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Exodus 31     John 10     Proverbs 7     Galatians 6


Exodus 31

Oholiab and Bezalel

Exodus 31:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8 the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

The Sabbath

12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’ ”

18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.


John 10

I Am the Good Shepherd

John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

I and the Father Are One

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.   In the Old Testament, human judges ( Ps. 82:6) could be called “gods” because they were viewed as acting in God’s place in dispensing justice. The Hebrew word ’elohim is used not only to refer to the one true God but also to denote false gods, angels, and, very rarely, men exercising divine functions. Jesus’ argument may be understood as follows: “Rather than taking offense because this word is used of Me, you should examine My credentials that prove My Father has sent Me into this world.” 10:34 your law. The quotation is found in Ps. 82:6. The term “law” was not restricted to the Pentateuch, or Torah, but referred to any part of the Old Testament as also having legal authority (John 15:25). John 10:35 to whom the word of God came. This is not a reference to the writing of Scripture, but to the divine appointment of the judges. The Scripture cannot be broken. A strong statement of the authority of Scripture. In this serious confrontation that was to end in His death, Jesus did not hesitate to base His whole argument on one word of a minor Psalm of Asaph. See “The Authority of Scripture”at 2 Tim. 3:16.  ESV Reformation Study Bible  

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.


Proverbs 7

Warning Against the Adulteress

Proverbs 7:1

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
2  keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3  bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4  Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
5  to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words.

6  For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
7  and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
8  passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9  in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.

10  And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
11  She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
12  now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
13  She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
14  “I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
15  so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16  I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17  I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
18  Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
19  For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
20  he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”

21  With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22  All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23  till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

24  And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25  Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
26  for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27  Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.



Galatians 6

Bear One Another’s Burdens

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Final Warning and Benediction

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Why It’s Important to Ask the Right Questions as a Religious Seeker

By J. Warner Wallace 3/7/2018

     Many years ago, as an undergraduate student, my astronomy teacher used an illustration with our class to demonstrate the importance of specificitywhen asking a question. He cleverly told us about a dispute he had been called to settle between a professor colleague and a student (in fact, he was merely repeating what has become known as the infamous “Barometer Question” popularized by American test designer and professor Alexander Calandra). My astronomy professor claimed his colleague had asked the following question on a test: “If I led you to a tall tower, and asked you to take a barometer to the top of the tower, how would you use the barometer to calculate the height of the tower?” The professor was looking for a specific answer estimating the height of the building in proportion to the difference between the barometer readings at the bottom and at the top of the structure. But the student, capitalizing on the professor’s lack of specificity, offered a variety of answers without using the barometer as the professor had hoped:

     “I would tie a piece of string to the barometer and then lower it from the roof to the ground. Then I would simply measure the length of the string (and the barometer).”

     “I would tie a piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum while standing on the ground and while standing on the roof. Then I would calculate the gravitational potential difference for the two locations and arrive at the height difference.”

     “I would stand the barometer in the bright sunlight and measure the height of the barometer and the lengths of its shadow. Then, after measuring the length of the building’s shadow, I would calculate the building’s height using simple ratios.”

     “I would drop the barometer off the roof, and measure the time it takes to hit the ground. Then I would calculate the building’s height assuming constant acceleration under gravity.”

     “I would mark off the number of barometer lengths vertically along the wall of the stairwell, Then I would simply multiplying this number by the length of the barometer.”

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

Dispel the Myths About Down Syndrome

By John Knight 3/21/2017

     March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and a day for celebration indeed.

     Down syndrome, known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by an extra full or partial chromosome 21. So on 3/21 each year, a growing number of us pause to recognize the people born with the most common chromosomal anomaly experienced all over the world.

     But we should be careful that we are celebrating the right things! World Down Syndrome Day was started to dispel myths about the disorder. Down syndrome itself is complicated, and as a “spectrum disorder,” each person with Down syndrome (and thus, their families) will experience it in different ways. Some people with Down syndrome will grow and experience a certain level of independence as adults; most will require help and supervision for their entire lives. Many also will experience significant, lifelong health complications. Some are sassy and engaging and bold. Some can’t speak at all. Some have families and churches who love and cherish them. Some are bullied every day in their communities and schools.

     We are talking about real people who happen to share one physical characteristic, but who are otherwise unique individuals. So, we must not reduce World Down Syndrome Day to cheap, happy, syrupy statements, nor will we neglect to recognize the significant suffering they and their families experience. Both are wrong and reckless.

     But we should indeed celebrate the lives of those with Down syndrome.

     Treasured in the Church | People with Down syndrome, in particular, need to be recognized and celebrated as valuable by Christ’s church because societies and governments around the world do not see them as wonderfully made people:

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John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne, and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John writes on disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.

Let Goods and Kindred Go

By John Piper 9/22

(Heb 10:32–35) 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. ESV

     The Christians in Hebrews 10:32–35 have earned the right to teach us about costly love.

     The situation appears to be this: In the early days of their conversion, some of them were imprisoned for their faith. The others were confronted with a difficult choice: Shall we go underground and stay “safe,” or shall we visit our brothers and sisters in prison and risk our lives and property? They chose the way of love and accepted the cost.

     “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”

     But were they losers? No. They lost property and gained joy! They joyfully accepted the loss.

     In one sense, they denied themselves. It was real and costly. But in another sense, they did not. They chose the way of joy. Evidently, these Christians were motivated for prison ministry the same way the Macedonians (of 2 Corinthians 8:1–9) were motivated to relieve the poor. Their joy in God overflowed in love for others.

     They looked at their own lives and said, “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (see Psalm 63:3).

     They looked at all their possessions and said, “We have a possession in heaven that is better and lasts longer than any of this” (see Hebrews 10:34).

     Then they looked at each other and said — perhaps sang — something like Martin Luther’s great hymn:

Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever
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     John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

John Piper Books:

To the Next Generation of Church Leaders

By Stephen Witmer 3/3/2018

     Dear Future Church Leader,

     I began seminary eighteen years ago, with my career path already mapped out. My goal was to become an influential pastor in a big church in a big city.

     Perhaps it goes without saying that this plan was fueled, at least in part, by prideful desires for attention and applause. But here’s something less obvious and equally important: it was founded upon a deeply-held belief that bigger is usually better; that the place to go to make a difference is a world-class city; that, for a gifted person, ministry in a small place is somewhat of a waste. It turns out this view was shared by many of my peers and professors.

     I would venture to say it is still the view of many aspiring to ministry. Who’s excited about the prospect of moving to a small town to pastor a small church? I wasn’t.

     But God surprised me. He called me to be a pastor in a town whose name I had never heard of. You’ve never heard of it, either (for the record, it’s Pepperell, Massachusetts). I’ve been here for a decade and have no plans to leave. What I’ve come to believe, and what I’m passionate to commend to you, is that the equation of “bigger” with “better” is out of step with the very gospel we set ourselves to ponder and proclaim. In fact, the message and values of the gospel itself will send some (not all) of us to small places, and encourage us to stay there.

     Please don’t misunderstand me: my goal is not to persuade you to go to a small place. It is to persuade you to be joyfully open to God persuading you to go to a small place if he chooses to do so. For the sake of your own soul, and for the sake of God’s glory in both the small and big places, I long for you to be excited if you receive God’s clear call to Nowheresville.

     Pondering the gospel has taught me several things that call into question my previous assumptions. These are the building blocks of a theological vision for small-town and rural ministry that now sustains my ministry.

     1. Strategic isn’t always what we think. | A good part of the drive toward urban church planting and city ministry in the past generation has come from a desire to be strategic, to maximize Christian influence in the culture for the sake of spreading the gospel. Cities are full of young, educated, successful people. If we reach them, we will shape the broader culture, preparing the way for the gospel to advance. This view has borne lots of good fruit, and there is much to commend it.

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Stephen Witmer is the pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts, and teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of Eternity Changes Everything and a 12-Week-Study-Revelation

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 32

Blessed Are the Forgiven
32 A Maskil Of David.

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

ESV Study Bible

Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

By Don Carson 3/20/2018

     In the extended metaphor of the shepherd in John 10, Jesus keeps revising the dimensions and application of the metaphor as he drives home a variety of points, a few of which we may pick up.

     (1) For the biblically literate, it would be difficult not to think of Ezekiel 34. There God denounces the false shepherds of Israel, and repeatedly says that a day is coming when he himself will be the shepherd of his people, feeding them, leading them, disciplining them. Jesus’ insistence that, so far as shepherds go, those who came before him “were thieves and robbers” (John 10:8), would call Ezekiel 34 to mind. Then, toward the end of that Old Testament chapter, God says he will place over his flock one shepherd — his servant David. Now the Good Shepherd is here, one with God (1:1), yet from David’ s line.

