailed.

22. There is another species of fear and trembling, which, so far from impairing the security of faith, tends rather to establish it; namely, when believers, reflecting that the examples of the divine vengeance on the ungodly are a kind of beacons warning them not to provoke the wrath of God by similar wickedness keep anxious watch, or, taking a view of their own inherent wretchedness, learn their entire dependence on God, without whom they feel themselves to be fleeting and evanescent as the wind. For when the Apostle sets before the Corinthians the scourges which the Lord in ancient times inflicted on the people of Israel, that they might be afraid of subjecting themselves to similar calamities, he does not in any degree destroy the ground of their confidence; he only shakes off their carnal torpor which suppresses faith, but does not strengthen it. Nor when he takes occasion from the case of the Israelites to exhort, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," (1 Cor. 10:12), he does not bid us waver, as if we had no security for our steadfastness: he only removes arrogance and rash confidence in our strength, telling the Gentiles not to presume because the Jews had been cast off, and they had been admitted to their place (Rom. 11:20). In that passage, indeed, he is not addressing believers only, but also comprehends hypocrites, who gloried merely in external appearance; nor is he addressing individuals, but contrasting the Jews and Gentiles, he first shows that the rejection of the former was a just punishment of their ingratitude and unbelief, and then exhorts the latter to beware lest pride and presumption deprive them of the grace of adoption which had lately been transferred to them. For as in that rejection of the Jews there still remained some who were not excluded from the covenant of adoptions so there might be some among the Gentiles who, possessing no true faith, were only puffed up with vain carnal confidence, and so abused the goodness of God to their own destruction. But though you should hold that the words were addressed to elect believers, no inconsistency will follow. It is one thing, in order to prevent believers from indulging vain confidence, to repress the temerity which, from the remains of the flesh, sometimes gains upon them, and it is another thing to strike terror into their consciences, and prevent them from feeling secure in the mercy of God.

23. Then, when he bids us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, all he requires is, that we accustom ourselves to think very meanly of our own strength, and confide in the strength of the Lord. For nothing stimulates us so strongly to place all our confidence and assurance on the Lord as self diffidence, and the anxiety produced by a consciousness of our calamitous condition. In this sense are we to understand the words of the Psalmist: "I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temples" (Ps. 5:7). Here he appropriately unites confident faith leaning on the divine mercy with religious fear, which of necessity we must feel whenever coming into the presence of the divine majesty we are made aware by its splendor of the extent of our own impurity. Truly also does Solomon declare: "Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart falleth into mischief," (Prov. 28:14). The fear he speaks of is that which renders us more cautious, not that which produces despondency, the fear which is felt when the mind confounded in itself resumes its equanimity in God, downcast in itself, takes courage in God, distrusting itself, breathes confidence in God. Hence there is nothing inconsistent in believers being afraid, and at the same time possessing secure consolation as they alternately behold their own vanity, and direct their thoughts to the truth of God. How, it will be asked, can fear and faith dwell in the same mind? Just in the same way as sluggishness and anxiety can so dwell. The ungodly court a state of lethargy that the fear of God may not annoy them; and yet the judgment of God so urges that they cannot gain their desire. In the same way God can train his people to humility, and curb them by the bridle of modesty, while yet fighting bravely. And it is plain, from the context, that this was the Apostle's meaning, since he states, as the ground of fear and trembling, that it is God who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. In the same sense must we understand the words of the Prophet, "The children of Israel" "shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days," (Hos. 3:5). For not only does piety beget reverence to God, but the sweet attractiveness of grace inspires a man, though desponding of himself, at once with fear and admiration, making him feel his dependence on God, and submit humbly to his power.

24. Here, however, we give no countenance to that most pestilential philosophy which some semi-papists are at present beginning to broach in corners. Unable to defend the gross doubt inculcated by the Schoolmen, they have recourse to another fiction, that they may compound a mixture of faith and unbelief. They admit, that whenever we look to Christ we are furnished with full ground for hope; but as we are ever unworthy of all the blessings which are offered us in Christ, they will have us to fluctuate and hesitate in the view of our unworthiness. In short, they give conscience a position between hope and fear, making it alternate, by successive turns, to the one and the other. Hope and fear, again, they place in complete contrast,--the one falling as the other rises, and rising as the other falls. Thus Satan, finding the devices by which he was wont to destroy the certainty of faith too manifest to be now of any avail, is endeavoring, by indirect methods, to undermine it. [293] But what kind of confidence is that which is ever and anon supplanted by despair? They tell you, if you look to Christ salvation is certain; if you return to yourself damnation is certain. Therefore, your mind must be alternately ruled by diffidence and hope; as if we were to imagine Christ standing at a distance, and not rather dwelling in us. We expect salvation from him--not because he stands aloof from us, but because ingrafting us into his body he not only makes us partakers of all his benefits, but also of himself. Therefore, I thus retort the argument, If you look to yourself damnation is certain: but since Christ has been communicated to you with all his benefits, so that all which is his is made yours, you become a member of him, and hence one with him. His righteousness covers your sins--his salvation extinguishes your condemnation; he interposes with his worthiness, and so prevents your unworthiness from coming into the view of God. Thus it truly is. It will never do to separate Christ from us, nor us from him; but we must, with both hands, keep firm hold of that alliance by which he has riveted us to himself. This the Apostle teaches us: "The body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness," (Rom. 8:10). According to the frivolous trifling of these objectors, he ought to have said, Christ indeed has life in himself, but you, as you are sinners, remain liable to death and condemnation. Very different is his language. He tells us that the condemnation which we of ourselves deserve is annihilated by the salvation of Christ; and to confirm this he employs the argument to which I have referred--viz. that Christ is not external to us, but dwells in us; and not only unites us to himself by an undivided bond of fellowship, but by a wondrous communion brings us daily into closer connection, until he becomes altogether one with us. And yet I deny not, as I lately said, that faith occasionally suffers certain interruptions when, by violent assault, its weakness is made to bend in this direction or in that; and its light is buried in the thick darkness of temptation. Still happen what may, faith ceases not to long after God.

