Naomi WidowedRuth 1 1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Naomi and Ruth Return19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Ruth Meets BoazRuth 2 1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing FloorRuth 3 1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
Boaz Redeems RuthRuth 4 1 Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” 6 Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”
Ruth and Boaz Marry13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
The Genealogy of David18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
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Preach the Word
By Steven Lawson 1/1/1989
Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, a noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.
Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others were raised up by God to lead His church in this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived Apostolic Christianity.
The same was true in the golden era of the Puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wild fire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors—John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others—marched upon the kingdoms of England and Scotland with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken and history was altered.
The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early Colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.
The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher at Westminster Chapel, London, stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” If his diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching—biblical preaching, expository preaching—is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.
In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But this famine was not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in similar days of shortage. Tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances. What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling—the divine summons to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).
What is expository preaching? The Genevan Reformer John Calvin explained, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” In other words, God is unusually present, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.
This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace unoffered, no promise undelivered.
A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.
Every preacher must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. He must not parade his personal opinions in the pulpit. Nor may he expound worldly philosophies. The preacher is limited to one task—to preach the Word.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.” This remains the crying need of the hour.
May a new generation of strong men step forward and speak up, and may they do so loud and clear. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.
Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.
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What Is the Gospel?
By Burk Parsons 1/1/1989
The nineteenth-century Princeton theologian Charles Hodge said, “The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.” The gospel is absolutely fundamental to everything we believe, and it is at the very core of who we are as Christians. However, many professing Christians struggle to answer the simple question: What is the gospel? When I teach, I am astounded by how many of my students are unable to provide a biblically accurate explanation of what the gospel is, and, what’s more, what the gospel is not. If we don’t know what the gospel is, we are of all people the most to be pitied. For, if we can’t explain the gospel, then we can’t proclaim the gospel in evangelism so that sinners might be saved, and we in fact may not be saved ourselves. In our day, there are countless counterfeit gospels, both inside and outside the church. Much of what is on Christian television and on the shelves of Christian bookstores completely obscures the gospel, thereby making it another gospel, which is no gospel at all. Since Satan cannot destroy the gospel, as J.C. Ryle wrote, “he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution.” It is vital we understand that just because a preacher talks about Jesus, the cross, and heaven, that does not mean he is preaching the gospel. And just because there is a church building on every corner does not mean the gospel is preached on every corner.
Fundamentally, the gospel is news. It’s good news—the good news about what our triune God has graciously accomplished for His people: The Father’s sending the Son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, to live perfectly, fulfill the law, and die sacrificially, atoning for our sins, satisfying God’s wrath against us that we might not face an eternal hell, and raising Him from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the victorious announcement that God saves sinners. And even though the call of Jesus to “take up your cross and follow me,” “repent and believe,” “deny yourself,” and “keep my commandments” are necessary commands that directly follow the proclamation of the gospel, they are not in themselves the good news of what Jesus has accomplished. The gospel is not a summons to work harder to reach God— it’s the grand message of how God worked all things together for good to reach us. The gospel is good news, not good advice, just as J. Gresham Machen wrote: “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you.”
Dr. Burk Parsons is senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, chief publishing officer for Ligonier Ministries, and editor of Tabletalk magazine. He is on Twitter at @BurkParsons.
There’s No Coming to Life without Pain: An Interview with Elisabeth Elliot
By Elisabeth Elliot 2/1/1989
Flannery O’Connor once responded to an interviewer’s question about why her short stories left such a bad taste in the mouth with, “Well, you weren’t supposed to eat them.” Her wry sense of confidence in herself and her craft was undoubtedly due to her utter confidence that God was in total control of her life and writing habit.
In her words, both written and spoken, Elisabeth Elliot exudes this same quiet confidence. Hers is a Lord whom she has learned is nothing less than trustworthy. Ask her to sum up what God has taught her and she says simply, “Trust me.”
Elisabeth Elliot is the author of several best-sellers, including Passion and Purity and Shadow of the Almighty, which recount her experiences when she and her husband Jim Elliot served as missionaries to the Quichua Indians of Ecuador. She recently filmed, on behalf of Ligonier Ministries, a new teaching series, “Suffering is Not for Nothing.”
Tabletalk: In her 1977 graduation address at Wheaton College, Madeleine L’Engle ended with this quote from Jung: “There’s no coming to life without pain.” What do you think of that?
Elisabeth Elliot: It’s true.
TT: Perhaps a more challenging question is one based on the Christian mystics. They wrote about the dark night of the soul as if it were a more normal passage in a Christian’s life. Many Christians believe that suffering is a direct result of sin.
EE: The book of Job clearly refutes the notion that suffering is the direct result of your own sin. It is the direct result of original sin — there’s no question about that. There wouldn’t be suffering, there wouldn’t be death, there wouldn’t be sin, if it hadn’t been for Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
According to my reading of Christian mystics, the dark night of the soul is really a much more rare and high-powered experience than most of us have. The average person’s feelings of darkness, depression, despair and discouragement are not, I think, what the mystics meant about that dark night of the soul. The Christian mystics really felt dereliction. They felt that they experienced something like what Jesus felt when he said, “Why has God forsaken me?” I wouldn’t dignify any of my experiences by calling them the dark night of the soul.
TT: Why do some Christians suffer more than others? Is it because they have a stronger will that must be broken?
EE: I don’t think that we could possibly jump to that conclusion. In the first place it is a mystery how God apportions suffering. Most of us would agree that the most holy people we know seem to be required to go through more and more deep waters.
From a psychological standpoint I would think that people who are highly sensitive and have more vivid imaginations suffer more than others. I remember lying awake at night imagining the things that would happen to my second husband after we learned of his cancer. These thoughts were in themselves a point of suffering. I think that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Take no thought for tomorrow.” He was not saying it’s wrong to plan. He was saying, “Do not assume the burdens of tomorrow.” But that is a continual temptation for some of us whose imaginations work overtime.
TT: You have said that, “The deepest things I have learned in my life have come through suffering.” What are some of those deep things?
EE: The profound and simple truth that God is God. When my husband Jim died, the Spirit of God brought to my mind the words: “I am the Lord!” Things which sound like platitudes become vital, living and powerful when you have to learn them in the bottom of the barrel, in dark tunnels. The lesson: “I am the Lord” ought to be one that we learn without going through deep waters, but apparently there isn’t any other way.
TT: Why does God choose suffering to mold us?
EE: To give a complete answer to that is impossible because we are up against a mystery. But He has given us at least 18 scripture verses, and I have them listed in my notebook, that explain some of the whys. For example Romans 8:28 gives us a pattern; verse 29 gives the reason. 1 Peter 4:12 and 13 are favorites of mine.
(Ro 8:28–29) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ESV
(Ro 8:28–29) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ESV
(1 Pe 4:12–13) 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ESV
We live in a fallen world and therefore where there is wrong then Christians must suffer wrong, like everybody else. You can’t get to tomorrow morning without going through tonight. The child cannot be born without going through the straight and narrow gate which is the birth passage and the mother can’t give life to the child without suffering. It is the rule of the universe — this continual cycle of living and dying.
We can see this rhythm most dramatically in nature. The apple seed produces the tree which then produces leaves. When the leaves fall off there’s death, then in the spring there’s life. But those beautiful blossoms have to fall to the ground — to die — or no fruit will be produced. The fruit has to rot in order for the seed to be released which must fall to the ground to make the tree. Then the cycle begins all over again.
I have often tried to imagine what kind of a world it would have been without that cycle of suffering and death. Was there a sense in which death was a part of God’s original design, or is it the result of a fall? We can’t even imagine life without death.
TT: That’s a very intriguing thought. What about those Christians who must deal with a great deal of pain? How can they prevent themselves from seeing God as an ogre?
EE: Look at the cross. That is the crucial point; that is the crux. If you could see God hanging on a cross as victim and lamb, then you could not possibly believe that he’s an ogre. What image could he have chosen that would be less threatening, more meek, more helpless than a lamb that looked as if it had been sacrificed?
TT: When you address groups on the topic of suffering, you tell them to give Christ their “place of need.” What is your place of need?
EE: Most recently it was doing this video, “Suffering Is Not For Nothing” for Ligonier! Most of the days of our lives are quite ordinary days. Not many big things come up — we get into traffic jams or somebody says something snotty — little picky things which to me are reminders that God will not allow us to settle down here. What He wants is to draw and move us always toward heaven. There’s nothing perfect here.
My brother, Tom, is the champion pessimist in our family, although we’re all pretty good at it. His wife, Lovelace, told me once that when one of the children spills milk, to her it is only spilled milk. To Tom it raises all the cosmic questions in the universe.
TT: You have said that Christianity is the only religion that deals with suffering.
EE: I picked that up from C.S. Lewis and others. Buddhism and Hinduism both have an idea of nirvana — a sort of oblivion to reality and desire. You won’t suffer because you will get rid of all your feelings and you will desire nothing. And when you desire nothing, then you can’t suffer.
Christianity deals head-on with suffering because Christ Himself suffered. This symbol of our faith is a symbol of suffering.
When someone tells me a story about someone’s horrible suffering and asks what to do, I can only say what I say all the time. God is there. He has a loving purpose. He will turn it into joy if you offer it to Him.
Of course I have not experienced many kinds of suffering. I haven’t been abused by my husband. I am not blind. But the same God who meets me in my dark valleys and deep waters is the God who meets other people in their dark valleys and deep waters. He has been there. Accept suffering, thank God for it and then offer it up to Him.
TT: What about those of us who have different temperaments or more vivid imaginations? Perhaps you just have a stronger inner reservoir for hope.
EE: It can’t be a question of temperaments. Like my brother, Tom, I’m a champion pessimist.
Tom says, “I’m the kind of guy who dials, ‘Dial-A-Prayer’ and they hang up on me.” I’m like that.
TT: You don’t come across as a pessimist, however.
EE: Well, I really believe what I say. And God is mercifully helping me to see things from His viewpoint. I do know that it works, but God has to teach it to me over and over again.
When my husband, Lars, and I left the television studio after we recorded my lectures, he told me some things I had done wrong. I was just devastated by that. He’s the one person in the world that I want to encourage me. My instant, normal, human reaction is to say, “You get up there and do it!” I didn’t say it, but I did think it! God always puts His finger on that sore place in my life, that place of need. I can’t get up there and pop off to somebody else and say, “Offer your feelings to God,” and then go home in a seething stew of resentment about my husband and not offer that to God. He says to me, “OK, you dish that out to those people—how about doing it yourself right now?” I couldn’t get to sleep until 2 o’clock the following morning. My only reservoir of strength is Christ. I must continually come to Him for help.
