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Exodus 36     John 15     Proverbs 12     Ephesians 5

Exodus 36

Exodus 36 “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.”

2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. 3 And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

8 And all the craftsmen among the workmen made the tabernacle with ten curtains. They were made of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked. 9 The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. All the curtains were the same size.

10 He coupled five curtains to one another, and the other five curtains he coupled to one another. 11 He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain of the first set. Likewise he made them on the edge of the outermost curtain of the second set. 12 He made fifty loops on the one curtain, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set. The loops were opposite one another. 13 And he made fifty clasps of gold, and coupled the curtains one to the other with clasps. So the tabernacle was a single whole.

14 He also made curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle. He made eleven curtains. 15 The length of each curtain was thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains were the same size. 16 He coupled five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves. 17 And he made fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain of the one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the other connecting curtain. 18 And he made fifty clasps of bronze to couple the tent together that it might be a single whole. 19 And he made for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and goatskins.

20 Then he made the upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 21 Ten cubits was the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame. 22 Each frame had two tenons for fitting together. He did this for all the frames of the tabernacle. 23 The frames for the tabernacle he made thus: twenty frames for the south side. 24 And he made forty bases of silver under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons. 25 For the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty frames 26 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame and two bases under the next frame. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle westward he made six frames. 28 He made two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear. 29 And they were separate beneath but joined at the top, at the first ring. He made two of them this way for the two corners. 30 There were eight frames with their bases of silver: sixteen bases, under every frame two bases.

31 He made bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 33 And he made the middle bar to run from end to end halfway up the frames. 34 And he overlaid the frames with gold, and made their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold.

35 He made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; with cherubim skillfully worked into it he made it. 36 And for it he made four pillars of acacia and overlaid them with gold. Their hooks were of gold, and he cast for them four bases of silver. 37 He also made a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework, 38 and its five pillars with their hooks. He overlaid their capitals, and their fillets were of gold, but their five bases were of bronze.

John 15

I Am the True Vine

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

The Hatred of the World

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Proverbs 12

Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
2  A good man obtains favor from the LORD,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
3  No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
4  An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
5  The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
6  The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
7  The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
8  A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
9  Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
10  Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11  Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12  Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13  An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14  From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
16  The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
17  Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
18  There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19  Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20  Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
21  No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22  Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23  A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
24  The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
25  Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
26  One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27  Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
28  In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death.

Ephesians 5

Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Death of a Fetal Human is Different Than the Death of a Dying Human

By J. Warner Wallace 2/5/2013

     While hosting the Stand to Reason Radio Show on Sunday, a caller asked me how to defend an objection related to abortion. A friend asked him how he could be comfortable ending the life of a person on life support, yet uncomfortable ending a life in the womb. He was asked to imagine the scenario of a dying man who (as the result of suffering a stroke or being involved in a car accident) had no recordable brain activity. Isn’t this person just like the fetal human in the earliest weeks of development? Neither has any observable brain activity; should either been seen as a living human? If we have the right to “un-plug” one (the dying human), why don’t we have the right to unplug the other (the fetal human)?

     Of course the biggest problem with this description of “living humans” is that it equates mental capacity with personhood. Can a person still be a person even if they lack a certain degree of measurable brain activity? How much activity is required before one attains personhood? Am I less a “person” if I don’t have the mental capacity of someone who is smarter? What if I am in an induced coma? What if my diminished metal condition is temporary? See the problem? But there is an even bigger problem with the scenario offered by the caller. We simply cannot equate the of lack brain activity in the unborn with the lack of brain activity in the aging or injured. We must distinguish between these two groups:

     “Not Yet” Adult Humans | Fetal humans may lack brainwave activity, but if left to their own devices (if we do nothing to intervene) they will eventually become fully functioning human beings. They are “not yet” adult humans, but if you simply leave them alone, they will become adults like you and me. Ever notice the bananas on sale at your local market? Most of them are green. Many are so green that you wouldn’t even imagine eating them for a week. But we buy them anyway. Why? Because they are “not yet” ripe bananas. If we buy them, put them on the shelf, simply leave them alone and do nothing to intervene, they will become the ripe bananas we all know and love. We don’t throw away green bananas; we wait patiently for them to ripen. We understand their value even though they are green.

     “Never Again” Adult Humans | But we don’t feel the same way about over-ripe, black bananas. We recognize that bananas (like all living things) have a life cycle. There is a time when a banana’s life is over. Sadly, there are times when we must also admit the same is true for humans. At the end of one’s life, when we are sure that someone will “never again” be a living adult human being, it may be appropriate to allow life to run it’s course. Aging or injured humans are not like fetal humans. When someone is aging or injured we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to prolong life?” When considering the fate of the fetal human, we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to end life?” See the important difference?

     As Christians, we are consistent in our approach in these two scenarios when we say we ought not intervene. We don’t want to intervene to end the life of a fetal human, because our intervention alters the course of someone who is developing into a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as fetal humans). And we don’t want to intervene to extend the life of someone who is already brain dead, because our intervention alters the course of someone who will never again be a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as aging humans). Fetal humans ought to be allowed to live, even as dying humans ought to be allowed to die.

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

Christian Loses His Burden

By R.C. Sproul 1/2006

     As a seminary student, I remember my favorite professor often setting forth arguments for particular theological positions. On many occasions, as these debates proceeded, the professor stopped in mid-sentence, paused, looked at his students and said, “I sense that you do not feel the weight of this argument.” His regular reference to the “weight” of arguments was an interesting metaphor for me. Arguments that we do not take seriously are those that we take lightly. The whole idea of weight or weightiness is one that is found throughout the Bible. In the first instance, the glory of God is described in terms of His inherent and eternal weightiness. Those who take God lightly are those who have no regard for His glory.

     One of the most important areas in which the whole idea of weight comes to bear in the New Testament has to do with the Law. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapter 3, verse 9, after he has set forth the unrighteousness of both Jew and Gentile, he makes the comment, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin” (NKJV). Again in verse 19 of the same chapter, the apostle writes, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (NKJV).

     In our day, the weightiness of the Gospel itself has been eclipsed. I doubt if there’s a period in the history of the church in which professing evangelicals have been as ignorant of the elements of the biblical Gospel as they are today.

     There is a stark contrast between the second best-seller in the history of the English language, second only to the Bible, namely, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and the runaway best-seller of the last two years, The Purpose Driven Life. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we see set forth in masterful literary style the depths and the riches of the biblical Gospel. When we compare it to The Purpose Driven Life, we see a book in which it is difficult to find a full explanation of the biblical Gospel. Justification, the relief from the burden of sin that weighs down the soul, is all but absent in the setting forth of a new and different gospel of achieving or discovering purpose in one’s life. One of the leaders of the recent emerging church movement boasts that he has not mentioned the word “sin” in the last ten years of his preaching. He wants to make sure that his people will not feel crushed by guilt or by a loss of their self-esteem. When the acute awareness of guilt is removed from the conscience, there is no sense of the burden of sin. There is no sense of being under the crushing weight of the law of God that bears down upon our souls relentlessly.

     However, if we turn our attention to the insights of Bunyan set forth in the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, we see a story that focuses on the groaning pressure of a man who is weighed down to the depths of his soul with a burden of which he is unable to rid himself. It is like the apostle Paul’s description in Romans 7 of the body of death that crushes the spirit. In the very first paragraph on the first page of Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan pens these lines:

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’”
     When preachers announce from their pulpits that God loves people unconditionally, there is hardly any reason for the hearer to feel any burden or cry out with any lament, saying, “What shall I do?” If indeed God loves us unconditionally and requires nothing of us, then obviously there is no need for us to do anything. But if God has judged us according to the righteousness of His perfect Law and has called the whole world before His tribunal to announce that we are all guilty, that none of us is righteous, that none of us seeks after God, that there is no fear of God before our eyes, that we are in the meantime, before the appointed day of judgment, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, then anybody in his right mind (and even those in their wrong mind) would have enough sense to cry out the same lamentation, “What shall I do?” The story of Christian is the story of a man who is burdened by the weight of sin. His conscience was smitten by the Law, but where the Law is eliminated in the church, no one needs to fear divine judgment. Without the Law there is no knowledge of sin, and without a knowledge of sin, there is no sense of burden. The pilgrim knew the Law, he knew his sin, and he realized he had a burden on his back that he could not, with all of his effort and his greatest strivings, ever remove. His redemption must come from outside of himself. He needed a righteousness not his own. He needed to exchange that weighty sack of sin on his back for an alien righteousness acceptable in the sight of God. For the pilgrim there was only one place to find that righteousness, at the foot of the cross. The crucial moment in Christian’s life is when he comes to the cross. We read the description: “He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and little below in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble, and so continued to do so until it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.”

     Shortly thereafter, Christian sang his song of deliverance: “Thus far did I come laden with my sin, nor could aught ease the grief that I was in, till I came hither. What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss? Must here the burden fall from off my back? Must here the strings that bound it to me, crack? Blessed cross! Blessed sepulchre! Blessed rather be the Man that there was put to shame for me.”

     This is the description of how salvation comes. It comes as a result of the atoning work of Christ and the exchange of our sin from our backs to His, as well as the cloak of His righteousness being transferred from His account to ours. Anything that eliminates this double exchange, this double imputation of sin and righteousness, falls short of the biblical Gospel. It’s time once more for the Christian community to follow the Pilgrim’s Progress.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

The God of Space and Time

By R.C. Sproul 2/2006

     We are all by nature Pelagians. Like the heretical monk Pelagius, we like to think in our hearts, even should our lips profess otherwise, that we are basically good. Defeating this temptation is one of the great blessings that comes from embracing that biblical system of thought known as Reformed theology. Now we understand not only that we are in ourselves only evil, but that God is sovereign over all things.

     However, this shift in our thinking, in itself another gift from God, doesn’t send the devil scurrying for cover. Embracing Reformed theology doesn’t make one immune to sin. Indeed, when we embrace sound, biblical thinking with respect to God’s sovereignty, we find ourselves walking a peculiar tightrope. On the one hand, it is rather a short, but dangerous step from, “God ordained whatsoever comes to pass” to “I know why God did this.” I once read a sermon from a Puritan that was a classic example of this error. It seems that the parson came into the meeting house one day and found there in the corner the tattered remains of the Book of Common Prayer, the very symbol of the Romish tendencies the Puritans wanted to purify out of the church. It seems a mouse had gotten to the book, and he chewed it to pieces. The pastor, rightly, expounded at great length on how God’s sovereignty descends down to such details. God, from all eternity, determined that that mouse would find that book on that day, and that the mouse would tear it to shreds. So far so good. Then the pastor went on to explain that God brought this to pass to show us how evil the Book of Common Prayer is. Had I been there that Sunday I would have loved to ask the pastor: “Isn’t it possible, pastor, that God had this happen so we might learn that even the mice are sensible enough to feed upon the wisdom in the Book of Common Prayer?” We need, when trying to interpret history, to remember the wisdom of Calvin who said, “When the Almighty has determined to close his holy lips, I will desist from inquiry.”

