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Exodus 18     Luke 21     Job 36     2 Corinthians 6


Exodus 18

Jethro’s Advice

Exodus 18:1 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, 3 along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), 4 and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” 7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. 9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.


Luke 21

The Widow’s Offering

Luke 21:1  Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Look at Luke 20:47 from yesterday. I wonder if Luke 21:4 is about the widow's generosity or the greed of the religious institutions?

Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.


Job 36

Elihu Extols God’s Greatness

Job 36:1 And Elihu continued, and said:

2  “Bear with me a little, and I will show you,
for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf.
3  I will get my knowledge from afar
and ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
4  For truly my words are not false;
one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.

5  “Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any;
he is mighty in strength of understanding.
6  He does not keep the wicked alive,
but gives the afflicted their right.
7  He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous,
but with kings on the throne
he sets them forever, and they are exalted.
8  And if they are bound in chains
and caught in the cords of affliction,
9  then he declares to them their work
and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly.
10  He opens their ears to instruction
and commands that they return from iniquity.
11  If they listen and serve him,
they complete their days in prosperity,
and their years in pleasantness.
12  But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.

13  “The godless in heart cherish anger;
they do not cry for help when he binds them.
14  They die in youth,
and their life ends among the cult prostitutes.
15  He delivers the afflicted by their affliction
and opens their ear by adversity.
16  He also allured you out of distress
into a broad place where there was no cramping,
and what was set on your table was full of fatness.

17  “But you are full of the judgment on the wicked;
judgment and justice seize you.
18  Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing,
and let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.
19  Will your cry for help avail to keep you from distress,
or all the force of your strength?
20  Do not long for the night,
when peoples vanish in their place.
21  Take care; do not turn to iniquity,
for this you have chosen rather than affliction.
22  Behold, God is exalted in his power;
who is a teacher like him?
23  Who has prescribed for him his way,
or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’?

24  “Remember to extol his work,
of which men have sung.
25  All mankind has looked on it;
man beholds it from afar.
26  Behold, God is great, and we know him not;
the number of his years is unsearchable.
27  For he draws up the drops of water;
they distill his mist in rain,
28  which the skies pour down
and drop on mankind abundantly.
29  Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
the thunderings of his pavilion?
30  Behold, he scatters his lightning about him
and covers the roots of the sea.
31  For by these he judges peoples;
he gives food in abundance.
32  He covers his hands with the lightning
and commands it to strike the mark.
33  Its crashing declares his presence;
the cattle also declare that he rises.



2 Corinthians 6

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

The Temple of the Living God

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17  Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18  and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”


The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Article Title

By J. Warner Wallace 3/6/2017

     In my book, God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, I examine eight pieces of evidence in the universe as I make a cumulative case for the existence of God. One important piece of evidence is our common experience of consciousness. If atheism is true, our natural universe is nothing more than space, time, and matter, governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. In this material, physical environment, it’s easy to account for brains, but difficult to explain our experience of “mind”. Brains are material, minds are not. Some naturalistic atheists who try to stay “inside the room” of the natural universe for an explanation of consciousness simply deny the existence of mental states altogether. Eliminative Materialists, as they are known, do this by declaring that the term, “mental states” is an invention of those who simply didn’t understand the nature of the brain. Let me explain…

     Most of us who are even remotely familiar with the history of science recognize some theories have a shorter shelf life than others. There was a time, for example, when scientists trying to understand the nature of combustion proposed a fire-like element called phlogiston. When asked to describe what happened at the point of combustion, they might have responded, “When something begins to combust, phlogiston is released.”

     As scientists learned more about the nature of combustion and the role of oxygen, they abandoned the faulty theory of phlogiston, along with its antiquated terminology. Scientists eventually replaced this archaic explanation with current oxidation theories. Some philosophers, known as eliminative materialists, view “mental states” as yet another outdated, faulty notion riddled with antiquated language from “folk psychology.”

Click here for entire article

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

Our Mother Who Art In Heaven?

By Tony Reinke 3/4/2017

     With the recent launch of The Shack movie, we are reminded of a whole mix of theological questions raised by the novel, and the problems of projecting the divine onto a screen. One of the lead characters in the book, for example, is a woman named Papa, who plays the role of God the Father, and her character reignites questions over divine identity and gender language.

     “I am neither male nor female,” Papa self-discloses in the novel, “even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or woman, it’s because I love you. For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.”

     Religious conditioning in this context points a finger at the default of using predominantly male metaphors for God. When it comes to the divine titles for God, should we be more inclusive and gender-blended?

Click here for entire article

     Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.

Tony Reinke Books:

Why Post-Election America Points To The Existence of God

By Ryan Pauly 1/24/2017

     In order to be very clear, I want to make a few points from the beginning. I am not saying that God exists because the Republicans won. I’m not saying that God exists because Clinton lost or because Trump won. I’m not saying that God exists because the U.S. is being judged. I’m also not saying that God exists because of any voting demographic. This post has nothing to do with who voted or who won, but instead has to do with the culture of the U.S. post-election.

     We live in a culture that wants to live according to moral relativism.

     What I mean is that many people don’t want there to be an objective moral standard. Our society is being heavily influenced by relativism which means that we can determine our own truth or morality. We see this in statements like “That’s true for you but not for me,” “We can’t know the truth!” and “How you identify is more important than your biology.” Our feelings have become more important that the truth, and we don’t want to tell anyone how to live.

Click here for entire article

     When Ryan isn’t teaching or studying, he enjoys speaking at churches, youth groups, schools, and conferences. His writing has been featured at crossexamined.org and thepoachedegg.net, and he is also a contributor for the updated version of the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students, Trade Paper which will be released in 2017. Along with his writing, you can tune in to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show hosted by Ryan every Wednesday from 4:30-5 pm on Active Reliance Radio.

Can Science Disprove God? 10 Quick Points

By David Glass 2/3/2016

     Even the most ardent proponents of the idea that science is in conflict with God do not think that science and God are incompatible in the sense that accepting one (science say) logically requires you to reject the other (God). Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible:

     ”I don’t mean logical incompatibility: that the existence of religion is simply and a priori incompatible with the practice of science. That’s clearly wrong, for in principle there could be both science and a god to be worshipped.”

     So if science and God aren’t incompatible, what is the nature of the conflict supposed to be? Well, perhaps science undermines belief in God because science explains God away.

Click here for entire article

David Glass has particular interests in the relationship between science and Christianity and in how evidence should be used in debates about the existence of God. He is a member of Glenabbey Church where he is involved in the apologetics team. He is a lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Ulster where he does research on topics at the interface between computing and philosophy. (For details about academic qualifications and current work see here.) Originally from Armagh, he now lives in Greenisland with his wife Cathy and their six children.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 28

28 Of David.

1 To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.

3 Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
4 Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the LORD
or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

ESV Study Bible

Women Pastors on the Rise? Yes, but…

By Scot McKnight 3/6/2017

     One trend the Barna Group noted is the slow and steady rise of female pastors. One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman—triple as many as 25 years ago—yet women often lead smaller congregations than men.

     Though most pastors, regardless of gender, are satisfied with their role, female pastors are more likely than male pastors to wish they had been more prepared for the expectation they “must do everything” and must do it “perfectly.”

     [If you’ve never seen Ruth Tucker’s Daughters of the Church, it’s time.]

Click here for entire article

     Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.

     Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living. His books include Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, The Story of the Christ, Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology). He broadened his Jesus Creed project in writing a daily devotional: 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. His studies in conversion were expanded with his newest book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy, a book he co-authored with his former student Hauna Ondrey. Other books are The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible and Fasting: The Ancient Practices, as well as A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together and Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.

     McKnight wrote a commentary on James (The Letter of James (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)), a book on discipleship (One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow), and a Jesus Creed book for high school students (with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee) called The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others. His research on gospel was published in the Fall of 2011 in a book called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Along with Joe Modica, McKnight co-edited Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. Also he published an e-book affirming the importance of the doctrine of perseverance in a book called A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance. His most recent commentary is Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary). In the Fall of 2015 his book on heaven appeared: The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come, and he has a book appearing in 2017 The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us.

     He co-wrote with his daughter a Jesus Creed book for children: Sharing God's Love: The Jesus Creed for Chldren.

     McKnight’s current projects is a commentary on Colossians (Eerdmans) as well as a book on the Holy Spirit.