     (2) In defining himself as the “good shepherd,” Jesus says that the “good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11). This pushes the metaphor to the wall. In real life, a good shepherd risks his life for his sheep, and may lose it. But he doesn’t voluntarily sacrifice his life for the sheep. For a start, who would look after the other sheep? And in any case, it would be inappropriate: risking your life to save the livestock is one thing, but actually choosing to die for them would be disproportionate. A human life is worth more than a flock of sheep.

     (3) Yet in case we have not yet absorbed the incongruity of Jesus’ claim, he spells it out even more clearly. He is not simply risking his life. Not is he merely the pawn of vicious circumstances: no one can take his life from him. He is laying it down of his own accord (10:18). Indeed, the reason why his Father continues to love him is that the Son is perfectly obedient — and it is the Father’s good mandate that this Son lay down his life (10:17; cf. Phil. 2:6-8).

     (4) Jesus’ sheep respond to his voice; others reject him. The implicit election is ubiquitous in the passage (e.g., 10:27-28).

     (5) Jesus’ mission includes not only sheep among the Israelites, but other sheep that “are not of this sheep pen” (10:16). But if they are Jesus’ sheep, whether Jews or Gentiles, they “will listen to [his] voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (10:16). Here is the fulfillment of the promise that in Abraham’ s offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And this is also why, in the last analysis, there can never be more than one head of the church — Jesus Christ himself.

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

How to Get Your Mind Back on Track

By Jon Bloom 3/21/2014

     How are you feeling? What’s on your mind?

     These are very important questions, not just polite conversation starters. They’re questions we should ask ourselves (and others) frequently because they tell us what direction our train is heading.

     The train of the mind is linked together like this: the car of our thoughts is hitched to the car of our emotions, which is hitched to the car of our hope, which is hitched to the engine of our trust.

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     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

Jon Bloom Books:

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith
Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises
Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 8.

OF BEARING THE CROSS--ONE BRANCH OF SELF-DENIAL.

The four divisions of this chapter are,--I. The nature of the cross, its necessity and dignity, sec. 1, 2. II. The manifold advantages of the cross described, sec. 3-6. III. The form of the cross the most excellent of all, and yet it by no means removes all sense of pain, sec. 7, 8. IV. A description of warfare under the cross, and of true patience (not that of philosophers), after the example of Christ, sec. 9-11.

Sections.

1. What the cross is. By whom, and on whom, and for what cause imposed. Its necessity and dignity.

2. The cross necessary. 1. To humble our pride. 2. To make us apply to God for aid. Example of David.

3. To give us experience of God's presence. 3. Manifold uses of the cross. 1. Produces patience, hope, and firm confidence in God, gives us victory and perseverance. Faith invincible.

4. 2. Frames us to obedience. Example of Abraham. This training how useful.

5. The cross necessary to subdue the wantonness of the flesh. This portrayed by an apposite simile. Various forms of the cross.

6. 3. God permits our infirmities, and corrects past faults, that he may keep us in obedience. This confirmed by a passage from Solomon and an Apostle.

7. Singular consolation under the cross, when we suffer persecution for righteousness. Some parts of this consolation.

8. This form of the cross most appropriate to believers, and should be borne willingly and cheerfully. This cheerfulness is not unfeeling hilarity, but, while groaning under the burden, waits patiently for the Lord.

9. A description of this conflict. Opposed to the vanity of the Stoics. Illustrated by the authority and example of Christ.

10. Proved by the testimony and uniform experience of the elect. Also by the special example of the Apostle Peter. The nature of the patience required of us.

11. Distinction between the patience of Christians and philosophers. The latter pretend a necessity which cannot be resisted. The former hold forth the justice of God and his care of our safety. A full exposition of this difference.

1. The pious mind must ascend still higher, namely, whither Christ calls his disciples when he says, that every one of them must "take up his cross," (Mt. 16:24). Those whom the Lord has chosen and honoured with his intercourse must prepare for a hard, laborious, troubled life, a life full of many and various kinds of evils; it being the will of our heavenly Father to exercise his people in this way while putting them to the proof. Having begun this course with Christ the first-born, he continues it towards all his children. For though that Son was dear to him above others, the Son in whom he was "well pleased," yet we see, that far from being treated gently and indulgently, we may say, that not only was he subjected to a perpetual cross while he dwelt on earth, but his whole life was nothing else than a kind of perpetual cross. The Apostle assigns the reason, "Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered," (Heb. 5:8). Why then should we exempt ourselves from that condition to which Christ our Head behoved to submit; especially since he submitted on our account, that he might in his own person exhibit a model of patience? Wherefore, the Apostle declares, that all the children of God are destined to be conformed to him. Hence it affords us great consolation in hard and difficult circumstances, which men deem evil and adverse, to think that we are holding fellowship with the sufferings of Christ; that as he passed to celestial glory through a labyrinth of many woes, so we too are conducted thither through various tribulations. For, in another passage, Paul himself thus speaks, "we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God," (Acts 14:22); and again, "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death," (Rom 8:29). How powerfully should it soften the bitterness of the cross, to think that the more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ; by communion with whom our sufferings are not only blessed to us, but tend greatly to the furtherance of our salvation.

2. We may add, that the only thing which made it necessary for our Lord to undertake to bear the cross, was to testify and prove his obedience to the Father; whereas there are many reasons which make it necessary for us to live constantly under the cross. Feeble as we are by nature, and prone to ascribe all perfection to our flesh, unless we receive as it were ocular demonstration of our weakness, we readily estimate our virtue above its proper worth, and doubt not that, whatever happens, it will stand unimpaired and invincible against all difficulties. Hence we indulge a stupid and empty confidence in the flesh, and then trusting to it wax proud against the Lord himself; as if our own faculties were sufficient without his grace. This arrogance cannot be better repressed than when He proves to us by experience, not only how great our weakness, but also our frailty is. Therefore, he visits us with disgrace, or poverty, or bereavement, or disease, or other afflictions. Feeling altogether unable to support them, we forthwith, in so far as regards ourselves, give way, and thus humbled learn to invoke his strength, which alone can enable us to bear up under a weight of affliction. Nay, even the holiest of men, however well aware that they stand not in their own strength, but by the grace of God, would feel too secure in their own fortitude and constancy, were they not brought to a more thorough knowledge of themselves by the trial of the cross. This feeling gained even upon David, "In my prosperity I Said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled," (Ps. 30:6, 7). He confesses that in prosperity his feelings were dulled and blunted, so that, neglecting the grace of God, on which alone he ought to have depended, he leant to himself, and promised himself perpetuity. If it so happened to this great prophet, who of us should not fear and study caution? Though in tranquillity they flatter themselves with the idea of greater constancy and patience, yet, humbled by adversity, they learn the deception. Believers, I say, warned by such proofs of their diseases, make progress in humility, and, divesting themselves of a depraved confidence in the flesh, betake themselves to the grace of God, and, when they have so betaken themselves, experience the presence of the divine power, in which is ample protection.

3. This Paul teaches when he says that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience. God having promised that he will be with believers in tribulation, they feel the truth of the promise; while supported by his hand, they endure patiently. This they could never do by their own strength. Patience, therefore, gives the saints an experimental proof that God in reality furnishes the aid which he has promised whenever there is need. Hence also their faith is confirmed, for it were very ungrateful not to expect that in future the truth of God will be, as they have already found it, firm and constant. We now see how many advantages are at once produced by the cross. Overturning the overweening opinion we form of our own virtue, and detecting the hypocrisy in which we delight, it removes our pernicious carnal confidence, teaching us, when thus humbled, to recline on God alone, so that we neither are oppressed nor despond. Then victory is followed by hope, inasmuch as the Lord, by performing what he has promised, establishes his truth in regard to the future. Were these the only reasons, it is surely plain how necessary it is for usto bear the cross. It is of no little importance to be rid of your self-love, and made fully conscious of your weakness; so impressed with a sense of your weakness as to learn to distrust yourself--to distrust yourself so as to transfer your confidence to God, reclining on him with such heartfelt confidence as to trust in his aid, and continue invincible to the end, standing by his grace so as to perceive that he is true to his promises, and so assured of the certainty of his promises as to be strong in hope.

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

What is a Morally “Good” Person?

By Scot McKnight 9/17/2014

     Here is the essence of virtue ethics: character produces behavior. Even more: a good character acts out in goodness. Virtue ethics, to be sure, contends that habits produce the character that then lives the good life. But what is a good person? Dallas Willard and Gary Black, Jr., in The Divine Conspiracy Continued, in their pivotal chapter for leaders called “moral knowledge,” sketch what a good person is — and this is worth the price of the book (95-96). [I see their sketch to be very close to a Christian version of virtue ethics.]