People sometimes ask me, “How did you get rid of your feelings?” I tell them I didn’t get rid of them. I offer them to God, and I have to offer them again, and again, and again.
One of Satan’s master tricks is to say, “You big fake, you hypocrite. You didn’t mean that. You’re just nothing but a hollow mockery.” And I say, “God knows I did mean it. Get behind me, Satan.” But I’m still a sinner, I’m still subject to feelings.
I tried to be stern with myself after my first husband, Jim, was killed. I made myself get rid of all his clothes. Then six weeks later I found a pair of his shoes in the closet. There was the shape of his feet just as plain as anything, and I was in a state of total self pity again. So again I had to offer up those emotions to God. I think every grieving person goes through this kind of thing, these little reminders. I open a book and here’s his handwriting, just one little word on the page. I think about his hand once being on that page. I do my best to let people know I’ve been there and that I am there.
TT: Who are the Christians that you admire?
EE: My father. He was a great model. My mother, too. Amy Carmichael—the missionary—is certainly one of my primary role models. I have had five or six spiritual mothers. These women set visual examples of the shape of godly womanliness.
TT: How important is a sense of humor in the midst of suffering?
EE: It’s very important. If we could ever realize the dimensions of the gap between where we are and where we want to be — God’s standard of perfection and where we are now — we couldn’t help but see ourselves as comic figures. We’re laughable.
The Christian ought to be the person with the sharpest sense of humor because we have congruity in our world and life view. You cannot discern incongruity if there is no congruity. If it’s all chaos and chance there is really no basis for humor at all. This must have been in the backs of the minds of those who designed the cathedrals in Europe with all these weird looking faces looking down and laughing.
TT: How do you respond to this quote from theologian, H.A. Williams, in his book, Tensions: “If our beliefs are cut and dried it means that we have anesthetized ourselves against nine-tenths of reality. A faith which is life-giving and effective, a robust faith, has to be prepared to take doubt on board.”
EE: Doubt has to be embraced by faith. I love what George McDonald says, “The man that feareth, Lord, to doubt, in that fear, doubteth thee.” I think there is a place for an honest “why?” which is very different from the challenge of unbelief. The challenge that was thrown at Jesus—“Come down from the cross”—was the challenge of unbelief. The person who is truly seeking to know God and to understand His ways can legitimately ask why as the psalmist did and as Job did. God never chided them for that. In fact God said that Job had spoken the truth and his friends had not. Job said some awful things, look at Job 16!
TT: What are some awful things that you said to God?
EE: I don’t really have the guts to do that. I was raised to believe that you had to be very careful about what you said. But I am aware that God knows my thoughts before I think them, so I might as well say them.
TT: Is God’s love sufficient?
EE: It is sufficient. It’s not all I want, it’s not all I think I need, but it is enough. But there’s no sense in imagining that God’s love takes the place of every kind of earthly comfort. If the air conditioning goes off, the love of God is not going to air condition us.
I lived in a house in Ecuador with no walls, and I didn’t particularly like that. I’m a person of great reserve and privacy, and I like solitude. I had Indians in my house all the time hanging over my shoulder, going through my stuff. “What’s this? What’s that? Where did you get it? What’s it made of? Why don’t you give it to me, you’ve got two of these?” I had two changes of clothes. One on and one that I had just washed. I would just get tired of having company all the time. But I can look back and remember what the Lord asked the disciples, “When I sent you forth, lacked ye anything?” And they said, “Nothing.” God’s love is sufficient. We can’t expect Him to satisfy everything we think we need. It is in heaven where we will be truly satisfied.
TT: What advice do you have for those of us who have to watch somebody suffer?
EE: Much of what I have said in these Ligonier seminars I tried to say to my second husband when he got cancer. He was a great theologian and he had written a book on suffering — his last book written before we found out that he had cancer, entitled This Cup. It’s really one of the best things I’ve seen on the subject outside of Lewis’s, The Problem of Pain. In the last months of his life I would occasionally read to him from that book and he would just look at me and say, “Did I write that? I didn’t know what I was talking about.”
TT: Why did he say that?
EE: Because he had never suffered to the degree he was experiencing then. He had not suffered much physically, though he had gone through some horrible emotional traumas. When the cancer struck he would be in such pain that he screamed. He went from 225 pounds down to 125 in ten months. It was a devastating experience.
Throughout the ten months of watching him disintegrate I prayed for physical healing which I knew would have to be a miracle, and if that wasn’t possible I prayed that the Lord would give him peace. I really believe that God can give His peace no matter what the situation. And as far as I could tell God never gave him that peace until the last week of his life.
I can remember trying to dish out to him all these things which I was in the process of learning myself. The night before he died I stood at the end of his bed and just implored him to let go of his burdens. When I finished, he didn’t say a word at first. He just looked at me. Then all he said was, “Well, that was quite a sermon.”
I want to give people this gospel, yet some have ears to hear and some haven’t. When Jesus preached some believed, some mocked, some didn’t believe. There are certainly times when silence is the only thing you can do. Often all I can say to a person in terrible pain is: I don’t know what you are going through, but I know the One who knows.
TT: You often refer to suffering as a gift.
EE: I know that sounds preposterous. It has taken me years to begin to comprehend this truth, which I believe is scriptural. Jesus spoke of the cup the Father gave Him. Paul said to the Philippians “It is given to you not only to believe but also to suffer.” I began to see my own widowhood as a gift in this sense: there was nothing I could do to change it. Only God could change it. If He didn’t, obviously He meant for me to receive it, accept it. And as I did that, I found peace. I found that I could glorify Him in the context of widowhood, and — much more — it was because of my losing my husband that God gave me the gift of Himself, of the knowledge of who He was, in a way I could not otherwise have experienced.
We might compare it to Daniel’s time in the lion’s den. Surely he learned some priceless things about his God there. Shadrach and his friends would not have known what they knew about God without the fiery furnace. Isn’t the den a gift, then? Couldn’t we say the furnace experience was really a gift of mercy and love?
Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) was a Christian author and speaker. She, having lived through great loss, taught on God’s grace in the midst of hardship, as well as teaching wives and mothers to fulfill the high calling of Titus 2.
The Law of God
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1989
"In giving a summary of what constitutes the true knowledge of God, we showed that we cannot form any just conception of the character of God, without feeling overawed by His majesty, and bound to do Him service." --- John Calvin
Yesterday, a man I met for the first time asked me, “And what is the Lord doing in your life?” (Something about how he asked the question, the tone of his voice, and his manner in it disturbed me.) The manner of asking was a bit too casual, as if the utterance was mechanical. I suppressed my annoyance and answered as if the question were sincere. I said, “He is impressing upon me the beauty and sweetness of His law.” The man obviously was not prepared for my answer. He looked at me as though I was from another planet. He visibly recoiled from my words as if I was weird for uttering them.
We are living in an era in which the law of God is not given much attention either by secularists or by Christians. The law, we assume, is a relic of the past, part of the history of Judaeo-Christianity to be sure, but of no abiding relevance to the Christian life. We are living out, in practice, the antinomian heresy.
A recent survey by George Gallup Jr. revealed a startling trend in our culture. According to Gallup the evidence seems to indicate that there are not clear behavioral patterns that distinguish Christians from non- Christians in our society. We all seem to be marching to the same drummer, looking to the shifting standards of contemporary culture for the basis of what is acceptable conduct. What everybody else is doing seems to be our only ethical norm.
This pattern can only emerge in a society or a church wherein the law of God is eclipsed. The very word law seems to have an unpleasant ring to it in our evangelical circles.
Let’s try an experiment. I’m going to cite a few passages from Psalm 119 for our reflection. I’m asking that you read them existentially in the sense that you try to crawl into the skin of the writer and experience empathy. Try to feel what he felt when he wrote these lines thousands of years ago:
Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day (v. 97).
Does this sound like a modern Christian? Do we hear people talk about longing passionately for the law of God? Do we hear our friends expressing joy and delight in God’s commandments?
Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end (vv. 111–112).
I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (vs. 131).
Trouble and anguish have overtaken me. Yet Your commandments are my delights (vs. 143).
These sentiments are foreign to our culture. Some will surely say, “But that is Old Testament stuff. We’ve been redeemed from the law, now our focus is on the Gospel, not the law.”
Let’s continue the experiment. Let’s read some excerpts from another biblical writer, only this time from the New Testament. Let’s hear from a man who loved the Gospel, preached it, and taught it as much as any mortal. Let’s hear from Paul:
But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6).
Does this sound like a man who believed the law of God has no place in the Christian life? Read Paul carefully and you will find a man whose heart longed for the law of God as much as David’s.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through law (Romans 7:8).
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 7:12).
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (Romans 7:22).
Church history witnesses that at periods of revival and reformation there has been a profound awakening to the sweetness of God’s law that can easily degenerate into legalism, which usually provokes a response of antinomianism. Neither is biblical. The law drives us to the Gospel. The Gospel saves us from the curse of the law but in turn directs us back to the law to search its spirit, its goodness and its beauty. The law of God is still a lamp unto our feet. Without it we stumble and trip and grope in darkness.
For the Christian the greatest benefit of the law of God is its revelatory character. The law reveals to us the Law-Giver. It teaches us what is pleasing in His sight. We need to seek the law of God—to pant after it—to delight in it. Anything less is an offense against the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 34Taste 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.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Bible Verses on Solitude and Silence
By Bill Gaultiere 7/23/2011
Solitude is one of the most important disciplines for the spiritual life, especially for pastors and leaders who need help unhooking from ministry stress to experience God restoring their souls. There are many Bible verses on solitude to guide us in this practice.
Kristi and I regularly practice solitude and silence and we encourage pastors, pastors’ wives, and other ministry leaders also to do this. Our five-day TLC Retreats and Still Waters day retreats for pastors and leaders feature extended hours for solitude and silence with Jesus.
Understanding Solitude and Silence | Solitude is for being alone with God. It is completed by silence. There’s much to be said about solitude, but what’s most important is that it is a way to do nothing. Yes, do nothing. Don’t try to be productive — even in Bible study! Solitude and silence is an opportunity to focus on your Intimacy with Jesus, to unhook from your daily responsibilities and the people you interact with, in order to attend to the Lord alone. In solitude we don’t try to make anything happen. We just bring our naked self to the Lord to be with him.
“Solitude is the creation of an open, empty space in our lives by purposely abstaining from interaction with other human beings, so that, freed from competing loyalties, we can be found by God” (Life with God Bible, p. 531).
