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Exodus 38     John 17     Proverbs 14     Philippians 1

Exodus 38

Making the Altar of Burnt Offering

Exodus 38 He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Five cubits was its length, and five cubits its breadth. It was square, and three cubits was its height. 2 He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. 3 And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. 4 And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. 5 He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. 6 He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. 7 And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards.

Making the Bronze Basin

8 He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Making the Court

9 And he made the court. For the south side the hangings of the court were of fine twined linen, a hundred cubits; 10 their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 11 And for the north side there were hangings of a hundred cubits; their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 12 And for the west side were hangings of fifty cubits, their ten pillars, and their ten bases; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 13 And for the front to the east, fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 And so for the other side. On both sides of the gate of the court were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three bases. 16 All the hangings around the court were of fine twined linen. 17 And the bases for the pillars were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. The overlaying of their capitals was also of silver, and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver. 18 And the screen for the gate of the court was embroidered with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It was twenty cubits long and five cubits high in its breadth, corresponding to the hangings of the court. 19 And their pillars were four in number. Their four bases were of bronze, their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their capitals and their fillets of silver. 20 And all the pegs for the tabernacle and for the court all around were of bronze.

Materials for the Tabernacle

21 These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 22 Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; 23 and with him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.

24 All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary. 25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. 28 And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them. 29 The bronze that was offered was seventy talents and 2,400 shekels; 30 with it he made the bases for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the bronze altar and the bronze grating for it and all the utensils of the altar, 31 the bases around the court, and the bases of the gate of the court, all the pegs of the tabernacle, and all the pegs around the court.

John 17

The High Priestly Prayer

John 17:1  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Proverbs 14

Proverbs 14:1 The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.
2  Whoever walks in uprightness fears the LORD,
but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
3  By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4  Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
5  A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
6  A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
7  Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
8  The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
9  Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10  The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
11  The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12  There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
13  Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
14  The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15  The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
17  A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
18  The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19  The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20  The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
21  Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22  Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
23  In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
24  The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
25  A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26  In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
27  The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28  In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29  Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30  A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
31  Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32  The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33  Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34  Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35  A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.

Philippians 1


Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The Advance of the Gospel

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

To Live Is Christ

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

How C. S. Lewis Put the Ontological Argument for God in Narnia

By Gavin Ortlund 1/25/2017

     One of my favorite passages in all of literature is Puddleglum’s response to the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair. The Lady (an evil sorceress) has several characters trapped underground, and with the help of a little magic is trying to convince them that Narnia and Aslan and the rest of the “Overland” do not actually exist. The characters are on the verge of giving in when Puddleglum stomps on the magic fire in these words:

     “One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

     Some regard this passage as a sort of inversion of Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, but until recently I’d never thought about it as an application of the ontological argument, or a Platonic worldview more generally. Then recently I came across this statement by Lewis himself in an October 1963 letter to Nancy Warner. Warner had mentioned that her son referenced the presence of an “ontological argument” in The Silver Chair, and Lewis replied:

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     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

How Not to Help a Sufferer

By Gavin Ortlund 2/18/2017

     Of all the Bible’s many colorful characters, none is quite so exasperating as Job’s friends. Herod might chop off your head, and Judas might stab you in the back, but Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar will hurt you with Bible verses.

     Job’s actual losses take two brief chapters to recount (Job 1–2), but the tortuous dialogue that follows drones on for 35 chapters (Job 3–37). I wonder which agonized Job more: his initial suffering or the extended indictment that followed?

     The problem with Job’s comforters isn’t that they’re heretics. Much of what they say is true. The problem is the moralistic worldview that governs their engagement with Job, and compels them to reason backward from suffering to sin.

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     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Problem of Evil Is a Problem for Everyone

By Gavin Ortlund 1/13/2017

     If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?

     This question, the age-old “problem of evil,” is probably the greatest argument of all time against the existence of God. And the question has both a “global” and a “local” presence—it’s a logical dilemma puzzled over by philosophers, and an emotional struggle every sufferer will face. It’s both academic and everyday.

     When we are with someone who is suffering, it’s often best to avoid words altogether and stick with tears, silence, and prayers. In my pastoral role I often have the privilege of sitting with people in deep grief. In those moments, it usually does more harm than good to offer encouragements, or even interpretations. The best thing is simply to sit with them in the darkness. As my brother Dane puts it, “That Romans 8:28 comes before Romans 12:15 in the canon doesn’t mean it should in our counseling and friendships.”

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     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

3 Ways to Respond When Slandered

By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016

     Slander is a serious sin. Like its cousin gossip, slander is incredibly destructive. It “lies in wait for blood” (Prov. 12:6), “destroys neighbors” (Prov. 11:9), and “separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28). But while both gossip and slander involve destructive speech, slander adds the additional element of dishonesty.

     Gossip spreads the fire, but slander sparks it.

     It’s acutely painful to be slandered, and pastors and ministry leaders are particularly easy targets. Precisely because it’s such a serious sin, we must be especially careful to guard our hearts when it happens to us. One of the easiest ways to be led into sin is when we’re sinned against.

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     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 34

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

15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

ESV Study Bible

Exodus 38; John 17; Proverbs 14; Philippians 1

By Don Carson 3/27/2018

     John 17 is constantly cited in ecumenical circles. Jesus prays for “those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… to let the world know that you sent me” (17:20-23). The implication is that by supporting the ecumenical movement wholeheartedly one is bringing to pass the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer.

     It is an important prayer. But note what else he prays for in this chapter:

     (1) Jesus prays that God will protect his first disciples from “the evil one,” especially now that he himself is being removed from the scene (17:11, 15). Perhaps he is especially thinking of the terrible blows to their faith as their Master is crucified and buried.

     (2) Jesus prays that his disciples will be sanctified by the truth — understanding well that God’s word is truth, and that the very purpose of his own sanctification (i.e., he “sanctifies” himself — sets himself apart for his Father’s holy purposes — by obeying his Father and going to the cross) is that they may be sanctified (17:17-18).

     (3) Jesus prays that both these first disciples and those who will ultimately believe through their message will be “in us [i.e., ‘in’ the Father and the Son] so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:21).

     (4) Jesus declares he wants all those the Father has given him to be where he is, and finally to see his glory, the very glory the Father gave him because the Father loved him from “before the creation of the world” (17:24).

     In addition, of course, Jesus prays that his disciples may all be one. It would be nice if all those who emphasize this petition emphasized the other petitions no less — or, for that matter, that all those who emphasize, say, the second petition in the list above also emphasized the prayer for unity.

     The question to ask, however, is whether Jesus’ prayers are answered. Does not Jesus elsewhere attest that he knows full well that the Father always “hears” him (11:42)? Certainly the Father protected all of the earliest disciples, except, of course, for Judas Iscariot, whom even Jesus in his prayer acknowledges is “doomed to destruction” (17:12). The other petitions are likewise being answered, and will be finally answered at the consummation. This is true also of Jesus’ prayer for unity: real Christians attest a profound unity, a real unity, regardless of hierarchical structures and often in defiance of ecumenical initiatives, in answer to Jesus’ prayer. This often attracts others to the Gospel. We must hunger and strive for the fulfillment of all of Jesus’ petitions.

