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Numbers 10     Psalm 46-47     Song Of Songs 8     Hebrews 8


Numbers 10

The Silver Trumpets

Numbers 10:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. 3 And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 4 But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. 5 When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. 6 And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. 7 But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow a long blast, but you shall not sound an alarm. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 9 And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. 10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”

Israel Leaves Sinai

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, 12 and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 They set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses. 14 The standard of the camp of the people of Judah set out first by their companies, and over their company was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 15 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. 16 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.

17 And when the tabernacle was taken down, the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who carried the tabernacle, set out. 18 And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out by their companies, and over their company was Elizur the son of Shedeur. 19 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 20 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.

21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. 22 And the standard of the camp of the people of Ephraim set out by their companies, and over their company was Elishama the son of Ammihud. 23 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 24 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.

25 Then the standard of the camp of the people of Dan, acting as the rear guard of all the camps, set out by their companies, and over their company was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 26 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ochran. 27 And over the company of the tribe of the people of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan. 28 This was the order of march of the people of Israel by their companies, when they set out.

29 And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel.” 30 But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” 31 And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. 32 And if you do go with us, whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same will we do to you.”

33 So they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.

35 And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” 36 And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”


Psalm 46

God Is Our Fortress

Psalm 46:1 To The Choirmaster. Of The Sons Of Korah. According To Alamoth. A Song.

1  God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3  though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7  The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8  Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10  “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11  The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah


Psalm 47

God Is King over All the Earth

Psalm 47:1 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

1  Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2  For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3  He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4  He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

5  God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6  Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7  For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!

8  God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9  The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!


Song Of Songs 8

Longing for Her Beloved

1  Oh that you were like a brother to me
who nursed at my mother’s breasts!
If I found you outside, I would kiss you,
and none would despise me.
2  I would lead you and bring you
into the house of my mother—
she who used to teach me.
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
the juice of my pomegranate.
3  His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!
4  I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases.

5  Who is that coming up from the wilderness,
leaning on her beloved?

Under the apple tree I awakened you.
There your mother was in labor with you;
there she who bore you was in labor.

6  Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the LORD.
7  Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised.

Final Advice

OTHERS

8  We have a little sister,
and she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day when she is spoken for?
9  If she is a wall,
we will build on her a battlement of silver,
but if she is a door,
we will enclose her with boards of cedar.

SHE

10  I was a wall,
and my breasts were like towers;
then I was in his eyes
as one who finds peace.

11  Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;
he let out the vineyard to keepers;
each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.
12  My vineyard, my very own, is before me;
you, O Solomon, may have the thousand,
and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.

HE

13  O you who dwell in the gardens,
with companions listening for your voice;
let me hear it.

SHE

14  Make haste, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or a young stag
on the mountains of spices.


Hebrews 8

Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

Hebrews 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9  not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11  And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12  For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Christians Aren’t Perfect…

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/1/2006

     “By this,” Jesus said, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Here Jesus gives us an apologetic we seem to have lost sight of. One of the blessings that come with God’s people loving one another is that those who are not God’s people are better able to recognize God’s people. It blesses those within the church and those without the church. Better still, it shows forth His glory. We, on the other hand, would rather argue worldviews, amass compelling evidence, make bold prophetic statements. What God would rather have us do is to love one another. God would rather we do the hard thing, for that is where the power is.

     The common bumper sticker makes a salient point. The watching world affirms that what makes Christians so reprehensible is our hypocrisy. They see us sin, while believing we believe that we don’t sin. And they hate us for it. The sticker, then, answers the objection: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” We’re not perfect. We are forgiven. But the forgiveness we have from the Father works itself out, takes on feet, when we in turn forgive others. The fruit of forgiveness received is forgiveness given. How many times does Jesus remind us of this connection? We who have been forgiven much manifest that truth in forgiving others. Perhaps that ought to be our bumper sticker: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiving.” I’m afraid the world around us may find that too hard to swallow. They know us all too well.

     We are accustomed to thinking of worldliness in the narrowest of contexts, if we think of it at all. We think it a synonym for pleasure, as if the devil has cornered that market. We don’t want to be caught consuming alcohol in moderation, for instance, because such hurts our “witness.” That is, it presumably makes us look worldly to the world. Our problem, however, isn’t that we drink like the world, but that we think like the world. The world is a place where every human interaction is a battle, a zero-sum game that you either win or lose. We suspect one another, rather than trust one another. We are always intent on protecting our interests, or at least what we perceive our interests to be. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and no one likes to be eaten. Too often the church is the same. In 1 Corinthians 6, just seven short chapters before Paul gets around to describing the qualities of love to us, he scolds this worldly church for their litigious habits, “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (vv. 6–7). The problem isn’t merely going to the secular courts. The problem is not just dropping the matter. Why do we not rather accept wrong? Because we are worldly. Because we have our interests to protect.

     When Paul does describe love for us, we see much the same. Love suffers long, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, and bears all things. “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2b–3). Love is the antithesis of the grasping paranoia that marks the world. Love, in short, is the very fruit of our own deaths. That is, as we die to self, we are no longer interested in keeping score. As we die to self we feel no need to protect our own interests. As we die to self, when our brothers do us wrong, we find it easy to forgive, for who can harm a dead man? As we die to self, we let our lives shine before men, and show them that we are His.

     A very wise man once said, “Never ask God for justice. He might just give it to you.” What defines us is that we are a people who have been given grace. We were not only given the grace of forgiveness, but were given the grace of repentance. As we keep our sins ever before us, we will see His forgiveness ever before us. And we won’t have opportunity to see the speck in our brother’s eye.

     A day will come by God’s grace when the church of Jesus Christ won’t be known for hypocrisy. We won’t be defined by the men we vote into office. Our reputation won’t be built around the things that we are against. A day will come when we are no longer recognized by the bumperstickers on the backs of our cars. A day will come when Jesus’ promise will be fulfilled, that the world will know that we are His by our love one for another. That love will show itself the same way God’s love for us is shown, in our zeal to forgive one another. A day will come when every man, as he passes by a church, will know that this is the place where you will find forgiveness not only from our Father, but from our brothers and sisters as well. We hasten that day as His will is done on earth as it is in heaven, as we love and forgive like only His children can do.

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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

Why Forgive?

By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2006

     When someone orders us to do something, or imposes an obligation, it is natural for us to ask two questions. The first question is, “Why should I?” and the second is, “Who says so?” The why and the authority behind the mandate are very important to the question of forgiveness.

     To answer the question of why we should be forgiving people, let us look briefly at the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. In Matthew 18:21 and following, we read this account:

     “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’

     “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

     “‘But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

     “‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”


     In this parable, the point of Jesus’ teaching is clear, that the why for forgiving others is rooted in the fact that we have been the recipients of extraordinary mercy and compassion. We are all debtors who cannot pay their debts to God. Yet God has been gracious enough to grant us forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” There is a parallel, a joint movement of compassion, that is first received from God and then we in turn exercise the same compassion to others. God makes it clear that if we lack that compassion and harbor vengeance in our heart, rather than being ready to forgive again and again, we will forfeit any forgiveness that has been given to us.

     Thus, the foundation for a forgiving spirit is the experience of divine grace. It is by grace that we are saved. It is by grace that we live. It is by grace that we have been forgiven. Therefore, the why of forgiving is to manifest our own gratitude for the grace that we have received. Again, the parable of Jesus points to one who took the grace that he received for granted and refused to act in a way that mirrored and reflected the kindness of God. Why should we forgive? Simply, because God forgives us. It is not an insignificant thing to add on to the why the point that we are commanded by that God of grace to exercise grace in turn.

     When we look at the question of forgiveness, however, we also have to ask the second query, “Who says so, and under what conditions are we to keep this requirement?” If we turn our attention to another gospel, we see in Luke 17 the following (vv. 1–4):

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

     It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness. It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded. If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him. If we refuse to give forgiveness when repentance has been manifest, then we expose ourselves to the same fate as the unforgiving servant. We open ourselves to the wrath of God. If, indeed, I offend someone and then repent and express my apology to them, but he refuses to forgive me, then the coals of fire are on his head. Likewise, if we fail to give forgiveness, when one who has offended us repents of the offense, we expose ourselves to the coals of fire, and we are in worse shape than the one who has given the offense. In other words, it is transgression against God when we refuse to forgive those who have repented for their offenses to us. This is the teaching of Jesus. It is the mandate of Jesus. As we are united in Christ, we are to show that union by extending the same grace to others that He extends to us.