     Other books include Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am?: An Investigation of the Accusations Against the Historical Jesus (The Library of New Testament Studies), Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory, Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period by Scot McKnight (1991-04-02), A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Studying the Historical Jesus), Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary) and Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary), Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (Guides to New Testament Exegesis), and he is a co-editor with J.B. Green and I.H. Marshall of the award-winning Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) as well as the co-editor, with J.D.G. Dunn, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research. He regularly contributes chapter length studies to dictionaries, encyclopedias, books and articles for magazines and online webzines. McKnight’s books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese.

     Scot McKnight was also ordained by Bishop Todd Hunter to the Diaconate in Churches for the Sake of Others, a segment of Anglican Churches of North America. He and Kris are active in their church, Church of the Redeemer.

     McKnight blogs at Jesus Creed.

     Scot McKnight was elected into the Hall of Honor at Cornerstone University in honor of his basketball accomplishments during his college career. He and his wife, Kristen, live in Libertyville, Illinois. They enjoy traveling, long walks, gardening, and cooking. They have two adult children, Laura (married to Mark Barringer) and Lukas (married to Annika Nelson), and two grandchildren: Aksel and Finley.

“Candy-Assed” Christians

By Larry Alex Taunton 03/02/2017

     In July 2012 I was speaking at a youth retreat in the mountains of Tennessee when I received a call from CNN. It seemed that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy had publicly commented on the issue of same-sex marriage and now the gay mafia were out to destroy him and his restaurant chain. Would I, asked CNN, be willing to offer the orthodox Christian perspective on homosexuality and defend Chick-fil-A in this controversy? After reviewing Cathy’s remarks and concluding that they were neither outrageous nor biblically incorrect, I agreed to the interview and, later that day I defended the Christian position on the network as vigorously as possible in the time that I had.

     Shortly thereafter, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called for Christians to mobilize and show their support for the embattled fast food restaurant with “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” They did. Lines at the restaurant stretched for blocks. This event marked the first time I could remember Christians fighting back rather than meekly submitting to the media and special interest bullies.

     But not all evangelical Christians were supportive of the Home of the Chicken Sandwich. In an article for World Magazine, Barnabas Piper, son of prominent evangelical pastor John Piper, wrote:

Click here for entire article

     Larry Alex Taunton is an American author, columnist, and cultural commentator. A frequent television and radio guest, he has appeared on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and BBC. You can find his columns on issues of faith and culture in The Atlantic, USA Today, CNN.com, and The Blaze. Mr. Taunton has been quoted by Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, TIME, Vanity Fair, and NPR, among others. He is the author of The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief and The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist and Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity.

     Mr. Taunton is also the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. In that role he has debated such high profile atheists as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Shermer as well as Muslim cleric Zaid Shakir. He has organized or chaired debates on science, religion, and ethics at Trinity College, Oxford University; The Edinburgh International Festival; the Melbourne Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia; Princeton University; and the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Taunton was born at Fort Benning, Georgia. He currently divides his time between the United States and Europe.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     16. We can now understand what are the fruits of repentance--viz. offices of piety towards God, and love towards men, general holiness and purity of life. In short, the more a man studies to conform his life to the standard of the divine law, the surer signs he gives of his repentance. Accordingly, the Spirit, in exhorting us to repentance, brings before us at one time each separate precept of the law; at another the duties of the second table; although there are also passages in which, after condemning impurity in its fountain in the heart, he afterwards descends to external marks, by which repentance is proved to be sincere. A portraiture of this I will shortly set before the eye of the reader when I come to describe the Christian life (infra, chapter 6) I will not here collect the passages from the prophets in which they deride the frivolous observances of those who labour to appease God with ceremonies, and show that they are mere mockery; or those in which they show that outward integrity of conduct is not the chief part of repentance, seeing that God looks at the heart. Any one moderately versant in Scripture will understand by himself, without being reminded by others, that when he has to do with God, nothing is gained without beginning with the internal affections of the heart. There is a passage of Joel which will avail not a little for the understanding of others: "Rend your heart, and not your garments," (Joel 2:13). Both are also briefly expressed by James in these words: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded," (James 4:8). Here, indeed, the accessory is set down first; but the source and principle is afterwards pointed out--viz. that hidden defilements must be wiped away, and an altar erected to God in the very heart. There are, moreover, certain external exercises which we employ in private as remedies to humble us and tame our flesh, and in public, to testify our repentance. These have their origin in that revenge of which Paul speaks (2 Cor. 7:2), for when the mind is distressed, it naturally expresses itself in sackcloth, groans, and tears, shuns ornament and every kind of show, and abandons all delights. Then he who feels how great an evil the rebellion of the flesh is, tries every means of curbing it. Besides, he who considers aright how grievous a thing it is to have offended the justice of God, cannot rest until, in his humility, he have given glory to God. Such exercises are often mentioned by ancient writers when they speak of the fruits of repentance. But although they by no means place the power of repentance in them, yet my readers must pardon me for saying what I think--they certainly seem to insist on them more than is right. Any one who judiciously considers the matter will, I trust, agree with me that they have exceeded in two ways; first, by so strongly urging and extravagantly commending that corporal discipline, they indeed succeeded in making the people embrace it with greater zeal; but they in a manner obscured what they should have regarded as of much more serious moment. Secondly, the inflictions which they enjoined were considerably more rigorous than ecclesiastical mildness demands, as will be elsewhere shown.

17. But as there are some who, from the frequent mention of sackcloth, fasting, and tears, especially in Joel (2:12), think that these constitute the principal part of repentance, we must dispel their delusion. In that passage the proper part of repentance is described by the words, "turn ye even to me with your whole heart;" "rend your heart, and not your garments." The "fastings", "weeping," and "mourning," are introduced not as invariable or necessary effects, but as special circumstances. [314] Having foretold that most grievous disasters were impending over the Jews, he exhorts them to turn away the divine anger not only by repenting, but by giving public signs of sorrow. For as a criminal, to excite the commiseration of the judge, appears in a supplicating posture, with a long beard, uncombed hair, and coarse clothing, so should those who are charged at the judgment-seat of God deprecate his severity in a garb of wretchedness. But although sackcloth and ashes were perhaps more conformable to the customs of these times, [315] yet it is plain that weeping and fasting are very appropriate in our case whenever the Lord threatens us with any defeat or calamity. In presenting the appearance of danger, he declares that he is preparing, and, in a manner, arming himself for vengeance. Rightly, therefore, does the Prophet exhort those, on whose crimes he had said a little before that vengeance was to be executed, to weeping and fasting,--that is, to the mourning habit of criminals. Nor in the present day do ecclesiastical teachers act improperly when, seeing ruin hanging over the necks of their people, [316] they call aloud on them to hasten with weeping and fasting: only they must always urge, with greater care and earnestness, "rend your hearts, and not your garments." It is beyond doubt that fasting is not always a concomitant of repentance, but is specially destined for seasons of calamity. [317] Hence our Savior connects it with mourning (Mt. 9:15), and relieves the Apostles of the necessity of it until, by being deprived of his presence, they were filled with sorrow. I speak of formal fasting. For the life of Christians ought ever to be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that the whole course of it should present some appearance of fasting. As this subject will be fully discussed when the discipline of the Church comes to be considered, I now dwell less upon it.

