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5/12/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Numbers 21     Psalm 60-61     Isaiah 10:5-34     James 4


Numbers 21

Arad Destroyed

Numbers 21:1 When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. 2 And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” 3 And the LORD heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah.

The Bronze Serpent

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

The Song of the Well

10 And the people of Israel set out and camped in Oboth. 11 And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness that is opposite Moab, toward the sunrise. 12 From there they set out and camped in the Valley of Zered. 13 From there they set out and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD,

“Waheb in Suphah, and the valleys of the Arnon,
15  and the slope of the valleys
that extends to the seat of Ar,
and leans to the border of Moab.”

16 And from there they continued to Beer; that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” 17 Then Israel sang this song:

“Spring up, O well!—Sing to it!—
18  the well that the princes made,
that the nobles of the people dug,
with the scepter and with their staffs.”

And from the wilderness they went on to Mattanah, 19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20 and from Bamoth to the valley lying in the region of Moab by the top of Pisgah that looks down on the desert.

King Sihon Defeated

21 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22 “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into field or vineyard. We will not drink the water of a well. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.” 23 But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered all his people together and went out against Israel to the wilderness and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. 24 And Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as to the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strong. 25 And Israel took all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. 26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. 27 Therefore the ballad singers say,

“Come to Heshbon, let it be built;
let the city of Sihon be established.
28  For fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the city of Sihon.
It devoured Ar of Moab,
and swallowed the heights of the Arnon.
29  Woe to you, O Moab!
You are undone, O people of Chemosh!
He has made his sons fugitives,
and his daughters captives,
to an Amorite king, Sihon.
30  So we overthrew them;
Heshbon, as far as Dibon, perished;
and we laid waste as far as Nophah;
fire spread as far as Medeba.”


King Og Defeated

31 Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. 32 And Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34 But the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people, and his land. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” 35 So they defeated him and his sons and all his people, until he had no survivor left. And they possessed his land.


Psalm 60

He Will Tread Down Our Foes

Psalm 60 To The Choirmaster: According To Shushan Eduth. A Miktam Of David; For Instruction; When He Strove With Aram-Naharaim And With Aram-Zobah, And When Joab On His Return Struck Down Twelve Thousand Of Edom In The Valley Of Salt.

1  O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
2  You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
3  You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.

4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah
5  That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!

6  God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7  Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
8  Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

9  Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10  Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
11  Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
12  With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.


Psalm 61

Lead Me to the Rock

Psalm 61 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. Of David.

1  Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2  from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3  for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

4  Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
5  For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6  Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7  May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

8  So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.


Isaiah 10:5-34

Judgment on Arrogant Assyria

Isaiah 10:5-34 5  Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is my fury!
6  Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7  But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;
8  for he says:
“Are not my commanders all kings?
9  Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10  As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11  shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
as I have done to Samaria and her images?”

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14  My hand has found like a nest
the wealth of the peoples;
and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
so I have gathered all the earth;
and there was none that moved a wing
or opened the mouth or chirped.”

15  Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
16  Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts
will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,
and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
like the burning of fire.
17  The light of Israel will become a fire,
and his Holy One a flame,
and it will burn and devour
his thorns and briers in one day.
18  The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land
the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,
and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19  The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few
that a child can write them down.


The Remnant of Israel Will Return

20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

24 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25 For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26 And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27 And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”

28  He has come to Aiath;
he has passed through Migron;
at Michmash he stores his baggage;
29  they have crossed over the pass;
at Geba they lodge for the night;
Ramah trembles;
Gibeah of Saul has fled.
30  Cry aloud, O daughter of Gallim!
Give attention, O Laishah!
O poor Anathoth!
31  Madmenah is in flight;
the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.
32  This very day he will halt at Nob;
he will shake his fist
at the mount of the daughter of Zion,
the hill of Jerusalem.

33  Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
will lop the boughs with terrifying power;
the great in height will be hewn down,
and the lofty will be brought low.
34  He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe,
and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.


James 4

Warning Against Worldliness

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Warning to the Rich

5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Patience in Suffering

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Love Yourself Less

By Jon Bloom 5/12/2017

     This will date me: the year I graduated from high school, Foreigner released its pop megahit, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

     This quintessential 80’s power ballad went platinum, not because of its vague, incoherent verses, but because, I believe, its title refrain asks a profound, universal human question: What is love?

     What Is Love? | We know Foreigner’s producers understood this, at least intuitively, as a religious question, because the song builds into a gospel choir anthem by its end. We all share their intuition.

     We know that eros is more than sex, and agape more than sacrifice. We know love is more than a feeling, but certainly not less than a feeling. We know it’s not just a decision, and we know it requires resolve. We know it’s not just a noun, not just a verb, and not just an adjective.

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     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith, Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises, and Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

You Become What You Eat

By Jon Bloom 5/9/2017

     Hope is to our soul what energy is to our body. Just like our bodies must have energy to keep going, our souls must have hope to keep going.

     When our body needs energy, we eat food. But when our soul needs hope, what do we feed it? Promises.

     Why do we feed our soul promises? Because promises have to do with our future, and hope is something we only feel about the future — about ten minutes from now, or ten months, or ten thousand years.

     We’re never hopeful about the past. We can be grateful for the past. The past can inspire or even guarantee a hopeful future for us. But all the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak.

However, if our future is promi

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     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

     Jon Bloom Books:


Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith
Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises
Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways

"If I Be Lifted Up"

By Greg Koukl 2/4/2013

     John 12:32 is another case where a phrase can have two widely divergent meanings. It's not uncommon for worship leaders to quote this statement of Jesus: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

     We "lift up" the Lord when we exalt Him and declare His glory. If we focus on Jesus and ascribe glory to Him, the power of Christ is released to transform the hearts of those listening and they are drawn to Him. This is the meaning the worship leader has in mind, but it isn't what Jesus is talking about.

     When we apply our paraphrase test by adding the very next verse, the results look like this: "'And I, if I be exalted before the people, will draw all men to Myself.' But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die" (John 12:32-33).

     Oops. Praising Jesus will kill Him? I don't think so. No ambiguity now. In this instance, being "lifted up" clearly means to be crucified.

     Understanding this phrase in context sheds light on another familiar passage, John 3:14-15: "And as Moses lifted up [raised in the air] the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [raised in the air] that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life."

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     Greg Koukl: Founder and President, Stand to Reason

     Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.

     Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News & World Report, and the L.A. Times.

     Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University.
Greg Koukl Books:

Opportunity and Opposition

By Abdul Saleeb 8/1/2007

     What is happening with the church in the Muslim world in the beginning years of the twenty-first century? In the past, it was quite common for missionaries to spend a lifetime of faithful service to the Gospel and see very little or no tangible result in terms of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. But today we know of significant numbers of Muslims — sometimes in thousands and sometimes in tens of thousands — who have come to faith in the last fifteen years.

     Students of missions detect a number of factors that God is using for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom among various Muslim people groups. Political turmoil and the rise of radical, militant Islam have caused many Muslims to begin questioning the legitimacy of Islam and have made them more open to the claims of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Current trends in the modern world such as globalization, urbanization, and mass migrations have opened up new and unprecedented opportunities for sharing the Gospel with the people of Islam. The use of modern technologies such as satellites and the Internet, along with the mass distribution of Bibles are also making significant impacts in previously closed Muslim countries. The number of missionaries that God is raising up to take the Gospel to the Muslim world is also increasing, not only from churches in North America, but also from South America and South Korea, and more recently from the rapidly expanding underground churches in China. Some themes that have been repeatedly reported by many Muslims in their conversion to Christ include such things as the ministry and lifestyle of Christian believers, answered prayer and deliverance from a difficult situation, the finding of peace and assurance of forgiveness in the Bible, encountering the love of God in the Scriptures and experiencing it in Christian fellowships and acts of humble service.

