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Exodus 14     Luke 17     Job 32     2 Corinthians 2

Exodus 14

Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus 14:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Note, Exodus 14:14 is not a promise we can claim. See and read all of article below, Putting Words in God’s Mouth.

15 The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” 19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.  ( Notice the text says, all night. It was not as the movie suggested. )  22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.”

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Luke 17

Temptations to Sin

Luke 17:1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Increase Our Faith

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Unworthy Servants

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

     Why did only one cleansed leper return to thank Jesus? The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:
          One waited to see if the cure was real.
          One waited to see if it would last.
          One said he would see Jesus later.
          One decided that he had never had leprosy.
          One said he would have gotten well anyway.
          One gave the glory to the priests.
          One said, “O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”
          One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”
          One said, “I was already much improved.”
     Charles L. Brown, Content The Newsletter Newsletter, June, 1990, p. 3

The Coming of the Kingdom

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot — they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”   ( The location of a carcass is visible from great distances because of the circling carrion birds overhead (cf. Job 39:27–30). Similarly, Christ’s return will be clearly evident to all near and far. The same point is made by the lightning in Matt. 24:27. The vulture - dead body imagery here also speaks of the judgment that will accompany his return (Rev. 19:21). )  ESV MacArthur Study Bible  

Job 32

Elihu Rebukes Job’s Three Friends

Job 32:1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3 He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said:

“I am young in years,
and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid
to declare my opinion to you.
7  I said, ‘Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.’
8  But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
9  It is not the old who are wise,
nor the aged who understand what is right.
10  Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
let me also declare my opinion.’

11  “Behold, I waited for your words,
I listened for your wise sayings,
while you searched out what to say.
12  I gave you my attention,
and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job
or who answered his words.
13  Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom;
God may vanquish him, not a man.’
14  He has not directed his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your speeches.

15  “They are dismayed; they answer no more;
they have not a word to say.
16  And shall I wait, because they do not speak,
because they stand there, and answer no more?
17  I also will answer with my share;
I also will declare my opinion.
18  For I am full of words;
the spirit within me constrains me.
19  Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins ready to burst.
20  I must speak, that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.
21  I will not show partiality to any man
or use flattery toward any person.
22  For I do not know how to flatter,
else my Maker would soon take me away.

2 Corinthians 2

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Forgive the Sinner

5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Triumph in Christ

12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Orion & the Pleiades Speak Truth

By William T. Pelletier, Ph.D. 11/23/2016

     Last week’s article, The Hunter and Seven Sisters, surveyed two groups of stars which are mentioned several times in the Bible: Orion (the Hunter) and the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters).

     Several Old Testament books use these two star groups, along with the Bear (Ursa Major, of which the Big Dipper is a part), to seize attention and megaphone truth to mankind (Job 9:8-10; 38:31-32; Amos 5:8).

     The book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. It relates the troubles of a man named Job who lived after the Flood, probably around the time of Abraham.

Click here to go to source

William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
I’m a mathematician who has spent over 45 years researching Bible-Science topics. I have taught many classes on these issues, and have repeatedly debated evolutionist professors in university forums.
     I specialize in explaining scientific issues from a Biblical base. I wrote a monthly newspaper column on Bible-Science topics for the The Woodside News for seven years from July 2005 through July 2012.

     I have a Ph.D. in mathematics. Major career positions include

• University mathematics professor teaching undergraduate and graduate math courses at several universities.
• Software developer and analyst for a Fortune 100 company. Responsibilities included analyzing computer systems and developing CAD/CAM software to mathematically model automotive parts and design dies.
• VP of Consulting for a technology company

     I’m not a great blogger, but I blog about Great Truths. The truths and principles that I explain and espouse in this blog come, not from me, but from a Great Book that tells about a Great God and His Great Work.

     Carrying Kepler after he tired on a long hike
     The BibleScienceGuy carries Kepler
     after he tired on a long hike
     The literal truth of Scripture is my bedrock. Genesis 1-11 is the essential foundation for the rest of the Bible. It unambiguously teaches the Creation of the universe in 6 regular days about 6,000 years ago.

     Adam’s sin resulted in God’s curse on creation and its subsequent degeneration. Noah’s Flood was God’s judgment on a sin-soaked world 4500 years ago. The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ solved the sin and death problem for those who follow Christ.
     In this blog I’ll tackle Biblical and scientific issues like Creation, evolution, chronology, age of the earth, Noah’s Flood, dinosaurs, cave men, fossils, intelligent design, archaeology, and related topics in the news.
     Some articles will be mostly Bible-oriented, some will be mostly science-oriented, and some will be a combination. (See the Table of Contents and Newspaper Columns for lists of articles on this site.)
     I focus on: Debunking evolutionism. Exalting the Creator. Exploring Creation. I tackle scientific issues from a Biblical perspective and explore Biblical issues from a scientific perspective.
     My interests include orienteering, hiking, camping, sports (table tennis, football, basketball, baseball), reading (theology, science, biography, history, mystery, adventure, math), and logic puzzles.
     I have been delightfully married to my one and only sweetheart for over 35 years. We have seven children.
     Soli Deo Gloria.

Words of Terror: “Dad, I’m in love…”

By Geoff Holsclaw 2/14/2017

     Searching for a “get well” card I turn into the gift aisle. Immediately a sea of red and pink cards expressing tender sentiments or stating bold desires overwhelms me. Valentine’s Day is here.

     A terrifying thought crosses my mind as I wade through this sea of pre-packaged sentimentality. Someday soon, my newly minted teenage son will come home and say, “Dad, I’m in love with her.”

     And my heart will sink.

Click here to go to source

Geoff Holsclaw: A native Californian who now calls Chicago home, Geoff is wonderfully married to Cyd and they have two boys, Soren and Tennyson. He serves as a co-pastor at Life on the Vine. He co-authored, Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier, and is affiliate professor of theology at Northern Seminary, and the Director of the Masters of Arts in Theology and Mission.

Putting Words in God’s Mouth

By Alan Shlemon 9/1/2016

     Who taught you how to interpret the Bible? I bet I can guess your answer: no one. Chances are, you were never discipled by a mentor, never took a class on biblical interpretation, and never studied a book on the subject. Like many believers (including myself), you probably adopted your own approach to interpreting the Bible. It’s almost a matter of chance whether or not we develop a good system. When it comes to God’s Word, though, isn’t it critical we strive to correctly understand it?

     Let me put it plainly: Every Christian has a system of biblical interpretation, whether we know it or not. The only question is whether that system helps or hinders our ability to understand what God is saying in His Word.

     This issue came up last month when I was in Cairo, Egypt. I was training up-and-coming leaders in the Egyptian church in theology and apologetics. As is often the case when I teach on hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret the Bible), I got a lot of pushback. That’s a common response among all Christians, not just Egyptian believers. Christians are generally resistant to accepting new principles of biblical interpretation, especially when those principles affect a prior interpretation of a verse they’ve cherished for years.

     I understand why that’s the case. The Bible is deeply personal to us. It can be hard and painful to be told we’re misinterpreting a passage that has been meaningful to us.

     That’s exactly what happened while teaching my Egyptian brothers and sisters. I was offering a warning not to claim a promise from God when it’s directed exclusively to someone else. For example, we can’t claim the promise to Abraham and expect God to make us “into a great nation” and “bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2-3). That’s a promise only for Abraham.

Click here to go to source

     Alan Shlemon is an author and speaker for Stand to Reason and trains Christians to share their convictions in a persuasive, yet gracious manner. Known for teaching on some of the most controversial issues of our time, he tackles topics such as abortion, evolution, homosexuality, bioethics, and Islam. Alan has been a guest on both radio and television, and has spoken to thousands of adults and students across the country at churches, conferences, and college campuses.

Alan Shlemon Books:

The Most Important Pastoral Practice For Our Time

By Seth Richardson 2/3/2017

     A few months ago, I started over: a new church community in a new place. I went from familiar to unfamiliar – from years of developing social capital to being the new guy. People are, understandably, graciously suspicious of everything I say and do. Disorientation has been the predominant theme for me these days.

     During this season of disorientation, I have been hovering around the question, “What is going on?”

     In asking this question, I’m seeking understanding of the histories, experiences, and emotions flowing through the root system of the community – the kinds of things that have shaped and are presently shaping the community’s ethos and self-understanding.