     A morally good person is a matter of degree — all are on the spectrum of virtues to vices. There are then thoroughly good persons and thoroughly bad persons. Evil persons then are ought to undo and destroy the list below; good persons are ought to create the list.

     1. A morally good person is one who is committed to preserving and enhancing — in an appropriate order of importance — all the various “goods” (individual aspects of the “good”) over which he or she has influence. This includes pursuing one’s own moral goodness as well as the well-being of others.

Click here to go to source

     Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.

     Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living. His books include Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, The Story of the Christ, Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology). He broadened his Jesus Creed project in writing a daily devotional: 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. His studies in conversion were expanded with his newest book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy, a book he co-authored with his former student Hauna Ondrey. Other books are The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible and Fasting: The Ancient Practices, as well as A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together and Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.

     McKnight wrote a commentary on James (The Letter of James (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)), a book on discipleship (One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow), and a Jesus Creed book for high school students (with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee) called The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others. His research on gospel was published in the Fall of 2011 in a book called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Along with Joe Modica, McKnight co-edited Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. Also he published an e-book affirming the importance of the doctrine of perseverance in a book called A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance. His most recent commentary is Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary). In the Fall of 2015 his book on heaven appeared: The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come, and he has a book appearing in 2017 The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us.

     He co-wrote with his daughter a Jesus Creed book for children: Sharing God's Love: The Jesus Creed for Chldren.

     McKnight’s current projects is a commentary on Colossians (Eerdmans) as well as a book on the Holy Spirit.

     Other books include Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am?: An Investigation of the Accusations Against the Historical Jesus (The Library of New Testament Studies), Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory, Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period by Scot McKnight (1991-04-02), A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Studying the Historical Jesus), Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary) and Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary), Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (Guides to New Testament Exegesis), and he is a co-editor with J.B. Green and I.H. Marshall of the award-winning Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) as well as the co-editor, with J.D.G. Dunn, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research. He regularly contributes chapter length studies to dictionaries, encyclopedias, books and articles for magazines and online webzines. McKnight’s books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese.

     Scot McKnight was also ordained by Bishop Todd Hunter to the Diaconate in Churches for the Sake of Others, a segment of Anglican Churches of North America. He and Kris are active in their church, Church of the Redeemer.

     McKnight blogs at Jesus Creed.

     Scot McKnight was elected into the Hall of Honor at Cornerstone University in honor of his basketball accomplishments during his college career. He and his wife, Kristen, live in Libertyville, Illinois. They enjoy traveling, long walks, gardening, and cooking. They have two adult children, Laura (married to Mark Barringer) and Lukas (married to Annika Nelson), and two grandchildren: Aksel and Finley.

Why Did Christ Die?

By John Stott

     The answer which we have so far given to the question ‘Why did Christ die?’ has sought to reflect the way in which the Gospel writers tell their story. They point to the chain of responsibility (from Judas to the priests, from the priests to Pilate, from Pilate to the soldiers), and they at least hint that the greed, envy and fear which prompted their behaviour also prompt ours. Yet this is not the complete account which the evangelists give. I have omitted one further and vital piece of evidence which they supply. It is this: that although Jesus was brought to his death by human sins, he did not die as a martyr. On the contrary, he went to the cross voluntarily, even deliberately. From the beginning of his public ministry he consecrated himself to this destiny.

     In his baptism he identified himself with sinners (as he was to do fully on the cross), and in his temptation he refused to be deflected from the way of the cross. He repeatedly predicted his sufferings and death, as we saw in the last chapter, and steadfastly set himself to go to Jerusalem to die there. His constant use of the word ‘must’ in relation to his death expressed not some external compulsion, but his own internal resolve to fulfil what had been written of him. ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,’ he said. Then, dropping the metaphor, ‘I lay down my life...No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:11, 17–18).

     Moreover, when the apostles took up in their letters the voluntary nature of the dying of Jesus, they several times used the very verb (paradidōmi) which the evangelists used of his being ‘handed over’ to death by others. Thus Paul could write ‘the Son of God...loved me and gave (paradontos) himself for me’. (Gal. 2:20. Cf. Eph. 5:2, 25 and also Luke 23:46) It was perhaps a conscious echo of Isaiah 53:12, which says that ‘he poured out (LXX paredothē) his life unto death’. Paul also used the same verb when he looked behind the voluntary self-surrender of the Son to the Father’s surrender of him. For example, ‘he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up (paredōken) for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:32; cf. 4:25.) Octavius Winslow summed it up in a neat statement: ‘Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy; – but the Father, for love!’ (I am grateful to David Kingdon for drawing my attention to this quotation, which John Murray includes in his Romans, Vol. 1, p.324, having taken it from Winslow’s No Condemnation in Christ Jesus (1857).)

     It is essential to keep together these two complementary ways of looking at the cross. On the human level, Judas gave him up to the priests, who gave him up to Pilate, who gave him up to the soldiers, who crucified him. But on the divine level, the Father gave him up, and he gave himself up, to die for us. As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there’ and ‘he did it, his love took him there’. The apostle Peter brought the two truths together in his remarkable statement on the Day of Pentecost, both that ‘this man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge’ and that ‘you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross’.30 Peter thus attributed Jesus’ death simultaneously to the plan of God and to the wickedness of men. For the cross which, as we have particularly considered in this chapter, is an exposure of human evil, is at the same time a revelation of the divine purpose to overcome the human evil thus exposed.


The Cross of Christ


  • Q & A 2008
  • Q & A 2009
  • Q & A 2009

#1 Duncan, MacArthur, Sproul | Ligonier

 

#2 Ferguson, Begg, Lawson, Sproul | Ligonier

 

#3 Anyabwile, Carson, Godfrey, Thomas | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/2006    Decoding Da Vinci

     It should be no surprise to know that in 2005 the Louvre museum in Paris attracted more visitors, 7.3 million to be exact, than in any previous year since the Louvre was established as a museum in 1793. The museum is expecting to break that record again in 2006 with the May release of Hollywood’s version of Dan Brown’s best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code. Last year I too visited the Louvre while on a layover in Paris. Although I was not there in order to try to figure out the supposed centuries-old codes hidden in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, I was curious to see what sort of crowds his paintings were attracting. As I made my way to room 13, where Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was displayed, I could hear the low roar of what turned out to be the voices of hundreds of people from all over the world gazing at the intriguing smile and face of Da Vinci’s famous brown-eyed girl.

     Some may say, and rightly so, “What’s all the fuss about? Isn’t The Da Vinci Code just a fictional story invented by some imaginative writer whose book was marketed to inquisitive readers?” Such a charge is certainly appropriate. Nevertheless, the book has had (and I suspect the movie will have) a religiously strong grip on the minds of undiscerning people throughout the world. Even though the book is sold under the category “fiction,” the author deceitfully and deliberately intertwines seeming fact and fiction in order to dupe his readers into thinking that there actually is a hidden code in Da Vinci’s works — a code that unlocks the secrets of the church, secrets that reveal the supposed truths that Jesus had been surreptitiously wed to Mary Magdalene, that the deity of Christ was invented in the fourth century by Constantine, and that the Bible is not the product of God but the product of devious men whose ecclesiastical descendants have dominated the church throughout history. Such notions are not simply innocent inventions but are the products of men who, while impenitent, are in the service of the father of lies (John 8:44).

     At the foundation of our faith is the conviction that the Bible is not just a book of man’s opinions about God. On the contrary, the Bible is the inspired Word of God established by God Himself, in His gracious provision, so that we might know Him and live coram Deo, before His face and for His glory. Indeed, His Word is truth (John 17:17), for it not merely contains truth, but it defines truth and destroys all the devices and deceptions of men that rise up against it.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this date, March 20, 1727, Sir Isaac Newton, one of the world’s greatest scientists, died. With his mother widowed twice, he was raised by his grandmother, before being sent off to grammar school and later Cambridge. He discovered calculus, the laws of gravity and built the first reflecting telescope. Using a prism, Newton demonstrated how a beam of sunlight contained all the colors of the rainbow. Regarding the Bible, Isaac Newton wrote: “The system of revealed truth which this Book contains is like that of the universe, concealed from common observation yet… the centuries have established its Divine origin.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


All religions have been made by men.
--- Napoleon Bonaparte   God Is Relevant: Finding Strength and Peace in Today's World

Let my heart be broken with the things that break God's heart.
--- Bob Pierce, World Vision founder   Know Why You Believe

Man is a messenger who forgot the message.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel   I Asked For Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology

You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.
--- Wendell Berry   A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural
... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/20
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Fourteenth of sixth month. -- We sought out and visited all the Indians hereabouts that we could meet with, in number about twenty. They were chiefly in one place, about a mile from where we lodged. I expressed to them the care I had on my mind for their good, and told them that true love had made me willing thus to leave my family to come and see the Indians and speak with them in their houses. Some of them appeared kind and friendly. After taking leave of them, we went up the river Susquehanna about three miles, to the house of an Indian called Jacob January. He had killed his hog, and the women were making store of bread and preparing to move up the river. Here our pilots had left their canoe when they came down in the spring, and lying dry it had become leaky. This detained us some hours, so that we had a good deal of friendly conversation with the family; and, eating dinner with them, we made them some small presents. Then putting our baggage into the canoe, some of them pushed slowly up the stream, and the rest of us rode our horses. We swam them over a creek called Lahawahamunk, and pitched our tent above it in the evening. In a sense of God's goodness in helping me in my distress, sustaining me under trials, and inclining my heart to trust in him, I lay down in an humble, bowed frame of mind, and had a comfortable night's lodging.

