Samson and DelilahJudges 16 1 Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2 The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3 But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.
4 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”
7 Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11 And he said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.
13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.
15 And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. 21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
The Death of Samson23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.
Micah and the LeviteJudges 17 1 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the Lord.” 3 And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” 4 So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained[a] one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
7 Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9 And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
Danites Take the Levite and the IdolJudges 18 1 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2 So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”
7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8 And when they came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9 They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10 As soon as you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”
11 So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12 and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.
14 Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. 16 Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. 18 And when these went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20 And the priest's heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.
21 So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and the goods in front of them. 22 When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23 And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26 Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.
27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30 And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up Micah's carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.
ESV Study Bible
How Can God Allow Horrific Evil Like School Shootings?
By J. Warner Wallace 3/12/2018
Unsurprisingly, our national conversation about gun violence intensifies following any well-publicized shooting or murder, especially if it occurs in a school or public setting. The recent massacre in Parkland, Florida, for example, leaves many of us searching for answers. As a Christian who happens to be a homicide detective, I’ve wrestled to understand how an all-powerful, all-loving God would allow the horrific evil I’ve observed over the years. Human free-will is an important part of the answer. If God exists and wants us to genuinely love one another, He must first allow us something dangerous: personal freedom. This kind of liberty is risky, because it must, by it’s very nature, also allow the freedom to do great harm. Human free agency is a double-edged knife, and each of us must decide how we will handle it responsibly.
So, as I talk with others about what happened in Parkland (or in any other recent shooting), I do my best to address the issues as both a detective and a Christian, balancing the relationship between our God-given freedoms and our civic responsibilities:
Our Freedoms and Responsibilities Related to Gun Possession | Many, in response to gun violence, are inclined to call for the elimination (or drastic restriction) of guns in our country. Others resist any such limitation. Once again, we must balance both our freedoms and our responsibilities. As a Christian, I believe deadly force can be properly justified, but as a detective (and a gun owner), I’ve seen this freedom abused. For this reason, I find myself asking measured questions: Who should be disqualified from gun ownership based on prior criminal behavior or mental illness? What forms of gun security (i.e. locks or safes) should be legally required? What kinds of consequences should be expected for people who allow their guns to fall into the hands of others (even their own kids)? As a Christian, I understand the importance of retaining the freedom to defend ourselves from evil, but as a detective I understand the responsibility that comes with such a liberty.
Our Freedoms and Responsibilities Related to Mental Illness | It doesn’t surprise me that authorities were aware of the killer in Parkland, even before he acted. This is often the case, given our national approach to mental illness. As a culture, we are hesitant to restrict people’s freedoms, and we lack the financial resources to do so, even if we wanted to. We have a system in place to house someone once he or she commits a crime, but far fewer options to house someone once they are declared mentally ill. In times like this, it’s easy to say that Parkland would never have occurred if the killer didn’t have access to guns. But it’s just as accurate to say that Parkland would never have occurred if the mentally ill killer had been institutionalized. As a Christian, I understand the need to freely love those who are struggling with mental illness, but as a detective I understand the responsibility we have to protect society from harm.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
You Must Fight Hard for Peace
By Jon Bloom 3/13/2018
The dove is a nearly universal symbol of peace. And a very appropriate one. Doves are beautiful, gentle, faithful creatures. They’re also, well, flighty creatures. It doesn’t take much to send a dove fluttering away. A harsh word, a rash gesture, and off she goes. If you want a dove to stay around, you have to be very careful how you speak and act. Which is a lot like what it takes to be at peace with other people.
The author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). His implication: peace — real, honest peace, not dysfunctional conflict avoidance — is hard to keep. How hard? Well, pursuing peace fits into the list of hard things he groups around this statement:
- It’s hard like lifting drooping hands and strengthening weak knees when you’re tired and discouraged (Hebrews 12:12).
- It’s hard like continuing to walk when your leg is injured (Hebrews 12:13).
- It’s hard like living in a holiness that evidences the reality of your faith even though your indwelling sin continually tries to derail you into unholy passions (Hebrews 12:14).
- It’s hard like not allowing the constant barrage of deceitful sin to harden our hearts and lead us away from God into apostasy (Hebrews 3:12–13), which is what the writer means by being defiled by a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15, quoting Deuteronomy 29:18).
- It’s hard like the constant vigilance required to remain sexually pure (Hebrews 12:16).
Striving for peace with everyone is hard, like all aspects of the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). It’s spiritual warfare. Peace will always be attacked, and we have to do everything we can to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13) and live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18). It’s a great kingdom irony that we must fight hard for peace.
“Persecute” Conflict | The Greek word translated as “strive for” in Hebrews 12:14 is diōkō. It’s a strong word — stronger than modern English speakers typically mean when say “strive.” Versions of diōkō are used many times in the New Testament. Here are a few familiar examples (in italics):
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.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
What’s So Funny about Easter?
By Glen Scrivener 3/13/2018
You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a . . . wedding. ― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything
What is life, a tragedy or a comedy?
I’m not asking whether life is a barrel of laughs. We all know it’s not. “Comedy” and “tragedy” have particular meanings. In literature, “comedy” and “tragedy” refer to the shape of a story, not so much its content or even its tone.
Shakespeare’s tragedies, for instance, were full of jokes. Or at least that’s what our English teachers told us at school. If we’re honest, we probably hadn’t noticed the gags—I hadn’t anyway. When the alleged “humor” was pointed out I dutifully said, “Oh,” and wrote in my exercise book: Hamlet is making a joke, apparently.
Frown or Smile? | Tragedies can have jokes, and comedies can have heartache. In fact, much of comedy depends on the banana-peel moment, the pompous being brought down a peg or two, or the grand farce where everything falls apart. Tragedies contain joy, comedies contain pain, but the distinguishing mark of each is the ending. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy the bodies are piled up on the stage. At the end of a Shakespearean comedy—in all 14 of them, in fact—there is a wedding. Or four.
To help fix it in your mind, think of it this way: a comedy is shaped like a smile. You go down then up—descending into darkness before rising up to joy. A tragedy, on the other hand, is shaped like a frown—up then down. You climb to prosperity then tumble into the pit.
So then, now that we’ve clarified the question, let me ask it again: What is life, a tragedy or a comedy?
Life as a Tragedy | Tragedy, surely! That’s what professor Lawrence Krauss would tell us:
"The picture that science presents to us is . . . uncomfortable. Because what we have learned is that we are more insignificant than we ever could have imagined. . . . And in addition it turns out that the future is miserable."
Glen Scrivener is an evangelist and author of several books, including Four Kinds of Christmas: Which Are You?. Glen also directs the charity Speak Life, which released a four-episode evangelistic mini-film, Meet the Nativity, in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2017.
3 2 1: The Story of God, the World and You
Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community: Statistics for 1996 to 2006 England
Prescription Cost Analysis: 2006
The King's English Year Long Devotional
King's English: October - December
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The King's English: July - September
The Moment of Truth: Its Rejection
By Steven J. Lawson 3/7/2018
Today, it is often said, “I have my truth, and you have your truth.” Our generation likes to deny absolute truth, saying that something can be true for one person but not true for someone else. This view is not new. In John 18, our Lord stood trial before Pilate. It was the day before His crucifixion, and He would soon be sentenced to death. But before Pilate gives the final verdict, we read this conversation:
(Jn 18:36–38) 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” ESV
Pilate, standing before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate, voices an age-old question. But it is not an honest question from one searching to know the truth. Rather, it is a defiant denunciation of the truth. It is spoken with a tone of derision. It is dismissive. It is spoken with contempt. This response is asserted mockingly by Pilate. It is a disparaging chide, dripping with sarcasm. It is a caustic rebuttal, intended to belittle the notion that there is any such thing in this world as a truth claim. This is a barbed jab by Pilate into the ribs of the Lord Jesus Christ, meant to deflate Him and denigrate any notion that Jesus could claim to know and speak the truth. Pilate objects to the very idea of an exclusive truth claim.