Click here to go to source

Seth Richardson and his family live in Fayetteville, Arkansas where Seth is rector of Christ the King Anglican Church (http://www.christthekingfayetteville.com/). He most often thinks and writes about spiritual formation, sacramental theology, and place. He probably drinks too much coffee.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 26

I Will Bless The Lord
26 Of David.

6 I wash my hands in innocence
and go around your altar, O LORD,
7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.

8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.

11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.

ESV Study Bible

Gifting the Incarnation of Christ: A Spiritual Discipline for Christmas

By MarkKate Morse 12/21/2016

     Christmas is so wonderful, and yet also exhausting and stressful. We primarily shop, decorate, cook, see family and friends, and attend special Christmas services. The celebratory month with lights and presents and good food is meant to create joy in us for the gift of the Christ child. Yet it all seems so far removed from the humbling of God the Son to helpless newborn.

     What is lacking in the traditions of Christmas is a spiritual discipline which reminds us of the most important part of the story, the incarnation of Almighty God into human flesh. How do lights and ornaments and presents capture anything of the mystery of Christ, “who although he existed in the form of God…emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7)?

     Four Steps to Giving the Gift of Incarnation

Click here to go to source

MaryKate Morse, PhD, is professor of Leadership and Spiritual Formation in the seminary at George Fox University. Currently she is the Lead Mentor for the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership & Spiritual Formation. Raised in the Air Force, MaryKate lived in various states and overseas. She completed her BS in Secondary Education and English Literature at Longwood University in Virginia. With her husband, Randy, and small children she lived in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru doing ministry and social projects with the Aymará Indians. Upon return she did a Masters in Biblical Studies and an MDIV at Western Evangelical Seminary (now GFES). She began teaching, studied spiritual formation and direction, and was certified as a spiritual director and recorded as a pastor with the Evangelical Friends. MaryKate completed her doctorate at Gonzaga University where she studied the characteristics of renewal leadership as modeled by Jesus. She continues to explore how spiritual formation and effective leadership result in the transformation of individuals and communities especially for evangelists and front-line leaders in diverse cultural environments. After her doctorate she planted two churches and served in various administrative positions at the university including Seminary Associate Dean, Director of Hybrid programs, and University Director of Strategic Planning. She is a spiritual director and leadership mentor and coach, conference and retreat speaker, and author including Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, and Influence and A Guidebook to Prayer. MaryKate is married to Randy and has three adult children and five grandchildren. She enjoys being with family, hiking, reading, exploring new places, and playing with her puppy, Tess. Books by MaryKate Morse:

Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence
A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God

Exodus 14; Luke 17; Job 32; 2 Corinthians 2

By Don Carson 3/3/2018

     Three observations on the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 14):

     First, the dynamic confrontation between Pharaoh and the sovereign Lord continues. On the one hand, Pharaoh follows his desires, concluding that the Israelites are hemmed in by sea and desert, and therefore easy prey (14:3). Moreover, Pharaoh and his officials now regret they let the people go. Slavery was one of the fundamental strengths of their economic system, certainly the most important resource in their building programs. Perhaps the plagues were horrible flukes, nothing more. The Israelite slaves must be returned.

     Yet God is not a passive player as these events unfold, nor simply someone who responds to the initiative of others. He leads the fleeing Israelites away from the route to the northeast, not only so that they may escape confrontation with the Philistines (13:17), but also so that the Egyptians will conclude that the Israelites are trapped (14:3). In fact, God is leading the Egyptians into a trap, and his hardening of the heart of Pharaoh is part of that strategy (14:4, 8, 17). This sweeping, providential sovereignty is what ought to ground the trust of the people of God (14:31). Above all, the Lord is determined that in this confrontation, both the Israelites and the Egyptians will learn who God is. “I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army…. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” (14:17-18). “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” (14:31).

     Second, the “angel of God” reappears (14:19) — not as an angel, but as a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, alternately leading the people and separating them from the pursuing Egyptians. But looked at another way, one may say that “the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (13:21). The ambiguities we saw earlier (Ex. 3; see meditation for February 20) continue.

     Third, whatever means (such as the wind) were ancillary to the parting of the Red Sea, the event, like the plagues, is presented as miraculous — not the normal providential ordering of everything (which regularity makes science possible), but the intervention of God over against the way he normally does things (which makes miracles unique, and therefore not susceptible to scientific analysis). For people to walk on dry land between walls of water (14:21-22) is something the sovereign God of creation may arrange, but no other.

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

The Unexpected Value of Insignificance

By Mark Moore 4/22/2016

     Are you accomplishing something significant? Do you see yourself as significant?
     Feeling significant is a major quest for some people. In fact, it is a deep-rooted identity issue. Our society contributes to this issue by attempting to make everyone feel significant–thus our kids play games at school where there are no winners or losers. On one level we could legitimately say that in our culture “feeling significant” is a basic human need.
     In Richard Rohr’s outstanding book, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation, he describes the practice of male initiation rites and vision quests that many cultures have practiced throughout the ages. His study reveals that there are five common themes in all male initiation rites, no matter the people or culture. These five themes, which he calls promises, are:

Click here to go to source

     Mark Moore is a Director of Church Mobilization at International Justice Mission. He equips churches and communities by sharing the biblical call to seek justice, introducing them to IJM’s work, and mobilizing them to engage in both local and global ministry. Prior to joining IJM, Mark spent eleven years as the pastor of Providence Community, a church he planted in Dallas, TX. Mark is also a faculty member at The Leadership Institute in California where he helps train leaders who listen to God, follow Jesus’ rhythms of life, and lead from the overflow. He is currently writing a book called The Unlikely Contemplative (InterVarsity Press), which addresses the challenges of being a driven visionary leader and a contemplative.

The Holiness of God

By R.C. Sproul

     Nadab and Abihu were priests. They were sons of Aaron, the High Priest. God had personally selected Aaron to be the first High Priest. Together with Moses, Aaron had led the people of Israel through the wilderness. If anyone in Israel had a close relationship with God, it was Moses and Aaron. One might expect a little leeway from God in dealing with the sons of Aaron. There was none. For one transgression at the altar God reacted swiftly and violently, wiping them out on the spot. It was not as though they profaned the altar with prostitutes or offered human sacrifices as the Moloch cult. All they did was offer some “strange fire” there. We are not sure exactly what the strange fire was. It sounds as if it was merely a question of young priests doing some creative experimenting with the liturgy. A censurable offense, perhaps. But the death penalty? Without the benefit of a trial? Immediate summary execution?

     A scientist friend of Albert Einstein’s shocked the geological world with his theories arguing against a gradual change in the earth’s forms through eons of erosion and the movement of giant glaciers. Immanuel Velikovsky offered a theory that also provided an explanation for the story of Nadab and Abihu.

     Velikovsky was of the opinion that changes in the earth’s surface were made suddenly by a catastrophic upheaval caused by a planet or giant comet that came so close to the earth it reversed the magnetic poles and forced the earth to start spinning in the opposite direction. Imagine a top spinning as fast as it can. Then, instantly, it is made to spin in the opposite direction. If there were water inside the top, what would happen to it? It would become a tidal wave in the opposite direction. Part of the theory is that a meteoric shower bombarded the earth that included within its content great volumes of petroleum, filling the fissures on the earth’s surface and causing great deposits of oil to form under the earth. (Consider the oil rich region of the Middle East.) The tail of this huge comet could be seen for years, causing people to view it as a sign in the sky and actually follow its serpentine path as the Jews did for forty years, wandering in a strange direction all over the desert. This was, according to Velikovsky, Israel’s pillar of smoke and pillar of cloud.

     Nadab and Abihu found some oil lying around and wondered what it was. They were the prototypes for Jed Clampett. They decided to see how it worked if it were mixed with the burning substances at the altar. When they put it in the fire, whoosh, it ignited and exploded, killing the priests instantly. In a primitive society this would be viewed as a sudden act of judgment by the gods.

     Velikovsky offered a natural explanation to account for the story. In his view, the deaths of Nadab and Abihu were accidents, a tragic case of children playing with unknown fire.

     The Bible views it differently. It records it as a supernatural judgment of God. It may have been enacted through natural means, but it is clear that the death of Nadab and Abihu was no accident. It must be ascribed to the wrath and judgment of God.

     How did Aaron view it? The Bible says, “And Aaron was displeased.” We can be sure of that. Aaron was obviously furious. He had dedicated his entire life to the service of God. His sons were following in his footsteps. He could remember the day of their consecration and the pride he felt when they were set apart for the priesthood. It was a family matter. What thanks did he get from the God he served? God summarily executed his sons for what appeared to be a minor infraction of the rules of the altar.