25. The same doctrine is taught by Bernard when he treats professedly on this subject in his Fifth Homily on the Dedication of the Temple: "By the blessing of God, sometimes meditating on the soul, methinks, I find in it as it were two contraries. When I look at it as it is in itself and of itself, the truest thing I can say of it is, that it has been reduced to nothing. What need is there to enumerate each of its miseries? how burdened with sin, obscured with darkness, ensnared by allurements, teeming with lusts, ruled by passion, filled with delusions, ever prone to evil, inclined to every vice; lastly, full of ignominy and confusion. If all its righteousnesses, when examined by the light of truth, are but as filthy rags (Is. 64:6), what must we suppose its unrighteousness to be? If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?' (Mt. 6:23). What then? man doubtless has been made subject to vanity--man here been reduced to nothing--man is nothing. And yet how is he whom God exalts utterly nothing? How is he nothing to whom a divine heart has been given? Let us breathe again, brethren. Although we are nothing in our hearts, perhaps something of us may lurk in the heart of God. O Father of mercies! O Father of the miserable! how plantest thou thy heart in us? Where thy heart is, there is thy treasure also. But how are we thy treasure if we are nothing? All nations before thee are as nothing. Observe, before thee; not within thee. Such are they in the judgment of thy truth, but not such in regard to thy affection. Thou callest the things which be not as though they were; and they are not, because thou callest them things that be not:' and yet they are because thou callest them. For though they are not as to themselves, yet they are with thee according to the declaration of Paul: Not of works, but of him that calleth,' " (Rom. 9:11). He then goes on to say that the connection is wonderful in both points of view. Certainly things which are connected together do not mutually destroy each other. This he explains more clearly in his conclusion in the following terms: "If, in both views, we diligently consider what we are,--in the one view our nothingness, in the other our greatness,--I presume our glorying will seem restrained; but perhaps it is rather increased and confirmed, because we glory not in ourselves, but in the Lord. Our thought is, if he determined to save us we shall be delivered; and here we begin again to breathe. But, ascending to a loftier height, let us seek the city of God, let us seek the temple, let us seek our home, let us seek our spouse. I have not forgotten myself when, with fear and reverence, I say, We are,--are in the heart of God. We are, by his dignifying, not by our own dignity."

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

A Tale of Two Brothers

By Sinclair Ferguson

     The antinomian prodigal when awakened was tempted to legalism: “I will go and be a slave in my father’s house and thus perhaps gain grace in his eyes.” But he was bathed in his father’s grace and set free to live as an obedient son.

     The legalistic older brother never tasted his father’s grace. Because of his legalism he had never been able to enjoy the privileges of the father’s house.

     Between them stood the father offering free grace to both, without prior qualifications in either. Had the older brother embraced his father, he would have found grace that would make every duty a delight and dissolve the hardness of his servile heart. Had that been the case, his once antinomian brother would surely have felt free to come out to him as his father had done, and say: “Isn’t the grace we have been shown and given simply amazing? Let us forevermore live in obedience to every wish of our gracious father!” And arm in arm they could have gone in to dance at the party, sons and brothers together, a glorious testimony to the father’s love.

     But it was not so.

     It is still, alas, not so.

     Yet this is still true:

     There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1–4)

     And the invitation still stands:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isa. 55:1–2)

     This full and free offer of Christ, this dissolution of the heart bondage that evidences itself in both legalism and antinomianism, this gracious obedience to God to which our union with Christ gives rise as the Spirit writes the law into our hearts —this is still the marrow of modern divinity. Indeed it is the marrow of the gospel for us all. It is so because the gospel is Christ himself, clothed in its garments.

     From The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance

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

The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)

By John Bunyan 1678

THE FOURTH STAGE

     MER. I was a dreaming that I sat all alone in a solitary place, and was bemoaning of the hardness of my heart. Now I had not sat there long but methought many were gathered about me to see me, and to hear what it was that I said. So they hearkened, and I went on bemoaning the hardness of my heart. At this, some of them laughed at me, some called me fool, and some began to thrust me about. With that, methought I looked up and saw one coming with wings towards me. So he came directly to me, and said, Mercy, what aileth thee? Now when he had heard me make my complaint, he said, Peace be to thee; he also wiped my eyes with his handkerchief, and clad me in silver and gold.