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

Don Carson Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     5. But as Osiander has introduced a kind of monstrosity termed essential righteousness, by which, although he designed not to abolish free righteousness, he involves it in darkness, and by that darkness deprives pious minds of a serious sense of divine grace [405] ; before I pass to other matters, it may be proper to refute this delirious dream. And, first, the whole speculation is mere empty curiosity. He indeed, heaps together many passages of scripture showing that Christ is one with us, and we likewise one with him, a point which needs no proof; but he entangles himself by not attending to the bond of this unity. The explanation of all difficulties is easy to us, who hold that we are united to Christ by the secret agency of his Spirit, but he had formed some idea akin to that of the Manichees, desiring to transfuse the divine essence into men. [406] Hence his other notion, that Adam was formed in the image of God, because even before the fall Christ was destined to be the model of human nature. But as I study brevity, I will confine myself to the matter in hand. He says, that we are one with Christ. This we admit, but still we deny that the essence of Christ is confounded with ours. Then we say that he absurdly endeavors to support his delusions by means of this principle: that Christ is our righteousness, because he is the eternal God, the fountain of righteousness, the very righteousness of God. My readers will pardon me for now only touching on matters which method requires me to defer to another place. But although he pretends that, by the term essential righteousness, he merely means to oppose the sentiment that we are reputed righteous on account of Christ, he however clearly shows, that not contented with that righteousness, which was procured for us by the obedience and sacrificial death of Christ, he maintains that we are substantially righteous in God by an infused essence as well as quality. For this is the reason why he so vehemently contends that not only Christ but the Father and the Spirit dwell in us. The fact I admit to be true, but still I maintain it is wrested by him. He ought to have attended to the mode of dwelling--viz. that the Father and the Spirit are in Christ; and as in him the fulness of the Godhead dwells, so in him we possess God entire. Hence, whatever he says separately concerning the Father and the Spirit, has no other tendency than to lead away the simple from Christ. Then he introduces a substantial mixture, by which God, transfusing himself into us, makes us as it were a part of himself. Our being made one with Christ by the agency of the Spirit, he being the head and we the members, he regards as almost nothing unless his essence is mingled with us. But, as I have said, in the case of the Father and the Spirit, he more clearly betrays his views--namely, that we are not justified by the mere grace of the Mediator, and that righteousness is not simply or entirely offered to us in his person, but that we are made partakers of divine righteousness when God is essentially united to us.

6. Had he only said, that Christ by justifying us becomes ours by an essential union, and that he is our head not only in so far as he is man, but that as the essence of the divine nature is diffused into us, he might indulge his dreams with less harm, and, perhaps, it were less necessary to contest the matter with him; but since this principle is like a cuttle-fish, which, by the ejection of dark and inky blood, conceals its many tails, [407] if we would not knowingly and willingly allow ourselves to be robbed of that righteousness which alone gives us full assurance of our salvation, we must strenuously resist. For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point--viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image. But if the brightness of the sun cannot be separated from its heat, are we therefore to say, that the earth is warmed by light and illumined by heat? Nothing can be more apposite to the matter in hand than this simile. The sun by its heat quickens and fertilizes the earth; by its rays enlightens and illumines it. Here is a mutual and undivided connection, and yet reason itself prohibits us from transferring the peculiar properties of the one to the other. In the confusion of a twofold grace, which Osiander obtrudes upon us, there is a similar absurdity. Because those whom God freely regards as righteous, he in fact renews to the cultivation of righteousness, Osiander confounds that free acceptance with this gift of regeneration, and contends that they are one and the same. But Scriptures while combining both, classes them separately, that it may the better display the manifold grace of God. Nor is Paul's statement superfluous, that Christ is made unto us "righteousness and sanctification," (1 Cor. 1:30). And whenever he argues from the salvation procured for us, from the paternal love of God and the grace of Christ, that we are called to purity and holiness, he plainly intimates, that to be justified is something else than to be made new creatures. Osiander on coming to Scripture corrupts every passage which he quotes. Thus when Paul says, "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," he expounds justifying as making just. With the same rashness he perverts the whole of the fourth chapter to the Romans. He hesitates not to give a similar gloss to the passage which I lately quoted, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Here it is plain that guilt and acquittal simply are considered, and that the Apostle's meaning depends on the antithesis. Therefore his futility is detected both in his argument and his quotations for support from Scripture. He is not a whit sounder in discussing the term righteousness, when it is said, that faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness after he had embraced Christ (who is the righteousness of Gad and God himself) and was distinguished by excellent virtues. Hence it appears that two things which are perfect are viciously converted by him into one which is corrupt. For the righteousness which is there mentioned pertains not to the whole course of life; or rather, the Spirit testifies, that though Abraham greatly excelled in virtue, and by long perseverance in it had made so much progress, the only way in which he pleased God was by receiving the grace which was offered by the promise, in faith. From this it follows, that, as Paul justly maintains, there is no room for works in justification.

7. When he objects that the power of justifying exists not in faith, considered in itself, but only as receiving Christ, I willingly admit it. For did faith justify of itself, or (as it is expressed) by its own intrinsic virtue, as it is always weak and imperfect, its efficacy would be partial, and thus our righteousness being maimed would give us only a portion of salvation. We indeed imagine nothing of the kind, but say, that, properly speaking, God alone justifies. The same thing we likewise transfer to Christ, because he was given to us for righteousness; while we compare faith to a kind of vessel, because we are incapable of receiving Christ, unless we are emptied and come with open mouth to receive his grace. Hence it follows, that we do not withdraw the power of justifying from Christ, when we hold that, previous to his righteousness, he himself is received by faith. Still, however, I admit not the tortuous figure of the sophist, that faith is Christ; as if a vessel of clay were a treasure, because gold is deposited in it. [408] And yet this is no reason why faith, though in itself of no dignity or value, should not justify us by giving Christ; Just as such a vessel filled with coin may give wealth. I say, therefore, that faith, which is only the instrument for receiving justification, is ignorantly confounded with Christ, who is the material cause, as well as the author and minister of this great blessing. This disposes of the difficulty--viz. how the term faith is to be understood when treating of justification.

8. Osiander goes still farther in regard to the mode of receiving Christ, holding, that by the ministry of the external word the internal word is received; that he may thus lead us away from the priesthood of Christ, and his office of Mediator, to his eternal divinity. [409] We, indeed, do not divide Christ, but hold that he who, reconciling us to God in his flesh, bestowed righteousness upon us, is the eternal Word of God; and that he could not perform the office of Mediator, nor acquire righteousness for us, if he were not the eternal God. Osiander will have it, that as Christ is God and man, he was made our righteousness in respect not of his human but of his divine nature. But if this is a peculiar property of the Godhead, it will not be peculiar to Christ, but common to him with the Father and the Spirit, since their righteousness is one and the same. Thus it would be incongruous to say, that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul's interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of mediator, for although he contains in himself the divine nature, yet he receives his own proper title, that he may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit. But he makes a ridiculous boast of a single passage of Jeremiah, in which it is said, that Jehovah will be our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). But all he can extract from this is, that Christ, who is our righteousness, was God manifest in the flesh. We have elsewhere quoted from Paul's discourse, that God purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Were any one to infer from this that the blood by which sins were expiated was divine, and of a divine nature, who could endure so foul a heresy? But Osiander, thinking that he has gained the whole cause by this childish cavil, swells, exults, and stuffs whole pages with his bombast, whereas the solution is simple and obvious--viz. that Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many," (Isa. 53:11). Let us observe that it is the Father who speaks. He attributes the office of justifying to the Son, and adds the reason,--because he is "righteous." He places the method, or medium (as it is called), in the doctrine by which Christ is known. For the word () is more properly to be understood in a passive sense. Hence I infer, first, that Christ was made righteousness when he assumed the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us by his obedience to the Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him. For though God alone is the fountain of righteousness, and the only way in which we are righteous is by participation with him, yet, as by our unhappy revolt we are alienated from his righteousness, it is necessary to descend to this lower remedy, that Christ may justify us by the power of his death and resurrection.