Some Bible Verses on Solitude and Silence | Here are some Bible verses on solitude and silence that we’ve found especially helpful. (All Bible verses are from the NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.)
As a former pastor, he’s served in a mega-church and a church plant. He’s also trained over 1,000 lay counselors and taught courses in Christian psychology and spirituality at the graduate level. Currently, he’s training Soul Shepherding Associates to offer “love your neighbor pastor” ministries in their cities.
He was personally mentored by Ray Ortlund Sr. and Dallas Willard. His book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke tells the story of his spiritual renewal from anxious living and burnout and introduces the message and way of Soul Shepherding.
The Anatomy of Doubt
By R.C. Sproul 1/1/1992
Spiritus sanctus non est skepticus — “The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic.” So Luther rebuked Erasmus of Rotterdam for his expressed disdain for making sure assertions. Luther roared, “The making of assertions is the very mark of the Christian. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity. Away now, with the skeptics!”
Doubt is the hallmark of the skeptic. The skeptic dares to doubt the indubitable. Even demonstrable proof fails to persuade him. The skeptic dwells on Mt. Olympus, far aloof from the struggles of mortals who care to pursue truth.
But doubt has other faces. It is the assailant of the faithful striking fear into the hearts of the hopeful. Like Edith Bunker, doubt nags the soul. It asks “Are you sure?” Then, “Are you sure you’re sure?”
Still doubt can appear as a servant of truth. Indeed it is the champion of truth when it wields its sword against what is properly dubious. It is a citadel against credulity. Authentic doubt has the power to sort out and clarify the difference between the certain and the uncertain, the genuine and the spurious.
Consider Descartes. In his search for certainty, for clear and distinct ideas, he employed the application of a rigorous and systematic doubt process. He endeavored to doubt everything he could possibly doubt. He doubted what he saw with his eyes and heard with his ears. He realized that our senses can and do often deceive us. He doubted authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, knowing that recognized authorities can be wrong. He would submit to no fides implicitum claimed by any human being or institution. Biographies usually declare that Descartes was a Frenchman but his works reveal that he was surely born in Missouri.
Descartes doubted everything he could possibly doubt until he reached the point where he realized there was one thing he couldn’t doubt. He could not doubt that he was doubting. To doubt that he was doubting was to prove that he was doubting. No doubt about it.
From that premise of indubitable doubt, Descartes appealed to the formal certainty yielded by the laws of immediate inference. Using impeccable deduction he concluded that to be doubting required that he be thinking, since thought is a necessary condition for doubting. From there it was a short step to his famous axiom, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.”
At last Descartes arrived at certainty, the assurance of his own personal existence. This was, of course, before Hume attacked causality and Kant argued that the self belongs to the unknowable noumenal realm that requires a “transcendental apperception” (whatever that is) to affirm at all. One wonders how Descartes would have responded to Hume and Kant had he lived long enough to deal with them. I have no doubt that the man of doubt would have prevailed.
There were clearly unstated assumptions lurking beneath the surface of Descartes’ logic. Indeed there was logic itself. To conclude that to doubt doubt is to prove doubt is a conclusion born of logic. It assumes the validity of the law of non-contradiction. If the law of non-contradiction is not a valid and necessary law of thought, then one could argue (irrationally to be sure) that doubt can be doubt and not be doubt at the same time and in the same relationship.
The second assumption was the validity of the law of causality (which, in the final analysis, is merely an extension of the law of non-contradiction). Descartes could not doubt that an effect not merely may, but must have an antecedent cause. Doubt, by logicial necessity, requires a doubter, even as thought requires a thinker. This is nothing more than arguing that action of any kind cannot proceed from non-being. Hume’s skepticism of causality was cogent insofar as he brilliantly displayed the difficulty of assigning a particular cause to a particular effect or event. But not even Hume was able to repeal the law of causality itself. It is one thing to doubt what the cause of a particular effect is, it is quite another to argue that the effect may have no cause at all. This is the fundamental error countless thinkers have made since Hume. I once read a critical review of Classical Apologetics in which the able and thoroughly Christian reviewer observed, “The problem with Sproul is that he refuses to acknowledge the possibility of an uncaused effect.”
I wrote to my reviewing collegue and pleaded guilty to the charge. Mea culpa. I do refuse to acknowledge even the most remote possibility of an uncaused effect. I have the same obstreperous stubbornness for circles that are not round and for married bachelors. I asked my friend to cite but one example, real or theoretical, of an uncaused effect and I would repent in dust and ashes. I’m still waiting for his reply. If he reads this perhaps it will jog his memory and induce him either to deliver the goods or admit his glaring error.
I certainly allow for uncaused being, namely God, but not for uncaused effects. An uncaused effect is an oxymoron, a veritable contradiction in terms, a statement patently and analytically false, which Descartes could refute in his Dutch oven without the benefit of empirical testing.
So how does this affect the Christian in his struggle with the doubts that assail faith? The content of Christianity, in all its parts, cannot be reduced simplistically to Cartesian syllogisms. The lesson we learn from Descartes is this: when assailed by doubt, it is time to search diligently for first principles that are certain. We build upon the foundation of what is sure. This affects the whole structure of apologetics. It is a matter of order. It seems astonishing to the lay person that anybody would go to the extremes Descartes insisted simply to discover that he existed. What could be more self-evident to a conscious being than one’s own self-consciousness? But Descartes was not on a fool’s errand. In a world of sophisticated skepticism, Descartes sought certainty for something that could serve as a foundation for much, much more. He moved from the certitude of self-consciousness to the certitude of the existence of God, no small matter for the doubt-ridden believer. Descartes and others like him understood that to prove the existence of God is prior to affirming the trustworthiness of Scripture and the birth and work of the person of Christ. Once it is certain that God exists and reveals Himself in Scripture, there is ground for a legitimate fides implicitum.
But the order of the process to destroy doubt is crucial. For example, the miracles of the Bible cannot and were never designed to prove the existence of God. The very possibility of a miracle requires that there first be a God who can empower it. In other words, it is not the Bible that proves the existence of God, it is God who through miracle attests that the Bible is His word. Thus proven, to believe the Bible implicitly is a virtue. To believe it gratuitously is not.
The most important certainty we can ever have is the foundational certainty of the existence of God. It is this matter that prompted Edwards to declare: “Nothing is more certain than that there must be an unmade and unlimited being” (Miscellany #1340).
On this bedrock of certainty rests the promises of that unmade, unlimited Being. On these promises we rest our faith. Doubting served Descartes well, but Edwards knew that ultimately, it is dubious to doubt the indubitable.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. BOTH THE NAME AND THE REALITY DEFINED.
In this chapter and the seven which follow, the doctrine of Justification by Faith is expounded, and opposite errors refuted. The following may be regarded as the arrangement of these chapters:--Chapter 11 states the doctrine, and the four subsequent chapters, by destroying the righteousness of works, confirm the righteousness of faith, each in the order which appears in the respective titles of these chapters. In Chapter 12 the doctrine of Justification is confirmed by a description of perfect righteousness; in Chapter 13 by calling attention to two precautions; in Chapter 14 by a consideration of the commencement and progress of regeneration in the regenerate; and in Chapter 15 by two very pernicious effects which constantly accompany the righteousness of works. The three other chapters are devoted to refutation; Chapter 16 disposes of the objections of opponents; Chapter 17 replies to the arguments drawn from the promises of the Law or the Gospel; Chapter 18 refutes what is said in support of the righteousness of faith from the promise of reward.
There are three principal divisions in the Eleventh Chapter. I. The terms used in this discussion are explained, sec. 1-4. II. Osiander's dream as to essential righteousness impugned, sec. 5-13. III. The righteousness of faith established in opposition to the righteousness of works.
1. Connection between the doctrine of Justification and that of Regeneration. The knowledge of this doctrine very necessary for two reasons.
2. For the purpose of facilitating the exposition of it, the terms are explained. 1. What it is to be justified in the sight of God. 2. To be justified by works. 3. To be justified by faith. Definition.
3. Various meanings of the term Justification. 1. To give praise to God and truth. 2. To make a vain display of righteousness. 3. To impute righteousness by faith, by and on account of Christ. Confirmation from an expression of Paul, and another of our Lord.
4. Another confirmation from a comparison with other expressions, in which justification means free righteousness before God through faith in Jesus Christ. 1. Acceptance. 2. Imputation of righteousness. 3. Remission of sins. 4. Blessedness. 5. Reconciliation with God. 6. Righteousness by the obedience of Christ.
5. The second part of the chapter. Osiander's dream as to essential righteousness refuted. 1. Osiander's argument: Answer. 2. Osiander's second argument: Answer. Third argument: Answer.
6. necessity of this refutation. Fourth argument: Answer. Confirmation: Another answer. Fifth and sixth arguments and answers.
7. Seventh and eighth arguments.
8. Ninth argument: Answer.
9. Tenth argument: Answer.
10. In what sense Christ is said to be our righteousness. Eleventh and twelfth arguments and answers.
11. Thirteenth and fourteenth arguments: Answers. An exception by Osiander. Imputed and begun righteousness to be distinguished. Osiander confounds them. Fifteenth argument: Answer.
12. Sixteenth argument, a dream of Osiander: Answer. Other four arguments and answers. Conclusion of the refutation of Osiander's errors.
13. Last part of the chapter. Refutation of the Sophists pretending a righteousness compounded partly of faith and partly of works.
14. Sophistical evasion by giving the same name to different things: Two answers.
15. Second evasion: Two answers. First answer. Pernicious consequences resulting from this evasion.
16. Second answer, showing wherein, according to Scripture, Justification consists.
17. In explanation of this doctrine of Justification, two passages of Scripture produced.
18. Another passage of Scripture.
19. Third evasion. Papistical objection to the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone: Three answers. Fourth evasion: Three answers.
20. Fifth evasion, founded on the application of the term Righteousness to good works, and also on their reward: Answer, confirmed by the invincible argument of Paul. Sixth evasion: Answer.
21. Osiander and the Sophists being thus refuted, the accuracy of the definition of Justification by Faith established.
22. Definition confirmed. 1. By passages of Scripture. 2. By the writings of the ancient Fathers.
23. Man justified by faith, not because by it he obtains the Spirit, and is thus made righteous, but because by faith he lays hold of the righteousness of Christ. An objection removed. An example of the doctrine of Justification by Faith from the works of Ambrose.