Ezekiel 16:8–11 8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.   ESV

He put a chain about my neck, and ear-rings in mine ears, and a beautiful crown upon my head. Then he took me by the hand, and said, Mercy, come after me. So he went up, and I followed till we came at a golden gate. Then he knocked; and when they within had opened, the man went in, and I followed him up to a throne, upon which one sat; and he said to me, Welcome, daughter. The place looked bright and twinkling, like the stars, or rather like the sun, and I thought that I saw your husband there; so I awoke from my dream. But did I laugh?

     CHR. Laugh! aye, and well you might to see yourself so well. For you must give me leave to tell you that it was a good dream; and that, as you have begun to find the first part true, so you shall find the second at last. “God speaks once, yea, twice, yet man perceiveth it not; in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed.”

Job 33:14-15 For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,
  ESV


We need not, when abed, to lie awake to talk with God; he can visit us while we sleep, and cause us then to hear his voice. Our heart oftentimes wakes when we sleep, and God can speak to that, either by words, by proverbs, by signs and similitudes, as well as if one was awake.

     MER. Well, I am glad of my dream; for I hope ere long to see it fulfilled, to the making me laugh again.

     CHR. I think it is now high time to rise, and to know what we must do.

     MER. Pray, if they invite us to stay a while, let us willingly accept of the proffer. I am the more willing to stay a while here, to grow better acquainted with these maids: methinks Prudence, Piety, and Charity, have very comely and sober countenances.

     CHR. We shall see what they will do.

     So when they were up and ready, they came down, and they asked one another of their rest, and if it was comfortable or not.

     MER. Very good, said Mercy: it was one of the best night’s lodgings that ever I had in my life.

     Then said Prudence and Piety, If you will be persuaded to stay here a while, you shall have what the house will afford.

     CHAR. Aye, and that with a very good will, said Charity. So they consented, and stayed there about a month or above, and became very profitable one to another. And because Prudence would see how Christiana had brought up her children, she asked leave of her to catechise them. So she gave her free consent. Then she began with her youngest, whose name was James.

     PRUD. And she said, Come, James, canst thou tell me who made thee?

     JAMES. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

     PRUD. Good boy. And canst thou tell who saved thee?

     JAMES. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

     PRUD. Good boy still. But how doth God the Father save thee?

     JAMES. By his grace.

     PRUD. How doth God the Son save thee?

     JAMES. By his righteousness, death and blood, and life.

     PRUD. And how doth God the Holy Ghost save thee?

     JAMES. By his illumination, by his renovation, and by his preservation.

     Then said Prudence to Christiana, You are to be commended for thus bringing up your children. I suppose I need not ask the rest these questions, since the youngest of them can answer them so well. I will therefore now apply myself to the next youngest.

     PRUD. Then she said, Come, Joseph, (for his name was Joseph,) will you let me catechise you?

     JOSEPH. With all my heart.

     PRUD. What is man?

     JOSEPH. A reasonable creature, so made by God, as my brother said.

     PRUD. What is supposed by this word, saved?

     JOSEPH. That man, by sin, has brought himself into a state of captivity and misery.

     PRUD. What is supposed by his being saved by the Trinity?

     JOSEPH. That sin is so great and mighty a tyrant that none can pull us out of its clutches but God; and that God is so good and loving to man, as to pull him indeed out of this miserable state.

     PRUD. What is God’s design in saving poor men?

     JOSEPH. The glorifying of his name, of his grace, and justice, etc., and the everlasting happiness of his creature.

     PRUD. Who are they that will be saved?

     JOSEPH. They that accept of his salvation.

     PRUD. Good boy, Joseph; thy mother hath taught thee well, and thou hast hearkened unto what she has said unto thee.

     Then said Prudence to Samuel, who was the eldest but one,

     PRUD. Come, Samuel, are you willing that I should catechise you?

     SAM. Yes, forsooth, if you please.

     PRUD. What is heaven?

     SAM. A place and state most blessed, because God dwelleth there.

     PRUD. What is hell?

     SAM. A place and state most woful, because it is the dwelling-place of sin, the devil, and death.

     PRUD. Why wouldst thou go to heaven?

     SAM. That I may see God, and serve him without weariness; that I may see Christ, and love him everlastingly; that I may have that fullness of the Holy Spirit in me which I can by no means here enjoy.

     PRUD. A very good boy, and one that has learned well.

     Then she addressed herself to the eldest, whose name was Matthew; and she said to him, Come, Matthew, shall I also catechise you?

     MATT. With a very good will.

     PRUD. I ask then, if there was ever any thing that had a being antecedent to or before God?

     MATT. No, for God is eternal; nor is there any thing, excepting himself, that had a being until the beginning of the first day. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.

     PRUD. What do you think of the Bible?

     MATT. It is the holy word of God.

     PRUD. Is there nothing written therein but what you understand?

     MATT. Yes, a great deal.