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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:

Changing the Past

By Gene Edward Veith 12/1/2006

     Some cultures have no central government. Their only social organization is the family, including the extended family that constitutes a clan, and the organization of clans into a tribe. So in the absence of laws, a police force, and a judicial system, tribal societies have one way of enforcing justice: Revenge.

     If someone kills a member of your family in a hunting accident, it falls upon you — or the oldest male in your family, or perhaps the oldest brother of fighting age — to take revenge. This can be done by killing the guilty party, or, failing that, by killing someone else in the guilty party’s family. This, of course, means that the designated avenger will, in turn, kill someone else from your family. Which will mean another round of retribution. And on and on, until the violence burns itself out, or the two families exterminate each other, or until peace is made by joining the two families by a marriage, or the paying of a “man price,” or by making a formal treaty of reconciliation.

     This system of attaining justice through personal vengeance is called “feud.” Often, feuds are carried out not just among families but between clans and entire tribes. Sometimes the feuds go on for generations, in a general state of war that exists between two tribes, long after the original offense is forgotten.

     Indeed, it does not always take a killing to set off tribal vendettas. Violations of someone’s honor can also lead to bloody retribution and counter-retribution.

     In America, we have the famous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, which took place back in the hills where the central government had scant presence, so that the social system reverted to the more primitive state of family justice.

     Today, youth gangs — which reject the legal system for a life of crime — take on the social organization of primitive tribes, in which merciless vendettas become a way of life. Much of today’s gang violence, from assaults to drive-by shootings, is caused by feuds between rival criminal groups. Often the gang violence is payback against someone for violating the gang world’s byzantine codes of honor, in which the way you wear your hat can be a signal of “disrespect.”

     Many of today’s global trouble spots are essentially outbreaks of tribal feuds. In Rwanda, violence between the Hutus and Tutsis left over a million people dead. American troops found themselves caught in the middle of tribal feuds in Somalia and Mogadishu. The Middle East is a hotbed of ancient grievances and primal hatreds. The Islamic terrorists are bent on vengeance against the West for, among other reasons, driving the Muslims out of Spain in the fifteenth century. The terrorists kill innocent westerners as payback for the medieval crusades. Avengers never forget. And they never forgive.

     The Levitical laws, addressed to a tribal society, restricts and re-channels the impulse for revenge that is natural to such societies. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” puts strict limits on retribution. The cities of refuge give slayers protection against the avenger, until the Levites render a judicial determination of whether the killing was an accident or intentional. The avenger is reduced to the role of the executioner, but he may act only under the authority of lawful judges.

     The New Testament forbids personal revenge altogether. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves,” says the apostle Paul, “but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). God Himself is the only legitimate avenger, who can be counted upon to enforce the claims of justice. But Paul, echoing Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, goes even further, calling on Christians to not only foreswear retribution but to do good to the person who has harmed you: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (v. 20).

     And then, immediately after this teaching against vengeance, Paul discusses the “governing authorities” whom God has appointed and through whom He punishes evil doers. The lawful ruler “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). Human beings are not to take vengeance but to leave it to God, who, however, acts not only through His eternal judgment but on earth, through the lawful vocations by which He executes His justice. Thus, these texts became an impetus for the dismantling of the tribal feudal systems in favor of a central government and the rule of law.

     Justice is indeed necessary for any society. God will take care of that through the laws of the state. But individuals are not to take vengeance on their own. Christians are to forgive. Christ bore God’s justice, accepting the full retribution that our sins deserve. So now God forgives us. And now, since sin is atoned for, we are to forgive each another. And yet, the way of our fallen world is to treasure up wrongs, build up resentment, and to pay back the person who hurt us. Even Christians can easily slip back into that mindset, grounded as it is in self-righteousness and legalism. Though we confess that we have been saved by grace, we often forget to extend that grace to others.

     Ultimately, the only way to break the cycle of retribution — which destroys individuals, breaks up families, and wrecks entire societies — is forgiveness, which, as someone has said, is the only way to change the past.


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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:

Cosmic Treason

By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2007

     The question, “What is sin?” is raised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The answer provided to this catechetical question is simply this: “Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.”

     Let us examine some of the elements of this catechetical response. In the first instance, sin is identified as some kind of want or lack. In the middle ages, Christian theologians tried to define evil or sin in terms of privation (privatio) or negation (negatio). In these terms, evil or sin was defined by its lack of conformity to goodness. The negative terminology associated with sin may be seen in biblical words such as disobedience, godlessness, or immorality. In all of these terms, we see the negative being stressed. Further illustrations would include words such as dishonor, antichrist, and others.

     However, to gain a complete view of sin, we have to see that it involves more than a negation of the good, or more than a simple lack of virtue. We may be inclined to think that sin, if defined exclusively in negative terms, is merely an illusion. But the ravages of sin point dramatically to the reality of its power, which reality can never be explained away by appeals to illusion. The reformers added to the idea of privatio the notion of actuality or activity, so that evil is therefore seen in the phrase, “privatio actuosa.” This stresses the active character of sin. In the catechism, sin is defined not only as a want of conformity but an act of transgression, an action that involves an overstepping or violation of a standard.

     In order to grasp the meaning of sin, we cannot define it apart from its relationship to law. It is God’s law that determines what sin is. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul, particularly in Romans, labors the point that there is an inseparable relationship between sin and death and between sin and law. The simple formula is this: No sin equals no death. No law equals no sin. The apostle argues that where there is no law, there is no sin, and where there is no sin, there is no death. This rests upon the premise that death invades the human experience as an act of divine judgment for sin. It is the soul who sins that dies. However, without law there can be no sin. Death cannot enter into the human experience until first God’s law is revealed. It is for this reason that the apostle argues that the moral law was in effect before God gave Israel the Mosaic code. The argument rests upon the premise that death was in the world before Sinai, that death reigned from Adam to Moses. This can only mean that God’s moral law was given to His creatures long before the tablets of stone were delivered to the nation of Israel.

     This gives some credence to Immanuel Kant’s assertion of a universal moral imperative that he called the categorical imperative, which is found in the conscience of every sentient person. Since it is God’s law that defines the nature of sin, we are left to face the dreadful consequences of our disobedience to that law. What the sinner requires in order to be rescued from the punitive aspects of this law is what Solomon Stoddard called a righteousness of the Law. Just as sin is defined by a lack of conformity to the Law, or transgression of the Law, the only antidote for that transgression is obedience to the Law. If we possess such obedience to the Law of God, we are in no danger of the judgment of God.

     Solomon Stoddard, the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards, wrote in his book, The Righteousness of Christ, the following summation of the value of the righteousness of the Law: “It is sufficient for us if we have the righteousness of the law. There is no danger of our miscarrying if we have that righteousness. The security of the angels in Heaven is that they have the righteousness of the law, and it is a sufficient security for us if we have the righteousness of the law. If we have the righteousness of the law, then we are not liable to the curse of the law. We are not threatened by the law; justice is not provoked with us; the condemnation of the law can take no hold upon us; the law has nothing to object against our salvation. The soul that has the righteousness of the law is out of the reach of the threatenings of the law. Where the demand of the law is answered, the law finds no fault. The law curses only for lack of perfect obedience. Yea, moreover, where there is the righteousness of the law, God has bound himself to give eternal life. Such persons are heirs of life, according to the promise of the law. The law declared them heirs of life, Galatians 3:12, ‘The man that doth them, shall live in them’” (The Righteousness of Christ, p. 25).