18. This much, however, I will add: when the name repentance is applied to the external profession, it is used improperly, and not in the genuine meaning as I have explained it. For that is not so much a turning unto God as the confession of a fault accompanied with deprecation of the sentence and punishment. Thus to repent in sackcloth and ashes (Mt. 11:21; Luke 10:13), is just to testify self dissatisfaction when God is angry with us for having grievously offended him. It is, indeed, a kind of public confession by which, condemning ourselves before angels and the world, we prevent the judgment of God. For Paul, rebuking the sluggishness of those who indulge in their sins, says, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged," (1 Cor. 11:31). It is not always necessary, however, openly to inform others, and make them the witnesses of our repentance; but to confess privately to God is a part of true repentance which cannot be omitted. Nothing were more incongruous than that God should pardon the sins in which we are flattering ourselves, and hypocritically cloaking that he may not bring them to light. We must not only confess the sins which we daily commit, but more grievous lapses ought to carry us farther, and bring to our remembrance things which seemed to have been long ago buried. Of this David sets an example before us in his own person (Ps. 51). Filled with shame for a recent crime he examines himself, going back to the womb, and acknowledging that even then he was corrupted and defiled. This he does not to extenuate his fault, as many hide themselves in the crowd, and catch at impunity by involving others along with them. Very differently does David, who ingenuously makes it an aggravation of his sin, that being corrupted from his earliest infancy he ceased not to add iniquity to iniquity. In another passage, also, he takes a survey of his past life, and implores God to pardon the errors of his youth (Ps. 25:7). And, indeed, we shall not prove that we have thoroughly shaken off our stupor until, groaning under the burden, and lamenting our sad condition, we seek relief from God. It is, moreover to be observed, that the repentance which we are enjoined assiduously to cultivate, differs from that which raises, as it were, from death those who had fallen more shamefully, or given themselves up to sin without restraint, or by some kind of open revolt, had thrown off the authority of God. For Scripture, in exhorting to repentance, often speaks of it as a passage from death unto life, and when relating that a people had repented, means that they had abandoned idolatry, and other forms of gross wickedness. For which reason Paul denounces woe to sinners, "who have not repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they have committed," (2 Cor. 12:21). This distinction ought to be carefully observed, lest when we hear of a few individuals having been summoned to repent we indulge in supine security, as if we had nothing to do with the mortification of the flesh; whereas, in consequence of the depraved desires which are always enticing us, and the iniquities which are ever and anon springing from them, it must engage our unremitting care. The special repentance enjoined upon those whom the devil has entangled in deadly snares, and withdrawn from the fear of God, does not abolish that ordinary repentance which the corruption of nature obliges us to cultivate during the whole course of our lives.

19. Moreover if it is true, and nothing can be more certain, than that a complete summary of the Gospel is included under these two heads--viz. repentance and the remission of sins, do we not see that the Lord justifies his people freely, and at the same time renews them to true holiness by the sanctification of his Spirit? John, the messenger sent before the face of Christ to prepare his ways, proclaimed, "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Mt. 11:10; 3:2). By inviting them to repentance, he urged them to acknowledge that they were sinners, and in all respects condemned before God, that thus they might be induced earnestly to seek the mortification of the flesh, and a new birth in the Spirit. By announcing the kingdom of God he called for faith, since by the kingdom of God which he declared to be at hand, he meant forgiveness of sins, salvation, life, and every other blessing which we obtain in Christ; wherefore we read in the other Evangelists, "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). What does this mean, but that, weary and oppressed with the burden of sin, they should turn to the Lord, and entertain hopes of forgiveness and salvation? [318] Thus, too, Christ began his preaching, "The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel," (Mark 1:10). First, he declares that the treasures of the divine mercy were opened in him; next, he enjoins repentance; and, lastly, he encourages confidence in the promises of God. Accordingly, when intending to give a brief summary of the whole Gospel, he said that he behaved "to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations," (Luke 24:26, 46). In like manner, after his resurrection the Apostles preached, "Him has God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins," (Acts 5:31). Repentance is preached in the name of Christ, when men learn, through the doctrines of the Gospel, that all their thoughts, affections, and pursuits, are corrupt and vicious; and that, therefore, if they would enter the kingdom of God they must be born again. Forgiveness of sins is preached when men are taught that Christ "is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," (1 Cor. 1:30), that on his account they are freely deemed righteous and innocent in the sight of God. Though both graces are obtained by faith (as has been shown elsewhere), yet as the goodness of God, by which sins are forgiven, is the proper object of faith, it was proper carefully to distinguish it from repentance.

20. Moreover, as hatred of sin, which is the beginning of repentance, first gives us access to the knowledge of Christ, who manifests himself to none but miserable and afflicted sinners, groaning, laboring, burdened, hungry, and thirsty, pining away with grief and wretchedness, so if we would stand in Christ, we must aim at repentance, cultivate it during our whole lives, and continue it to the last. Christ came to call sinners, but to call them to repentance. He was sent to bless the unworthy, but by "turning away every one" "from his iniquities." The Scripture is full of similar passages. Hence, when God offers forgiveness of sins, he in return usually stipulates for repentance, intimating that his mercy should induce men to repent. "Keep ye judgment," saith he, "and do justice: for my salvation is near to come." Again, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob." Again, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him." "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." [319] Here, however, it is to be observed, that repentance is not made a condition in such a sense as to be a foundation for meriting pardon; nay, it rather indicates the end at which they must aim if they would obtain favor, God having resolved to take pity on men for the express purpose of leading them to repent. Therefore, so long as we dwell in the prison of the body, we must constantly struggle with the vices of our corrupt nature, and so with our natural disposition. Plato sometimes says, [320] that the life of the philosopher is to meditate on death. More truly may we say, that the life of a Christian man is constant study and exercise in mortifying the flesh, until it is certainly slain, and the Spirit of God obtains dominion in us. Wherefore, he seems to me to have made most progress who has learned to be most dissatisfied with himself. He does not, however, remain in the miry clay without going forward; but rather hastens and sighs after God, that, ingrafted both into the death and the life of Christ, he may constantly meditate on repentance. Unquestionably those who have a genuine hatred of sin cannot do otherwise: for no man ever hated sin without being previously enamored of righteousness. This view, as it is the simplest of all, seemed to me also to accord best with Scripture truth.

21. Moreover, that repentance is a special gift of God, I trust is too well understood from the above doctrine to require any lengthened discourse. Hence the Church [321] extols the goodness of God, and looks on in wonder, saying, "Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life," (Acts 11:18); and Paul enjoining Timothy to deal meekly and patiently with unbelievers, says, "If God per adventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil," (2 Tim. 2:25, 26). God indeed declares, that he would have all men to repent, and addresses exhortations in common to all; their efficacy, however, depends on the Spirit of regeneration. It were easier to create us at first, than for us by our own strength to acquire a more excellent nature. Wherefore, in regard to the whole process of regeneration, it is not without cause we are called God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10) [322] Those whom God is pleased to rescue from death, he quickens by the Spirit of regeneration; not that repentance is properly the cause of salvation, but because, as already seen, it is inseparable from the faith and mercy of God; for, as Isaiah declares, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob." This, indeed, is a standing truth, that wherever the fear of God is in vigor, the Spirit has been carrying on his saving work. Hence, in Isaiah, while believers complain and lament that they have been forsaken of God, they set down the supernatural hardening of the heart as a sign of reprobation. The Apostle, also, intending to exclude apostates from the hope of salvation, states, as the reason, that it is impossible to renew them to repentance (Heb. 6:6); that is, God by renewing those whom he wills not to perish, gives them a sign of paternal favor, and in a manner attracts them to himself, by the beams of a calm and reconciled countenance; on the other hand, by hardening the reprobate, whose impiety is not to be forgiven, he thunders against them. This kind of vengeance the Apostle denounces against voluntary apostates (Heb. 10:29), who, in falling away from the faith of the gospel, mock God, insultingly reject his favor, profane and trample under foot the blood of Christ, nay, as far as in them lies, crucify him afresh. Still, he does not, as some austere persons preposterously insist, leave no hope of pardon to voluntary sins, but shows that apostasy being altogether without excuse, it is not strange that God is inexorably rigorous in punishing sacrilegious contempt thus shown to himself. For, in the same Epistle, he says, that "it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away to renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame," (Heb. 7:4-6). And in another passage, "If we sin willingly, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment," &c. (Heb. 11:25, 26). There are other passages, from a misinterpretation of which the Novatians of old extracted materials for their heresy; so much so, that some good men taking offense at their harshness, have deemed the Epistle altogether spurious, though it truly savors in every part of it of the apostolic spirit. But as our dispute is only with those who receive the Epistle, it is easy to show that those passages give no support to their error. First, the Apostle must of necessity agree with his Master, who declares, that "all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men," "neither in this world, neither in the world to come," (Mt. 12:31; Luke 12:10). We must hold that this was the only exception which the Apostle recognized, unless we would set him in opposition to the grace of God. Hence it follows, that to no sin is pardon denied save to one, which proceeding from desperate fury cannot be ascribed to infirmity, and plainly shows that the man guilty of it is possessed by the devil.