This question has echoed down the centuries and corridors of time, and it is growing louder and louder today. In this very generation in which we live, we hear this malignant mantra: “What is truth?”
The spirit of Pilate lives in our day. The spirit of Pilate is alive and well on college campuses. It sits in the halls of our government and legislates our moral code. It reigns in our media. It teaches in many of our seminaries. It stands in pulpits today. We live in a culture that is defiant of any notion of truth. We live in a day that not only denies truth, but is against truth. This is an age that is tolerant of anything and anyone except one who claims to know the truth.
In this blog series, we will examine these verses that contain this exchange between Pilate and Jesus in John 18. We will learn some key distinguishing marks related to truth: first, the rejection of the truth; second, the reality of the truth; and third, the reception of the truth.
What Is Truth? | We are surrounded on every side in this culture by the question “What is truth?” This is really the mother of all sins. It is a deliberate setting aside and an intentional rejection of the truth of God.
This is the way it was in the very beginning. In Genesis 3, Satan the serpent slithered on to the pages of human history, and he came to launch an attack on the truth. He said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan knew very well what God had said, but he came to call God’s words into question—to dismiss the truth of God. The original sin was a rejection of the truth—a rejection of God’s way. Man chose to go his own way, to decide for himself what is true, to make his own choices in defiance of the truth.
Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.
Steven Lawson | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 33The Steadfast Love of the LORD
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Our Secular Theodicy
By Matthew Rose 11/7/2017
I live in Berkeley, one of the most religious cities in America. Its churches are being converted into mosques and Buddhist temples, but its one true faith endures. A popular yard sign states its creed: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, and Kindness is Everything.” The sign is both profession and prophecy. Like the biblical Joshua whose promise it echoes (“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”), my neighbors are in a holy vanguard. They have seen the future America, have identified its present enemies, and are leading us into a promised land.
The biblical politics of my secular neighbors would not have been lost on Ernst Bloch. Bloch was an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory. For the moment you will have to take my word that this can make sense and that it is worth the modest effort to understand how. You would be within your rights to be skeptical. No doctrine has been refuted so often as Marxism, and the debates that consumed Bloch’s long life are dead. Yet the utopian spirit to which he gave original, sometimes brilliant, and more often bizarre expression has never been more alive, and to visit his work is to witness a moment when Christian faith began to transmute itself into the progressive creeds of today.
In a series of books beginning in 1918 and ending shortly before his death in 1977, Bloch proposed that the central category for understanding politics is eschatology—our anticipation of a future society that will reveal the meaning of human history and redeem its fallen state. He named this kingdom “utopia” and argued that its arrival is the object of every human hope and the justification of every human suffering. Bloch lived under Hitler, Vichy, and the gaze of Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist leader of East Germany, making his work an anguished commentary on the darkest moments of the twentieth century. But his millennial hopes, expressed in critical dialogue with Christian theology, continue to inspire many.
Bloch is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history. It sees human history as goal-oriented and our advancement as a series of conversions and liberations, the outcome of which is the creation of a community that can redeem our fallen history. Bloch appreciated, as deeply as any modern thinker, that this is not a secular understanding of time. It is a biblical story, told in the misleading language of progressive politics. But how can history have a moral direction at all? And how did Christianity come to be placed on the wrong side of it? Bloch offers a fascinating explanation of this theological reversal, showing us how a politics Christian in origin could become anti-Christian in intention.
The Principle of Hope, Vol. 1 (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) is the greatest defense of Marxism ever attempted. Bloch wrote it during a decadelong exile in New York and Cambridge, completing it shortly before accepting a university appointment at Leipzig in 1948. It is, by unanimous consent, a repellently written book, composed of three volumes and 1,500 punishing pages of Marxist analysis. I do not casually recommend reading it. But for those with a tolerance for inscrutable syntax, opaque jokes, and clumsy neologisms, it is a work of extraordinary ambition.
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Roots in the Pepsi Generation
By R.C. Sproul 5/1977
The column’s title, “Right Now – Counts Forever” is designed to focus attention on the relevancy of our present lives to the eternal destinies we all face. We live in a culture that places the stress on “Right Now.” It’s called the “Pepsi Generation”—we are told to live life with “gusto” because we “only go around once.” Short range goals, pragmatic methods of problem solving, a quiet hysteria to make it happen “now,” all point to modern man’s despair regarding the future. The unspoken assumption is that it’s “now or never” because there is no ultimate future for mankind.
Our Christian assertion is that there is more to our lives than “now.” If there is not, then even the now is meaningless. But we say now counts. Why? Now counts because we are creatures who have an origin and a destiny which is rooted and grounded in God.
Did I say “rooted?” Why is that word so important? Recently we’ve experienced a cultural phenomenon of epic proportions. The televised drama, Roots has already had a shaking effect on our people. Can we explain the national reaction to Kunta Kinte and “Chicken George” merely in terms of our raw feeling of years of racial strife? I don’t think so. Neither does Alex Haley. Roots typifies a problem that transcends race. It is the problem of identity for all of modern man. Who am I?
The question of identity can never be answered merely in terms of the present. To know who I am involves a discovery of my past (my origin) and at least a glimpse of my future (my destiny). If I am a cosmic accident springing from the dust and destined for more dust then I am nothing. I am a joke… a tale told by an idiot. But if my ultimate roots are grounded in eternity and my destiny is anchored in that same eternity, then I know something of who I am. I know I am a creature of eternal significance. If that’s so then my life counts. What I do today counts forever. Now, the now means something.
Roots stirred us deeply because it provoked the hope that if we go back far enough we might find continuity and stability. Roots had its messiah figure in Chicken George. The program went through an entire episode with Chicken George never visibly present. Yet his “invisible presence” permeated every scene. I have never seen a television production where a character was so obviously present while not appearing on the screen. When George did appear he led his family in a new exodus to a new land of promise. Roots looked backward and forward in such a way as to give the present meaning.
As T.V. treated us to Roots so Hollywood has treated us to Rocky—this film has captured the public imagination in a fresh way. Perhaps it represents merely an exercise in nostalgia, a throwback to Frank Merriwell and the original happy ending. Or perhaps it represents a protest to the age of the anti-hero and the story line of chaos that characterizes modern filmdom. Whatever the motive the movie reflects not in the Cinderella motif but the portrayal of human sensitivity displayed in Rocky’s mercy as a bill collector for the loan shark and his tenderness on the ice rink.
Applaudable warmth is seen in Rocky’s “Lennie-like” love for animals and wayward teenagers and his sentiment for his manager. The fruit of discipline, endurance, and devotion to dignity are actually cast in roles of virtue. Rocky worked and fought not for a momentary prize but for a stand of valor that lasts.
Maybe Rocky is a milestone. Maybe we are beginning to see there is more to life than Pepsi-Cola. It’s not now or never, but now and forever. Right now counts. It counts… for eternity.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
HOW TO USE THE PRESENT LIFE, AND THE COMFORTS OF IT.
The divisions of this chapter are, I. The necessity and usefulness of this doctrine. Extremes to be avoided, if we would rightly use the present life and its comforts, sec. 1, 2. II. One of these extremes--viz. the intemperance of the flesh--to be carefully avoided. Four methods of doing so described in order, sec. 3-6.
1. Necessity of this doctrine. Use of the goods of the present life. Extremes to be avoided. 1. Excessive austerity. 2. Carnal intemperance and lasciviousness.
2. God, by creating so many mercies, consulted not only for our necessities, but also for our comfort and delight. Confirmation from a passage in the Psalms, and from experience.
3. Excessive austerity, therefore, to be avoided. So also must the wantonness of the flesh. 1. The creatures invite us to know, love, and honour the Creator. 2. This not done by the wicked, who only abuse these temporal mercies.
4. All earthly blessings to be despised in comparison of the heavenly life. Aspiration after this life destroyed by an excessive love of created objects. First, Intemperance.
5. Second, Impatience and immoderate desire. Remedy of these evils. The creatures assigned to our use. Man still accountable for the use he makes of them.
6. God requires us in all our actions to look to his calling. Use of this doctrine. It is full of comfort.
1. By such rudiments we are at the same time well instructed by Scripture in the proper use of earthly blessings, a subject which, in forming a scheme of life, is by no mean to be neglected. For if we are to live, we must use the necessary supports of life; nor can we even shun those things which seem more subservient to delight than to necessity. We must therefore observe a mean, that we may use them with a pure conscience, whether for necessity or for pleasure. This the Lord prescribes by his word, when he tells us that to his people the present life is a kind of pilgrimage by which they hasten to the heavenly kingdom. If we are only to pass through the earth, there can be no doubt that we are to use its blessings only in so far as they assist our progress, rather than retard it. Accordingly, Paul, not without cause, admonishes us to use this world without abusing it, and to buy possessions as if we were selling them (1 Cor. 7:30, 31). But as this is a slippery place, and there is great danger of falling on either side, let us fix our feet where we can stand safely. There have been some good and holy men who, when they saw intemperance and luxury perpetually carried to excess, if not strictly curbed, and were desirous to correct so pernicious an evil, imagined that there was no other method than to allow man to use corporeal goods only in so far as they were necessaries: a counsel pious indeed, but unnecessarily austere; for it does the very dangerous thing of binding consciences in closer fetters than those in which they are bound by the word of God. Moreover, necessity, according to them,  was abstinence from every thing which could be wanted, so that they held it scarcely lawful to make any addition to bread and water. Others were still more austere, as is related of Cratetes the Theban, who threw his riches into the sea, because he thought, that unless he destroyed them they would destroy him. Many also in the present day, while they seek a pretext for carnal intemperance in the use of external things, and at the same time would pave the way for licentiousness, assume for granted, what I by no means concede, that this liberty is not to be restrained by any modification, but that it is to be left to every man's conscience to use them as far as he thinks lawful. I indeed confess that here consciences neither can nor ought to be bound by fixed and definite laws; but that Scripture having laid down general rules for the legitimate uses we should keep within the limits which they prescribe.
2. Let this be our principle, that we err not in the use of the gifts of Providence when we refer them to the end for which their author made and destined them, since he created them for our good, and not for our destruction. No man will keep the true path better than he who shall have this end carefully in view. Now then, if we consider for what end he created food, we shall find that he consulted not only for our necessity, but also for our enjoyment and delight. Thus, in clothing, the end was, in addition to necessity, comeliness and honour; and in herbs, fruits, and trees, besides their various uses, gracefulness of appearance and sweetness of smell. Were it not so, the Prophet would not enumerate among the mercies of God "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine," (Ps. 104:15). The Scriptures would not everywhere mention, in commendation of his benignity, that he had given such things to men. The natural qualities of things themselves demonstrate to what end, and how far, they may be lawfully enjoyed. Has the Lord adorned flowers with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the eye, and the sweet odour which delights the sense of smell, and shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odour? What? Has he not so distinguished colours as to make some more agreeable than others? Has he not given qualities to gold and silver, ivory and marble, thereby rendering them precious above other metals or stones? In short, has he not given many things a value without having any necessary use?
3. Have done, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, in allowing no use of the creatures but for necessity, not only maliciously deprives us of the lawful fruit of the divine beneficence, but cannot be realised without depriving man of all his senses, and reducing him to a block. But, on the other hand, let us with no less care guard against the lusts of the flesh, which, if not kept in order, break through all bounds, and are, as I have said, advocated by those who, under pretence of liberty, allow themselves every sort of license. First one restraint is imposed when we hold that the object of creating all things was to teach us to know their author, and feel grateful for his indulgence. Where is the gratitude if you so gorge or stupify yourself with feasting and wine as to be unfit for offices of piety, or the duties of your calling? Where the recognition of God, if the flesh, boiling forth in lust through excessive indulgences infects the mind with its impurity, so as to lose the discernment of honour and rectitude? Where thankfulness to God for clothing, if on account of sumptuous raiment we both admire ourselves and disdain others? if, from a love of show and splendour, we pave the way for immodesty? Where our recognition of God, if the glare of these things captivates our minds? For many are so devoted to luxury in all their senses that their mind lies buried: many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures, that they become marble-hearted--are changed as it were into metal, and made like painted figures. The kitchen, with its savoury smells, so engrosses them that they have no spiritual savour. The same thing may be seen in other matters. Wherefore, it is plain that there is here great necessity for curbing licentious abuse, and conforming to the rule of Paul, "make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof," (Rom. 13:14). Where too much liberty is given to them, they break forth without measure or restraint.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 4 The Vision By The River Of UlaiOne point of contrast with the prophecy of the fourth Gentile kingdom demands a very emphatic notice. The vision of Alexander's reign, followed by the fourfold division of his empire, suggests a rapid sequence of events, and the history of the three-and-thirty years that intervened between the battles of Issus and of Ipsus  comprises the full realization of the prophecy. But the rise of the ten horns upon the fourth beast in the vision of the seventh chapter, appears to lie within as brief a period as was the rise of the four horns upon the goat in the eighth chapter; whereas it is plain upon the pages of history that this tenfold division of the Roman empire has never yet taken place. A definite date may be assigned to the advent of the first three kingdoms of prophecy; and if the date of the battle of Actium be taken as the epoch of the hybrid monster which filled the closing scenes of the prophet's vision — and no later date will be assigned to it — it follows that in interpreting the prophecy, we may eliminate the history of the world from the time of Augustus to the present hour, without losing the sequence of the vision.  Or in other words, the prophet's glance into the future entirely overlooked these nineteen centuries of our era. As when mountain peaks stand out together on the horizon, seeming almost to touch, albeit a wide expanse of river and field and hill may lie between, so there loomed upon the prophet's vision these events of times now long gone by, and times still future.
 It was the battle of Issus in B. C. 333, not the victory of Granicus in the preceding year, which made Alexander master of Palestine. The decisive battle which brought the Persian empire to an end, was at Arbela in B. C. 331. Alexander died B. C. 323, and the definite distribution of his territories among his four chief generals, followed the battle of Ipsus B. C. 301. In this partition Seleucus's share included Syria ("the king of the north"), and Ptolemy held the Holy Land with Egypt ("the king of the south"); but Palestine afterwards was conquered and held by the Seleucidae. Cassander had Macedon and Greece; and Lysimachus had Thrace, part of Bithynia, and the territories intervening between these and the Meander.
 The same remark applies to the vision of the second chapter, the rise of the Roman empire, its future division, and its final doom, being presented at a single view.And with the New Testament in our hands, it would betray strange and willful ignorance if we doubted the deliberate design which has left this long interval of our Christian era a blank in Daniel's prophecies. The more explicit revelation of the ninth chapter, measures out the years before the first advent of Messiah. But if these nineteen centuries had been added to the chronology of the period to intervene before the promised kingdom could be ushered in, how could the Lord have taken up the testimony to the near fulfillment of these very prophecies, and have proclaimed that the kingdom was at hand?  He who knows all hearts, knew well the issue; but the thought is impious that the proclamation was not genuine and true in the strictest sense; and it would have been deceptive and untrue had prophecy foretold a long interval of Israel's rejection before the promise could be realized.
 i. e., the kingdom as Daniel had prophesied of it. On this see Pusey, Daniel, p. 84.Therefore it is that the two advents of Christ are brought seemingly together in Old Testament Scriptures. The surface currents of human responsibility and human guilt are unaffected by the changeless and deep-lying tide of the fore-knowledge and sovereignty of God. Their responsibility was real, and their guilt was without excuse, who rejected their long-promised King and Savior. They were not the victims of an inexorable fate which dragged them to their doom, but free agents who used their freedom to crucify the Lord of Glory. "His blood be on us and on our children," was their terrible, impious cry before the judgment-seat of Pilate, and for eighteen centuries their judgment has been meted out to them, to reach its appalling climax on the advent of the "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." 
 Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21. To discuss what would have been the course of events had the Jews accepted Christ is mere levity. But it is legitimate to inquire how the believing Jew, intelligent in the prophecies, could have expected the kingdom, seeing that the tenfold division of the Roman empire and the rise of the "little horn" had to take place first. The difficulty will disappear if we notice how suddenly the Grecian empire was dismembered on Alexander's death. In like manner, the death of Tiberius might have led to the immediate disruption of the territories of Rome, and the rise of the predicted persecutor. In a word, all that remained unfulfilled of Daniel's prophecy might have been fulfilled in the years which had still to run of the seventy weeks.Daniel 12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. ESV
Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. ESV
These visions were full of mystery to Daniel, and filled the old prophet's mind with troubled thoughts. (Daniel 7:28; 8:27) A long vista of events seemed thus to intervene before the realization of the promised blessings to his nation, and yet these very revelations made those blessings still more sure. Ere long he witnessed the crash of the Babylonian power, and saw a stranger enthroned within the broad-walled city. But the change brought no hope to Judah. Daniel was restored, indeed, to the place of power and dignity which he had held so long under Nebuchadnezzar, (Daniel 2:48; 6:2) but he was none the less an exile; his people were in captivity, their city lay in ruins, and their land was a wilderness. And the mystery was only deepened when he turned to Jeremiah's prophecy, which fixed at seventy years the destined era of "the desolations of Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:2) So "by prayer and supplications, with fastings, and sackcloth and ashes," he cast himself on God; as a prince among his people, confessing their national apostasy, and pleading for their restoration and forgiveness. And who can read that prayer unmoved?
Daniel 7:28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.” ESV
Daniel 8:27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. ESV
Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. ESV
Daniel 6:2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. ESV
Daniel 9: 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. ESV
Daniel 9:16-19 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.
While Daniel was thus "speaking in prayer' Gabriel once more appeared to him, (Daniel 9:21, See chap. 8:16.) that same angel messenger who heralded in after times the Savior's birth in Bethlehem, — and in answer to his supplication, delivered to the prophet the great prediction of the seventy weeks.
Daniel 9:21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. ESV
Daniel 8:16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” ESV
The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
9/2006 Worldly Standards
I was asked recently what my favorite sports and hobbies are. My reply was simple: My favorite sports are hunting, fishing, and eating, and similarly, my favorite hobbies are talking about hunting, fishing, and eating. Although my abilities to hunt and fish will take a lifetime to refine, I have already perfected the art of eating. And having always had a keen interest in the social and psychological sciences, I could easily add the sport of people-watching to my list of favorites. I am simply fascinated by people — the way people dress, how people communicate, and what people do.
Several years ago, while patiently sitting in a shopping mall studying those passing by, one young man in particular caught my attention. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His pants were falling down and dragging on the floor, and he was carefully adorned with several types of chains. What caught my attention, however, was not his typical teen-age, “grunge” attire; rather, it was his hair. It seems that in order to make it appear that he did not care about his appearance and his hair, he styled his hair to make it look messy. It was most probable that he used more than a bottle of hair spray and spent far more time in front of a mirror than a man should in order to make it look like he didn’t care about his hair. All this seemed to be one rebellious young man’s attempt to demonstrate to the world that he didn’t care, to show that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a mediocre appearance.
This same attitude pervades our culture. We see it everywhere, within the realms of music and art, architecture, and business. In just about every sphere of life, our culture has become addicted to mediocrity. In fact, in some ways it has become the popular thing to lower our standards of excellence. Arrogant apathy and proud mediocrity have become the hallmarks of our postmodern society. But what is most confounding is how the church has lowered its standards of excellence in order to win the affections of the world. Many churches have dressed themselves in the culture’s attire in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the world. However, in their attempt to win the world’s approval by lowering their standards, many churches have left behind the unchanging standards of the Word of God. If we seek to live with the highest standard of excellence before the face of God, coram Deo, we must remember that He has set the standard, for it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being — for His glory. Acts 17:28
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Rufus King was born this day, March 24, 1755. He was one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution, Minister to England; and a Senator from New York. A Harvard graduate, he was aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. At 32 years old, Rufus King was one of the youngest delegates at the Constitutional Convention. In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, Rufus King stated: “I hold that all laws… imposing… [slavery] upon any human being are absolutely void because [they are] contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Don't join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.
--- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Especially for CHRISTIANS: Powerful Thought-Provoking Words from the Past
Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the pastorate. (We must resolve that) we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the Word.
--- G. Campbell Morgan
The Ministry of The Word
We make a living by what we get,
we make a life by what we give.
--- Sir Winston Churchill
Churchill: A Life
Nobody is stronger, nobody is weaker than someone who came back. There is nothing you can do to such a person because whatever you could do is less than what has already been done to him. We have already paid the price.
--- Elie Wiesel
Conversations with Elie Wiesel
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Twenty-fifth of ninth month, 1764. -- At our Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia this day, John Smith, of Marlborough, aged upwards of eighty years, a faithful minister, though not eloquent, stood up in our meeting of ministers and elders, and, appearing to be under a great exercise of spirit, informed Friends in substance as follows: "That he had been a member of our Society upwards of sixty years, and he well remembered, that, in those early times, Friends were a plain, lowly-minded people, and that there was much tenderness and contrition in their meetings. That, at twenty years from that time, the Society increasing in wealth and in some degree conforming to the fashions of the world, true humility was less apparent, and their meetings in general were not so lively and edifying. That at the end of forty years many of them were grown very rich, and many of the Society made a specious appearance in the world; that wearing fine costly garments, and using silver and other watches, became customary with them, their sons, and their daughters. These marks of outward wealth and greatness appeared on some in our meetings of ministers and elders; and, as such things became more prevalent, so the powerful overshadowings of the Holy Ghost were less manifest in the Society. That there had been a continued increase of such ways of life, even until the present time; and that the weakness which hath now overspread the Society and the barrenness manifest among us is matter of much sorrow." He then mentioned the uncertainty of his attending these meetings in future, expecting his dissolution was near; and, having tenderly expressed his concern for us, signified that he had seen in the true light that the Lord would bring back his people from these things, into which they were thus degenerated, but that his faithful servants must go through great and heavy exercises.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy--our will and our thoughts about the work--is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Spirit! Let us make confession. But as we confess the state of the Church and the feebleness and sinfulness of work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.
I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about the "cruel" thought of separation and death. But you do not think that, do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This: death was the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting glory. Do you love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and not like Him? Let death be to you the most desirable thing on earth--death to self, and fellowship with Christ. Separation--do you think it a hard thing to be called to be entirely free from the world, and by that separation to be united to God and His love, by separation to become prepared for living and walking with God every day? Surely one ought to say:
"Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full fellowship with God and Christ."
Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ--Christ crucified and risen and living in glory--into your heart.
I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.
10 Insolence produces only strife,
but wisdom is found with those who take advice.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Dr. David Wells
With respect to the ideas about the individual, we will begin with the Protestant Reformation and note how its views were mediated on these shores by the Puritans. Subsequently, there emerged a new kind of individuality with a doctrine that was not Christian at all, having arisen, instead, from the Enlightenment. Each source, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, has produced its own kind of individualism. As a rough generalization, we might say that Reformation individualism produces people whose life choices and values have a seriousness and intensity about them that reflect their recognition of an ultimate, divine accountability. It is this sense of a moral universe presided over by God that drives this individualism to eschew all competing authorities, including those of the state, the Church, and, most importantly, the self.
The individualism from the Enlightenment may have superficial similarities to that from the Reformation, but its form of accountability is actually quite different. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century deists may have believed in an ultimate judgment, but in the twentieth century that sense has faded. The modern children of the Enlightenment have themselves taken God's place. It is to ourselves that we are now accountable. It is because of a sense of self-interest, or self-duty, that we decline to relinquish decisions to others such as the state or the Church — an attitude reflected in the popular assertion that "you have a duty to yourself" to do this or that.
These two streams of thinking have both contributed to the American experience, and at times they have had common interests, differently justified as those might have been. They managed to make common cause in the Revolution, for example. But in other instances they have sharply diverged, as in the current struggle over abortion: Reformation individualism refuses to snuff out the life of an unborn child on the grounds that such an act would be morally reprehensible before God, but Enlightenment individualism suffers few qualms in doing so on the grounds that duty to the self and to personal convenience is the central, overriding consideration.
It is important to realize, however, that human beings are not simply storage facilities for ideas. They are social beings who are in constant communication with their social environment, and this is the other part of the amalgam from which modern individualism has emerged. Indeed, ideas sometimes have an appeal precisely because the social environment makes them seem plausible, makes them seem the "obvious" way to look at life. That being so, it is quite inadequate to look merely at the intellectual sources of modern individualism if we are to understand why modern Americans act as they do.
What, in fact, has happened is that the stream of individualism that flows beneath the surface of American life has had to turn in on itself because of one of the inescapable consequences of modernization — alienation. This is what really differentiates the early individualism of the eighteenth century from its contemporary, secular expression. Today, people increasingly find that they are unable to forge and hold meaningful connections in the outer world, whether in their work, their community, their family, their nation, or their past. Modernity obliges us to turn inward, to relocate the sources of our satisfaction and fulfillment from these connections in the outer world to sources within our selves. Modernity obliges us to psychologize life, to look to the states and vagaries of the self for the reality that was once external. For the most part, evangelicals have failed to see that this shift from the objective to the subjective, this new fascination with the self, is invariably inimical to biblical and historical faith. Robert Nisbet has argued that this self-absorption, which has been passed off by many as the very essence of evangelical faith, is in fact one of the most telling indications of our cultural decay. He quotes Goethe's comment that "ages which are regressive and in process of dissolution are always subjective, whereas the trend in all progressive epochs is objective."
The subjective obsession that also confronts us in religious dress (as is often the case in evangelicalism) sometimes appears in dress that is quite irreligious. Whatever the garb, however, it exhibits the same underlying mentality, the same habits of mind, the same assumption that reality can be accessed only through the self (and by intuition rather than by thought), the same belief that we can attain virtually unlimited personal progress if only we can tap into our own hidden resources. This fascination with the self, made bright with hope by the belief in progress, has proved to be a gold mine for the publishers. In the overall religious book market today, 31 percent of all books sold fall into the inspirational and motivational category, and a further 15 percent work these same themes from a New Age angle.
There is, of course, a certain affinity between the Enlightenment vision of the human being at the center of reality, fashioning the world in better and more pleasing ways, and this new modern person who looks for reality only in the self. The modern, self-absorbed individualist is in continuity with the Enlightenment ideal but, in most cases, is not the direct product of the Enlightenment. This person is also the product of the modernization that has been brought about by market economies, technology, urbanization, bureaucracies, and mass communication. The collective effect of these products of modernization — modernity — has coalesced with Enlightenment ideals to produce the new individualist: the Enlightenment posits ultimate authority in the self, and modernity severs the self from any meaningful connections outside itself. Thus, the inward and outward environment become as one; they depend on and reinforce each other.
This confluence of thought and social environment has produced great turbulence and disorder in the modern psyche. It has reshaped the modern understanding of who people are, how they gain access to reality, and how they should govern their behavior. These are themes to which we will return shortly. Before that, though, we need to consider the Protestant Reformation in order to see how its understanding of the individual has been transformed over time to the extent that only a perverted version has survived in contemporary evangelicalism.
What was revolutionary about the Protestant Reformers was their insistence that God is not savingly known through created nature as paganism had proposed, or through human nature as the medieval mystics had thought (and some evangelicals now think), or through the Church and its sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church taught, but directly, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the biblical Word, the internal and supernatural work of the Spirit creating the spiritual climate in which Scripture might be received. The Reformers rejected all assertions that there are channels of saving grace in nature, human nature, or the Church. They held that there are no intermediaries between God and the sinner save for Christ himself, and they insisted that this unique role could not be usurped without destroying the faith that claimed his name. Christ's role is a sine qua non, they argued, because the judgment of God on the one side and human corruption on the other have produced a double alienation with which he alone can deal. Only through Christ is God's wrath turned aside and human disaffection from God and his rule replaced by a submissive affection.
There are combined in this conception two ideas that it has proved exceedingly difficult to maintain in union: human dignity and human depravity. The Reformers argued for the possibility, based on the image of God and the Spirit's re-creation of that image, of an individual knowledge of God.6 In this consists our dignity. Modern individualism really arises from this, from the sense that it is the individual who must decide life's ultimate questions and that neither the state nor the Church can legitimately encroach upon this preserve, though each has a Godintended role. At the same time, however, the Reformers professed a belief in human depravity, the corruption of the whole of human nature in all of its parts, which meant not only that no one can know God apart from his sovereign work of grace but also that no assertions about the human knowledge of God are beyond criticism. The Reformers were always conscious of the ease with which people slip into ways of thinking or behaving that need to be reformed afresh, and so they were always suspicious of the human enterprise, not least in its religious aspects. They maintained a deep reserve about the self, about the reliability of human reasoning (Luther referred to reason as the devil's whore), about human feelings and perceptions — a reserve that is conspicuous by its absence in evangelical thought and practice today. The Reformers held that human beings should be loved but, because they are sinners, they ought not to be blindly trusted. And they granted that personal experience is powerful because it is intense, but they insisted that we should not allow this power to delude us into thinking that experience is always right. They hammered out an abiding distinction between what is true and what personal experience insists is true in a series of stiff encounters with various Anabaptists.
No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
‘What was it like?’
‘Not worth looking at. They’re all advertisement stunts. All run by the same people. There’s a combine, you know, a World Combine, that just takes an Atlas and decides where they’ll have a Sight. Doesn’t matter what they choose: anything’ll do as long as the publicity’s properly managed.’
‘And you’ve lived—er—down there—in the Town—for some time?’
‘In what they call Hell? Yes. It’s a flop too. They lead you to expect red fire and devils and all sorts of interesting people sizzling on grids—Henry VIII and all that—but when you get there it’s just like any other town.’
‘I prefer it up here,’ said I.
‘Well, I don’t see what all the talk is about,’ said the Hard-Bitten Ghost. ‘It’s as good as any other park to look at, and darned uncomfortable.’
‘There seems to be some idea that if one stays here one would get—well, solider—grow acclimatised.’
‘I know all about that,’ said the Ghost. ‘Same old lie. People have been telling me that sort of thing all my life. They told me in the nursery that if I were good I’d be happy. And they told me at school that Latin would get easier as I went on. After I’d been married a month some fool was telling me that there were always difficulties at first, but with Tact and Patience I’d soon “settle down” and like it! And all through two wars what didn’t they say about the good time coming if only I’d be a brave boy and go on being shot at? Of course they’ll play the old game here if anyone’s fool enough to listen.’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Decreasing into his purpose
He must increase, but I must decrease. --- John 3:30.
If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order. As a worker, your great responsibility is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. When once you see a soul in sight of the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been in the right direction, and instead of putting out a hand to prevent the throes, pray that they grow ten times stronger until there is no power on earth or in hell that can hold that soul away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we become amateur providences; we come in and prevent God, and say—‘This and that must not be.’ Instead of proving friends of the Bridegroom, we put our sympathy in the way, and the soul will one day say—‘That one was a thief, he stole my affections from Jesus, and I lost my vision of Him.’
Beware of rejoicing with a soul in the wrong thing, but see that you do rejoice in the right thing. “The friend of the Bridegroom … rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is spoken with joy and not with sadness—at last they are to see the Bridegroom! And John says this is his joy. It is the absolute effacement of the worker, he is never thought of again.
Watch for all you are worth until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another. Never mind what havoc it brings, what upsets, what crumblings of health, rejoice with divine hilarity when once His voice is heard. You may often see Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it. (Cf. Matt. 10:34.)
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Careers (Not That He Brought Flowers)
most of them taken in
growing or in the
illusion of it--what does the mem-
ory number as one's
property? The broken elbow?
the lost toy? The pain has
vanished, but the soft flesh
that suffered it is mine still.
There is a house with
a face mooning at the glass
of windows. Those eyes - I look
at not with them, but something of
their melancholy I
begin to lay claim to as my own.
A boy in school:
his lessons are
my lessons, his
punishments I learn to deserve.
I stand up in him,
tall as I am
now, but without per-
spective. Distant objects
are too distant, yet will arrive
soon. How his words
muddle me; how my deeds
betray him. That is not
our intention; but where I should
be one with him, I am one now
with another. Before I had time
to complete myself, I let her share
in the building. This that I am
now - too many
labourers. What is mine is
not mine only: her love, her
child wait for my slow
signature. Son, from the mirror
you hold to me I turn
to recriminate. That likeness
you are at work upon - it hurts.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Lost Rest: Hebrews 3:7–11
This New Testament passage is a divine commentary on the event we have just reviewed. Hebrews 3 also contains one of the clearest explanations of our personal responsibility to God today.
The writer of this passage quotes from Psalm 95:7–11,
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
that today you would listen to his voice!
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof,
though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people
whose hearts go astray,
and they do not regard my ways.”
Therefore in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
which focuses on the attitude of the Israelites who came out of Egypt. Their hearts were hardened against God, and they were “always going astray.” But for us:
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me and for 40 years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.” So I declared on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”
The Teacher's Commentary
We live in a world that is very complex. In order to try to make sense of it, we often fall into the trap of simplifying things. Issues are black or white, people are good or bad, countries are allies or enemies, statements are true or false. But experience teaches us that life is not so simple. Truth is to be found in many places, in many shades.
There is a well-known tale called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Four men, unable to see, are led to an animal they know nothing about. One touches the trunk and concludes that the elephant is like a hose. Another feels the tusks and assumes that the animal is as hard as a rock. The third pats the body, and thinks the beast is like a mountain. The fourth blind man holds the tail and conjures in his mind the image of a rope. Which of the four was right? They all were correct. There was truth in what each thought, but alone, each had only part of the truth. The total story could be discovered if they accounted for their own limitations and sought to share what they knew with their fellows.
There was truth in what Bet Hillel thought and truth in what Bet Shammai thought. Both of their teachings contained the words of the living God. The secret of Bet Hillel’s success was that it understood that arrogance and self-righteousness only blind us to discovering the whole truth. By admitting that other people have much to teach us, we open our eyes and see things that were hidden from us before. By recognizing that our answers are not the only answers, we open ourselves up to learning and understanding. Modesty and humility are the keys that enable us to search for, and find, the subtleties of truth in all places.
Even if for the wrong reason, eventually it will be for the right reason.
Text / Rava contrasted two verses: “It is written: ‘For Your faithfulness is as high as heaven’ [Psalms 57:11], but it is also written ‘For Your faithfulness is higher than the heavens’ [Psalms 108:5]. How is this possible? In the latter case, it refers to those who do [a mitzvah] for the right reason; in the former case, to those who do it for the wrong reason. This follows Rav Yehudah, for Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: “A person should always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot, even if for the wrong reason, for eventually it will be for the right reason.”
I will praise You among the peoples, O Lord;
I will sing a hymn to You among the nations;
for Your faithfulness is as high as heaven;
Your steadfastness reaches to the sky.
Exalt Yourself over the heavens, O God,
let Your glory be over all the earth!
I will praise You among the peoples,
O Lord, sing a hymn to You
among the nations;
for Your faithfulness is higher than the heavens;
Your steadfastness reaches to the sky.
Exalt Yourself over the heavens, O God;
let Your glory be over all the earth!
Rava notices two biblical verses which are identical except for one word. This seeming discrepancy in the book of Psalms allows Rava to ask: Is God’s faithfulness as high as the heavens (as Psalms 57 attests) or higher than the heavens (as Psalms 108 claims)? (The translation uses “Heaven/the heavens,” but the verses use the same Hebrew word, shamayim, for both. This word can be translated either way.) This inconsistency allows Rava to expound on the verses and make a point.
If one does a mitzvah for the wrong reason, then God’s faithfulness to that person is as high as heaven. However, when one performs a mitzvah for the right reason and with the correct motivation, then God’s faithfulness extends higher than the heavens.
Rav Yehudah explains that it is best that one live a life of Torah and perform mitzvot with the right intentions; but it is better to do a mitzvah even with the wrong intentions than not to do one at all, for “even if for the wrong reason, eventually it will be for the right reason.” That is, even if one performs a mitzvah without the proper intent or with totally wrong intent, that person may, by virtue of having done a mitzvah, eventually learn to do the mitzvah for the right reason.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifteenth Chapter / How One Should Feel And Speak On Every Desirable Thing
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, this is the way you must speak on every occasion: “Lord, if it be pleasing to You, so be it. If it be to Your honor, Lord, be it done in Your name. Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of my soul, then take this desire away from me.”
Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.
Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: “Lord, You know what is better for me; let this be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You—would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!”
A PRAYER THAT THE WILL OF GOD BE DONE
Grant me Your grace, O most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and work with me, and remain with me to the very end. Grant that I may always desire and will that which is most acceptable and pleasing to You. Let Your will be mine. Let my will always follow Yours and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Yours in willing and in not willing, and let me be unable to will or not will anything but what You will or do not will. Grant that I may die to all things in this world, and for Your sake love to be despised and unknown in this life. Give me above all desires the desire to rest in You, and in You let my heart have peace. You are true peace of heart. You alone are its rest. Without You all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, the selfsame that is in You, the Most High, the everlasting Good, I will sleep and take my rest. Amen.
The Imitation Of Christ
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.
Argumentative prayers are excellent prayers. ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) The strength of everything is in its joints; how strongly jointed, how sinewy was this prayer of Christ. Some think we need not argue and plead in prayer but only present the matter and let Christ plead with the Father—as if the choicest part of our prayers must be kept back because Christ presents our prayers to God. No, Christ’s pleading is one thing, ours another; his and ours are not opposed but subordinate. His pleading does not destroy ours but makes it successful.
God calls us to plead with him: “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). God reasons with us by his word and providences outwardly and by his Spirit inwardly. We reason with him by framing (through the help of his Spirit) certain arguments, grounded on allowed principles, drawn from his nature, name, word, or works. What was Jacob’s wrestling with the angel but his holy pleading and persistence with God? Let God frown, strike, or wound, a blessing Jacob came for and a blessing he will have; “I will not let you go,” he said, “unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). His limbs, his life might go, but there is no going from Christ without a blessing. The Lord admires him and honors him to all generations.
We are not heard either for our much speaking or our excellent speaking; it is Christ’s pleading in heaven that makes our pleading on earth effective. But surely when the Spirit of the Lord suggests proper arguments in prayer and helps the humble suppliant to press them home, when he helps us to weep and groan and plead, God is greatly delighted in such prayers. “I will surely make you prosper”
(Gen. 32:12) is your own promise. This is pleasing to God, we can come to him crying, “Abba, Father, hear, forgive, pity, and help me. Am I not your child?”
To whom may a child be bold to go, with whom may a child have hope to succeed, if not with its father? The fathers of our flesh are full of tenderness and pity their children and know how to give good things to them. And is not the Father of spirits more full of tenderness, more full of pity? “Father, hear me.” This is that kind of prayer which is melody in the ears of God.
--- John Flavel
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
“By the Teeth of God”
Christians should respect those in authority, pray for our leaders, and be lights in the world. Seems simple enough. But relations between church and state have vexed believers from the time of Constantine to the days of the Christian Coalition. And never were they more complicated than during the days of Lotario de’ Conti, who was born to aristocratic parents near Rome in 1161. Lotario was brilliant. Though he was short of stature, his keen eyes and dark face were magnetic. He was blessed with social ease, excellent speech, a warm smile, and a flare for poetry and song. He was religious.
He was elected Pope Innocent III at age 37.
The young man immediately asserted that Christ had given the successors of Peter the right of ruling the whole world as well as the church. “The state should be related to the Church as the moon is to the sun.”
But when Innocent appointed Stephen Langton as England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, King John defied him. An irreligious man, John forbad Langton to set foot in Britain and swore “by the teeth of God” to banish every clergyman from the land, to put out their eyes and cut off their noses.
On March 24, 1208 Innocent placed England under an interdict, a religious ban. All religious services were cancelled, churches were closed, church bells silenced. The dead were not given Christian burials and the Mass was not celebrated. Innocent released the British people from loyalty to John and nudged France to prepare to invade England.
Brought to his knees by the ensuing public outrage, John acknowledged Innocent the victor; and his surrender so weakened him before the English people that shortly afterward at Runnymede on the Thames he signed the most famous document in English history, the Magna Carta. The first article affirms “That the Church of England shall be free.…”
Innocent III raised the papacy to its zenith, but the pressures of it led to premature death. “I have no leisure,” he mourned. “Scarce can I breathe.” He died from exhaustion at age 55, finding the task of ruling both church and state too much for mortal man, even one of his skill and brilliance.
Be strong and brave! Be careful to do everything my servant Moses taught you. Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. If you obey it completely, you and Israel will be able to take this land. I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave.
--- Joshua 1:6b-9a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 24
“He was heard in that he feared.” --- Hebrews 5:7.
Did this fear arise from the infernal suggestion that he was utterly forsaken. There may be sterner trials than this, but surely it is one of the worst to be utterly forsaken? “See,” said Satan, “thou hast a friend nowhere! Thy Father hath shut up the bowels of his compassion against thee. Not an angel in his courts will stretch out his hand to help thee. All heaven is alienated from thee; thou art left alone. See the companions with whom thou hast taken sweet counsel, what are they worth? Son of Mary, see there thy brother James, see there thy loved disciple John, and thy bold apostle Peter, how the cowards sleep when thou art in thy sufferings! Lo! Thou hast no friend left in heaven or earth. All hell is against thee. I have stirred up mine infernal den. I have sent my missives throughout all regions summoning every prince of darkness to set upon thee this night, and we will spare no arrows, we will use all our infernal might to overwhelm thee: and what wilt thou do, thou solitary one?” It may be, this was the temptation; we think it was, because the appearance of an angel unto him strengthening him removed that fear. He was heard in that he feared; he was no more alone, but heaven was with him. It may be that this is the reason of his coming three times to his disciples—as Hart puts it ---
“Backwards and forwards thrice he ran,
As if he sought some help from man.”
He would see for himself whether it were really true that all men had forsaken him; he found them all asleep; but perhaps he gained some faint comfort from the thought that they were sleeping, not from treachery, but from sorrow, the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. At any rate, he was heard in that he feared. Jesus was heard in his deepest woe; my soul, thou shalt be heard also.
Evening - March 24
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit."Luke 10:21.
The Saviour was “a man of sorrows,” but every thoughtful mind has discovered the fact that down deep in his innermost soul he carried an inexhaustible treasury of refined and heavenly joy. Of all the human race, there was never a man who had a deeper, purer, or more abiding peace than our Lord Jesus Christ. “He was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.” His vast benevolence must, from the very nature of things, have afforded him the deepest possible delight, for benevolence is joy. There were a few remarkable seasons when this joy manifested itself. “At that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Christ had his songs, though it was night with him; though his face was marred, and his countenance had lost the lustre of earthly happiness, yet sometimes it was lit up with a matchless splendour of unparalleled satisfaction, as he thought upon the recompense of the reward, and in the midst of the congregation sang his praise unto God. In this, the Lord Jesus is a blessed picture of his church on earth. At this hour the church expects to walk in sympathy with her Lord along a thorny road; through much tribulation she is forcing her way to the crown. To bear the cross is her office, and to be scorned and counted an alien by her mother’s children is her lot; and yet the church has a deep well of joy, of which none can drink but her own children. There are stores of wine, and oil, and corn, hidden in the midst of our Jerusalem, upon which the saints of God are evermore sustained and nurtured; and sometimes, as in our Saviour’s case, we have our seasons of intense delight, for “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God.” Exiles though we be, we rejoice in our King; yea, in him we exceedingly rejoice, while in his name we set up our banners.
Morning and Evening
LET THE LOWER LIGHTS BE BURNING
Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
I do not ask for mighty words to leave the crowd impressed,
But grant my life may ring so true my neighbors shall be blessed.
I do not ask for influence to sway the multitude;
Give me a “word in season” for the soul in solitude.
The lower lights surrounding a lighthouse guide the boats in the harbor away from the treacherous rocks and into the channel. The interesting analogy in this hymn was suggested to author and composer Philip P. Bliss as he listened to D. L. Moody tell a sermon anecdote about a pilot during a storm.
“Brethren,” concluded Mr. Moody, “the Master will take care of the great lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning.” Bliss, as he often did, immediately put this challenging thought into a hymn. He usually worked rapidly, completing both the text and the music in one sitting.
Bliss first met Dwight L. Moody in Chicago in 1869 and soon joined him and his music associate, Ira Sankey, in their evangelistic campaigns. A prolific composer of gospel hymns, Bliss continued to write and publish until his death at the age of 38 in a tragic train accident at Ashtabula, Ohio, during the Christmas season of 1876. Yet his many songs, including “Jesus Loves Even Me,” “Hold the Fort,” “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” “Wonderful Words of Life,” and many more, still live on today to bless and inspire our lives.
We may not all be powerful lighthouses, such as Mr. Moody, Ira Sankey, or Philip Bliss, but God calls us each to be “lower lights” wherever we are to guide some fainting, struggling person to the eternal haven with deeds that direct all the praise to our heavenly Father.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore, but to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Dark the night of sin has settled. Loud the angry billows roar; eager eyes are watching, longing for the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother! Some poor sailor tempest tossed, trying now to make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost.
Chorus: Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.
For Today: Daniel 12:3; Matthew 5:1–16; James 5:19, 20.