     The only righteousness that meets the requirements of the Law is the righteousness of Christ. It is only by imputation of that righteousness that the sinner can ever possess the righteousness of the Law. This is critical for our understanding in this day where the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is so widely under attack. If we abandon the notion of the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope, because the Law is never negotiated by God. As long as the Law exists, we are exposed to its judgment unless our sin is covered by the righteousness of the Law. The only covering that we can possess of that righteousness is that which comes to us from the active obedience of Christ, who Himself fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law. His fulfilling of the Law in Himself is a vicarious activity by which He achieves the reward that comes with such obedience. He does this not for Himself but for His people. It is the background of this imputed righteousness, this rescue from the condemnation of the Law, this salvation from the ravages of sin that is the backdrop for the Christian’s sanctification, in which we are to mortify that sin that remains in us, since Christ has died for our sin.


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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:

Feeling Good about Ourselves

By Gene Edward Veith 1/1/2007

     We tend to underestimate the magnitude of sin, in particular, our own sin. And our failure to confront our sinfulness in an honest way — our tendency rather to revel in how good we are — can have devastating consequences in our relationships with others.

     Notice what is happening when two people — in a marriage, in an organization, in a church — have a conflict with each other. “I’m right.” “No, I’m right.” That pretty well sums up most of our arguments. Implicit is the claim, “I’m good.” “No, I’m good.”

     The passions in these conflicts build and build, often into anger, hatred, and the desire — sometimes acted out — for vengeance and retaliation. And the fuel for the conflagration tends to be indignation. Righteous indignation.

     I have noticed that fights between Christians can be even more vicious than fights between non-Christians. This may be because Christians put a higher value on righteousness than other people, and so they tend to frame even personal conflicts (from hurt feelings, rivalry, personality clashes) as a defense of something sacred (authority hierarchies, what honors God, what is best for the church).

     In our church, every Sunday each and every one of us admits that we are “poor, miserable” sinners, that “we are by nature” not only sinful but “unclean,” that I not only commit sins but am “a poor, sinful being.” And yet, despite these ritual and intellectual acknowledgements of how tainted we are, we still fall into the “I’m good,” “No, I’m good” syndrome.

     And we Christians, while willing to admit that we are sinners in a theoretical sense, in practice insist on feeling good about ourselves. We do recognize that our adversary is sinful and unclean. But we do not apply those high standards by which we judge others to ourselves. Thus we Christians compound our sin, in the way we fight against each other, by ignoring the clear biblical instructions about how we are to handle our disputes. We do not forgive. Despite Christ’s repeated injunctions, we often do not forgive our friends, let alone our enemies. Matthew 18 might get invoked in a legalistic way when we want to accuse our opponent of not following it, but its goal of “gaining your brother” is neglected.

     And I have never, ever, in any congregation or denomination, seen anyone so much as try to implement what the apostle Paul says to do in the case of disputes within the church, wherein the strong give in for the sake of the weak (Rom. 14–15). You would think that the parties in a church dispute, each of whom assumes that he is the stronger one, would stumble over each other trying to give in to the other person, clearly one of the weaker brethren. And yet we do not, which is yet more evidence of our depravity.

     What we usually do is try to “justify” ourselves. And when we justify our actions, our opinions, and our own sweet selves, we violate what we probably believe, that we are justified by grace through faith in the work of Christ.

     Since even our good works are tainted by sin, if we are honest, we must admit that when problems arise with another person, our own sin probably had something to do with it. We may be in the right, overall, and some people are certainly persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but there are few situations in our fallen condition in which we are completely guiltless.

     When we are conscious of our sinfulness and mortified by that realization — and when we are overwhelmed that nevertheless we are reconciled to God through the gift of Jesus — we cannot help but treat even our enemies differently. We do see their sin, but because of our own we can respond with kinship and empathy. Since we have been forgiven so much for our offenses against God, how can we not forgive others whose offenses are against us? (Matt.18:21–35).

     The spirit of self-righteousness not only breeds conflict, it also, ironically, can breed further sin. We feel so good about ourselves that we start to assume that whatever we do, by definition, must be good. So we “justify” our sins. We are self-righteous without being righteous.

     The spirit of self-righteousness also breeds hypocrisy. We put on a front of goodness in a generally unsuccessful attempt to hide our true sinfulness. And this can overthrow our Christian witness. How much more believable our message would be if we could project a spirit of humility, honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and joy in the Gospel.

     We sometimes speak of witnessing to the world by showing people how good we are. There is truth in that, and if we were more forgiving to our enemies and more loving to our neighbors, that would make us far more credible than we are. But so would honesty about our sin and our constant need of Christ’s forgiveness.

     At a Bible study I attended, a young woman thanked another member of the circle for her role in bringing her to Christ. “I always thought Christians were so perfect,” she said, “so I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. But when I got to know a Christian, I saw that she was no better than I am!” That testimony was a little deflating to the person who helped bring her to faith, but it is a reminder that our witness must be to the Gospel, which has to do not with our goodness but with the forgiveness of our sins.


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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:

Numb. 10; Psalms 46-47; Song of Songs 8; Heb. 8

By Don Carson 5/3/2018

     A Common theme of Psalm 46 and 47 is the sovereign authority of God over all the nations. He is not some mere tribal deity. He is the Most High (46:4). Nations may be in an uproar; kingdoms rise and fall. But God needs only to lift his voice, and the earth itself melts away (46:6). By his authority desolation works its catastrophic judgment; by his authority wars cease (46:8-9). The Lord Most High is “the great King over all the earth” (47:2, 7). “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (47:8).

     This ensures the security of the covenant community. The surrounding pagan nations may threaten, but if God is in charge, the covenant people of God can testify, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress: (46:7). “He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet”(47:3). Indeed, as for Jerusalem, the “place where the Most High dwells”: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” (46:4-5).

     The psalmist sees at least two further entailments. First, sooner or later God “will be exalted among the nations” (46:10). “For God is the King of all the earth” (47:7). These last two references could be understood as a threat rather than a promise of blessing: God will be exalted among these pagan nations in exactly the same way he was exalted by destroying the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. But in the light of Psalm 47:9 we would probably be unwise to insist on so negative a reading: “The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.” In other words, one of the entailments of monotheism is that God is the God of all, whether acknowledged as such or not. And one day he will be acknowledged by all; in many cases such acknowledgment will be accompanied by worship and adoration, as the nobles of the nations assemble before God exactly as do the people of the God of Abraham. To use Paul’s categories, here is the inclusion of Gentiles as Abraham’s sons (cf. Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7-9). “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (46:10).

     The second entailment is praise. “Come and see the works of the LORD” (Ps. 46:8). “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!” (47:1-2). “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (47:6).


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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 45

Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
45 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah; A Love Song.

1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
5 Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 23.

REFUTATION OF THE CALUMNIES BY WHICH THIS DOCTRINE IS ALWAYS UNJUSTLY ASSAILED.

This chapter consists of four parts, which refute the principal objections to this doctrine, and the various pleas and exceptions founded on these objections. These are preceded by a refutation of those who hold election but deny reprobation, sec. 1. Then follows, I. A refutation of the first objection to the doctrine of reprobation and election, sec. 2-5. II. An answer to the second objection, sec. 6-9. III. A refutation of the third objection. IV. A refutation of the fourth objection; to which is added a useful and necessary caution, sec. 12-14.

Sections.

1. Error of those who deny reprobation. 1. Election opposed to reprobation. 2. Those who deny reprobation presumptuously plead with God, whose counsels even angels adore. 3. They murmur against God when disclosing his counsels by the Apostle. Exception and answer. Passage of Augustine.

2. First objection--viz. that God is unjustly offended with those whom he dooms to destruction without their own desert. First answer, from the consideration of the divine will. The nature of this will, and how to be considered.

3. Second answer. God owes nothing to man. His hatred against those who are corrupted by sin is most just. The reprobate convinced in their own consciences of the just judgment of God.

4. Exception--viz. that the reprobate seem to have been preordained to sin. Answer. Passage of the Apostle vindicated from calumny.

5. Answer, confirmed by the authority of Augustine. Illustration. Passage of Augustine.

6. Objection, that God ought not to impute the sins rendered necessary by his predestination. First answer, by ancient writers. This not valid. Second answer also defective. Third answer, proposed by Valla, well founded.

7. Objection, that God did not decree that Adam should perish by his fall, refuted by a variety of reasons. A noble passage of Augustine.