22. Here, however, it is proper to consider what the dreadful iniquity is which is not to be pardoned. The definition which Augustine somewhere gives [323] --viz. that it is obstinate perverseness, with distrust of pardon, continued till death,--scarcely agrees with the words of Christ, that it shall not be forgiven in this world. For either this is said in vain, or it may be committed in this world. But if Augustine's definition is correct, the sin is not committed unless persisted in till death. Others say, that the sin against the Holy Spirit consists in envying the grace conferred upon a brother; but I know not on what it is founded. Here, however, let us give the true definition, which, when once it is established by sound evidence, will easily of itself overturn all the others. I say therefore that he sins against the Holy Spirit who, while so constrained by the power of divine truth that he cannot plead ignorance, yet deliberately resists, and that merely for the sake of resisting. For Christ, in explanation of what he had said, immediately adds, "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him," (Mt. 12:31). And Matthew uses the term spirit of blasphemy [324] for blasphemy against the Spirit. How can any one insult the Son, without at the same time attacking the Spirit? In this way. Those who in ignorance assail the unknown truth of God, and yet are so disposed that they would be unwilling to extinguish the truth of God when manifested to them, or utter one word against him whom they knew to be the Lord's Anointed, sin against the Father and the Son. Thus there are many in the present day who have the greatest abhorrence to the doctrine of the Gospel, and yet, if they knew it to be the doctrine of the Gospel, would be prepared to venerate it with their whole heart. But those who are convinced in conscience that what they repudiate and impugn is the word of God, and yet cease not to impugn it, are said to blaspheme against the Spirit, inasmuch as they struggle against the illumination which is the work of the Spirit. Such were some of the Jews, who, when they could not resist the Spirit speaking by Stephen, yet were bent on resisting (Acts 6:10). There can be no doubt that many of them were carried away by zeal for the law; but it appears that there were others who maliciously and impiously raged against God himself, that is, against the doctrine which they knew to be of God. Such, too, were the Pharisees, on whom our Lord denounced woe. To depreciate the power of the Holy Spirit, they defamed him by the name of Beelzebub (Mt. 9:3, 4; 12:24). The spirit of blasphemy, therefore, is, when a man audaciously, and of set purpose, rushes forth to insult his divine name. This Paul intimates when he says, "but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief;" otherwise he had deservedly been held unworthy of the grace of God. [325] If ignorance joined with unbelief made him obtain pardon, it follows, that there is no room for pardon when knowledge is added to unbelief.

23. If you attend properly, you will perceive that the Apostle speaks not of one particular lapse or two, but of the universal revolt by which the reprobate renounce salvation. It is not strange that God should be implacable to those whom John, in his Epistle, declares not to have been of the elect, from whom they went out (1 John 2:19). For he is directing his discourse against those who imagined that they could return to the Christian religion though they had once revolted from it. To divest them of this false and pernicious opinion, he says, as is most true, that those who had once knowingly and willingly cast off fellowship with Christ, had no means of returning to it. It is not, however so cast off by those who merely, by the dissoluteness of their lives, transgress the word of the Lord, but by those who avowedly reject his whole doctrine. There is a paralogism in the expression casting off and sinning. Casting off, as interpreted by the Novatians, is when any one, notwithstanding of being taught by the Law of the Lord not to steal or commit adultery, refrains not from theft or adultery. On the contrary, I hold that there is a tacit antithesis, in which all the things, contrary to those which had been said, must be held to be repeated, so that the thing expressed is not some particular vice, but universal aversion to God, and (so to speak) the apostasy of the whole man. Therefore, when he speaks of those falling away "who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," we must understand him as referring to those who, with deliberate impiety, have quenched the light of the Spirit, tasted of the heavenly word and spurned it, alienated themselves from the sanctification of the Spirit, and trampled under foot the word of God and the powers of a world to come. The better to show that this was the species of impiety intended, he afterwards expressly adds the term willfully. For when he says, "If we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," he denies not that Christ is a perpetual victim to expiate the transgressions of saints (this the whole Epistle, in explaining the priesthood of Christ, distinctly proclaims), but he says that there remains no other sacrifice after this one is abandoned. And it is abandoned when the truth of the Gospel is professedly abjured.

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

“Candy-Assed” Christians II

By Larry Alex Taunton 03/04/2017

     Much to my surprise, yesterday’s blog, “‘Candy-Assed’ Christians,” became one of my most popular posts. The thesis of that article was essentially this:

     “To stand strong for one’s faith in Jesus Christ and push back against a culture that, in the words of Isaiah 5:20, ‘call[s] evil good and good evil’ is to be ‘divisive,’ ‘unloving,’ ‘bigoted,’ and ‘intolerant.’ This is because evangelicals have confused Christ’s command to love others with being likable, as if that were an attribute of God. (It isn’t.) As such, they endeavor to be, above all else, inoffensive and polite. This doctrinal malpractice has given us a generation of men who are what Lewis called ‘men without chests.’”

     We received—and continue to receive—an unusually high volume of email responses to the piece:

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     Larry Alex Taunton is an American author, columnist, and cultural commentator. A frequent television and radio guest, he has appeared on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and BBC. You can find his columns on issues of faith and culture in The Atlantic, USA Today, CNN.com, and The Blaze. Mr. Taunton has been quoted by Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, TIME, Vanity Fair, and NPR, among others. He is the author of The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief and The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist and Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity.

     Mr. Taunton is also the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. In that role he has debated such high profile atheists as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Shermer as well as Muslim cleric Zaid Shakir. He has organized or chaired debates on science, religion, and ethics at Trinity College, Oxford University; The Edinburgh International Festival; the Melbourne Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia; Princeton University; and the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Taunton was born at Fort Benning, Georgia. He currently divides his time between the United States and Europe.

Exodus 18; Luke 21; Job 36; 2 Corinthians 6

By Don Carson 3/7/2018

     One can only imagine the conversations that Moses had enjoyed with Jethro, his father-in-law, during the decades they spent together in Midian. But clearly, some of the talk was about the Lord God. Called to his extraordinary ministry, Moses temporarily entrusted his wife and sons to his father-in-law’ s care (Ex. 18:2). Perhaps that decision had been precipitated by the extraordinary event described in Exodus 4:24-26, where in the light of this new mission Moses’ own sons undergo emergency circumcision to bring Moses’ household into compliance with the covenant with Abraham, thereby avoiding the wrath of God.

     But now Moses learns that Jethro is coming to see him, restoring to him his wife Zipporah and their sons Gershom and Eliezer. Soon Moses continues the old conversation. This time he gives his father-in-law a blow-by-blow account of all that the Lord had done in rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt. Doubtless some of Jethro’s delight (18:9) is bound up with his ties with his son-in-law. But if his final evaluative comment is taken at face value, Jethro has also come to a decisive conclusion: “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly” (18:11). And he offers sacrifices to the living God (18:12).

     All this material is provided as background for what takes place in the rest of the chapter. The next day, Jethro sees Moses attempting to arbitrate every dispute in the fledgling nation. With wisdom and insight he urges on Moses a major administrative overhaul — a rigorous judicial system with most of the decisions being taken at the lowest possible level, only the toughest cases being reserved for Moses himself, the “supreme court.” Moses listens carefully to his father-in-law, and puts the entire plan into operation (18:24). The advantages for the people, who are less frustrated by the system, and for Moses, who is no longer run ragged, are beyond calculation. And at the end of the chapter, Jethro returns home.

     In some ways, the account is surprising. Major administrative structures are being put into place among the covenant community without any word from God. Why is Jethro, at best on the fringes of the covenant people, allowed to play such an extraordinary role as counselor and confidant of Moses?

     The questions answer themselves. God may use the means of “common grace” to instruct and enrich his people. The sovereign goodness and provision of God are displayed as much in bringing Jethro on the scene at this propitious moment as in the parting of the waters of the Red Sea. Are there not contemporary analogies?

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

Don Carson Books:



  • Were Hitler and Stalin Atheists?
  • Bible How I
  • Bible How II

#1 Larry Taunton      Larry Alex Taunton

 

#2 Larry Taunton      Larry Alex Taunton

 

#3 Larry Taunton      Larry Alex Taunton

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Doodlebugs and gossips
     3/7/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles.’

(Pr 18:8) The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. ESV

     The doodlebug lives at the bottom of a little cone-shaped hole that he burrows in the sand. He gets down as low as possible so he’s always looking up at everything else. When the ant comes around and gets on the side of this carefully prepared cone, the doodlebug feels a few grains of sand slide down, which signals him that ‘food’ is up there. At that point he begins to throw dirt on his victim. What he’s trying to do is drag the ant down to his level. And that’s what we do when we gossip. We throw dirt on others, hoping to bring them down to our level. It’s why Solomon warned: ‘The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.’ The ear craves gossip like a hungry stomach craves food. Solomon goes on to give this warning: ‘He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips’ (Proverbs 20:19 NKJV). So, if you have gossipy lips or greedy ears, God says, ‘Don’t do it!’ Here’s something you may not have considered: while you can never be known and judged by what others say about you, you can be known and judged by what you say about them. In most cases it’s illegal to steal or receive stolen goods. That’s why the apostle Paul admonished, ‘Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses’ (1 Timothy 5:19 NKJV). And one more thought: a gossip must always have an accomplice to commit the crime. So, the word for you today is: don’t receive or repeat gossip.