     PRUD. What do you do when you meet with places therein that you do not understand?

     MATT. I think God is wiser than I. I pray also that he will please to let me know all therein that he knows will be for my good.

     PRUD. How believe you as touching the resurrection of the dead?

     MATT. I believe they shall rise the same that was buried; the same in nature, though not in corruption. And I believe this upon a double account: first, because God has promised it; secondly, because he is able to perform it.

     Then said Prudence to the boys, You must still hearken to your mother; for she can teach you more. You must also diligently give ear to what good talk you shall hear from others: for your sakes do they speak good things. Observe also, and that with carefulness, what the heavens and the earth do teach you; but especially be much in the meditation of that book which was the cause of your father’s becoming a pilgrim. I, for my part, my children, will teach you what I can while you are here, and shall be glad if you will ask me questions that tend to godly edifying.

     Now by that these pilgrim’s had been at this place a week, Mercy had a visitor that pretended some good-will unto her, and his name was Mr. Brisk; a man of some breeding, and that pretended to religion, but a man that stuck very close to the world. So he came once or twice, or more, to Mercy, and offered love unto her. Now Mercy was of a fair countenance, and therefore the more alluring.

     Her mind also was to be always busying of herself in doing; for when she had nothing to do for herself, she would be making hose and garments for others, and would bestow them upon those that had need. And Mr. Brisk not knowing where or how she disposed of what she made, seemed to be greatly taken, for that he found her never idle. I will warrant her a good housewife, quoth he to himself.

     Mercy then revealed the business to the maidens that were of the house, and inquired of them concerning him, for they did know him better than she. So they told her that he was a very busy young man, and one who pretended to religion, but was, as they feared, a stranger to the power of that which is good.

     Nay then, said Mercy, I will look no more on him; for I purpose never to have a clog to my soul.

     Prudence then replied, that there needed no matter of great discouragement to be given to him; her continuing so as she had begun to do for the poor, would quickly cool his courage.

     Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.


  • Bible, God's Word
  • We Believe Others Reject
  • God's Purpose - Pain

#1 Selected Scriptures | John MacArthur

 

#2 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16 | John MacArthur

 

#3 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 | John MacArthur

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Secrets of self-control (2)
     3/1/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘With the Lord’s help, [you] will stand.’

(Ro 14:4) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. ESV

     Put your past behind you. ‘[This] one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal’ (Philippians 3:13-14 NIVUK 2011 Edition). This Scripture exposes a misconception that will keep you from gaining self-control: once a failure, always a failure! You may say, ‘Oh, I tried to quit my bad habit. In fact, I have tried over and over. I guess I’ll never be able to get control of this.’ That is a misconception. Paul says, ‘We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going’ (2 Corinthians 4:9 TLB). Have you watched a baby learning to walk? They fall down a lot, but they don’t stay down. They keep on trying, and ultimately they succeed. How far do you think they’d get if they just gave up and said, ‘Some people were meant to be walkers, and some were not’? Failure in the past does not mean that you will never be able to change. But focusing on past failures, however, does guarantee their repetition. It is like driving a car while looking in the rear-view mirror. You’re going to collide with what’s ahead of you. You have to put your past behind you. No one had more failures than Thomas Edison. Most of us would have given up, but not him. He once said, ‘Don’t call it a failure, call it an education! Now I know what doesn’t work!’ When you realise sin doesn’t work, it’s a defining moment and your springboard to victory. A winner is simply someone who gets back up one more time than they fall down. So, the word for you today is: ‘With the Lord’s help, [you] will stand.’

Numbers 1-2
Mark 3:1-19

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Before the U.S. Constitution was written, what was the government in the United States? It was the Articles of Confederation, ratified this day, March 1st, 1781. Signed by such statesmen as Ben Franklin and Roger Sherman, it was an attempt to loosely knit the thirteen States together. The Articles of Confederation declared: “The… states hereby… enter into a… league of friendship… to assist each other, against… attacks made upon them… on account of religion, sovereignty, [and] trade… It has pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the Legislatures… to ratify the said Articles.”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     An invariable element in the experience of Now is that of unspeakable and exquisite joy, peace, serene release. A new song is put into our mouths. No old song ever has caught the glory and the gladness of this Now; no former Now can be drawn upon to give perfect voice to this Now. The well-springs of Life are bubbling up anew each moment. When the angel is troubling the waters, it is no time to stand on the bank and recite past wonders. But the main point is not that a new song is put into our mouths; the point is that a new song is put into our mouths. We sing, yet not we, but the Eternal sings in us. It seems to me, in the experience of plateau living in the Divine Presence, that the Everlasting is the singer, and not we ourselves, that the joy we know in the Presence is not our little private subjective joy, pocketed away from other men, a private gift from a benevolent and gracious God. It is the joy and peace and serenity which is in the Divine Life itself, and we are given to share in that joy which is eternally within all Nows. The song is put into our mouths, for the Singer of all songs is singing within us. It is not we that sing; it is the Eternal Song of the Other, who sings in us, who sings unto us, and through us into the world.