8. Objection, that the wicked perish by the permission, not by the will of God. Answer. A pious exhortation.

9. Objection and answer.

10. Objection, that, according to the doctrine of predestination, God is a respecter of persons. Answer.

11. Objection, that sinners are to be punished equally, or the justice of God is unequal. Answer. Confirmed by passages of Augustine.

12. Objection, that the doctrine of predestination produces overweening confidence and impiety. Different answers.

13. Another objection, depending on the former. Answer. The doctrine of predestination to be preached, not passed over in silence.

14. How it is to be preached and delivered to the people. Summary of the orthodox doctrine of predestination, from Augustine.

1. The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet. Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated (Bernard. in Die Ascensionis, Serm. 2). This they do ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children. Nor is it possible to tolerate the petulance of men, in refusing to be restrained by the word of God, in regard to his incomprehensible counsel, which even angels adore. We have already been told that hardening is not less under the immediate hand of God than mercy. Paul does not, after the example of those whom I have mentioned, labour anxiously to defend God, by calling in the aid of falsehood; he only reminds us that it is unlawful for the creature to quarrel with its Creator. Then how will those who refuse to admit that any are reprobated by God explain the following words of Christ? "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up," (Mt. 15:13). They are plainly told that all whom the heavenly Father has not been pleased to plant as sacred trees in his garden, are doomed and devoted to destruction. If they deny that this is a sign of reprobation, there is nothing, however clear, that, can be proved to them. But if they will still murmur, let us in the soberness of faith rest contented with the admonition of Paul, that it can be no ground of complaint that God, "willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory," (Rom. 9:22, 23). Let my readers observe that Paul, to cut off all handle for murmuring and detraction, attributes supreme sovereignty to the wrath and power of God; for it were unjust that those profound judgments, which transcend all our powers of discernment, should be subjected to our calculation. It is frivolous in our opponents to reply, that God does not altogether reject those whom in levity he tolerates, but remains in suspense with regard to them, if per adventure they may repent; as if Paul were representing God as patiently waiting for the conversion of those whom he describes as fitted for destruction. For Augustine, rightly expounding this passage, says that where power is united to endurance, God does not permit, but rules (August. Cont. Julian., Lib. 5, c. 5). They add also, that it is not without cause the vessels of wrath are said to be fitted for destruction, and that God is said to have prepared the vessels of mercy, because in this way the praise of salvation is claimed for God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of their own accord bring it upon themselves. But were I to concede that by the different forms of expression Paul softens the harshness of the former clause, it by no means follows, that he transfers the preparation for destruction to any other cause than the secret counsel of God. This, indeed, is asserted in the preceding context, where God is said to have raised up Pharaoh, and to harden whom he will. Hence it follows, that the hidden counsel of God is the cause of hardening. I at least hold with Augustine that when God makes sheep out of wolves, he forms them again by the powerful influence of grace, that their hardness may thus be subdued, and that he does not convert the obstinate, because he does not exert that more powerful grace, a grace which he has at command, if he were disposed to use it (August. de Prædest. Sanct., Lib. 1, c. 2).

2. These observations would be amply sufficient for the pious and modest, and such as remember that they are men. But because many are the species of blasphemy which these virulent dogs utter against God, we shall, as far as the case admits, give an answer to each. Foolish men raise many grounds of quarrel with God, as if they held him subject to their accusations. First, they ask why God is offended with his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomsoever he pleases, more resembles the caprice of a tyrant than the legal sentence of a judge; and, therefore, there is reason to expostulate with God, if at his mere pleasure men are, without any desert of their own, predestinated to eternal death. If at any time thoughts of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, [499] so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps it fails to find what does exist. This, I say, will be sufficient to restrain any one who would reverently contemplate the secret things of God. Against the audacity of the wicked, who hesitate not openly to blaspheme, God will sufficiently defend himself by his own righteousness, without our assistance, when depriving their consciences of all means of evasion, he shall hold them under conviction, and make them feel their guilt. We, however, give no countenance to the fiction of absolute power, [500] which, as it is heathenish, so it ought justly to be held in detestation by us. We do not imagine God to be lawless. He is a law to himself; because, as Plato says, men laboring under the influence of concupiscence need law; but the will of God is not only free from all vice, but is the supreme standard of perfection, the law of all laws. But we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case. Wherefore, when we are tempted to go farther than we ought, let this consideration deter us, Thou shalt be "justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judges," (Ps. 51:4).

3. God may thus quell his enemies by silence. But lest we should allow them with impunity to hold his sacred name in derision, he supplies us with weapons against them from his word. Accordingly, when we are accosted in such terms as these, Why did God from the first predestine some to death, when, as they were not yet in existence, they could not have merited sentence of death? let us by way of reply ask in our turn, What do you imagine that God owes to man, if he is pleased to estimate him by his own nature? As we are all vitiated by sin, we cannot but be hateful to God, and that not from tyrannical cruelty, but the strictest justice. But if all whom the Lord predestines to death are naturally liable to sentence of death, of what injustice, pray, do they complain? Should all the sons of Adam come to dispute and contend with their Creator, because by his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to perpetual destruction, when God comes to reckon with them, what will they be able to mutter against this defense? If all are taken from a corrupt mass, it is not strange that all are subject to condemnation. Let them not, therefore, charge God with injustice, if by his eternal judgment they are doomed to a death to which they themselves feel that whether they will or not they are drawn spontaneously by their own nature. Hence it appears how perverse is this affectation of murmuring, when of set purpose they suppress the cause of condemnation which they are compelled to recognize in themselves, that they may lay the blame upon God. But though I should confess a hundred times that God is the author (and it is most certain that he is), they do not, however, thereby efface their own guilt, which, engraven on their own consciences, is ever and anon presenting itself to their view.

4. They again object, Were not men predestinated by the ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the cause of condemnation? If so, when they perish in their corruptions they do nothing else than suffer punishment for that calamity, into which, by the predestination of God, Adam fell, and dragged all his posterity headlong with him. Is not he, therefore, unjust in thus cruelly mocking his creatures? I admit that by the will of God all the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first, that we must always return to the mere pleasure of the divine will, the cause of which is hidden in himself. But it does not forthwith follow that God lies open to this charge. For we will answer with Paul in these words, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20, 21). They will deny that the justice of God is thus truly defended, and will allege that we seek an evasion, such as those are wont to employ who have no good excuse. For what more seems to be said here than just that the power of God is such as cannot be hindered, so that he can do whatsoever he pleases? But it is far otherwise. For what stronger reason can be given than when we are ordered to reflect who God is? How could he who is the Judge of the world commit any unrighteousness? If it properly belongs to the nature of God to do judgment, he must naturally love justice and abhor injustice. Wherefore, the Apostle did not, as if he had been caught in a difficulty, have recourse to evasion; he only intimated that the procedure of divine justice is too high to be scanned by human measure, or comprehended by the feebleness of human intellect. The Apostle, indeed, confesses that in the divine judgments there is a depth in which all the minds of men must be engulfed if they attempt to penetrate into it. But he also shows how unbecoming it is to reduce the works of God to such a law as that we can presume to condemn them the moment they accord not with our reason. There is a well-known saying of Solomon (which, however, few properly understand), "The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth transgressors," (Prov. 26:10). For he is speaking of the greatness of God, whose pleasure it is to inflict punishment on fools and transgressors though he is not pleased to bestow his Spirit upon them. It is a monstrous infatuation in men to seek to subject that which has no bounds to the little measure of their reason. Paul gives the name of elect to the angels who maintained their integrity. If their steadfastness was owing to the good pleasure of God, the revolt of the others proves that they were abandoned. [501] Of this no other cause can be adduced than reprobation, which is hidden in the secret counsel of God.

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



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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2005    It Is Finished

     As I consider the state of the evangelical church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I observe a people who have swapped their faith for a bumper sticker and a church that has been caught up with the wrappings of religion. Many in the church have grown tired of that old-time religion, and they have become enamored with the affluence of get-holy-quick, pop-Christian programs. They have joined arms with the razzlers and the dazzlers of the world’s marketplace, and they have set out on a journey down a yellow-brick road that will lead only to the great and powerful Judge whom they do not recognize, for without even realizing it they have abandoned their first love. For all practical purposes, the person and work of Jesus Christ have become commonplace, and the finished work of Christ’s atonement is largely taken for granted.