     There is, however, an equal and opposite temptation. We rightly affirm that God not only controls all things, but that He planned whatsoever comes to pass from before the beginning of time. God’s celestial plan, down to the color of my socks, was down in stone before God even said, “Let there be light.” Again, so far so good. The error is when we take one small step from affirming that it’s all decided to affirming, at least in our hearts, if not in our lips, that God doesn’t act in history. Too many Reformed people are practical deists. We rightly believe that God is the ultimate cause of all things, and then wrongly believe that He is the proximate cause of no things. God did indeed write the grand screenplay that is history. But He likewise wrote a rather large role therein for Himself.

     The history books of the Bible, thankfully, practice exactly the right balance here. God is not passively watching, while man determines the future, as the Pelagians would have us believe. Neither is He providing easy-to-read captions beneath each of His actions so that we might know what it means. And neither still is He passively watching because He did the hard work of setting up the dominoes long ago. God is actively bringing to pass that which He planned from the beginning. Sometimes He tells us how, and sometimes He doesn’t.

     As I write, the gulf coast region of the country is reeling from what insurance adjusters wisely call “an act of God.” Hurricane Katrina has hit our shores in fury. When the destruction is that dramatic, it is easy to see the hand of God. And when what He hit is a collection of gambling casinos and strip clubs, it’s hard not to play the Puritan pastor. That strip of playground that runs from Biloxi to New Orleans wouldn’t be confused by anyone with the Bible belt. The same God who sent fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah is the God who sent Katrina. What He hasn’t sent, however, is an authoritative message telling us why He has done so. Katrina wasn’t just another domino. Neither was she a random collision of ions and precipitates. She was sent by God. He is acting in our history. His motive most certainly could have been to smite the immoral. Or His motive might instead have been to give His people an opportunity to give water in His name. His motives could have been both, or a thousand other mysterious ways. We just don’t know.

     What we know is this. God has three great goals as He acts in history. There are three certainties that have been planned from the beginning. First, He will gather a bride for His Son. There are precious few acts of God in space and time more precious than when He gives life to the living dead, when His Spirit quickens those chosen before all time. Second, He will destroy all His enemies. Psalm 110 tells us that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father until all His enemies are made a footstool. We serve a God of vengeance and destruction, to the praise of His name. He destroyed the Canaanites, and He still destroys His enemies. And third (of this we can be sure), He is about the business of purifying His bride. He acts in history so that history can reach its end, the marriage feast of the Lamb, when we will appear, without blot or blemish, and we, because we will see Him as He is, will be like Him.

Sit at My Right Hand

1  The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2  The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3  Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4  The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5  The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6  He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7  He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

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Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. 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, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Real Prayer of Jabez

By Steven J. Lawson 2/2006

     Riding a tidal wave of surging popularity, few Christian books have burst onto the publishing scene and been as widely received as The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Breakthrough Series). In only its sixth year of circulation, this brief, ninety-three-page book has sold a staggering ten million copies, pushing its way to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. In its wake, a virtual Prayer of Jabez sub-culture has emerged, complete with journals, backpacks, jewelry, vanilla-scented candles, and myriads of assorted marketing paraphernalia. Unfortunately, many well-meaning evangelicals have been swept up in this trendy phenomenon.

     Prefacing this work, author Bruce Wilkinson writes, “I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief — only one sentence with four parts…but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.… In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” But is the prayer of Jabez really the single greatest key to a spiritual life that is pleasing to God? Is Wilkinson’s teaching true to the full counsel of God? Hardly.

     Those with doctrinal moorings and spiritual discernment know that this simplistic approach to the Christian life is an inadequate means by which to view God, true spirituality, and prayer. True, certain features of the book can be cited positively, such as its much-needed emphasis upon prayer. But The Prayer of Jabez, quite frankly, suffers from a deficient theology. The book is seriously plagued by the following things:

     First, an inadequate view of prayer, trivializing its truly profound nature; second, a misguided focus upon prosperity, overtly emphasizing miracles and financial blessings; third, a defective doctrine of providence that fails to see God sovereignly and actively involved in all of life. Polemics aside, however, it will do us well to revisit the prayer of Jabez — not the book, but the biblical text — and discover what this prayer actually teaches.

     Tucked away in a long genealogical record (1 Chron. 4), Jabez emerges from relative obscurity as one who “was more honorable than his brothers” (v. 9). A spiritually strong man, he was highly esteemed in his day, more virtuous and upstanding than others. His extraordinary piety is well documented in that a city was named after him, a place where “the families of scribes” gathered (1 Chron. 2:55). Moreover, his name, Jabez, means, “He will cause pain,” a perpetual reminder of the agony he caused during delivery. Yet, despite such a difficult entrance into this world, there was a divinely scripted plan for his life, sovereignly orchestrated for God’s glory and his good.

     With complete dependence upon God in prayer, Jabez “called upon…God (Elohim)” (1 Chron. 4:10a), the divine name meaning the Supreme One, Mighty Ruler, and Sovereign Lord (Gen. 1:1). By appealing to this name, he acknowledged that God providentially reigns over all the works of His hands (Ps. 103:19). Moreover, He is the God “of Israel,” closely related to His chosen ones (Amos 3:2). To Jabez, God is both infinite and intimate, both accessible and able to answer his prayers.

     In petitioning God, Jabez prayed, “Oh that you would bless me” (v. 10b). That is, he asked God to extend His undeserved favor toward him. Specifically, Jabez asked, “Enlarge my border” (v. 10c), thereby requesting that God would expand his territory by defeating his enemies, the Canaanites, expelling them from the adjacent territory. In the days of Moses and Joshua, God had promised that He would give the Promised Land to Israel. Accordingly, Jabez prayed for this increase in land.

     Is it right to ask God for material things? Of course it is. Jesus Himself taught His disciples to pray for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3). God desires us to petition Him for all good things needed to fulfill His will, even for physical provisions (James 4:2). But, ultimately, God is sovereign and will answer prayer as He wills, not as man wills. To be sure, the motive of every prayer must be for the glory of God, not the greed of man. As lowly servants before our exalted King, we should make certain that our prayers are always humble requests, never haughty demands.

     Furthermore, Jabez prayed “that your hand might be with me” (v. 10d), a petition that the invisible hand of Providence would empower him in this heroic endeavor. The truth is, God’s work must always be done in God’s power, or it will surely fail (Zech. 4:6). Moreover, Jabez requested “that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain” (v. 10e). In this, he asked for God’s supernatural protection to be upon him throughout this conflict. To be sure, all God’s servants are exposed to constant danger and desperately need divine protection from Satan’s relentless assaults.

     With unwavering faith, Jabez placed this entire matter in the hands of God — and there are no more reliable, or more capable, and no more powerful hands than those of our sovereign God. What was the result of such a humble prayer? Simply this, that God “granted what he asked” (v. 10f). Not because Jabez used the right formula in prayer. Nor because he somehow manipulated God. For God is not a genie to be conjured out of a bottle and used for one’s own personal ends. Rather, God sovereignly chose to be glorified through Jabez in answering his petition. The prayer of Jabez is not a mindless mantra that God always answers, chanted for self-advancement. Instead, it teaches us to seek God faithfully. When He alone is magnified, we will be truly blessed indeed.

Click here to go to source

     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

Steven J. Lawson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 34

Taste and See That the LORD Is Good
34 Of David, When He Changed His Behavior Before Abimelech, So That He Drove Him Out, And He Went Away.

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

ESV Study Bible

Exodus 36; John 15; Proverbs 12; Ephesians 5

By Don Carson 3/25/2018

     God's Love Is Spoken of in a variety of ways in the Bible.

     In some passages God’s love is directed toward his elect. He loves them and not others (e.g., Deut. 4:37; 7:7-8; Mal. 1:2). But if we think of the love of God as invariably restricted to his elect, we will soon distort other themes: his gracious provision of “common grace” (Is he not the God who sends his rain upon the just and upon the unjust? [Matt. 5:45]), his mighty forbearance (e.g., Rom. 2:4), his pleading with rebels to turn and repent lest they die, for he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (e.g., Ezek. 33:11). On the other hand, if this were all that the Bible says about the love of God, God would soon be reduced to an impotent, frustrated lover who has done all he can, poor chap. That will never account for the loving initiative of effective power bound up with the first passages cited, and more like them.

     There are yet other ways the Bible speaks of the love of God. One of them dominates in John 15:9-11. Here the Father’s love for us is conditional upon obedience. Jesus enjoins his disciples to obey him in exactly the same way that he obeys his Father, so that they may remain in his love: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and remain in his love” (15:10).

     The context shows that this is not telling us how people become Jesus’ followers. Rather, assuming that his hearers are his followers, Jesus insists that there is a relational love at stake that must be nurtured and preserved. In exactly the same way, the love of the Father for the Son says nothing about how that relation originated (!), it merely reflects the nature of that relationship. The Father’s love for the Son is elsewhere said to be demonstrated in his “showing” the Son everything, so that the Son does all the Father does and receives the same honor as the Father (John 5:19-23); the Son’s love for the Father is demonstrated in obedience (14:31). As my children remain in my love by obeying me and not defying me, so Jesus’ followers remain in his love. Of course, there is a sense in which I shall always love my children, regardless of what they do. But there is a relational element in that love that is contingent upon their obedience.

     Thus Jesus mediates the Father’s love to us (15:9), and the result of our obedience to him is great joy (15:11). “Keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude 21).

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

An Historic Faith

By R.C. Sproul 2/2006

     "Once upon a time….” These words signal the beginning of a fairy tale, a story of make believe, not an account of sober history. Unlike beginning with the words “once upon a time,” the Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God….” This statement, at the front end of the entire Bible, introduces the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Old Testament, and it sets the stage for God’s activity in linear history. From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, the entire dynamic of redemption takes place within the broader setting of real space and time, of concrete history.

     The historical character of Judeo-Christianity is what markedly distinguishes it from all forms of mythology. A myth finds its value in its moral or spiritual application, while its historical reality remains insignificant. Fairy tales can help our mood swings, but they do little to give us confidence in ultimate reality. The twentieth century witnessed a crisis in the historical dimension of biblical Christianity. German theologians made a crucial distinction between ordinary history and what they called “salvation history,” or sometimes “redemptive history.” This distinction was based in the first instance on the obvious character of sacred Scripture, namely, that it is not only a record of the ordinary events of men and nations. It is not a mere chronicle of human activity but includes within it the revelation of God’s activity in the midst of history. Because the Bible differs from ordinary history and was called “salvation history,” it was a short step from there to ripping the biblical revelation out of its historical context altogether. No one was more important in the snatching of the Gospels out of history than the German theologian Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann devised a new theology that he called “a theology of timelessness.” This theology of timelessness is not interested in the past or in the future as categories of reality. What counts according to Bultmann is the hic et nunc, the “here and now,” or the present moment. Salvation doesn’t take place on the horizontal plane of history, but it takes place vertically in the present moment or what others called “the existential moment.”