     Aaron rushed to see Moses and tell him about it. It was as if Aaron were saying, “OK God. I’m going to tell on you. I’m going straight to Moses. You’re going to have to deal with us both on this one.” So Aaron went to Moses and pled his case: (Lev 10:3)

     Moses gave Aaron the answer of the LORD. He reminded him of the original consecration of the priests. They had been set apart for a sacred task and solemnly charged with the precise requirements of their office. They had the privilege of ministering before a holy God. Each vessel in the tabernacle was made to precise specifications and each item was sanctified by elaborate measures commanded by God. There was no ambiguity to be found in these commands. With respect to the altar of incense, Aaron and his sons were specifically instructed in the proper procedures. God had spoken: Exodus 30:9-10

     The instructions had been clear. The altar of incense was declared by God to be most holy. When Nadab and Abihu offered strange or unauthorized fire upon it, they were acting in clear defiance of God. Theirs was an act of blatant rebellion, an inexcusable profaning of the holy place. They committed a sin of arrogance, an act of treason against God: They profaned a most holy place.

     God’s judgment was swift. His explanation to Moses was clear: “I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” These were not words of future prophecy or prediction. When God said, “I will …” He meant it as a divine command, a command no man dare countermand.

     The capstone of this episode is found in the last clause of Leviticus 10:3: “Aaron remained silent.”

     What else could Aaron do? The debate was over. The evidence was in and God had rendered His verdict. The sons of Aaron had been explicitly forbidden from offering such fire. They committed an act of disobedience and God lowered the gavel of His justice on them. So Aaron was silent. He held his peace. He could think of no excuse to offer, no protest to make. Like sinners at the Last Judgment, his mouth was stopped.

     Here is an example of God’s punitive justice, the justice by which He punishes the guilty. Is this punishment cruel and unusual? Does it in fact go beyond the limits of justice and cross the border into injustice?

     Built into our concept of justice is the idea that the punishment must fit the crime. If the punishment is more severe than the crime, then an injustice has been committed. The Bible makes it clear that Nadab and Abihu could not plead ignorance as an excuse for their sin. God had made his instructions clear to them. They knew that they were not allowed to offer unauthorized fire on the altar. That they sinned is easy for us to see. But they never dreamed their sin was so serious that it would prompt God to execute them on the spot. Here we meet an example that screams of harshness from the hand of God, of a punishment that is far too cruel and unusual for the crime. Such a measure of punishment not only puzzles us, it staggers us.

     How do we square this narrative with what Genesis teaches earlier about the character of God’s justice? Genesis declares, “The judge of heaven and earth must do right.” The basic assumption of Israel is that God’s judgments are always according to righteousness. His justice is never unfair, never whimsical, nor tyrannical. It is impossible for God to be unjust because his justice is holy.

     ... There is a reason why we are offended, indeed angered, by the story of Uzzah and the story of Nadab and Abihu. We find these things difficult to stomach because we do not understand four vitally important biblical concepts: holiness, justice, sin, and grace. We do not understand what it means to be holy. We do not understand what justice is. We do not understand what sin is. We do not understand what grace is.

Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     34. [298] But as Paul argues, "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God," (1 Cor. 2:11). If in regard to divine truth we hesitate even as to those things which we see with the bodily eye, how can we be firm and steadfast in regard to those divine promises which neither the eye sees nor the mind comprehends? Here human discernment is so defective and lost, that the first step of advancement in the school of Christ is to renounce it (Mt. 11:25; Luke 10:21). Like a veil interposed, it prevents us from beholding divine masteries, which are revealed only to babes. "Flesh and blood" does not reveal them (Mt. 16:17). "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned," (I Cor. 2:14). The supplies of the Holy Spirit are therefore necessary, or rather his agency is here the only strength. "For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?" (Rom. 11:34); but "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," (1 Cor. 2:10). Thus it is that we attain to the mind of Christ: "No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." "Every man therefore that has heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which is of God, he has seen the Father," (John 6:44, 45, 46). Therefore, as we cannot possibly come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit, so when we are drawn we are both in mind and spirit exalted far above our own understanding. For the soul, when illumined by him, receives as it were a new eye, enabling it to contemplate heavenly mysteries, by the splendor of which it was previously dazzled. And thus, indeed, it is only when the human intellect is irradiated by the light of the Holy Spirit that it begins to have a taste of those things which pertain to the kingdom of God; previously it was too stupid and senseless to have any relish for them. Hence our Savior, when clearly declaring the mysteries of the kingdom to the two disciples, makes no impression till he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45). Hence also, though he had taught the Apostles with his own divine lips, it was still necessary to send the Spirit of truth to instill into their minds the same doctrine which they had heard with their ears. The word is, in regard to those to whom it is preached, like the sun which shines upon all, but is of no use to the blind. In this matter we are all naturally blind; and hence the word cannot penetrate our mind unless the Spirit, that internal teacher, by his enlightening power make an entrance for it.

35. Having elsewhere shown more fully, when treating of the corruption of our nature, how little able men are to believe (Book 2, c. 2, 3), I will not fatigue the reader by again repeating it. Let it suffice to observe, that the spirit of faith is used by Paul as synonymous with the very faith which we receive from the Spirit, but which we have not naturally (2 Cor. 4:13). Accordingly, he prays for the Thessalonians, "that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power," (2 Thess. 1:2). Here, by designating faith the work of God, and distinguishing it by way of epithet, appropriately calling it his good pleasure, he declares that it is not of man's own nature; and not contented with this, he adds, that it is an illustration of divine power. In addressing the Corinthians, when he tells them that faith stands not "in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God," (1 Cor. 2:4), he is no doubt speaking of external miracles; but as the reprobate are blinded when they behold them, he also includes that internal seal of which he elsewhere makes mention. And the better to display his liberality in this most excellent gift, God does not bestow it upon all promiscuously, but, by special privilege, imparts it to whom he will. To this effect we have already quoted passages of Scripture, as to which Augustine, their faithful expositor, exclaims (De Verbo Apost. Serm. 2) "Our Savior, to teach that faith in him is a gift, not a merit, says, No man can come to me, except the Father, which has sent me, draw him,' (John 6:44). It is strange when two persons hear, the one despises, the other ascends. Let him who despises impute it to himself; let him who ascends not arrogate it to himself" In another passage he asks, "Wherefore is it given to the one, and not to the other? I am not ashamed to say, This is one of the deep things of the cross. From some unknown depth of the judgments of God, which we cannot scrutinize, all our ability proceeds. I see that I am able; but how I am able I see not:--this far only I see, that it is of God. But why the one, and not the other? This is too great for me: it is an abyss a depth of the cross. I can cry out with wonder; not discuss and demonstrate." The whole comes to this, that Christ, when he produces faith in us by the agency of his Spirit, at the same time ingrafts us into his body, that we may become partakers of all blessings.

36. The next thing necessary is, that what the mind has imbibed be transferred into the heart. The word is not received in faith when it merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart, and become an invincible bulwark to withstand and repel all the assaults of temptation. But if the illumination of the Spirit is the true source of understanding in the intellect, much more manifest is his agency in the confirmation of the heart; inasmuch as there is more distrust in the heart than blindness in the mind; and it is more difficult to inspire the soul with security than to imbue it with knowledge. Hence the Spirit performs the part of a seal, sealing upon our hearts the very promises, the certainty of which was previously impressed upon our minds. It also serves as an earnest in establishing and confirming these promises. Thus the Apostle says, "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance," (Eph. 1:13, 14). You see how he teaches that the hearts of believers are stamped with the Spirit as with a seal, and calls it the Spirit of promise, because it ratifies the gospel to us. In like manner he says to the Corinthians, "God has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts," (2 Cor. 1:22). And again, when speaking of a full and confident hope, he founds it on the "earnest of the Spirit," (2 Cor. 5:5).