     Fifteenth of sixth month. -- We proceeded forward till the afternoon, when, a storm appearing, we met our canoe at an appointed place and stayed all night, the rain continuing so heavy that it beat through our tent and wet both us and our baggage. The next day we found abundance of trees blown down by the storm yesterday, and had occasion reverently to consider the kind dealings of the Lord who provided a safe place for us in a valley while this storm continued. We were much hindered by the trees which had fallen across our path, and in some swamps our way was so stopped that we got through with extreme difficulty. I had this day often to consider myself as a sojourner in this world. A belief in the all-sufficiency of God to support his people in their pilgrimage felt comfortable to me, and I was industriously employed to get to a state of perfect resignation.

     We seldom saw our canoe but at appointed places, by reason of the path going off from the river. This afternoon Job Chilaway, an Indian from Wehaloosing, who talks good English and is acquainted with several people in and about Philadelphia, met our people on the river. Understanding where we expected to lodge, he pushed back about six miles, and came to us after night; and in a while our own canoe arrived, it being hard work pushing up the stream. Job told us that an Indian came in haste to their town yesterday and told them that three warriors from a distance lodged in a town above Wehaloosing a few nights past, and that these three men were going against the English at Juniata. Job was going down the river to the province store at Shamokin. Though I was so far favored with health as to continue travelling, yet, through the various difficulties in our journey, and the different way of living from which I had been used to, I grew sick. The news of these warriors being on their march so near us, and not knowing whether we might not fall in with them, was a fresh trial of my faith; , and though, through the strength of Divine love, I had several times been enabled to commit myself to the Divine disposal, I still found the want of a renewal of my strength, that I might be able to persevere therein; and my cries for help were put up to the Lord, who, in great mercy, gave me a resigned heart, in which I found quietness.

     Parting from Job Chilaway on the 17th, we went on and reached Wehaloosing about the middle of the afternoon. The first Indian that we saw was a woman of a modest countenance, with a Bible, who spake first to our guide, and then with an harmonious voice expressed her gladness at seeing us, having before heard of our coming. By the direction of our guide we sat down on a log while he went to the town to tell the people we were come. My companion and I, sitting thus together in a deep inward stillness, the poor woman came and sat near us; and, great awfulness coming over us, we rejoiced in a sense of God's love manifested to our poor souls. After a while we heard a conch-shell blow several times, and then came John Curtis and another Indian man, who kindly invited us into a house near the town, where we found about sixty people sitting in silence. After sitting with them a short time I stood up, and in some tenderness of spirit acquainted them, in a few short sentences, with the nature of my visit, and that a concern for their good had made me willing to come thus far to see them; which some of them understanding interpreted to the others, and there appeared gladness among them. I then showed them my certificate, which was explained to them; and the Moravian who overtook us on the way, being now here, bade me welcome. But the Indians knowing that this Moravian and I were of different religious societies, and as some of their people had encouraged him to come and stay awhile with them, they were, I believe, concerned that there might be no jarring or discord in their meetings; and having, I suppose, conferred together, they acquainted me that the people, at my request, would at any time come together and hold meetings. They also told me that they expected the Moravian would speak in their settled meetings, which are commonly held in the morning and near evening. So finding liberty in my heart to speak to the Moravian, I told him of the care I felt on my mind for the good of these people, and my belief that no ill effects would follow if I sometimes spake in their meetings when love engaged me thereto, without calling them together at times when they did not meet of course. He expressed his goodwill towards my speaking at any time all that I found in my heart to say.

     On the evening of the 18th I was at their meeting, where pure gospel love was felt, to the tendering of some of our hearts. The interpreters endeavored to acquaint the people with what I said, in short sentences, but found some difficulty, as none of them were quite perfect in the English and Delaware tongues, so they helped one another, and we labored along, Divine love attending. Afterwards, feeling my mind covered with the spirit of prayer, I told the interpreters that I found it in my heart to pray to God, and believed, if I prayed aright, he would hear me; and I expressed my willingness for them to omit interpreting; so our meeting ended with a degree of Divine love. Before the people went out, I observed Papunehang (the man who had been zealous in laboring for a reformation in that town, being then very tender) speaking to one of the interpreters, and I was afterwards told that he said in substance as follows: "I love to feel where words come from."

John Woolman's Journal

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     God works it (our surrender) in the secret of our heart, God urges us by the hidden power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring and to yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection, and you may doubt and hesitate and say:

     "Is it absolute?"

     But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said:

     "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).

     And his heart was afraid, and he cried out:

     "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

     That was a faith that triumphed over the Devil, and the evil spirit was cast out. And if you come and say: "Lord, I yield myself in absolute surrender to my God," even though it be with a trembling heart and with the consciousness: "I do not feel the power, I do not feel the determination, I do not feel the assurance," it will succeed. Be not afraid, but come just as you are, and even in the midst of your trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.

     Have you never yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, "through the eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed! Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and trembling, in faith in the hidden work of God's Spirit do not fear, but yield yourself.

     And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be in the faith that God does now accept of it. That is the great point, and that is what we so often miss--that believers should be thus occupied with God in this matter of surrender. I pray you, be occupied with God. We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God shall be clearer to us, God shall have the right place, and be "all in all."

     And if we are to have that through life, let us begin now and look away from ourselves, and look up to God. Let each believe--while I, a poor worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of failure and sin and fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes through my heart, and while I in simplicity say, O God, I accept Thy terms; I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others, I have accepted Thy terms of absolute surrender--while your heart says that in deep silence, remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it down in His book, and there is a God present who at that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him.

     God not only claims it, and works it, and accepts it when I bring it, but God maintains it.

     I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.

Absolute Surrender

Proverbs 13:1-2
     by D.H. Stern

1     A son who heeds his father’s discipline is wise,
but a scoffer doesn’t listen to rebuke.

2     A [good] man enjoys good as a result of what he says,
but the essence of the treacherous is violence.


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

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          5

     ‘Ah, but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way! For me there is no such thing as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it not? “Prove all things” … to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.’

     ‘If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for.’

     ‘But you must feel yourself that there is something stifling about the idea of finality? Stagnation, my dear boy, what is more soul-destroying than stagnation?’

     ‘You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched.’

     ‘Well, really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know.’

     ‘Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry.’ The Ghost seemed to think for a moment. ‘I can make nothing of that idea,’ it said.

     ‘Listen!’ said the White Spirit. ‘Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.’

     ‘Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.’

     ‘You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’

     ‘If we cannot be reverent, there is at least no need to be obscene. The suggestion that I should return at my age to the mere factual inquisitiveness of boyhood strikes me as preposterous. In any case, that question-and-answer conception of thought only applies to matters of fact. Religious and speculative questions are surely on a different level.’

     ‘We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ. We know nothing of speculation. Come and see. I will bring you to Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facthood.’

     ‘I should object very strongly to describing God as a “fact”. The Supreme Value would surely be a less inadequate description. It is hardly …’

     ‘Do you not even believe that He exists?’

     ‘Exists? What does Existence mean? You will keep on implying some sort of static, ready-made reality which is, so to speak, “there”, and to which our minds have simply to conform. These great mysteries cannot be approached in that way. If there were such a thing (there is no need to interrupt, my dear boy) quite frankly, I should not be interested in it. It would be of no religious significance. God, for me, is something purely spiritual. The spirit of sweetness and light and tolerance—and, er, service, Dick, service. We mustn’t forget that, you know.’

     ‘If the thirst of the Reason is really dead …,’ said the Spirit, and then stopped as though pondering. Then suddenly he said, ‘Can you, at least, still desire happiness?’