     We might ask the question: How long does a moment last? There is a parallel between Descartes’ concept of the “point” and the existentialist’s concept of the “moment.” When Descartes searched for a middle position between the physical and the mental, the extended and the non-extended, he described a mathematical point as the transition between the two realms. The point serves as a hybrid between the physical and the non-physical in the sense that a point takes up space, but has no definite dimensions. In similar fashion, the function of the existential moment in salvation for people like Bultmann is this, that the moment is in time but has no definite duration. On the one hand, it participates in time; on the other hand, it transcends time and is what some have called “supratemporal,” that is, beyond time. When salvation is understood in these terms, the whole notion of linear history becomes basically insignificant and unimportant. The old quest for the historical Jesus can then be abandoned as being a fool’s errand. Again, for Bultmann’s existential Gospel, salvation comes directly and immediately from above. It comes from the vertical plane, in a moment of existential crisis.

     Bultmann went on to make a distinction between history and mythology, arguing that the Bible is a mixture of both. In order for the Bible to be relevant to modern people, it must first be stripped of its mythological husk in order to penetrate the salvific core. That is, it must be submitted to the task of “demythologizing.”

     Not everybody in twentieth-century biblical scholarship embraced the thought of Bultmann with respect to redemption and history. Some of his critics accused him of being a neo-gnostic for lifting salvation out of the plane of the knowable.

     Herman Ridderbos, the Dutch New Testament scholar, agreed that biblical history is redemptive history, but it is at the same time redemptive history. Though the content of Scripture is deeply concerned with redemption, that redemption is inseparably tied to the reality of the historical context in which it takes place. One need not be a philosopher or a theological scholar to understand the difference between the words, “once upon a time,” and the words, “in the year that king Uzziah died,” or, “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” The biblical concept of redemption in history sees God moving in space and time, preparing His people for the consummation of His plan of salvation. Christ comes to the earth not at an accidental point in history but “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).

     Oscar Cullman, the Swiss scholar, wrote strenuously combating the vertical, existential theology of Bultmann by doing a fascinating study of the concept of time itself in Scripture. He emphasized, for example, the distinction between two Greek words, both of which can be translated by the English word time. The two Greek words are kairos and chronos. Chronos refers to the moment-by-moment passage of time. It is the word from which English words like chronicle, chronology, or chronometer are derived. It refers to the ordinary passage of time in history. Kairos refers to a particularly pregnant moment in history that is of enduring significance. A kairotic moment is a moment that shapes the history of everything that comes after it. In the Old Testament, for example, the exodus was a kairotic moment. In the New Testament, the birth of Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection are all kairotic moments. The closest word we have to this in English is the word historic. Every event that takes place in history is historical, but not every event that takes place in history is deemed historic. To be historic it has to have special significance and special impact on life. So the Bible is the record of God’s historic works of redemption within the context of space and time. Take the Gospel and its message out of the context of history, and Christianity is destroyed altogether.

Click here to go to source

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:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     4. There is no surer or quicker way of accomplishing this than by despising the present life and aspiring to celestial immortality. For hence two rules arise: First, "it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;" "and they that use this world, as not abusing it," (1 Cor. 7:29, 31). Secondly, we must learn to be no less placid and patient in enduring penury, than moderate in enjoying abundance. He who makes it his rule to use this world as if he used it not, not only cuts off all gluttony in regard to meat and drink, and all effeminacy, ambition, pride, excessive shows and austerity, in regard to his table, his house, and his clothes, but removes every care and affection which might withdraw or hinder him from aspiring to the heavenly life, and cultivating the interest of his soul. [401] It was well said by Cato: Luxury causes great care, and produces great carelessness as to virtue; and it is an old proverb,--Those who are much occupied with the care of the body, usually give little care to the soul. Therefore while the liberty of the Christian in external matters is not to be tied down to a strict rule, it is, however, subject to this law--he must indulge as little as possible; on the other hand, it must be his constant aims not only to curb luxury, but to cut off all show of superfluous abundance, and carefully beware of converting a help into an hinderance.

5. Another rule is, that those in narrow and slender circumstances should learn to bear their wants patiently, that they may not become immoderately desirous of things, the moderate use of which implies no small progress in the school of Christ. For in addition to the many other vices which accompany a longing for earthly good, he who is impatient under poverty almost always betrays the contrary disease in abundance. By this I mean, that he who is ashamed of a sordid garment will be vain-glorious of a splendid one; he who not contented with a slender, feels annoyed at the want of a more luxurious supper, will intemperately abuse his luxury if he obtains it; he who has a difficulty, and is dissatisfied in submitting to a private and humble condition, will be unable to refrain from pride if he attain to honour. Let it be the aim of all who have any unfeigned desire for piety to learn, after the example of the Apostle, "both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need," (Phil. 4:12). Scripture, moreover, has a third rule for modifying the use of earthly blessings. We have already adverted to it when considering the offices of charity. For it declares that they have all been given us by the kindness of God, and appointed for our use under the condition of being regarded as trusts, of which we must one day give account. We must, therefore, administer them as if we constantly heard the words sounding in our ears, "Give an account of your stewardship." At the same time, let us remember by whom the account is to be taken--viz. by him who, while he so highly commends abstinence, sobriety, frugality, and moderation, abominates luxury, pride, ostentation, and vanity; who approves of no administration but that which is combined with charity, who with his own lips has already condemned all those pleasures which withdraw the heart from chastity and purity, or darken the intellect.

6. The last thing to be observed is, that the Lord enjoins every one of us, in all the actions of life, to have respect to our own calling. He knows the boiling restlessness of the human mind, the fickleness with which it is borne hither and thither, its eagerness to hold opposites at one time in its grasp, its ambition. Therefore, lest all things should be thrown into confusion by our folly and rashness, he has assigned distinct duties to each in the different modes of life. And that no one may presume to overstep his proper limits, he has distinguished the different modes of life by the name of callings. Every man's mode of life, therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord, that he may not be always driven about at random. So necessary is this distinction, that all our actions are thereby estimated in his sight, and often in a very different way from that in which human reason or philosophy would estimate them. There is no more illustrious deed even among philosophers than to free one's country from tyranny, and yet the private individual who stabs the tyrant is openly condemned by the voice of the heavenly Judge. But I am unwilling to dwell on particular examples; it is enough to know that in every thing the call of the Lord is the foundation and beginning of right action. He who does not act with reference to it will never, in the discharge of duty, keep the right path. He will sometimes be able, perhaps, to give the semblance of something laudable, but whatever it may be in the sight of man, it will be rejected before the throne of God; and besides, there will be no harmony in the different parts of his life. Hence, he only who directs his life to this end will have it properly framed; because free from the impulse of rashness, he will not attempt more than his calling justifies, knowing that it is unlawful to overleap the prescribed bounds. He who is obscure will not decline to cultivate a private life, that he may not desert the post at which God has placed him. Again, in all our cares, toils, annoyances, and other burdens, it will be no small alleviation to know that all these are under the superintendence of God. The magistrate will more willingly perform his office, and the father of a family confine himself to his proper sphere. Every one in his particular mode of life will, without repining, suffer its inconveniences, cares, uneasiness, and anxiety, persuaded that God has laid on the burden. This, too, will afford admirable consolation, that in following your proper calling, no work will be so mean and sordid as not to have a splendour and value in the eye of God.


[400] See Chrysost. ad Heb. 11. As to Cratetes the Theban, see Plutarch, Lib. de Vitand. ære alien. and Philostratus in Vita Apollonii.

[401] French, "Parer notre ame de ses vrais ornemens;"--deck our soul with its true ornaments.


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

  • Catholic, Evangelical, and Reformed
  • Scripture Alone
  • Faith Alone 1

#1 R.C. Sproul | Ligonier


#2 R.C. Sproul | Ligonier


#3 R.C. Sproul | Ligonier


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/2006    Our Covenant God

     From time to time we receive a letter from a reader who would like us to use words that are more familiar. And although we generally try to define theological and biblical terms that may be unfamiliar to our readers, we do expect readers of Tabletalk to pick up their dictionaries occasionally. In an age when the average adult reads at a seventh-grade level, we want to raise the bar a little and challenge people to study words and their meanings, especially when it comes to the words of sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, there are certain words that are not found in Webster’s dictionary. And even if the Lord God Almighty were to have a dictionary, there would be certain words we wouldn’t find in it. For instance, we would not find the word oops in God’s dictionary, nor would we find the words probably or maybe.

     When it comes to the language of God’s covenants with His people, He never uses such words. Rather, on every historic occasion when the Lord forms a covenant, He uses two simple words, “I will.” They are words of promise, words of hope, and words of eternal significance. Having nothing, or no one, greater by which He can swear an oath, God swears by His own being (Gen.15). His promises alone are faithful and true, just as He alone is faithful and true. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In His covenants with His people, He makes it clear that He shall be our God and we shall be His people.

     There is a common saying I have heard among Christians: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” It sounds nice, but when it comes to God’s Word and His covenants, there is only one correct way of conveying the vital truths of God’s words to man: “God said it, that settles it.” It has nothing to do with whether or not we believe it. We are indeed agents and objects of God’s covenants, but we do not dictate to God the stipulations of His covenants with us. Just as Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith, so our Lord is the Author and Finisher of His covenants with us.