1. I trust I have now sufficiently shown  how man's only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith; and also what the nature of faith is, what the benefits which it confers, and the fruits which it produces. The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life. This second benefit--viz. regeneration, appears to have been already sufficiently discussed. On the other hand, the subject of justification was discussed more cursorily, because it seemed of more consequence first to explain that the faith by which alone, through the mercy of God, we obtain free justification, is not destitute of good works; and also to show the true nature of these good works on which this question partly turns. The doctrine of Justification is now to be fully discussed, and discussed under the conviction, that as it is the principal ground on which religion must be supported, so it requires greater care and attention. For unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and what the judgment which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared. The necessity of thoroughly understanding this subject will become more apparent as we proceed with it.
2. Lest we should stumble at the very threshold (this we should do were we to begin the discussion without knowing what the subject is), let us first explain the meaning of the expressions, To be justified in the sight of God, to be Justified by faith or by works. A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God. He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment-seat of God, where all sinners are condemned. As an innocent man, when charged before an impartial judge, who decides according to his innocence, is said to be justified by the judge, as a man is said to be justified by God when, removed from the catalogue of sinners, he has God as the witness and assertor of his righteousness. In the same manner, a man will be said to be justified by works, if in his life there can be found a purity and holiness which merits an attestation of righteousness at the throne of God, or if by the perfection of his works he can answer and satisfy the divine justice. On the contrary, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous. Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ (see sec. 21 and 23).
3. In confirmation of this there are many clear passages of Scripture. First, it cannot be denied that this is the proper and most usual signification of the term. But as it were too tedious to collect all the passages, and compare them with each other, let it suffice to have called the reader's attention to the fact: he will easily convince himself of its truth. I will only mention a few passages in which the justification of which we speak is expressly handled. First, when Luke relates that all the people that heard Christ "justified God," (Luke 7:29), and when Christ declares, that "Wisdom is justified of all her children," (Luke 7:35), Luke means not that they conferred righteousness which always dwells in perfection with God, although the whole world should attempt to wrest it from him, nor does Christ mean that the doctrine of salvation is made just: this it is in its own nature; but both modes of expression are equivalent to attributing due praise to God and his doctrine. On the other hand, when Christ upbraids the Pharisees for justifying themselves (Luke 16:15), he means not that they acquired righteousness by acting properly, but that they ambitiously courted a reputation for righteousness of which they were destitute. Those acquainted with Hebrew understand the meaning better: for in that language the name of wicked is given not only to those who are conscious of wickedness, but to those who receive sentence of condemnation. Thus, when Bathsheba says, "I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders," she does not acknowledge a crime, but complains that she and her son will be exposed to the disgrace of being numbered among reprobates and criminals (1 Kings 1:21). It is, indeed, plain from the context, that the term even in Latin  must be thus understood--viz. relatively--and does not denote any quality. In regard to the use of the term with reference to the present subject, when Paul speaks of the Scripture, "foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith," (Gal. 3:8), what other meaning can you give it than that God imputes righteousness by faith? Again, when he says, "that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus," (Rom. 3:26), what can the meaning be, if not that God, in consideration of their faith, frees them from the condemnation which their wickedness deserves? This appears still more plainly at the conclusion, when he exclaims, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33, 34). For it is just as if he had said, Who shall accuse those whom God has acquitted? Who shall condemn those for whom Christ pleads? To justify, therefore, is nothing else than to acquit from the charge of guilt, as if innocence were proved. Hence, when God justifies us through the intercession of Christ, he does not acquit us on a proof of our own innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness, so that though not righteous in ourselves, we are deemed righteous in Christ. Thus it is said, in Paul's discourse in the Acts, "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," (Acts 13:38, 39). You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house "justified," (Luke 18:14), it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins "legal justification," (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10).
4. Without saying more about the term, we shall have no doubt as to the thing meant if we attend to the description which is given of it. For Paul certainly designates justification by the term acceptance, when he says to the Ephesians, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved," (Eph. 1:5, 6). His meaning is the very same as where he elsewhere says, "being justified freely by his grace," (Rom. 3:24). In the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, he first terms it the imputation of righteousness, and hesitates not to place it in forgiveness of sins: "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven," &c. (Rom. 4:6-8). There, indeed, he is not speaking of a part of justification, but of the whole. He declares, moreover, that a definition of it was given by David, when he pronounced him blessed who has obtained the free pardon of his sins. Whence it appears that this righteousness of which he speaks is simply opposed to judicial guilt.  But the most satisfactory passage on this subject is that in which he declares the sum of the Gospel message to be reconciliation to God, who is pleased, through Christ, to receive us into favor by not imputing our sins (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Let my readers carefully weigh the whole context. For Paul shortly after adding, by way of explanation, in order to designate the mode of reconciliation, that Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us, undoubtedly understands by reconciliation nothing else than justification. Nor, indeed, could it be said, as he elsewhere does, that we are made righteous "by the obedience" of Christ (Rom. 5:19), were it not that we are deemed righteous in the sight of God in him and not in ourselves.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 5 The Angel's MessageAnd this is the second event which affords a possible beginning for the seventy weeks.  But though plausible arguments may be urged to prove that, either regarded as an independent edict, or as giving practical effect to the decree of Cyrus, the act of Darius was the epoch of the prophetic period, the answer is clear and full, that it fails to satisfy the angel's words. However it be accounted for, the fact remains, that though the "desolations" were accomplished, yet neither the scope of the royal edict, nor the action of the Jews in pursuance of that edict, went beyond the building of the Holy Temple, whereas the prophecy foretold a decree for the building of the city; not the street alone, but the fortifications of Jerusalem.
 This is the epoch fixed upon by Mr. Bosanquet in Messiah the Prince.Five years sufficed for the erection of the building which served as a shrine for Judah during the five centuries which followed.  But, in striking contrast with the temple they had reared in days when the magnificence of Solomon made gold as cheap as brass in Jerusalem, no costly furniture adorned the second house, until the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, when the Jews obtained a firman "to beautify the house of the Lord." (Ezra 7:19, 27.) This letter further authorized Ezra to return to Jerusalem with such of the Jews as desired to accompany him, and there to restore fully the worship of the temple and the ordinances of their religion. But this third decree makes no reference whatever to building, and it might be passed unnoticed were it not that many writers have fixed on it as the epoch of the prophecy. The temple had been already built long years before, and the city was still in ruins thirteen years afterwards. The book of Ezra therefore will be searched in vain for any mention of a "commandment to restore and build Jerusalem." But we only need to turn to the book which follows it in the canon of Scripture to find the record which we seek.
 The temple was begun in the second, and completed in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 4:24; 6:15.)The book of Nehemiah opens by relating that while at Susa,  where he was cup-bearer to the great king, "an honor of no small account in Persia,"  certain of his brethren arrived from Judea, and he "asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem." The emigrants declared that all were "in great affliction and reproach," "the wall of Jerusalem also was broken down, and the gates thereof were burned with fire." (Nehemiah 1:2) The first chapter closes with the record of Nehemiah's supplication to "the God of heaven." The second chapter narrates how "in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes," he was discharging the duties of his office, and as he stood before the king his countenance betrayed his grief, and Artaxerxes called on him to tell his trouble. "Let the king live for ever," Nehemiah answered, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire!" "For what dost thou make request?" the king demanded in reply. Thereupon Nehemiah answered thus: "If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto THE CITY of my fathers' sepulchers, THAT I MAY BUILD IT." (Nehemiah 2:5) Artaxerxes fiated the petition, and forthwith issued the necessary orders to give effect to it. Four months later, eager hands were busy upon the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and before the Feast of Tabernacles the city was once more enclosed by gates and a rampart. (Nehemiah 6:15)
 For a description of the ruins of the great palace at Susa, see Mr. Wm. Kennett Loftus's Travels and Researches in Chaldea and Susiana, chap. 28.But, it has been urged, "The decree of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes is but an enlargement and renewal of his first decree, as the decree of Darius confirmed that of Cyrus."  If this assertion had not the sanction of a great name, it would not deserve even a passing notice. If it were maintained that the decree of the seventh year of Artaxerxes was but "an enlargement and renewal" of his predecessors' edicts, the statement would be strictly accurate. That decree was mainly an authority to the Jews "to beautify the House of the Lord. which is in Jerusalem," (Ezra 7:27) in extension of the decrees by which Cyrus and Darius permitted them to build it. The result was to produce a gorgeous shrine in the midst of a ruined city. The movement of the seventh of Artaxerxes was chiefly a religious revival, (Ezra 7:10) sanctioned and subsidized by royal favor; but the event of his twentieth year was nothing less than the restoration of the autonomy of Judah. The execution of the work which Cyrus authorized was stopped on the false charge which the enemies of the Jews carried to the palace, that their object was to build not merely the Temple, but the city. "A rebellious city" it had ever proved to each successive suzerain, "for which cause" — they declared with truth, — its destruction was decreed. "We certify the king" (they added) "that if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, thou shalt have no portion on this side the river."  To allow the building of the temple was merely to accord to a conquered race the right to worship according to the law of their God, for the religion of the Jew knows no worship apart from the hill of Zion. It was a vastly different event when that people were permitted to set up again the far-famed fortifications of their city, and entrenched behind those walls, to restore under Nehemiah the old polity of the Judges.  This was a revival of the national existence of Judah, and therefore it is fitly chosen as the epoch of the prophetic period of the seventy weeks.
 Herodotus, 3, 34.
 Pusey, Daniel. p. 171. Dr. Pusey adds, "The little colony which Ezra took with him of 1, 683 males (with women and children some 8, 400 souls) was itself a considerable addition to those who had before returned, and involved a rebuilding of Jerusalem. This rebuilding of the city and reorganization of the polity, begun by Ezra, and carried on and perfected by Nehemiah, corresponds with the words of Daniel, 'From the going forth of a commandment to restore and build Jerusalem'" (p. 172.) This argument is the feeblest imaginable, and indeed this reference to the decree of the seventh year of Artaxerxes is a great blot on Dr. Pusey's book. If an immigration of 8, 400 souls involved a rebuilding of the city, and therefore marked the beginning of the seventy weeks, what shall be said of the immigration of 49, 697 souls seventy-eight years before? (Ezra 2:64, 65.) Did this not involve a rebuilding? But, Dr. Pusey goes on to say, "The term also corresponds," i. e., the 483 years, to the time of Christ. Here is obviously the real ground for his fixing the date B. C. 457, or more properly B. C. 458, as given by Prideaux, whom unfortunately Dr. Pusey has followed at this point. With more naivete the author of the Connection pleads that the years will not tally if any other date be assigned, and therefore the decree of the seventh of Artaxerxes must be right! (Prid., Con., 1., 5, B. C. 458.) Such a system of interpretation has done much to discredit the study of prophecy altogether.The doubt which has been raised upon the point may serve as an illustration of the extraordinary bias which seems to govern the interpretation of Scripture, in consequence of which the plain meaning of words is made to give place to the remote and the less probable. Sounds like today. People do not want to take Scripture for what it says. In the words of Don Kowalkowski, quoting the Lord, "Can I not keep my words?" And to the same cause must be attributed the doubt which some have suggested as to the identity of the king here spoken of with Artaxerxes Longimanus. 
 i. e., Euphrates. Ezra 4:16.