     ‘Happiness, my dear Dick,’ said the Ghost placidly, ‘happiness, as you will come to see when you are older, lies in the path of duty. Which reminds me … Bless my soul, I’d nearly forgotten. Of course I can’t come with you. I have to be back next Friday to read a paper. We have a little Theological Society down there. Oh yes! there is plenty of intellectual life. Not of a very high quality, perhaps. One notices a certain lack of grip—a certain confusion of mind. That is where I can be of some use to them. There are even regrettable jealousies … I don’t know why, but tempers seem less controlled than they used to be. Still, one mustn’t expect too much of human nature. I feel I can do a great work among them. But you’ve never asked me what my paper is about! I’m taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you’ll be interested in. I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste … so much promise cut short. Oh, must you be going? Well, so must I. Goodbye, my dear boy. It has been a great pleasure. Most stimulating and provocative. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.’

     The Ghost nodded its head and beamed on the Spirit with a bright clerical smile—or with the best approach to it which such unsubstantial lips could manage—and then turned away humming softly to itself ‘City of God, how broad and far.’

     But I did not watch him for long, for a new idea had just occurred to me. If the grass were hard as rock, I thought, would not the water be hard enough to walk on? I tried it with one foot, and my foot did not go in. Next moment I stepped boldly out on the surface. I fell on my face at once and got some nasty bruises. I had forgotten that though it was, to me, solid, it was not the less in rapid motion. When I had picked myself up I was about thirty yards further down-stream than the point where I had left the bank. But this did not prevent me from walking upstream: it only meant that by walking very fast indeed I made very little progress.

The Great Divorce   or   The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Friendship with God

Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?
--- Genesis 18:17.

     Its Delights. This chapter brings out the delight of real friendship with God as compared with occasional feelings of His presence in prayer. To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.

     Its Difficulties. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He was not intimate enough yet to go boldly on until God granted his desire, there was something yet to be desired in his relationship to God. Whenever we stop short in prayer and say—‘Well, I don’t know; perhaps it is not God’s will,’—there is still another stage to go. We are not so intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as He wants us to be—“That they may be one even as We are one.” Think of the last thing you prayed about—were you devoted to your desire or to God? Determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God? “Your Heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.” The point of asking is that you may get to know God better. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.


My Utmost for His Highest

The Son
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Son

It was your mother wanted you:
you were already half-formed
when I entered. But can I deny
the hunger, the loneliness bringing me in
from myself? And when you appeared
before me, there was no repentance
for what I had done, as there was shame
in the doing it; compassion only
for that which was too small to be called
human. The unfolding of your hands
was plant-like, your ear was the shell
I thundered in; your cries. when they came,
were those of a blind creature
trodden upon: pain not yet become grief.

Teacher's Commentary
     Three Lessons: Numbers 11:1–12:15

     When Israel moved away from Sinai after having been camped there so long, three incidents occurred which were truly “examples” for Israel (1 Cor. 10:11). Each involved a rejection of God, and each was the occasion of immediate judgment. Israel was being taught the difficult lesson of responsibility. As God’s people they had to respond to Him with trusting obedience. Any failure to respond led to tragic consequences.

     In these three experiences Israel was being graciously prepared for a coming choice that would establish the destiny of the entire generation.

     Rejection of God’s guidance (Num. 11:1–3). It took only three days of journeying in desert country for the Israelites to revert to a pattern they had established before they arrived at Sinai. Forgetting all that God had done for them, they let discomfort dominate their thinking. They “complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord” (v. 1). This was an explicit rejection of God as the One who guided them, and who had guided them from the beginning. In their murmuring they denied His wisdom, and ignored the supernatural provision of the cloudy-fiery pillar that directed their every move.

     God immediately acted—in judgment. Fire destroyed some outlying parts of the camp. In panic the people turned to Moses, who prayed, and the fire was controlled.

     Rejection of God’s provision (Num. 11:4–35). Shortly afterward the people began to complain about something else. They became dissatisfied with their diet, and were ready to trade their freedom for the meat and vegetables they had lived on in Egypt. The manna that God provided was despised, and every man at the door of his tent complained and plotted because of a craving for meat.

     This rejection of God’s provision was a last straw to Moses, who had long felt the burden of leading a people who behaved like squalling infants (v. 12). God responded to Moses’ need by distributing his leadership responsibility and gift to 70 of the elders. And God responded to the people too. God had Moses inform the people that the next day they would have meat. Meat enough for a whole month, “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it” (v. 20). “You have rejected the Lord who is among you” (v. 20), is the divine comment on their behavior and its meaning.

     God provided meat by bringing a great flock of quail (perhaps like the giant flocks of carrier pigeons which in the early days of our continent darkened the sky for days). The quail flew about three feet off the ground (v. 31), and for two days were gathered by the bushel. Meat for the millions had been provided.

     But when the people began to eat, a great plague struck the camp. Thousands and thousands of the murmurers died (vv. 33–34). The people who had rejected God and His provision bore the dreadful consequences of their choice.


The Teacher's Commentary

“Lord”
     as a Designation for Yahweh

     The fact should not be overlooked, of course, that in the history of the Bible and the effect of its message the rendering “lord” has been no less significant than the use of the name in the original. If the function of the two terms is not wholly identical, it overlaps to such a degree that the content of the statements, being equally orientated to the basic motif of the acknowledgment of the power of the divine will, can have a vital effect.

     The difference between אֲדֹנָי and אָדוֹן is that the form distinguished by the affirmative is reserved for sacral use whereas the simple אָדוֹן may be used of human lordship too. The first point about אָדוֹן is that in the OT it is a very broad term for the one who has power over men (
Ps. 12:4; of the king, Jer. 22:18; 14:5), and to a lesser degree over things (Gn. 45:8; Ps. 105:21 בַּיִת, which includes men). It is closely related to בַּעַל, “owner,” but with a distinctive emphasis on the emotional rather than the legal aspect, as may be seen in the address אֲדֹנִי, “my lord,” which predominates even in the legally established relation of a subject to his בַּעַל. The slave speaks thus to his owner (Gn. 24:12; Ex. 21:5) or the wife to her husband (Gn. 18:12). It is also common in the language of court (אֲדֹנִי הֶּמֶּלֶךְ, e.g., 1 S. 26:17), of veneration (Nu. 11:28; Gn. 31:35), and of the politeness enjoined by custom (Gn. 23:6; Ju. 4:18).

     A peculiarity of the word even in secular use is that it commonly takes the plur. form and plur. suffixes even when there is no ref. to several people. Since the same is true or בַּעַל (e.g.,
Is. 1:3), a simple explanation is perhaps to be sought in the need to raise the expression to the totality of the concept. This leaves only the difficulty of the extension of the ā in אֲדֹנָי, which is not demanded by any pause and which can thus be understood only as an intentional characteristic of the word in its function as a divine name and epithet. The hypothesis that this is not really an afformative as marked in the Mas., but that it is a part of the root and that the word is a non-semitic loan word considerably overestimates the philological value of the Mas., since Punic examples also show plainly the pronominal nature of the suffix. On the other hand, אֲדֹנָי also occurs in we-texts (e.g., Ps. 44:24), so that it is impossible to take it as a possessive form “my lord” in the biblical texts unless one assumes that an original vocative has become ossified as a nominative. Granted this assumption, one may assume, without detriment to the philological possibility already mentioned, that אֲדֹנָי as a divine name had its origin as an address in private prayer, of which there are in fact many examples in the Mas. The extension of the ā may be traced to the concern of the Massoretes to mark the word as sacred by a small outward sign. Since the fact that אדני was of four letters, corresponding to the tetragrammaton, was also probably of importance to them, one can also, perhaps, understand why it was that the my-form established itself in use in place of the our-form אֲרֹנֵינוּ (Ps. 8:2, 9; 147:5; 135:5 etc.).

     Used of Yahweh, אָדון like מֶלֶךְ denotes His sovereign power. It is a title which corresponds to His nature. Only seldom does it indicate His position as lord of the land. This is to be seen, perhaps, in the appositional combination “the Lord Yahweh” in
Ex. 23:17; 34:23, since the ref. here is to harvest festivals. As אֲבִיר יִשְׂרָאֵל, “the strength of Israel,” cf. Gn. 49:24, He is called אָדוֹן in Is. 1:24. From this one may conclude that Is. probably uses the word elsewhere only in this sense if it is really one of his own expressions in every case. In the main, however, OT statements concerning Yahweh as Lord already go far beyond the idea that He is just the lord of the land or people and more or less clearly presuppose the prophetic belief in Yahweh as Lord of all. The phrase “Lord of the whole earth” (Mi. 4:13; Zech. 4:14; 6:5; Ps. 97:5; Jos. 3:11, 13) gives us clearest evidence of the enhancement of the sense to embrace everything. This is perhaps also the meaning when אָדוֹן stands alone (only Ps. 114:7), and the meaning of אֲדנָי which is lengthened in form as well, admits of no doubt.