9. If he objects that this work by its excellence transcends human, and therefore can only be ascribed to the divine nature; I concede the former point, but maintain, that on the latter he is ignorantly deluded. For although Christ could neither purify our souls by his own blood, nor appease the Father by his sacrifice, nor acquit us from the charge of guilt, nor, in short, perform the office of priest, unless he had been very God, because no human ability was equal to such a burden, it is however certain, that he performed all these things in his human nature. If it is asked, in what way we are justified? Paul answers, by the obedience of Christ. Did he obey in any other way than by assuming the form of a servant? We infer, therefore, that righteousness was manifested to us in his flesh. In like manner, in another passage (which I greatly wonder that Osiander does not blush repeatedly to quote), he places the fountain of righteousness entirely in the incarnation of Christ, "He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5:21). Osiander in turgid sentences lays hold of the expression, righteousness of God, and shouts victory! as if he had proved it to be his own phantom of essential righteousness, [410] though the words have a very different meaning--viz. that we are justified through the expiation made by Christ. That the righteousness of God is used for the righteousness which is approved by God, should be known to mere tyros, as in John, the praise of God is contrasted with the praise of men [411] (John 12:43). I know that by the righteousness of God is sometimes meant that of which God is the author, and which he bestows upon us; but that here the only thing meant is, that being supported by the expiation of Christ, we are able to stand at the tribunal of God, sound readers perceive without any observation of mine. The word is not of so much importance, provided Osiander agrees with us in this, that we are justified by Christ in respect he was made an expiatory victim for us. This he could not be in his divine nature. For which reason also, when Christ would seal the righteousness and salvation which he brought to us, he holds forth the sure pledge of it in his flesh. He indeed calls himself "living bread," but, in explanation of the mode, adds, "my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed," (John 6:55). The same doctrine is clearly seen in the sacraments; which, though they direct our faith to the whole, not to a part of Christ, yet, at the same time, declare that the materials of righteousness and salvation reside in his flesh; not that the mere man of himself justifies or quickens, but that God was pleased, by means of a Mediator, to manifest his own hidden and incomprehensible nature. Hence I often repeat, that Christ has been in a manner set before us as a fountain, whence we may draw what would otherwise lie without use in that deep and hidden abyss which streams forth to us in the person of the Mediator. [412] In this way, and in this meaning, I deny not that Christ, as he is God and man, justifies us; that this work is common also to the Father and the Holy Spirit; in fine, that the righteousness of which God makes us partakers is the eternal righteousness of the eternal God, provided effect is given to the clear and valid reasons to which I have adverted.

10. Moreover, lest by his cavils he deceive the unwary, I acknowledge that we are devoid of this incomparable gift until Christ become ours. Therefore, to that union of the head and members, the residence of Christ in our hearts, in fine, the mystical union, we assign the highest rank, Christ when he becomes ours making us partners with him in the gifts with which he was endued. Hence we do not view him as at a distance and without us, but as we have put him on, and been ingrafted into his body, he deigns to make us one with himself, and, therefore, we glory in having a fellowship of righteousness with him. This disposes of Osiander's calumny, that we regard faith as righteousness; as if we were robbing Christ of his rights when we say, that, destitute in ourselves, we draw near to him by faith, to make way for his grace, that he alone may fill us. But Osiander, spurning this spiritual union, insists on a gross mixture of Christ with believers; and, accordingly, to excite prejudice, gives the name of Zuinglians [413] to all who subscribe not to his fanatical heresy of essential righteousness, because they do not hold that, in the supper, Christ is eaten substantially. For my part, I count it the highest honor to be thus assailed by a haughty man, devoted to his own impostures; though he assails not me only, but writers of known reputation throughout the world, and whom it became him modestly to venerate. This, however, does not concern me, as I plead not my own cause, and plead the more sincerely that I am free from every sinister feeling. In insisting so vehemently on essential righteousness, and an essential inhabitation of Christ within us, his meaning is, first, that God by a gross mixture [414] transfuses himself into us, as he pretends that there is a carnal eating in the supper; And, secondly that by instilling his own righteousness into us, he makes us really righteous with himself since, according to him, this righteousness is as well God himself as the probity, or holiness, or integrity of God. I will not spend much time in disposing of the passages of Scripture which he adduces, and which, though used in reference to the heavenly life, he wrests to our present state. Peter says, that through the knowledge of Christ "are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them ye might be partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4); [415] as if we now were what the gospel promises we shall be at the final advent of Christ; nay, John reminds us, that "when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). I only wished to give my readers a slender specimen of Osiander, it being my intention to decline the discussion of his frivolities, not because there is any difficulty in disposing of them, but because I am unwilling to annoy the reader with superfluous labour.

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

You Can Learn from Medieval Christians

By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016

     Modern evangelical Christians aren’t known for valuing the medieval church. To tell the truth, we aren’t really known for valuing church history at all. But when we do engage church history, it tends to be our more recent (Protestant) history, with only occasional forays into the Church Fathers. A lot of evangelicals are talking about Jonathan Edwards, but you have to look around a bit to find evangelicals engaging Thomas Aquinas.

     For Chris Armstrong, faculty member at Wheaton College and founding director of Opus: The Art of Work, “The chasm between us and our medieval forebears in the faith has less to do with any intrinsic oddness of the Christians of that time and more with certain philosophical and cultural presuppositions of our own” (3). His new book, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis, seeks not only to deepen our appreciation of the medieval church, but also to use medieval Christianity to redress various perceived problems and weaknesses with the modern church. To this end, he uses C. S. Lewis (someone already respected among evangelicals) as an entryway into the world of medieval Christianity.

     Armstrong explores the medieval view of tradition, medieval theology and ethics, the medieval invention of the hospital, the medieval view of the heart and affections, and the medieval view of natural theology and the incarnation. Along the way, he deconstructs many popular misconceptions about the medieval world, such as the idea that all people believed the earth was flat (77) or that all sickness was caused by demons (127). He shows how much we can learn from medieval Christians, for example, in their courageous care for the sick during plagues (124), their devotional writing (170–84), their ascetic practices (214–30), their art (154–55), and their holistic approach to spiritual growth (224–33).

Click here to go to source

     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

5 Ways to Make It through a Difficult Season

By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016

     Institutions, like the weather, have different seasons. There are springtime harvests, summer droughts, autumn wanings, and winter freezes. They have “a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Eccl. 3:3–4). Sometimes God calls us to be part of an institution when it’s passing through a season of extraordinary difficulty, decline, or dysfunction. This could be a family with young kids trying to make ends meet with both parents working; or a church growing so rapidly that its infrastructure can’t keep up with its numbers, leaving everyone overworked and stretched thin; or a work environment in which a dysfunctional transition is causing anger, suspicion, and mistrust among employees; or a business rapidly downsizing because of the economy.

     It’s difficult to overstate how hard it can be to stay positive when we’re put in a negative or stressful environment. In such an atmosphere, unhappiness and even distrust can tend to spread exponentially; they gain the force of momentum. As C. S. Lewis observed in The Horse and His Boy, “When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.” It might seem like a simple statement, but I think it’s both true and profound. All other factors being equal, betterment tends to beget betterment; decline tends to produce decline.

     What do we do when we’re in a negative season or environment? How do we keep from getting sucked into the stress and dysfunction? How do we stop the momentum of decline—in relationships, effectiveness, size, and so on? How do we retain the fruits of the Spirit when their opposites swirl all around us?