 "This last is the only decree which we find recorded in Scripture which relates to the restoring and building of the city. It must be borne in mind that the very existence of a place as a city depended upon such a decree; for before that any who returned from the land of captivity went only in the condition of sojourners; it was the decree that gave them a recognized and distinct political existence." — TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 98.
"On a sudden, however, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah, a man of Jewish descent, cup-bearer to the king, received a commission to rebuild the city with all possible expedition. The cause of this change in the Persian politics is to be sought, not so much in the personal influence of the Jewish cup-bearer, as in the foreign history of the times. The power of Persia had received a fatal blow in the victory obtained at Cnidos by Conon, the Athenian admiral. The great king was obliged to submit to a humiliating peace, among the articles of which were the abandonment of the maritime towns, and a stipulation that the Persian army should not approach within three days' journey of the sea. Jerusalem, being about this distance from the coast, and standing so near the line of communication with Egypt, became a post of the utmost importance." — MILMAN, Hist. Jews (3rd Ed.), 1., 435.
 Artaxerxes I. reigned forty years, from 465 to 425. He is mentioned by Herodotus once (6. 98), by Thucydides frequently. Both writers were his contemporaries. There is every reason to believe that he was the king who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem, and sanctioned the restoration of the fortifications." — RAWLINSON, Herodotus, vol. 4., p. 217.The question remains, whether the date of this edict can be accurately ascertained. And here a most striking fact claims notice. In the sacred narrative the date of the event which marked the beginning of the seventy weeks is fixed only by reference to the regnal era of a Persian king. Therefore we must needs turn to secular history to ascertain the epoch, and history dates from this very period. Herodotus, "the father of history," was the contemporary of Artaxerxes, and visited the Persian court.  Thucydides, "the prince of historians," also was his contemporary. In the great battles of Marathon and Salamis, the history of Persia had become interwoven with events in Greece, by which its chronology can be ascertained and tested; and the chief chronological eras of antiquity were current at the time.  No element is wanting, therefore, to enable us with accuracy and certainty to fix the date of Nehemiah's edict.
 The year in which he is said to have recited his writings at the Olympic games, was the very year of Nehemiah's mission.True it is that in ordinary history the mention of "the twentieth year of Artaxerxes" would leave in doubt whether the era of his reign were reckoned from his actual accession, or from his father's death;  but the narrative of Nehemiah removes all ambiguity upon this score. The murder of Xerxes and the beginning of the usurper Artabanus's seven months' reign was in July B.C. 465; the accession of Artaxerxes was in February B.C. 464;  One or other of these dates, therefore, must be the epoch of Artaxerxes' reign. But as Nehemiah mentions the Chisleu (November) of one year, and the following Nisan (March) as being both in the same year of his master's reign, it is obvious that, as might be expected from an official of the court, he reckons from the time of the king's accession de jure, that is from July B.C. 465. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes therefore began in July B.C. 446, and the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the Nisan following. The epoch of the prophetic cycle is thus definitely fixed as in the Jewish month Nisan of the year B.C. 445. 
[22} The era of the Olympiads began B. C. 776; the era of Rome (A. U. C.) B. C. 753; and the era of Nabonassar, B. C. 747.
 The seven months of Artabanus were by some added to the last year of Xerxes, and by others were included in the reign of Artaxerxes." — CLINTON, Fasti Hellenici, vol. 2., p. 42.The Coming Prince
 It has been shown already that the accession of Xerxes is determined to the beginning of 485 B. C. His twentieth year was completed in the beginning of 465 B. C., and his death would happen in the beginning of the Archonship of Lysitheus. The seven months of Artabanus, completing the twenty-one years, would bring down the accession of Artaxerxes (after the removal of Artabanus) to the beginning of 464, in the year of Nabonassar 284, where it is placed by the canon. Note b: "We may place the death of Xerxes in the first month of that Archon (i. e., of Lysitheus), July B. C. 465, and the succession of Artaxerxes in the eighth month, February B. C. 464." — CLINTON, Fasti Hellenici, vol. 2., p. 380.
 See Appendix 2., Note A, on the chronology of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/2006 | A Visible Proclamation
Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to travel to Yerevan, Armenia, to minister among Iranian Christians who had traveled from Iran for a conference that was held on discipleship and Christian education. Without a doubt, I learned more from my Iranian brothers than they learned from me. Their passion and piety for Christ and His church challenged me beyond measure, and their understanding of what it means to be persecuted for the sake of Christ is a sure sign of God’s blessing upon them and their churches throughout Iran. Towards the end of our time together, we held a worship service on the Lord’s Day during which I was given the opportunity to help administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and pronounce the words of institution found in 1 Corinthians 11.
After the service, one of the men came to me and with great passion explained how one of the phrases from the words of institution caught his attention; it was the phrase found at the beginning of Paul’s proclamation: “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed…” (1 Cor. 11:23). My Iranian brother explained how significant those words were to the historic events surrounding Jesus’ words that night in the upper room. During the institution of the greatest and most beautiful of all Christian celebrations, there was deception and betrayal. In the midst of evil, God established good. While the Prince of Peace was giving Himself to His disciples, the Prince of Darkness was trying to kill Him. At the precise time when God’s eternal, sovereign plan of redemption was coming to pass, His kingdom feast was being inaugurated.
My Iranian brothers know what it is like to worship Christ under the constant threat of governmental and cultural discrimination. Nevertheless, they proclaim their faith boldly through the visible sign of the Lord’s Supper knowing full well that such an act of obedience to God could bring them persecution from men. It is no small reason that the apostle Paul, in writing to the early, persecuted church, concludes with these words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). As we live and die before the face of God, coram Deo, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes and we see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).
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)
by Bill Federer
March 26, 1831, Richard Allen died. Born of slave parents in Philadelphia, he was sold with his family to a plantation in Dover, Delaware. With the permission of his master, he began attending the Methodist meetings and learned to read and write. Richard Allen was converted at age 16 and is said to have worked harder to prove that Christianity did not make slaves worse servants. When Richard Allen’s master converted to Methodism, he arranged for Richard, who was now 26, to purchase his freedom. Richard Allen then founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which grew to 10,000 members during his lifetime.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Most people have seen worse things in private than they pretend to be shocked at in public.
--- Edgar Watson Howe
Country Town Sayings : a Collection of Paragraphs from the Atchison Globe
The Scripture can only be read intelligently by inspired men and women. The value we get from our reading is in direct proportion to the measure in which we are filled with God's Spirit.
--- G. Campbell Morgan
The Spirit of God
God delights to increase the faith of His children. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God's hands as a means. Trials, obstacles, difficulties and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith.
--- George Mueller 1805-1898
THE WISDOM OF JAMES
When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree.
--- William Blake
The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Having felt an openness in my heart towards visiting families in our own meeting, and especially in the town of Mount Holly, the place of my abode, I mentioned it at our Monthly Meeting in the fore part of the winter of 1764, which being agreed to, and several Friends of our meeting being united in the exercise, we proceeded therein; and through Divine favor we were helped in the work, so that it appeared to me as a fresh reviving of godly care among Friends. The latter part of the same winter I joined my friend William Jones in a visit to Friends' families in Mansfield, in which labor I had cause to admire the goodness of the Lord toward us.
My mind being drawn towards Friends along the seacoast from Cape May to near Squan, and also to visit some people in those parts, among whom there is no settled worship, I joined with my beloved friend Benjamin Jones in a visit to them, having Friends' unity therein. We set off the 24th of tenth month, 1765, and had a prosperous and very satisfactory journey, feeling at times, through the goodness of the Heavenly Shepherd, the gospel to flow freely towards a poor people scattered in these places. Soon after our return I joined my friends John Sleeper and Elizabeth Smith in a visit to Friends' families at Burlington, there being at this time about fifty families of our Society in that city; and we had cause humbly to adore our Heavenly Father, who baptized us into a feeling of the state of the people, and strengthened us to labor in true gospel love among them.
Having had a concern at times for several years to pay a religious visit to Friends on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and to travel on foot among them, that by so travelling I might have a more lively feeling of the condition of the oppressed slaves, set an example of lowliness before the eyes of their masters, and be more out of the way of temptation to unprofitable converse; and the time drawing near in which I believed it my duty to lay my concern before our Monthly Meeting, I perceived, in conversation with my beloved friend John Sleeper, that he also was under similar concern to travel on foot in the form of a servant among them, as he expressed it. This he told me before he knew aught of my exercise. Being thus drawn the same way, we laid our exercise and the nature of it before Friends; and, obtaining certificates, we set off the 6th of fifth month, 1766, and were at meetings with Friends at Wilmington, Duck Creek, Little Creek, and Motherkill. My heart was often tendered under the Divine influence, and enlarged in love towards the people among whom we travelled.
From Motherkill we crossed the country about thirty-five miles to Tuckahoe, in Maryland, and had a meeting there, and also at Marshy Creek. At the last three meetings there were a considerable number of the followers of one Joseph Nichols, a preacher, who, I understand, is not in outward fellowship with any religious society, but professeth nearly the same principles as those of our Society, and often travels up and down, appointing meetings which many people attend. I heard of some who had been irreligious people that were now his followers, and were become sober, well-behaved men and women. Some irregularities, I hear, have been among the people at several of his meetings; but from what I have perceived I believe the man and some of his followers are honestly disposed, but that skilful fathers are wanting among them.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
God Is Love
Now, why is it that the fruit of the Spirit is love? Because God is love (1 John 4:8).
And what does that mean?
It is the very nature and being of God to delight in communicating Himself. God has no selfishness, God keeps nothing to Himself. God's nature is to be always giving. In the sun and the moon and the stars, in every flower you see it, in every bird in the air, in every fish in the sea. God communicates life to His creatures. And the angels around His throne, the seraphim and cherubim who are flames of fire--whence have they their glory? It is because God is love, and He imparts to them of His brightness and His blessedness. And we, His redeemed children--God delights to pour His love into us. And why? Because, as I said, God keeps nothing for Himself. From eternity God had His only begotten Son, and the Father gave Him all things, and nothing that God had was kept back. "God is love."