     Covenant theology is not some system of doctrine ordained by God to meet our every want and desire. Rather, it is the biblical system of redemption ordained by God to grant us what we need most, God Himself. In covenant theology we understand how God has set us free in Christ to live coram Deo, before His face. Thus the primary question for all Christians is not whether they believe in the covenant theology of Scripture, but whether they believe in the God of the covenants.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, March 25, 1835, Andrew Jackson wrote in a letter: “I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent Constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us (and you know Charity is the real basis of all true religion)… judge the tree by its fruit. All who profess Christianity believe in a Saviour, and that by and through Him we must be saved.” Andrew Jackson concluded: “We ought, therefore, to consider all good Christians whose walks correspond with their professions, be they Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
--- H.L. Mencken   H.L. Mencken on Religion

Prayer is thinking deeply about something in the presence of God.
--- Wayne Cordeiro   Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion

I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.
--- Wendell Berry   The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

Acquaint yourself with your own ignorance.
--- Isaac Watts   The Improvement of the Mind (Classic Reprint)

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/25
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Twentieth of ninth month. -- The committee appointed by the Yearly Meeting to visit the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings gave an account in writing of their proceedings in that service. They signified that in the course of the visit they had been apprehensive that some persons holding offices in government inconsistent with our principles, and others who kept slaves, remaining active members in our meetings for discipline, had been one means of weakness prevailing in some places. After this report was read, an exercise revived in my mind which had attended me for several years, and inward cries to the Lord were raised in me that the fear of man might not prevent me from doing what be required of me, and, standing up, I spoke in substance as follows: "I have felt a tenderness in my mind towards persons in two circumstances mentioned in that report; namely, towards such active members as keep slaves and such as hold offices in civil government; and I have desired that Friends, in all their conduct, may be kindly affectioned one towards another. Many Friends who keep slaves are under some exercise on that account; and at times think about trying them with freedom, but find many things in their way. The way of living and the annual expenses of some of them are such that it seems impracticable for them to set their slaves free without changing their own way of life. It has been my lot to be often abroad; and I have observed in some places, at Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, and at some houses where travelling Friends and their horses are often entertained, that the yearly expense of individuals therein is very considerable. And Friends in some places crowding much on persons in these circumstances for entertainment hath rested as a burden on my mind for some years past. I now express it in the fear of the Lord, greatly desiring that Friends here present may duly consider it."

     In the fall of this year, having hired a man to work, I perceived in conversation with him that he had been a soldier in the late war on this continent; and he informed me in the evening, in a narrative of his captivity among the Indians, that he saw two of his fellow-captives tortured to death in a very cruel manner. This relation affected me with sadness, under which I went to bed; and the next morning, soon after I awoke, a fresh and living sense of Divine love overspread my mind, in which I had a renewed prospect of the nature of that wisdom from above which leads to a right use of all gifts, both spiritual and temporal, and gives content therein. Under a feeling thereof, I wrote as follows:-

     "Hath He who gave me a being attended with many wants unknown to brute creatures given me a capacity superior to theirs, and shown me that a moderate application to business is suitable to my present condition; and that this, attended with his blessing, may supply all my outward wants while they remain within the bounds he hath fixed, and while no imaginary wants proceeding from an evil spirit have any place in me? Attend then, O my soul! to this pure wisdom as thy sure conductor through the manifold dangers of this world.

     In the fall of this year, having hired a man to work, I perceived in conversation with him that he had been a soldier in the late war on this continent; and he informed me in the evening, in a narrative of his captivity among the Indians, that he saw two of his fellow-captives tortured to death in a very cruel manner. This relation affected me with sadness, under which I went to bed; and the next morning, soon after I awoke, a fresh and living sense of Divine love overspread my mind, in which I had a renewed prospect of the nature of that wisdom from above which leads to a right use of all gifts, both spiritual and temporal, and gives content therein. Under a feeling thereof, I wrote as follows:-

     "Hath He who gave me a being attended with many wants unknown to brute creatures given me a capacity superior to theirs, and shown me that a moderate application to business is suitable to my present condition; and that this, attended with his blessing, may supply all my outward wants while they remain within the bounds he hath fixed, and while no imaginary wants proceeding from an evil spirit have any place in me? Attend then, O my soul! to this pure wisdom as thy sure conductor through the manifold dangers of this world.

     "Doth pride lead to vanity? Doth vanity form imaginary wants? Do these wants prompt men to exert their power in requiring more from others than they would be willing to perform themselves, were the same required of them? Do these proceedings beget hard thoughts? Do hard thoughts, when ripe, become malice? Does malice, when ripe, become revengeful, and in the end inflict terrible pains on our fellow-creatures and spread desolations in the world?

     "Do mankind, walking in uprightness, delight in each other's happiness? And do those who are capable of this attainment, by giving way to an evil spirit, employ their skill and strength to afflict and destroy one another? Remember then, O my soul! the quietude of those in whom Christ governs, and in all thy proceedings feel after it.

     "Doth he condescend to bless thee with his presence? To move and influence thee to action? To dwell and to walk in thee? Remember then thy station as being sacred to God. Accept of the strength freely offered to thee, and take heed that no weakness in conforming to unwise, expensive, and hard-hearted customs, gendering to discord and strife, be given way to. Doth he claim my body as his temple, and graciously require that I may be sacred to him? O that I may prize this favor, and that my whole life may be conformable to this character! Remember, O my soul! that the Prince of Peace is thy Lord; that he communicates his unmixed wisdom to his family, that they, living in perfect simplicity, may give no just cause of offence to any creature, but that they may walk as He walked!"

John Woolman's Journal

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

     "THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE"      I want to look at the fact of a life filled with the Holy Spirit more from the practical side, and to show how this life will show itself in our daily walk and conduct.

     Under the Old Testament you know the Holy Spirit often came upon men as a divine Spirit of revelation to reveal the mysteries of God, or for power to do the work of God. But He did not then dwell in them. Now, many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work, but know very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit, animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character. It is a gift of a holy mind and spiritual disposition, and what we need above everything else, is to say:

     "I must have the Holy Spirit sanctifying my whole inner life if I am really to live for God's glory."

     You might say that when Christ promised the Spirit to the disciples, He did so that they might have power to be witnesses. True, but then they received the Holy Spirit in such heavenly power and reality that He took possession of their whole being at once and so fitted them as holy men for doing the work with power as they had to do it. Christ spoke of power to the disciples, but it was the Spirit filling their whole being that worked the power.

     I wish now to dwell upon the passage found in Gal. 5:22:

     "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

     We read that "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and my desire is to speak on love as a fruit of the Spirit with a twofold object. One is that this word may be a searchlight in our hearts, and give us a test by which to try all our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and all our experience of the holy life. Let us try ourselves by this word. Has this been our daily habit, to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Has it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit the more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit we should make this the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit of love.

     Oh, if this were true in the Church of Christ how different her state would be! May God help us to get hold of this simple, heavenly truth that the fruit of the Spirit is a love which appears in the life, and that just as the Holy Spirit gets real possession of the life, the heart will be filled with real, divine, universal love.

     One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time of their great religious wars, when Holland stood out so nobly against Spain, one of their mottoes was: "Unity gives strength." It is only when God's people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see--it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God. Remember that if a vessel that ought to be one whole is cracked into many pieces, it cannot be filled. You can take a potsherd, one part of a vessel, and dip out a little water into that, but if you want the vessel full, the vessel must be whole. That is literally true of Christ's Church, and if there is one thing we must pray for still, it is this: Lord, melt us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit; let the Holy Spirit, who at Pentecost made them all of one heart and one soul, do His blessed work among us. Praise God, we can love each other in a divine love, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Give yourselves up to love, and the Holy Spirit will come; receive the Spirit, and He will teach you to love more.

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

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:11-12
     by D.H. Stern

11     Wealth gotten by worthless means dwindles away,
but he who amasses it by hard work will increase it.

12     Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Consumer Religion
     by Dr. David Wells

     It is not difficult to see, for example, that in popular evangelical journals as well as in much sermonic fare, the older ideas that happiness is properly a by-product of moral behavior rather than the object of pursuit itself and that the self is found only when it is lost are no longer much in favor. The connections between morality and happiness have become quite tenuous, it would seem, because personality is generally assumed to have little to do with human nature. Certainly in America, but sometimes it would seem also in American evangelicalism, it is not good character that we value as much as good feelings. To the extent to which this is true of evangelicalism, it is a remarkable development. Is not the self movement evidence of our collective unhappiness and insecurity? It is only the hungry, after all, who are always thinking of food; those who are not deprived occupy themselves with other thoughts. It is only the unhappy who are constantly preoccupied with happiness, only those crippled by a sense of their own insubstantial self who expend their lives in its pursuit. Why, then, are many turning to these symbols of our cultural failure and fear for the materials with which to redefine evangelical faith?

     The answer, it would seem, is that this adaptation of evangelical faith has been highly successful, and its costs are apparently not selfevident. As it happens, the reshaping of the American character has coincided exactly with the reshaping of evangelical faith that has been going on for more than a century, speeded up by the revivals that coursed through the land from one end of the nineteenth century to the other and that shifted the theological axis from a predominantly Calvinistic orientation to a typically Arminian orientation. If Americans now envy the inner experience of others, evangelicals have their own inner experience to offer — indeed, to market — so what may be justified on religious grounds is rewarded not for its religious faithfulness but for its cultural appeal.

     The attraction of evangelical faith, then, has been very intimately tied up with this reshaping of the American character. Evangelicals have always insisted that Christ is a person who can and should be known personally; he is not simply an item on a creed to which assent should be given. But from this point they have drawn conclusions that become increasingly injurious. They have proceeded to seek assurance of faith not in terms of the objective truthfulness of the biblical teaching but in terms of the efficacy of its subjective experience. Testimonies have become indispensable items in the evangelistic fare. Testifying to having experienced Christ personally is peculiarly seductive in the modern context, because it opens up to view an inner experience that responds to the hunger of the "other-directed" individual but often sacrifices its objective truth value in doing so. The question it poses to the outsider is not whether Christ is objectively real but simply whether the experience is appealing, whether it seems to have worked, whether having it will bring one inside the group and give one connections to others.

     In any genuine knowledge of God, there is an experience of his grace and power, informed by the written Scriptures, mediated by the Holy Spirit, and based upon the work of Christ on the Cross. What is not so clear from the New Testament is that this experience should itself become the source of our knowledge of God or that it should be used to commend that knowledge to others. To be sure, there was plenty of witnessing that went on in the early Church, but it is anything but clear that this should be understood as the use of personal autobiography to persuade others that they should commit themselves to Christ. New Testament witness was witness to the objective truth of Christian faith, truth that had been experienced; our witness today is witness to our own faith, and in affirming its validity we may become less interested in its truthfulness that in the fact that it seems to work. Evangelical hymnody today is changing direction to reflect this experience-centered focus.

     This adaptation has enabled evangelicalism to orient itself to our consumer culture and the habits of mind that go with it. The televangelists, whether deliberately or simply intuitively, have exploited this to their considerable advantage. Their type of ministry, in which serious thought has been supplanted by slickly packaged experience, is easy on the mind. Sustaining orthodoxy and framing Christian belief in doctrinal terms requires habits of reflection and judgment that are simply out of place in our culture and increasingly are disappearing from evangelicalism as well. Bryan Wilson charges that these virtues have been replaced in these ministries by assumptions that are far more at home in the modern world. Today we "demand instant access to authentic reality," he says, and these ministries do indeed offer instant and painless access, the authenticity of which is "guaranteed by subjective feeling, reinforced by group-engendered emotions"; the televangelists capitalize on the widespread perception that "reality is to be felt rather than cognitively realized." Feeling is rapid, but learning is slow. Credit cards allow us to have without having to wait; the message of the televangelists has been that we can likewise have divine results without having to wait — indeed, without even having to think.