     Nevertheless, the atoning death of the Lord of glory is never to be regarded merely as a pleasant fact of history. Redemption has been accomplished. God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and He promised that the Christ would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law for the express purpose that we, His people, might be adopted as sons of God. God’s Word is filled with the story of God’s enduring love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals the progress of the salvation of His people culminating in the death of death in the death of the Savior who cried out “It is finished.”

     Although no one would ever admit it, many have attempted to displace the redemptive work of Jesus Christ — wrapping the entire doctrine of redemption in ornate packaging with colorful bows and ribbons in order to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that He would not be an offense to anyone contemplating the option of religion. However, it does not matter if we dress up Jesus in the most colorful robes of our culture, and it does not matter how we decorate the cross of Christ; it will always be an offense to the unbelieving world. We cannot disguise the cross of Christ, nor can we hide its radiance. For it was upon the cross the Prince of glory died so that we might live, move, and have our being coram Deo, before His face and for His glory alone.

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     He was a physician in the Revolutionary War, a member of the Continental Congress and signed the Constitution. He was Secretary of War and established the Military Academy at West Point. The Star-Spangled Banner was written while the British bombed the fort which was named for him. Who was he: James McHenry, who died this day, May 3, 1816. As president of the Baltimore Bible society, James McHenry stated: "Neither… let it be overlooked that public utility pleads… for the general distribution of… Holy Scriptures… which… can alone secure to society order and peace."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by RickAdams

But I always think that the best way to know God
is to love many things.
--- Vincent van Gogh


          


No matter how much I prove and prod,
I cannot quite believe in God;
But oh, I hope to God that He
Unswervingly believes in me.
--- E.Y. Harburg


          


So long as breath remains in our lungs, untapped potential lies inside us, waiting to be released. The reason we are still alive is that we are carrying something inside us that this generation needs. That’s why we’re not yet in heaven.
--- Wayne Cordeiro


          


You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
--- Eleanor Roosevelt

          

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifty-Fourth Chapter / The Different Motions Of Nature And Grace

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, pay careful attention to the movements of nature and of grace, for they move in very contrary and subtle ways, and can scarcely be distinguished by anyone except a man who is spiritual and inwardly enlightened. All men, indeed, desire what is good, and strive for what is good in their words and deeds. For this reason the appearance of good deceives many.

     Nature is crafty and attracts many, ensnaring and deceiving them while ever seeking itself. But grace walks in simplicity, turns away from all appearance of evil, offers no deceits, and does all purely for God in whom she rests as her last end.

     Nature is not willing to die, or to be kept down, or to be overcome. Nor will it subdue itself or be made subject. Grace, on the contrary, strives for mortification of self. She resists sensuality, seeks to be in subjection, longs to be conquered, has no wish to use her own liberty, loves to be held under discipline, and does not desire to rule over anyone, but wishes rather to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake she is willing to bow humbly to every human creature.

     Nature works for its own interest and looks to the profit it can reap from another. Grace does not consider what is useful and advantageous to herself, but rather what is profitable to many. Nature likes to receive honor and reverence, but grace faithfully attributes all honor and glory to God. Nature fears shame and contempt, but grace is happy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus. Nature loves ease and physical rest. Grace, however, cannot bear to be idle and embraces labor willingly. Nature seeks to possess what is rare and beautiful, abhorring things that are cheap and coarse. Grace, on the contrary, delights in simple, humble things, not despising those that are rough, nor refusing to be clothed in old garments.

     Nature has regard for temporal wealth and rejoices in earthly gains. It is sad over a loss and irritated by a slight, injurious word. But grace looks to eternal things and does not cling to those which are temporal, being neither disturbed at loss nor angered by hard words, because she has placed her treasure and joy in heaven where nothing is lost.

     Nature is covetous, and receives more willingly than it gives. It loves to have its own private possessions. Grace, however, is kind and openhearted. Grace shuns private interest, is contented with little, and judges it more blessed to give than to receive.

     Nature is inclined toward creatures, toward its own flesh, toward vanities, and toward running about. But grace draws near to God and to virtue, renounces creatures, hates the desires of the flesh, restrains her wanderings and blushes at being seen in public.

     Nature likes to have some external comfort in which it can take sensual delight, but grace seeks consolation only in God, to find her delight in the highest Good, above all visible things.

     Nature does everything for its own gain and interest. It can do nothing without pay and hopes for its good deeds to receive their equal or better, or else praise and favor. It is very desirous of having its deeds and gifts highly regarded. Grace, however, seeks nothing temporal, nor does she ask any recompense but God alone. Of temporal necessities she asks no more than will serve to obtain eternity.

     Nature rejoices in many friends and kinsfolk, glories in noble position and birth, fawns on the powerful, flatters the rich, and applauds those who are like itself. But grace loves even her enemies and is not puffed up at having many friends. She does not think highly of either position or birth unless there is also virtue there. She favors the poor in preference to the rich. She sympathizes with the innocent rather than with the powerful. She rejoices with the true man rather than with the deceitful, and is always exhorting the good to strive for better gifts, to become like the Son of God by practicing the virtues.

     Nature is quick to complain of need and trouble; grace is stanch in suffering want. Nature turns all things back to self. It fights and argues for self. Grace brings all things back to God in Whom they have their source. To herself she ascribes no good, nor is she arrogant or presumptuous. She is not contentious. She does not prefer her own opinion to the opinion of others, but in every matter of sense and thought submits herself to eternal wisdom and the divine judgment.

     Nature has a relish for knowing secrets and hearing news. It wishes to appear abroad and to have many sense experiences. It wishes to be known and to do things for which it will be praised and admired. But grace does not care to hear news or curious matters, because all this arises from the old corruption of man, since there is nothing new, nothing lasting on earth. Grace teaches, therefore, restraint of the senses, avoidance of vain self-satisfaction and show, the humble hiding of deeds worthy of praise and admiration, and the seeking in every thing and in every knowledge the fruit of usefulness, the praise and honor of God. She will not have herself or hers exalted, but desires that God Who bestows all simply out of love should be blessed in His gifts.

     This grace is a supernatural light, a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect and the pledge of everlasting salvation. It raises man up from earthly things to love the things of heaven. It makes a spiritual man of a carnal one. The more, then, nature is held in check and conquered, the more grace is given. Every day the interior man is reformed by new visitations according to the image of God.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Keeping Requires Power

     Second, if you want to understand this keeping, remember that it is not only an all-inclusive keeping, but it is an almighty keeping.

     I want to get that truth burned into my soul; I want to worship God until my whole heart is filled with the thought of His omnipotence. God is almighty, and the Almighty God offers Himself to work in my heart, to do the work of keeping me; and I want to get linked with Omnipotence, or rather, linked to the Omnipotent One, to the living God, and to have my place in the hollow of His hand. You read the Psalms, and you think of the wonderful thoughts in many of the expressions that David uses; as, for instance, when he speaks about God being our God, our Fortress, our Refuge, our strong Tower, our Strength and our Salvation. David had very wonderful views of how the everlasting God is Himself the hiding place of the believing soul, and of how He takes the believer and keeps him in the very hollow of His hand, in the secret of His pavilion, under the shadow of His wings, under His very feathers. And there David lived. And oh, we who are the children of Pentecost, we who have known Christ and His blood and the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven, why is it we know so little of what it is to walk tremblingly step by step with the Almighty God as our Keeper?

     Have you ever thought that in every action of grace in your heart you have the whole omnipotence of God engaged to bless you? When I come to a man and he bestows upon me a gift of money, I get it and go away with it. He has given me something of his; the rest he keeps for himself. But that is not the way with the power of God. God can part with nothing of His own power, and therefore I can experience the power and goodness of God only so far as I am in contact and fellowship with Himself; and when I come into contact and fellowship with Himself, I come into contact and fellowship with the whole omnipotence of God, and have the omnipotence of God to help me every day.

     A son has, perhaps, a very rich father, and as the former is about to commence business the father says: "You can have as much money as you want for your undertaking." All the father has is at the disposal of the son. And that is the way with God, your Almighty God. You can hardly take it in; you feel yourself such a little worm. His omnipotence needed to keep a little worm! Yes, His omnipotence is needed to keep every little worm that lives in the dust, and also to keep the universe, and therefore His omnipotence is much more needed in keeping your soul and mine from the power of sin.