37. I am not forgetting what I formerly said, and experience brings daily to remembrance--viz. that faith is subject to various doubts, [299] so that the minds of believers are seldom at rest, or at least are not always tranquil. Still, whatever be the engines by which they are shaken, they either escape from the whirlpool of temptation, or remain steadfast in their place. Faith finds security and protection in the words of the Psalm, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea," (Ps. 46:1, 2). This delightful tranquillity is elsewhere described: "I laid me down and slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me," (Ps. 3:5). Not that David was uniformly in this joyful frame; but in so far as the measure of his faith made him sensible of the divine favor, he glories in intrepidly despising every thing that could disturb his peace of mind. Hence the Scripture, when it exhorts us to faith, bids us be at peace. In Isaiah it is said, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength," (Is. 30:15); and in the psalm, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Corresponding to this is the passage in the Hebrews, "Ye have need of patience," &c. (Heb. 10:36).

38. Hence we may judge how pernicious is the scholastic dogma, [300] that we can have no stronger evidence of the divine favor toward us than moral conjecture, according as each individual deems himself not unworthy of it. Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected towards us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity. With what kind of confidence, pray, shall we be armed if we reason in this way--God is propitious to us, provided we deserve it by the purity of our lives? But since we have reserved this subject for discussion in its proper place, we shall not prosecute it farther at present, especially seeing it is already plain that nothing is more adverse to faith than conjecture, or any other feeling akin to doubt. Nothing can be worse than their perversion of the passage of Ecclesiastes, which is ever in their mouths: "No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them," (Eccl. 9:1). [301] For without insisting that the passage is erroneously rendered in the common version--even a child cannot fail to perceive what Solomon's meaning is--viz. that any one who would ascertain, from the present state of things, who are in the favor or under the displeasure of God, labors in vain, and torments himself to no useful purpose, since "All things come alike to all;" "to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not:" and hence God does not always declare his love to those on whom he bestows uninterrupted prosperity, nor his hatred against those whom he afflicts. And it tends to prove the vanity of the human intellect, that it is so completely in the dark as to matters which it is of the highest importance to know. Thus Solomon had said a little before, "That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other," (Eccl. 3:19). Were any one thence to infer that we hold the immortality of the soul by conjecture merely, would he not justly be deemed insane? Are those then sane who cannot obtain any certainty of the divine favor, because the carnal eye is now unable to discern it from the present appearance of the world?

39. But, they say, it is rash and presumptuous to pretend to an undoubted knowledge of the divine will. I would grant this, did we hold that we were able to subject the incomprehensible counsel of God to our feeble intellect. But when we simply say with Paul, "We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God," (1 Cor. 2:12), what can they oppose to this, without offering insult to the Spirit of God? But if it is Sacrilege to charge the revelation which he has given us with falsehood, or uncertainty, or ambiguity, how can we be wrong in maintaining its certainty? But they still exclaim, that there is great temerity in our presuming to glory in possessing the Spirit of God. [302] Who could believe that these men, who desire to be thought the masters of the world, could be so stupid as to err thus grossly in the very first principles of religion? To me, indeed, it would be incredible, did not their own writings make it manifest. Paul declares that those only are the sons of God who are led by his Spirit (Rom. 8:14); these men would have those who are the sons of God to be led by their own, and void of the divine Spirit. He tells us that we call God our Father in terms dictated by the Spirit, who alone bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God (Rom. 8:16); they, though they forbid us not to invoke God, withdraw the Spirit, by whose guidance he is duly invoked. He declares that those only are the servants of Christ who are led by the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9); they imagine a Christianity which has no need of the Spirit of Christ. He holds out the hope of a blessed resurrection to those only who feel His Spirit dwelling in them (Rom. 8:11); they imagine hope when there is no such feeling. But perhaps they will say, that they deny not the necessity of being endued with the Spirit, but only hold it to be the part of modesty and humility not to recognize it. What, then, does Paul mean, when he says to the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5). John, moreover, says, "Hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he has given us," (1 John 3:24). And what else is it than to bring the promises of Christ into doubt, when we would be deemed servants of Christ without having his Spirit, whom he declared that he would pour out on all his people? (Isa. 44:3). What! do we not insult the Holy Spirit, when we separate faith, which is his peculiar work, from himself? These being the first rudiments of religion, it is the most wretched blindness to charge Christians with arrogance, for presuming to glory in the presence of the Holy Spirit; a glorying without which Christianity itself does not exist. The example of these men illustrates the truth of our Savior's declaration, that his Spirit "the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you," (John 14:17).

40. That they may not attempt to undermine the certainty of faith in one direction only, they attack it in another--viz. that though it be lawful for the believer, from his actual state of righteousness, to form a judgment as to the favor of God, the knowledge of final perseverance still remains in suspense. An admirable security, indeed, is left us, if, for the present moment only, we can judge from moral conjecture that we are in grace, but know not how we are to be to-morrow! Very different is the language of the Apostle, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Rom. 8:38). They endeavor to evade the force of this by frivolously pretending that the Apostle had this assurance by special revelation. They are too well caught thus to escape; for in that passage he is treating not of his individual experience, but of the blessings which all believers in common derive from faith. But then Paul in another passage alarms us by the mention of our weakness and inconstancy, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," (1 Cor. 10:12). True; but this he says not to inspire us with terror, but that we may learn to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, as Peter explains (1 Pet. 5:6). Then how preposterous is it to limit the certainty of faith to a point of time; seeing it is the property of faith to pass beyond the whole course of this life, and stretch forward to a future immortality? Therefore since believers owe it to the favor of God, that, enlightened by his Spirit, they, through faith, enjoy the prospect of heavenly life; there is so far from an approach to arrogance in each glorying, that any one ashamed to confess it, instead of testifying modesty or submission, rather betrays extreme ingratitude, by maliciously suppressing the divine goodness.

41. Since the nature of faith could not be better or more clearly evinced than by the substance of the promise on which it leans as its proper foundation, and without which it immediately falls or rather vanishes away, we have derived our definition from it--a definition, however, not at all at variance with that definition, or rather description, which the Apostle accommodates to his discourse, when he says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," (Heb. 11:1). For by the term substance (upo'stasis), he means a kind of prop on which the pious mind rests and leans. As if he had said, that faith is a kind of certain and secure possession of those things which are promised to us by God; unless we prefer taking upo'stasis for confidence. I have no objection to this, though I am more inclined to adopt the other interpretation, which is more generally received. Again, to intimate that until the last day, when the books will be opened (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12), the things pertaining to our salvation are too lofty to be perceived by our sense, seen by our eyes, or handled by our hands, and that in the meantime there is no possible way in which these can be possessed by us, unless we can transcend the reach of our own intellect, and raise our eye above all worldly objects; in short, surpass ourselves, he adds that this certainty of possession relates to things which are only hoped for, and therefore not seen. For as Paul says (Rom. 8:24), "A hope that is seen is not hope," that we "hope for that we see not." When he calls it the evidence or proof, or, as Augustine repeatedly renders it (see Hom. in Joann. 79 and 95), the conviction of things not present, the Greek term being e'lennchos, it is the same as if he had called it the appearance of things not apparent, the sight of things not seen, the clearness of things obscure, the presence of things absent, the manifestation of things hid. For the mysteries of God (and to this class belong the things which pertain to our salvation) cannot be discerned in themselves, or, as it is expressed, in their own nature; but we behold them only in his word, of the truth of which we ought to be as firmly persuaded as if we held that every thing which it says were done and completed. But how can the mind rise to such a perception and foretaste of the divine goodness, without being at the same time wholly inflamed with love to God? The abundance of joy which God has treasured up for those who fear him cannot be truly known without making a most powerful impression. He who is thus once affected is raised and carried entirely towards him. Hence it is not strange that no sinister perverse heart ever experiences this feeling, by which, transported to heaven itself, we are admitted to the most hidden treasures of God, and the holiest recesses of his kingdom, which must not be profaned by the entrance of a heart that is impure. For what the Schoolmen say as to the priority of love to faith and hope is a mere dream (see Sent. Lib. 3 Dist. 25, &c.) since it is faith alone that first engenders love. How much better is Bernard, "The testimony of conscience, which Paul calls the rejoicing' of believers, I believe to consist in three things. It is necessary, first of all, to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God; secondly, that you cannot have any good work at all unless he also give it; lastly, that you cannot by any works merit eternal life unless it also be freely given," (Bernard, Serm. 1 in Annuntiatione). Shortly after he adds, "These things are not sufficient, but are a kind of commencement of faith; for while believing that your sins can only be forgiven by God, you must also hold that they are not forgiven until persuaded by the testimony of the Holy Spirit that salvation is treasured up for us; that as God pardons sins, and gives merits, and after merits rewards, you cannot halt at that beginning." But these and other topics will be considered in their own place; let it suffice at present to understand what faith is.