     There can be no question that this type of consumer religion opens itself up to accommodating the bizarre. In every other aspect of the commercial world the bizarre proves salable because it either fascinates or amuses us. Ours is a generation that craves amusement. Phoenix First Assembly might serve as an illustration of how one church among many has incorporated this aspect into its appeal. Situated on seventy-two sunny acres in Phoenix, Arizona, the church has the look of a country club. It currently boasts an attendance of around ten thousand each Sunday, up from only two hundred in 1979. It is a megachurch, an expanding church. A reporter who visited it described the minister's plans to build a replica of Jerusalem nearby, "with camels and everything," as well as an amphitheater with "prayer gardens and caves." It is a church of drama. The preacher punctuates his sermons with eye-catching and heart-stopping antics such as his personal flight to heaven on invisible wires, and his use of a chain saw to topple a tree in order to give punch to a point, and his incorporation of "a rented elephant, kangaroo and zebra" in a Christmas service. Other churches have gone to similar lengths, featuring skydivers dropping in during a sermon, bodybuilders breaking boards at the pulpit, and prayer groups outfitting themselves in combat fatigues.

     Aside from the commercial appeal, however, the growth in this type of evangelical faith in America is in part also to be explained by the powerful undercurrents of self-absorption that course through the modern psyche. Many charismatics have made the experience of God rather than the truth of God foundational. The self therefore becomes pivotal. This, in turn, links with the deep subterranean sense of progress that is inescapable in America, as the proponents of this movement tout it as the most recent cresting of the Spirit. Here is the cutting edge of progress in what God is now doing. This by itself is a validation of all that takes place within this movement and within its churches. In America, it has always been hard to quarrel with success; it is even more futile when there are those who are convinced that the success has been divinely produced. Yet, if one understands modernity, it is not difficult to imagine that much of what is vaunted as the Spirit's work may have causes that are rather more natural. Nor is it difficult to understand that where a religion is busy accommodating itself to culture there will be a period of success before the disillusionment sets in. In the end, those who promote the sort of Christianity that accommodates the culture always have to answer the question as to what they are offering in Christ that cannot be had from purely secular sources.

     In another age, Robert Schuller's ministry, for example, might well have been viewed not as Christian ministry at all, but as comedy. Would it not be possible to view him as providing a biting parody of American self-absorption? Sin, he says with a cherubic smile, is not what shatters our relationship to God; the true culprit is the jaundiced eye that we have turned on ourselves. The problem is that we do not esteem ourselves enough. In the Crystal Cathedral, therefore, let the word sin be banished, whether in song, Scripture, or prayer. There is never any confession there. Then again, Christ was not drawing a profound moral compass in the Sermon on the Mount; he was just giving us a set of "be (happy) attitudes." The word was, don't worry, be happy. And God is not so mean as to judge; he is actually very amiable and benign. Comedy this devastating would be too risky for most to attempt. But Schuller is no comic. He earnestly wants us to believe all of this, and many do. When he makes these pronouncements, he attracts a large and devoted Christian following. What is the appeal?

     The answer, it would seem, is that Schuller is adroitly, if unconsciously, riding the stream of modernity. By Yankelovich's estimate, 80 percent of the nation is now engaged in the search for new rules premised on the search for and discovery of the self. Schuller is offering in easily digestible bites the therapeutic model of life through which the healing of the bruised self is found. He is by no means alone in this; he is simply the most shameless.

     In 1983, James Hunter published the results of his analysis of the eight most prolific evangelical presses. He found that 87.8 percent of the titles published dealt with subjects related to the self, its discovery and nurture and the resolution of its problems and tensions. The remaining 12.2 percent of the titles published had to carry the rest of the cargo. To be sure, these figures can yield only tentative conclusions. We might draw firmer conclusions if we knew how many copies of each title were sold. And of course it would better yet if we could somehow determine how many of the purchased books were actually read. And it would be best of all if we could know why the books were purchased and what effects they had on the readers. Nevertheless, Hunter's finding is quite in line with Yankelovich's estimate, and it does support the conclusion that a turn has occurred within evangelicalism characterized by "an incessant preoccupation with the hitherto 'undiscovered' complexities of one's individual subjectivity." Moreover, this would seem to be not merely a passing fad but, rather, evidence of a deep transformation. In a study of the coming evangelical generation published in 1987, Hunter found "an accentuation of subjectivity and the virtual veneration of the self, exhibited in deliberate efforts to achieve self-understanding, selfimprovement, and self-fulfillment." A survey of evangelical college students revealed that 62 percent believed that realizing one's potential as a human being is as important as looking out for the interests of others, and 87 percent said that they were working hard at self-improvement.

     Indeed, The Serendipity Bible for Groups (the second largest selling Bible version in 1989) owns this as the foundation of the whole enterprise. Speaking of the theological assumptions beneath the entire series of studies, Lyman Coleman begins with the affirmation that "you are created in the image of God and endowed with unlimited potential" and indicates that the main point of studying the Bible is to elicit this potential. He tells us that only five to ten percent of our human potential is actually used; the rest lies buried beneath "a pile of fears, failures, painful childhood memories, broken dreams, mistakes and guilt feelings." It is in the encounter group in which the Bible is used as an instrument to explore inner feelings that this potential can be found and the stream of negativity stopped. Discovering our own "unlimited potential" is what Christianity is all about.

     Descartes argued "I think, therefore I am," and people after Freud translated that into the modern vernacular by saying, "I feel, therefore I am a self"; modern evangelicals of the relational type seem to have added their own quirk to it by saying that "I feel religiously, therefore I am a self." The search for the religious self then becomes a search for religious good feelings. But the problem with making good feelings the end for which one is searching is, as Henry Fairlie argues, that it is possible to feel good about oneself, even religiously, "in states of total vacuity, euphoria, intoxication, and self-indulgence, and it is even possible when we are doing wrong and know what we are doing."

     This kind of self-fascination is by no means an excrescence of an otherwise robust sector of religious life. It is at the very center of evangelicalism. For further evidence that this is so, we can turn again to Leadership magazine, a journal dedicated to providing resources for evangelical pastors. As we noted earlier, an analysis of its contents during the 1980s shows that this highly successful journal appeared to believe that the most fruitful sources from which to draw for Christian ministry were popularized versions of psychology and business management; indeed, these are the only sources from which it has drawn. Of all the essays that appeared between 1980 and 1988, less than 1 percent made even a remote reference to Scripture or any theological idea, despite the fact that a number of the topics dealt with are themselves treated in the Bible. As the journal turns away from the Bible to what it apparently assumes are more fruitful sources of knowledge, it is redefining Christian ministry and the pastor who accepts its point of view. In the study, the evangelical pastor is now the C.E.O.; in the pulpit, the pastor is a psychologist whose task it is to engineer good relations and warm feelings.

No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘But who are “They”? This might be run by someone different?’

     ‘Entirely new management, eh? Don’t you believe it! It’s never a new management. You’ll always find the same old Ring. I know all about dear, kind Mummie coming up to your bedroom and getting all she wants to know out of you: but you always found she and Father were the same firm really. Didn’t we find that both sides in all the wars were run by the same Armament Firms? or the same Firm, which is behind the Jews and the Vatican and the Dictators and the Democracies and all the rest of it. All this stuff up here is run by the same people as the Town. They’re just laughing at us.’

     ‘I thought they were at war?’

     ‘Of course you did. That’s the official version. But who’s ever seen any signs of it? Oh, I know that’s how they talk. But if there’s a real war why don’t they do anything? Don’t you see that if the official version were true these chaps up here would attack and sweep the Town out of existence? They’ve got the strength. If they wanted to rescue us they could do it. But obviously the last thing they want is to end their so-called “war”. The whole game depends on keeping it going.’

     This account of the matter struck me as uncomfortably plausible. I said nothing.

     ‘Anyway,’ said the Ghost, ‘who wants to be rescued? What the hell would there be to do here?’

     ‘Or there?’ said I.

     ‘Quite,’ said the Ghost. ‘They’ve got you either way.’

     ‘What would you like to do if you had your choice?’ I asked.

     ‘There you go!’ said the Ghost with a certain triumph. ‘Asking me to make a plan. It’s up to the Management to find something that doesn’t bore us, isn’t it? It’s their job. Why should we do it for them? That’s just where all the parsons and moralists have got the thing upside down. They keep on asking us to alter ourselves. But if the people who run the show are so clever and so powerful, why don’t they find something to suit their public? All this poppycock about growing harder so that the grass doesn’t hurt our feet, now! There’s an example. What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like bad eggs in time?’

     ‘Well, I’ll be getting along,’ said the Ghost after a short silence. ‘You coming my way?’

     ‘There doesn’t seem to be much point in going anywhere on your showing,’ I replied. A great depression had come over me. ‘And at least it’s not raining here.’

     ‘Not at the moment,’ said the Hard-Bitten Ghost. ‘But I never saw one of those bright mornings that didn’t turn to rain later on. And, by gum, when it does rain here! Ah, you hadn’t thought of that? It hadn’t occurred to you that with the sort of water they have here every raindrop will make a hole in you, like a machine-gun bullet. That’s their little joke, you see. First of all tantalise you with ground you can’t walk on and water you can’t drink and then drill you full of holes. But they won’t catch me that way.’

     A few minutes later he moved off.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The most delicate mission on earth

The friend of the Bridegroom. --- John 3:29.

     Goodness and purity ought never to attract attention to themselves, they ought simply to be magnets to draw to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing towards Him, it is not holiness of the right order, but an influence that will awaken inordinate affection and lead souls away into side-eddies. A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him; he will leave the impression—‘What a fine character that man is!’—that is not being a true friend of the Bridegroom; I am increasing all the time, He is not.

     In order to maintain this friendship and loyalty to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful of our moral and vital relationship to Him than of any other thing, even of obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey, the only thing to do is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, to see that nothing interferes with that. Only occasionally do we have to obey. When a crisis arises we have to find out what God’s will is, but the greater part of the life is not conscious obedience but the maintenance of this relationship—the friend of the Bridegroom. Christian work may be a means of evading the soul’s concentration on Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, we become amateur providences and may work against Him whilst we use His weapons.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


Nineteen years now
  Under the same roof
  Eating our bread,
  Using the same air;
  Sighing, if one sighs,
  Meeting the other's
  Words with a look
  That thaws suspicion.

  Nineteen years now
  Sharing life's table,
  And not to be first
  To call the meal long
  We balance it thoughtfully
  On the tip of the tongue,
  Careful to maintain
  The strict palate.