One of the old Church fathers said that we cannot better understand the Trinity than as a revelation of divine love--the Father, the loving One, the Fountain of love; the Son, the beloved one, the Reservoir of love, in whom the love was poured out; and the Spirit, the living love that united both and then overflowed into this world. The Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son is love. And when the Holy Spirit comes to us and to other men, will He be less a Spirit of love than He is in God? It cannot be; He cannot change His nature. The Spirit of God is love, and "the fruit of the Spirit is love."
I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but he who respects a command will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of a wise man is a fountain of life,
enabling one to avoid deadly traps.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
I sat still on a stone by the river’s side feeling as miserable as I ever felt in my life. Hitherto it had not occurred to me to doubt the intentions of the Solid People, nor to question the essential goodness of their country even if it were a country which I could not long inhabit. It had indeed once crossed my mind that if these Solid People were as benevolent as I had heard one or two of them claim to be, they might have done something to help the inhabitants of the Town—something more than meeting them on the plain. Now a terrible explanation came into my mind. How if this whole trip were allowed the Ghosts merely to mock them? Horrible myths and doctrines stirred in my memory. I thought how the Gods had punished Tantalus. I thought of the place in the Book of Revelation where it says that the smoke of Hell goes up forever in the sight of the blessed spirits. I remembered how poor Cowper, dreaming that he was not after all doomed to perdition, at once knew the dream to be false and said, ‘These are the sharpest arrows in His quiver.’ And what the Hard-Bitten Ghost had said about the rain was clearly true. Even a shower of dew-drops from a branch might tear me in pieces. I had not thought of this before. And how easily I might have ventured into the spray of the waterfall!
The sense of danger, which had never been entirely absent since I left the bus, awoke with sharp urgency. I gazed around on the trees, the flowers, and the talking cataract: they had begun to look unbearably sinister. Bright insects darted to and fro. If one of those were to fly into my face, would it not go right through me? If it settled on my head, would it crush me to earth? Terror whispered, ‘This is no place for you.’ I remembered also the lions.
With no very clear plan in my mind, I rose and began walking away from the river in the direction where the trees grew closest together. I had not fully made up my mind to go back to the bus, but I wanted to avoid open places. If only I could find a trace of evidence that it was really possible for a Ghost to stay—that the choice was not only a cruel comedy—I would not go back. In the meantime I went on, gingerly, and keeping a sharp look-out. In about half an hour I came to a little clearing with some bushes in the centre. As I stopped, wondering if I dared cross it, I realised that I was not alone.
A Ghost hobbled across the clearing—as quickly as it could on that uneasy soil—looking over its shoulder as if it were pursued. I saw that it had been a woman: a well-dressed woman, I thought, but its shadows of finery looked ghastly in the morning light. It was making for the bushes. It could not really get in among them—the twigs and leaves were too hard—but it pressed as close up against them as it could. It seemed to believe it was hiding.
A moment later I heard the sound of feet, and one of the Bright People came in sight: one always noticed that sound there, for we Ghosts made no noise when we walked.
‘Go away!’ squealed the Ghost. ‘Go away! Can’t you see I want to be alone?’
‘But you need help,’ said the Solid One.
‘If you have the least trace of decent feeling left,’ said the Ghost, ‘you’ll keep away. I don’t want help. I want to be left alone. Do go away. You know I can’t walk fast enough on those horrible spikes to get away from you. It’s abominable of you to take advantage.’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Vision by personal purity
Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. --- Matthew 5:8.
Purity is not innocence, it is much more. Purity is the outcome of sustained spiritual sympathy with God. We have to grow in purity. The life with God may be right and the inner purity remain unsullied, and yet every now and again the bloom on the outside may be sullied. God does not shield us from this possibility, because in this way we realize the necessity of maintaining the vision by personal purity. If the spiritual bloom of our life with God is getting impaired in the tiniest degree, we must leave off everything and get it put right. Remember that vision depends on character—the pure in heart see God.
God makes us pure by His sovereign grace, but we have something to look after, this bodily life by which we come in contact with other people and with other points of view; it is these that are apt to sully. Not only must the inner sanctuary be kept right with God, but the outer courts as well are to be brought into perfect accord with the purity God gives us by His grace. The spiritual understanding is blurred immediately the outer court is sullied. If we are going to retain personal contact with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean there are some things we must scorn to do or to think, some legitimate things we must scorn to touch.
A practical way of keeping personal purity unsullied in relation to other people is to say to yourself—That man, that woman, perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend, that relative, perfect in Christ Jesus!
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Love songs in old age
have an edge to them
like dry leaves. The tree
we planted shakes in the wind.
of time. Our thoughts are birds
that sit in the boughs
and remember; we call
them down to the remains
of poetry. We sit
opposite one another
at table, parrying
our sharp looks with our blunt smiles
Thomas, R. S.
In the NT Abraham is next to Moses the most frequently mentioned OT figure. 1. In the Gospels his significance in salvation history is conceded (Mt. 8:11 and par.; Mk. 12:26 and par.; Lk. 16:22 ff.; 19:9 and all early Christianity). On the other hand, the panegyric glorification of Abraham is contested. Jesus is superior to him (Jn. 8:52–59), and Peter as the bearer of revelation takes his place as a cosmic rock (Mt. 16:18). (J. Jeremias, Golgotha (1926)) The Abrahamic descent of Israel is granted by Jesus and the early Christians (Lk. 13:16; 16:24 ff.; 19:9 etc.), but it is argued that the appeal of unrepentant Jews to it is self-deception (Jn. 8:33 ff. and Mt. 3:9). It is also denied that Abraham can save his children from Hades (Lk. 16:26), and above all table fellowship with him is also promised to the Gentiles (cf. Lk. 16:22 ff.).
2. Whereas in Jn. 8:39 f. and Jm. 2:21–24 Abraham is mentioned as an example of obedience to the will of God, Paul in his conflict with judaising Christianity finds in Abraham an example of the man who is justified by faith alone (Gen 17:10 - Rom 4:1 ff - Gl 3:6 ff.), and can thus see in Christians both of Jewish and Gentile descent the true children of Abraham and heirs of the Abrahamic promise (Gen 17:20, R. 4:1, 12; 9:7 f.; Gl. 3:7, 9, 29; 4:22 ff.; and cf. Jm. 2:21; Hb. 2:16; 6:13 ff.). The decisive thing is no longer physical but spiritual descent.
--- Joachim Jeremias
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume III)
Pesaḥim 65b, 68b
Abaye and Rava bring two different perspectives on the problems we face in life. Abaye presages the modern idiom “God will provide.” In a difficult situation, we assume that there will be divine intervention. When the biblical figure Mordecai was confronted by the possible destruction of the Jews of Shushan by Haman, he turned to Esther for help. When she seemed unwilling to assist him, Mordecai sent her the message that she, too, would be destroyed by the wicked Haman, and that if she did not help, “relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter” (Esther 4:14). Mordecai asks for Esther’s help; lacking that, he foresees assistance from some “other quarter.” As Ivan Turgenev wrote: “Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle.”
Rava offers a different approach. Facing a potential problem, Rava proposes that we act. We do not wait for or expect God’s help. If the doors must be closed and overcrowding might be a problem, then it is our responsibility to do something. Rava might say: “The meaning of ‘God will provide’ is that God provides us with the motivation and the means to get us out of difficult situations.”
We see different approaches as we deal with health and medical issues in our lives. Some take a passive approach to medical crises: “A cure will be found. Help will be provided.” Mary Baker Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, home of the Christian Scientists, based on a philosophy that when humans wake to the reality of God as wholly good and all-powerful, healing will follow. Many would see this as a passive approach to medicine. “God will heal.”
Most of us, however, assume a more aggressive, active role in health maintenance and the healing of disease. “We will find a cure.” “I’ll do whatever I can to make myself healthy again.” We see ourselves as agents of God, not waiting for God to send healing, but actively going out and providing it ourselves. In so doing, we are not committing a sacrilege but performing a service, making of ourselves instruments of divine will.
Today, it remains unclear as to how doors in the Temple courtyard were to be closed. It seems unambiguous, however, that the doors to good health and full healing must be opened through conscious activity on our part.
How precious is a mitzvah in its proper time.
Text / Mishnah (6:1): These are the things of the Passover [offering] that override [the laws of] Shabbat: The slaughtering, the sprinkling of the blood, the cleansing of the entrails and the burning of the fat, but the roasting and the rinsing of the entrails do not override [the laws of] Shabbat.
Gemara: It was taught: Rabbi Shimon said: “Come and see how precious is a mitzvah in its proper time, for the burning of the fat and the limbs and the fat-pieces is acceptable all night long, yet we do not wait until dark.”
Context / Let the Israelite people offer the passover sacrifice at its set time: you shall offer it on the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, at its set time; you shall offer it in accordance with all its rules and rites. (Numbers 9:2–3)
When the Temple was in existence in Jerusalem, the festival of Pesaḥ was celebrated by the sacrifice of a paschal lamb. The Mishnah here deals with the question of how that sacrifice was to be performed if Passover began on a Saturday evening. The problem was that so many things had to be done on the day before the holiday to prepare for the festival; yet the day before Passover was Shabbat, when many activities and labors were prohibited. How was this conflict to be dealt with?
The slaughtering of the lamb and the ritual of sprinkling its blood on the altar were to take place, according to the Torah, on the fourteenth of Nisan (the day prior to Passover; in this particular case, the fourteenth is Shabbat). Because the Torah specified the fourteenth, the sacrifice could not be advanced a day to Friday (the thirteenth of Nisan) or delayed a day to Sunday (the fifteenth, the first day of the festival). Once the sacrifice was offered, the cleansing of the entrails had to be done on the same day; postponement until after Shabbat would have resulted in the purification of the animal’s carcass. Consequently, these activities were all done on Saturday, the mitzvah to do them taking precedence over the normal Shabbat prohibitions. Finally, the Rabbis raise the question: What about burning of the animal’s body on the altar—can it be delayed until after dark (when Shabbat is over) or should it take place, along with the other activities, on Saturday? Technically, this part of the sacrifice could have waited until Saturday night: The burning of the fat of a sacrifice could take place anytime during the night following its offering. The Rabbis, however, choose to have it done on Shabbat, following the principle: “How precious is a mitzvah in its proper time.” Just as the slaughter of the lamb overrides Shabbat, so too, the burning of the fat will also override Shabbat and take place during Saturday, the fourteenth of Nisan.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Light and Darkness: John 7
Jesus said it in a dispute recorded in Jn 7:24. “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
In a sense, this is the theme of this important section of John’s Gospel, which focuses on “light.”