     Although we have many reasons to rejoice for the unparalleled spread of the Gospel among Muslims in our day, we also need to acknowledge the intensity of the opposition to the Gospel. Our brothers and sisters who live and minister in most Muslim countries face many challenging and dark moments. Some times the opposition can take the form of outright persecution. Many servants of Christ have been killed, imprisoned, and tortured for evangelizing Muslims. The wives of numerous pastors have told me that every time their husbands leave the home, they struggle with the fear that they might never see them again. Islamic law bans any forms of Christian evangelism, and converting from Islam to Christianity is considered a crime officially punishable by the death penalty. Many churches live with the constant fear of being fire bombed, or attacked by an angry mob, or closed down by the orders of the government. Those active in their Christian witness can receive death threats against themselves and their families. Many pastors struggle with the fact that they are often under close government scrutiny. More often, Christians and converts to Christianity suffer harassment, ridicule, rejection by the family and the community, and educational or employment discrimination because of their faith. Islamic governments and mosques use all the tools of media and the educational system at their disposal to propagate Islam and attack the Christian faith, but in most instances they would never allow Christians access to make a response or even simply present the Gospel.

     There are also many internal challenges that the church faces. There are denominational divisions and competitive attitudes among Christians. Many observers can point to the lack of theological education and spiritual maturity even within the leadership of the church. A great temptation for many Muslim converts to Christianity is to marry a Muslim since they might be unable to find a suitable marriage partner. Sometimes, because of the family pressures or the many dangers of living as a convert in a Muslim society, a professed believer converts back to Islam. Many Christians in the Muslim world are also tempted to leave their home country and move to the West where they can live their lives and express their Christian faith in safety and peace.

     We need to commit ourselves to pray and identify with the suffering and persecuted church in the Muslim world. But we also should rejoice in the growing and spreading church in the Muslim world. We must remind ourselves once again, especially in the midst of rising radicalism and violence all around the Islamic world today, that all visible and invisible thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, all things were created by Him, through Him and for Him, and He “is the head of the body, the church…” ( see Col. 1:16, 18).

     There is no need to despair. We can be confident that King Jesus is sitting on His throne and is, in fact, accomplishing His great purpose for the building up of His church around the world (and especially in the Islamic world) before our very eyes!

Click here to go to source

     Rev. Abdul Saleeb is co-author of The Dark Side of Islam (Paperback Edition) with Dr. R.C. Sproul. Also Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. He pastors a Muslim-convert fellowship in the United States and is intimately involved with churches in the Middle East.

The Athanasian Creed

By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2007

     Quicumque vult— this phrase is the title attributed to what is popularly known as the Athanasian Creed. It was often called the Athanasian Creed because for centuries people attributed its authorship to Athanasius, the great champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy during the crisis of the heresy of Arianism that erupted in the fourth century. That theological crisis focused on the nature of Christ and culminated in the Nicene Creed in 325. At the Council of Nicea of that year the term homoousios was the controversial word that finally was linked to the church’s confession of the person of Christ. With this word the church declared that the second person of the Trinity has the same substance or essence as the Father, thereby affirming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal in being and eternality. Though Athanasius did not write the Nicene Creed, he was its chief champion against the heretics who followed after Arius, who argued that Christ was an exalted creature but that He was less than God.

     Athanasius died in 373 a.d., and the epithet that appeared on his tombstone is now famous, as it captures the essence of his life and ministry. It read simply, “Athanasius contra mundum,” that is, “Athanasius against the world.” This great Christian leader suffered several exiles during the embittered Arian controversy because of the steadfast profession of faith he maintained in Trinitarian orthodoxy.

     Though the name “Athanasius” was given to the creed over the centuries, modern scholars are convinced that the Athanasian Creed was written after the death of Athanasius. Certainly, Athanasius’ theological influence is embedded in the creed, but in all likelihood he was not its author. The present title, Quicumque Vult, follows the custom in the Roman Catholic Church that is used for encyclicals and creedal statements. These ecclesiastical affirmations get their name from the first word or words of the Latin text. The Athanasian Creed begins with the words quicumque vult, which means “whoever wishes” or “whosoever wishes,” inasmuch as this phrase introduces the first assertion of the Athanasian Creed. That assertion is this: “Whosoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the catholic faith.” The Athanasian Creed seeks to set forth in summary version those essential doctrines for salvation affirmed by the church with specific reference to the Trinity.

     With respect to the history of the origins of the Athanasian Creed, it is generally thought now that the creed was first written in the fifth century — though the seventh century is also given its due, since the creed does not show up in the annals of history until 633 at the fourth council of Toledo. It was written in Latin and not in Greek. If written in the fifth century, several possible authors have been mentioned because of the influence of their thought including Ambrose of Milan and Augustine of Hippo, but it likely was the French saint, Vincent of Lérins.

     The content of the Athanasian Creed stresses the affirmation of the Trinity in which all members of the Godhead are considered uncreated and co-eternal and of the same substance. In the affirmation of the Trinity the dual nature of Christ is given central importance. As the Athanasian Creed in one sense reaffirms the doctrines of the Trinity set forth in the fourth century at Nicea, in like manner the strong affirmations of the fifth-century council at Chalcedon in 451 are also recapitulated therein. As the church fought with the Arian heresy in the fourth century, the fifth century brought forth the heresies of monophysitism, which reduced the person of Christ to one nature, mono physis, a single theanthropic (God-man) nature that was neither purely divine or purely human. In the Monophysite heresy of Eutyches, the person of Christ was seen as being one person with one nature, which nature was neither truly divine nor truly human. In this view, the two natures of Christ were confused or co-mingled together. At the same time the church battled with the monophysite heresy, she also fought against the opposite view of Nestorianism, which sought not so much to blur and mix the two natures but to separate them, coming to the conclusion that Jesus had two natures and was therefore two persons, one human and one divine. Both the Monophysite heresy and the Nestorian heresy were clearly condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where the church, reaffirming its Trinitarian orthodoxy, stated their belief that Christ, or the second person of the Trinity was vere homo and vere Deus, truly human and truly God. It further declared that the two natures in their perfect unity coexisted in such a manner as to be without mixture, confusion, separation, or division, wherein each nature retained its own attributes. So with one creedal affirmation, both the heresy of Nestorianism and the heresy of Monophysitism were condemned.

     The Athanasian Creed reaffirms the distinctions found at Chalcedon, where in the Athanasian statement Christ is called, “perfect God and perfect man.” All three members of the Trinity are deemed to be uncreated and therefore co-eternal. Also following earlier affirmations, the Holy Spirit is declared to have proceeded both from the Father “and the Son,” affirming the so-called filioque concept that was so controversial with Eastern Orthodoxy. Eastern Orthodoxy to this day has not embraced the filioque idea.

     Finally, the Athanasian standards examined the incarnation of Jesus and affirmed that in the mystery of the incarnation the divine nature did not mutate or change into a human nature, but rather the immutable divine nature took upon itself a human nature. That is, in the incarnation there was an assumption by the divine nature of a human nature and not the mutation of the divine nature into a human nature.

     The Athanasian Creed is considered one of the four authoritative creeds of the Roman Catholic Church, and again, it states in terse terms what is necessary to believe in order to be saved. Though the Athanasian Creed does not get as much publicity in Protestant churches, the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation are affirmed by virtually every historic Protestant church.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 49

Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
49 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Ssons Of Korah.

1 Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor together!
3 My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.

ESV Study Bible

Numbers 21; Psalms 60-61; Isaiah 10:5-34; James 4

By Don Carson 5/12/2018

     The brief account of the bronze snake (Num. 21:4-9) is probably better known than other Old Testament accounts of similar brevity, owing to the fact that it is referred to by Jesus himself in John 3:14-15: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” What is the nature of the parallel that Jesus is drawing?

     In the Numbers account, we are told that as the people continue their God-directed route through the desert, they “grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses” (21:4-5). They even whine against the food that God has been providing for them, the daily provision of manna: “We detest this miserable food” (21:5). In consequence the Lord sends judgment in the form of a plague of venomous snakes. Many die. Under the lash of punishment, the people confess to Moses, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you” (21:7). They beg Moses to intercede with God. God instructs Moses to make a snake and put it on a pole; “anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (21:8). So Moses casts a bronze snake and places it on a pole, and it has just the effect that God had ordained.

     So here we have an ungrateful people, standing in judgment of what God has done, questioning their leader. They face the judgment of God, and the only release from that judgment is a provision that God himself makes, which they receive by simply looking to the bronze serpent.