  Nineteen years now
  Keeping simple house,
  Opening the door
  To friend and stranger;
  Opening the womb
  Softly to let enter
  The one child
  With his huge hunger.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     The Lost Rest: Hebrews 3:7–11 (cont)

     Hebrews 4 goes on to apply this incident directly to you and me. “Today if you hear His voice,” the Scripture warns, “do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). Because distrust kept Israel from obeying God, the people were unable to enter the Promised Land. They never knew rest from their wanderings in desolate wilderness. And they died there.

     But how does this apply to us? The Bible says “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). There remains the promise of experiencing life and meeting its challenges with peace in our hearts, and confidence that God’s good will is being worked out in every circumstance. We can miss the experience of peace if we follow the Israelites’ “example of disobedience.”

     All this helps us see more clearly the nature of Christian responsibility. We are to listen for God’s voice today. And when the Holy Spirit makes us aware of God’s will, we are to trust God completely—and express that trust in obedience.

     Like Joshua and Caleb, we are to see our enemies clearly, but are also to have such a clear vision of the Lord that we remember we are well able to overcome them. With this kind of confidence in God, we will obey Him, and find the peace and joy that only obedience can provide.

     This responsibility of the believer remains the same across the centuries. It is the same, under Law or under grace. Redemption’s story is one—a story replayed at different times on different stages, but with unifying themes. Redemption brings men and women to God, frees and cleanses them, and provides a choice.

     Wilderness—or Promised Land?

     Disobedience—or obedience to God’s voice?

     Unbelief—or a complete and childlike trust in the God who has broken our chains and who promises to enrich our forgiveness with an experience of His rest?

     Will we find that rest? The choice, and the responsibility, is ours and ours alone.

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Pesaḥim 64a–b


     Often, we complain that people who help others do so for the wrong reasons. They act out of self-interest, for publicity, or to be like their neighbors. A man donates $10 million to a hospital less because of a concern for health care and more because he wants to see a new building named after him. A couple spends the afternoon working as volunteers in a local soup kitchen not because they care about feeding the poor or ending hunger, but simply because they have nothing to do one afternoon a week. The charity work fills up their empty time. A high school student works as a “candy striper” in the local hospital not out of any interest in healing the sick or relieving those in pain, but simply because it will look good on her college résumé. Rav Yehudah is reminding us not to be so critical of such people. At least they’re doing something good—albeit for empty, silly, or selfish reasons. Perhaps next time, their motivation will be purer. At least now, the deed is in place. They can then move on to raise the level of the act, to make it “higher than the heavens.”

     A woman joins a health club not for the exercise benefits, but because it is the “in” place to go, where the trend-setters are seen. The last thing on her mind is her own physical fitness and health benefits. However, because she is at a place where people are involved with regular exercise, she begins to participate more and more in aerobic activities. While she initially came “to see and be seen,” and she still enjoys the company of the trend-setters, she now is benefitting greatly from and enjoying the physical fitness, even if this originally was an incidental reason for her being there.

     Jewish tradition has taken a similar approach to the giving of the Law at Sinai. The Israelites are highly praised not only for accepting the Torah, but also for how they accepted it. “And they said: ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will faithfully do.’ (
Exodus 24:7)” “We will faithfully do” is actually two Hebrew verbs: na’aseh, “we will do,” and v’nishmah, “we will listen.” Together, the meaning is “we will faithfully do,” but the Rabbis saw in these verbs a lesson. The Israelites first agreed to do and to practice. Only later would they listen and find out the rationales. Even if they obeyed without knowing why, even if they observed for reasons that would later prove illogical or inexact, the Israelites were first doing. The Rabbis saw a great value in their response.

     There are few things that we do in our lives for pure reasons. At work or at play, at home or even in the synagogue, much of what we do has some ulterior motive. Rav Yehudah, in the name of Rav, informs us that this is natural. He is reminding us that positive motivations often follow positive actions. We should do these good things, even if for the wrong reasons, because this will train us to do them for the right reasons.

     We do not rely on a miracle.

     Text / Mishnah (5:5): The Passover offering is slaughtered by three groups, as it says: “And all the assembled congregation of the Israelites shall slaughter it” [
Exodus 12:6]—“assembled,” “congregation” and “Israelites.” When the first group entered, the courtyard was filled, and the doors of the courtyard were closed, and they blew a long note, short notes, and a long note.
     Gemara: “When the first group entered.” It has been said: Abaye said: “We have learned: ‘They [the doors] are closed.’ ” Rava said: “We have learned: ‘We close them.’ ” What’s the difference? Here is the difference: Relying on a miracle. Abaye said: “We have learned: ‘They are closed,’ and whoever got in is in, and we rely on a miracle.” But Rava said: “ ‘We close them,’ and we do not rely on a miracle.”

     Context / The discussion about the sacrificial system of the Temple may seem foreign to us, more like a philosophical argument than a relevant matter of practical Jewish law. In fact, the rules and regulations of the Temple period were no longer relevant to Abaye and Rava, living two to three hundred years after the destruction of the second Temple! Why, then, the concern with how the doors were closed?
     First, the Rabbis prayed for and hoped for the rebuilding of the Temple. Their discussions could have practical implications as preparation for the time when the sacrifices would be restored “as in olden days.”
     In addition, this discussion, like many arguments of the Talmud, is a theoretical one, a practice in reading and interpretation of text. The Rabbis found intellectual challenge in arguing their points back and forth. Furthermore, as we have seen, every disagreement even about a theoretical issue like the closing of the doors reflects differing world views. The Rabbis teach their general attitudes towards important questions from such specific discussions.

     The Pesaḥ sacrifice that was originally offered as the Israelites left Egypt was later transferred to the Temple ritual. This Mishnah and Gemara are discussing the order for the sacrifice. According to the Mishnah, those offering the sacrifice are divided into three groups, based on the verse from Exodus. To the rabbinic mind, the Hebrew verse seems redundant, and any of the three words—kahal (assemblage/assembled), eidah (congregation), or Yisrael (Israelites)—would have sufficed. According to this reading of the verse, the redundancy is there to prove that three shifts should participate in the sacrifice of the paschal offering, one after the other, while the shofar is sounded.

     The disagreement between Abaye and Rava starts with a minute point of Hebrew grammar in the Mishnah’s wording. The Mishnah uses a phrase which, because of the nature of Hebrew, is unclear in its intent. The words na’alu daltot haazarah, “the doors of the courtyard are closed,” is as ambiguous in the Hebrew as in the English translation. How do the doors of the courtyard get closed, especially when there will be so many pilgrims in the Temple court on the Pesaḥ holiday? The Hebrew verb, na’alu, supports two possible readings. Abaye understands it as nina’lu, a passive verb meaning “they are closed.” From this inactive verb, Abaye learns that we ourselves do not push the doors shut but let whoever wants to enter the courtyard do so, even if this may be too many people. We rely on a miracle, that is, divine intervention, to insure that the courtyard will not be overcrowded at this time. Rava, however, has a different reading of the Mishnah. He says that the word is to be understood as no’alin, an active verb, implying “we close.” It is our responsibility to close the gates to the Temple courtyard so that only a certain number of people enter. We do not expect divine intervention, nor do we wait for a miracle.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Sixteenth Chapter / True Comfort Is To Be Sought In God Alone

          The Disciple

     WHATEVER I can desire or imagine for my own comfort I look for not here but hereafter. For if I alone should have all the world’s comforts and could enjoy all its delights, it is certain that they could not long endure. Therefore, my soul, you cannot enjoy full consolation or perfect delight except in God, the Consoler of the poor and the Helper of the humble. Wait a little, my soul, wait for the divine promise and you will have an abundance of all good things in heaven. If you desire these present things too much, you will lose those which are everlasting and heavenly. Use temporal things but desire eternal things. You cannot be satisfied with any temporal goods because you were not created to enjoy them.

     Even if you possessed all created things you could not be happy and blessed; for in God, Who created all these things, your whole blessedness and happiness consists—not indeed such happiness as is seen and praised by lovers of the world, but such as that for which the good and faithful servants of Christ wait, and of which the spiritual and pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometime have a foretaste.

     Vain and brief is all human consolation. But that which is received inwardly from the Truth is blessed and true. The devout man carries his Consoler, Jesus, everywhere with him, and he says to Him: “Be with me, Lord Jesus, in every place and at all times. Let this be my consolation, to be willing to forego all human comforting. And if Your consolation be wanting to me, let Your will and just trial of me be my greatest comfort. For You will not always be angry, nor will You threaten forever.”

The Imitation Of Christ

Links with Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua
     JPS Torah commentary

     In the twelfth century, the commentator Bekhor Shor noted that a number of wilderness narratives in Exodus and Numbers duplicate each other, in particular, the incidents of the water from the rock (20:2–13; Exod. 17:1–7) and the manna and the quail (11:4–9, 31–34; Exod. 16:1–15). Evidently, it is the duplication of the quail incident that led Bekhor Shor to this conclusion. For he asks: “If Moses saw that the quail arrived in sufficient quantities the first time, how could he on the second occasion doubt: ‘Could enough flocks and herds be slaughtered to suffice them?’ (11:22).” He finds additional evidence in Deuteronomy 33:8b: “Whom you tested at Massah/Challenged at the waters of Meribah.” Since a poetic line consists of parallel clauses, Massah and Meribah, the sites for the rock incidents in Exodus and Numbers (Exod. 17:7; Num. 20:13) must be identical. Moreover, their names are interchanged in Psalms 78:15–31 and 95:8–9.

     Of course, these duplicate accounts differ in some details. But their main difference lies in one fact that holds the key to their duplication: Only
Numbers records that God punished Israel (Lev. R. 1:10). (Cf. G. E. Mendenhall, “Covenant,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 719b; J. A. Wilcoxen, “Some Anthropocentric Aspects of Israel’s Sacred History,” JR 48 (1968): 333–350.) Indeed, this distinction holds true for the other wilderness narratives as well. In Exodus, God does not punish Israel for its murmuring; in Numbers, He does so consistently. There can be only one explanation for this state of affairs. The Exodus incidents are pre-Sinai; those of Numbers are post-Sinai. Before Israel accepted the covenant it was not responsible for its violation; indeed, it could claim ignorance of its stipulations. However, all the incidents of Numbers take place after Israel has left Sinai—where it swore allegiance to the covenant and was warned of the divine sanctions for its infringement. Thus it can be postulated that for a number of wilderness narratives two traditions were reported, the one involving punishment, and the other, not. The redactor, then, with Mount Sinai as his great divide, dutifully recorded both, as either pre- or post-Sinai.