Numbers 11-12
Mark 5:21-43

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On March 7, 1774, the British passed the Boston Port Act, closing the harbor to all commerce to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. The surrounding towns rallied to their aid by secretly sending food to the inhabitants of Boston. William Prescott, who commanded the colonial militia at Bunker Hill wrote: “Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock… Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy… liberties… and transmit them to their posterity…. Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     The problem we face today needs very little time for its statement. Our lives in a modern city grow too complex and overcrowded. Even the necessary obligations which we feel we must meet grow overnight, like Jack's beanstalk, and before we know it we are bowed down with burdens, crushed under committees, strained, breathless, and hurried, panting through a never-ending program of appointments. We are too busy to be good wives to our husbands, good homemakers, good companions of our children, good friends to our friends, and with no time at all to be friends to the friendless. But if we withdraw from public engagements and interests, in order to spend quiet hours with the family, the guilty calls of citizenship whisper disquieting claims in our ears. Our children's schools should receive our interest, the civic problems of our community need our attention, the wider issues of the nation and of the world are heavy upon us. Our professional status, our social obligations, our membership in this or that very important organization, put claims upon us. And in frantic fidelity we try to meet at least the necessary minimum of calls upon us. But we're weary and breathless. And we know and regret that our life is slipping away, with our having tasted so little of the peace and joy and serenity we are persuaded it should yield to a soul of wide caliber. The times for the deeps of the silences of the heart seem so few. And in guilty regret we must postpone till next week that deeper life of unshaken composure in the holy Presence, where we sincerely know our true home is, for this week is much too full.

     But we must not spend precious time merely stating the problem. And although we all enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves, we must not linger long, bewailing the poverty of life induced by the overabundance of our opportunities. Nor must we rush hastily at a. solution, breathlessly anxious for once to get something, this day, to show for the time we've spent upon our problem. Prune and trim we must, but not with ruthless haste and ready pruning knife, until we have reflected upon the tree we trim, the environment it lives in, and the sap of life which feeds it.

     Let me first suggest that we are giving a false explanation of the complexity of our lives. We blame it upon the complex environment. Our complex living, we say, is due to the complex world we live in, with its radios and autos, which give us more stimulation per square hour than used to be given per square day to our grandmothers. This explanation by the outward order leads us to turn wistfully, in some moments, to thoughts of a quiet South Sea Island existence, or to the horse and buggy days of our great grandparents, who went, jingle bells, jingle bells, over the crisp and ringing snow to spend the day with their grandparents on the farm. Let me assure you, I have tried the life of the South Seas for a year, the long, lingering leisure of a tropic world. And I found that Americans carry into the tropics their same mad­ cap, feverish life which we know on the mainland. Complexity of our program cannot be blamed upon complexity of our environment, much as we should like to think so. Nor will simplification of life follow simplification of environment. I must confess that I chafed terribly, that year in Hawaii, because in some respects the environment seemed too simple.

     We Western peoples are apt to think our great problems are external, environmental. We are not skilled in the inner life, where the real roots of our problem lie. For I would suggest that the true explanation of the complexity of our program is an inner one, not an outer one. The outer distractions of our interests reflect an inner lack of integration of our own lives. We are trying to be several selves at once, without all our selves being organized by a single, mastering Life within us. Each of us tends to be, not a single self, but a whole committee of selves. There is the civic self, the parental self, the financial self, the religious self, the society self, the professional self, the literary self. And each of our selves is in turn a rank individualist, not co-operative but shouting out his vote loudly for himself when the voting time comes. And all too commonly we follow the common American method of getting a quick decision among conflicting claims within us. It is as if we have a chairman of our committee of the many selves within us, who does not integrate the many into one but who merely counts the votes at each decision, and leaves disgruntled minorities. The claims of each self are still pressed. If we accept service on a committee on Negro education, we still regret we can't help with a Sunday-school class. We are not integrated. We are distraught. We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all.


A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Rick Adams


At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference.
--- Soren Kierkegaard   Fear and Trembling (Penguin Classics)

Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first.
--- Wayne Cordeiro   Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion

Love is not consolation, it is light.
--- Simone Weil   Gravity and Grace (Routledge Classics) (Volume 41)

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson   Self-Reliance & Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 3/7
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     An epistle went forth from this Yearly Meeting which I think good to give a place in this Journal. It is as follows.

     From the Yearly Meeting, held at Philadelphia, for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, from the twenty-second day of the ninth month to the twenty-eighth of the same, inclusive, 1759.

     TO THE QUARTERLYAND MONTHLY MEETINGS OF FRIENDS BELONGING TO THE SAID YEARLY MEETING: --

     DEARLY BELOVED FRIENDS AND BRETHREN, -- In an awful sense of the wisdom and goodness of the Lord our God, whose tender mercies have been continued to us in this land, we affectionately salute you, with sincere and fervent desires that we may reverently regard the dispensations of his providence, and improve under them.

     The empires and kingdoms of the earth are subject to his almighty power. He is the God of the spirits of all flesh, and deals with his people agreeable to that wisdom, the depth whereof is to us unsearchable. We in these provinces may say, He hath, as a gracious and tender parent, dealt bountifully with us, even from the days of our fathers. It was he who strengthened them to labor through the difficulties attending the improvement of a wilderness, and made way for them in the hearts of the natives, so that by them they were comforted in times of want and distress. It was by the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit that they were disposed to work righteousness, and walk uprightly towards each other, and towards the natives; in life and conversation to manifest the excellency of the principles and doctrines of the Christian religion whereby they retain their esteem and friendship. Whilst they were laboring for the necessaries of life, many of them were fervently engaged to promote pity and virtue in the earth, and to educate their children in the fear of the Lord.

     If we carefully consider the peaceable measures pursued in the first settlement of land, and that freedom from the desolations of wars which for a long time we enjoyed, we shall find ourselves under strong obligations to the Almighty, who, when the earth is so generally polluted with wickedness, gives us a being in a part so signally favored with tranquillity and plenty, and in which the glad tidings of the gospel of Christ are so freely published that we may justly say with the Psalmist, "What shall we render unto the Lord for all his benefits?"

     Our own real good, and the good of our posterity, in some measure depends on the part we act, and it nearly concerns us to try our foundations impartially. Such are the different rewards of the just and unjust in a future state, that to attend diligently to the dictates of the spirit of Christ, to devote ourselves to his service, and to engage fervently in his cause, during our short stay in this world, is a choice well becoming a free, intelligent creature. We shall thus clearly see and consider that the dealings of God with mankind, in a national capacity, as recorded in Holy Writ, do sufficiently evidence the truth of that saying, "It is righteousness which exalteth a nation"; and though he doth not at all times suddenly execute his judgments on a sinful people in this life, yet we see in many instances that when "men follow lying vanities they forsake their own mercies"; and as a proud, selfish spirit prevails and spreads among a people, so partial judgment, oppression, discord, envy, and confusions increase, and provinces and kingdoms are made to drink the cup of adversity as a reward of their own doings. Thus the inspired prophet, reasoning with the degenerated Jews, saith, "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding shall reprove thee; know, therefore, that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of Hosts." (Jeremiah ii. 19.)