Click here to go to source

     Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • God Made Universe
  • Problem of Pleasure
  • Right Before God

#1 Richard S. Adams |    lean-into-god


#2 8/28/2017 | Ravi Zacharias


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/2006    Forgiven and Free

     Someone recently said to me: “The older we get the harder it is to ask someone’s forgiveness.” I am not sure if that’s necessarily true, but the older and, perhaps, more stubborn we become it certainly seems more difficult to admit one’s fault and ask another’s forgiveness. However, as Christians it should be just the opposite. As we mature in Christ, we should become less and less stubborn in our selfish, impenitent obstinacy and more and more stubborn in our refusal not to let the sun go down on our own, or our brother’s, anger. As we age in life and become physically slower in all that we do, we should become spiritually quicker in all that we do. As the Holy Spirit continually makes us more sensitive to His pricking of our consciences, we ought to be all the more ready to act upon His prompting. Although we may feel bound by the Spirit’s unrelenting work in our lives, it is precisely by such means that the Father has ensured our freedom in the Son. It is exactly at those times in our lives when we experience the greatest spiritual pressure to repent and seek forgiveness when God Almighty is leading us to complete freedom in Christ.

     By instilling humility within our minds, the Lord brings us to the end of loving ourselves so that we might love Him supremely. He forgives us in His mercy so that by His grace we might know Him, love Him, glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever. And He does this through the life and work of the incarnate Word, who came to save His people from their sins. It is somewhat ironic that we have forgiveness through one who never needed to ask for it. The Lord’s forgiveness of us through Christ sets us free to love Him, and our forgiveness of others sets us free to love our enemies. Therein lies the beauty of Gospel reconciliation.

     It is no small reason the Lord taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). And it is no small reason that is the one petition on which the Lord expounds providing us with the unmistakable obligation to forgive just as we have been forgiven (6:14–15). Commenting on this passage, John Owen (1616–1683) wrote: “Our forgiving others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves; but our not forgiving others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven.” If we know God’s forgiveness, we will be known by our forgiveness of others, and we will be known by the watching world as those who live coram Deo, before the face of God.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     He was the grandson of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, and the great-grandson of John Adams, the second President. His name was Henry Adams, and he died this day, March 27, 1918. An American philosopher and historian, Henry Adams authored a nine volume work, entitled, History of the United States. With insight from his unique heritage going back to the founding of the United States, Henry Adams wrote: “The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, all avowed a moral purpose, and began by making institutions that consciously reflected a moral idea.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

The man who says to me, "Believe as I do, or God will damn you," will presently say, "Believe as I do, or I shall assassinate you."
--- Voltaire   The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers

A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel   The Wisdom of Heschel

“Classic": A book which people praise but don't read.
--- Mark Twain   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely.
--- P.J. O'Rourke

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/27
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     We then went to Choptank and Third Haven, and thence to Queen Anne's. The weather for some days past having been hot and dry, and we having travelled pretty steadily and having hard labor in meetings, I grew weakly, at which I was for a time discouraged; but looking over our journey and considering how the Lord had supported our minds and bodies, so that we had gone forward much faster than I expected before we came out, I saw that I had been in danger of too strongly desiring to get quickly through the journey, and that the bodily weakness now attending me was a kindness; and then, in contrition of spirit, I became very thankful to my gracious Father for this manifestation of His love, and in humble submission to His will my trust in Him was renewed.

     In this part of our journey I had many thoughts on the different circumstances of Friends who inhabit Pennsylvania and Jersey from those who dwell in Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina. Pennsylvania and New Jersey were settled by Friends who were convinced of our principles in England in times of suffering; these, coming over, bought lands of the natives, and applied to husbandry in a peaceable way, and many of their children were taught to labor for their living. Few of these, I believe, settled in any of the southern provinces; but by the faithful labors of travelling Friends in early times there was considerable convincement among the inhabitants of these parts. I also remembered having read of the warlike disposition of many of the first settlers in those provinces, and of their numerous engagements with the natives in which much blood was shed even in the infancy of the colonies. Some of the people inhabiting those places, being grounded in customs contrary to the pure truth, were affected with the powerful preaching of the Word of Life and joined in fellowship with our Society, and in so doing they had a great work to go through. In the history of the reformation from Popery it is observable that the progress was gradual from age to age. The uprightness of the first reformers in attending to the light and understanding given to them opened the way for sincere-hearted people to proceed further afterwards; and thus each one truly fearing God and laboring in the works of righteousness appointed for him in his day findeth acceptance with Him. Through the darkness of the times and the corruption of manners and customs, some upright men may have had little more for their day's work than to attend to the righteous principle in their minds as it related to their own conduct in life without pointing out to others the whole extent of that into which the same principle would lead succeeding ages. Thus, for instance, among an imperious, warlike people, supported by oppressed slaves, some of these masters, I suppose, are awakened to feel and to see their error, and through sincere repentance cease from oppression and become like fathers to their servants, showing by their example a pattern of humility in living, and moderation in governing, for the instruction and admonition of their oppressing neighbors; these, without carrying the reformation further, have, I believe, found acceptance with the Lord. Such was the beginning; and those who succeeded them, and who faithfully attended to the nature and spirit of the reformation, have seen the necessity of proceeding forward, and have not only to instruct others by their own example in governing well, but have also to use means to prevent their successors from having so much power to oppress others.

     Here I was renewedly confirmed in my mind that the Lord (whose tender mercies are over all his works, and whose ear is open to the cries and groans of the oppressed) is graciously moving in the hearts of people to draw them off from the desire of wealth and to bring them into such an humble, lowly way of living that they may see their way clearly to repair to the standard of true righteousness, and may not only break the yoke of oppression, but may know him to be their strength and support in times of outward affliction.

     We crossed Chester River, had a meeting there, and also at Cecil and Sassafras. My bodily weakness, joined with a heavy exercise of mind, was to me an humbling dispensation, and I had a very lively feeling of the state of the oppressed; yet I often thought that what I suffered was little compared with the sufferings of the blessed Jesus and many of his faithful followers; and I may say with thankfulness that I was made content. From Sassafras we went pretty directly home, where we found our families well. For several weeks after our return I had often to look over our journey; and though to me it appeared as a small service, and that some faithful messengers will yet have more bitter cups to drink in those southern provinces for Christ's sake than we have had, yet I found peace in that I had been helped to walk in sincerity according to the understanding and strength given to me.

John Woolman's Journal

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

     Mankind Needs Love

     Why is that so? That was the one great need of mankind, that was the thing which Christ's redemption came to accomplish: to restore love to this world.

     When man sinned, why was it that he sinned? Selfishness triumphed--he sought self instead of God. And just look! Adam at once begins to accuse the woman of having led him astray. Love to God had gone, love to man was lost. Look again: of the first two children of Adam the one becomes a murderer of his brother.

     Does not that teach us that sin had robbed the world of love? Ah! what a proof the history of the world has been of love having been lost! There may have been beautiful examples of love even among the heathen, but only as a little remnant of what was lost. One of the worst things sin did for man was to make him selfish, for selfishness cannot love.

     The Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven as the Son of God's love. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God's Son came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love here upon earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies, and He died the death of love. And when He went to Heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love of God into the hearts of men. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

     And what was the preparation for the promise of the Holy Spirit? You know that promise as found in the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel. But remember what precedes in the thirteenth chapter. Before Christ promised the Holy Spirit, He gave a new commandment, and about that new commandment He said wonderful things. One thing was: "Even as I have loved you, so love ye one another." To them His dying love was to be the only law of their conduct and intercourse with each other. What a message to those fishermen, to those men full of pride and selfishness! "Learn to love each other," said Christ, "as I have loved you." And by the grace of God they did it. When Pentecost came, they were of one heart and one soul. Christ did it for them.

     And now He calls us to dwell and to walk in love. He demands that though a man hate you, still you love him. True love cannot be conquered by anything in Heaven or upon the earth. The more hatred there is, the more love triumphs through it all and shows its true nature. This is the love that Christ commanded His disciples to exercise.