     This distinction is nowhere better illustrated than in the initial stage of the wilderness march as recorded in each book. Both the
Exodus and Numbers phases of the trek begin with a three-day march (Exod. 15:22; Num. 10:33). In Exodus, however, Israel’s complaint goes unpunished—indeed, even unreprimanded—whereas in Numbers, Israel is severely dealt with (Exod. 15:22–26; Num. 11:1–3). Sinai, then, is the watershed in Israel’s wilderness experience. Indeed, it is the pivot as well as the summit for the Torah books as a whole.

     A more significant structural link between
Exodus and Numbers lies in the itinerary formula “departed from X and encamped at Y.” Frank Cross (F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973).) has noticed that in Exodus and Numbers there are exactly twelve such formulas that correspond to the itinerary list of Numbers 33. Six take Israel from Egypt to Rephidim, the station before Sinai (Exod. 12:37; 13:20; 14:1–2; 15:22; 16:1; 17:1), and six, from Sinai to the steppes of Moab (Exod. 19:2; Num. 10:12; 20:1; 20:22; 21:10–11; 22:1). Thus Exodus and Numbers, at least in their wilderness narratives, reveal the same redactional hand.

     Recensional activity involving
Exodus and Numbers is also evident in regard to the census recorded in both books, taken only several months apart and yielding identical results (Exod. 30:12–16; 38:26; Num. 1:46). The likelihood is that the same census is intended. Exodus probably provides the more authentic setting. With the Tabernacle under construction at Sinai, a census was taken to determine the military deployment of the camp and the guarding of the Tabernacle by the Levites. Subsequently, this account would have been moved to Numbers and joined with other material that described Israel’s preparations for the march from Sinai (Num. 1:1–10:10); only the prescription to pay the half-shekel ransom remained in its original place in Exodus.

     Finally, it is also important to see how
Numbers fits into the grand design of the Hexateuch. the five books of the Torah plus the Book of Joshua, which cover the entire history of early Israel from the time their forefather Abraham entered the promised land until they returned to it under Joshua.

     The accompanying diagram (courtesy of Newing) takes the form of a grand introversion, ABCDEFG X G′F′E′D′C′B′A′, a pattern that, as will be shown, is the dominant structure of the individual pericopes of
Numbers. The following points should be noted. As in all introverted structures, the center (X) is crucial. Once again it is Sinai. Not only is it the watershed of the wilderness narratives (Exodus-Numbers); it is the great divide of the Hexateuch. Sinai marks the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom. After Sinai, Israel repeats the failures and promises that had preceded it, repairing the former and fulfilling the latter. Also to be noted are the key concepts, terms, and phrases that mark the symmetrical sections: the “bones of Joseph” (Gen. 49:25; Josh. 24:32; AA′); “put off your shoes … holy” (Exod. 3:5; Josh. 5:15; BB′); circumcision (Exod. 4:25; Josh. 5:2–9; BB′); pesaḥ (Exod. 12:1–28; Josh. 5:10–12; BB′); crossing the sea/Jordan (Exod. 14:9–15:21; Josh. 3:4; CC′); the three days, manna, quail, rock narratives (Exod. 16–17; Num. 11, 20; DD′); theophany in fire (Exod. 19:18; Lev. 9:24; EE′); encroaching upon Sinai/Tabernacle incurs death (Exod. 19:13; Num. 1:51; EE′); architectural detail of the Tabernacle (Exod. 25–31; Exod. 35–40; FF′); Sabbath law precedes Tabernacle construction (Exod. 31:12–17; Exod. 35:1–3; FF′); broken and renewed covenant (Exod. 32; Exod. 34:10–28; GG′); and the unparalleled theophany to Moses (33:17–34:9; X). Finally, the two large wedges on either side of Sinai (which balance the structure) are subsequent additions to the corpus: the primeval history (Gen. 1–11) and Deuteronomy.

The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers (English and Hebrew Edition)

Take Heart
     March 25

     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.

     Look on dying Jesus, see how his care and love to his people flamed out when the time of his departure was at hand. ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) As we remember our relations every day and lay up prayers for them in the time of our health, so it becomes us to imitate Christ in our earnestness with God for them when we die. Though we die, our prayers do not die with us; they outlive us, and those we leave behind may reap the benefit of them when we are turned to dust.

     I must profess that I have a high value for this mercy and bless the Lord who gave me a tender father who often poured out his soul to God for me. This stock of prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord I esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. It is no small mercy to have thousands of prayers lying before the Lord, filed up in heaven for us. Surely our love should not grow cold when our breath does. Oh, that we would remember this duty in our lives and, if God give opportunity, fully discharge it when we die, considering, as Christ did, we will be no more in this world, but they are, in the midst of a defiled world—it is the last office of love that we will ever do for them.

     Here we may see what high esteem and value Christ has of believers; this was the treasure that he could not quit, he could not die till he had secured it in a safe hand. “I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.”

     Surely believers are dear to Jesus Christ—and good reason, for he has paid dear for them. Let his last farewell speak for him, how he prized them. What is much on our hearts when we die is dear to us indeed. How dear should Jesus Christ be to us! Were we first and last upon his heart? Did he mind us, did he pray for us, did he so wrestle with God about us when the sorrows of death surrounded him? How much are we committed not only to love him and esteem him while we live, but to be in pangs of love for him when we feel the pangs of death upon us! The very last whisper of our departing souls should be this, Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.
--- John Flavel

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

On This Day   March 25
     Black Easter

     Nearly 1,000 missionary personnel under the China Inland Mission were trapped in China when the Communists took over in the 1940s. CIM ordered a total evacuation in January, 1951, but was it too late? Communists are not averse to killing.

     Arthur and Wilda Mathews applied for exit visas on January 3. Their living conditions had deteriorated to a bare kitchen where, in the corner, Wilda had converted a footlocker into a prayer nook. Days passed with no action on their requests. Meanwhile citizens were executed every day, and from her kitchen Wilda could hear the shots. The strain grew unbearable. “The imagination is what jumps around into all sorts of places it ought to keep out of,” Arthur wrote to his parents.

     He was told at last that his wife and child could leave if he would secretly work for the Communists. Arthur refused. Day after day he was summoned and grilled. Day after day he said good-bye to Wilda, wondering if he would ever see her again. Finally Arthur bluntly told the authorities, “I am not a Judas. If you expect me or anyone else in the China Inland Mission to do that kind of thing, you had better not try because we cannot do it.”

     Wilda was utterly overcome by fear and doubt. Sunday, March 21, 1951 was, as she called it later, Black Easter. Wilda sneaked into an Easter church service, but when she opened her mouth to sing “He Lives!” no words came out. Returning home, she fell at the trunk and her trembling fingers found 2 Chronicles 20.17: You won’t even have to fight. Just take your position and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don’t be afraid.… Wilda clamped onto that verse, and two weeks later she wrote, “The conflict has been terrible, but peace and quiet reign now.”

     It was two years before she exited the country, and even longer for Arthur who became the last CIM missionary to leave China. But miraculously, all of them got out without a single one being martyred. It was the greatest exodus in missionary history.

     You won’t even have to fight. Just take your positions and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don’t be afraid. Just do as you’re told. And as you march out tomorrow, the LORD will be there with you. Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground and everyone worshiped the LORD.
--- 2 Chronicles 20:17,18.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 25

     “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” --- Luke 22:48.

     “The kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Let me be on my guard when the world puts on a loving face, for it will, if possible, betray me as it did my Master, with a kiss. Whenever a man is about to stab religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it. Let me beware of the sleek-faced hypocrisy which is armour-bearer to heresy and infidelity. Knowing the deceivableness of unrighteousness, let me be wise as a serpent to detect and avoid the designs of the enemy. The young man, void of understanding, was led astray by the kiss of the strange woman: may my soul be so graciously instructed all this day, that “the much fair speech” of the world may have no effect upon me. Holy Spirit, let me not, a poor frail son of man, be betrayed with a kiss!

     But what if I should be guilty of the same accursed sin as Judas, that son of perdition? I have been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; I am a member of his visible Church; I sit at the communion table: all these are so many kisses of my lips. Am I sincere in them? If not, I am a base traitor. Do I live in the world as carelessly as others do, and yet make a profession of being a follower of Jesus? Then I must expose religion to ridicule, and lead men to speak evil of the holy name by which I am called. Surely if I act thus inconsistently I am a Judas, and it were better for me that I had never been born. Dare I hope that I am clear in this matter? Then, O Lord, keep me so. O Lord, make me sincere and true. Preserve me from every false way. Never let me betray my Saviour. I do love thee, Jesus, and though I often grieve thee, yet I would desire to abide faithful even unto death. O God, forbid that I should be a high-soaring professor, and then fall at last into the lake of fire, because I betrayed my Master with a kiss.

          Evening - March 25

     "The Son of man."John 3:13.

     How constantly our Master used the title, the “Son of man!” If he had chosen, he might always have spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Prince of Peace; but behold the lowliness of Jesus! He prefers to call himself the Son of man. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. There is here, however, a far sweeter thought. Jesus loved manhood so much, that he delighted to honour it; and since it is a high honour, and indeed, the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus is the Son of man, he is wont to display this name, that he may as it were hang royal stars upon the breast of manhood, and show forth the love of God to Abraham’s seed. Son of man—whenever he said that word, he shed a halo round the head of Adam’s children. Yet there is perhaps a more precious thought still. Jesus Christ called himself the Son of man to express his oneness and sympathy with his people. He thus reminds us that he is the one whom we may approach without fear. As a man, we may take to him all our griefs and troubles, for he knows them by experience; in that he himself hath suffered as the “Son of man,” he is able to succour and comfort us. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! inasmuch as thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that thou art a brother and a near kinsman, it is to us a dear token of thy grace, thy humility, thy love.

     “Oh see how Jesus trusts himself
     Unto our childish love,
     As though by his free ways with us
     Our earnestness to prove!

     His sacred name a common word
     On earth he loves to hear;
     There is no majesty in him
     Which love may not come near.”

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     March 25

          WHEN HE COMETH

     William O. Cushing, 1823–1902

     When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
(Colossians 3:4)

     The scriptural promise of Christ’s second coming is always a thrilling truth for believers to ponder. Beyond that, the thought of the Savior creating a jeweled crown from little children who love Him is a fascinating pictorial concept. William Orcutt Cushing conceived the idea for his “Jewel Song” text from the promise in Malachi 3:17: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” Pastor Cushing wrote the text for the children in his own Sunday school in 1856.

     Several years later, William Cushing suffered a period of deep despair in his life. After the death of his wife, he developed a creeping paralysis and the loss of his speech at the age of 47. He was forced to retire from the ministry after 27 years as an active and successful pastor in Disciples of Christ churches. When he pleaded, “Lord, give me something to do for Thee,” God answered, giving him the gift of writing appealing hymn texts. He worked with such talented musicians as Ira Sankey and George Root to produce more than 300 gospel hymns during his remaining years. Such hymns as “Hiding in Thee,” “Under His Wings,” and “There’ll Be No Dark Valley” are just a few of his texts that have since contributed much to the lives of Christians everywhere.