     For the holy Now is not something which we, by our activity, by our dynamic energy, overtake or come upon. It is a now which itself is dynamic, which lays hold actively upon us, which breaks in actively upon us and re-energizes us from within a new center. We can count upon this as the only secure dynamic, an all-potent factor in world-events. For the Eternal is urgently, actively breaking into time, working through those who are willing to be laid hold upon, to surrender self-confidence and self-centered effort, that is, self-originated effort, and let the Eternal be the dynamic guide in recreating, through us, our time-world.

     This is the first fruit of the Spirit-a joy unspeak­able and full of glory.

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace stands in stark contrast to this: it ... is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


If the Spirit of God has given you a vision
of what you are apart from the grace of God
(and He only does it when His Spirit is at work),
you know there is no criminal
who is half so bad in actuality
as you know yourself to be in possibility.
--- Oswald Chambers

When a man pants after God, it is a secret life within which makes him do it: he would not long after God by nature. No man thirsts for God while he is left in his carnal [that is, unconverted] state. The unrenewed man pants after anything sooner than God: … It proves a renewed nature when you long after God; it is a work of grace in your soul, and you may be thankful for it.
--- C. H. Spurgeon

As for me, I never lived, I was half dead, I was a rotting tree, until I reached the place where I wholly, with utter honesty, resolved and then re-resolved that I would find God’s will, and I would do that will though every fiber in me said no, and I would win the battle in my thoughts. It was as though some deep artesian well had been struck in my soul. . . . You and I shall soon blow away from our bodies. Money, praise, poverty, opposition, these make no difference, for they will all alike be forgotten in a thousand years, but this spirit which comes to a mind set upon continuous surrender, this spirit is timeless.
--- Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/1
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Ninth of eight month, 1757. -- Orders came at night to the military officers in our county (Burlington), directing them to draft the militia, and prepare a number of men to go off as soldiers, to the relief of the English at Fort William Henry, in New York government; a few days after which, there was a general review of the militia at Mount Holly, and a number of men were chosen and sent off under some officers. Shortly after, there came orders to draft three times as many, who were to hold themselves in readiness to march when fresh orders came. On the 17th there was a meeting of the military officers at Mount Holly, who agreed on draft; orders were sent to the men so chosen to meet their respective captains at set times and places, those in our township to meet at Mount Holly, amongst whom were a considerable number of our Society. My mind being affected herewith, I had fresh opportunity to see and consider the advantage of living in the real substance of religion, where practice doth harmonize with principle. Amongst the officers are men of understanding, who have some regard to sincerity where they see it; and when such in the execution of their office have men to deal with whom they believe to be upright-hearted, it is a painful task to put them to trouble on account of scruples of conscience, and they will be likely to avoid it as much as easily may be. But where men profess to be so meek and heavenly-minded, and to have their trust so firmly settled in God that they cannot join in wars, and yet by their spirit and conduct in common life manifest a contrary disposition, their difficulties are great at such a time.

     When officers who are anxiously endeavoring to get troops to answer the demands of their superiors see men who are insincere pretend scruple of conscience in hopes of being excused from a dangerous employment, it is likely they will be roughly handled. In this time of commotion some of our young men left these parts and tarried abroad till it was over; some came, and proposed to go as soldiers; others appeared to have a real tender scruple in their minds against joining in wars, and were much humbled under the apprehension of a trial so near. I had conversation with several of them to my satisfaction. When the captain came to town, some of the last-mentioned went and told him in substance as follows: That they could not bear arms for conscience' sake; nor could they hire any to go in their places, being resigned as to the event. At length the captain acquainted them all that they might return home for the present, but he required them to provide themselves as soldiers, and be in readiness to march when called upon. This was such a time as I had not seen before; and yet I may say, with thankfulness to the Lord, that I believed the trial was intended for our good; and I was favored with resignation to him. The French army having taken the fort they were besieging, destroyed it and went away; the company of men who were first drafted, after some days' march, had orders to return home, and those on the second draft were no more called upon on that occasion.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 11:18-21
     by D.H. Stern

18     The profits of the wicked are illusory;
but those who sow righteousness gain a true reward.
19     Genuine righteousness leads to life,
but the pursuer of evil goes to his own death.
20     The crooked-hearted are an abomination to ADONAI,
but those sincere in their ways are his delight.
21     Depend on it: the evil will not go unpunished;
but the offspring of the righteous will escape.


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

                Lovest thou Me? --- John 21:17.

     Peter declares nothing now (cf. Matthew 26:33–35 ). Natural individuality professes and declares; the love of the personality is only discovered by the hurt of the question of Jesus Christ. Peter loved Jesus in the way in which any natural man loves a good man. That is temperamental love; it may go deep into the individuality, but it does not touch the centre of the person. True love never professes anything. Jesus said—“Whosoever shall confess Me before men,” i.e., confess his love not merely by his words, but by everything he does.