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

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:15-16
     by D.H. Stern

15     Good common sense produces grace,
but the way of the treacherous is rough.

16     Every cautious person acts with knowledge,
but a fool parades his folly.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘Oh, that!’ said the Spirit. ‘That’ll soon come right. But you’re going in the wrong direction. It’s back there—to the mountains—you need to go. You can lean on me all the way. I can’t absolutely carry you, but you need have almost no weight on your own feet: and it will hurt less at every step.’

     ‘I’m not afraid of being hurt. You know that.’

     ‘Then what is the matter?’

     ‘Can’t you understand anything? Do you really suppose I’m going out there among all those people, like this?’

     ‘But why not?’

     ‘I’d never have come at all if I’d known you were all going to be dressed like that.’

     ‘Friend, you see I’m not dressed at all.’

     ‘I didn’t mean that. Do go away.’

     ‘But can’t you even tell me?’

     ‘If you can’t understand, there’d be no good trying to explain it. How can I go out like this among a lot of people with real solid bodies? It’s far worse than going out with nothing on would have been on Earth. Have everyone staring through me.’

     ‘Oh, I see. But we were all a bit ghostly when we first arrived, you know. That’ll wear off. Just come out and try.’

     ‘But they’ll see me.’

     ‘What does it matter if they do?’

     ‘I’d rather die.’

     ‘But you’ve died already. There’s no good trying to go back to that.’

     The Ghost made a sound something between a sob and a snarl. ‘I wish I’d never been born,’ it said. ‘What are we born for?’

     ‘For infinite happiness,’ said the Spirit. ‘You can step out into it at any moment …’

     ‘But, I tell you, they’ll see me.’

     ‘An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’t you remember on earth—there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it—if you will drink the cup to the bottom—you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.’

     ‘You really mean?…’ said the Ghost, and then paused. My suspense was strained up to the height. I felt that my own destiny hung on her reply. I could have fallen at her feet and begged her to yield.

     ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit. ‘Come and try.’

     Almost, I thought the Ghost had obeyed. Certainly it had moved: but suddenly it cried out, ‘No, I can’t. I tell you I can’t. For a moment, while you were talking, I almost thought … but when it comes to the point … You’ve no right to ask me to do a thing like that. It’s disgusting. I should never forgive myself if I did. Never, never. And it’s not fair. They ought to have warned us. I’d never have come. And now—please, please go away!”

     ‘Friend,’ said the Spirit. ‘Could you, only for a moment, fix your mind on something not yourself?’

     ‘I’ve already given you my answer,’ said the Ghost, coldly but still tearful.

     ‘Then only one expedient remains,’ said the Spirit, and to my great surprise he set a horn to his lips and blew. I put my hands over my ears. The earth seemed to shake: the whole wood trembled and dindled at the sound. I suppose there must have been a pause after that (though there seemed to be none) before I heard the thudding of hoofs—far off at first, but already nearer before I had well identified it, and soon so near that I began to look about for some place of safety. Before I had found one the danger was all about us. A herd of unicorns came thundering through the glades: twenty-seven hands high the smallest of them and white as swans but for the red gleam in eyes and nostrils and the flashing indigo of their horns. I can still remember the squelching noise of the soft wet turf under their hoofs, the breaking of the undergrowth, the snorting and the whinneyings; how their hind legs went up and their horned heads down in mimic battle. Even then I wondered for what real battle it might be the rehearsal. I heard the Ghost scream, and I think it made a bolt away from the bushes … perhaps towards the Spirit, but I don’t know. For my own nerve failed and I fled, not heeding, for the moment, the horrible going underfoot, and not once daring to pause. So I never saw the end of that interview.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Vision by personal character

Come up hither, and I will shew thee things. --- Rev. 4:1.

     An elevated mood can only come out of an elevated habit of personal character. If in the externals of your life you live up to the highest you know, God will continually say—‘Friend, go up higher.’ The golden rule in temptation is—‘Go higher.’ When you get higher up, you face other temptations and characteristics. Satan uses the strategy of elevation in temptation, and God does the same, but the effect is different. When the devil puts you into an elevated place, he makes you screw your idea of holiness beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear. It is a spiritual acrobatic performance, you are just poised and dare not move; but when God elevates you by His grace into the heavenly places, instead of finding a pinnacle to cling to, you find a great table-land where it is easy to move.

     Compare this week in your spiritual history with the same week last year and see how God has called you up higher. We have all been brought to see from a higher standpoint. Never let God give you one point of truth which you do not instantly live up to. Always work it out, keep in the light of it.

     Growth in grace is measured not by the fact that you have not gone back, but that you have an insight into where you are spiritually; you have heard God say ‘Come up higher,’ not to you personally, but to the insight of your character. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” God has to hide from us what He does until by personal character we get to the place where He can reveal it.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


I look up; you pass.
I have to reconcile your
existence and the meaning of it
with what I read: kings and queens
and their battles
for power. You have your battle,
too. I ask myself: Have
I been on your side? Lovelier
a dead queen than a live
wife? History worships
the fact but cannot remain
neutral. Because there are no kings
worthy of you; because poets
better than I are not here
to describe you; because time
is always too short, you must go by
now without mention, as unknown
to the future as to
the past, with one man's
eyes resting on you
in the interval of his concern.

Thomas, R. S.

Eugene Peterson
     The Star

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob. -- Numbers 24:17.

No star is visible except at night,
Until the sun goes down, no accurate north.
Day’s brightness hides what darkness
     shows to sight,
The hour I go to sleep the bear strides forth.

I open my eyes to the cursed
     but requisite dark,
The black sink that drains my cistern dry,
And see, not nigh, not now, the heavenly mark
Exploding in the quasar-messaged sky.

Out of the dark, behind my back, a sun
Launched light-years ago, completes its run;

The undeciphered skies of myth and story
Now narrate the cadenced runes of glory.

Lost pilots wait for night to plot their flight,
Just so diurnal pilgrims praise the midnight.

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Pesaḥim 112a


     A couple has been planning a vacation for months. The day of the departure finally arrives. They finish packing their suitcases, hail a cab, and head for the airport. But upon checking in, they notice a flashing message next to their flight number on the departure screen: “Delayed.”

     A woman has been scheduled for surgery to determine if the lump in her breast is benign or malignant. She has had two weeks to prepare herself mentally and physically for this traumatic moment. And then, an hour before checking into the hospital, the surgeon’s office phones: The doctor has been called away on a family emergency. The procedure has been postponed until the end of the week.

     The family of a murder victim has been waiting for their day in court when they can, at last, confront the men who killed their daughter. They have gotten themselves emotionally ready for reliving all the pain and anguish of a year ago. And then, the night before the trial is to begin, they receive a call from the district attorney that the judge has granted the defense motion to delay the trial for another month.

     We have all learned how important timing can be. It is not just that we are disappointed when things do not happen when we want them to. Many things in life require a great deal of preparation, either of a physical kind or of an emotional nature. We need to “psyche” ourselves up for certain events and experiences. An unexpected delay can be devastating, throwing our bodies and minds completely out of kilter.

     Often, these matters are simply out of our control. Outside forces and events dictate where and when things will occur, and we are powerless to do anything but react—after the fact. On other occasions, things seem to come together at precisely the perfect moment. How wonderful it is when the timing is just right, when there are no delays, when things we have waited for and planned for take place at exactly the right moment.

     But sometimes, it is more than just luck that determines when things take place. The Gemara shows us that the calendar dictated that Pesaḥ would begin on Saturday evening, right after Shabbat; the Torah determined when particular things had to be done; but it was the Rabbis who decided that certain mitzvot could be performed sooner, rather than later.

     So it is in our lives: When it comes to timing, much is out of our hands. But there is also a great deal that we can determine. We do not have to remain totally passive. By being sensitive to time, by understanding the possibilities, and by stepping forward to make critical choices, we are able to shape many of the moments of our lives. And then we, too, with Rabbi Shimon, can say: “How precious it is!”