     Oh, if you want to grow in grace, do learn to begin here. In all your judgings and meditations and thoughts and deeds and questionings and studies and prayers, learn to be kept by your Almighty God. What is Almighty God not going to do for the child that trusts Him? The Bible says: "Above all that we can ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). It is Omnipotence you must learn to know and trust, and then you will live as a Christian ought to live. How little we have learned to study God, and to understand that a godly life is a life full of God, a life that loves God and waits on Him, and trusts Him, and allows Him to bless it! We cannot do the will of God except by the power of God. God gives us the first experience of His power to prepare us to long for more, and to come and claim all that He can do. God help us to trust Him every day.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:5-6
     by D.H. Stern

5     ADONAI detests all those with proud hearts;
be assured that they will not go unpunished.

6     Grace and truth atone for iniquity,
and people turn from evil through fear of ADONAI.


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

                Vital intercession

     Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. ---
Eph. 6:18.

     As we go on in intercession we may find that our obedience to God is going to cost other people more than we thought. The danger then is to begin to intercede in sympathy with those whom God was gradually lifting to a totally different sphere in answer to our prayers. Whenever we step back from identification with God’s interest in others into sympathy with them, the vital connection with God has gone; we have put our sympathy, our consideration for them, in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.

     It is impossible to intercede vitally unless we are perfectly sure of God, and the greatest dissipator of our relationship to God is personal sympathy and personal prejudice. Identification is the key to intercession, and whenever we stop being identified with God, it is by sympathy, not by sin. It is not likely that sin will interfere with our relationship to God, but sympathy will, sympathy with ourselves or with others which makes us say—‘I will not allow that thing to happen.’ Instantly we are out of vital connection with God.

     Intercession leaves you neither time nor inclination to pray for your own ‘sad sweet self.’ The thought of yourself is not kept out, because it is not there to keep out; you are completely and entirely identified with God’s interests in other lives.

     Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.


My Utmost for His Highest

Madrigal
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

Madrigal

Your love is dead, lady, your love is dead;

Dribbles no sounds
From his stopped lips, through swift
underground
Spurts his wild hair.

Your love is dead, lady, your love is dead;
Faithless he lies
Deaf to your call, though shades of his eyes
Break through and stare.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Kiddushin 31a

     D’RASH

     We are not the first era to be concerned with casual sex. Knowing that people engage in sex for a variety of reasons, the Rabbis of the Talmud tried to teach that we should sanctify sexual relations. Very specific rules were drawn up to increase modesty and sanctity in sex and to insure that relations would not be immoral or crude.

     Nonetheless, it is clear that people were having sexual relations outside the parameters of these teachings. The very discussion is proof. The question then becomes: What do we assume about people's motivations, purposes, and intentions? Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel have two different views, not only about sex but also about human behavior in general.

     The Rabbis of Bet Hillel were aware that people's motivations are not always pure, in sex as in much of life. Nonetheless, they seem to have chosen to assume the best about people, facts aside, in the hope that the world would soon become closer to this ideal. Reality, they are saying, is what we make of it. If we assume the best about people, the world will begin more closely to reflect our ideal.

     Every one of us can think of examples of others who have questionable motivations. How do we respond to them? For example, what should we think if a new employee speaks to a supervisor about certain work conditions? If we assume the worst, we think that he is trying to get in good with the boss, to promote himself at the expense of the group. We surmise that the newcomer is out only for himself.

     A Bet Hillel approach, though, asks us to act based on our most positive assumptions about others, to be more trusting of their motivations. With no evidence to the contrary, we should assume the best about others. In this situation, if we act according to Bet Hillel, we may assume that this new employee has seen certain conditions that can be improved; perhaps he can demand changes, because of his new status, which veteran employees could not. The employee may very well be acting in everyone's best interest and may actually help those around him.

     Our finding a more positive way of looking at reality is based not on naiveté but on a genuine desire to create a better world. Just as Bet Hillel assumes (even with facts to the contrary) that the "a man would not have casual sex," so too we can make positive, optimistic assumptions about our world and the people in it. This is often a way of finding the best in others. Our optimistic assumptions may be wrong at times, but often we will find people living up to our ideal. As we start to view the world more positively, it may begin to look a little more like the ideal place we envision.

     One who is commanded and acts is more praiseworthy than one who is not commanded and acts.

     Text / Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: "They asked Rabbi Eliezer: 'What is the limit for honoring one's parents?' He said to them: 'Go see what a certain idol worshiper in Ashkelon named Dama son of Netina did. Once, the Sages sought to buy gems for the ephod from him at 60,000 profit—Rav Kahana taught 80,000—but the key was under his father's head and he would not disturb him. The next year, the Holy One rewarded him when a red cow was born to his herd.' When the Sages came to him, he said to them: 'I know that if I were to ask for all the money in the world, you will give it to me, but I am asking only for the money I lost by honoring my father.' " Rabbi Ḥanina said: "If someone who is not commanded and acts [is considered praiseworthy], how much more so one who is commanded and who acts!" For Rabbi Ḥanina said: "One who is commanded and acts is more praiseworthy than one who is not commanded and acts."

     Context / Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you. (Exodus 20:12)

     The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: This is the ritual law that the Lord has commanded: Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid. (Numbers 19:1–2)

     Next you shall instruct all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill, to make Aaron's vestments, for consecrating him to serve Me as priest. These are the vestments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash. (Exodus 28:3–4)

     How far does one have to go to fulfill certain mitzvot? When asked this question concerning honoring one's parents—a well-known mitzvah mentioned in the Ten Commandments—Rabbi Eliezer responds with a story. The Rabbis approach a non-Jew named Netina in the hope of buying from him jewels for the ephod, one of the vestments that the Kohen Gadol wore while serving in the Temple. They are not greeted by Netina but by his son, Dama. As a non-Jew, Dama is not required to observe the mitzvah of honoring one's parents. However, he does respect his father who at the time is sleeping, with the key to the jewelry under his head. Dama's actions cause his father to lose 60,000 (or 80,000) profit. (We are never told 60,000 or 80,000 what, but it is apparently coins.) The reward that Dama receives is a "red cow," that prized animal mentioned by the Torah in Numbers 19 and used in rituals of purification. This animal was extremely rare and, thus, quite expensive (worth more than 60,000 coins!). Dama apparently knows enough about Judaism to realize that he had been rewarded with an exceptional prize. Nonetheless, he asks only for repayment of the amount he lost by not making the original sale the year before (60,000 or 80,000 coins).

     The entire section is based on the assumption of Rabbi Ḥanina that one who acts because he is commanded by a mitzvah is considered more praiseworthy than someone who is not commanded. Thus, if Dama ben Netina, a non-Jew who is not required to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring one's parents, takes this obligation so seriously and is praised by the Rabbis, imagine how far a Jew who is commanded to honor his parents must go in order to fulfill the mitzvah, and how great his or her reward will be!


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Philistines
     Teacher's Commentary

     We meet these warlike people in Judges. They came to the south coast of Palestine, possibly from Crete, but certainly from the Aegean area. During the years 1200 to 1000 B.C. (part of the time of the Judges and during Saul's and David's reigns) they were the principal enemy of Israel. Their five key cities (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) controlled both land and sea trade routes, making the territory the Philistines occupied wealthy and highly desirable.

     The Philistine society, in contrast to the tribal structure of Israel, was highly organized. These people knew the secret of making and maintaining iron weapons. This gave them a military advantage over Israel, which lacked both a source of iron ore and the technology to work it. Ultimately the Philistines were able to establish garrisons at strategic points within Israel, and by the end of the period of the Judges, had clearly embarked on a campaign to conquer the whole land.

     Not until the time of David was this bitter enemy subdued. David reduced them to insignificance.

     Thus these people, introduced here in Judges, play an increasingly significant role in the Bible books which follow.

     Judges for Today / Judges is the source of some of our most familiar Old Testament stories. The youngest of children have heard tales of Samson and Gideon—over and over again. In fact, the very familiarity of the stories from this book makes it likely that some will miss its message.