     Unless we get hurt right out of every deception about ourselves, the word of God is not having its way with us. The word of God hurts as no sin can ever hurt, because sin blunts feeling. The question of the Lord intensifies feeling, until to be hurt by Jesus is the most exquisite hurt conceivable. It hurts not only in the natural way but in the profound personal way. The word of the Lord pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, there is no deception left. There is no possibility of being sentimental with the Lord’s question; you cannot say nice things when the Lord speaks directly to you, the hurt is too terrific. It is such a hurt that it stings every other concern out of account. There never can be any mistake about the hurt of the Lord’s word when it comes to his child; but the point of the hurt is the great point of revelation.


My Utmost for His Highest

The Hearth
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                The Hearth

In front of the fire
  With you, the folk song
  Of the wind in the chimney and the sparks'
  Emboidery of the soot--eternity
  Is here in this smakk room,
  In intervals that our love
  Widens; and outside
  Of time, travellars
  To a new Bethlehem, statesmen
  And scientists with their hands full
  Of the gifts that destroy,

Song at the year's turning: Poems 1942-1954

Teacher's Commentary
     Leviticus Overview

     The Book of Leviticus is often viewed as God’s instruction to Israel on holy living. Earlier God spoke from the mountaintop; now, with the tabernacle erected, God’s presence was among the people. The people were in unique fellowship with God, and it was His “going with” them that set Israel apart from all others (Ex. 33:16).

     But how might they live so close to the holy God? Only by continual cleansing and commitment to a holy lifestyle. J. Sidlow Baxter ( Baxter's Explore the Book ) notes this dual need and divides Leviticus into two parts:

Outline

 I. Sacrifice: Ground of Fellowship
   A.    Offerings — absolution  1–7
   B.    Priesthood — mediation  8–10
   C.    People — purification  11–16
   D.    Altar — reconciliation  17

 II. Separation: Way of Fellowship
   A.    Rules for people  18–20
   B.    Rules for priests  21–22
   C.    Rules concerning feasts  23–24
   D.    Rules concerning Canaan  25–27

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     D’RASH

     A young girl is reading a book and comes across a big word she has never seen before. She runs over to her father and asks, “What does this mean?” Her dad looks at the word and smiles, but instead of giving her the answer, he pulls a dictionary off the shelf and tells her, “Go look it up!” “Come on, Dad, I know you know it. Just tell me what it means!” He sticks to his guns and insists that she look up the word herself. After she finds the definition, the father tells his daughter: “I want you to get into the habit of learning things for yourself. When you do that, you’ll really remember. If I always gave you the answers so easily, they just wouldn’t stay with you. And besides, I won’t always be here to give you the answer. You’ve got to learn to rely on yourself.”

     Hillel taught much the same lesson to the non-Jew: I can give you the short answer, but if you really want to understand the Torah, you have to go out and learn it yourself.

     The same holds true for those who want to learn Talmud. This book will give the short answer—a brief introduction. The real path to “swimming in the sea of Talmud” comes when the reader takes to heart Hillel’s key words: “The rest is commentary.” Once you have learned the maxim and the text, you must make your own commentary, connecting Talmud texts to your own life.

     In the Context section, we endeavor to explain what the Gemara meant to the Rabbis who are mentioned in our texts. In the D’rash section, we try to apply the Gemara to our own world and the issues that confront us today. We believe very much in taking a conceptual approach to the Talmud: Even though it appears that the Rabbis were dealing with arcane ritual matters, in truth their debates were really about issues that are relevant to all people at all times.

     In trying to have the Rabbis of the Talmud speak to us, we often use stories and questions that resonate to the modern ear. We give our own interpretations to the words of the Rabbis as we try to apply their wisdom to our lives. We recognize that these applications are subjective understandings; they are by no means the only interpretations. The reader may come up with his or her own ways of connecting the teachings of the Rabbis to the contemporary world. This is exactly what should happen. The study of Talmud has been one of the most authentically Jewish activities precisely because it demands that we connect the past to the present. When we make this connection, we all become students of Hillel.

     Go and learn!

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Two / The Interior Life

     The Fourth Chapter / Purity Of Mind And Unity Of Purpose

     A MAN is raised up from the earth by two wings—simplicity and purity. There must be simplicity in his intention and purity in his desires. Simplicity leads to God, purity embraces and enjoys Him.

     If your heart is free from ill-ordered affection, no good deed will be difficult for you. If you aim at and seek after nothing but the pleasure of God and the welfare of your neighbor, you will enjoy freedom within.

     If your heart were right, then every created thing would be a mirror of life for you and a book of holy teaching, for there is no creature so small and worthless that it does not show forth the goodness of God. If inwardly you were good and pure, you would see all things clearly and understand them rightly, for a pure heart penetrates to heaven and hell, and as a man is within, so he judges what is without. If there be joy in the world, the pure of heart certainly possess it; and if there be anguish and affliction anywhere, an evil conscience knows it too well.

     As iron cast into fire loses its rust and becomes glowing white, so he who turns completely to God is stripped of his sluggishness and changed into a new man. When a man begins to grow lax, he fears a little toil and welcomes external comfort, but when he begins perfectly to conquer himself and to walk bravely in the ways of God, then he thinks those things less difficult which he thought so hard before.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 1

     As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
---
Psalm 103:13.