     The cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle.

     Text / Rabbi Akiva taught Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai five things while he was being held in prison. He [Shimon] had said to him: “Master, teach me Torah!” He [Akiva] said: “I will not teach you.” He said: “If you do not teach me, I will tell my father, Yoḥai, and you will be handed over to the government.” He said to him: “My son, the cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle.” He said to him: “And who is in danger? Is not the calf in danger?”

     Context / Once the evil government decreed that the Jews should not learn Torah. Papus ben Yehudah came and found Rabbi Akiva gathering groups in public and teaching them Torah. He said to him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?” He said to him: “I will give you a parable to show you what this is similar to: A fox was walking by the river; he saw schools of fish going from one place to another. He said to them: ‘What are you fleeing from?’ They said: ‘From the nets that humans throw.’ He said to them: ‘Why don’t you come up here on the dry land, and we’ll live together.’ They said: ‘Are you the one they call the wisest of the animals? You are stupid! If in our own element we are afraid, how much more so will we be in a place of death?’ So too with us. If, when we sit and study Torah, of which it is written ‘For thereby shall you have life’ (
Deuteronomy 30:20) it is thus: when we go and neglect it, how much worse off will we be?” They said: It was not long after that Rabbi Akiva was captured and thrown in prison. (Berakhot 61b)

     Shimon bar Yoḥai was one of Rabbi Akiva’s most zealous students. He was so committed to learning the Torah that he visited his teacher in prison and asked Akiva to teach him right there! Akiva at first refused to do so, knowing that it would place his student at great risk: Should the Romans discover them, Shimon, as well, would surely be thrown into prison. Shimon bar Yoḥai’s zeal for Torah is seen in the threat he hurls at his teacher: Either teach me, or I will see to it that the Romans get you in even more trouble! (It is hard for us to take this threat seriously. Shimon’s hatred for the Romans was as great as his love for Torah and for his teacher.) Akiva explains his reluctance: He would love nothing more than to teach Torah to Shimon, but he is trying to protect his beloved student. Akiva tells him: I want to teach you even more than you want to learn from me. The metaphor is a touching one: The teacher is like the mother cow, whose udder is filled with milk. The calf (Shimon) may be hungry for milk (Torah), but the cow (Akiva) has an even stronger desire to nurse the young one. The udder is heavy, and only by feeding her young can she find relief. More importantly, as a mother, the cow has an instinct to feed and nourish her precious calf.

     Shimon answers: I am the calf, and it is the calf, not the cow who is at risk. I am willing to take my chances. Akiva relented and taught five lessons to his pupil.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Teacher's Commentary
     No Enchantment Against Israel

     With Numbers 21 we begin a new and positive chapter in the history of redemption.

     God’s people are not suddenly perfect. They still fail. But a new generation takes over from the old. The generation that would not trust or obey is dying out. In Numbers 26 we read about “those numbered by Moses and Aaron … in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, ‘They shall die in the wilderness.’ There was not a man left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Numbers 26:64–65).

     The new generation began to respond to God’s voice. And they made a great discovery. When God’s people live in right relationship with Him, they are fully protected!

     Hope. There are two Hebrew words translated “hope” in the Old Testament. Each invites us to look ahead eagerly, with confident expectation. Each also calls for patience; the fulfillment of hope lies in the future. “Hope” in the Old Testament is based on relationship. It affirms trust in God. We are confident, not because we know the future, but because we know God is wholly trustworthy. The new generation we meet now in Numbers is confident, expecting victory, for this is a people with trust in the Lord.

     The Story of Redemption. The last four books of Moses tell a single story: the story of redemption.

     Commentary / There is a definite unity to the story of redemption related in the events of the Exodus. The experiences of God’s Old Testament people, in fact, parallel our individual experiences with God. The redemption they knew is ours too. And just as the new generation of Israel that we meet in Numbers 26 learned to anchor its faith in redemption history, we too need to anchor our faith in an understanding of what God has done for us.

     So before we move on to look carefully at Numbers 21–36, we can profit from an overview of the four Old Testament books that tell redemption’s story, and an overview of their messages to you and to me.

     Transition: Numbers 21–25

     Lessons from the recent history of Israel provided a firm foundation for the new generation’s view of God. Yet there were still struggles. The old, untrusting generation was still with the new. In these transition chapters we see struggle: a struggle in which the tendency to reject God’s ways is matched against a tendency to respond. Sometimes the nation sins, sometimes it obeys. In the outcome of each course of action, the new generation is taught the results of sin—and given a taste of the fruit of obedience.

     Numbers 21 shows the uncertainty and the fluctuations. First Israel vows to do battle “if You will deliver these people into our hands.” Confidently they go into battle—and win (Numbers 21:1–3).

     Yet shortly after that the people became impatient and returned to their old habit of murmuring against Moses. In discipline God sent poisonous snakes among them. Many died. Then the Lord told Moses to erect an image of a serpent and lift it high up on a pole. Moses was to announce to all that anyone bitten could look at the bronze serpent and live (Numbers 21:4–9).

     There was no healing power in the image. Clearly the healing was from God—and any individual who trusted God enough to seek out what must have seemed a ridiculous remedy actually was healed. Individuals as well as the nation had the power to choose.

     The new generation was being taught that they had to take their destiny into their own hands!

The Teacher's Commentary

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Eighteenth Chapter / Temporal Sufferings Should Be Borne Patiently, After The Example Of Christ


     MY CHILD, I came down from heaven for your salvation and took upon Myself your miseries, not out of necessity but out of love, that you might learn to be patient and bear the sufferings of this life without repining. From the moment of My birth to My death on the cross, suffering did not leave Me. I suffered great want of temporal goods. Often I heard many complaints against Me. Disgrace and reviling I bore with patience. For My blessings I received ingratitude, for My miracles blasphemies, and for My teaching scorn.

     The Disciple

     O Lord, because You were patient in life, especially in fulfilling the design of the Father, it is fitting that I, a most miserable sinner, should live patiently according to Your will, and, as long as You shall wish, bear the burden of this corruptible body for the welfare of my soul. For though this present life seems burdensome, yet by Your grace it becomes meritorious, and it is made brighter and more endurable for the weak by Your example and the pathways of the saints. But it has also more consolation than formerly under the old law when the gates of heaven were closed, when the way thereto seemed darker than now, and when so few cared to seek the eternal kingdom. The just, the elect, could not enter heaven before Your sufferings and sacred death had paid the debt.

     Oh, what great thanks I owe You, Who have shown me and all the faithful the good and right way to Your everlasting kingdom! Your life is our way and in Your holy patience we come nearer to You Who are our crown. Had You not gone before and taught us, who would have cared to follow? Alas, how many would have remained far behind, had they not before their eyes Your holy example! Behold, even we who have heard of Your many miracles and teachings are still lukewarm; what would happen if we did not have such light by which to follow You?

The Imitation Of Christ

     Pulpit Commentary

     Balak in the extremity of his fear sends beyond the limits of his own people, into distant Mesopotamia, to secure the help of one supposed to be endowed with supernatural gifts, in special relation to the invisible powers, able to “curse and to bless” (ver. 6). A striking illustration of that blind instinct of human nature by virtue of which it believes ever in the interposition of Deity in the world’s affairs. All idolatrous rites, oracles, divinations, incantations, sacerdotal benedictions and maledictions, rest ultimately on this basis. It is this makes the sway of the priest and the supposed “prophet of the Invisible” so mighty in every land and age. Christianity teaches us to lay hold on the substantial truth that underlies these distorted forms of superstition. It enlightens this blind instinct; reveals the righteous “God that judgeth in the earth;” leads humanity to Him who is at once its “Prophet, Priest, and King.”