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

  • The God Who Graciously Elects 1
  • .. God Elects 2
  • ... God Elects 3

     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Secrets of self-control (4)
     3/3/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

(Php 4:13) I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ESV

     Start believing you can change. Your beliefs control your behaviour. The way you think determines the way you feel. And when your feelings become strong enough, they determine the way you act. The person who says, ‘I can’t do it,’ and the person who says, ‘I can do it,’ are both right. Much of the time you set yourself up to be defeated by what you’re saying. Your words reinforce either your right or wrong belief system. Three times in First Peter, God reminds us to be clear-minded and self-controlled. Why? Because a clear mind is essential to self-control. God gave us the power to change our habits when He gave us the power to choose our thoughts. Does Romans 12:2 tell us to be transformed by working hard or by sheer willpower? No. What are we transformed by? The renewing of the mind. When your self-control is being tested, you need to fill your mind with the promises of God. Here’s one: ‘When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV 1984 Edition). You must believe God when He says there’s ‘a way out’ for you. Paul writes, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ That means you can change, and you can be different. Stop setting yourself up for failure by constantly criticising yourself: ‘I’m no good. I simply have no control over my life.’ Nagging doesn’t work – on yourself or on anyone else! Instead say, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (Mark 9:23 NIV 1984 Edition). ‘And I believe.’

Numbers 5-6Mark 4:1-20

UCB The Word For Today

RE: Bread
     A better understanding

     Middle Eastern villagers eat their meals by breaking off small pieces of bread, one at a time, and dipping them into the common dish and eating them. The very word bread has strong emotional overtones missing in English. The villager says, “We are a people who eat bread.” He means, “We are poor and have very little else to eat.” A man does not work to “make a living.” Rather he works to “eat bread.” Middle Eastern speech is full of idiomatic references to bread. Life itself is called “the eating of bread.” These attitudes toward bread are embedded throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the book of Job the wicked person is described as one who “wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’ ” (Job 15:23), and Judas is referred to by Jesus as “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me” (John 13:18). In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for bread, not food.

Bailey, K. E. The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     How did the phrase “In God We Trust” get on our coins? It was on this day, March 3, 1865, that Congress approved inscribing the motto on all our national coins. Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law. Less that two months later Lincoln was assassinated. At a Memorial Address for Lincoln, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax noted: “Nor should I forget to mention here that the last act of Congress ever signed by [President Lincoln] was one requiring that the motto, in which he sincerely believed, ‘In God We Trust,’ should hereafter be inscribed upon all our national coin.”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     The third element in the experience of Presence" after love and joy, is peace. And I make bold to speak of this, even if at this very hour the tragedies of China and of Spain and of German concentration camps are heavy upon us.

     The amazing way that anxieties pass away, when enfolded and quickened by the Presence! The old life of one dimension, lived merely in the ribbon of time, was always a strained life. Had we calculated the past correctly? What unforeseen happening in the future can arise and overthrow all our efforts? Strain! Strain! Out of such attitudes are built those lives which get written up in the success-stories of the American Magazine. And religious people think they must work hard and please God and make a good record and bring in the kingdom! Has the Nietzschean ideal of the superman, with heroic, world-striding power, hypnotized the church into an over-activistic attitude?

     And then comes the sense of Presence. The Eternal Now breaks through the time-news and all is secure. A sense of absolute security and assurance of being linked with an overcoming Power replaces the old anxieties about the Kingdom. It is a security regarding the individual and regarding the group and regarding the race of men. Then we say, "How could we have been so blind?" For surely all things of value are most certainly made secure through Him! Faith, serene, unbroken, unhurried world-conquest by the power of Love is a part of peace.

     For the experience of Presence is the experience of peace, and the experience of peace is the experience not of inaction but of power, and the experience of power is the experience of a pursuing Love that loves its way untiringly to victory. He who knows the Presence knows peace, and he who knows peace knows power and walks in complete faith that that objective Power and Love which has overtaken him will overcome the world.

     And an immediate corollary to this is the weakening of the merely calculated, rationally planned decisions. When we lived in the one-dimensional time-ribbon we had to think life out all by ourselves. The past had to be read cautiously, the future had to be planned with care. Nothing was to be undertaken unless the calculations showed that success was to be expected. No blind living, no marching boldly into the dark, no noble but ungrounded ventures of faith. We must- be rational, sensible, intelligent, shrewd. But then comes the reality of the Presence, and the Now-Eternal is found to underlie and generate all time-temporals. And a life of amazing, victorious faith-living sets in. Not with rattle and clatter of hammers, not with strained eyebrows and tense muscles but in peace and power and confidence we work upon such apparently hopeless tasks as the elimination of war from society, and set out toward world­brotherhood and interracial fraternity in a world where all the calculated chances of success are very meagre.

     I said that the rational element in the conduct of life is weakened. But the checking and co-ordinating considerations of reason are not eliminated from life guided by the Presence, replaced by the promptings of the moment. Between the atomistic, unintegrated chaos of the time-news and the coherent, integrated unity of a rational system, wherein time has lost its meaning-between these two factors reflective men have always sought to effect a marriage. Surrender to the promptings of the Eternal Now may involve the absurd courage of faith in the face of insuperable obstacles. But it does not release us from all intelligent and rational and co-ordinated behavior, all reasoning and consistency. Speaking of his openings Fox said he found that "they answered one another and answered the scriptures." There is a unity and co­herence and rational continuity in the out-cropping guidances of Spirit-led men. Penn, at the time of the Wilkinson-Story separation, wrote concerning the antinomian claims of the separatists: "As if the Light were inconsistent with itself, or admitted of unity under not only different but contrary practices in the one family and flock of God." This matter needs very careful and much fuller sifting. But I am sure that the outcome must be such that reason and intelligence are not eliminated from those lives who live within the Presence, nor on the other hand are reasoning and intellectual calculations to replace or paralyze the vigor and imperiousness of the Eternal Now.

     But in the sense of Presence some of the past nows of our time-now change their character entirely. Our old failures are so apt to paralyze us. The Eternal Now may counsel: "Undertake this." Our time-now says: "See what a weakling you proved yourself to be in an earlier case. Better not try it now." But the assurance of the Eternal Now is enough, as it should have been for Moses: "Surely I shall be with thee." Submit yourself to the Eternal Now and in peace serene, in the boldness of perfect faith, you can advance into miraculous living. Or, in the opposite direction, our time-now may say: "Do this. You are well prepared for it. Your education and training fit you, perhaps to teach, to preach, to counsel, to guide an enterprise. And if you don't, nobody will." But the Eternal Now in us may say: "Stay. Wait. Don't rely upon yourself. Don't think you can reason yourself into your obligation. Know you not that I can raise up of these stones men better able than you to do this?" Thus in, faith we go forward, with breath-taking boldness, and in faith we stand still, unshaken, with amazing confidence. For the time-nows are rooted in the Eternal Now, which is a steadfast Presence, an infinite ocean of light and love which is flowing over the ocean of darkness and death.

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Right actions in the future
are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.
--- Tryon Edwards

The first reaction to truth is hatred.
--- Turtullian

God is at home.
It is we who have gone for a walk.
--- Meister Eckhart

It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
--- Arthur C. Clarke

... from here, there and everywhere

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

     Near the beginning of the year 1758, I went one evening, in company with a friend, to visit a sick person; and before our return we were told of a woman living near, who had for several days been disconsolate, occasioned by a dream, wherein death, and the judgments of the Almighty after death, were represented to her mind in a moving manner. Her sadness on that account being worn off, the friend with whom I was in company went to see her, and had some religious conversation with her and her husband. With this visit they were somewhat affected, and the man, with many tears, expressed his satisfaction. In a short time after the poor man, being on the river in a storm of wind, was with one more drowned.

     Eighth month, 1758. -- Having had drawings in my mind to be at the Quarterly Meeting in Chester County, and at some meetings in the county of Philadelphia, I went first to said Quarterly Meeting, which was large. Several weighty matters came under consideration and debate, and the Lord was pleased to qualify some of his servants with strength and firmness to bear the burden of the day. Though I said but little, my mind was deeply exercised; and, under a sense of God's love, in the anointing and fitting of some young men for his work, I was comforted, and my heart was tendered before him. From hence I went to the Youth's Meeting at Darby, where my beloved friend and brother Benjamin Jones met me by appointment before I left home, to join in the visit. We were at Radnor, Merion, Richland, North Wales, Plymouth, and Abington meetings, and had cause to bow in reverence before the Lord, our gracious God, by whose help way was opened for us from day to day. I was out about two weeks, and rode about two hundred miles.