     Look at the text, believing in its meaning and not saying, “That is in a human way.” ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) For there is no other manner in which we can speak and no other manner in which God himself can speak if he means us to understand.

     Hear it first for your encouragement, and hear it next for your imitation. Hear it, that you may be encouraged; God is not unfeelingly afflicting you, but he feels compassion for you. Hear it that you may go into the world with a like compassionate eye. If you ever have to say a rough word in fidelity or are required to utter a rebuke, do it in the way your heavenly Father does, having compassion even if you have to blame and gently delivering the expostulation that it grieves you to have to deliver at all.

     Observe that the pity of the Lord extends to all those who fear him. There are none who are not fit objects of his compassion—the very best and brightest of his saints, the brave heroes, the well-instructed fathers, the diligent workers; God has compassion for you. Take that home to yourselves, because there is a beautiful lesson of humility in so accounting ourselves as pitiable creatures in the eyes of the Lord, even when we are at our best estate. I have seen some brothers and sisters who really did not seem at all fit for pity, because they imagined that the very roots of sin had been eradicated out of their hearts. Their characters and their conduct were akin to perfection in their own estimation. They had lived many weeks without a sin, except some wandering thought, but they could hardly refer to that as a fault. I pity people who talk so; if they are God’s children, all that God does with them is he has compassion for them, and well he may; for he says to himself, “Poor dear creatures; how little they know of themselves, and how different their estimate of perfection is from mine.” He still feels compassion for them.

     The biggest children he has, the children who are most like their Father and have learned most of Jesus, may come to this text and see themselves depicted in it—“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”
--- C. H. Spurgeon

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

On This Day   March 1
     Passing the Flame

     “How long, O God, shall darkness cover this kingdom?”

     Patrick Hamilton’s dying words haunted George Wishart, only son of distinguished James Wishart of Pitarrow, Scotland. George was tall, dark-haired, good-looking, pleasant, and eager to both learn and teach. He believed that God’s way of salvation was through the finished work of Christ alone. Those Reformation beliefs put him at risk. In 1544 he began preaching in Dundee from the book of Romans. Among his listeners was a young man named John Knox. Knox was struck with Wishart and began serving as his bodyguard, carrying a two-handed sword.

     Archbishop David Beaton brutally sought to repress Protestants, and as Wishart’s arrest grew more certain, Knox asked to remain at his side. “No” said Wishart, embracing the younger man. “One is sufficient for a sacrifice at this time.” On the morning of March 1, 1546, Wishart was led to the stake, where he told the crowds, “I exhort you, love the Word of God and suffer patiently. I know surely that my soul shall sup with my Savior this night.” He was then strangled and his body burned to ashes.

     His death enraged Knox and all of Scotland, and within two months Archbishop Beaton was assassinated. Knox wasn’t among the murderers, but he vowed not to rest till Scotland was Protestant. It proved a costly vow, for Knox was soon imprisoned on a galley ship, chained to the oars with a whip to his back. He labored to exhaustion with no hope of release.

     He was eventually released, and in years to come Knox took Scotland by storm, provoking rulers, inciting riots, demanding change. He prayed down the wrath of heaven on his nemesis, Mary, Queen of Scots. He was called the “Thundering Scot,” and as he aged his visage darkened. The years took their toll on both his health and his patience. He died exhausted, perhaps embittered, in 1572.

     But his efforts inspired Scots for years to come, and the Reformation triumphed in their land at last.

     Elijah prayed: Our LORD, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Now, prove that you are the God of this nation,… Please answer me, so these people will know that you are the LORD God, and that you will turn their hearts back to you.
--- 1 Kings 18:36,37.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 1

     “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” --- Song of Solomon 4:16.

     Anything is better than the dead calm of indifference. Our souls may wisely desire the north wind of trouble if that alone can be sanctified to the drawing forth of the perfume of our graces. So long as it cannot be said, “The Lord was not in the wind,” we will not shrink from the most wintry blast that ever blew upon plants of grace. Did not the spouse in this verse humbly submit herself to the reproofs of her Beloved; only entreating him to send forth his grace in some form, and making no stipulation as to the peculiar manner in which it should come? Did she not, like ourselves, become so utterly weary of deadness and unholy calm that she sighed for any visitation which would brace her to action? Yet she desires the warm south wind of comfort, too, the smiles of divine love, the joy of the Redeemer’s presence; these are often mightily effectual to arouse our sluggish life. She desires either one or the other, or both; so that she may but be able to delight her Beloved with the spices of her garden. She cannot endure to be unprofitable, nor can we. How cheering a thought that Jesus can find comfort in our poor feeble graces. Can it be? It seems far too good to be true. Well may we court trial or even death itself if we shall thereby be aided to make glad Immanuel’s heart. O that our heart were crushed to atoms if only by such bruising our sweet Lord Jesus could be glorified. Graces unexercised are as sweet perfumes slumbering in the cups of the flowers: the wisdom of the great Husbandman overrules diverse and opposite causes to produce the one desired result, and makes both affliction and consolation draw forth the grateful odours of faith, love, patience, hope, resignation, joy, and the other fair flowers of the garden. May we know by sweet experience, what this means.