     The God of our fathers, who hath bestowed on us many benefits furnished a table for us in the wilderness, and made the deserts and solitary places to rejoice. He doth now mercifully call upon us to serve him more faithfully. We may truly say with the Prophet, "It is his voice which crieth to the city, and men of wisdom see his name. They regard the rod, and Him who hath appointed it." People who look chiefly at things outward, too little consider the original cause of the present troubles; but they who fear the Lord and think often upon his name, see and feel that a wrong spirit is spreading amongst the inhabitants of our country; that the hearts of many are waxed fat, and their ears dull of hearing; that the Most High, in his visitations to us, instead of calling, lifteth up his voice and crieth: he crieth to our country, and his voice waxeth louder and louder. In former wars between the English and other nations, since the settlement of our provinces, the calamities attending them have fallen chiefly on other places, but now of late they have reached to our borders; many of our fellow-subjects have suffered on and near our frontiers, some have been slain in battle, some killed in their houses, and some in their fields, some wounded and left in great misery, and others separated from their wives and little children, who have been carried captives among the Indians. We have seen men and women who have been witnesses of these scenes of sorrow, and, being reduced to want, have come to our houses asking relief. It is not long since that many young men in one of these provinces were drafted, in order to be taken as soldiers; some were at that time in great distress, and had occasion to consider that their lives had been too little conformable to the purity and spirituality of that religion which we profess, and found themselves too little acquainted with that inward humility, in which true fortitude to endure hardness for the truth's sake is experienced. Many parents were concerned for their children, and in that time of trial were led to consider that their care to get outward treasure for them had been greater than their care for their settlement in that religion which crucifieth to the world, and enableth to bear testimony to the peaceable government of the Messiah. These troubles are removed, and for a time we are released from them.

     Let us not forget that "The Most High hath his way in the deep, in clouds, and in thick darkness"; that it is his voice which crieth to the city and to the country, and O! that these loud and awakening cries may have a proper effect upon us, that heavier chastisement may not become necessary! For though things, as to the outward, may for a short time afford a pleasing prospect, yet, while a selfish spirit, that is not subject to the cross of Christ, continueth to spread and prevail, there can be no long continuance in outward peace and tranquillity. If we desire an inheritance incorruptible, and to be at rest in that state of peace and happiness which ever continues; if we desire in this life to dwell under the favor and protection of that Almighty Being whose habitation is in holiness, whose ways are all equal, and whose anger is now kindled because of our backslidings, -- let us then awfully regard these beginnings of his sore judgments, and with abasement and humiliation turn to him whom we have offended.

     Contending with one equal in strength is an uneasy exercise; but if the Lord is become our enemy, if we persist in contending with him who is omnipotent, our overthrow will be unavoidable.

     Do we feel an affectionate regard to posterity? and are we employed to promote their happiness? Do our minds, in things outward, look beyond our own dissolution? and are we contriving for the prosperity of our children after us? Let us then, like wise builders, lay the foundation deep, and by our constant uniform regard to an inward piety and virtue let them see that we really value it. Let us labor in the fear of the Lord, that their innocent minds, while young and tender, may be preserved from corruptions; that as they advance in age they may rightly understand their true interest, may consider the uncertainty of temporal things, and, above all, have their hope and confidence firmly settled in the blessing of that Almighty Being who inhabits eternity and preserves and supports the world.

     In all our cares about worldly treasures, let us steadily bear in mind that riches possessed by children who do not truly serve God are likely to prove snares that may more grievously entangle them in that spirit of selfishness and exaltation which stands in opposition to real peace and happiness, and renders those who submit to the influence of it enemies to the cross of Christ.

     To keep a watchful eye towards real objects of charity, to visit the poor in their lonesome dwelling-places, to comfort those who, through the dispensations of Divine Providence, are in strait and painful circumstances in this life, and steadily to endeavor to honor God with our substance, from a real sense of the love of Christ influencing our minds, is more likely to bring a blessing to our children, and will afford more satisfaction to a Christian favored with plenty, than an earnest desire to collect much wealth to leave behind us; for, "here we have no continuing city"; may we therefore diligently "seek one that is to come, whose builder and maker is God."

     "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things, and do them, and the God of peace shall be with you."

     (Signed by appointment, and on behalf of said meeting.)

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 12:3-4
     by D.H. Stern

3     No one is made secure by wickedness,
but the roots of the righteous will never be moved.

4     A capable wife is a crown for her husband,
but a shameful one is like rot in his bones.


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

                Undaunted radiance

     Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
--- Romans 8:37.

     Paul is speaking of the things that might seem likely to separate or wedge in between the saint and the love of God; but the remarkable thing is that nothing can wedge in between the love of God and the saint. These things can and do come in between the devotional exercises of the soul and God and separate individual life from God; but none of them is able to wedge in between the love of God and the soul of the saint. The bedrock of our Christian faith is the unmerited, fathomless marvel of the love of God exhibited on the Cross of Calvary, a love we never can and never shall merit. Paul says this is the reason we are more than conquerors in all these things, super-victors, with a joy we would not have but for the very things which look as if they are going to overwhelm us.

     The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super joy of going clean through it. Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things—tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super joy; they are not things to fight. We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. The saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. “I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation,” says Paul.

     Undaunted radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can alter. The experiences of life, terrible or monotonous, are impotent to touch the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Easter
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Easter

Easter. I approach
  the years' empty tomb.
  What has time done with
  itself? Is the news worth
  the communicating? The word's
  loincloth can remember
  little. A thin, cold wind
  blows from beyond the abysm
  that I gawp into. But supposing
  there were bones; the darkness
  illuminated like a museum?
  In glass cases I have
  peered at the brittle bundles,
  exonerating my conscience
  with mortality's tears.
  But here, true to my name, v   I have nothing to hold on
  to, an absence so much richer
  than a presence, offering
  instead of the skull's
  leer an impaled possibility
  for faith's fingertips to explore.

R.S. Thomas - circa. 2000.

Teacher's Commentary
     Walking in fellowship

     The people of Israel were to be wholly separated unto the Lord. In all features of their individual and corporate lives, this people who bore God’s name was to be holy.

     Many of the features of Old Testament Law, particularly those having to do with dietary and other elements, had no underlying moral basis. The people were given those laws to help establish a distinction between them and all the other peoples of the world. Such laws reminded Israel that she was a people of God, and because of that relationship, was to be different from others.

     In the latter part of Leviticus we discover regulations that do have deep moral roots: regulations that are designed to create a just and moral society.

     How vital to note that included are regulations concerning the feasts and festivals at which one is to worship God. It is impossible to have a truly just society without a deep faith in and a commitment to the Lord God.

     Separation: Way of Fellowship
Rules for people     18–20
Rules for priests     21–22
Rules concerning feasts     23–24
Rules concerning Canaan     25–27

     Separation. The key Hebrew term is badal. It means to remove from something, and thus to make a distinction between them. In Genesis 1 God separated light from dark, land from sea. Now God separated Israel from all other nations of the world to be His own covenant people. A separation to God linked everything in Jewish life to her Lord.

     We noted in the last unit that many of the regulations under the Mosaic Law had no “logical” purpose. We cannot try to explain the dietary laws, for instance, by arguing that flesh Israel was forbidden as food is somehow intrinsically “dirty.” These and a number of other Old Testament regulations that structured the lifestyle of Israel were designed to underline this people’s separation from all other people. Israel was in covenant relationship with Almighty God, and the life lived in the nation was to be different from life as it was lived in other lands.

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Berakhot 17b, 19a

     D’RASH

     Some of the things that people do are almost mechanical in nature. When the salesperson in the store says: “Thanks, and have a nice day” or “How are you doing today?” we assume that they are giving a conventional greeting. We do not really expect that person to hear the story of our day. We do not foresee a merchant who hardly knows us to take a sincere interest in our lives. The greeting is perfunctory at best.

     Yet, when we receive a greeting card for a birthday or anniversary, we do expect that it was given with “every good intention.” That is, we assume that the sender truly hoped that we have a happy birthday or anniversary. None of us would want to receive a card that was sent without proper intention, even if we received only a standard greeting card with a simple signature and no personal greeting added. Thus, it appears that even in our lives, some things can be done mechanically, requiring little thought or purpose, while other actions need our focus and attention.

     The Rabbis, in discussing the recitation of the Sh’ma, were also talking about the problem of Jewish worship. Does every prayer require our specific intention? Must we totally concentrate on what we are doing? Clearly, by saying that some mitzvot do not require proper intention, the Rabbis were allowing for the fact that not every action, every minute of the day, can be so focused. By saying that the Sh’ma requires specific intention, the Rabbis were also saying that those things which are the most important to us should be the object of our attention.

     A mitzvah like niḥum aveilim, comforting mourners, is the type of important experience that needs our attention. We may say a ritualized formula that is provided by our tradition—“May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”—but we need not say it in a mechanical or cursory way. Even a ritual can be done with feeling.