     As in all of Scripture, God communicates His message to men in the selection and recounting of events as well as in explicit teaching. As we listen and respond to what God says, the message of the written Word becomes an adventure with the Living Word—Christ Himself! The written Word of God is the avenue through which God comes to us and invites us to enter into an ever-deepening relationship with Him.

     Thus it's dangerous to treat familiar portions of the Bible simply as stories. All too soon "Bible stories" can take on a misty familiarity, associated with our childhood—and with Mother Goose fantasy. But the stories in our Bible are not fantasy; they are the rugged flesh and blood of reality. They are a living and powerful message to us from God, designed to captivate us as boys and girls—and to challenge us as adults.

     When we do examine Judges with our hearts tuned to respond to God's Word, we find a powerful message indeed. Along with the demonstration of the basic theme (Ai, now magnified and repeated over and over again), we find in the experiences of men and women recounted here the promises and the warnings on which you and I must choose today to act—or to ignore.

     This is the adventure of studying the Bible for adults: to study, to examine, and to hear God speak to us, as individuals today.

Name
Oppressors Yrs. Of Oppression
   and rest
 
Othniel Mesopotamians 48
Ehud Moabites 98
Shamgar
Deborah/Barak Canaanites 60
Gideon Midianites 47
Tola 23
Jair 22
Jephthah Ammonites 24
Ibzan 7
Elon 10
Abdon 8
Samson Philistines 60*
TOTAL 407**


     * Some scholars would have Samson's 20 years running concurrently with the Philistines' 40 years.

     ** Abimelech, not a judge but a son of Gideon who set himself up as a king, ruled for three years (Judges 9:22) to bring the total number of years in the period to 410.


The Teacher's Commentary

The Diaspora between the Revolts
     The Jewish Diaspora from Pompey to 70 C.E.

     Few Jews in the Diaspora had been inspired to join in the revolt of 66. There was a brief uprising in Alexandria, but it was short-lived. Roman retaliation against the Jews also included the forced closure of the Oniad temple at Leontopolis in 72 and its precincts in 73, even though it had never been a center of unrest or disloyalty since its foundation in the mid-second century B.C.E. Titus’ destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70, however, severely strained Diaspora Jews’ loyalty. Further complicating matters was the imposition after 70 of the fiscus Iudaicus, an annual payment made to Jupiter Capitolinus by all Jews, regardless of gender, in lieu of payment of the Temple tax. This tax weighed heavily on the Jews, especially the poorer ones with large households, and its rigorous application by the emperor Domitian only made conditions worse (Suetonius, Domitian 12).

     In Alexandria, local conditions and grievances made the status of the Jewish community quite unstable. A single papyrus, the Acta Hermaisci, recounts rival embassies from Alexandria to Emperor Trajan only a decade before the outbreak of another uprising. Although the account has been heavily fictionalized, it speaks to the tensions between Alexandrian Jews and non-Jews. Some scholars have argued that there were additional factors leading up to the rebellions (Pucci Ben Zeev 2005). In particular, rebels who had fled Judea after the suppression of the First Revolt continued to cause problems, which only heightened tensions between Jews and non-Jews. There was a general rise in messianic aspirations and expectations of Rome’s collapse, especially after an earthquake that occurred in Antioch during a visit of Emperor Trajan in 115.

     In 115/116, these tensions exploded into full-scale revolt in Egypt, Cyrene, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia. This revolt, also called the War of Quietus after the general Lusius Quietus who suppressed the revolt in Mesopotamia, raged until 117. In Egypt, the Jewish rebels managed to take over much of the countryside including the Athribite district, the Fayum, Oxyrhynchus, and the nome of Herakleopolis. To the south, fighting broke out in the districts of Apollinopolis Magna, Hermopolis, Kynopolis, and Lycopolis. In Alexandria itself the rebellion seems to have involved destruction of pagan shrines, such as the shrine of Nemesis near Alexandria and the tomb of Pompey (Appian, Bella Civilia 2.90). In Cyrene, the rebels, who were led by a certain Andreas (Dio 68.32.1) or Lukuas (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4.2.3), killed several thousand non-Jews and destroyed several statues of the gods as well as several temples and sanctuaries, including the temples of Zeus and Hecate and parts of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Asclepius. Finally, perhaps in fear of a Roman military arrival by sea, the rebels smashed up the road connecting Cyrene to its port (CJZC 24–25). In Cyprus, a man named Artemion led an attack on the Gentile population and razed the city of Salamis. Not much information is known about the uprising in Mesopotamia except that Trajan sent Lusius Quietus to suppress the rebellion. It is possible that the Jews were simply one part of a general anti-Roman revolt within the region, and that the inhabitants there preferred Parthian control to Roman.

     The Roman response to the uprisings in Cyrene, Cyprus, and Egypt was swift and brutal. Trajan sent two forces to put down the rebellion: the VII Claudia legion to Cyprus and Quintus Marcius Turbo, with a large fleet and a number of legions, to Egypt and Cyrene. Egyptian papyri also indicate that local non-Jewish militias fought alongside the legions. Turbo sailed into Alexandria and defeated the rebels over the course of several battles in which his army killed several thousand Jews.

     The results of the war were cataclysmic for the Jewish populations of Egypt, North Africa, and Cyprus. Jews were banished from Cyprus and were prohibited from stepping foot on it on pain of death. After the revolt, there is no more evidence for Jewish settlement in the countryside of Egypt or Cyrene. Tragically, the great Jewish community of Alexandria disappeared and seems to have been destroyed, although there are a few traces of Jews left in the city afterward. Outside of the region under revolt, however, there does not seem to have been any anti-Jewish backlash. In the following years, large swaths of North African territory needed to be resettled and repopulated. Trajan and his successor Hadrian used confiscated Jewish property to fund the reconstruction efforts, especially the rebuilding of pagan temples.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 3

     There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. --- Luke 15:10.

     Why do angels sing over repentant sinners? (Classic RS Thomas on Angels (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series)

     In the first place, I think it is because they remember the days of Creation. You know, when God made this world and fixed the beams of the heavens in sockets of light, the Morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. As they saw star after star flying abroad like sparks from the great anvil of omnipotence, they began to sing. Every time they saw a new creature made on this little earth, they praised afresh. And over everything he made, they chanted evermore that sweet song, “Creator, you are to be magnified, for your mercy endures forever.”

     Now, when they see a sinner returning, they see the Creation over again, for repentance is a new creation. I don’t know that, ever since the day when God made the world, with the exception of new hearts, the angels have seen God make anything else. He may, if he has so pleased, have made fresh worlds since that time. But perhaps the only instance of new creation they have ever seen since the first day is the creation of a new heart and a right spirit within the breast of a poor penitent sinner. Therefore they sing, because creation comes over again.

     I don’t doubt, too, that they sing because they see God’s works afresh, shining in excellence. When God first made the world, he said of it, “It was very good” (Gen. 1:31). He could not say so now. There are many of you that God could not say that of. He would have to say the very reverse, “No, that is very bad, for the trail of the serpent has swept away your beauty, and that moral excellence which once dwelt in humanity has passed away.” But when the sweet influences of the Spirit bring people to repentance and faith again, God looks on them and he says, “It is very good.” For what his Spirit makes is like himself—good and holy and precious—and God smiles again over his twice-made creation and says once more, “It is very good.” Then the angels begin again and praise his name whose works are always good and full of beauty.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     To Serve the Armies  May 3

     Before the Civil War, few chaplains served with American armies. But on May 3, 1861, the Southern Congress approved Bill 102, stating, “There shall be appointed by the President chaplains to serve the armies of the Confederate States during the existing war.” On May 3, 1862, Rev. A. C. Hopkins, Presbyterian pastor from Martinsburg, West Virginia, joined them, commissioned as chaplain of the Second Virginia Regiment.

     Hopkins wasted no time. On May 16 he led the men in a day of fasting and prayer. Two days later he conducted Sunday services at Mossy Creek. The ensuing week found him consumed by the wounded, dying, and dead.