     The Monthly Meeting of Philadelphia having been under a concern on account of some Friends who this summer (1758) had bought negro slaves, proposed to their Quarterly Meeting to have the minute reconsidered in the Yearly Meeting, which was made last on that subject, and the said Quarterly Meeting appointed a committee to consider it, and to report to their next. This committee having met once and adjourned, and I, going to Philadelphia to meet a committee of the Yearly Meeting, was in town the evening on which the Quarterly Meeting's committee met the second time, and finding an inclination to sit with them, I, with some others, was admitted, and Friends had a weighty conference on the subject. Soon after their next Quarterly meeting I heard that the case was coming to our Yearly Meeting. This brought a weighty exercise upon me, and under a sense of my own infirmities, and the great danger I felt of turning aside from perfect purity, my mind was often drawn to retire alone, and put up my prayers to the Lord that he would be graciously pleased to strengthen me; that setting aside all views of self-interest and the friendship of this world, I might stand fully resigned to his holy will.

     In this Yearly Meeting several weighty matters were considered, and toward the last that in relation to dealing with persons who purchase slaves. During the several sittings of the said meeting, my mind was frequently covered with inward prayer, and I could say with David, "that tears were my meat day and night." The case of slave-keeping lay heavy upon me, nor did I find any engagement to speak directly to any other matter before the meeting. Now when this case was opened several faithful Friends spake weightily thereto, with which I was comforted; and feeling a concern to cast in my mite, I said in substance as follows: --

     "In the difficulties attending us in this life nothing is more precious than the mind of truth inwardly manifested; and it is my earnest desire that in this weighty matter we may be so truly humbled as to be favored with a clear understanding of the mind of truth, and follow it; this would be of more advantage to the Society than any medium not in the clearness of Divine wisdom. The case is difficult to some who have slaves, but if such set aside all self-interest, and come to be weaned from the desire of getting estates, or even from holding them together, when truth requires the contrary, I believe way will so open that they will know how to steer through those difficulties."

     Many Friends appeared to be deeply bowed under the weight of the work, and manifested much firmness in their love to the cause of truth and universal righteousness on the earth. And though none did openly justify the practice of slave-keeping in general, yet some appeared concerned lest the meeting should go into such measures as might give uneasiness to many brethren, alleging that if Friends patiently continued under the exercise the Lord in his time might open a way for the deliverance of these people. Finding an engagement to speak, I said, "My mind is often led to consider the purity of the Divine Being, and the justice of his judgments; and herein my soul is covered with awfulness. I cannot omit to hint of some cases where people have not been treated with the purity of justice, and the event hath been lamentable. Many slaves on this continent are oppressed, and their cries have reached the ears of the Most High. Such are the purity and certainty of his judgments, that he cannot be partial in our favor. In infinite love and goodness he hath opened our understanding from one time to another concerning our duty towards this people, and it is not a time for delay. Should we now be sensible of what he requires of us, and through a respect to the private interest of some persons, or through a regard to some friend ships which do not stand on an immutable foundation, neglect to do our duty in firmness and constancy, still waiting for some extraordinary means to bring about their deliverance, God may by terrible things in righteousness answer us in this matter."

     Many faithful brethren labored with great firmness, and the love of truth in a good degree prevailed. Several who had negroes expressed their desire that a rule might be made to deal with such Friends as offenders who bought slaves in future. To this it was answered that the root of this evil would never be effectually struck at until a thorough search was made in the circumstances of such Friends as kept negroes, with respect to the righteousness of their motives in keeping them, that impartial justice might be administered throughout. Several Friends expressed their desire that a visit might be made to such Friends as kept slaves, and many others said that they believed liberty was the negro's right; to which, at length, no opposition was publicly made. A minute was made more full on that subject than any heretofore; and the names of several Friends entered who were free to join in a visit to such as kept slaves.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 11:24-26
     by D.H. Stern

24     Some give freely and still get richer,
while others are stingy but grow still poorer.
25     The person who blesses others will prosper;
he who satisfies others will be satisfied himself.
26     The people will curse him who withholds grain;
but if he sells it, blessings will be on his head.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The unrelieved quest

     Feed My sheep. --- John 21:17.

     This is love in the making. The love of God is un-made, it is God’s nature. When we receive the Holy Spirit He unites us with God so that His love is manifested in us. When the soul is united to God by the indwelling Holy Spirit, that is not the end; the end is that we may be one with the Father as Jesus was. What kind of oneness had Jesus Christ with the Father? Such a oneness that the Father sent him down here to be spent for us, and He says—“As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”

     Peter realizes now with the revelation of the Lord’s hurting question that he does love Him; then comes the point—Spend it out. Don’t testify how much you love Me, don’t profess about the marvellous revelation you have had, but—“Feed My sheep.” And Jesus has some extraordinarily funny sheep, some bedraggled, dirty sheep, some awkward butting sheep, some sheep that have gone astray! It is impossible to weary God’s love, and it is impossible to weary that love in me if it springs from the one centre. The love of God pays no attention to the distinctions made by natural individuality. If I love my Lord I have no business to be guided by natural temperament; I have to feed His sheep. There is no relief and no release from this commission. Beware of counterfeiting the love of God by working along the line of natural human sympathy, because that will end in blaspheming the love of God.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Cat and the Sea
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

It is a matter of a black cat
On a bare cliff top in March
Whose eyes anticipate
The gorse petals;

The formal equation of
A domestic purr
With the cold interiors
Of the sea's mirror.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     SEDER ZERAIM / Introduction to Seder Zeraim

     The first Order of the Mishnah is called Zeraim, or “Seeds.” It deals with agricultural laws, especially those that applied to the land of Israel. For this reason, the Rabbis in Babylonia did not spend a large amount of time discussing these laws, and to ten of the eleven tractates in this Order in the Babylonian Talmud there is no Gemara. However, the Order begins with a tractate called Berakhot (“Blessings”) that discusses prayer. This tractate does not technically belong to a discussion of agricultural laws; the Rabbis placed it here because blessings were required before eating the fruits and produce grown from the land. Berakhot is one of the favorite talmudic tractates for study specifically because it deals with familiar, practical issues like the order of the daily prayers and the proper time and order of blessings.

     A handful cannot satisfy the lion.

     TEXT / Berakhot 3b

     Rav Aḥa bar Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida: “A harp was hung over the bed of David. At mid-night, a north wind came and blew upon it, making it play music all by itself. David immediately stood up and engaged in the study of Torah until dawn. At dawn, the wise men of Israel entered and said to him: ‘Our lord the king—your people Israel require sustenance!’ He said to them: ‘Go, and let them support one another!’ They said to him: ‘A handful cannot satisfy the lion, and a pit cannot be filled up with its own earth.’ He said to them: ‘Send out the troops to fight.’ ”


     The Talmud continues its story: Rav Yitzḥak bar Ada, and some say Rav Yitzḥak, son of Rav Idi, said: “What is the verse [that shows that a harp was hanging over his bed to wake him up]? ‘Awake, O my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn’ [Psalms
57:9].” Rashi explains: “With other kings, the dawn awakens them; I [David], on the other hand, awaken the dawn.”

     In this section of the Gemara, the Rabbis tell a story about David, one that is not found in the Bible itself. When the advisors of King David inform him that the Israelites are suffering food shortages, he tells them to take from those who have and to give to those who need. The wise men respond with two proverbs: The meaning of the first—“A handful cannot satisfy the lion”—is that the needs of the people are greater than the meager resources available. The second piece of wisdom is a little more obscure. Two different interpretations are offered for “A pit cannot be filled up with its own earth.” Rashi explains that when you dig a pit and then shovel the dirt back into the hole, the pit seems to remain unfilled, probably because of the shifting ground. While in mathematics, the whole is always equal to the sum of its parts, in life, sometimes the hole is greater than the sum of its parts. The sages are thus telling the king that it is impossible for the people to be self-sufficient; they need to find some outside resource in order to “fill up the pit.” The Tosafot, on the other hand, take a different tack, holding that Rashi’s metaphor does not precisely fit the circumstances. The king, after all, did not expect that the poor should help to feed the poor. He wanted the resources taken from the rich and then given to the needy. (Thus the pit was not to be filled with its own earth.) Rabbenu Tam explains that a well will never be filled simply by collecting the rain that falls into it; pipes and canals are required to bring more water from another, outside source.