     Every so often, we read the story of a famous actor, powerful politician or world-renowned scientist who, despite little or no parental attention or direction, became a successful, qualified, distinguished adult. We know this to be possible but it is the exception, rather than the rule. In general, good outcomes require our concentration and attention along the way. As parents, we know that our actions require intent. It is possible, but not likely, that our children will learn the values we want them to learn without our focus and efforts. It is more likely that they will become the type of adults we envision if we have the proper intention.

     Some mitzvot can be performed accidentally, while others require specific and formal intention. What seems clear and unambiguous is the message of the Gemara: As an ideal, before the fact, we should pay proper attention to our actions.

     A person should never give Satan an opening.

     Mishnah (3:1): One whose dead relative has not yet been buried is exempt from reciting the Sh’ma, from the Tefillah [Amidah] and from tefillin, and from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah. The pallbearers and all those who take over for them—whether in front of or behind the bier: those who are in front of the bier, are exempt; those who are behind the bier, if they are needed, they are obligated; and both are exempt from the Tefillah.

     Gemara: The Rabbis taught: “Those who are involved with the eulogy when the dead has not yet been buried slip away one by one and recite [the Sh’ma]. If the body is not in their presence, they sit and recite it, and he [the mourner] sits silent. They stand up and pray [the Amidah] and he stands up and accepts the judgment and says: ‘Lord of the Universe! I have greatly sinned before You, and You did not punish me one-thousandth part. May it be Your will, Lord our God, that You repair our breaches and the breaches of all Your people, the house of Israel, with mercy.’ ” Abaye said: “A person must not talk this way, since Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, and so it was taught in the name of Rabbi Yosé: ‘A person should never give Satan an opening [open one’s mouth to Satan].’ ” And Rabbi Yosef said: “Where in the text do we get this from? As it says: ‘We should be like Sodom’ [
Isaiah 1:9]. What did the prophet answer them? ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you chieftains of Sodom’ [Isaiah 1:10].”

     Tefillin are often called phylacteries. This term is based on the Greek translation of tefillin, meaning “a protection” or “amulet,” and is found in the Christian Bible, Matthew 23:5. The Rabbis sometimes refer to the tefillin as an amulet of sorts as well. The Torah prescribes tefillin not as a preventative but “as a sign on your hand … as a symbol on your forehead” (Deuteronomy 6:8). In reality, the Torah talks of “sign” and “symbol” (or “frontlet”) but does not specify what kind. The Rabbis were well aware that the exact nature of this mitzvah is not given in the Torah, and they justify the tefillin as an enactment “of the Scribes,” that is, a rabbinic law based on oral tradition. Apparently, many Jews did not wear tefillin during the time of the Talmud, and this mitzvah was not widely observed in medieval France and Spain. Moses of Coucy reprimanded the Jews of Spain in 1296, and—according to his account—thousands accepted the duty of putting on tefillin. While tefillin has been largely a male ritual throughout the ages, some women today have accepted this mitzvah. There is reference in the Talmud to a woman, Michal, daughter of Saul, putting on tefillin. (Eruvin 96a).

     The original discussion in the Mishnah and Gemara is on exemptions from reciting the Sh’ma while occupied in the burial of the dead. Sh’ma is a central prayer in Jewish worship. It consists of three paragraphs from the Torah and is recited twice daily, morning and night. The word Tefillah is used in modern Hebrew for prayer or worship. In the Talmud, it refers to the prayer par excellence, the Amidah, literally “the standing” prayer. Tefillin are boxes with leather straps, worn during weekday morning prayer and containing four sections of the Torah on parchment.

     This topic leads to the question of what the mourners should say while involved in the burial of the dead and which of the usual prayers they are exempt from reciting. The text presents an anonymous source that holds that the mourner should accept God’s judgment, admitting that God has given better than was deserved. But this approach presents a problem to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish and Rabbi Yosé. In their eyes, the mourner’s admission of being spared from even a small part of the punishment is “giving Satan an opening,” an invitation to Satan to speak, in other words, asking for trouble. Why tell God that you deserve more punishment than you have received?

     In Jewish sources, Satan sometimes appears as an actual personality, the chief devil who opposes God. Satan (in Hebrew, the accent on the second syllable and the definite article is used: ha-Satan, the Satan) means “the adversary,” that which obstructs, and has come to symbolize the sum total of the evil forces in the world.

     Rabbi Yosé agrees that one is exempt from reciting Sh’ma while occupied with the dead. (The reason for this exemption is partly based on the rule that “one who is doing one mitzvah is freed from doing another mitzvah.”) At the same time, he feels that you should never say or do anything that would be the cause of your own calamity.

     “The breaches” refers to the destruction of the Temple. Rabbi Yosef expands on Rabbi Yosé’s idea by finding a prooftext from Isaiah. In actuality, Rabbi Yosef takes Isaiah slightly out of context. Isaiah’s exact words (translated) are: “Had not the Lord of Hosts left us some survivors, we should be like Sodom, another Gomorrah. Hear the word of the Lord, you chieftains of Sodom; give ear to our destruction, you folk of Gomorrah!”

     Rabbi Yosef attempts to show that the Israelites gave Satan an opening and brought their own fate upon themselves. The Israelites said: “We should be like Sodom.” By comparing themselves to Sodom and giving Satan an opening—says Rabbi Yosef—they created a self-fulfilling prophecy, for Isaiah then calls them “You chieftains of Sodom” (without the word “like”). Their own words are thrown back in their faces; their own image becomes their fate!

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Two / The Interior Life

     The Tenth Chapter / Appreciating God's Grace

     WHY do you look for rest when you were born to work? Resign yourself to patience rather than to comfort, to carrying your cross rather than to enjoyment.

     What man in the world, if he could always have them, would not readily accept consolation and spiritual joy, benefits which excel all earthly delights and pleasures of the body? The latter, indeed, are either vain or base, while spiritual joys, born of virtue and infused by God into pure minds, are alone truly pleasant and noble.

     Now, since the moment of temptation is always nigh, since false freedom of mind and overconfidence in self are serious obstacles to these visitations from heaven, a man can never enjoy them just as he wishes.

     God does well in giving the grace of consolation, but man does evil in not returning everything gratefully to God. Thus, the gifts of grace cannot flow in us when we are ungrateful to the Giver, when we do not return them to the Fountainhead. Grace is always given to him who is duly grateful, and what is wont to be given the humble will be taken away from the proud.

     I do not desire consolation that robs me of contrition, nor do I care for contemplation that leads to pride, for not all that is high is holy, nor is all that is sweet good, nor every desire pure, nor all that is dear to us pleasing to God. I accept willingly the grace whereby I become more humble and contrite, more willing to renounce self.

     The man who has been taught by the gift of grace, and who learns by the lash of its withdrawal, will never dare to attribute any good to himself, but will rather admit his poverty and emptiness. Give to God what is God’s and ascribe to yourself what is yours. Give Him thanks, then, for His grace, but place upon yourself alone the blame and the punishment your fault deserves.

     Always take the lowest place and the highest will be given you, for the highest cannot exist apart from the lowest. The saints who are greatest before God are those who consider themselves the least, and the more humble they are within themselves, so much the more glorious they are. Since they do not desire vainglory, they are full of truth and heavenly glory. Being established and strengthened in God, they can by no means be proud. They attribute to God whatever good they have received; they seek no glory from one another but only that which comes from God alone. They desire above all things that He be praised in themselves and in all His saints—this is their constant purpose.

     Be grateful, therefore, for the least gift and you will be worthy to receive a greater. Consider the least gift as the greatest, the most contemptible as something special. And, if you but look to the dignity of the Giver, no gift will appear too small or worthless. Even though He give punishments and scourges, accept them, because He acts for our welfare in whatever He allows to befall us.

     He who desires to keep the grace of God ought to be grateful when it is given and patient when it is withdrawn. Let him pray that it return; let him be cautious and humble lest he lose it.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 7

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

     How the compassion of a father comes out to his child in the matter of pain! ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) With what exquisite tenderness a child’s pains are soothed by a parent! It is very hard to stand by the bedside and see a dear child suffer. Haven’t some of you felt that you would gladly take your children’s pains if they might be restored? You have one dear one at home now, the tear is in your eye as I mention it—a life of suffering she has. Well, it may be others of you have children who have mental troubles; the body is healthy, but the little one has a fret and a worry. I hope you sometimes have seen your children weeping because of sin; it is a blessed grief, and the sooner it comes the better. In such a grief as that, as indeed in all others, I am quite sure you feel compassion for your children. So ever does your Father feel compassion for you.