     During the Seven Days’ Battle near Richmond, he marched all day in the hot sun and spent a sleepless night ministering to the wounded and dying. The next Morning, attempting to preach to his men on the line, he collapsed, strength gone. He was carried to the rear to recover, but when he returned to the front ten days later, he learned that his best friends were dead. Hopkins sank into despondency. Heavy losses at Malvern Hill further drained him, and Hopkins felt he could no longer continue.

     He retreated for a season of intense prayer, and soon Bible classes were organized and flourished. Evangelists visited the brigade, and religious services were followed by group discussions, prayer meetings, and baptisms. Large sums were raised to provide Christian literature for ravaged cities. Generals and officers were saved, and prayer meetings were conducted three times daily.

     In all, between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Southern troops were converted during the Civil War revivals. Whole armies on both sides became vast fields, ready for harvest. And many of the soldiers who perished went to heaven through the efforts of chaplains like Rev. A. C. Hopkins, who continued hard in service until the bitter end.

     With the Civil War, chaplains earned a lasting place with American troops around the world.

     Don’t be afraid! I am with you. From both east and west I will bring you together. I will say to the north and to the south, “Free my sons and daughters! Let them return from distant lands. They are my people—I created each of them To bring honor to me.”
--- Isaiah 43:5-7.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 3

     “In the world ye shall have tribulation.”
John 16:33.

     Art thou asking the reason of this, believer? Look upward to thy heavenly Father, and behold him pure and holy. Dost thou know that thou art one day to be like him? Wilt thou easily be conformed to his image? Wilt thou not require much refining in the furnace of affliction to purify thee? Will it be an easy thing to get rid of thy corruptions, and make thee perfect even as thy Father which is in heaven is perfect? Next, Christian, turn thine eye downward. Dost thou know what foes thou hast beneath thy feet? Thou wast once a servant of Satan, and no king will willingly lose his subjects. Dost thou think that Satan will let thee alone? No, he will be always at thee, for he “goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Expect trouble, therefore, Christian, when thou lookest beneath thee. Then look around thee. Where art thou? Thou art in an enemy’s country, a stranger and a sojourner. The world is not thy friend. If it be, then thou art not God’s friend, for he who is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Be assured that thou shalt find foe-men everywhere. When thou sleepest, think that thou art resting on the battlefield; when thou walkest, suspect an ambush in every hedge. As mosquitoes are said to bite strangers more than natives, so will the trials of earth be sharpest to you. Lastly, look within thee, into thine own heart and observe what is there. Sin and self are still within. Ah! if thou hadst no devil to tempt thee, no enemies to fight thee, and no world to ensnare thee, thou wouldst still find in thyself evil enough to be a sore trouble to thee, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Expect trouble then, but despond not on account of it, for God is with thee to help and to strengthen thee. He hath said, “I will be with thee in trouble; I will deliver thee and honour thee.”


          Evening - May 3

     “A very present help.”
Psalm 46:1.

     Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us.

     “Let us be simple with him, then,
     Not backward, stiff, or cold,
     As though our Bethlehem could be
     What Sinai was of old.”


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 3

          ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING

     Francis of Assisi, 1182–1226
     English Translation by William Draper, 1855–1933

     All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord; and Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power. (Psalm 145:10, 11)

     All the magnificent wonders of nature reveal the majesty of God and glorify Him. From the grateful heart of a devoted Italian monk in the year of 1225 came this beautiful message. As a great lover of nature, Saint Francis saw the hand of God in all creation, and he urged men to respond with expressions of praise and alleluia.

     Giovanni Bernardone, the real name of Saint Francis, demonstrated through his own life all the tender, humble, forgiving spirit and absolute trust in God that his hymn urges others to have. At the age of 25 Bernardone left an indulgent life as a soldier, renounced his inherited wealth, and determined to live meagerly and to imitate the selfless life of Christ.

     Throughout his life Saint Francis appreciated the importance of church music and encouraged singing in his monastery. He wrote more than 60 hymns for this purpose. The beautiful expressions of praise in “All Creatures of Our God and King” have endured throughout the centuries. A prayer written by Saint Francis has also become familiar and well-loved:

     Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
     Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
     Where there is injury, pardon,
     Where there is discord, unity.
     Where there is doubt, faith.
     Where there is error, truth.
     Where there is despair, hope.
     Where there is sadness, joy.
     Where there is darkness, light.

     For it is in giving, that we receive.
     It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.
     It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.


* * * * * * * *      All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing Alleluia, Alleluia!
     Thou burning sun with golden beam, thou silver moon with softer gleam:
     O praise Him, O praise Him! Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia!
     Thou rushing wind that art so strong, ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
     O praise Him!
     Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice; ye lights of Evening, find a voice:
     O praise Him, O praise Him! Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia!
     Dear mother earth, who day by day unfoldest blessings on our way,
     O praise Him! Alleluia!
     The flow’rs and fruits that in thee grow, let them His glory also show;
     O praise Him, O praise Him! Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia!
     Let all things their Creator bless, and worship Him in humbleness—
     O praise Him! Alleluia!
     Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
     O praise Him, O praise Him! Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia!



     For Today: Psalm 145; Jeremiah 32:17–20; Romans 11:36; Revelation 14:7.

     Praise God continually for His many blessings and for the wonders of His creation. Sing as you go ---

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. XIII. — Do you now, then, only observe, friend Erasmus, to what that most moderate, and most peace-loving theology of yours would lead us. You call us off, and forbid our endeavouring to know the prescience of God, and the necessity that lies on men and things, and counsel us to leave such things, and to avoid and disregard them; and in so doing, you at the same time teach us your rash sentiments; that we should seek after an ignorance of God, (which comes upon us of its own accord, and is engendered in us), disregard faith, leave the promises of God, and account the consolations of the Spirit and the assurances of conscience, nothing at all! Such counsel scarcely any Epicure himself would give!

     Moreover, not content with this, you call him who should desire to know such things, irreligious, curious, and vain; but him who should disregard them, religious, pious, and sober. What else do these words imply, than that Christians are irreligious, curious, and vain? And that Christianity is a thing of nought, vain, foolish, and plainly impious? Here again, therefore, while you wish by all means to deter us from temerity, running, as fools always do, directly into the contrary, you teach nothing but the greatest temerity, impiety, and perdition. Do you not see, then, that in this part, your book is so impious, blasphemous, and sacrilegious, that its like is not any where to be found.

     I do not, as I have observed before, speak of your heart; nor can I think that you are so lost, that from your heart, you wish these things to be taught and practiced. But I would shew you what enormities that man must be compelled unknowingly to broach, who undertakes to support a bad cause. And moreover, what it is to run against divine things and truths, when, in mere compliance with others and against our own conscience, we assume a strange character and act upon a strange stage. It is neither a game nor a jest, to undertake to teach the sacred truths and godliness: for it is very easy here to meet with that fall which James speaks of, “he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” (James ii. 10.) For when we begin to be, in the least degree, disposed to trifle, and not to hold the sacred truths in due reverence, we are soon involved in impieties, and overwhelmed with blasphemies: as it has happened to you here, Erasmus — May the Lord pardon, and have mercy upon you!

     That the Sophists have given birth to such numbers of reasoning questions upon these subjects, and have intermingled with them many unprofitable things, many of which you mention, I know and confess, as well as you: and I have inveighed against them much more than you have. But you act with imprudence and rashness, when you liken the purity of the sacred truths unto the profane and foolish questions of the impious, and mingle and confound it with them. “They have defiled the gold with dung, and changed the good colour,” (Lam. iv. 1., as Jeremiah saith.) But the gold is not to be compared unto, and cast away with the dung; as you do it. The gold must be wrested from them, and the pure Scripture separated from their dregs and filth; which it has ever been my aim to do, that the divine truths may be looked upon in one light, and the trifles of these men in another. But it ought not to be considered of any service to us, that nothing has been effected by these questions, but their causing us to favour them less with the whole current of our approbation, if, nevertheless, we still desire to be wiser than we ought. The question with us is not how much the Sophists have effected by their reasonings, but how we may become good men, and Christians. Nor ought you to impute it to the Christian doctrine that the impious do evil. That is nothing to the purpose: you may speak of that somewhere else, and spare your paper here.


The Bondage of the Will  or  Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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Numbers 10:1-10
s2-076 6-7-2015 | Brett Meador





Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





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