     The situation of Nicodemus is not so very different in John 3. His opening remarks suggest that he sees himself as capable of standing in judgment of Jesus (John 3:1-2), when in fact he really has very little understanding of what Jesus is talking about (3:4, 10). The world is condemned and perishing. Its only hope is in the provision that God makes — in something else that is lifted up on a pole, or more precisely, in someone who is lifted up on a cross. This is the first occurrence of “lifted up” in John’s gospel. As the chapters unwind, it becomes almost a technical expression for Jesus’ crucifixion. The only remedy, the only escape from God’s judgment, depends on looking to this provision God has made: We must believe in the Son of Man who is “lifted up” if we are to have eternal life.

     That word still comes to us. Massive muttering is a sign of culpable unbelief. Sooner or later we will answer to God for it. Our only hope is to look to the One who was hoisted on a pole.

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

Don Carson Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     12. When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognise a church in every society in which both exist, our meaning is, that we are never to discard it so long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults. Nay, even in the administration of word and sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion: for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches, do not destroy the unity of the faith; for why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches, if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatising, hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord? [522] The words of the Apostle are, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" (Phil. 3:15). Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary, ought not to be a ground of dissension among Christians? The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all, or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation. Here, however, I have no wish to patronise even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance; what I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists, [523] and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord. Meanwhile, if we strive to reform what is offensive, we act in the discharge of duty. To this effect are the words of Paul, "If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace" (1 Cor. 14:30). From this it is evident that to each member of the Church, according to his measure of grace, the study of public edification has been assigned, provided it be done decently and in order. In other words, we must neither renounce the communion of the Church, nor, continuing in it, disturb peace and discipline when duly arranged. [524]

13. Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness, as if they had already become a kind of aërial spirits, [525] spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains. Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists, who were similarly infatuated. Such in the present day are some of the Anabaptists, who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect, not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists. The offence is indeed well founded, and it is one to which in this most unhappy age we give far too much occasion. It is impossible to excuse our accursed sluggishness, which the Lord will not leave unpunished, as he is already beginning sharply to chastise us. Woe then to us who, by our dissolute licence of wickedness, cause weak consciences to be wounded! Still those of whom we have spoken sin in their turn, by not knowing how to set bounds to their offence. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity. Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they, through hatred of wickedness, withdraw from a genuine church, while they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly. They allege that the Church of God is holy. But that they may at the same time understand that it contains a mixture of good and bad, let them hear from the lips of our Saviour that parable in which he compares the Church to a net in which all kinds of fishes are taken, but not separated until they are brought ashore. Let them hear it compared to a field which, planted with good seed, is by the fraud of an enemy mingled with tares, and is not freed of them until the harvest is brought into the barn. Let them hear, in fine, that it is a thrashing-floor in which the collected wheat lies concealed under the chaff, until, cleansed by the fanners and the sieve, it is at length laid up in the granary. If the Lord declares that the Church will labour under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Mt. 13).

14. They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle's sentiment applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one species of sin merely, but a multitude, and those not trivial errors, but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in manners, but also in doctrine. What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a Church of Christ, and a society of saints. If the Church remains among the Corinthians, where envyings, divisions, and contentions rage; where quarrels, lawsuits, and avarice prevail; where a crime, which even the Gentiles would execrate, is openly approved; where the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honoured as a father, is petulantly assailed; where some hold the resurrection of the dead in derision, though with it the whole gospel must fall; where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity; where many things are done neither decently nor in order: [526] If there the Church still remains, simply because the ministration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but abandon the gospel (Gal. 1:6), and yet among them the same apostle found churches? [527]

15. They also object, that Paul sharply rebukes the Corinthians for permitting an heinous offender in their communion, and then lays down a general sentence, by which he declares it unlawful even to eat bread with a man of impure life (1 Cor. 5:11, 12). Here they exclaim, If it is not lawful to eat ordinary bread, how can it be lawful to eat the Lord's bread? I admit, that it is a great disgrace if dogs and swine are admitted among the children of God; much more, if the sacred body of Christ is prostituted to them. And, indeed, when churches are well regulated, they will not bear the wicked in their bosom, nor will they admit the worthy and unworthy indiscriminately to that sacred feast. But because pastors are not always sedulously vigilant, are sometimes also more indulgent than they ought, or are prevented from acting so strictly as they could wish; the consequence is, that even the openly wicked are not always excluded from the fellowship of the saints. This I admit to be a vice, and I have no wish to extenuate it, seeing that Paul sharply rebukes it in the Corinthians. But although the Church fail in her duty, it does not therefore follow that every private individual is to decide the question of separation for himself. I deny not that it is the duty of a pious man to withdraw from all private intercourse with the wicked, and not entangle himself with them by any voluntary tie; but it is one thing to shun the society of the wicked, and another to renounce the communion of the Church through hatred of them. Those who think it sacrilege to partake the Lord's bread with the wicked, are in this more rigid than Paul. [528] For when he exhorts us to pure and holy communion, he does not require that we should examine others, or that every one should examine the whole church, but that each should examine himself (1 Cor. 11:28, 29). If it were unlawful to communicate with the unworthy, Paul would certainly have ordered us to take heed that there were no individual in the whole body by whose impurity we might be defiled, but now that he only requires each to examine himself, he shows that it does no harm to us though some who are unworthy present themselves along with us. To the same effect he afterwards adds, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." He says not to others, but to himself. And justly; for the right of admitting or excluding ought not to be left to the decision of individuals. Cognisance of this point, which cannot be exercised without due order, as shall afterwards be more fully shown, belongs to the whole church. It would therefore be unjust to hold any private individual as polluted by the unworthiness of another, whom he neither can nor ought to keep back from communion.

16. Still, however, even the good are sometimes affected by this inconsiderate zeal for righteousness, though we shall find that this excessive moroseness is more the result of pride and a false idea of sanctity, than genuine sanctity itself, and true zeal for it. Accordingly, those who are the most forward, and, as it were, leaders in producing revolt from the Church, have, for the most part, no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising all other men. Well and wisely, therefore, does Augustine say, "Seeing that pious reason and the mode of ecclesiastical discipline ought specially to regard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, which the Apostle enjoins us to keep, by bearing with one another (for if we keep it not, the application of medicine is not only superfluous, but pernicious, and therefore proves to be no medicine); those bad sons who, not from hatred of other men's iniquities, but zeal for their own contentions, attempt altogether to draw away, or at least to divide, weak brethren ensnared by the glare of their name, while swollen with pride, stuffed with petulance, insidiously calumnious, and turbulently seditious, use the cloak of a rigorous severity, that they may not seem devoid of the light of truth, and pervert to sacrilegious schism, and purposes of excision, those things which are enjoined in the Holy Scriptures (due regard being had to sincere love, and the unity of peace), to correct a brother's faults by the appliance of a moderate cure" (August. Cont. Parmen. cap. 1). To the pious and placid his advice is, mercifully to correct what they can, and to bear patiently with what they cannot correct, in love lamenting and mourning until God either reform or correct, or at the harvest root up the tares, and scatter the chaff (Ibid. cap. 2). Let all the godly study to provide themselves with these weapons, lest, while they deem themselves strenuous and ardent defenders of righteousness, they revolt from the kingdom of heaven, which is the only kingdom of righteousness. For as God has been pleased that the communion of his Church shall be maintained in this external society, any one who, from hatred of the ungodly, violates the bond of this society, enters on a downward course, in which he incurs great danger of cutting himself off from the communion of saints. Let them reflect, that in a numerous body there are several who may escape their notice, and yet are truly righteous and innocent in the eyes of the Lord. Let them reflect, that of those who seem diseased, there are many who are far from taking pleasure or flattering themselves in their faults, and who, ever and anon aroused by a serious fear of the Lord, aspire to greater integrity. Let them reflect, that they have no right to pass judgment on a man for one act, since the holiest sometimes make the most grievous fall. Let them reflect, that in the ministry of the word and participation of the sacraments, the power to collect the Church is too great to be deprived of all its efficacy, by the fault of some ungodly men. Lastly, let them reflect, that in estimating the Church, divine is of more force than human judgment.

17. Since they also argue that there is good reason for the Church being called holy, it is necessary to consider what the holiness is in which it excels, lest by refusing to acknowledge any church, save one that is completely perfect, we leave no church at all. It is true, indeed, as Paul says, that Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles, and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows, that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal, as will elsewhere be more fully explained. Therefore, when the Prophets foretel, "Then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more;"--"It shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it" (Joel 3:17; Isa. 35:8), let us not understand it as if no blemish remained in the members of the Church: but only that with their whole heart they aspire after holiness and perfect purity: and hence, that purity which they have not yet fully attained is, by the kindness of God, attributed to them. And though the indications of such a kind of holiness existing among men are too rare, we must understand, that at no period since the world began has the Lord been without his Church, nor ever shall be till the final consummation of all things. [529] For although, at the very outset, the whole human race was vitiated and corrupted by the sin of Adam, yet of this kind of polluted mass he always sanctifies some vessels to honour, that no age may be left without experience of his mercy. This he has declared by sure promises, such as the following: "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations" (Ps. 89:3, 4). "The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell" (Ps. 132:13, 14). "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever" (Jer. 31:35, 36).

18. On this head, Christ himself, his apostles, and almost all the prophets, have furnished us with examples. Fearful are the descriptions in which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, and others, deplore the diseases of the Church of Jerusalem. In the people, the rulers, and the priests, corruption prevailed to such a degree, that Isaiah hesitates not to liken Jerusalem to Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 1:10). Religion was partly despised, partly adulterated, while in regard to morals, we everywhere meet with accounts of theft, robbery, perfidy, murder, and similar crimes. The prophets, however, did not therefore either form new churches for themselves, or erect new altars on which they might have separate sacrifices, but whatever their countrymen might be, reflecting that the Lord had deposited his word with them, and instituted the ceremonies by which he was then worshipped, they stretched out pure hands to him, though amid the company of the ungodly. Certainly, had they thought that they thereby contracted any pollution, they would have died a hundred deaths sooner than suffered themselves to be dragged thither. Nothing, therefore, prevented them from separating themselves, but a desire of preserving unity. But if the holy prophets felt no obligation to withdraw from the Church on account of the very numerous and heinous crimes, not of one or two individuals, but almost of the whole people, we arrogate too much to ourselves, if we presume forthwith to withdraw from the communion of the Church, because the lives of all accord not with our judgment, or even with the Christian profession.

19. Then what kind of age was that of Christ and the apostles? Yet neither could the desperate impiety of the Pharisees, nor the dissolute licentiousness of manners which everywhere prevailed, prevent them from using the same sacred rites with the people, and meeting in one common temple for the public exercises of religion. And why so, but just because they knew that those who joined in these sacred rites with a pure conscience were not at all polluted by the society of the wicked? If any one is little moved by prophets and apostles, let him at least defer to the authority of Christ. Well, therefore, does Cyprian say, "Although tares or unclean vessels are seen in the Church, that is no reason why we ourselves should withdraw from the Church; we must only labour that we may be able to be wheat; we must give our endeavour, and strive as far as we can, to be vessels of gold or silver. But to break the earthen vessels belongs to the Lord alone, to whom a rod of iron has been given: let no one arrogate to himself what is peculiar to the Son alone, and think himself sufficient to winnow the floor and cleanse the chaff, and separate all the tares by human judgment. What depraved zeal thus assumes to itself is proud obstinacy and sacrilegious presumption" (Cyprian, Lib. 3 Ep. 5). Let both points, therefore, be regarded as fixed; first, that there is no excuse for him who spontaneously abandons the external communion of a church in which the word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered; secondly, that notwithstanding of the faults of a few or of many, there is nothing to prevent us from there duly professing our faith in the ordinances instituted by God, because a pious conscience is not injured by the unworthiness of another, whether he be a pastor or a private individual; and sacred rites are not less pure and salutary to a man who is holy and upright, from being at the same time handled by the impure.

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

You Must Disappoint Someone

By Jon Bloom 5/11/2018

     Why do you spend your time doing what you do? Why do you say yes to doing some things and no to doing other things? Are you saying yes and no to the right things? These are unnerving, exposing questions to ask.

     Most of us would like to believe we say yes and no to our time commitments based on objective, logical assessments of what appears most important. But that is very often not the case. Very often we make these decisions based on subjective assessments of what we believe others will think of us if we do or don’t do them.

     How other people perceive us — or how we think they’ll perceive us — has an extraordinary influence on how we choose to use our time. Coming to terms with ways we seek people’s approval or fear their disapproval will force us to face humbling truths about ourselves and may require repentance and uncomfortable change.

     But given how brief our lives are, and how limited our energy and other resources are, we need to heed what God says to each one of us through the apostle Paul:

     Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17)

     And one way to carefully examine our use of time and energy is to invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and see if and where we are inordinately influenced to say yes or no out of a fear of man.

     A Surprisingly Clarifying Question | I attended a conference recently where ministry leaders on a panel were asked to describe how they remain focused on their core calling while deluged with demands. One of the speakers posed this question to us: “Who are you willing to disappoint?”

     At first this might seem like a negative and perhaps unloving way to decide what we should or shouldn’t do. But it really isn’t. It’s actually a clarifying question. It isn’t asking us who are the people we will choose not to love. It’s asking us what we are really pursuing in our time commitments. Whose approval are we seeking? God’s? Other people’s? Of those, whose?

     I think this is what Jesus was getting at with Martha in Luke 10:38–42. Martha was “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40). I imagine nearly everyone in her home that day thought she was doing a good thing. Martha herself thought this, which is why she requested Jesus’s support in exhorting Mary to get busy helping. She didn’t seem to be aware of her own motivations. But Jesus was. He saw the deeper motivations in both Martha and Mary.

     Martha was “anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Martha’s time commitment was being motivated by anxiety, not love. Given the context, it’s reasonable to assume her anxiety stemmed from what all her houseguests would think of her if she stopped waiting on them and did what Mary was doing.

     Mary had “chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Superficial observers of the situation might have concluded Martha chose the good portion and Mary was being inconsiderate. I would guess Mary felt this irony. She knew Martha very well. I imagine she knew she was disappointing Martha by listening to Jesus instead of helping serve the guests. But in that moment, Mary was more willing to disappoint Martha than to disappoint Jesus. And Jesus commended her.

     The exposing question for Martha was, who was she willing to disappoint?

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     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith, Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises, and Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.



  • The Apostolic Message
  • Counted Righteous in Christ
  • Sola Fide

#1 R.C. Sproul   Ligonier

 

#2 R.C. Sproul   Ligonier

 

#3 R.C. Sproul   Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2008    The World Upside Down

     It’s hard to believe that it was nearly a decade ago that we witnessed the turn of the third millennium. If you recall, on New Year’s Day several network TV stations featured live coverage from around the world. It was an international spectacle with an estimated viewing audience of more than one billion worldwide. With great intrigue I watched as each culture welcomed the new millennium in its own way according to the customs of its heritage. Fireworks, music, singing, dancing, parades- — all in celebration of the new millennium. While 300,000 gathered in Auckland, New Zealand, for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, people on the central tropical Pacific island of Kiribati chanted in the Gilbertese language: “Let all the world be joined with us to greet the new millennium.”

     Having traveled to many parts of the world, I have had the unspeakable privilege of witnessing how Christians in different cultures worship the Lord. What’s amazing, however, are not the differences among the world’s cultures in worship and ministry, which certainly exist, but the astonishing similarities in content, method, and philosophy of ministry. This, of course, is due in part to the profound influence of Western missionaries, who still account for nearly fifty percent of the world’s missionaries. Nevertheless, the similarities exist primarily because we are reading the same Book. We worship the same Lord; we are indwelled by the same Spirit; we share the same faith, the same baptism, and the same hope as we eagerly await and hasten the coming Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:12).

     Therefore, when we gather together for worship on the Lord’s Day, we are joining our hearts and minds with believers from all over the world as we prepare for that great day when we will join together coram Deo, before the face of God, falling on our faces, proclaiming, “Let all Christians from around the world join with us to greet our Savior Jesus Christ.” In our worldwide witness, we are bearing witness to the undeniable reality that the good news of Jesus Christ has turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was performed for the first time this day, May 12, 1861, for Union recruits during the Civil War. Said to have been Lincoln's favorite song, it was written by Julia Ward Howe when she visited Washington and saw the city teeming with military horses and campfires burning. Sleeping unsoundly one night, Julia Ward Howe wrote her poem, which ends: "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea; With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me: As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Prayer is when you talk to God;
meditation is when you listen to God.
--- Diana Robinson
A Discipleship Journey for New Believers

Weave in faith
and God will find the thread.
--- Author Unknown
Quotes To Quote (Volume 4)

They say that God is everywhere,
and yet we always think of Him
as somewhat of a recluse.
--- Emily Dickinson
The life and letters of Emily Dickinson,

As to the life and substance of it, there never was but one true religion; nothing has ever been such, but the immediate inward work of God in man.
--- Job Scott, 1751-1793
The works of that eminent minister of the gospel, Job Scott Volume 1

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Fourth Chapter / Many Blessings Are Given Those Who Receive Communion Worthily

     The Disciple

     O LORD my God, favor Your servant with the blessings of Your sweetness that I may merit to approach Your magnificent Sacrament worthily and devoutly. Lift up my heart to You and take away from me this heavy indolence. Visit me with Your saving grace that I may in spirit taste Your sweetness which lies hidden in this Sacrament like water in the depths of a spring. Enlighten my eyes to behold this great Mystery, and give me strength to believe in it with firm faith.

     For it is Your work, not the power of man, Your sacred institution, not his invention. No man is able of himself to comprehend and understand these things which surpass even the keen vision of angels. How, then, shall I, an unworthy sinner who am but dust and ashes, be able to fathom and understand so great a mystery?

     O Lord, I come to You at Your command in simplicity of heart, in good, firm faith, with hope and reverence, and I truly believe that You are present here in this Sacrament, God and man. It is Your will that I receive You and unite myself to You in love. Wherefore, I beg Your mercy and ask that special grace be given me, that I may be wholly dissolved in You and filled with Your love, no longer to concern myself with exterior consolations. For this, the highest and most worthy Sacrament, is the health of soul and body, the cure of every spiritual weakness. In it my defects are remedied, my passions restrained, and temptations overcome or allayed. In it greater grace is infused, growing virtue is nourished, faith confirmed, hope strengthened, and charity fanned into flame.

     You, my God, the protector of my soul, the strength of human weakness, and the giver of every interior consolation, have given and still do often give in this Sacrament great gifts to Your loved ones who communicate devoutly. Moreover, You give them many consolations amid their numerous troubles and lift them from the depths of dejection to the hope of Your protection. With new graces You cheer and lighten them within, so that they who are full of anxiety and without affection before Communion may find themselves changed for the better after partaking of this heavenly food and drink.

     Likewise, You so deal with Your elect that they may truly acknowledge and plainly experience how weak they are in themselves and what goodness and grace they obtain from You. For though in themselves they are cold, obdurate, and wanting in devotion, through You they become fervent, cheerful, and devout.

     Who, indeed, can humbly approach the fountain of sweetness and not carry away a little of it? Or who, standing before a blazing fire does not feel some of its heat? You are a fountain always filled with superabundance! You are a fire, ever burning, that never fails!

     Therefore, while I may not exhaust the fullness of the fountain or drink to satiety, yet will I put my lips to the mouth of this heavenly stream that from it I may receive at least some small drop to refresh my thirst and not wither away. And if I cannot as yet be all heavenly or as full of fire as the cherubim and seraphim, yet I will try to become more devout and prepare my heart so that I may gather some small spark of divine fire from the humble reception of this life-giving Sacrament.

     Whatever is wanting in me, good Jesus, Savior most holy, do You in Your kindness and grace supply for me, You Who have been pleased to call all unto You, saying: “Come to Me all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.”

     I, indeed, labor in the sweat of my brow. I am torn with sorrow of heart. I am laden with sin, troubled with temptations, enmeshed and oppressed by many evil passions, and there is none to help me, none to deliver and save me but You, my Lord God and Savior, to Whom I entrust myself and all I have, that You may protect me and lead me to eternal life. For the honor and glory of Your name receive me, You Who have prepared Your Body and Blood as food and drink for me. Grant, O Lord, my God and Savior, that by approaching Your Mysteries frequently, the zeal of my devotion may increase.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Much Fruitfulness

     But third, the branch teaches a lesson of much fruitfulness.

     The Lord Jesus Christ repeated that word fruit often in that parable. He spoke, first, of fruit, and then of more fruit, and then of much fruit. Yes, you are ordained not only to bear fruit, but to bear much fruit. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). In the first place, Christ said: "I am the Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. My Father is the Husbandman who has charge of me and you." He who will watch over the connection between Christ and the branches is God; and it is in the power of God through Christ we are to bear fruit.

     Oh, Christians, you know this world is perishing for the want of workers. And it lacks not only more workers--the workers are saying, some more earnestly than others: "We need not only more workers, but we need our workers to have a new power, a different life; that we workers should be able to bring more blessing." Children of God, I appeal to you. You know what trouble you take, say, in a case of sickness. You have a beloved friend apparently in danger of death, and nothing can refresh that friend so much as a few grapes, and they are out of season; but what trouble you will take to get the grapes that are to be the nourishment of this dying friend! And, oh, there are around you people who never go to church, and so many who go to church, but do not know Christ. And yet the heavenly grapes, the grapes of the heavenly Vine, are not to be had at any price, except as the child of God bears them out of his inner life in fellowship with Christ. Except the children of God are filled with the sap of the heavenly Vine, except they are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus, they cannot bear much of the real heavenly grape. We all confess there is a great deal of work, a great deal of preaching and teaching and visiting, a great deal of machinery, a great deal of earnest effort of every kind; but there is not much manifestation of the power of God in it.

     What is lacking? There is lacking the close connection between the worker and the heavenly Vine. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has blessings that He could pour on tens of thousands who are perishing. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has power to provide the heavenly grapes. But "Ye are the branches," and you cannot bear heavenly fruit unless you are in close connection with Jesus Christ.

     Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God--it means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.

     You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different name, and every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. Just so, there is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, and a love, and a Spirit, and a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say:

     "Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself, nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee."


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:27-28
     by D.H. Stern

27     A worthless person digs up evil [gossip]—
it is like scorching fire on his lips.
28     A deceitful person stirs up strife,
and a slanderer can separate even close friends.


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

                Make a habit of having no habits

     For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful. ---
2 Peter 1:8 (R.V.).

     When we begin to form a habit we are conscious of it. There are times when we are conscious of becoming virtuous and patient and godly, but it is only a stage; if we stop there we shall get the strut of the spiritual prig. The right thing to do with habits is to lose them in the life of the Lord, until every habit is so practised that there is no conscious habit at all. Our spiritual life continually resolves into introspection because there are some qualities we have not added as yet. Ultimately the relationship is to be a completely simple one.

     Your god may be your little Christian habit, the habit of prayer at stated times, or the habit of Bible reading. Watch how your Father will upset those times if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes—‘I can’t do that just now, I am praying; it is my hour with God.’ No, it is your hour with your habit. There is a quality that is lacking in you. Recognize the defect, and then look for the opportunity of exercising yourself along the line of the quality to be added.

     Love means that there is no habit visible, you have come to the place where the habit is lost, and by practice you do the thing unconsciously. If you are consciously holy, there are certain things you imagine you cannot do, certain relationships in which you are far from simple; that means there is something to be added. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there anywhere where you are not at home with God? Let God press through in that particular circumstance until you gain Him, and life becomes the simple life of a child.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Blackbird Singing
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


          A Blackbird Singing

  BIt seems wrong that this bird,
  Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
  Places about it, there yet should come
  Such rich music, as though the notes'
  Ore were changed to a rare metal
  At one touch of that bright bill.
  You have heard it often, alone at your desk
  In a green April, your mind drawn
  Away from its work by sweet disturbance
  Of the mild Evening outside your room.
  A slow singer, but loading each phrase
  With history's overtones, love, joy
  And grief learned by his dark tribe
  In other orchards and passed on
  Instinctively as they are now,
  But fresh always with new tears.

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Bava Metzia 84b

     D’RASH

     There is an apocryphal tale of a woman who, thinking that she had become pregnant the night before, rushed to make an early Morning phone call — not to her obstetrician or to a family member but to the local nursery school to sign up her "child" for kindergarten. She was afraid that her "baby" would be closed out of class five years hence.

     Whether this story is factually true or not, it does reflect a reality about children in our contemporary world: They are rushed through life. In his book  The Hurried Child, 25th anniversary edition,  psychologist David Elkind outlines examples of youngsters pushed to grow up too fast and forced to live adult lives before they are physically or psychologically ready. We, too, can think of dozens of examples of children who are hurried through life and are not allowed, slowly and patiently, to mature:

     The child who does not excel in kindergarten and who, at age five, is labeled a problem child for the rest of life. If the label sticks, the youngster may never have the opportunity to overcome these obstacles.

     The Little League team members whose coach forces a win-or-lose mentality on them, turning the game from fun into a battlefield. They may grow up playing team sports but not enjoying them.

     The child of divorce who is thrust into adult roles—cooking, caring for infants—and adult responsibilities at an early age. Unfortunately, the need for another set of hands in the home may make the extra pressure on this youngster unavoidable.

     Elkind cites the example of a seven-year-old who left school because of a nervous breakdown, who was a weak student with no friends and a poor athlete with odd mannerisms. At a young age, he was labeled a problem child. It is conceivable that such a youngster would lose out on the opportunity to overcome adversity and become a worthwhile member of society. Fortunately, in this case, the young man surmounted all of these negative stereotypes and matured into the great physicist Albert Einstein.

     Often, the negative effects on youngsters come about as by-products of positive intentions. We want our children to get ahead, and consequently we buy them (and ourselves) books, videos, and even computer programs that help get an "edge" on life—"Toilet Training in One Day!" or "Calculus for Preschoolers."

     There are times when our youngsters are ready to handle more, when they will demand to be challenged. Yet, we often fall into the trap of hurrying our children (and our grandchildren) beyond what they can handle. We do this out of both love and fear. We love them and want the best for them. We are afraid that they will fall behind in an ever-changing world. We want them to succeed in life, and rather than choosing time-honored values and slowly reinforcing methods of teaching, we opt for quick fixes and fads.

     Similarly, there are times when we infantilize our elderly, treating them like children. We assume that someone who is getting hard of hearing also cannot think so well. We imagine that those who were born many years ago cannot cope with change, when the reality is that they have had to manage change repeatedly in their lives. We may assume, incorrectly, that those who are retired and no longer have a job likewise no longer have a purpose in life. Each of these instances treats the elderly like children.

     While some believe that youth is wasted on the young, we know that youth is for the young, just as the older years are for the elderly. Treating our youngsters like children and our seniors like elders is exactly what we are supposed to do. In the case of our children, it allows them the pleasure, the opportunity, and the privilege of growing up, a process that truly cannot be hurried. In the case of our elders, it confers upon them the dignity and honor they deserve.

     Should a vessel that was used for holy be used for everyday?

     Text / As he was about to die, he [Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon] said to his wife: "I know that the Rabbis are angry with me and will not treat me well. Lay me out in the loft and do not be afraid of me." Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said: "Rabbi Yonatan's mother told me that the wife of Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon told her: 'I kept him in the loft no less than eighteen years and no more than twenty-four years. When I went up there, I would check his hair, and when hair fell out, blood would flow. One day, I saw a worm come out of his ear, and I became weak. He came to me in the dream and said to me: "This is nothing! One day I heard a scholar insulted and I did not protest it as I should have." When two came for judgment, they stood at the entrance, each one making his case, and a voice came forth from the loft, saying: "So-and-so, you are guilty! So-and-so, you are innocent!" ' " One day, she was arguing with a neighbor who said to her: "May you be like your husband, unworthy of burial!" The Rabbis said: "This is not the right way." Some say that Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai appeared to them in a dream, telling them: "There is a single pigeon of a pair among you, and you won't let him come to me?" The Rabbis went to take care of him, but the people of Akhbariya would not let them, for all the years that Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon rested there, no wild animal came to them. One Yom Kippur eve, when they were busy, the Rabbis sent word to the residents of Biri to carry out his bier. They carried him to the burial cave of his father, but they found a snake encircling it. They said: "Snake! Snake! Open your mouth and let a son enter with his father." It opened for them. Rabbi sent to speak [of marriage] to his [Rabbi Elazar's] wife. She sent back to him: "Should a vessel that was used for holy be used for everyday?"

     Context / The Talmud is not ashamed to present unpopular and even derogatory views of the Rabbis. Some scholars suggest that the purpose of such stories is not to show off the fine qualities of one rabbi as opposed to those of another, or to advocate a specific position. Most likely, these stories attempt to teach the reader a lesson about the world around them.

     Context / This is probably the case in our Gemara from Bava Metzia, for even though Rabbi Elazar is portrayed as a righteous man by his widow, we know that there are places in the Talmud where he was seen as a traitor. Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon lived in the second-century C.E. and was the son and student of the famous Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai. Together, we are told, they hid in a cave for thirteen years to escape punishment from the Romans for having taught Torah. Yet, while the father, Shimon, continued to defy Rome, the son, Elazar, later worked for the Roman administration, becoming an official responsible for reporting on thieves. This put him in a position of conflict with many of the Rabbis of the time, leading his teacher Yehoshua ben Korḥah to condemn him: "Vinegar son of wine (i.e., a spoiled son of a vintage master)! How long will you continue to hand over the people of our God to be killed?" Despite his association with the Romans, Rabbi Elazar is pictured as a saint and martyr in the narrative which follows our text.

     This story tells of the death of Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, a scholar who was seen by many as a traitor for the help he gave the conquering Roman army during its occupation of Israel. Rabbi Elazar may have been fearful of his colleagues' reaction to his death, afraid that they would not treat him respectfully. He therefore asked his wife that, upon his death, his body not be buried but left in a loft or upper chamber of their house. This she did. Not only did she keep the body there, but it kept its original, natural state, even producing blood (after all the years) when hair fell out.

     Once, she felt guilty for not having buried her husband properly, but he reassured her that the worm coming forth from his ear was punishment for not having stood up for a fellow rabbi when he was being insulted. Even more amazing than the lack of decomposition of the body is the fact (according to the story) that Rabbi Elazar issued judicial rulings even after his death. People would present their cases at his doorway, and a voice would be heard announcing the verdict.

     However, when a neighbor mocked the wife, she knew it was time to have her husband buried. One tradition says that the Rabbis wanted to bury Rabbi Elazar. Another tradition holds that his father, Rabbi Shimon, appeared to them in a dream. His words—"There is a single pigeon of a pair among you, and you won't let him come to me?"—mean "My son and I are a pair. I am already in the World-to-Come, and you will not allow my son to join me here?" The people of Akhbariya feared that his burial would mean the end of the protection that they had been given while Rabbi Elazar's body remained in his loft. Still, the Rabbis sought to bury Elazar. The next obstacle to overcome was a snake, blocking the entrance to the burial cave.

     Some time after the burial, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi ("Rabbi") sent emissaries to Rabbi Elazar's widow ("his wife"). The message they brought was a proposal for marriage: Now that your deceased husband has been buried, you can marry me. She rebuffed Rabbi, and her response "Should a vessel that was used for holy be used for everyday?" has become a classic. The unnamed wife means: Are you worthy to take the place of such a holy man? While Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi was one of the greats of his day (and of any day in Jewish life, seen both from his title and his status), the widow of Rabbi Elazar considered Rabbi Yehudah as ordinary compared to her beloved, holy husband.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Defeat at Aphek: 1 Samuel 4–6
     Teacher's Commentary

     The Philistines were a sea people who settled along the Mediterranean coast around 1200 B.C. They established five major cities, from which they spread inland. These people maintained a military advantage from the time of Samson until the age of David. This was due to the fact that they alone in the area knew the secret of working iron. Their iron weapons were far superior to any weapons of the poverty-stricken Israelites.

     Humanly speaking, war with the Philistines could only bring disaster. It's no wonder that, in the first battle mentioned in this section, Israel was defeated with about 4,000 men killed on the battlefield.

     Israel's response was to bring the ark of the covenant into battle. This ark was to be kept in the tabernacle, the tent which served as Israel's worship center.

     The ark contained several special items. It contained manna, the special food given to the people of Israel in their wilderness wanderings. Manna spoke of divine provision. The ark also contained the Ten Commandments, etched on stone tablets. They spoke of the covenant to which Israel was committed, and the holy way of life God set down for them. Even more important, the ark usually rested in the inner chamber of the tabernacle, the holy of holies. There, once a year, the high priest was to come to offer a blood sacrifice that made atonement for all the sins of Israel (cf. Leviticus 16). Thus the ark spoke of the absolute holiness of God and of the need to hold God in awe and approach Him respectfully.

     But in sending for the ark, the Israelites lost sight of its true meaning. They wanted the ark to serve as a magical talisman. Somehow God's presence was thought of as tied to the ark. If the ark were with them in battle, God must be with them as well. The ark, rather than symbolizing the holiness of God, was to manipulate God into sending a battlefield victory. For, if Israel lost, the ark would be lost! This was a blatant attempt to manipulate God!

     Israel's act also revealed a pagan view of God. When the Philistines heard Israel shouting gladly when the ark was brought into their camp, these pagan peoples said "a god [had] come into the camp." How tragic that Israel had no more spiritual perception than the idolatrous Philistines. Neither saw beyond the symbol to realize that God is God of the whole earth, whose presence cannot be captured in any material object. And how revealing that Israel thought God could be manipulated by placing His ark in their vanguard.

     In fact, the Israelites were again defeated. The two sons of Eli were killed. And the ark was taken captive.

     The next events teach us that the God who cannot be manipulated will be honored as holy.

     The ark was placed as a trophy in the house of the Philistine's deity, an idol they called Dagon. The idol fell, its extremities broken off. And the people of the Philistine city, Ashdod, were stricken with a painful disease. The ark was moved to another Philistine city, but again there was an outbreak of disease. Finally the Philistines hitched two cows that had recently calved to a new cart, put the ark on the cart, and turned the animals loose. Rather than going to their calves, the cows went straight to Israelite territory, lowing all the way.

     The Philistines were healed. And the people of Israel rejoiced. But some of the Israelite men peeked curiously into the ark. God struck them down, killing 70. The people of Israel still were not sensitive to the holiness of God. In fact, this three-chapter section of 1 Samuel records a painful lesson God taught to His people Israel, and through them teaches to us. Israel had failed to treat God with respect. Even Eli permitted his own sons to defile the priesthood. The people tried to manipulate God by bringing the ark to the battlefield "so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies" (1 Samuel 4:3). This basically pagan view of the ark failed to sense that it was a symbol, pointing to God, but with no magical or divine power in itself.

     Yet the ark was associated with God. It had been set apart to God, and as such was a holy thing. The Philistines discovered that Israel's God was supreme when He judged them and their god for treating the ark as a victory trophy. And when God's own people failed to show respect for the holy, they too were struck down.

     Why? Because Israel desperately needed to recover a sense of the holiness and the power of God. Only when the people of God honored Him again could He bring His people blessing.

     Mizpah: 1 Samuel 7 / The Wanderings of the Ark of the Covenant

     During the next 20 years Samuel led a spiritual revival. The Bible says that "all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord" (1 Samuel 7:2). During this time the Israelites got rid of their idols, and confessed their sins to God.

     When the revival was climaxed with a great assembly at Mizpah, the Philistines decided to attack. The terrified Israelites begged Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us" (1 Samuel 7:8). Now, with their sins purified, and with their trust in God Himself rather than in the ark that symbolized His presence, God acted. A terrible storm struck the Philistines. They fled in terror from this divine visitation, and the men of Israel pursued them, killing many. As a result of this decisive battle some of the land taken by the Philistines was recovered by Israel and the Philistines were unable to invade Israelite territory again during Samuel's lifetime.


The Teacher's Commentary

Stories and Legal Texts
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     A number of narrative works that do not appear to be historical in intent express, often in highly entertaining ways, the theological and ethical views of the authors.

     The book of Tobit may have been written in Israel, although it is not impossible it comes from somewhere in the eastern Diaspora. The Aramaic work (copies of it have been found at Qumran [4Q196–199 in Aramaic, 4Q200 in Hebrew]) tells the parallel stories of two pious Jews whose lives had become tragedies, although they maintained their religious fidelity in dire circumstances, and who were delivered through the agency of the angel Raphael. The book commends pious deeds by Diaspora Jews such as almsgiving, care for fellow Jews, praise of God, prayer, and endogamy.

     The book of Judith was written in Hebrew, although it is available only in a Greek translation. The author paints a confusing situation blending Babylonian, Persian, and perhaps other times, but its aim is to describe the deliverance God gave to his beleaguered people through the hand of a woman named Judith, whose extraordinary piety and remarkable bravery and cleverness brought about victory for the Jews in the land when the great general Holophernes and his massive army wished to destroy them. The book also presents an interesting example of a proselyte in the form of Achior the Ammonite.

     Legal Texts

     From early in the Second Temple period there is little evidence of legal literature in the sense of laws such as those in the Pentateuch. Those books may have reached their final form early in the period, but from the centuries that followed no such texts are attested until the literature found at Qumran. Among the scrolls are different sorts of works that deal with and expound the law of Moses; these are in addition to the numerous copies of the pentateuchal books found there. Examples are 4QMMT, which lists more than twenty legal points on which the group differs from those whom they address; and the Temple Scroll, which describes a grand future temple and all that will accompany it, such as the festivals, and represents and paraphrases a large part of the material in Exodus 25 through Deuteronomy. Additional texts, only fragmentarily preserved, deal with various aspects of the Law (e.g., ones that treat issues of purity and impurity [4Q274–279]; calendar texts [4Q317–330]). Other sorts of legal texts, ones that supply laws specifically for the group, are the Rule of the Community and the Damascus Document, the latter of which includes a lengthy halakic section. The legal texts from Qumran show that the kind of reflection that was later codified in the Mishnah and the Talmuds was at home in a much earlier time and was practiced by a group representing a very different point of view from the one found in the rabbinic works.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 12

     He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas. --- Psalm 78:15.

     [The psalmist] sees the Israelites crowding around the rock and saying in their hearts, “This cannot last long.” (Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) He sees them watching for the supply to fail, as, of course, coming from a rock it must soon do. And then he sees their wild surprise when it dawns on them that the stream is inexhaustible and is fed by channels they know nothing of, from boundless and unfathomable reservoirs. What the people crave for is a drink of water, and God in his mercy gives them their desire. But he fills their cups not from a little cistern but as if from some limitless ocean. And the psalmist knows that that is always true, for whenever the Almighty satisfies his creatures, he gives them drink as abundant as the seas.

     Let us think for a moment of God’s ways in providence—in the ordering and discipline of our lives. When we are young our joys are all our own; we never dream that others can have known them. When we are young we take our little sorrows as if there were no such sorrows in the world. And much of the bitterness of childish trial lies in its terrible sense of isolation, in the feeling that in the whole wide world there is no one who has had to suffer just like us. It seems as if God had cut a special channel for us out of which no other life had ever drunk. In joy and in grief, in sunshine and in shadow, we seem to move alone when we are children. But as life advances and our outlook broadens and we learn the stories of the lives around us, then we see that we are not alone but are being made to drink of the great depths. It is not by exceptional providences that we live. It is not by exceptional joys we are enriched. It is not by anything rare or strange or singular that we are fashioned under the hand of God. It is by sorrows that are as old as humanity, by trials that a thousand hearts have felt, by joys that are common as the wind is common that breathes on the palace and on the meanest street. By these things we live; by these we grow—by love and tears, by trials, by work, by death—by the things that link us all into a family, the things that are common to ten thousand hearts. And it is when we come to recognize that truth and to feel our comradeship in a common discipline that we say, as the psalmist said of Israel, he gave us “water as abundant as the seas.”
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     The Shoemaker’s Book  May 12

     William Carey was born in a forgotten village in the dullest period of the dullest of all centuries. His family was poor, and he was poorly educated. A skin affliction made him sensitive to outdoor work, so he apprenticed to a nearby shoemaker. When he didn’t do well at cobbling, he opened a school to supplement his income. That didn’t go well either. He married, but his marriage proved unhappy. A terrible disease took the life of his baby daughter and left Carey bald for life. He was called to pastor a small church, but he had trouble being ordained because of his boring RS Thomas.

     Not a likely prospect to become the “Father of Modern Missions.”

     But when Carey borrowed a copy of Captain Cook’s Voyages, the famous sailor’s journals gripped him, and he started thinking of overseas evangelism. On the wall of his cobbler’s shop he hung a homemade map of the world, jotting down facts and figures beside the countries. And he began to feel that something should be done to reach the world for Christ.

     Until then most Protestants believed the Great Commission had been given only to the original apostles. Carey insisted it was binding on all succeeding generations of Christians, an idea that brought scorn from many preachers. He was called a “miserable enthusiast,” and at one Baptist meeting Dr. John C. Ryland, the man who had baptized him, said, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

     The rebuke moved Carey to write a book, published on May 12, 1792: An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered.

     Despite its unwieldy title, this 87-page book became a classic in Christian history that deserves a place alongside Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in its influence on subsequent church history. It led to the formation of a missionary society, funds being collected in a snuff box. The proceeds were used to send Carey to India, launching the modern era of missions.

     Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.
--- Matthew 28:18-20.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 12

     “And will manifest myself to him.”
John 14:21.

     The Lord Jesus gives special revelations of himself to his people. Even if Scripture did not declare this, there are many of the children of God who could testify the truth of it from their own experience. They have had manifestations of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in a peculiar manner, such as no mere reading or hearing could afford. In the biographies of eminent saints, you will find many instances recorded in which Jesus has been pleased, in a very special manner to speak to their souls, and to unfold the wonders of his person; yea, so have their souls been steeped in happiness that they have thought themselves to be in heaven, whereas they were not there, though they were well nigh on the threshold of it—for when Jesus manifests himself to his people, it is heaven on earth; it is paradise in embryo; it is bliss begun. Especial manifestations of Christ exercise a holy influence on the believer’s heart. One effect will be humility. If a man says, “I have had such-and-such spiritual communications, I am a great man,” he has never had any communion with Jesus at all; for “God hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” He does not need to come near them to know them, and will never give them any visits of love. Another effect will be happiness; for in God’s presence there are pleasures for evermore. Holiness will be sure to follow. A man who has no holiness has never had this manifestation. Some men profess a great deal; but we must not believe any one unless we see that his deeds answer to what he says. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” He will not bestow his favours upon the wicked: for while he will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he respect an evil doer. Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus—humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to thee, Christian!


          Evening - May 12

     “Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again.”
Genesis 46:3,4.

     Jacob must have shuddered at the thought of leaving the land of his father’s sojourning, and dwelling among heathen strangers. It was a new scene, and likely to be a trying one: who shall venture among couriers of a foreign monarch without anxiety? Yet the way was evidently appointed for him, and therefore he resolved to go. This is frequently the position of believers now—they are called to perils and temptations altogether untried: at such seasons let them imitate Jacob’s example by offering sacrifices of prayer unto God, and seeking his direction; let them not take a step until they have waited upon the Lord for his blessing: then they will have Jacob’s companion to be their friend and helper. How blessed to feel assured that the Lord is with us in all our ways, and condescends to go down into our humiliations and banishments with us! Even beyond the ocean our Father’s love beams like the sun in its strength. We cannot hesitate to go where Jehovah promises his presence; even the valley of deathshade grows bright with the radiance of this assurance. Marching onwards with faith in their God, believers shall have Jacob’s promise. They shall be brought up again, whether it be from the troubles of life or the chambers of death. Jacob’s seed came out of Egypt in due time, and so shall all the faithful pass unscathed through the tribulation of life, and the terror of death. Let us exercise Jacob’s confidence. “Fear not,” is the Lord’s command and his divine encouragement to those who at his bidding are launching upon new seas; the divine presence and preservation forbid so much as one unbelieving fear. Without our God we should fear to move; but when he bids us to, it would be dangerous to tarry. Reader, go forward, and fear not.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 12

          GOLDEN HARPS ARE SOUNDING

     Words and Music by Frances R. Havergal, 1836–1879

     But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. (Acts 1:8, 9)

     Christ’s resurrection is one of the most authenticated facts in history. During the 40-day interlude between Easter and the ascension, He was seen by such trusted witnesses as Peter, the entire group of disciples and apostles, a crowd of 500 of His followers, and finally by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5–8). And many of these same individuals who saw His resurrected body also witnessed His ascent into heaven. The resurrection and the ascension, cornerstones of the Christian faith, have been historically documented. Christ’s ascension assures us that Jesus is alive and ruling His kingdom while seated at the right hand of His Father. The ascension is also the guarantee that our Lord will personally return for His followers and escort us to the heavenly home He has prepared.

     “Golden Harps Are Sounding” is one of our fine but unfamiliar hymns from the neglected “Ascension and Reign” section of many church hymnals. These are hymns that should be used not only during this Ascension Day season but also throughout the year to teach believers the importance of this event.

     The author, Frances Havergal, wrote this Ascension Day hymn especially for a group of children while visiting their school. It is said to have been written within the space of ten minutes. “Golden Harps Are Sounding” is one of the few hymns for which Miss Havergal also composed her own tune, “Hermas.”

     Golden harps are sounding, angel voices ring, pearly gates are opened, opened for the King: Christ, the King of glory, Jesus, King of love, is gone up in triumph to His throne above.
     He who came to save us, He who bled and died, now is crowned with glory at His Father’s side: Never more to suffer, never more to die, Jesus, King of glory, is gone up on high.
     Praying for His children in that blessed place, calling them to glory, sending them His grace: His bright home preparing, faithful ones, for you; Jesus ever liveth, ever loveth too.
     Refrain: All His work is ended, joyfully we sing; Jesus hath ascended—Glory to our King!


     For Today: Psalm 24:7, 10; Luke 24:50; Acts 1:7–10; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24.

     Share the thrilling account of Christ’s ascension with your family members. Sing this musical truth together ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. XXII. — OF the same stamp with this, is that prudence of yours also, with which you next give it as your advice — ‘that, if any thing were settled upon, in the councils, that was wrong, it ought not to be openly confessed: lest, a handle should be thereby afforded, for contemning the authority of the fathers.’ —

     This, indeed, is just what the Pope wished you to say! And he hears it with greater pleasure than the Gospel itself, and will be a most ungrateful wretch, if he do not honour you in return, with a cardinal’s cap together with all the revenues belonging to it. But in the mean time, friend Erasmus, what will the souls do that shall be bound and murdered by that iniquitous statute? Is that nothing to you? But however, you always think, or pretend to think, that human statutes can be observed together with the Word of God, without peril. If they could, I would at once go over to this your sentiment.

     But if you are yet in ignorance, I tell you again, that human statutes cannot be observed together with the Word of God: because, the former bind consciences, the latter looses them. They are directly opposed to each other, as water to fire. Unless, indeed, they could be observed in liberty; that is, not to bind the conscience. But this the Pope wills not, nor can he will it, unless he wishes his kingdom to be destroyed and brought to an end: for that stands only in ensnaring and binding those consciences, which the Gospel pronounces free. The authority of the fathers, therefore, is to be accounted nought: and those statutes which have been wrongly enacted, (as all have been that are not according to the Word of God) are to be rent in sunder and cast away: for Christ is better than the authority of the fathers. In a word, if it be concerning the Word of God that you think thus, you think impiously; if it be concerning other things, your verbose disputing about your sentiment is nothing to me: I am disputing concerning the Word of God!


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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