     Broken heart, God’s heart is longing to heal you. Weeping for your transgressions, the Father longs to clasp you to his bosom. Tried child of God, you who are often despondent and always ailing, God would not send this to you if there were not a necessity for it, and in sending it he shares it as far as this text goes, and it goes blessedly far, for he feels compassion for you. Sometimes hardhearted persons do not pity those who suffer, and some forms of suffering do not awaken sympathy, but all the sufferings of God’s people touch the heart of Jesus, and sympathy comes to them at once.

     I know some of you say, “I am quite alone in the world, and I have much sorrow.” Please revise that hard saying! You are like your Master, of whom it is written that he said, “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32). Your Father is with you. I wish you had some Christian friend to speak with you as a companion, but in the absence of such a social confidant “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), and there is One above who is a Father to you. Believe it; there is no poverty, there is no reproach, there is no sorrow of heart, there is no pain of body in this world among those who fear God but what the Lord sees it and knows all about it and has compassion on those who endure it.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day   March 7
     Perpetua

     Human affections, dear as they are, must always yield primary allegiance to Christ. This day in church history belongs to Perpetua who so inspired the early Christians that Augustine warned against viewing her story as equal to Scripture. Perpetua was born about 176 in Carthage, North Africa, growing up in a well-to-do family. Her father wasn’t a Christian, but her brothers and mother were devoted to Christ. Perpetua, bright and attractive, gained a good education and a husband, then a baby boy.

     In 202 Emperor Septimus Severius issued an edict against Christians, and presently Perpetua was placed under house arrest. When her father begged her to recant, she pointed to a waterpot and asked, “Father, do you see this vessel? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.”

     She was moved to prison where her father again visited her, begging her with sobs to renounce her faith. She refused. Perpetua and a handful of other believers were then tried in the marketplace where, again, her father appeared, carrying her infant son and begging her to free herself.

     Sentenced to torture and execution, the Christians were dragged back to prison. When she asked to see her baby a final time, she was refused. But on the eve of her death, Perpetua wrote of God’s sustaining presence: I saw that I should not fight with beasts but with the devil; I knew the victory to be mine.

     On March 7, 202 the Christians were marched into the arena where Perpetua was gored and thrown by a savage heifer. Surviving the first encounter, she crept to the aid of a companion. Shortly thereafter, a gladiator pierced her with his sword. When the trembling youth came at her again, she helped guide his shaking sword to her throat.

     Her devotion to Christ so inspired the Christians in North Africa that she personified Tertullian’s famous quote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Indeed, through the power of her witness, her chief jailer, Pudens, committed himself to the Lord Jesus.

     My dear friends, I want you to know that what has happened to me has helped to spread the good news. The Roman guards and all the others know that I am here in jail because I serve Christ. Now most of the Lord’s followers have become brave and are fearlessly telling the message.
--- Philippians 1:12-14.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 7

     “Have faith in God.” --- Mark 11:22.

     Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments. Love can make the feet move more swiftly; but faith is the foot which carries the soul. Faith is the oil enabling the wheels of holy devotion and of earnest piety to move well; and without faith the wheels are taken from the chariot, and we drag heavily. With faith I can do all things; without faith I shall neither have the inclination nor the power to do anything in the service of God. If you would find the men who serve God the best, you must look for the men of the most faith. Little faith will save a man, but little faith cannot do great things for God. Poor Little-faith could not have fought “Apollyon;” it needed “Christian” to do that. Poor Little-faith could not have slain “Giant Despair;” it required “Great-heart’s” arm to knock that monster down. Little faith will go to heaven most certainly, but it often has to hide itself in a nut-shell, and it frequently loses all but its jewels. Little-faith says, “It is a rough road, beset with sharp thorns, and full of dangers; I am afraid to go;” but Great-faith remembers the promise, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; as thy days, so shall thy strength be:” and so she boldly ventures. Little-faith stands desponding, mingling her tears with the flood; but Great-faith sings, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:” and she fords the stream at once. Would you be comfortable and happy? Would you enjoy religion? Would you have the religion of cheerfulness and not that of gloom? Then “have faith in God.” If you love darkness, and are satisfied to dwell in gloom and misery, then be content with little faith; but if you love the sunshine, and would sing songs of rejoicing, covet earnestly this best gift, “great faith.”


          Evening - March 7

     “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man.” --- Psalm 118:8.

     Doubtless the reader has been tried with the temptation to rely upon the things which are seen, instead of resting alone upon the invisible God. Christians often look to man for help and counsel, and mar the noble simplicity of their reliance upon their God. Does this evening’s portion meet the eye of a child of God anxious about temporals, then would we reason with him awhile. You trust in Jesus, and only in Jesus, for your salvation, then why are you troubled? “Because of my great care.” Is it not written, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord”? “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God.” Cannot you trust God for temporals? “Ah! I wish I could.” If you cannot trust God for temporals, how dare you trust him for spirituals? Can you trust him for your soul’s redemption, and not rely upon him for a few lesser mercies? Is not God enough for thy need, or is his all-sufficiency too narrow for thy wants? Dost thou want another eye beside that of him who sees every secret thing? Is his heart faint? Is his arm weary? If so, seek another God; but if he be infinite, omnipotent, faithful, true, and all-wise, why gaddest thou abroad so much to seek another confidence? Why dost thou rake the earth to find another foundation, when this is strong enough to bear all the weight which thou canst ever build thereon? Christian, mix not only thy wine with water, do not alloy thy gold of faith with the dross of human confidence. Wait thou only upon God, and let thine expectation be from him. Covet not Jonah’s gourd, but rest in Jonah’s God. Let the sandy foundations of terrestrial trust be the choice of fools, but do thou, like one who foresees the storm, build for thyself an abiding place upon the Rock of Ages.

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

Amazing Grace
     March 7

          BRIGHTEN THE CORNER

     Ina Duley Ogdon, 1877–?

     Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:14)

     “Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do … but brighten the corner where you are!” These words were born out of frustration when the talented speaker, Mrs. Ina Ogdon, was selected to be on the Chautauqua Circuit. This would give her the opportunity to reach thousands around the country with her brilliant oratory. Just before she was to leave on the tour, her father was injured seriously in an automobile accident. Ina felt it necessary to cancel her plans so she could take care of her father.

     At first Mrs. Ogdon felt much anger and resentment against God for allowing this tragedy to happen. Gradually, however, she determined that she would be happy and remain “true to the many duties near” her. She would do her best to “brighten the corner” where God had placed her. Ina completed this poem in 1913. Later it was set to its lilting music by the well-known musician, Charles Gabriel, and it became the popular theme song of the Billy Sunday-Homer Rodeheaver campaigns. Interestingly, Mrs. Ogdon no doubt ministered effectively to more people with these challenging words, born out of despair, than she would have done with her speaking tours on the Chautauqua Circuit.

     Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do. Do not wait to shed your light afar. To the many duties ever near you now be true; brighten the corner where you are.
     Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear; let not narrow self your way debar. Tho’ into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer, brighten the corner where you are.
     Here for all your talent you may surely find a need, here reflect the Bright and Morning Star. Ever from your humble hand the bread of life may feed; brighten the corner where you are.
     Chorus: Brighten the corner where you are! Brighten the corner where you are! Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar; brighten the corner where you are!

     For Today: Matthew 5:16; Acts 26:20; 1 Timothy 6:16; Titus 2:7; Titus 2:14; James 2:20.

     Resolve that regardless of the frustrating and mundane duties you may face, you will, with God’s help, do them cheerfully as unto the Lord, seeking to bring some spark of joy and kindness into the life of another. Carry this little musical reminder with you throughout the day ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Wednesday March 7, 2018 | Lent

Wednesday Of The Third Week In Lent
Year 2
Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 119:97–120
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 81, 82
Old Testament     Genesis 45:16–28
New Testament     1 Corinthians 8:1–13
Gospel     Mark 6:13–29

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 119:97–120

97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD,
and teach me your rules.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.

113 I hate the double-minded,
but I love your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117 Hold me up, that I may be safe
and have regard for your statutes continually!
118 You spurn all who go astray from your statutes,
for their cunning is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross,
therefore I love your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgments.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 81, 82
81 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. Of Asaph.

1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

82 A Psalm Of Asaph.

1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Old Testament
Genesis 45:16–28

16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”

21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

New Testament
1 Corinthians 8:1–13

8 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Gospel
Mark 6:13–29

13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

The Book of Common Prayer


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