     THE WITNESS FOR GOD THAT MAY BE FOUND IN THE SOUL OF A DEPRAVED MAN, even of one whose inward dispositions and whole habit of life are most opposed to his will. Balaam practised an art that was “an abomination unto the Lord” (
Deut. 18:12), and his way was altogether “perverse” (ver. 32), and yet God was near to him. God spoke to him, and put the spirit of prophecy into his heart, and a word into his mouth. He “heard the words and saw the vision of the Almighty.” Whether his knowledge of God was the result of dim traditions of a purer faith handed down from his forefathers, or of influences that had spread in his own time into the land of his birth, we at least see how scattered rays of Divine light then penetrated the deep darkness of heathendom. So now God is often nearer to men than we or they themselves suppose. He does not leave himself without a witness, even in the most ignorant and vile. The light in them is never totally extinguished. They have their gleams of higher thought, their touches of nobler, purer feeling. Conscience rebukes their practical perversity, and the Spirit strives with them to lead them into a better way. When God is absolutely silent in a man’s soul, all hope of guiding him by outward persuasions into the path of righteousness is gone.

     THE PROSTITUTION OF NOBLE POWERS TO BASE USES. Here is a man whose widespread fame was the result, probably, to a great extent of real genius. His native capacity—mental insight, influence over men, poetic gift—was the secret of this fame. Like Simon Magus, he “bewitched the people,” so that they all “gave heed to him, from the least unto the greatest, saying. This man is the great power of God.” But these extraordinary powers are perverted to the furtherance of an unhallowed cause; he makes them the servants of his own base ambition and desire for gain. “He loved the wages of unrighteousness.” It was in his heart to obey the behest of Balak and secure the offered prize. There is a tone of disappointment in the words, “The Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.” He lets “I dare not” wait upon “I would.” And notwithstanding all his poetic inspiration and his passing raptures of devout and pious feeling,

     “Yet in the prophet’s soul the dreams of avarice stay.”

     How full is all human history of examples of the waste of noble faculties, the prostitution to evil uses of God-given powers! The darkest deeds have ever been done and the deepest miseries inflicted on the world by those who were most fitted by nature to yield effective service to the cause of truth and righteousness, and to confer blessings on mankind. And it is generally some one base affection—the fust of the flesh, self-love, avarice, an imperious will, &c.—that turns the rich tide of their life in a false direction. As the spreading sails of a ship only hasten its destruction when the helm fails, so is it with the noblest faculties of a man when he has lost the guidance of a righteous purpose.

     THE DIVINE RESTRAINT OF MAN’S LIBERTY TO DO EVIL. “And God said, Thou shalt not go with them,” &c. The spell of a higher Power is over him. In a sense contrary to that of Paul the Apostle, he “cannot do the thing that he would.” So are wicked men often made to feel that there is after all a will stronger than their will; that, free as they seem to be, some invisible hand is holding them in check, limiting their range of action, thwarting their purposes, compelling them to do the very thing they would fain avoid, turning their curses into blessings, so that in the end they serve the cause they meant to destroy. The hope of the world lies in the absolute mastery of the Will that is “holy, and just, and good” over all conceivable opposing forms of human and Satanic power.—W.

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Take Heart
     March 27

     You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.

     This passage of Scripture implies that there is a difference between Christians and other people. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) It is a radical and permanent distinction as regards their principles of action.

     The principles of Christian piety will be in fact developed in the life. By this I mean that those who are truly Christians in their hearts will be in their lives. Now that this will be the case it does not require many words to prove. For the nature of the change is such that it cannot but develop itself. Regeneration effects no direct revolution in the intellect, but it does in the heart—none in the essential stamina of the mind, but it does in the principles of action and in the volitions, desires, and preferences of the individual. Nor is it a slight change. It is so great as to make it proper to apply to it the terms new creation, new birth, and life from the dead. There is no other change in the human mind like it—none so deep, so thorough, so abiding. This is so clear in the Bible as to need no further proof.

     The change in someone’s religious views and feelings in regeneration is one that affects that individual not in any one department of life but in all. It is not a revolution whose effects we expect simply in the church or in the family, in the external conduct or in the abandonment of vices, but in all the appropriate circumstances of life. If a revolution like that exist, it will be seen. It will constitute that person a new creation in Christ Jesus.

     The world is fitted to develop human principles. The whole arrangement of God’s moral government is to show what humanity is and to make the sentence of the day of judgment be seen to be just. People are permitted to become learned, to see whether they are disposed to employ their learning for the welfare of the universe. They are permitted to accumulate wealth, that the native propensities of the heart may be brought out. Objects of fame, of ambition, of pleasure pass before the mind. It is not that God may know, but that a fair trial may be made. Before that trial, condemnation would appear to be unfair. When people have been fairly tried, when virtue and vice, honor and dishonor have been fairly brought before them, it is right that God should address them and say to each, “Bear that character with you to eternity.”
--- Albert Barnes

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

On This Day
     Old Jeffrey  March 27

     In 1697 Samuel and Susanna Wesley assumed responsibility for the church in Epworth, England, and they soon filled the parsonage with children. Susanna gave birth to 19 in all—among them, John, the future founder of Methodism. The Epworth years were hard, days of poverty, disagreement, and discouragement. The difficulties increased in December, 1716, when an unexpected visitor arrived—a ghost. The parsonage came alive with mysterious sounds. Groaning. Loud knockings. Feet on the stairs. Bottles breaking. Chains rattling. The house sometimes shook from top to bottom. No explanation could be found, but strange apparitions were occasionally seen.

     The ghost (or demon, or whatever it was) became most agitated during family devotions when Rev. Wesley prayed for the royal family. Terrible poundings came from upstairs, which so provoked the minister that he prayed with increasing defiance and volume. Losing all patience, he once shouted, “Thou deaf and dumb devil, why dost thou frighten the children? Come to me in my study that am a man.” Afterward, it constantly annoyed Wesley in his study.

     At first, Susanna had attributed the noises to rats. But when strange horns began blaring throughout the house, she grew convinced that no human or animal could make such sounds. On March 27, 1717 she wrote to her skeptical son Samuel, away at school, “I cannot imagine how you should be so curious about our unwelcome guest. For my part, I am tired with hearing or speaking of it; but if you come, you will find enough to satisfy all your scruples, and perhaps you may hear or see it yourself.”

     The family eventually named their ghost “Old Jeffrey.” The children grew accustomed to him, finding they could tease and anger him with personal remarks. His antics finally died down, but years later John, then a world-famous evangelist, wrote an account of him for a magazine. It seems the devil had overplayed his hand. Seeking to frighten or destroy the future evangelist, Old Jeffrey had instead convinced John that the battle was not against flesh and blood, but against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.

     We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.
--- Ephesians 6:12,13.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 27

     "Then all the disciples forsook him and fled." --- Matthew 26:56.

     He never deserted them, but they in cowardly fear of their lives, fled from him in the very beginning of his sufferings. This is but one instructive instance of the frailty of all believers if left to themselves; they are but sheep at the best, and they flee when the wolf cometh. They had all been warned of the danger, and had promised to die rather than leave their Master; and yet they were seized with sudden panic, and took to their heels. It may be, that I, at the opening of this day, have braced up my mind to bear a trial for the Lord’s sake, and I imagine myself to be certain to exhibit perfect fidelity; but let me be very jealous of myself, lest having the same evil heart of unbelief, I should depart from my Lord as the apostles did. It is one thing to promise, and quite another to perform. It would have been to their eternal honour to have stood at Jesus’ side right manfully; they fled from honour; may I be kept from imitating them! Where else could they have been so safe as near their Master, who could presently call for twelve legions of angels? They fled from their true safety. O God, let me not play the fool also. Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it. These very apostles who were timid as hares, grew to be bold as lions after the Spirit had descended upon them, and even so the Holy Spirit can make my recreant spirit brave to confess my Lord and witness for his truth.