Light and darkness are constant themes in John’s New Testament writings. Those who live in darkness are confused, unable to see reality. Lost in a world of illusion they make judgments based on mere appearances, and are simply unable to grasp what is important and true.
Light, on the other hand, cuts through this darkness to unveil the right and the true. And Jesus is the Cornerstone of the kingdom of light; we begin to “see” when we acknowledge Him as the eternal Son of God.
But “light” also has a moral dimension. And it is this moral dimension that Jesus affirmed as He not only presented Himself to Israel as God, but also claimed the right to establish a grace morality which is far higher than the legalistic morality of the Jews, for it alone truly reflects the morality of God.
The Jews. This designation is used often in the Gospel of John. John used it in a technical sense. He did not mean Israel, or the Jewish people as a whole. When John said “the Jews” he, unlike other Gospel writers, meant the religious leaders of the people who chose to oppose Jesus, and who represented a distortion of historic Old Testament faith.
I hadn’t been a Christian very long when I saw a stranger smoking a cigarette in the hall of our little church. I was shocked. I remember the pastor’s son’s reaction: “We don’t smoke in church,” Bruce announced in a chilly voice.
I also remember one of the men of that church, a police detective, who cupped his hand around his cigarette, trying to hide it, when he met some of our youth group on the street. I remember my own condemning attitude when one of the girls in our group said she hoped Jesus wouldn’t return until she’d had time to enjoy life.
There were so many things that made me and other Christians I knew uncomfortable. There were so many things we considered wrong, in addition to the serious sins the Bible identified. And we felt compelled to judge all the ways in which another person seemed to miss our mark. Of course, if his ways were different enough, we’d have nothing to do with him.
To us, morality was summed up in doing “right” … and in cutting ourselves off from any relationship with those who did not do as we did.
We never realized that our attitude might distort true morality. We failed to see the light that Jesus brought into the world.
A World of Misunderstanding: Jn 7
We saw earlier that light and darkness are moral terms to John. They represent good and bad, righteousness and evil, as well as truth and falsity. Christ, the eternal Word (Jn 1) is the One through whom righteousness has always been communicated. Christ planted a moral awareness deep in every person, and revealed the nature of goodness back in the OT. But John tells us that man’s understanding and interpretation of light is faulty. Thus Paul can insist that the Law is “holy, righteous, and good,” and still be convinced that Law had been an agent of death, stimulating sin rather than quieting it (R 7:7–12).
We can see the distorted perception of the people of Jesus’ day by looking at a series of incidents reported in Jn 7. Jewish thinking about morality was similar to my own in my early days of faith. Against the background of such attitudes, we will be able to see how Jesus displayed the glory of God, as He revealed a new morality, the morality of grace.
Hatred, uncertainty, and fear (Jn 7:1–13). Jesus’ teachings and miracles had become widely known. His uncompromising presentation of Himself as God, and His offer of life to those who believed in Him, stirred up a number of reactions. Each reaction tells us something about the moral climate in Israel.
First, there was hatred (Jn 7:7). The leaders of the people were charged with teaching God’s Word to Israel. But they were so unlike God that they actually hated the Son of God who revealed Him. They in fact responded to Jesus with murderous rage.
Second, there was ridicule (Jn 7:3–5). Jesus’ own brothers (in jealousy?) rejected the evidence of His works, and taunted Him.
Third, there was conflict. People argued with themselves and with each other. This Jesus. Is He a good Man, or a heretic? (Jn 7:12–13)
Fourth, there was fear. Even those who were convinced that Jesus was a Prophet and a good Man feared to take a stand. They knew they would be attacked, and probably persecuted by their religious leaders (referred to here and in other Johannine passages as “the Jews”).
Looking at these reactions, we’re forced to ask a question. What kind of results had Israel’s interpretation of the divine Law produced? Had God’s people become a community of love, caring, and closeness? Not at all! The people of God were angry, antagonistic, bitter, and fearful! There must be something wrong with an approach to faith that produces such a lifestyle! There must be a higher and better approach to morality and faith than this!
The Teacher's Commentary
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Seventeenth Chapter / All Our Care Is To Be Placed In God
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, allow me to do what I will with you. I know what is best for you. You think as a man; you feel in many things as human affection persuades.
Lord, what You say is true. Your care for me is greater than all the care I can take of myself. For he who does not cast all his care upon You stands very unsafely. If only my will remain right and firm toward You, Lord, do with me whatever pleases You. For whatever You shall do with me can only be good.
If You wish me to be in darkness, I shall bless You. And if You wish me to be in light, again I shall bless You. If You stoop down to comfort me, I shall bless You, and if You wish me to be afflicted, I shall bless You forever.
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
My child, this is the disposition which you should have if you wish to walk with Me. You should be as ready to suffer as to enjoy. You should as willingly be destitute and poor as rich and satisfied.
O Lord, I shall suffer willingly for Your sake whatever You wish to send me. I am ready to accept from Your hand both good and evil alike, the sweet and the bitter together, sorrow with joy; and for all that happens to me I am grateful. Keep me from all sin and I will fear neither death nor hell. Do not cast me out forever nor blot me out of the Book of Life, and whatever tribulation befalls will not harm me.
The Imitation Of Christ
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)
About midnight Paul and Silas were… singing hymns to God. --- Acts 16:25.
This story reveals that which is peculiarly Christian, the victory of the soul over adverse circumstances and the transmutation of opposing forces into allies. Classic Sermons/Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)
Paul who sang that night, in paraphrase, says, “Tribulation works patience, therefore rejoice in tribulation.” He says, “Troubles work an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, therefore we will rejoice in our troubles.” He says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance.” These are things from which the human soul shrinks—tribulation, troubles, sorrow. These things are made the allies of the soul, they work on behalf of the soul. This is the central truth concerning Christian experience: God compels all things to work together for good to those who love him.
The Christian does not say, “What cannot be cured must be endured.” Christianity says, rather, that these things must be endured because they are part of the cure. They have the strange and mystic power to make whole and strong and so to lead on to victory and the final glory. Christianity is never the dour pessimism that submits. Christianity is optimism that cooperates with the process because it sees that, through suffering and weakness, joy and triumph must come.
Two men were in Philippi, in the inner prison, in the stocks, in suffering, in sorrow. But they were in God! Their supreme consciousness was not of the prison or the stocks or the pain but of God. They were not indifferent; pain was pain to them, but they realized how all these things were held in the grasp of the King of the perfect order, whom they knew as their Lord and Master, and, consequently, they sang praises.
All this took place at midnight. That accentuates the difficulty, the loneliness and weariness and pain. Yet the phrase is not really “at midnight.” “About midnight”! To these men midnight was not a definite moment. Midnight is never a stopping place. It is coming, and lo! it is gone.
Midnight, that most terrible hour; but for these men there was no such actual time. It was about midnight, and then they sang, and they sang praises to God.
--- G. Campbell Morgan
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Cuthbert | March 26
Cuthbert was born to a shepherding family in Northumbria in the early 630s, but we know little of him until he entered the Scottish monastery in Melrose at about age 20. His faithfulness and piety resulted in his being named prior of Melrose ten years later. He found himself caught in the struggle between the Roman and the Celtic Christians, and he eventually retired to complete solitude in 676, traveling to a deserted island six miles off the British coast to live among the birds and seals.
By 684 his reputation for holiness had become widespread, and King Ecgfrith of Northumbria traveled to plead with him to become bishop of Hexham. Cuthbert refused at first, not wanting to leave his tranquil retreat. The king persuaded him at last, and on March 26, 685, Cuthbert was consecrated bishop. He spent his remaining days in public ministry, traveling around the diocese, preaching, converting sheep farmers in the Northumbrian hills, and distributing alms.
He returned to his island after Christmas in 686, believing he was dying. When he passed away on March 20, 687, monks spread the news by lighted torches, and on the following morning carried his body to Lindisfarne for burial in the monastic church.
The burial habits were odd. It was the custom to bury holy men long enough for the flesh to rot in an earthen grave. The bones would then be raised, washed, wrapped in silks, and placed in a shrine. This ceremony was called the “elevation of the relics.” The elevation of Cuthbert’s relics occurred on March 20, 698, the eleventh anniversary of his death. According to church tradition, however, when Cuthbert’s relics were raised, it was found that his body had not decayed. It was solemnly placed in a shrine on the floor of the church. Miracles were soon reported there, and by the time the Venerable Bede penned Cuthbert’s biography in 720, thousands of pilgrims were traveling to the shrine. Cuthbert became the most beloved Christian in the north of England.
My friends, I want you to know that our bodies of flesh and blood will decay… but we will all be changed. It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised.… Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay.
--- 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 26
“Jesus said unto them, If ye seek me, let these go their way.” --- John 18:8.
Mark, my soul, the care which Jesus manifested even in his hour of trial, towards the sheep of his hand! The ruling passion is strong in death. He resigns himself to the enemy, but he interposes a word of power to set his disciples free. As to himself, like a sheep before her shearers he is dumb and opened not his mouth, but for his disciples’ sake he speaks with almighty energy. Herein is love, constant, self-forgetting, faithful love. But is there not far more here than is to be found upon the surface? Have we not the very soul and spirit of the atonement in these words? The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, and pleads that they must therefore go free. The Surety is bound, and justice demands that those for whom he stands a substitute should go their way. In the midst of Egypt’s bondage, that voice rings as a word of power, “Let these go their way.” Out of slavery of sin and Satan the redeemed must come. In every cell of the dungeons of Despair, the sound is echoed, “Let these go their way,” and forth come Despondency and Much-afraid. Satan hears the well-known voice, and lifts his foot from the neck of the fallen; and Death hears it, and the grave opens her gates to let the dead arise. Their way is one of progress, holiness, triumph, glory, and none shall dare to stay them in it. No lion shall be on their way, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon. “The hind of the morning” has drawn the cruel hunters upon himself, and now the most timid roes and hinds of the field may graze at perfect peace among the lilies of his loves. The thunder-cloud has burst over the Cross of Calvary, and the pilgrims of Zion shall never be smitten by the bolts of vengeance. Come, my heart, rejoice in the immunity which thy Redeemer has secured thee, and bless his name all the day, and every day.
Evening - March 26
"When he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."Mark 8:38.