          Evening - March 1

     “He is precious.” --- 1 Peter 2:7.

     As all the rivers run into the sea, so all delights centre in our Beloved. The glances of his eyes outshine the sun: the beauties of his face are fairer than the choicest flowers: no fragrance is like the breath of his mouth. Gems of the mine, and pearls from the sea, are worthless things when measured by his preciousness. Peter tells us that Jesus is precious, but he did not and could not tell us how precious, nor could any of us compute the value of God’s unspeakable gift. Words cannot set forth the preciousness of the Lord Jesus to his people, nor fully tell how essential he is to their satisfaction and happiness. Believer, have you not found in the midst of plenty a sore famine if your Lord has been absent? The sun was shining, but Christ had hidden himself, and all the world was black to you; or it was night, and since the bright and morning star was gone, no other star could yield you so much as a ray of light. What a howling wilderness is this world without our Lord! If once he hideth himself from us, withered are the flowers of our garden; our pleasant fruits decay; the birds suspend their songs, and a tempest overturns our hopes. All earth’s candles cannot make daylight if the Sun of Righteousness be eclipsed. He is the soul of our soul, the light of our light, the life of our life. Dear reader, what wouldst thou do in the world without him, when thou wakest up and lookest forward to the day’s battle? What wouldst thou do at night, when thou comest home jaded and weary, if there were no door of fellowship between thee and Christ? Blessed be his name, he will not suffer us to try our lot without him, for Jesus never forsakes his own. Yet, let the thought of what life would be without him enhance his preciousness.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 1

          BRING THEM IN

     Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century

     
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

     During this month our attention is often focused on the ministry of our Sunday schools. The Sunday school has been the church’s chief agency for reaching and teaching children for the past two centuries. It would be impossible to measure the extent of its spiritual influence during that time.

     The Sunday school movement began in England during the lifetime of Robert Raikes (1736–1811), who was often called the “founder of the modern Sunday school.” Raikes became intensely concerned with the spiritual and social conditions of the great masses of poor illiterate children. Since education was reserved for the wealthy, four out of five poor children had no schooling. Child labor was shamefully exploited. In the midst of these conditions Raikes began taking children off the streets and teaching them biblical truths as well as the ability to read and write.

     Later the followers of John and Charles Wesley, the Methodists, began establishing Sunday schools, first in England and then in America following the Revolutionary War. Still later the Sunday school movement was encouraged further by the founding of the American Sunday School Union in 1824. As this concern for children developed, it became apparent to Christian leaders that music is a natural means for working with children, since most children respond readily to musical activities. This desire to reach and teach children for Christ through appropriate songs was one of the important factors that led to the rise of the gospel song movement during the latter half of the 19th century.

     “Bring Them In” has been widely used since being published in 1885 by its composer William Ogden, who was known for his work with children’s music.

     Hark! ’tis the Shepherd’s voice I hear, out in the desert dark and drear, calling the sheep who’ve gone astray far from the Shepherd’s fold away.
     Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind, help Him the wand’ring one to find? Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold where they’ll be sheltered from the cold?
     Out in the desert hear their cry, out on the mountains wild and high. Hark! ’tis the Master speaks to thee, “Go find my sheep where’er they be.”
     Chorus: Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin; bring them in, bring them in, bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.


     For Today: Psalm 96:2, 3; Proverbs 11:30; Matthew 13:39; Matthew 18:12.

     Spend time in prayer for your church Sunday school—the leaders and teachers who have assumed the important responsibility of ministering the Christian faith to children and youth. At your first opportunity let them know of your prayerful concern and appreciation for their work.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The End of the Universe 1 - 3
     Selected Scriptures | John MacArthur


Part One





Part Two






Part Three




Pietist Confessions 1 - 7
     Richard Mouw | Henry Center


Part One





Part Two






Part Three





Part Four






Part Five





Part Six






Part Seven




Renewing of the Mind
     Dallas Willard
Henry Center


Part One





Part Two






Part Three





Part Four




Deuteronomy 5 - 7
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek


A God Fearing People
Deuteronomy 5:29
s2-092 | 9-20-2015Brett Meador






Hear, Learn, Keep and Do
Deuteronomy 5:1
s2-093 | 9-27-2015Brett Meador





Deuteronomy 5-6
m2-089 | 9-30-2015






Deuteronomy 7-9
m2-090 | 10-07-2015




     ==============================      ==============================


Deuteronomy 5 - 7
Lean-into-GOD






Bonhoeffer | Dr. Ballor
Henry Center





The Kind of Worship God Desires 5
Selected Scriptures | John MacArthur






For Whom Did Christ Die?
Selected Scriptures | John MacArthur





The Armor of God
Ephesians 6:10-13 | John MacArthur






The Armor of God: The Belt of Truthfulness
and the Breastplate of Righteousness
Ephesians 6:14 | John MacArthur





The Armor of God
The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
Ephesians 6:15-16 | John MacArthur






The Armor of God:
The Sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:17 | John MacArthur





Another World: William Burt Pope
on Primary and Secondary Creation
Fred Sanders | Henry Center