     The uncertainty of the ketib̄ אֲדֹנָי has already been recalled (→ 1059). It is a fact, however, that this ketib̄, even where it is grounded in the text as in
Is. 6, in the majority of cases serves the purpose of avoiding the name of God, like the qerē which derived from it. In Is. 6:11 the prophet uses the vocative אֲדֹנָי spontaneously under the unweakened impression of the nearness of the majesty of the Holy One, and we could only ask whether אֲדֹנָי was not used there. The desire to avoid the name because the majesty which fills the whole earth encounters man is as clear here as it is rare elsewhere. On the other hand, the introduction of אֲדֹנָי at the beginning of the account in Is. 6:1 and then again in 6:8 gives rise to the impression that there is a didactic desire to impress firmly on the reader the thought expressed in the hymn of the seraphs by choosing a word which will correspond to the reverent attitude of the prophet. The common formula of Ezekiel, אֲדֹנָי יהוה or יהוה אֲדֹנָי (212 times according to Baudissin’s reckoning) is to be understood in the same way. It is in a sense an elucidation of the name as an expression for the divine majesty, and the moving of the accent from the name to the title is unmistakable. Thus the use of the ketib̄ אֲדֹנָי seems to have started a development of the technique of transmission which finally in the qerē led to a complete exclusion of the divine name from the text. Such tendencies were probably strongly stimulated also by the Sodom stories in Gn. 18 f., which used the courtesy title “my lords” for the visitors to Abraham and Lot, among whom, as the reader learns only from the context, was the “judge of the whole earth” (18:25), who had come down (18:21). There can be no doubt that this usage was valued as most instructive by the Mas.

     The substitution of אֲדֹנָי which is restrained in the ketib̄, but which is then carried through so radically in the qerē that the very sound of the divine name is completely excluded, implies no less than a total exegesis of the Holy Scriptures of Israel. In combination with the κύριος usage of the LXX it signifies an act of immeasurable consequence in the history of religion. The considerations which prepared and supported it can no longer be reconstructed with full certainty, → 1070. Even the question already mentioned (→ 1059) whether the LXX or the original gave the first impulse admits of no satisfactory answer. One can hardly adduce a definite missionary trend, at least as a leading motive, since the age of active missionary work had not yet dawned for Judaism when the LXX was completed and it had already passed when the last Massoretes established the qerē. On the other hand, missionary activity may be inferred from the wording of the LXX in many passages.

     There is tremendous missionary force in the conclusion of
Ps. 134 (135) when, after the house of Israel, Aaron and Levi, the φοβούμενοι τὸν κύριον are also summoned to praise the Lord. It stands beyond all doubt that this extension of the terminology used to denote God, which theologically derives from the prophets, played an essential part in the dissemination of the OT message. If it implied a weakening of the link with history, it did not break this link. If it softened its numinous dynamic for Israel, at the decisive point it surrendered the national character of the Canon and thereby interpreted its deepest meaning. The God to whom the Canon bears witness is called “Lord” because He is there shown to be the exclusive holder of power over the cosmos and all men, the Creator of the world and the Master of life and death. The term “Lord” is thus a summation of the beliefs of the OT. It is the wholly successful attempt to state what God is, what the Holy One means in practice for men, namely, the intervention of a personal will, with approximately the pregnancy and binding force which constitute the distinctive mark of the name Yahweh.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume III)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Shabbat 75a

     D’RASH

     A married man is seen at a romantic little restaurant having a candlelit dinner with a woman who is not his wife. Within days, the community is all abuzz about the “affair.” Only later is it discovered that the other woman was actually his sister, in for a visit from out of town.

     A woman buys an expensive new luxury car just one month after becoming the treasurer of the elementary school PTA. People begin to ask jokingly if the two facts are somehow related, but the kidding becomes serious when someone claims to have heard that significant funds are missing from the bank account. Only after the treasurer is accused of embezzling does it come out that the rumors were false and that the woman had recently received a modest inheritance upon the death of her mother.

     Congregants spot the local rabbi walking into a fast-food restaurant during the afternoon break on Yom Kippur. By the time services conclude that evening, many of the members have already heard a story of how the rabbi ate nonkosher food on the holiest day of the year, a fast day. At the next synagogue board meeting, the embarrassed rabbi has to admit to indeed entering the restaurant, but to relieve a weak bladder.

     The concern about mar’it ayin is a troubling one: Why should someone who is doing the right thing have to be worried about what someone else mistakingly thinks? Yet as we see in the above examples, “what the eye sees” can lead to a wrecked marriage, to criminal charges, and to a ruined reputation. In warning us to be sensitive to such things, the Rabbis teach us about the world—not as it should be, but as it is. We are reminded that no matter where we are, someone may well be watching us. The Rabbis would also teach us that no matter where we are, Someone is always watching us.

     Can you cut off its head without it dying?

     Text / Our Rabbis taught; “One who catches a snail and crushes it is liable for one [sin-offering].” Rabbi Yehudah says: “Crushing falls into the category of threshing.” They said to him: “Crushing does not fall into the category of threshing.”
Rava said: “What is the reason of the Rabbis? They hold that threshing applies only to things grown in the ground.” Maybe he is also liable for taking a life! Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “When he crushed it, it was already dead.” Rava said: “Even if you say that it was alive when he crushed it, he was intent on something else when its life was taken.” But did not Abaye and Rava both say that Rabbi Shimon admits “Can you cut off its head without it dying?” Here the case is different—it is better for him while it [the snail] is alive, because the dye is clearer.


     Context / “Hillazon in rabbinical literature is a land or sea snail (Sanhedrin 91a). Among the latter there are species in whose bodies is a gland containing a clear liquid, which when it comes into contact with the air becomes greenish: this is tekhelet which, after the addition of various chemicals, receives its purple color, the “royal purple” of literature.” (Encyclopaedia Judaica, volume 15, p. 914) The dye of the ḥillazon was used, among other things, for the “thread of blue” in the tzitzit or fringes attached to four-cornered garments like the tallit. (
Numbers 15:38)

     The Mishnah lists thirty-nine major categories of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat. Among them is hunting a deer (and by extension, all forms of hunting and trapping). The Rabbis here are debating the violations involved in catching a particular species of snail that was the source of much sought-after dye. The shell of the snail first had to be crushed and broken so that the dye could be squeezed from the snail. The Rabbis teach that doing this on Shabbat violated one prohibition, and thus a single sin-offering had to be brought to the Temple. Rabbi Yehudah holds that a second violation was involved: The crushing of the shell would fall into the classification of “threshing,” another of the thirty-nine categories of forbidden labor. (Both threshing and crushing required force to break and remove an outer shell in order to get the sought-after inner product.) The Rabbis disagree, saying that “threshing” applies only to things like wheat that grow from the ground.

     A question is posed: If crushing the snail is not the same as threshing, is it not the same as “slaughtering,” which is among the thirty-nine labors? Rabbi Yoḥanan answers that in this case, the snail was already dead; the only violation is hunting. Rava holds that even if the snail was killed, the person who crushed it is not liable, because he never intended to kill it, only to extract the dye. This seems to contradict a principle that Rava himself, along with Abaye, stated on another occasion: A person cannot say “I wanted only to cut off the animal’s head; I never intended that the animal should die!” Rabbi Shimon is the authority who held that a labor was permitted, even if it resulted in a forbidden action, so long as that forbidden action was unintentional. (For example, walking on the grass on Shabbat is permitted, even though the act of walking may cause the grass to be uprooted, so long as it was not the intent of the person to uproot the grass.) But even Rabbi Shimon admits that if the forbidden result was inevitable, then the labor is forbidden. Cutting off the animal’s head always leads to death, regardless of the intention, and is therefore forbidden.

     The contradiction between Rava’s two statements is resolved by saying that not only is the death of the snail unintentional, it is counter-productive. The quality of the dye is much better when it comes from a living snail.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Eleventh Chapter / The Longings Of Our Hearts Must Be Examined And Moderated

          THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, it is necessary for you to learn many things which you have not yet learned well.

     The Disciple

     What are they, Lord?

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     That you conform your desires entirely according to My good pleasure, and be not a lover of self but an earnest doer of My will. Desires very often inflame you and drive you madly on, but consider whether you act for My honor, or for your own advantage. If I am the cause, you will be well content with whatever I ordain. If, on the other hand, any self-seeking lurk in you, it troubles you and weighs you down. Take care, then, that you do not rely too much on preconceived desire that has no reference to Me, lest you repent later on and be displeased with what at first pleased you and which you desired as being for the best. Not every desire which seems good should be followed immediately, nor, on the other hand, should every contrary affection be at once rejected.

     It is sometimes well to use a little restraint even in good desires and inclinations, lest through too much eagerness you bring upon yourself distraction of mind; lest through your lack of discipline you create scandal for others; or lest you be suddenly upset and fall because of resistance from others. Sometimes, however, you must use violence and resist your sensual appetite bravely. You must pay no attention to what the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected, even by force, to the spirit. And it should be chastised and forced to remain in subjection until it is prepared for anything and is taught to be satisfied with little, to take pleasure in simple things, and not to murmur against inconveniences.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 20

     They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one. --- John 17:11.

     With what [further] arguments [does] he plead with the Father? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... )

     He adds, in the beginning of John 17:11, a third argument in these words, “I will remain in the world no longer.” Consider the sense of it as a proposition and the force of it as an argument. This proposition, “I will remain in the world no longer,” is not to be taken universally as if in no sense Christ would be any more in this world but only as to his corporeal presence. This, which had been a comfort to them in all their troubles, was soon to be removed from his people.

     And here lies the argument: “Father, consider the sadness and trouble I shall leave my poor children under. While I was with them I was sweet relief to their souls, whatever troubles they met. In all doubts, fears, and dangers, they could turn to me, and in their adversities and needs I supplied them. They had my counsels to direct them, my reproofs to correct them, and my comforts to support them. Yes, the very sight of me was unspeakable joy and refreshment to their souls. But now the hour has come, and I must go. All the comfort and benefit they had from my presence is ended, and except you make up all this to them another way, what will become of these children when their Father is gone? What will be the case of the poor sheep and tender lambs when the shepherd is struck?”

     And yet, to move and engage the Father’s care and love for them, he subjoins [a fourth] consideration in the very next words, “but they are still in the world.” The world is a sinful, infecting, and unquiet place. And a hard thing it will be for such imperfect creatures to escape the pollutions of it, or if they do, yet the troubles, persecutions, and strong oppositions of it they can’t escape. “Seeing therefore I must leave your children, those from whom the glory is to rise, in the midst of a world where they can neither move backward nor forward without danger of sin or ruin—since this is so, look after them, provide for them, and take special care for them all. Consider who they are and where I leave them. They are your children, left in a strange country; your sheep, in the midst of wolves; your precious treasure, among thieves.”
--- John Flavel


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

On This Day   March 20
     The Last Day

     Thomas Cranmer had the misfortune of being archbishop of Canterbury for King Henry VIII, but he survived by bending to the wind. He approved the king’s divorces. He condemned the king’s wives when necessary. He renounced the pope when expedient. He took no heroic stands.

     But Thomas grew as the years passed. He composed and compiled The Book of Common Prayer and increasingly loved Reformation theology. When young King Edward died, Thomas sought to deny the throne to fiercely Catholic Mary.

     Mary nevertheless assumed rule, and she forced the archbishop to watch as his two best friends, Latimer and Ridley, were burned at the stake. Thomas was imprisoned and subjected to torture. After months of coercion, the old cleric broke down and signed a series of recantations. Queen Mary then planned a spectacle: Cranmer publicly reading his recantations and reaffirming loyalty to the pope and queen at the church of St. Mary’s.

     On the eve of the spectacle, March 20, 1556, Thomas sat wearily at a small desk in an Oxford jail reading the speech planned for the next morning. His hand slowly gripped a pen, trembled, and started writing a second version.

     The next day was cold and rainswept. Thomas was escorted to St. Mary’s with the two speeches secretly stowed in his shirt. He rose to speak, saying, I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life, and that is setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth.… He declared that his recantations had been signed under duress, and he boldly embraced the pure gospel.

     Guards rushed through the aisles. Thomas was pulled from the pulpit and hustled to the stake. As the fire was lit, the old man thrust his arm into the flames, saying that the hand that had signed the recantations should be the first to burn.

     Thomas Cranmer had waited till the last day of his life to be heroic. But it was the last day that counted.

     When the council members heard Stephen’s speech, they were angry and furious. But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked toward heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side.
--- Acts 7:54,55.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 20

     “My beloved.”
--- Song of Solomon 2:8.

     This was a golden name which the ancient Church in her most joyous moments was wont to give to the Anointed of the Lord. When the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in her land, her love-note was sweeter than either, as she sang, “My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” Ever in her song of songs doth she call him by that delightful name, “My beloved!” Even in the long winter, when idolatry had withered the garden of the Lord, her prophets found space to lay aside the burden of the Lord for a little season, and to say, as Esaias did, “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.” Though the saints had never seen his face, though as yet he was not made flesh, nor had dwelt among us, nor had man beheld his glory, yet he was the consolation of Israel, the hope and joy of all the chosen, the “beloved” of all those who were upright before the Most High. We, in the summer days of the Church, are also wont to speak of Christ as the best beloved of our soul, and to feel that he is very precious, the “chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.” So true is it that the Church loves Jesus, and claims him as her beloved, that the apostle dares to defy the whole universe to separate her from the love of Christ, and declares that neither persecutions, distress, affliction, peril, or the sword have been able to do it; nay, he joyously boasts, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

     O that we knew more of thee, thou ever precious one!

     “My sole possession is thy love;
     In earth beneath, or heaven above,
     I have no other store;
     And though with fervent suit I pray,
     And importune thee day by day,
     I ask thee nothing more.”



          Evening - March 20

     "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church." Ephesians 5:25.

     What a golden example Christ gives to his disciples! Few masters could venture to say, “If you would practise my teaching, imitate my life;” but as the life of Jesus is the exact transcript of perfect virtue, he can point to himself as the paragon of holiness, as well as the teacher of it. The Christian should take nothing short of Christ for his model. Under no circumstances ought we to be content unless we reflect the grace which was in him. As a husband, the Christian is to look upon the portrait of Christ Jesus, and he is to paint according to that copy. The true Christian is to be such a husband as Christ was to his church. The love of a husband is special. The Lord Jesus cherishes for the church a peculiar affection, which is set upon her above the rest of mankind: “I pray for them, I pray not for the world.” The elect church is the favourite of heaven, the treasure of Christ, the crown of his head, the bracelet of his arm, the breastplate of his heart, the very centre and core of his love. A husband should love his wife with a constant love, for thus Jesus loves his church. He does not vary in his affection. He may change in his display of affection, but the affection itself is still the same. A husband should love his wife with an enduring love, for nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A true husband loves his wife with a hearty love, fervent and intense. It is not mere lip-service. Ah! beloved, what more could Christ have done in proof of his love than he has done? Jesus has a delighted love towards his spouse: He prizes her affection, and delights in her with sweet complacence. Believer, you wonder at Jesus’ love; you admire it—are you imitating it? In your domestic relationships is the rule and measure of your love—“even as Christ loved the church?”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 20

          HIGHER GROUND

     Johnson Oatman Jr., 1856–1922

     I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

     How sad it is to observe someone who has never lived up to his real potential. It is tragic to watch an individual who has great ability that is never used simply because he or she lacks the incentive to pursue a worthy goal. Similarly, it is disappointing to see a Christian fail to evidence spiritual growth of any kind. Scripture teaches that Christian maturity or Christlikeness is a process in which we advance from one level to the next, step by step. But the secret of such development is to have an intense desire to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives.

     “Higher Ground” has been a favorite with many Christians since it was first published in 1898. It expresses so well this universal desire for a deeper spiritual life, continuing on a higher plane of fellowship with God than we have ever before experienced.

     The author of this stirring text was Johnson Oatman, Jr., a businessman who wrote 3,000 gospel songs in his leisure time. Oatman was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination but never pastored a church. His hymns were always well received, even though he was paid no more than $1.00 for any of his texts.

     The music for “Higher Ground” was composed by Charles H. Gabriel, music editor of the Rodeheaver Publishing Company. He wrote the music and sometimes the texts for more than 8,000 gospel songs, many of which were especially popular in the Billy Sunday-Homer Rodeheaver campaigns from 1910–1920. This song was used often in the great camp meetings of this era and the singing of it would often bring forth shouts of “Glory, hallelujah!”

     I’m pressing on the upward way; new heights I’m gaining every day— Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
     My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; tho some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.
     I want to live above the world, tho Satan’s darts at me are hurled; for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground.
     I want to scale the utmost height and catch a gleam of glory bright; but still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
     Chorus: Lord, lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table-land; A higher plane than I have found—Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.


     For Today: Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Philippians 3:12–16.