Resolve to keep a gleam burning for Christ by words and actions so that some seeking individual may be directed into a calm and secure relationship with the Lord. Use this musical message as a reminder ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Chapter 03 | Hebrews 13:20, 21
“Now the God of peace. . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” As previously intimated, there is a very close connection between this verse and the preceding one. Here we have the request that the apostle offered up on behalf of the Hebrew saints, whereas the contents of the previous verse are to be regarded as the plea upon which he based his request. Just how appropriate, powerful, and moving that plea was, will readily be seen. The appeal is made to “the God of peace.” As the One reconciled to His people He is besought to grant this blessing (cf. Rom 5:10). Moreover, since God had brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, that was a most proper ground upon which He should quicken His spiritually dead elect by regeneration, recover them when they wander, and complete His work of grace in them. It was in the capacity of “that great Shepherd of the sheep” that Our Lord Jesus was raised by His gracious Father from the prison of the grave, in order that He might be able, as One alive forevermore, to care for the flock. Our great Shepherd is presently supplying every need of each of His sheep by His intercession on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). By this efficacious means He is now dispensing gifts to men, especially those gifts that promote the salvation of sinners such as we are (Eph. 4:8ff). Furthermore, the same everlasting covenant that promised the resurrection of Christ also guaranteed the glorification of His people. Thus the apostle calls upon God the Father to perfect them according to that engagement.
A Prayer for Holiness and Fruitfulness
“The God of peace. . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” Substantially, this request is for the practical sanctification and fructification of God’s people. While the everlasting covenant has been suitably denominated “the covenant of redemption,” we must carefully bear in mind that it was designed to secure the holiness of its beneficiaries. We do well to reflect upon the prophetic, Spirit-filled cry of Zecharias, that “the Lord God of Israel . . . [should] remember his holy covenant;…That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our [spiritual] enemies might serve him without [servile] fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68, 72, 74, 75, brackets mine). And while it has also been appropriately designated “the covenant of grace,” yet we must also remember that the Apostle Paul said, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men [Gentiles as well as Jews], Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope. . . “ (Titus 2:11-13, brackets mine). The grand purpose of the everlasting covenant, as of all the Divine works, was the glory of God and the good of His people. It was designed not only as a display of the Divine munificence, but also for securing and promoting the claims of Divine holiness. God did not enter into that compact with Christ in order to set aside human accountability, nor did the Son fulfill its terms so as to render unnecessary for His redeemed a life of obedience.
Christ agreed not only to propitiate God, but to regenerate His elect. Christ undertook not only to meet all the requirements of the Law in their stead, but also to write it on their hearts and to enthrone it in their affections. Christ engaged not only to take away sin from before God, but to make it hateful and heinous to His saints. Before the world began, Christ undertook not only to satisfy the claims of Divine justice, but to sanctify His seed by sending forth His Spirit into their souls to conform them to His image and to incline them to follow the example that He would leave them. It has been far too little insisted on, in recent times, by those who have written or preached upon the Covenant of Grace, that Christ engaged not only for the debt of His people, but for their duty, too: that He should make a purchase of grace for them, including a full provision to give them a new heart and a new spirit, to bring them to know the Lord, to put His fear into their hearts, and to make them obedient to His will. He also engaged for their safety: that if they should forsake His Law and walk not in His judgments, He would visit their transgressions with the rod (Ps. 89:30-36); that if they should backslide and stray from Him, He would assuredly recover them.
Paul Turns Messianic Prophecy into Prayer
“Make you perfect. . . to do his will.” It was with the contents of the Covenant in his eye that the apostle offered up this petition. In the preceding chapters it has been shown that Old Testament prophecy presented the promised Messiah as the Surety of a covenant of peace and as the “Shepherd” of His people. It now remains to be demonstrated that He was therein portrayed as a Shepherd who would perfect His sheep in holiness and good works. “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd” (Ezek. 37:24). Here the LORD declares that Messiah, the great Seed of David, shall in days to come unify the Israel of God as their King and shall shepherd them all without rival. In the same verse He further declares, “they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” Thus, having owned God as “the God of peace,” who has delivered our Lord Jesus from death’s dominion “through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” Paul makes request that He work in His sheep “that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” For though God has promised to do this, He declares, “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel” (Ezek. 36:3 7). It is ever the bounden duty of God’s covenant people to pray for the fulfillment of His promises (witness the various petitions of the Lord’s Prayer). We see, then, that this Spirit-indited, comprehensive prayer is not only an epitome of the contents of this entire Epistle, but also a summary of the Messianic prophecies.
Faith in a Reconciled God Produces Desires for His Glory
“Make you perfect in every good work to do His will.” Such a petition as this can be rightly offered only as one contemplates God as “the God of peace.” Faith must first regard Him as reconciled to us before there will be any true desire to glorify Him. While there be any sensible horror at the thought of God, any servile fear produced at the mention of His name, we cannot serve Him nor do that which is wellpleasing in His sight. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6), and faith is quite opposite to horror. We must first be assured that God is no longer an Enemy but our Friend, before love’s gratitude will move us to run in the way of His commandments. That assurance can only come to us by realizing that Christ has put away our sins and satisfied every legal claim of God against us. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Christ has made a perfect and eternal peace “through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20), in consequence of which God has made with those who surrender to Christ’s yoke and trust in His sacrifice “an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5). This must be apprehended by faith before there will be a confident seeking from Him of the grace necessary thereto.
From yet another angle we may perceive the appropriateness of this request being addressed to “the God of peace,” that He would now perfect us in every good work to do His will. For the doing of God’s will is most essential for our enjoyment of His peace in a practical way. “Great peace have they which love thy law” (Ps. 119:165), for Wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17). Therefore it is utterly vain to expect tranquility of heart if we forsake Wisdom’s paths for those of self-pleasing. Certainly there can be no peace of conscience while any known sin is entertained by us. The road to peace is the way of holiness. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them. . .” (Gal. 6:16). Unless we genuinely resolve and strive to do those things that are pleasing in God’s sight, there will be a state of turmoil and unrest within us instead of peace. There is a deeper spiritual significance than is usually perceived in that title “the Prince of peace,” which pertains to the incarnate Son. He could say, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29), and therefore an unruffled calm was His portion. What emphasis was there in those words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27)!
Paul Prays for the Strengthening of the Saints in Their Duties
“Make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” This petition sets before us, by clear implication, the human side of things. Those things for which the Apostle Paul made request on behalf of the saints were concerned with those duties that they were obligated to perform, but for the performing of which Divine assistance is imperative. The everlasting covenant anticipated the entrance of sin, and it thus made provision not only for the putting away of it but also for the bringing in of everlasting righteousness. That righteousness is the perfect obedience of Christ by which the Divine Law was honored and magnified. That perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who believe, but none savingly believe in Him until His Spirit has implanted a principle of righteousness in their souls (Eph. 4:24). And that new nature or principle of righteousness evidences itself by the performing of good works (Eph. 2:10). We have no right to speak of the Lord Jesus as “The Lord our righteousness” unless we are personal doers of righteousness (1 John 2:29). The everlasting covenant by no means sets aside the necessity of obedience on the part of those who partake of its benefits, but supplies the most affecting and powerful motives to move us thereto! Saving faith works by love (Gal. 5:6), and aims at pleasing its Object.
The more our prayers are regulated by the teaching of Holy Writ the more they will be marked by these two qualities: the Divine precepts will be turned into petitions; and the Divine character and promises will be used as our arguments. When the Psalmist, in the course of his meditations upon God’s Law, declared, “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently,” he was at once conscious of his failure and said, “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Ps. 119:4, 5). But He did more than just lament the hindrances of indwelling sin; he cried, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes;…Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Ps. 119:33, 35). So also, when seeking the establishment of his house before the Lord, David pleaded the Divine promise: “And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said” (2 Sam. 7:25; see also 1 Kings 8:25, 26; 2 Chron. 6:17). As we become more familiar with God’s Word and discover the details of the exalted standard of conduct there set before us, we should be more definite and diligent in seeking grace to perform our several duties; and as we become better acquainted with “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3) and His “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4), we shall count more confidently upon Him for those supplies.
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
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