     William Cushing’s picturesque words in today’s hymn, “They shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown,” could also be used to describe his own qualities of character. He was known by his many friends to be a noble, sweet, deeply spiritual Christian. Loved by all, Cushing continued to inspire and encourage others despite his handicap until the end of his life at the age of 79.

     When He cometh, when he cometh to make up His jewels, all His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
     He will gather, He will gather the gems for His kingdom, all the pure ones, all the bright ones, His loved and His own.
     Little children, little children who love their Redeemer, are the jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
     Chorus: Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning, they shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown.

     For Today: Zechariah 9:16; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:27, 29, 30, 31, 36, 42, 44; Acts 1:11; Titus 2:12, 13.

     Strive to live in the expectancy that Christ could return today. Carry this little children’s hymn with you. Share the truth of this song with your family as you have opportunity.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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

          A Prayer for Restoration to Spiritual Vigor

     “Make you perfect in every good work.” The original Greek word here rendered make perfect is katartizō, which James Strong defines as to complete thoroughly, that is, to repair (literally or figuratively), to adjust (see no. 2675 in the Greek Dictionary of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Contrast this with the word teleioō used in Hebrews 2:10; 10:1, 14; 11:40, which according to Strong means to complete, (literally) to accomplish, or (figuratively) to consummate in character (see no. 5048 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary). The word in our text, katartizō, is used to describe the activity engaged in by James and John, the sons of Zebedee, when Christ called them: they were “mending their nets” (Matt. 4:2 1). In Galatians 6:1, the Apostle Paul employs this word by way of exhortation: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;. . . “ It was, therefore, most appropriate that this term be applied to the case of the Hebrew Christians, who after believing the Gospel had met with such bitter and protracted opposition from the Jews at large that they had wavered and were in real need of being warned against apostasy (Heb. 4:1; 6:11, 12; 10:23, etc.). As stated at the beginning of our exposition, this prayer gathers up not only the whole of the doctrinal instruction but also the exhortations of the previous chapters. The Hebrews had faltered and failed (Heb. 12:12), and the apostle here prays for their restoration. The lexicons (such as Liddell and Scott, p. 910) tell us that katartizō, here translated make perfect, literally has reference to the resetting of a dislocated bone. And is it not often so with the Christian? A sad fall breaks his communion with God, and none but the hand of the Divine Physician can repair the damage wrought. Thus this prayer is suited to all of us: that God would rectify every faculty of our beings to do His will and right us for His service each time we need it.

     Mark how comprehensive this prayer is: “Make you perfect in every good work.” It includes, as Gouge pointed out, “all the fruits of holiness Godwards and of righteousness manwards.” No reservation is allowed us by the extensive rule that God has set before us: we are required to love Him with our whole being, to be sanctified in our whole spirit and soul and body, and to grow up into Christ in all things (Deut. 6:5; Luke 10:27; Eph. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:23). Nothing less than perfection in “every good work” is the standard at which we must aim. Absolute perfection is not attainable in this life, but the perfection of sincerity is demanded of us — honest endeavor, genuine effort to please God. The mortification of our lusts, submission to God under trials, and the performance of impartial and universal obedience are ever our bounden duty. Of ourselves we are quite incapable of discharging our duties, and therefore we must pray continually for supplies of grace to enable us to perform them. Not only are we dependent upon God for the beginning of every good work, but also for the continuance and progress of the same. Let us emulate Paul, who said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect;. . . Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

          Divinely Revealed Knowledge Requires Obedience

     “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” May He who has already fully acquainted you with His mind now effectually incline you to the performing of it, even a continuance of solicitous attention to your duties as redeemed people to the end. It is not enough that we know His will; we must do it (Luke 6:46; John 13:17), and the more we do it, the better we shall understand it (John 7:17) and prove the excellency of the same (Rom. 12:2). That will of God that we are to exercise ourselves to perform is not God’s secret will but His revealed or perceptive will, namely, those laws and statutes to which God requires our full obedience (Deut. 29:29). God’s revealed will is to be the sole rule of our actions. There are many things done by professing Christians that, though admired by them and applauded by their fellows, are nothing but “will worship” and a following of the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:20-23). The Jews added their own traditions to the Divine Law, instituting fasts and feasts of their own invention. The deluded Papists, with their bodily austerities, idolatrous devotions, and impoverishing payments, are guilty of the same thing. Nor are some Protestants, with their self-devised deprivations and superstitious exercises, clear of this Romish evil.

     “Working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight.” These words confirm what was just said above: only that is acceptable to God which conforms to the rule He has given us. The words “in his sight” show that our every action comes under His immediate notice and is weighed by Him. By comparing other Scriptures, we find that only those works are wellpleasing to Him that He has enjoined us to perform and that are performed in His fear (Heb. 12:28). He will accept only those that proceed from love (2 Cor. 5:14), and that are done with an eye singly set upon glorifying Him (1 Cor. 10:31). Our constant aim and diligent endeavor must be nothing short of this: “That ye [we] might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work. . . “ (Col. 1:10, brackets mine). Nevertheless, we must receive Divine enablement in order to do this. What a blow to self-sufficiency and self-glory is this little phrase, “working in you”! Even after regeneration we are wholly dependent upon God. Notwithstanding the life, light, and liberty we have received from Him, we have no strength of our own to do what He requires. Each has to acknowledge, “for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18).

          Herein Lies a Pride-Withering Truth

     Herein, indeed, is a humbling truth, yet a fact it is that Christians are, in themselves, incapable of discharging their duty. Though the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts and a principle of holiness (or new nature) communicated to them, yet they are unable to perform the good they ardently desire to do. Not only are they still very ignorant of many of the requirements of God’s revealed will, but indwelling sin ever opposes and seeks to incline their hearts in a contrary direction. Thus it is imperative that they daily seek from God fresh supplies of grace. Though assured that God shall surely complete His good work in us (Phil. 1:6), that does not render needless our crying to Him “that performeth all things for me [us]” (Ps. 57:2, brackets mine). Nor does the privilege of prayer release us from the obligation of obedience. Rather, in prayer we are to beg Him to quicken us to the performance of those duties He requires. The blessing of access to God is not designed to discharge us from the regular and diligent use of all the means God has appointed for our practical sanctification, but is meant to provide for our seeking of the Divine blessing on our use of all the means of grace. Our duty is this: to ask God to work in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13); to avoid quenching His Spirit by slothfulness and disobedience, especially after we have prayed for His sweet influences (1 Thess. 5:19); and to use the grace He has already given us.

     “Working in you that which is wellpleasing. . . through Jesus Christ.” There is a double reference here: (1) to God’s working in us; and (2) to His acceptance of our works. It is by virtue of the Savior’s mediation that God works; there is no communication of grace to us from the God of peace but by and through our Redeemer. All that God does for us is for Christ’s sake. Every gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in us is the fruit of Christ’s meritorious work, for He has procured the Spirit for us (Eph. 1:13, 14; Titus 3:5, 6) and presently is sending the Spirit to us (John 15:26). Every spiritual blessing bestowed upon us is in consequence of Christ’s intercession for us. Christ is not only our life (Col. 3:4) and our righteousness (Jer. 23:6), but also our strength (Isa. 45:24). “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). The members of His mystical Body are completely dependent upon their Head (Eph. 4:15, 16). Our bearing fruit comes by means of having fellowship with Christ, by our abiding in Him (John 15:5). It is most important that we have a clear apprehension upon this truth, if the Lord Jesus is to have that place in our thoughts and affections which is His due. The wisdom of God has so contrived things that each Person of the Godhead is exalted in the esteem of His people: the Father as the Fountain of grace, the Son in His mediatorial office as the Channel through which all grace flows to us, and the Holy Spirit as the actual Bestower of it.

          Christ’s Infinite Merits, the Basis of God’s Acceptance of Our Works and Prayers

     But these words “through Jesus Christ” have also a more immediate connection with the phrase “that which is wellpleasing in His sight.” Even though our works are good and are wrought in us by God, they are yet imperfect since they are marred by the instruments by which they are done — just as the purest light is dimmed by the cloudy or dusty lamp shade through which it shines. Yet though our works be defective, they are acceptable to God when done in the name of His Son. Our best performances are faulty and fall short of the excellence that the requirements of God’s holiness demand, but their defects are covered by the merits of Christ. Our prayers, too, are acceptable to God only because our great High Priest adds to them “much incense” and then offers them on the golden altar before the throne (Rev. 8:3). Our spiritual sacrifices are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). God can be “glorified through Jesus Christ” alone (1 Peter 4:11). We owe, then, to the Mediator not only the pardon of our sins and the sanctification of our persons, but also God’s acceptance of our imperfect worship and service. As Spurgeon aptly said in his comments on this phrase, “What nothings and nobodies we are! Our goodness is none of ours.”

          A Doxology

     “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The glory of God was what the apostle eyed. And how are we to glorify Him? We are to glorify Him by an obedient walk, by doing His will, by performing those things that are wellpleasing in His sight, and by adoring Him. The construction of the whole sentence permits us to regard this ascription of praise as being offered to either the “God of peace,” to whom the prayer is addressed, or to “that great shepherd of the sheep,” who is the nearest antecedent to the pronoun. Since the grammar allows for it and the Analogy of Faith instructs us to include both Father and Son in our worship, then let glory be ascribed to both. Let God be praised because He is now “the God of peace,” because He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, because He is faithful to His engagements in the everlasting covenant, because all supplies of grace are from Him, and because He accepts our poor obedience “through Jesus Christ.” Equally let us adore the Mediator: because He is “our Lord Jesus,” who loved us and gave Himself for us; because He is “that great shepherd of the sheep”—caring for and ministering to His flock; because He ratified the covenant with His precious blood; and because it is by His merits and intercession that our persons and services are rendered “wellpleasing” to the Most High. “Amen.” So be it! Let the praises of a redeeming and propitious God ring throughout eternity!

     Tomorrow starts Chapter 4

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

Let No One Deceive You

Ephesians 5:1-6
Alistair Begg

Hath God Said?

John MacArthur | Ligonier

The Covenant

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

The Importance of Holiness

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

The Trauma of Holiness

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

Holiness and Justice

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

The Insanity of Luther

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

The Meaning of Holiness

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

A Word to Husbands 1

Ephesians 5:22-33 | Alistair Begg

A Word to Husbands 2

Ephesians 5:25-27 | Alistair Begg

A Word to Husbands 3

Ephesians 5 | Alistair Begg

The Holiness of Christ

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

What Is Reformed Theology

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier