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Numbers 28     Psalm 72     Isaiah 19-20     2 Peter 1


Numbers 28

Daily Offerings

Numbers 28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’ 3 And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. 4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5 also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. 8 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight. Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Sabbath Offerings

9 “On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering: 10 this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.

Monthly Offerings

11 “At the beginnings of your months, you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish; 12 also three tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, for each bull, and two tenths of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; 13 and a tenth of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering for every lamb; for a burnt offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 14 Their drink offerings shall be half a hin of wine for a bull, a third of a hin for a ram, and a quarter of a hin for a lamb. This is the burnt offering of each month throughout the months of the year. 15 Also one male goat for a sin offering to the LORD; it shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.

Passover Offerings

16 “On the fourteenth day of the first month is the LORD’s Passover, 17 and on the fifteenth day of this month is a feast. Seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten. 18 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, 19 but offer a food offering, a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls from the herd, one ram, and seven male lambs a year old; see that they are without blemish; 20 also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil; three tenths of an ephah shall you offer for a bull, and two tenths for a ram; 21 a tenth shall you offer for each of the seven lambs; 22 also one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you. 23 You shall offer these besides the burnt offering of the morning, which is for a regular burnt offering. 24 In the same way you shall offer daily, for seven days, the food of a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. It shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. 25 And on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work.

Offerings for the Feast of Weeks

26 “On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, 27 but offer a burnt offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old; 28 also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each bull, two tenths for one ram, 29 a tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 with one male goat, to make atonement for you. 31 Besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall offer them and their drink offering. See that they are without blemish.


Psalm 72

Give the King Your Justice

Psalm 72 Of Solomon

1  Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2  May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3  Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!

5  May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6  May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7  In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

8  May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9  May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10  May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
11  May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12  For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13  He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14  From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15  Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16  May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17  May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!

18  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19  Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

20  The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.


Isaiah 19

An Oracle Concerning Egypt

Isaiah 19:1 An Oracle Concerning Egypt.

Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2  And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, each against another
and each against his neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;
3  and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,
and I will confound their counsel;
and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,
and the mediums and the necromancers;
4  and I will give over the Egyptians
into the hand of a hard master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

5  And the waters of the sea will be dried up,
and the river will be dry and parched,
6  and its canals will become foul,
and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up,
reeds and rushes will rot away.
7  There will be bare places by the Nile,
on the brink of the Nile,
and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,
will be driven away, and will be no more.
8  The fishermen will mourn and lament,
all who cast a hook in the Nile;
and they will languish
who spread nets on the water.
9  The workers in combed flax will be in despair,
and the weavers of white cotton.
10  Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,
and all who work for pay will be grieved.

11  The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;
the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am a son of the wise,
a son of ancient kings”?
12  Where then are your wise men?
Let them tell you
that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.
13  The princes of Zoan have become fools,
and the princes of Memphis are deluded;
those who are the cornerstones of her tribes
have made Egypt stagger.
14  The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,
and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,
as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
15  And there will be nothing for Egypt
that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.

Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed

16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them. 17 And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.

18 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.

19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. 21 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. 22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”


Isaiah 20

A Sign Against Egypt and Cush

Isaiah 20:1 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it— 2 at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

3 Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt. 5 Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. 6 And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’ ”


2 Peter 1

Greeting

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Greeting

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

Greeting

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

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The King of Kings

By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2007

     The gospel of Luke ends with a supremely jarring statement: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (24:50–53).

     What is jarring about this passage is, as Luke reports the departure of Jesus from this world, the response of His disciples was to return to Jerusalem with “great joy.” What about Jesus’ departure would instill in His disciples an emotion of sheer elation? This question is made all the more puzzling when we consider the emotions the disciples displayed when Jesus earlier had told them that His departure would come soon. At that time, the idea that their Lord would leave their presence provoked in them a spirit of profound remorse. It would seem that nothing could be more depressing than to anticipate separation from the presence of Jesus. Yet, in a very short period of time, that depression changed to unspeakable joy.

     We have to ask what is it that provoked such a radical change of emotion within the hearts of Jesus’ disciples. The answer to that question is plain in the New Testament. Between the time of Jesus’ announcement to them that He would soon be going away and the time of His actual departure, the disciples came to realize two things. First, they realized why it was that Jesus was leaving. Secondly, they understood the place to which He was going. Jesus was leaving not in order that they might be left alone and comfortless, but that He might ascend into heaven. The New Testament idea of ascension means something far more weighty than merely going up into the sky or even to the abode of the heavenlies. In His ascension, Jesus was going to a specific place for a specific reason. He was ascending into heaven for the purpose of His investiture and coronation as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The New Testament title used to describe Jesus in His kingly role is the “King of kings” and likewise the title “Lord of lords.” This particular literary structure means more than Jesus’ establishment in a position of authority by which He will rule over lesser kings. Rather, it is a structure that indicates the supremacy of Jesus in His monarchical majesty. He is King in the highest possible sense of kingship.

     In biblical terms, it is unthinkable to have a king without a kingdom. Since Jesus ascends to His coronation as king, with that coronation comes the designation by the Father of a realm over which He rules. That realm is all creation.

     There are two gross errors in modern theology regarding the biblical concept of the kingdom of God. The first is that the kingdom has already been consummated and that nothing is left for the reign of Christ to be made manifest. Such a view can be described as over-realized eschatology (last things). With the realization of the fullness of the kingdom, there would be no more to look forward to in terms of the triumph of Christ. The other error is that which a vast number of Christians believe, that the kingdom of God is something totally futuristic — that is, in no sense does the kingdom of God exist already. This view takes such a strong attitude toward the future dimension of the kingdom of God that even such New Testament passages as the Beatitudes of Matthew 5–7, have no application to the church today because they belong to the future age of the kingdom, which has not yet begun.

     Both of the above views do violence to the clear teaching of the New Testament that the kingdom of God has indeed begun. The King is already in place. He has already received all authority on heaven and on earth. That means that at this very moment the supreme authority over the kingdoms of this world and over the entire cosmos is in the hands of King Jesus. There is no inch of real estate, no symbol of power in this world that is not under His ownership and His rule at this very moment. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in chapter 2, in the so-called kenotic hymn, it is said that Jesus is given the name that is above all names. The name that He is given that rises above all other titles that anyone can receive, is a name that is reserved for God. It is God’s title Adonai, which means the “One who is absolutely sovereign.” Again, this title is one of supreme governorship for the One who is the King of all of the earth.

     The New Testament translation of the Old Testament title adonai is the name lord. When Paul says that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue confess, the reason for the bowing in obeisance and for confessing is that they are to declare with their lips that Jesus is Lord — that is, He is the sovereign ruler. That was the first confession of faith of the early church.

     Then Rome, in her misguided, pagan tyranny tried to enforce a loyalty oath to the emperor cult of religion, in which all people were required to recite the phrase kaisar kurios — “Caesar is lord.” The Christians responded by showing every possible form of civil obedience, by paying their taxes, by honoring the king, by being model citizens; but they could not in good conscience obey the mandate of Caesar to proclaim him lord. Their response to the loyalty oath, kaisar kurios, was as profound in its ramifications as it was simple in its expression, Jesus ho kurios, Jesus is Lord. The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place. It is the task of the church to bear witness to that invisible kingdom, or as Calvin put it, it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom of Christ visible. Though invisible, it is nevertheless real.

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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:

God’s Other Kingdom

By Dr. Gene Edward Veith 12/1/2007

     We often talk about how God is “sovereign” over all things. The term has to do with God’s providential control over His creation — that is to say, everything that exists — and, in different contexts, with His action in bringing people to salvation. But to say God is sovereign implies that He is a sovereign. In other words, God is a king.

     Christian discussions of the kingdom of God usually focus on His spiritual kingdom, how, through the work of Christ, He reigns in the hearts of believers, in the visible church, and in eternity.

     This column is about culture, so I would like to focus on a different aspect of the concept: How it is that God is also the King of the “secular” order, which includes both the material and the social worlds.

     Though we can certainly speak about God’s kingdom in an apocalyptic way, as something in the future, or in an evangelistic way, as in something we are working to usher in, I want to focus on the sense in which God is already a king and already rules His kingdom.

     Martin Luther sorts out the different senses of these terms when he taught that God has two kingdoms, each of which He governs in different ways. He has a spiritual kingdom, and He has an earthly kingdom. A Christian is a citizen of both. But even non-believers — those who do not know God and who rebel against Him — are citizens of God’s earthly kingdom and cannot escape His rule.

     In Luther’s day, it was not unusual for a particular monarch to occupy more than one throne. The emperor that Luther had to contend with was, in addition to his innumerable dukedoms and the imperial office, both the king of Spain and the king of Hungary.

     Luther meant that God governs two dominions: One He rules by virtue of His creation; the other by virtue of His act of redemption in Christ. His earthly realm can be known through reason; His spiritual realm must be known through His Word. God rules human societies on earth through His moral law. God rules human hearts and equips them for His eternal kingdom through the Gospel.

     God operates in both kingdoms through means. In the spiritual kingdom, He works through His Word, His sacraments, His church. In the earthly kingdom, He works through the processes of natural laws, physical causes, and history. Just as God established the church as the institution through which He works in His spiritual kingdom, He established the family and the state as institutions through which He works in His earthly kingdom. This is to say, God works through vocation. That is, through human beings whom He calls to different offices, tasks, and kinds of service.

     Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms is widely misunderstood, both by its critics and by those who claim to follow it. It is most emphatically not dualism; rather, it is a way of uniting different categories. God is the King of both realms.

     This is not to be confused with Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities, which is dualistic. Augustine said that the city of man has to do with the love of self, while the city of God has to do with the love of God. In Augustine’s scheme, the two cities are in conflict with each other. Christians must live in the city of Man in this life, but they are being fitted for the city of God. In contrast, Luther’s concept of two kingdoms, both under one divine King, gives the earthly realm — and thus earthly culture — a positive value that it never had in many monasteries.

     But is that positive value so great that it sanctifies the status quo? If God already rules in the earthly realm, does not that sanctify whatever secular rulers happen to be in power or whatever secular ideas are currently in vogue? This would be a grotesque confusion of Luther’s teaching. As was said, God rules His earthly kingdom by virtue of His creation and with His moral law. Those who deny God’s creation and who reject His moral law are not following the doctrine of the two kingdoms.

     Romans 13 defines legitimate government as one that punishes evildoers and rewards those who do good. Rulers who punish the good and reward the evil do not have God’s sanction. Since the purpose of all vocations is to love and serve one’s neighbors, a tyrant does not have a calling from God.

     Yes, the Devil is trying to establish his kingdom in both the earthly and the spiritual realms. But the Devil is an insurgent, a terrorist who can only kill and tear down. All order, beauty, and goodness are from the true King.

     In practice, this means that it is not always necessary to Christianize a cultural artifact, such as music or art or ideas. The artifact still must be evaluated according to the moral law and the created order. But it is already part of God’s kingdom.

     The two kingdoms offer a critical model by which Christians can engage their cultures. It allows Christians to criticize their societies when necessary, but also to appreciate the good things of society — its arts and sciences, its achievements and satisfactions — as coming from God’s hand. It brings the sacred and the secular together under one Sovereign.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

The Weight of Glory

By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2008

     C.S. Lewis emerged as a twentieth-century icon in the world of Christian literature. His prodigious work combining acute intellectual reasoning with unparalleled creative imagination made him a popular figure not only in the Christian world but in the secular world as well. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, though rife with dramatic Christian symbolism, were devoured by those who had no interest in Christianity at all, but were enjoyed for the sheer force of the drama of the stories themselves. An expert in English literature, C.S. Lewis functioned also as a Christian intellectual. He had a passion to reach out to the intellectual world of his day in behalf of Christianity. Through his own personal struggles with doubt and pain, he was able to hammer out a solid intellectual foundation for his own faith. C.S. Lewis had no interest in a mystical leap of faith devoid of rational scrutiny. He abhorred those who would leave their minds in the parking lot when they went into church. He was convinced that Christianity was at heart rational and defensible with sound argumentation. His work showed a marriage of art and science, a marriage of reason and creative imagination that was unparalleled. His gift of creative writing was matched by few of his twentieth-century contemporaries. His was indeed a literary genius in which he was able to express profound Christian truth through art, in a manner similar to that conveyed by Bach in his music and Rembrandt in his painting. Even today his introductory book on the Christian faith — Mere Christianity — remains a perennial best seller.

     We have to note that although a literary expert, C.S. Lewis remained a layman theologically speaking. Indeed, he was a well-read and studied layman, but he did not benefit from the skills of technical training in theology. Some of his theological musings will indicate a certain lack of technical understanding, for which he may certainly be excused. His book Mere Christianity has been the single most important volume of popular apologetics that the Christian world witnessed in the twentieth century. Again, in his incomparable style, Lewis was able to get to the nitty-gritty of the core essentials of the Christian faith without distorting them into simplistic categories.

     His reasoning, though strong, was not always technically sound. For example, in his defense of the resurrection, he used an argument that has impressed many despite its invalidity. He follows an age-old argument that the truth claims of the writers of the New Testament concerning the resurrection of Jesus are verified by their willingness to die for the truths that they espoused. And the question is asked: Which is easier to believe — that these men created a false myth and then died for that falsehood or that Jesus really returned from the grave? On the surface, the answer to that question is easy. It is far easier to believe that men would be deluded into a falsehood, in which they really believed, and be willing to give their lives for it, than to believe that somebody actually came back from the dead. There has to be other reasons to support the truth claim of the resurrection other than that people were willing to die for it. One might look at the violence in the Middle East and see 50,000 people so persuaded of the truths of Islam that they are willing to sacrifice themselves as human suicide bombs. History is replete with the examples of deluded people who have died for their delusions. History is not filled with examples of resurrections. However, despite the weakness of that particular argument, Lewis nevertheless made a great impact on people who were involved in their initial explorations of the truth claims of Christianity.

     To this day, people who won’t read a Bible or won’t read other Christian literature will pick up Mere Christianity and find themselves engaged by the acute mental processes of C.S. Lewis. The church owes an enormous debt to this man for his unwillingness to capitulate to the irrationalism that marked so much of Christian thought in the twentieth century — an irrationalism that produced what many describe as a “mindless Christianity.”

     The Christianity of C.S. Lewis is a mindful Christianity where there is a marvelous union between head and heart. Lewis was a man of profound sensitivity to the pain of human beings. He himself experienced the crucible of sanctification through personal pain and anguish. It was from such experiences that his sensitivity developed and his ability to communicate it sharply honed. To be creative is the mark of profundity. To be creative without distortion is rare indeed, and yet in the stories that C.S. Lewis spun, the powers of creativity reached levels that were rarely reached before or since. Aslan, the lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, so captures the character and personality of Jesus; it is nothing short of amazing. Every generation, I believe, will continue to benefit from the insights put on paper by this amazing personality.

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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:

Pain: God’s Megaphone

By Alistair Begg 1/1/2008

     For sixty years, successive generations have been helped by what C.S. Lewis wrote on the subject of pain and suffering. The sustained benefit is due in large measure to the fact that he brought to the “problem” a solid dose of Christian realism. This medicine may be more important now than ever. It is not uncommon to watch as television preachers inform their audiences that God “does not want you to be sick.” It is hard to imagine such an assertion proving to be an encouragement to the wheel-chair bound, long-term sufferer of multiple sclerosis. At best, such preachers are confused. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the now of our earthly pilgrimage and the then of our heavenly home. A day is coming when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. But as any honest observer of the human condition will admit, that day has not arrived. While most of us are probably not facing “the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery,” as Lewis puts it, few of us are untouched by trials of various kinds.

     Although the trial may appear in the disguise of an enemy, in reality it may prove to be a friend. The biblical writer James encourages his readers when faced with trials to welcome them as friends rather than resenting them as intruders. Instead of running and hiding we are to face them in the awareness that they come to prove us and to improve us. Lewis does not argue that suffering is good in itself. Instead, he points to the redemptive, sanctifying effects of suffering.

     Thirty-two years of pastoral ministry have brought me into direct contact with those whose experiences of pain and suffering have proved to be a severe mercy. I think of a nuclear physicist in our church in Scotland who attended out of deference to his wife and three young daughters. He listened to the sermons with an air of polite indifference; he accepted a copy of John Stott’s Basic Christianity but remained secure in his scientific shell. It was only when his fourth child, a son, died at eleven months that the megaphone sounded. Recognizing that his worldview was inadequate to deal with tragedy and loss, he found himself reaching beyond his shadow land to find himself caught up in the embrace of the God who is there. By this terrible necessity of tribulation God conquered his rebel will and brought him to the place of peace.

     It is also true that God uses suffering to wean His children away from the plausible sources of false happiness. The Christian may grow drowsy in the sun but will not fall asleep in the fire or the flood. Each of us must recognize how easy it is to think little of God when all is well on the outside. But what a change occurs when, for example, the biopsy comes back positive. A sharp blast of anxiety comes to shatter any illusions of self-sufficiency. How kind of God to rouse us and to bring us to the place of dependence.

     Our experience of pain, if sanctified, will create an awareness of the trials that others face and a tenderness in our dealings. When our pains and disappointments become the occasion for the softening of our hearts, we can anticipate the privilege of bearing with the infirmities of others. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, our great High Priest, is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” and He has left us an example that we should follow. It ought to concern us greatly when those of us who have been called to teach and to lead fail to display gentleness and compassion for the faint and the trembling. Although I have only dipped a toe in the sea of suffering, it is immediately apparent that God uses the lonely hours in the middle of the night to teach us lessons that we never learned in our bright and healthy hours. We rise to affirm Wiliam Cowper’s observation that “behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.”

     I only begin to scratch the surface of this topic. I must leave the reader to ponder two things. First, consider how suffering and pain often prove to be God’s means of discipline and how in this discipline we find an evidence and seal of our adoption (see Heb. 12:5). Secondly, consider the corrective element in affliction as referenced by the psalmist (Ps. 119:67, 71).

     Lewis helps us to realize that when the megaphone of pain sounds in our lives and in the lives of our unbelieving friends and neighbors we dare not respond with some form of superficial triumphalism or descend the abyss of pessimism. If those whose lives are marked by quiet desperation, who are painfully aware of their trials and sufferings are going to seek out the Christian for help, it will not be because we appear to live lives that are free from trials but because we are honest about our own sufferings and difficulties. We will not attempt an answer for every question since we know that God has His secrets (Deut. 29:29). We will affirm that even in the mystery of His purposes we know the security of His love, and we will seek to introduce others to our God who entered into our sorrows and our sufferings.

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     Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.

Dr. Alistair Begg Books:

Inkling of Wonder

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/1/2008

     I am a Calvinist. No, better to say that I am a rabid Calvinist. I am the son of a Calvinist. My spiritual grandfather was the Calvinist’s Calvinist, John Gerstner. When I consider my own theological education, I divide it into three equal parts. First, I was raised by R.C. Sproul. Calvinism not only runs in our blood, but it gave the savor to our soup. It was the spice in our stew. The ghost of John Calvin haunted my home, and for that I give thanks. Second, I studied theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. There, all my professors were required to affirm their commitment to Calvinism as a prerequisite for their employment. Third, as a boy, with the able aid of my pastor, I studied The Westminster Shorter Catechism: For Study Classes for Study Groups, by G. I. Williamson. It was there that the pieces fell into place.

     When I was in high school, while others were souping up their cars or lining up their dates for Saturday night, I was in my room, reading Calvinists. My children are Calvinists, and I pray their children will be Calvinists as well. Yet, if I am honest and consider those men who have most shaped my own thinking, right after my father and John Gerstner, there stands “Jack,” C.S. Lewis. How could such a fervent Calvinist be shaped by someone from the other side?

     One might expect that the answer would be Mere Christianity. In that important work from Lewis he lays out the importance of not appending sundry appellations to our Christianity. We ought not be vegetarian-Christians or Libertarian-Christians. We ought instead to be Christians. It’s a sound enough point, as long as we understand the wisdom of Spurgeon, that Calvinism isn’t the icing on the cake of Christianity, but is the substance of it. Still, this isn’t why Lewis, despite not being a Calvinist, has had such a profound influence on me. Truth be told, and while I am loathe to cause this great man to spin in his grave, I love Lewis, despite the painfully obvious truth that he was not a Calvinist, because I am a Calvinist.

     The great thing about Calvinism, rightly understood, is not its emphasis on the sovereignty of God. That instead is but a symptom of a previous commitment. Calvinism, as a system, emphasizes the gap between God and man. It is a system of thought that affirms that God is God and that we are merely men. It is a system that seeks always to awaken as many people as possible to the holiness of God.

     Somehow, some way, Lewis, escaped becoming a Calvinist, while his life’s work was committed to this great, fundamental Calvinist truth, that God is God and that we are not. The center of his theology was not the sovereignty of God. It was instead, perhaps slightly more at the center of reality, the wonder of God.

     Lewis builds an entire world around the wonder of God in his Chronicles of Narnia. There we discover that Alsan is not a tame lion, that he has not only consumed little girls but has consumed whole cities of children. There we witness creation as it truly was, not a marvelous feat of modernist engineering, but the fruit of beauty, the result of a song. There we come to discern the relationship of life on earth, as it is in heaven, as the Pevensies move further up and further in, at the “beginning” of the story.

     We are taught the transcendence of God in The Abolition of Man. There we learn, long before any of us were even aware of post-modernism, that the great evil at work behind this world view is false — beauty is not in the eye of the beholder; rather, it is the manifestation of the very character of God. In That Hideous Strength, the final chapter of the Space Trilogy, we see the battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman as it really is, a battle between officious pettiness masquerading as world-changing power and humble service as the true linchpin of human history.

     We find the same principle at work in The Great Divorce, an allegorical tale of the intersection of heaven and hell. There we discover the soft reality that reality is more solid, more substantial than the folly of the world around us. We discern, as we do in The Screwtape Letters, the foolishness of folly, and why and how we always seem to fall for it.

     In the end the message is simple enough — God is God, and we are not. We will not enter the kingdom of God until we learn to do so not as theological scientists, but as children. The secret of spiritual maturity, according to Jesus, is learning to be like children. When we come to Narnia, therefore, we do not come as more sophisticated versions of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, but as more jaded versions, who must learn from our spiritual betters — children.

     Lewis was not a Calvinist, though by God’s grace he is one now. He was instead a grown child who can lead us into the maturity of childhood. He was gifted by God to gift us in this way — he teaches us to be as children, that we might enter into the kingdom of God. He reminds us that God is God and that we are not. He reminds us that our response to this truth ought not to be mere theological speculation, but mere Christianity — crying out to our Father to have mercy on us, miserable sinners, and rejoicing that He has done so in Christ. He reminds us that this is how we move further up and further in.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Numbers 28; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19-20; 2 Peter 1

By Don Carson 5/19/2018

     One of the features of the Psalms that describe the enthronement of a Davidic king, or the reign of a Davidic king, is how often the language goes “over the top.” This feature combines with the built-in Davidic typology to give these Psalms a twin focus. On the one hand, they can be read as somewhat extravagant descriptions of one of the Davidic kings (in this case Solomon, according to the superscription); on the other, they invite the reader to anticipate something more than a David or a Solomon or a Josiah.

     So it is in Psalm 72. On the one hand, the Davidic monarch was to rule in justice, and it is entirely appropriate that so much of the Psalm is devoted to this theme. In particular, he is to take the part of the afflicted, “the children of the needy” (Ps. 72:4), those “who have no one to help” (72:12). He is to oppose the oppressor and the victimizer, establishing justice and stability, and rescuing those who would otherwise suffer oppression and violence (72:14). His reign is to be characterized by prosperity, which is itself “the fruit of righteousness” (72:3 — a point the West is rapidly forgetting). Gold will flow into the country, the people will pray for their monarch; grain will abound throughout the land (72:15-16).

     On the other hand, some of the language is wonderfully extravagant. Some of this is in line with the way other ancient Near Eastern kings were extolled. Nevertheless, combined with the Davidic typology and the rising messianic expectation, it is difficult not to overhear something more specific. “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (72:5) — which may be true of the dynasty, or may be an extravagant wish for some purely human Davidic king, but is literally true of only one Davidic king. “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River (i.e., the Euphrates) to the ends of the earth” (72:8) — which contains a lovely ambiguity. Are the “seas” no more than the Mediterranean and Galilee? Should the Hebrew be translated (as it might be) more conservatively to read “the end of the land”? But surely not. For not only will “the desert tribes” (i.e., from adjacent lands) bow before him, but the kings of Tarshish — Spain! — and of other distant lands will bring tribute to him (72:9-10). Moreover: “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (72:11). “All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed” (72:17) — as clear an echo of the Abrahamic covenant as one can imagine (Gen. 12:2-3).

     One greater than Solomon has come (Matt. 12:42).

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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:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 51

Create In Me A Clean Heart
51 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, When Nathan The Prophet Went To Him, After He Had Gone In To Bathsheba.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     14. But no sober person will deny that the regular mode of lawful calling is, that bishops should be designated by men, since there are numerous passages of Scripture to this effect. Nor, as has been said, is there anything contrary to this in Paul's protestation, that he was not sent either of man, or by man, seeing he is not there speaking of the ordinary election of ministers, but claiming for himself what was peculiar to the apostles: although the Lord in thus selecting Paul by special privilege, subjected him in the meantime to the discipline of an ecclesiastical call: for Luke relates, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2). Why this separation and laying on of hands after the Holy Spirit had attested their election, unless that ecclesiastical discipline might be preserved in appointing ministers by men? God could not give a more illustrious proof of his approbation of this order, than by causing Paul to be set apart by the Church after he had previously declared that he had appointed him to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. The same thing we may see in the election of Matthias. As the apostolic office was of such importance that they did not venture to appoint any one to it of their own judgment, they bring forward two, on one of whom the lot might fall, that thus the election might have a sure testimony from heaven, and, at the same time, the policy of the Church might not be disregarded.

15. The next question is, Whether a minister should be chosen by the whole Church, or only by colleagues and elders, who have the charge of discipline; or whether they may be appointed by the authority of one individual? [546] Those who attribute this right to one individual quote the words of Paul to Titus "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city" (Tit. 1:5); and also to Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man" (l Tim. 5:22). But they are mistaken if they suppose that Timothy so reigned at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, as to dispose of all things at their own pleasure. They only presided by previously giving good and salutary counsels to the people, not by doing alone whatever pleased them, while all others were excluded. Lest this should seem to be a fiction of mine, I will make it plain by a similar example. Luke relates that Barnabas and Paul ordained elders throughout the churches, but he at the same time marks the plan or mode when he says that it was done by suffrage. The words are, Cheirotone'santes presbute'rous kat' ekklesi'an (Acts 14:23). They therefore selected (creabant) two; but the whole body, as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates, for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church. Rightly, therefore, does Cyprian contend for it as of divine authority, that the priest be chosen in presence of the people, before the eyes of all, and be approved as worthy and fit by public judgment and testimony, (Cyprian, Lib. 1 Ep. 3). Indeed, we see that by the command of the Lord, the practice in electing the Levitical priests was to bring them forward in view of the people before consecration. Nor is Matthias enrolled among the number of the apostles, nor are the seven deacons elected in any other way, than at the sight and approval of the people (Acts 6:2). "Those examples," says Cyprian, "show that the ordination of a priest behoved not to take place, unless under the consciousness of the people assisting, so that ordination was just and legitimate which was vouched by the testimony of all." We see, then, that ministers are legitimately called according to the word of God, when those who may have seemed fit are elected on the consent and approbation of the people. Other pastors, however, ought to preside over the election, lest any error should be committed by the general body either through levity, or bad passion, or tumult.

16. It remains to consider the form of ordination, to which we have assigned the last place in the call (see chap. 4, sec. 14, 15). It is certain, that when the apostles appointed any one to the ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. This form was derived, I think, from the custom of the Jews, who, by the laying on of hands, in a manner presented to God whatever they wished to be blessed and consecrated. Thus Jacob, when about to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, placed his hands upon their heads (Gen. 48:14). The same thing was done by our Lord, when he prayed over the little children (Mt. 19:15). With the same intent (as I imagine), the Jews, according to the injunction of the law, laid hands upon their sacrifices. Wherefore, the apostles, by the laying on of hands, intimated that they made an offering to God of him whom they admitted to the ministry; though they also did the same thing over those on whom they conferred the visible gifts of the Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6). However this be, it was the regular form, whenever they called any one to the sacred ministry. In this way they consecrated pastors and teachers; in this way they consecrated deacons. But though there is no fixed precept concerning the laying on of hands, yet as we see that it was uniformly observed by the apostles, this careful observance ought to be regarded by us in the light of a precept (see chap. 14, sec. 20; chap. 19, sec. 31). And it is certainly useful, that by such a symbol the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church. Besides, it will not prove an empty sign, if it be restored to its genuine origin. For if the Spirit of God has not instituted anything in the Church in vain, this ceremony of his appointment we shall feel not to be useless, provided it be not superstitiously abused. Lastly, it is to observed, that it was not the whole people, but only pastors, who laid hands on ministers, though it is uncertain whether or not several always laid their hands: it is certain, that in the case of the deacons, it was done by Paul and Barnabas, and some few others (Acts 6:6; 13:3). But in another place, Paul mentions that he himself, without any others, laid hands on Timothy. "Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6). For what is said in the First Epistle, of the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, I do not understand as if Paul were speaking of the college of Elders. By the expression, I understand the ordination itself; as if he had said, Act so, that the gift which you received by the laying on of hands, when I made you a presbyter, may not be in vain.

__________________________________________________________________

[542] Latin, "quasi vicariam operam."--French, "les faisans comme ses lieutenans;"--making them as it were his substitutes.

[543] See on this subject August. de Doctrina Christiana, Lib. 1

[544] Latin, "senatum."--French, "conseil ou consistoire;"--council or consistory.

[545] Luke 21:15; 24:49; Mark 6:15; Acts 1 8; 1 Tim. 5:22.

[546] See chap. 4 sec. 10, 11; chap. 5 sec. 2, 3. Also Calv. in Acts 6:3, and Luther, tom. 2 p 374.

__________________________________________________________________

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


  • 2 Cor 5
  • Nature of Saving Faith
  • Atonement of Christ

#1 Sinclair Ferguson   Ligonier

 

#2 Sinclair Ferguson   Ligonier

 

#3 Sinclair Ferguson   Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2009    A Sower Went Out To Sow

     Church historian Mark Noll writes, “In many ways, the defining figure in the history of American evangelicalism is the eighteenth-century revivalist George Whitefield.” Prior to America’s declaration of independence from England, the Calvinist preacher from England turned the colonies upside down and led America to its knees in the First Great Awakening. Whitefield’s passionate preaching drew crowds in the tens of thousands as townspeople went to the fields.

     Trusting the Lord to provide the increase of repentance and faith, Whitefield planted and watered with the seed of the outward call of the gospel, neither tickling the ears nor reconciling the impenitent, and going so far to say, “It is a poor sermon that gives no offense — that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”

     In 1739, during his first of seven trips to the colonies, Whitefield caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin, who penned the following in his memoirs: “The multitudes … that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem’d as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”

     From London to Boston, Whitefield lifted up his eyes and saw the fields that were white for harvest (John 4:35). He preached the Word in season and out of season before the face of God, before the faces of his English countrymen, and before the very faces of those who fought for America’s independence from England. With liberty and mercy for all those who had ears to hear, the gospel took root in the fertile hearts of many, except, it seems, in the heart of Benjamin Franklin who admitted, Whitefield used “to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.”

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Invincible Spanish Armada sailed off this day, May 19, 1588, to conquer England. Queen Elizabeth relied on Sir Francis Drake, who used smaller, faster vessels and ingeniously sent burning ships at midnight downwind where the Spaniards were anchored, dispersing them in a panic. Aided by gale force winds half the Spanish fleet was wrecked. Had England lost, there would have been no Pilgrims, no New England, and no United States. A coin minted after the event showed ships sinking and men kneeling under the inscription "Man Proposeth, God Disposeth."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

"What do you think of God," the teacher asked.
After a pause, the young pupil replied,
"He's not a think, he's a feel."
--- Paul Frost
In God's Care: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery (Hazelden Meditation Series)

I feel most ministers who claim they've heard God's voice
are eating too much pizza before they go to bed at night,
and it's really an intestinal disorder, not a revelation.
--- Rev. Jerry Falwel
In God's Care: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery (Hazelden Meditation Series)

If you serve only to earn a salary, you will never do your best as long as you think you’re underpaid. If you minister to get recognition, you will start doing less when people don’t show their appreciation. The only motivation that will take you through the storms and keep you on the job is, ‘I’m serving Jesus Christ.’
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
On Being a Servant of God

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
--- Aristotle
Complete Works of Aristotle, Vol. 1

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis


               Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Eleventh Chapter / Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion

     The Disciple

     O MOST sweet Lord Jesus, how great is the happiness of the devout soul that feasts upon You at Your banquet, where there is set before her to be eaten no other food but Yourself alone, her only Lover, most desired of all that her heart can desire!

     To me it would be happiness, indeed, to shed tears in Your presence from the innermost depths of love, and like the pious Magdalen to wash Your feet with them. But where now is this devotion, this copious shedding of holy tears? Certainly in Your sight, before Your holy angels, my whole heart ought to be inflamed and weep for joy. For, hidden though You are beneath another form, I have You truly present in the Sacrament.

     My eyes could not bear to behold You in Your own divine brightness, nor could the whole world stand in the splendor of the glory of Your majesty. In veiling Yourself in the Sacrament, therefore, You have regard for my weakness.

     In truth, I possess and adore Him Whom the angels adore in heaven—I as yet by faith, they face to face unveiled. I must be content with the light of the true faith and walk in it until the day of eternal brightness dawns and the shadow of figures passes away. When, moreover, that which is perfect shall have come, the need of sacraments shall cease, for the blessed in heavenly glory need no healing sacrament. Rejoicing endlessly in the presence of God, beholding His glory face to face, transformed from their own brightness to the brightness of the ineffable Deity, they taste the Word of God made flesh, as He was in the beginning and will remain in eternity.

     Though mindful of these wonderful things, every spiritual solace becomes wearisome to me because so long as I do not plainly see the Lord in His glory, I consider everything I hear and see on earth of little account.

     You are my witness, O God, that nothing can comfort me, no creature give me rest but You, my God, Whom I desire to contemplate forever. But this is not possible while I remain in mortal life, and, therefore, I must be very patient and submit myself to You in every desire.

     Even Your saints, O Lord, who now rejoice with You in the kingdom of heaven, awaited the coming of Your glory with faith and great patience while they lived. What they believed, I believe. What they hoped for, I hope for, and whither they arrived, I trust I shall come by Your grace. Meanwhile I will walk in faith, strengthened by the example of the saints. I shall have, besides, for comfort and for the guidance of my life, the holy Books, and above all these, Your most holy Body for my special haven and refuge.

     I feel there are especially necessary for me in this life two things without which its miseries would be unbearable. Confined here in this prison of the body I confess I need these two, food and light. Therefore, You have given me in my weakness Your sacred Flesh to refresh my soul and body, and You have set Your word as the guiding light for my feet. Without them I could not live aright, for the word of God is the light of my soul and Your Sacrament is the Bread of Life.

     These also may be called the two tables, one here, one there, in the treasure house of holy Church. One is the table of the holy altar, having the holy Bread that is the precious Body of Christ. The other is the table of divine law, containing holy doctrine that teaches all the true faith and firmly leads them within the veil, the Holy of holies.

     Thanks to You, Lord Jesus, Light of eternal light, for the table of Your holy teaching which You have prepared for us by Your servants, the prophets and Apostles and other learned men.

     Thanks to You, Creator and Redeemer of men, Who, to declare Your love to all the world, have prepared a great supper in which You have placed before us as food not the lamb, the type of Yourself, but Your own most precious Body and Blood, making all the faithful glad in Your sacred banquet, intoxicating them with the chalice of salvation in which are all the delights of paradise; and the holy angels feast with us but with more happiness and sweetness.

     Oh, how great and honorable is the office of the priest, to whom is given the consecration of the Lord of majesty in sacred words, whose lips bless Him, whose hands hold Him, whose tongue receives Him, and whose ministry it is to bring Him to others!

     Oh, how clean those hands should be, how pure the lips, how sanctified the body, how immaculate the heart of the priest to whom the Author of all purity so often comes. No word but what is holy, none but what is good and profitable ought to come from the lips of the priest who so often receives the Sacrament of Christ. Single and modest should be the eyes accustomed to looking upon the Body of Christ. Pure and lifted up to heaven the hands accustomed to handle the Creator of heaven and earth. To priests above all it is written in the law: “Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

     Let Your grace, almighty God, assist us, that we who have undertaken the office of the priesthood may serve You worthily and devoutly in all purity and with a good conscience. And if we cannot live as innocently as we ought, grant us at least to lament duly the wrongs we have committed and in the spirit of humility and the purpose of a good will to serve You more fervently in the future.

The Imitation Of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     BOOK I.

     Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Seven Years.
From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Antiochus Epiphanes,
To The Death Of Herod The Great.

     CHAPTER 1.

     How The City Jerusalem Was Taken, And The Temple Pillaged

     [By Antiochus Epiphanes]. As Also Concerning The Actions Of The Maccabees, Matthias And Judas; And Concerning The Death Of Judas.

     1. At the same time that Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, had a quarrel with the sixth Ptolemy about his right to the whole country of Syria, a great sedition fell among the men of power in Judea, and they had a contention about obtaining the government; while each of those that were of dignity could not endure to be subject to their equals. However, Onias, one of the high priests, got the better, and cast the sons of Tobias out of the city; who fled to Antiochus, and besought him to make use of them for his leaders, and to make an expedition into Judea. The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months. But Onias, the high priest, fled to Ptolemy, and received a place from him in the Nomus of Heliopolis, where he built a city resembling Jerusalem, and a temple that was like its temple 1 concerning which we shall speak more in its proper place hereafter.

     2. Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city, or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. Bacchides also, who was sent to keep the fortresses, having these wicked commands, joined to his own natural barbarity, indulged all sorts of the extremest wickedness, and tormented the worthiest of the inhabitants, man by man, and threatened their city every day with open destruction, till at length he provoked the poor sufferers by the extremity of his wicked doings to avenge themselves.

     3. Accordingly Matthias, the son of Asamoneus, one of the priests who lived in a village called Modin, armed himself, together with his own family, which had five sons of his in it, and slew Bacchides with daggers; and thereupon, out of the fear of the many garrisons [of the enemy], he fled to the mountains; and so many of the people followed him, that he was encouraged to come down from the mountains, and to give battle to Antiochus's generals, when he beat them, and drove them out of Judea. So he came to the government by this his success, and became the prince of his own people by their own free consent, and then died, leaving the government to Judas, his eldest son.

     4. Now Judas, supposing that Antiochus would not lie still, gathered an army out of his own countrymen, and was the first that made a league of friendship with the Romans, and drove Epiphanes out of the country when he had made a second expedition into it, and this by giving him a great defeat there; and when he was warmed by this great success, he made an assault upon the garrison that was in the city, for it had not been cut off hitherto; so he ejected them out of the upper city, and drove the soldiers into the lower, which part of the city was called the Citadel. He then got the temple under his power, and cleansed the whole place, and walled it round about, and made new vessels for sacred ministrations, and brought them into the temple, because the former vessels had been profaned. He also built another altar, and began to offer the sacrifices; and when the city had already received its sacred constitution again, Antiochus died; whose son Antiochus succeeded him in the kingdom, and in his hatred to the Jews also.

     5. So this Antiochus got together fifty thousand footmen, and five thousand horsemen, and fourscore elephants, and marched through Judea into the mountainous parts. He then took Bethsura, which was a small city; but at a place called Bethzacharis, where the passage was narrow, Judas met him with his army. However, before the forces joined battle, Judas's brother Eleazar, seeing the very highest of the elephants adorned with a large tower, and with military trappings of gold to guard him, and supposing that Antiochus himself was upon him, he ran a great way before his own army, and cutting his way through the enemy's troops, he got up to the elephant; yet could he not reach him who seemed to be the king, by reason of his being so high; but still he ran his weapon into the belly of the beast, and brought him down upon himself, and was crushed to death, having done no more than attempted great things, and showed that he preferred glory before life. Now he that governed the elephant was but a private man; and had he proved to be Antiochus, Eleazar had performed nothing more by this bold stroke than that it might appear he chose to die, when he had the bare hope of thereby doing a glorious action; nay, this disappointment proved an omen to his brother [Judas] how the entire battle would end. It is true that the Jews fought it out bravely for a long time, but the king's forces, being superior in number, and having fortune on their side, obtained the victory. And when a great many of his men were slain, Judas took the rest with him, and fled to the toparchy of Gophna. So Antiochus went to Jerusalem, and staid there but a few days, for he wanted provisions, and so he went his way. He left indeed a garrison behind him, such as he thought sufficient to keep the place, but drew the rest of his army off, to take their winter-quarters in Syria.

     6. Now, after the king was departed, Judas was not idle; for as many of his own nation came to him, so did he gather those that had escaped out of the battle together, and gave battle again to Antiochus's generals at a village called Adasa; and being too hard for his enemies in the battle, and killing a great number of them, he was at last himself slain also. Nor was it many days afterward that his brother John had a plot laid against him by Antiochus's party, and was slain by them.


          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 17:9-10
     by D.H. Stern


9     He who conceals an offense promotes love,
but he who harps on it can separate even close friends.

10     A rebuke makes more impression on a person of understanding
than a hundred blows on a fool.


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

                “Out of the wreck I rise”

     Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
--- Romans 8:35.

     God does not keep a man immune from trouble; He says—“I will be with him in trouble.” It does not matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can separate him from his relationship to God. We are “more than conquerors in all these things.” Paul is not talking of imaginary things, but of things that are desperately actual; and he says we are super-victors in the midst of them, not by our ingenuity, or by our courage, or by anything other than the fact that not one of them affects our relationship to God in Jesus Christ. Rightly or wrongly, we are where we are, exactly in the condition we are in. I am sorry for the Christian who has not something in his circumstances he wishes was not there.

     “Shall tribulation …?” Tribulation is never a noble thing; but let tribulation be what it may—exhausting, galling, fatiguing, it is not able to separate us from the love of God. Never let cares or tribulations separate you from the fact that God loves you.

     “Shall anguish …?”—can God’s love hold when everything says that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?

     “Shall famine …?”—can we not only believe in the love of God but be more than conquerors, even while we are being starved?

     Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are all against God’s character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it—the love of God in Christ Jesus. “Out of the wreck I rise” every time.


My Utmost for His Highest

On The Farm
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               On The Farm

Beasts rearing from green slime—
  an illiterate country, unable to read
  its own name. Stones moved into position
  on the hills’ sides; snakes laid their eggs
  in their cold shadow. The earth suffered
  the sky’s shrapnel, bled yellow

There was Dai Puw. He was no good.
  They put him in the fields to dock swedes,
  And took the knife from him, when he came home
  At late Evening with a grin
  Like the slash of a knife on his face.

There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
  Every Evening after the ploughing
  With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
  And stare into the tangled fire garden,
  Opening his slow lips like a snail.

There was Huw Puw, too. What shall I say?
  I have heard him whistling in the hedges
  On and on, as though winter
  Would never again leave those fields,
  And all the trees were deformed.

And lastly there was the girl;
  Beauty under some spell of the beast.
  Her pale face was the lantern
  By which they read in life’s dark book
  The shrill sentence: God is love.


Selected Poems, 1946-68

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Sanhedrin 44a

     D’RASH

     "Let the mouth of another praise you, not yours" (Proverbs 27:2). Thus, we are not allowed to lavish praise on ourselves. Yet, Jewish law frowns upon self-deprecation as well. It is not only wrong but also unbecoming and improper for us to put ourselves at a disadvantage. The concern we show for others, especially for our relatives, must also be shown to ourselves. This is the traditional interpretation of "a person is related to himself."

     Our text reminds us that we have to watch out for ourselves in a positive sense. In American jurisprudence, there is a similar concept in the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Our assumptions about a person who "pleads the Fifth" are negative; that person is guilty, and the constitutional immunity protected that individual from self-incrimination. However, there is a very positive side to the Fifth Amendment, as well as to our rule that "a person is related to himself." Even a guilty individual is protected by the Fifth Amendment from lying and thus compounding the wrong.

     As much as we have to attend to the needs of others, those entrusted to our care, we also have to think of the needs of the caregivers, ourselves. How often have we seen a devoted mother strap her child in an automobile seat belt yet not put one on herself? Isn't that mother "related to herself"? Shouldn't she show the same concern for her child's mother as she shows for her child? Similarly, we buy our children new clothes for a special occasion but deny ourselves that luxury. Aren't we "related to ourselves"? We consider it important for our parents to concern themselves with health and medicine, but not for us to do the same. Or we make sure that our children have a religious education, but then somehow cannot find the time for one ourselves. All that we desire for those closest to us, all the positives that we do for them and promote in them, we have to do for ourselves as well, for "a person is related to himself," that is, we are our own first and primary relatives.

     "Love your neighbor as yourself" is usually interpreted in Jewish sources as meaning "Only if you love yourself can you love your neighbor." Rava's words are not intended to justify excessive narcissism or self-indulgence. Rather, they should prevent self-martyrdom. Each of us who cares for relatives must begin that concern with the one who is most closely related—himself or herself.

     Even though he sinned, he is still "Israel."

     Text / "Israel has sinned!" [Joshua 7:11]. Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said: "Even though he sinned, he is still 'Israel.' " Rabbi Abba said: "This is as people say, 'A myrtle that stands among the willows is still a myrtle, and a myrtle it is called.' "

     Context / Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, pay honor to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make confession to Him. Tell me what you have done; do not hold anything back from me." Achan answered Joshua, "It is true, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I did: I saw among the spoil a fine Shinar mantle, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, and I coveted them and took them." … And Joshua said, "What calamity you have brought upon us! The Lord will bring calamity upon you this day." And all Israel pelted him with stones. (Joshua 7:19–21, 25)

     Before leading the Israelites into battle against the city of Jericho, Joshua had warned the people not to take spoils of war. "If you take anything from that which is proscribed, you will cause the camp of Israel to be proscribed; you will bring calamity upon it" (Joshua 6:18). One man, Achan son of Carmi of the tribe of Judah, took some of the forbidden items for himself. When the Israelites next went to war against the town of Ai, they suffered a terrible defeat. Joshua complained to God: "Why did You lead this people across the Jordan only to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to be destroyed by them?" (Joshua 7:7). God answered: "Israel has sinned! They have broken the covenant by which I bound them. They have taken of the proscribed" (Joshua 7:11).

     The Rabbis noted God's use of the term Israel here. (Rashi, in his commentary, points out that we might have expected God to say "The people have sinned.") Since Israel is a name of honor, the question is raised why God would use this particular name even when the context refers to a dishonorable act. The answer is that even when the people do wrong, even when they commit a sin, they still retain the honor and uniqueness that the name Israel carries with it.

     A folk saying is brought to support this concept. The myrtle is a beautiful and fragrant shrub with rich green leaves. Even when surrounded by the ordinary willow (as during the festival of Sukkot, when the palm branch of the lulav has myrtle and willow branches attached to it), the myrtle stands out and maintains its uniqueness and its name. Just as the myrtle is always a myrtle, no matter where or when, so too the people of Israel always remain "Israel" no matter where or when.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Years of Persecution: 1 Samuel 23–31
     Teacher's Commentary

     The years following David's flight were agonizing ones. Saul, determined to kill David and establish a dynasty, pursued him. Cities which David helped to deliver from Israel's enemies were quick to betray their deliverer to Saul to gain the king's favor! The continual strain began to tell on the young leader; at times David knew deep despair and despondency.

     The tremendous stress on David and his response to it are illustrated in the events recorded in 1 Samuel 26–27. Saul received a report of David's latest hiding place and rushed there with 3,000 men. The army camped near David; that night he and Abishai, a follower, eluded the sentries and stood over their sleeping enemy. Able to kill Saul with the king's own spear, David refused. God had chosen Saul. As God's anointed, Saul could not be murdered and the killer remain guiltless. God Himself had to depose Saul, in His own time. David disciplined himself to wait.

     The next Morning David stood on a nearby mountain crag and shouted down to Saul and his general, Abner. He showed them Saul's spear which he had taken away to demonstrate that he could have killed the sleeping king. Saul, admitting he was wrong, blessed David and stopped his pursuit. But this change of heart was only temporary, and David knew it would be!

     Immediately after David's inner victory over what must have been a terrible temptation, David thought, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul"
(1 Sam. 27:1). As is often the case with us, victory was followed by an emotional letdown. David was in despair.

     In his despondency, David fled to the land of Israel's enemies, the Philistines. He was given a city by one Philistine lord, and from that city he and his men raided distant countries. David let the Philistines believe that his forays were against Israel. Soon David was viewed as a trusted servant of Achish, lord of the city of Gath.

     Psalm 142 tells something of David's feelings during the time he hid from Saul and lived under the strain of constant persecution and pursuit. Reading this psalm today, we can sense the inner turmoil that David felt at this critical time. And we can see feelings reflected that we ourselves have known in times of stress.

   I cry aloud to the Lord;
   I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
   I pour out my complaint before Him;
   before Him I tell my trouble.
   When my spirit grows faint within me,
   it is You who knows my way.
   In the path where I walk
   men have hidden a snare for me.
   Look to my right and see;
   no one is concerned for me.
   I have no refuge;
   no one cares for my life.
   I cry to You, O Lord;
   I say, "You are my refuge,
   my portion in the land of the living."
   Listen to my cry,
   for I am in desperate need;
   rescue me from those who pursue me,
   for they are too strong for me.
   Set me free from my prison,
   that I may praise Your name.
   Then the righteous will gather about me
   because of Your goodness to me.
   ---Psalm 142


The Teacher's Commentary

Judaism in the Diaspora
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     ERICH S. GRUEN

     A Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. For the Jews of antiquity the loss of the Temple not only constituted a devastating blow but signaled an enduring trauma. The reverberations of that event still resonate. The day of the Temple’s destruction, which, by a quirk of fate or (more probably) fabrication, coincides with that on which Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians six and a half centuries earlier, continues to receive annual commemoration in Israel. For many it shaped the consciousness of the Jewish Diaspora through the centuries to follow. The eradication of the center that had given meaning and definition to the nation’s identity obliged Jews to alter their sights, accommodate to a displaced existence, and rethink their own heritage in the context of alien surroundings.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 19

     One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?” --- Ruth 3:1.

     The second of the two notable words in this chapter is goel. ( The Book of Ruth (A Devotional Commentary) ) Like the word menuchah, it has a history in the Hebrew conception of the Messiah. According to its derivation, goel means “one who unlooses”—unlooses that which has been bound and restores it to its original position. Boaz was among the goelim of Naomi and Ruth.

     We learn from the Pentateuch that there were three tragic contingencies in which the legal redeemer and avenger was bound to interpose—each of which was of much more frequent occurrence than the case recorded in the book of Ruth.

     The Forfeited Inheritance. If an Israelite had sold his estate or any part of it, any of his near kin who was able to do so was commanded to purchase it, but when the trumpets announced the year of Jubilee, it reverted to its original owner.

     Of whom can the Israelite alienated from his original inheritance be the type but of fallen humanity? All things were ours, but by our sin, we put them all into the hands of the Adversary, so that through our sin, the whole creation has been brought under the shadows of decay. And who can the Goel be but that divine Kinsman—bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh—who has redeemed and restored the inheritance we had forfeited? All things are made ours by his grace—if we are his—and when the trumpet will sound Jubilee, even the creation will be delivered from imperfection, out of “bondage to decay… into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

     The Forfeited Liberty. To discharge a debt or to save himself from the last extremities of want, a Hebrew might sell himself either to a stranger or another Israelite. If he sold himself to an Israelite, he was treated not as a slave but as a hired servant and became free [in] the year of Jubilee. But if he sold himself to a foreigner, he became a slave, and in that case any of his kinsmen was permitted to interpose and to pay the price of his redemption.

     The human race was sold under sin, led captive at the will of an alien and adverse spirit. Our freedom was gone; we were in bondage. And Christ has proved himself our Goel by giving himself a ransom for all, by redeeming us with his own precious blood.
--- Samuel Cox


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

On This Day
     The Earthquake Synod  May 19

     “God is our … fortress,” says Psalm 46. “And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble. … ” The trembling of the earth may even reassure God’s children of his power, as happened on this day, St. Dunstan’s Day, May 19, 1382. St. Dunstan’s Day is named for the British politician who, having slighted the king, found himself banished to a monastery in Belgium. There he committed himself to Christ’s cause, eventually returning to England and becoming archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan died May 19, 988.

     Three hundred years later another archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenay, held sway. Courtenay, powerful and headstrong, raged against Oxford professor John Wycliffe, who criticized church teaching. Wycliffe believed the head of the church to be Christ, not the pope. He opposed selling indulgences and warned against superstitions associated with the Mass. We are saved, he said, by faith in Christ, Scripture alone being our authority. He pre-Luthered Luther, and thus is called The Morning Star of the Reformation.

     Courtenay tried repeatedly to convict Wycliffe, but the popular professor always bested him. Finally Courtenay summoned a special committee to examine Wycliffe’s teachings, to condemn and destroy the Bible teacher. John Foxe tells the story: Here is not to be passed over the great miracle of God … for when the archbishop with other doctors of divinity and lawyers, with a great company of babbling friars and religious persons, were gathered together to consult touching Wycliffe’s books, when they were gathered in London to begin their business on St. Dunstan’s day, after dinner, about two of the clock, the very hour and instant that they should go forward, a wonderful and terrible earthquake fell throughout all England: whereupon divers of them, being affrighted, thought it good to leave off from their determinate purpose.

     Wycliffe later declared that the Lord sent the earthquake “because the friars had put heresy upon Christ. The earth trembled as it did when Christ was damned to bodily death.” Wycliffe, however, didn’t tremble when the earth did, for God was his fortress. But the archbishop’s meeting has ever since been known in English history as the Earthquake Synod.

     God is our mighty fortress,
     Always ready to help in times of trouble.
     And so, we won’t be afraid!
     Let the earth tremble
     And the mountains tumble into the deepest sea.
     --- Psalm 46:1,2.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 19

     “I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” --- Ecclesiastes 10:7.

     Upstarts frequently usurp the highest places, while the truly great pine in obscurity. This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright; but it is so common a fact, that none of us should murmur if it should fall to our own lot. When our Lord was upon earth, although he is the Prince of the kings of the earth, yet he walked the footpath of weariness and service as the Servant of servants: what wonder is it if his followers, who are princes of the blood, should also be looked down upon as inferior and contemptible persons? The world is upside down, and therefore, the first are last and the last first. See how the servile sons of Satan lord it in the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they lift up their horn on high! Haman is in the court, while Mordecai sits in the gate; David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state; Elijah is complaining in the cave while Jezebel is boasting in the palace; yet who would wish to take the places of the proud rebels? and who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints? When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.

     Let us not fall into the error of letting our passions and carnal appetites ride in triumph, while our nobler powers walk in the dust. Grace must reign as a prince, and make the members of the body instruments of righteousness. The Holy Spirit loves order, and he therefore sets our powers and faculties in due rank and place, giving the highest room to those spiritual faculties which link us with the great King; let us not disturb the divine arrangement, but ask for grace that we may keep under our body and bring it into subjection. We were not new created to allow our passions to rule over us, but that we, as kings, may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of spirit, soul, and body, to the glory of God the Father.


          Evening - May 19

     “And he requested for himself that he might die.” --- 1 Kings 19:4.

     It was a remarkable thing that the man who was never to die, for whom God had ordained an infinitely better lot, the man who should be carried to heaven in a chariot of fire, and be translated, that he should not see death—should thus pray, “Let me die, I am no better than my fathers.” We have here a memorable proof that God does not always answer prayer in kind, though he always does in effect. He gave Elias something better than that which he asked for, and thus really heard and answered him. Strange was it that the lion-hearted Elijah should be so depressed by Jezebel’s threat as to ask to die, and blessedly kind was it on the part of our heavenly Father that he did not take his desponding servant at his word. There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss. If we ask for that which is not promised—if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate—if we ask contrary to his will, or to the decrees of his providence—if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to his glory, we must not expect that we shall receive. Yet, when we ask in faith, nothing doubting, if we receive not the precise thing asked for, we shall receive an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for it. As one remarks, “If the Lord does not pay in silver, he will in gold; and if he does not pay in gold, he will in diamonds.” If he does not give you precisely what you ask for, he will give you that which is tantamount to it, and that which you will greatly rejoice to receive in lieu thereof. Be then, dear reader, much in prayer, and make this Evening a season of earnest intercession, but take heed what you ask.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 19

          GRACIOUS SPIRIT, DWELL WITH ME

     Thomas T. Lynch, 1818–1871

     I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you … and I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees. (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)

     An awareness and knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s ministries is most important for every believer. Note briefly these ten specific ministries:

•   Teaches truths about God and reveals Christ
     --- (John 16:12–15).
•   Convicts us of wrong doing
     --- (John 16:8–11).
•   Regenerates and renews us
     --- (Titus 3:5).
•   Baptizes or places us into the body of Christ
     --- (1 Corinthians 12:13).
•   Gives assurance of our salvation
     --- (Romans 8:16).
•   Indwells and guides our lives
     --- (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
•   Prays for us
     --- (Romans 8:26).
•   Fills our lives with joy and power
     --- (Ephesians 5:18).
•   Seals and guarantees our eternal promise
     --- (Ephesians 4:30).
•   Distributes gifts to the church
     --- (1 Corinthians 12:1–11).

     In spite of a renewed awareness and appreciation of the Holy Spirit’s ministries within recent years, these is also much theological difference between various groups of believers regarding terminologies and specifics. May we not become so engrossed with our theological differences about the Holy Spirit that we forfeit the practical benefits of living and walking in the Spirit and demonstrating the fruit of a Spirit-filled life to a lost world—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). “Gracious Spirit, Dwell Within Me” also reminds us that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit should make us “gracious,” “truthful,” “mighty,” and “holy.”

     Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be; and with words that help and heal would Thy life in mine reveal; and with actions bold and meek would for Christ my Savior speak.

     Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would truthful be; and with wisdom kind and clear let Thy life in mine appear; and with actions brotherly speak my Lord’s sincerity.

     Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be; mighty so as to prevail where unaided man must fail: ever by a mighty hope pressing on and bearing up.

     Holy Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would holy be; separate from sin, I would choose and cherish all things good, and whatever I can be, give to Him who gave me Thee!


     For Today: Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 5:25; 1 Peter 1:22.

     Since the Holy Spirit is the most neglected and least understood Person of the Godhead, what can you do to help your church bring more attention to the importance of the Holy Spirit and His specific ministries?

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. XXIX. — BUT we will grant you, if you please ‘that they were all saints, that they all had the Spirit, that they all wrought miracles’(which, however, you do not require.) But tell me this — was any one of them made a saint, did any one of them receive the Spirit or work miracles, in the name, or by virtue of “Free-will,” or to confirm the doctrine of “Free-will”? Far be such a thought (you will say,) but in the name, and by virtue of Jesus Christ, and for the confirmation of the doctrine of Christ, all these things were done. Why then do you bring forward the sanctity, the spirit, ‘and the miracles of these, in confirmation of the doctrine of “Free-will,”’ for which they were not wrought and given?

     Their miracles, Spirit, and sanctity, therefore, belong to us who preach Jesus Christ, and not the ability and works of men. And now, what wonder if those who were thus holy, spiritual, and wonderful for miracles, were sometimes under the influence of the flesh, and spoke and wrought according to the flesh; since that happened, not once only, to the very apostles under Christ Himself. For you do not deny, but assert, that “Free-will” does not belong to the Spirit, or to Christ, but is human; so that, the Spirit who is promised to glorify Christ, cannot preach “Free will.” If, therefore, the fathers have at any time preached “Free-will,” they have certainly spoken from the flesh, (seeing they were men,) not from the Spirit of God; much less did they work miracles for its confirmation. Wherefore, your allegation concerning the sanctity, the Spirit, and the miracles of the fathers is nothing to the purpose, because “Free-will” is not proved thereby, but the doctrine of Jesus Christ against the doctrine of “Free-will.”

     But come, shew forth still, you that are on the side of “Free-will,” and assert that a doctrine of this kind is true, that is, that it proceeds from the Spirit of God — shew forth still, I say, the Spirit, still work miracles, still evidence sanctity. Certainly you who make the assertion owe this to us, who deny these things. The Spirit, sanctity, and miracles ought not to be demanded of us who maintain the negative, but from you who assert in the affirmative. The negative proposes nothing, is nothing, and is bound to prove nothing, nor ought to be proved: it is the affirmative that ought to be proved. You assert the power of “Free-will” and the human cause: but no miracle was ever seen or heard of, as proceeding from God, in support of a doctrine of the human cause, only in support of the doctrines of the divine cause. And we are commanded to receive no doctrine whatever, that is not first proved by signs from on high. (Deut. xviii. 15-22.) Nay, the Scripture calls man “vanity,” and “a lie:” which is nothing less than saying, that all human things are vanities and lies. Come forward then! come forward! I say, and prove, that your doctrine, proceeding from human vanity and a lie, is true. Where is now your shewing forth the Spirit! Where is your sanctity! Where are your miracles! I see your talents, your erudition, and your authority; but those things God has given alike unto all the world!

     But however, we will not compel you to work great miracles, nor “to cure a lame horse,” lest you should plead, as an excuse, the carnality of the age. Although God is wont to confirm His doctrines by miracles, without any respect to the carnality of the age: nor is He at all moved, either by the merits or demerits of a carnal age, but by pure mercy and grace, and a love of souls which are to be confirmed, by solid truth, unto their glory. But we give you the choice of working any miracles, as small an one as you please.

     But come! I, in order to irritate your Baal into action, insult, and challenge you to create even one frog, in the name, and by virtue of “Free-will;” of which, the Gentile and impious Magi in Egypt, could create many. I will not put you to the task of creating lice; which, neither could they produce. But I will descend a little lower yet. Take even one flea, or louse, (for you tempt and deride our God by your ‘curing of the lame horse,’) and if, after you have combined all the powers, and concentrated all the efforts both of your god and your advocates, you can, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will,” kill it, you shall be victors; your cause shall be established; and we also will immediately come over and adore that god of yours, that wonderful killer of the louse. Not that I deny, that you could even remove mountains; but it is one thing to say, that a certain thing was done by “Free-will,” and another to prove it.

     And, what I have said concerning miracles, I say also concerning sanctity. — If you can, out of such a series of ages, men, and all the things which you have mentioned, shew forth one work, (if it be but the lifting a straw from the earth,) or one word, (if it be but the syllable MY,) or one thought of “Free-will,” (if it be but the faintest sigh,) by which men applied themselves unto grace, or by which they have merited the Spirit, or by which they have obtained pardon, or by which they have prevailed with God even in the smallest degree, (I say nothing about being sanctified thereby,) again, I say, you shall be victors, and we vanquished; and that, as I repeat, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will.”

     For what things soever are wrought in men by the power of divine creation, are supported by Scripture testimonies in abundance. And certainly, you ought to produce the same: unless you would appear such ridiculous teachers, as to spread abroad throughout the world, with so much arrogance and authority, doctrines concerning that, of which you cannot produce one proof. For such doctrines will be called mere dreams, which are followed by nothing: than which, nothing can be more disgraceful to men of so many ages, so great, so learned, so holy, and so miraculous! And if this be the case, we shall rank even the stoics before you: for although they took upon them to describe such a wise man as they never saw, yet they did attempt to set forth some part of the character. But you cannot set forth any thing whatever, not even the shadow of your doctrine.

     The same also I observe concerning the Spirit. If you can produce one out of all the assertors of “Free-will,” who ever had a strength of mind and affection, even in the smallest degree, so as, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will,” to be able to disregard one farthing, or to be willing to be without one farthing, or to bear one word or sign of injury, (I do not speak of the stoical contempt of riches, life, and fame,) again, the palm of victory shall be yours, and we, as the vanquished, will willingly pass under the spear. And these proofs you, who with such trumpeting mouths sound forth the power of “Free-will,” are bound to produce before us. Or else, again, you will appear to be striving to give establishment to a nothing: or to be acting like him, who sat to see a play in an empty theatre.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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