     What anguish must have filled the Saviour as he saw his friends so faithless! This was one bitter ingredient in his cup; but that cup is drained dry; let me not put another drop in it. If I forsake my Lord, I shall crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Keep me, O blessed Spirit, from an end so shameful.

          Evening - March 27

     "And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table."Matthew 15:27.

     This woman gained comfort in her misery by thinking GREAT THOUGHTS OF CHRIST. The Master had talked about the children’s bread: “Now,” argued she, “since thou art the Master of the table of grace, I know that thou art a generous housekeeper, and there is sure to be abundance of bread on thy table; there will be such an abundance for the children that there will be crumbs to throw on the floor for the dogs, and the children will fare none the worse because the dogs are fed.” She thought him one who kept so good a table that all that she needed would only be a crumb in comparison; yet remember, what she wanted was to have the devil cast out of her daughter. It was a very great thing to her, but she had such a high esteem of Christ, that she said, “It is nothing to him, it is but a crumb for Christ to give.” This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. “My sins are many, but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant’s foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to him, because he has already borne its curse in his own body on the tree. It will be but a small thing for him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it.” The woman opens her soul’s mouth very wide, expecting great things of Jesus, and he fills it with his love. Dear reader, do the same. She confessed what Christ laid at her door, but she laid fast hold upon him, and drew arguments even out of his hard words; she believed great things of him, and she thus overcame him. SHE WON THE VICTORY BY BELIEVING IN HIM. Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her tactics.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 27


     Isaac Watts, 1674–1748

     You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.
(Hebrews 12:22)

     Should we sing psalms or hymns in our church services? This was the controversy stirring many congregations during the 17th and 18th centuries. Isaac Watts was the life-long champion of the “humanly composed” hymn while the majority of the English-speaking churches insisted on the traditional psalm settings. Tempers frequently flared, and some churches actually split in the heat of this decidedly inharmonious musical conflict. In some churches a compromise was reached. The psalm setting would be sung in the early part of the service with a hymn used at the close, during which time the parishioners could leave or simply refuse to sing.

     Isaac Watts’ “Come, We That Love the Lord” was no doubt written in part to refute his critics, who termed his hymns “Watts’ Whims,” as well as to provide some subtle barbs for those who refused to sing his hymns: “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God; but children of the heavenly King may speak their joys abroad.” The hymn first appeared in Watts’ Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1707 and was titled “Heavenly Joy on Earth.”

     Still today there exists a controversy within some evangelical congregations regarding the use of traditional versus contemporary sacred music. Although we may each have our own preference, cultural differences such as this should never be a cause for disrupting the unity of any group of believers. This epigram by Augustine, the early church theologian, is still worthy of our earnest consideration: “Let there be in the essentials, unity. In all non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

     Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known; join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne.
     Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God; but children of the heav’nly King may speak their joys abroad.
     The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heav’nly fields, or walk the golden streets.
     Then let our songs abound and ev’ry tear be dry; we’re marching thru Immanuel’s ground to fairer worlds on high.
     Chorus: We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion; we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.

     For Today: Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 35:10; Habakkuk 3:17, 18; 1 Peter 4:13.

     Determine to follow the suggestion of this hymn: “Let our joys [not our minor differences] be known and thus surround the throne.” Rejoice in the truth that the best is yet to come—“fairer worlds on high.” ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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

          This Prayer a Doxology, an Expression of Unmixed Praise to God

     Secondly, we examine its nature. It is a tribute of praise. In this prayer the apostle is not making supplication to God, but rather is offering adoration to Him! This is as much our privilege and duty as it is to spread our needs before Him; yea, the one should ever be accompanied by the other. It is “with thanksgiving” that we are bidden to let our “requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). And that is preceded by the exhortation, “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” which rejoicing is to find its expression in gratitude and by the ascribing of glory to Him. If we be suitably affected by God's bounties, we cannot but bless the Bestower of them. In verse 2, Peter had mentioned some of the most noteworthy and comprehensive of all the Divine benefits, and this exclamation, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” is the echo, or better, the reflex of the Apostle Peter's heart in response to God's amazing grace toward himself and his brethren. This particular doxology is also to be regarded as a devout acknowledgment of the inestimable favors that God had bestowed on His elect, as enlarged upon in verse 3. As the apostle reflected upon the glorious blessings conferred on hell-deserving sinners, his heart was drawn out in fervent worship to the benign Author of them.

     Thus it should be, thus it must be, with Christians today. God has no dumb children (Luke 17:7). Not only do they cry to Him day and night in their distress, but they frequently praise Him for His excellency and give thanks for His benefits. As they meditate upon His abundant mercy in having begotten them to a living hope, as they anticipate by faith the glorious inheritance that is reserved for them in heaven, and as they realize that these flow from the sovereign favor of God to them through the death and resurrection of His dear Son, well may they exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Doxologies, then, are expressions of holy joy and adoring homage. Concerning the particular term blessed, Ellicott most helpfully remarks,

     “This form of Greek word is consecrated to God alone: Mark 14:61; Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 11:31. It is a completely different word from the ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ of the Beatitudes and different from the ‘blessed’ of our Lord's mother in Luke 1:28, 42. This form of it [in 1 Peter 1:3] implies that blessing is always due on account of something inherent in the person, while that only implies a blessing has been received.”

     Thus we see again how minutely discriminating and accurate is the language of Holy Writ.

          The Glorious Object of Praise

     Thirdly, we behold its Object. This doxology is addressed to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is explained by Calvin thus:

     “For as formerly, by calling Himself the God of Abraham, He designed to mark the difference between Him and all fictitious gods; so after He has manifested Himself in His own Son, His will is, not to be known otherwise than in Him. Hence they who form their ideas of God in His naked majesty apart from Christ, have an idol instead of the true God, as the case is with the Jews and the Turks [that is, the Mohammedans, to which we may add the Unitarians]. Whosoever, then, seeks really to know the only true God, must regard Him as the Father of Christ.”

     Moreover, in Psalm 72:17, it is foretold of Christ that “men shall be blessed in him” and that “all nations shall call him blessed.” Whereupon the sacred singer breaks forth into this adoring praise: “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (v. 18). That was the Old Testament form of doxology (cf. 1 Kings 1:48; 1 Chron. 29:10); but the New Testament doxology (2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3) is expressed in accordance with the self-revelation the Deity has made in the Person of Jesus Christ: “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23).

     God the Father is not here viewed absolutely but relatively, that is, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Himself is contemplated in His mediatonal character, that is, as the eternal Son vested with our nature. As such, the Father appointed and sent Him forth on His redeeming mission. In that capacity and office the Lord Jesus owned and served Him as His God and Father. From the beginning He was engaged in His Father's business, ever doing those things that were pleasing in His sight. By God's Word He was regulated in all things. Jehovah was His “portion” (Ps. 16:5), His “God” (Ps. 22:1), His “All.” Christ was under Him (John 6:38; 14:28): “the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). In a covenant way, too, He was and is the God and Father of Christ (John 20:17), not only so while Christ was here on earth, but even now that He is in heaven. This is clear from Christ's promise after His ascension: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God. . .” (Rev. 3:12, ital. mine). Yet this official subordination of Christ to God the Father in no wise militates against nor modifies His essential equality with Him (John 1:1-3; 5:23; 10:30-33).

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

7 Sermon On The Mount

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8 Sermon On The Mount

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9 Sermon On The Mount

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10 Sermon On The Mount

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11 Sermon On The Mount

Condemnation | Sinclair Ferguson

12 Sermon On The Mount

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The Lord’s Prayer 1

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The Lord’s Prayer 2

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