If we have been partakers with Jesus in his shame, we shall be sharers with him in the lustre which shall surround him when he appears again in glory. Art thou, beloved one, with Christ Jesus? Does a vital union knit thee to him? Then thou art to-day with him in his shame; thou hast taken up his cross, and gone with him without the camp bearing his reproach; thou shalt doubtless be with him when the cross is exchanged for the crown. But judge thyself this evening; for if thou art not with him in the regeneration, neither shalt thou be with him when he shall come in his glory. If thou start back from the black side of communion, thou shalt not understand its bright, its happy period, when the King shall come, and all his holy angels with him. What! are angels with him? And yet he took not up angels—he took up the seed of Abraham. Are the holy angels with him? Come, my soul, if thou art indeed his own beloved, thou canst not be far from him. If his friends and his neighbours are called together to see his glory, what thinkest thou if thou art married to him? Shalt thou be distant? Though it be a day of judgment, yet thou canst not be far from that heart which, having admitted angels into intimacy, has admitted thee into union. Has he not said to thee, O my soul, “I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness?” Have not his own lips said it, “I am married unto thee, and my delight is in thee?” If the angels, who are but friends and neighbours, shall be with him, it is abundantly certain that his own beloved Hephzibah, in whom is all his delight, shall be near to him, and sit at his right hand. Here is a morning star of hope for thee, of such exceeding brilliance, that it may well light up the darkest and most desolate experience.
Morning and Evening
WE ARE CLIMBING JACOB’S LADDER
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
This delightful children’s song was inspired by the account of Jacob’s dream at Bethel as recorded in Genesis 28:10–22. In this dream, Jacob saw a stairway or ladder resting on earth with its top reaching to heaven, with God’s angels or messengers ascending and descending on it.
From Jacob’s dream we learn that the gap between earth and heaven can be bridged. Although God revealed Himself in times past to various individuals as He did to Jacob, His full self-revelation required a God-Man—the Son of God in all of His deity and the Son of Man in full humanity to span the mighty gulf. Jesus Christ became the “ladder” for man to reach heaven and to enjoy even now a restored fellowship with the heavenly Father.
In times past, God used dreams to speak to people, as He did to Job (Job 33:15), Joseph (Genesis 37:5–9), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5, 15), Daniel (Daniel 7) and the wise men (Matthew 2:11–12). But with the completion of the Bible, our divine guidance is much more reliably known through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Scriptures than through dreams and visions that we may experience. In fact, God’s Word clearly warns against this kind of instruction (Jeremiah 23:16). It is this claim to extra revelation that forms the basis of all false cults.
As is true of all real spirituals and folk songs, there is no known author or composer of “Jacob’s Ladder.” It was first heard about 1825, and it has been a favorite with young and old since.
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder; we are climbing Jacob’s ladder; we are climbing Jacob’s ladder, soldiers of the cross.
Sinner, do you love my Jesus? Sinner, do you love my Jesus? Sinner, do you love my Jesus? soldiers of the cross.
If you love Him, why not serve Him? If you love Him, why not serve Him? If you love Him why not serve Him? soldiers of the cross.
We are climbing higher, higher; we are climbing higher, higher; we are climbing higher, higher, soldiers of the cross.
For Today: Genesis 27, 28, 29; John 1:51; Ephesians 4:13; 2 Peter 3:18.
Keep this perspective in all you do: As Christians we are merely travelers in this life, moving forward and upward to our heavenly home. Even now, however, we have God’s messengers to help us live victoriously. Give Christ your thanks for making all of this possible. Use this little spiritual to help you as you reflect on these truths ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Chapter 04 1 Peter 1:3-5
Certain extremists among the Dispensationalists assert and insist that the last seven epistles of the New Testament (Hebrews through Jude) pertain not to all those who are members of the mystical body of Christ, but are entirely Jewish, penned by the apostles to the Circumcision and meant for them only. Such a wild and wicked assertion is an arbitrary invention of their own, for there is not a word in the Scriptures that substantiates their claim. On the contrary, there is much in those very Epistles that clearly repudiates such a view. One might as well affirm that the Epistles of Paul are “not for us” (twentieth-century saints) because they are addressed to companies of believers at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and so forth. The precise identity of the professing Christians to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was originally addressed cannot be discovered. It is vital to recognize, however, that the Epistle is addressed to those who are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1), something that in no wise pertained to the Jewish nation as a whole. Though the Epistle of James was written to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” yet it was addressed to those members of them who were begotten of God (James 1:18). The Epistles of John are manifestly the letters of a father in Christ to his dear children (1 John 2:12; 5:21)—and as such convey the solicitous care of the heavenly Father for His own — to those who had Jesus Christ for their Advocate (1 John 2:1). Jude's Epistle is also a general one, directed to “them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (v. 1).
Those for Whom Peter Offers this Doxology
The first Epistle of Peter is addressed to “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). The American Standard Version more literally renders it, “to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus,. . .” that is, to Jews who are absent from Palestine, residing in Gentile lands (cf. John 7:35). But care needs to be taken that the term sojourners be not limited to its literal force, but rather be given also its figurative meaning and spiritual application. It refers not strictly to the fleshly descendants of Abraham, but rather to his spiritual seed, who were partakers of the heavenly calling, and as such, were away from their home. The patriarchs “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. . . For they. . . declare plainly that they seek a country. . . a better country [than the earthly Canaan], that is, an heavenly” (Heb. 11: 13-16, brackets mine). Even David, while reigning as king in Jerusalem, made a similar acknowledgment: “I am a stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19). All Christians are strangers in this world; for while they are “at home in the body,” they are “absent from the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6). Their citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Thus it was spiritual sojourners (temporary residents) to whom Peter wrote, those who had been begotten to an inheritance reserved for them in heaven (1 Peter 1:4).
Nor were all the spiritual strangers from the natural stock of Abraham. There is more than one indication in this very Epistle that while possibly a majority of them were Jewish believers, yet by no means were all of them so. Thus, in 1 Peter 2:10, after stating that God had called them out of darkness into His marvelous light, the Apostle Peter goes on to describe them with these words: “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” This precisely delineates the case of the Gentile believers (cf. Eph. 2:12, 13). Peter is here quoting from Hosea 1:9, 10 (where the “children of Israel” in Hosea 1:10 refers to the spiritual Israel), which is definitely interpreted for us in Romans 9:24, 25: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles[.] As he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; . . .” (brackets mine). Again, in 1 Peter 4:3, Peter says by way of reminder to those to whom he is writing, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” The last category of transgression could only refer to Gentiles; for the Jews (when considered as a nation), since the Babylonian captivity, had never fallen into idolatry.
The Prayer Itself
As we examine together the prayer contained in 1 Peter 1:3-5, let us consider eight things: (1) its connection—that we may perceive who all are included by the words “begotten us again”; (2) its nature—a doxology (“Blessed be”); (3) its Object—“the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”; (4) its ascription—“His abundant mercy”; (5) its incitement—“hath begotten us again unto a lively hope”; (6) its acknowledgment—“by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”; (7) its substance—“to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you”; and (8) its guaranty—“who are kept by the power of God through faith.” There is much here of interest and deep importance. Therefore, it would be wrong for us to hurriedly dismiss such a passage with a few generalizations, especially since it contains such a wealth of spiritual, joyful reflection that cannot but edify the mind and stir up the will and affections of every saint who rightly meditates upon it. May we be duly affected by its contents and truly enter into its elevated spirit.
First, we consider its connection. Those on whose behalf the apostle offered this doxology are spoken of according to their literal and figurative circumstances in verse 1, and then described by their spiritual characters: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (v. 2). That description pertains equally to all the regenerate in every age. When connected with election, the “foreknowledge of God” refers not to His eternal and universal prescience, for that embraces all beings and events, past, present and future; and, therefore, it has for its objects the non-elect as well as the elect. Consequently, there is no allusion whatever to God's preview of our believing or any other virtue in the objects of His choice. Rather, the term foreknowledge has respect to the spring or source of election, namely, God's unmerited good will and approbation. For this sense of the word know see the following: Psalm 1:6; Amos 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:19. For a like sense of the word foreknow see Romans 11:2. Therefore, the phrase “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” signifies that the favored persons thus described were fore-loved by Him, that they were the objects of His eternal favor, unalterably delighted in by Him as He foreviewed them in Christ— “wherein he hath made us accepted [or “objects of grace”] in the beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6, brackets mine).
Obedience, an Indispensable Sign of the Spirit's Saving Work
“Through sanctification of the Spirit.” It is by means of the Spirit's gracious and effectual operations that our election by God the Father takes effect (see 2 Thess. 2:13). The words “sanctification of the Spirit” have reference to His work of regeneration, whereby we are quickened (made alive), anointed, and consecrated or set apart to God. The underlying idea of sanctification is almost always that of separation. By the new birth we are distinguished from those dead in sin. The words “unto obedience” here in 1 Peter 1:2 signify that by the Spirit's effectual call we are made subject to the authoritative call of the Gospel (see v. 22 and Rom. 10:1, 16) and subsequently to its precepts. Election never promotes license, but always produces holiness and good works (Eph. 1:4; 2:10). The Spirit regenerates sinners to a new life of hearty submission to Christ and not to a life of self-pleasing. When the Spirit sanctifies a soul, it is to the end that he may adorn the Gospel by a walk that is regulated thereby. It is by his obedience that a Christian makes evident his election by the Father, for previously he was one of “the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). By his new life of obedience he furnished proof of the Spirit's supernatural work within him.
“And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” It is important for us to grasp the distinction between the sprinkling of Christ's blood and the shedding of it (Heb. 9:22). The shedding is Godward; whereas the sprinkling is its application to the believer, whereby he obtains forgiveness and peace of conscience (Heb. 9:13, 14; 10:22), and by which his service is rendered acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5).
A careful reading of the whole Epistle makes it evident that these saints were passing through severe trials (see 1 Peter 1:6, 7; 2:19-21; 3:16-18; 4:12-16; 5:8, 9). Jewish Christians (who evidently made up the majority of those originally addressed by Peter) have ever been sorely oppressed, persecuted not so much by the profane world as by their own brethren according to the flesh. How bitter and fierce was the hatred of such unbelieving Jews appears not only from the case of Stephen, but from what the Apostle Paul suffered at their hands (2 Cor. 11: 24-26). As a means of encouragement, the Apostle Paul deliberately reminded his Hebrew brethren of the persecutions they had already endured for Christ's sake. “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; . . . and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (Heb. 10:32-34). By bearing this fact in mind a better understanding is had of many of the details of the Book of Hebrews. Furthermore, it becomes more apparent why Peter has so much to say upon affliction, and why he refers so often to the sufferings of Christ. His brethren were in need of a stimulating cordial that would nerve them to heroic endurance. He therefore dwelt on those aspects of Divine truth best adapted to support the soul, strengthen faith, inspire hope, and produce steadfastness and good works.
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