     David accepts the advice of the wise men and orders that the people should be organized into troops and sent into battle. The king proposes that the spoils of war will serve as the outside resource that the people so desperately need.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Two / The Interior Life

     The Sixth Chapter / The Joy Of A Good Conscience

     THE glory of a good man is the testimony of a good conscience. Therefore, keep your conscience good and you will always enjoy happiness, for a good conscience can bear a great deal and can bring joy even in the midst of adversity. But an evil conscience is ever restive and fearful.

     Sweet shall be your rest if your heart does not reproach you.

     Do not rejoice unless you have done well. Sinners never experience true interior joy or peace, for “there is no peace to the wicked,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 48:22) 10 Even if they say: “We are at peace, no evil shall befall us and no one dares to hurt us,” do not believe them; for the wrath of God will arise quickly, and their deeds will be brought to naught and their thoughts will perish.

     To glory in adversity is not hard for the man who loves, for this is to glory in the cross of the Lord. But the glory given or received of men is short lived, and the glory of the world is ever companioned by sorrow. The glory of the good, however, is in their conscience and not in the lips of men, for the joy of the just is from God and in God, and their gladness is founded on truth.

     The man who longs for the true, eternal glory does not care for that of time; and he who seeks passing fame or does not in his heart despise it, undoubtedly cares little for the glory of heaven.

     He who minds neither praise nor blame possesses great peace of heart and, if his conscience is good, he will easily be contented and at peace.

     Praise adds nothing to your holiness, nor does blame take anything from it. You are what you are, and you cannot be said to be better than you are in God’s sight. If you consider well what you are within, you will not care what men say about you. They look to appearances but God looks to the heart. They consider the deed but God weighs the motive.

     It is characteristic of a humble soul always to do good and to think little of itself. It is a mark of great purity and deep faith to look for no consolation in created things. The man who desires no justification from without has clearly entrusted himself to God: “For not he who commendeth himself is approved,” says St. Paul, “but he whom God commendeth.” (2 Cor 10:18)

     To walk with God interiorly, to be free from any external affection—this is the state of the inward man.

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
--- Isaiah 48:22.

For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.
--- 2 Corinthians 10:18.

The Imitation Of Christ

Teacher's Commentary
     The Priesthood: Leviticus 8–10

     There are three reasons why we need to pay particular attention to the priesthood which is introduced in these Leviticus chapters.

     First, the priesthood is a basic Old Testament institution. We cannot really understand the Old Testament without some grasp of its nature and function.

     Second, Christ is called our High Priest in the New Testament. An understanding of the Old Testament priesthood helps us to grasp more of His present ministry for us today.

     Third, we believers today are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Since we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), we need to see the meaning of priesthood if we are to understand our own calling as Christians.

     We hear little of priesthood today. In fact, the priestly system is foreign to Protestantism, and to our culture. But if we are to learn to live as ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), and break out of the tragically passive role laymen have in our society, we need to rediscover our identities as believer-priests, called to minister for and before God.

     Mediators. We begin a survey of the priest’s role by noting that priests served as mediators between God and man. The priest “is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1).

     The individual in Israel who wished to approach God brought his offering to the priest. That offering may have been an offering of obligation (one which had to be made because of guilt for sin), or a freewill offering of thanks or praise.

     But either kind of offering had to be brought to God through the priest. The priest, who served the altar, was the doorkeeper. His ministry kept the approach to God open.

     At the same time, the priest taught and interpreted God’s revelation. “You must distinguish between the holy and the profane, between the unclean and the clean,” Aaron and his sons were told. “And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses” (Lev. 10:10–11).

     Thus the mediating priest was not only a person through whom an individual might approach God—he was a person who understood and interpreted God’s words to the people.

     Communication between God and man in early Israel was focused in the person of the priest.

     Aaron and his descendants were set aside for this doorkeeping ministry. In the land, the priests and the Levites (the other descendants of Levi) were not given territory with the other families of Israel. They were instead dedicated to care for the things of God. Special cities were set aside for them to live in throughout the territories of the other tribes. But there was no land this tribe could call its own. God was to be their portion, and they were supported by an offering of a tenth of all that was produced by the other tribes. Their ministry was so important that it required total dedication.

     What do other basic Old Testament passages tell us about this class of mediators whose ministry foreshadows both the work of Christ, and our own?

     Exodus 28–29. With the tabernacle pattern revealed, God instructed Moses to set Aaron and his sons aside from the people of Israel to serve Him as priests. They, and especially Aaron the high priest, were given holy garments “for dignity and honor” (Exodus 28:2). One striking feature: the names of the 12 tribes were engraved on precious stones and attached to the shoulder clasps of Aaron’s garment, and on the breastplate. Thus whenever he entered the holy place, Aaron was to “bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord” (Exodus 28:29).

     In the breastpiece too were the Urim and Thummim, which some believe were three polished stones, on which yes and no and nothing were engraved. When Israel sought God’s will, God guided the hand of the high priest to select His answer as the priest reached blindly inside the breastpiece pocket. Thus the judgment of the people of Israel was also borne “over his heart before the Lord” (Exodus 28:30). The priest carried the people by name before the Lord, and God’s will was carried on his heart back to them.

     The Exodus passage also speaks of the priests’ ordination, and points out that, for Aaron and his sons, sacrifice must also be made. All associated with their ministry was set aside for service by the sprinkling of sacrificial blood. To maintain the blood-won point of contact with God, a continual burnt offering was made daily “at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord,” where God said, “I will meet you, and speak to you. There also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by My glory” (Exodus 29:42–43).

     Leviticus 10. Following ordination of the priests (reported in chaps. 8–9) an incident occurred which emphasized the critical role the priest was to play. Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, broke the ordained pattern of ministry to offer “unauthorized fire before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1). God acted immediately; the pair died there before the Lord.

     Verses 8–10 of this chapter explain one possible reason for their deaths. No priest was to drink alcoholic beverages when ministering: a priest must be fully aware. The priest was called to “distinguish between the holy and the profane” and to “teach the Israelites all the decrees” which the Lord had spoken. One who taught holiness must himself be holy.

     Leviticus 13–14. The ministry of the priest in evaluating and judging is seen in a task assigned here. The priest was to examine diseased individuals and places. Leprosy, one of many skin conditions that separated the diseased person from society as unclean, was diagnosed by the priest on the basis of clear descriptions in Scripture.

     When a person recovered, the priest also was to examine him and pronounce him cleansed, and to officially restore him to fellowship.

     The priest did not cure. But the priest did make a distinction between the clean and unclean, the sick and the well.

     Leviticus 21–22. This passage emphasizes the holiness that was to characterize the priests. “They must be holy to their God.… Because they present the offerings by fire to the Lord.” Thus the priest was under special restrictions. Priests were restricted as to whom they could marry, and in other ways. Baxter (Baxter's Explore the Book ) comments:

     All the sons of Aaron, whether young or old, defective or normal, were priests to Yahweh, by virtue of their birth and life-relationship with Aaron; and nothing could break that relationship. Yet those among them who were physically defective were not allowed to officiate at the altar or enter within the veil of the sanctuary (Leviticus 21:21–23). And those who were in any way defiled were not allowed even to eat of the priests’ portion (Leviticus 22:6–7). Even so, every true believer is a priest by virtue of life-giving union with the Lord Jesus, and nothing can break that union. But all Christians do not enjoy the same intimacy of fellowship, or exercise the same ministry within the veil! Union is one thing; communion is another.

The Teacher's Commentary

Take Heart
     March 3

     As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.

     Our heavenly Father shows himself compassionate to us is in our weakness. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) Children cannot do much, they have little strength, especially little children, too helpless to run alone. The mother does not despise, she rather dotes on the babe she has to carry because it cannot walk. Her heart is not hardened against her infant because the wee one is unable to help itself.

     Our heavenly Father knows our weakness. Some of you know something of your own lack of strength; you are bowed down under a sense of your infirmity tonight. Do not let your weakness lead you into unbelief or mistrust of God. He knows our frame; he remembers that we are only dust. An infant’s incapacity never excites a parent’s ire. You, being evil, know how to be tender with your offspring. How much more will the Father of our spirits sympathize with our weakness?