     Reflect on some particular area of life that with God’s enablement could be lived on a higher level. Use this musical prayer to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)


          Chapter 1 Hebrews 13:20, 21

     This prayer contains a remarkable epitome of the entire epistle — an epistle to which every minister of the Gospel should devote special attention. Nothing else is so much needed today as expository sermons on the Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews: the former supplies that which is best suited to repel the legalism, antinomianism and Arminianism that are now so rife, while the latter refutes the cardinal errors of Rome and exposes the sacerdotal pretensions of her priests. It provides the Divine antidote to the poisonous spirit of ritualism that is now making such fatal inroads into so many sections of a decadent Protestantism. That which occupies the central portion in this vitally important and most blessed treatise is the priesthood of Christ, which embodies the substance of what was foreshadowed both in Melchizedek and Aaron. In the Book of Hebrews it is shown that His one perfect sacrifice has forever displaced the Levitical institutions and made an end of the whole Judaic system. That all-sufficient oblation of the Lord Jesus made complete atonement for the sins of His people, fully satisfying every legal claim that God’s Law had upon them, thereby rendering needless any efforts of theirs to placate Him. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). That is to say, Christ has infallibly, irrevocably set apart to the service of God those who have believed, and that by the excellence of His finished work.

          The Resurrection Declares God’s Acceptance of Christ’s Work

     God’s acceptance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice was demonstrated by His raising Christ from the dead and setting Him at the right hand of the Majesty on high. That which characterized Judaism was sin, death, and distance from God — the perpetual shedding of blood and the people shut out from the Divine presence. But that which marks Christianity is a risen and enthroned Savior, who has put away the sins of His people from before the face of God and has secured for them the right of access to Him. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness [liberty] to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22a). Thus we are encouraged to draw nigh to God with full confidence in the infinite merits of Christ’s blood and righteousness, depending entirely thereon. In his prayer, the apostle makes request that the whole of what he had set before them in the doctrinal part of the Epistle might be effectually applied to their hearts. In a brief but comprehensive sentence, Paul prays that there might be worked out in the lives of the redeemed Hebrews every grace and virtue to which he had exhorted them in the previous chapters. We shall consider the object, plea, request, and doxology of this benedictory invocation.

          The Divine Titles Invoked Discriminately

     “The God of peace” is the One to whom this prayer is directed. As I intimated in some of the chapters of my book called Gleanings from Paul: Studies in the Prayers of the Apostle, the various titles by which the apostles addressed the Deity were not used at random, but were chosen with spiritual discrimination. They were neither so poverty - stricken in language as to always supplicate God under the same name, nor were they so careless as to speak with Him under the first one that came to mind. Instead, in their approaches to Him they carefully singled out that attribute of the Divine nature, or that particular relationship that God sustains to His people, which most accorded with the specific blessing they sought. The same principle of discrimination appears in the Old Testament prayers. When holy men of old sought strength, they looked to the Mighty One. When they desired forgiveness, they appealed to “the multitude of his tender mercies.” When they cried for deliverance from their enemies, they pleaded His covenant faithfulness.

          The God of Peace

     I dwelt upon this title “the God of peace” in chapter 4 of Gleanings from Paul: Studies in the Prayers of the Apostle (pp. 41-46), but would like to explicate it further with several lines of thought.

     First, it is a distinctively Pauline title, since no other New Testament writer employs the expression. Its usage here is one of the many internal proofs that he was the penman of this Epistle. It occurs six times in his writings: Romans 15:33, and 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; and here in Hebrews 13:20; “the Lord of peace” is used once in 2 Thessalonians 3:16. It is therefore evident that Paul had a special delight in contemplating God in this particular character. And well he might, for it is an exceedingly blessed and comprehensive one; and for that reason I have done my best, according to the measure of light granted to me, to open its meaning. A little later I shall suggest why Paul, rather than any of the other of the apostles, coined this expression.

     Secondly, it is a forensic title, viewing God in His official character as Judge. It tells us that He is now reconciled to believers. It signifies that the enmity and strife that formerly existed between God and elect sinners is now ended. The previous hostility had been occasioned by man’s apostasy from his Maker and Lord. The entrance of sin into this world disrupted the harmony between heaven and earth, severed communion between God and man, and ushered in discord and strife. Sin evoked God’s righteous displeasure and called for His judicial action. Mutual alienation ensued; for a holy God cannot be at peace with sin, being “angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). But Divine wisdom had devised a way whereby rebels could be restored to His favor without the slightest diminution of His honor. Through the obedience and sufferings of Christ full reparation was made to the Law and peace was reestablished between God and sinners. By the gracious operations of God’s Spirit, the enmity that was in the hearts of His people is overcome, and they are brought into loyal subjection to Him. Thereby the discord has been removed and amity created.

     Thirdly, it is a restrictive title. God is “the God of peace” only to those who are savingly united to Christ, for there is now no condemnation to those who are in Him (Rom. 8:1). But the case is far different with those who refuse to bow to the scepter of the Lord Jesus and take shelter beneath His atoning blood. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). Notice that it is not that the sinner shall yet fall beneath God’s wrath of the Divine Law, but that he is already under it. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). Furthermore, by virtue of their federal relationship to Adam, all his descendants are “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), entering this world as the objects of God’s judicial displeasure. So far from being “the God of peace” to those who are out of Christ, “The LORD is a man of war” (Ex. 15:3). “He is terrible to the kings of the earth” (Ps. 76:12).

          “The God of Peace,” a Gospel Title

     Fourthly, this title, “the God of peace,” is therefore an evangelical one. The good news that His servants are commissioned to preach to every creature is designated “the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15). Most appropriately is it so named, for it sets forth the glorious Person of the Prince of peace and His all-sufficient work whereby He “made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). It is the business of the evangelist to explain how Christ did so, namely, by His entering into the awful breach that sin had made between God and men, and by having transferred to Himself the iniquities of all who should believe on Him, suffering the full penalty due those iniquities. When the Sinless One was made sin for His people, He came under the curse of the Law and the wrath of God. It is in accordance with His own eternal purpose of grace (Rev. 13:8) that God the Father declares, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow” (Zech. 13:7). Justice having been satisfied, God is now pacified; and all who are justified by faith “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Rom. 5:1).

     Fifthly, it is therefore a covenant title, for all that was transacted between God and Christ was according to everlasting stipulation. “And the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (Zech. 6:13). It had been eternally agreed that the good Shepherd should make complete satisfaction for the sins of His flock, reconciling God to them and them to God. That compact between God and the Surety of His elect is expressly denominated a “covenant of peace,” and the inviolability of the same appears in that blessed declaration, “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee” (Isa. 54:10). The shedding of Christ’s blood was the sealing or ratifying of that covenant, as Hebrews 13:20 goes on to intimate. In consequence thereof, the face of the Supreme Judge is wreathed in smiles of benignity as He beholds His people in His Anointed One.

     Sixthly, this title “the God of peace” is also a dispensational one, and as such, it had a special appeal for the one who so frequently employed it. Though a Jew by birth, and a Hebrew of the Hebrews by training, Paul was called of God to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). This fact may indicate the reason that this appellation, “the God of peace,” is peculiar to Paul; for, whereas the other apostles ministered and wrote principally to the Circumcision, Paul was preeminently the apostle to the Uncircumcision. Therefore he, more than any, would render adoration to God on account of the fact that peace was being preached to those who were afar off as well as to those who were nigh (Eph. 2:13-17). A special revelation was made to him concerning Christ: “For he is our peace, who hath made both [believing Jews and Gentiles] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [the ceremonial law, which under Judaism had divided them] between us;. . . for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace [between them]; And that he might reconcile both unto God” (Eph. 2:14-16, brackets mine). Thus, on account of his having received this special revelation, there was a particular propriety in the Apostle to the Gentiles addressing God by this title when making supplication for the Hebrews, just as there was when he employed it in prayer for the Gentiles.

     Lastly, this is a relative title. By this I mean that it is closely related to Christian experience. The saints are not only the subjects of that judicial peace which Christ made with God on their behalf, but they are also the partakers of Divine grace experientially. The measure of God’s peace that they enjoy is determined by the extent to which they are obedient to God, for piety and peace are inseparable. The intimate connection there is between the peace of God and the sanctifying of believers appears both in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and here in Hebrews 13:20, 21. For in each passage request is made for the promotion of practical holiness, and in each the “God of peace” is supplicated. When holiness reigned over the whole universe, peace prevailed also. There was no war in heaven until one of the chief of the angels became a devil, and fomented a rebellion against the thrice holy God. As sin brings strife and misery, so holiness begets peace of conscience. Holiness is well pleasing to God, and when He is well pleased all is peace. The more this prayer be pondered in detail, and as a whole, the more the appropriateness of its address will appear.


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


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5 Sermon On The Mount

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