     If you have guided your class in their studies but cannot find anything instructive to teach them, or if you are a minister and the words fall frozen when you hoped they would fire volleys from your lips, there may be some solution for your weariness. If it is pure weakness—whether from the body or from the mind that you are weary, disorganized, depressed, and bowed down—do not think of self-reproach, but hear the text say, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

     Some seem to think we are made of cast iron; they would have us preach all day and all night. They make use of bitter language when some servant of Christ cannot, through physical or mental weakness, do all they want. A person in perfect health and strength may joyfully accomplish what another cannot even think of undertaking. So are God’s servants misjudged by the sterner sort, but they are not misjudged by God, for he has compassion on the weakness of his people and blames them not. God sees the efforts of his servants. They would drive the church before them and pull the world behind them, if they could. And if they seem unable to do it, does he blame them? No, truly he has compassion on the weakness of those who fear him.
--- C. H. Spurgeon

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

On This Day   March 3
     The Counter-Reformation

     Churches and denominations, like houses and hearts, need periodic cleaning and occasional renovation. Luther’s response to the deterioration of the 16th-century church sparked not only the Protestant Reformation, but the Catholic Counter-Reformation, efforts within the Roman church to repair itself. On December 13, 1545 Pope Paul III convened a council in the northern Italian city of Trent, attended at first by only 34 leaders. The several sessions lasted from 1545 to 1563. Participants included Jesuits and scholars, political leaders desiring reunification with Protestants, and clergymen, some desiring reform, others wanting none of it.

     The widespread sale of indulgences (which had inflamed Luther) was modified, and many measures were passed to correct and protect the morality of clergymen and church leaders. The doctrines of the church were also reexamined in light of emerging Protestant theology. In most cases, the council reaffirmed traditional medieval doctrines. Protestant views of the Lord’s Supper were dismissed, and transubstantiation upheld (the belief that the wine and bread of the Lord’s Supper become the very body of Christ). The council affirmed Latin as the proper language for the Mass, and it disagreed with Luther on making the Bible available in the common languages. It also rejected the Reformer’s cry of Scripture Alone. Church tradition, said the council, joins Scripture as a source of divine authority for believers.

     On this day in Christian history, March 3, 1547, the council began affirming the seven sacraments of the church, all of them, it said, necessary for salvation: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. The Protestant view of two divine ordinances—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—was rejected.

     The Council of Trent is one of the most important events in Reformation history, establishing the tone and doctrine of the Catholic Church for the next 400 years, and providing a basis for reformation within the Roman church. Not until the 1960s at Vatican II did another major reexamination take place.

     Look deep into my heart, God,
     And find out everything I am thinking.
     Don’t let me follow evil ways,
     But lead me in the way that time has proven true.

      --- Psalm 139:23,24.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 3

     “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” --- Isaiah 48:10.

     Comfort thyself, tried believer, with this thought: God saith, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Does not the word come like a soft shower, assuaging the fury of the flame? Yea, is it not an asbestos armour, against which the heat hath no power? Let affliction come—God has chosen me. Poverty, thou mayst stride in at my door, but God is in the house already, and he has chosen me. Sickness, thou mayst intrude, but I have a balsam ready—God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that he has “chosen” me. If, believer, thou requirest still greater comfort, remember that you have the Son of Man with you in the furnace. In that silent chamber of yours, there sitteth by your side One whom thou hast not seen, but whom thou lovest; and ofttimes when thou knowest it not, he makes all thy bed in thy affliction, and smooths thy pillow for thee. Thou art in poverty; but in that lovely house of thine the Lord of life and glory is a frequent visitor. He loves to come into these desolate places, that he may visit thee. Thy friend sticks closely to thee. Thou canst not see him, but thou mayst feel the pressure of his hands. Dost thou not hear his voice? Even in the valley of the shadow of death he says, “Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” Remember that noble speech of Caesar: “Fear not, thou carriest Caesar and all his fortune.” Fear not, Christian; Jesus is with thee. In all thy fiery trials, his presence is both thy comfort and safety. He will never leave one whom he has chosen for his own. “Fear not, for I am with thee,” is his sure word of promise to his chosen ones in the “furnace of affliction.” Wilt thou not, then, take fast hold of Christ, and say ---

     “Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,
     I’ll follow where he goes.”

          Evening - March 3

     “He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.” --- Matthew 3:16.

     As the Spirit of God descended upon the Lord Jesus, the head, so he also, in measure, descends upon the members of the mystical body. His descent is to us after the same fashion as that in which it fell upon our Lord. There is often a singular rapidity about it; or ever we are aware, we are impelled onward and heavenward beyond all expectation. Yet is there none of the hurry of earthly haste, for the wings of the dove are as soft as they are swift. Quietness seems essential to many spiritual operations; the Lord is in the still small voice, and like the dew, his grace is distilled in silence. The dove has ever been the chosen type of purity, and the Holy Spirit is holiness itself. Where he cometh, everything that is pure and lovely, and of good report, is made to abound, and sin and uncleanness depart. Peace reigns also where the Holy Dove comes with power; he bears the olive branch which shows that the waters of divine wrath are assuaged. Gentleness is a sure result of the Sacred Dove’s transforming power: hearts touched by his benign influence are meek and lowly henceforth and for ever. Harmlessness follows, as a matter of course; eagles and ravens may hunt their prey—the turtledove can endure wrong, but cannot inflict it. We must be harmless as doves. The dove is an apt picture of love, the voice of the turtle is full of affection; and so, the soul visited by the blessed Spirit, abounds in love to God, in love to the brethren, and in love to sinners; and above all, in love to Jesus. The brooding of the Spirit of God upon the face of the deep, first produced order and life, and in our hearts, he causes and fosters new life and light. Blessed Spirit, as thou didst rest upon our dear Redeemer, even so rest upon us from this time forward and for ever.

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

Amazing Grace
     March 3

          O HOW I LOVE JESUS

     Frederick Whitfield, 1829–1904

     We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

     This simply stated, lilting musical testimony has been another of the Sunday school favorites since it was first published in leaflet form in 1855. It has since been translated into various languages and has been included in numerous evangelical hymnals.

     The words express so well the response of believers of any age as we reflect on all that Christ has done and continues to do for us daily. Indirectly, the hymn also exalts the written Word, for it is only through the study of the revealed written Word that we gain a true knowledge of the Living Word.

     The text originally included eight stanzas. Several interesting verses not found in present hymnals include these words:

     It tells me of a Father’s smile that beams upon His child.
     It cheers me through this little while, through deserts waste and wild.
     It bids my trembling soul rejoice, and dries each rising tear.
     It tells me in a still small voice, to trust and not to fear.

     The author, Frederick Whitfield, was an Anglican church clergyman. He is credited with more than 30 books of religious verse. The anonymous tune is a typical 19th century American folk song used in the campground meetings of that time.

     Even a century after they were written, these ageless words are still appropriate for expressing our love and devotion for Christ:

     There is a name I love to hear; I love to sing its worth; it sounds like music in mine ear, the sweetest name on earth.
     It tells me of a Savior’s love, who died to set me free; it tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea.
     It tells me what my Father hath in store for ev’ry day, and, tho I tread a darksome path, yields sunshine all the way.
     It tells of One whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe, who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below.
     Chorus: O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus—because He first loved me!

     For Today: John 14:23; Philippians 2:9–11; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 4:7–21; Jude 21.

     Breathe a prayer expressing your love to Christ for all that He means to you. Thank Him for initiating His love on your behalf. Thank Him also for the daily sunshine He gives. Carry this little musical nugget with you throughout the day ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Saturday, March 3, 2018 | Lent

Saturday Of The Second Week In Lent
Year 2

Psalms (Morning) Psalm 75, 76
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 23, 27
Old Testament Genesis 43:16–34
New Testament 1 Corinthians 7:10–24
Gospel Mark 5:1–20

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 75, 76
75 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.

1 We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

2 “At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’ ”

6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.

9 But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

76 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Iinstruments. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.

1 In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
2 His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
3 There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah

4 Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains full of prey.
5 The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war
were unable to use their hands.
6 At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.

7 But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
8 From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
9 when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth. Selah

10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
11 Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts
to him who is to be feared,
12 who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 23, 27
23 A Psalm Of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

27 Of David.

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Old Testament
Genesis 43:16–34

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

New Testament
1 Corinthians 7:10–24

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Mark 5:1–20

5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
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