Jesus and ZacchaeusLuke 19 1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The Parable of the Ten Minas11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”
The Triumphal Entry28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near — already on the way down the Mount of Olives — the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Jesus Cleanses the Temple45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
The Authority of Jesus ChallengedLuke 20 1 One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 4 was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 5 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
Paying Taxes to Caesar19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.
Whose Son Is the Christ?41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
Beware of the Scribes45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
What I'm Reading
Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?
By J. Warner Wallace 10/30/2017
The reliable Gospel eyewitness accounts aren’t the only ancient description of Jesus. There are also non-Christian descriptions of Jesus from the late 1st to 5th Century. What do the non-Biblical accounts say about Jesus and how are we to assess them? It’s been my experience that two people can examine the same event (or even the same historical character) and disagree about what they have seen. Many years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and the entire event was captured on video tape. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses. The tapes were watched over and over again. Yet, in the midst of such a robust eyewitness record, people still argue to this day about what they saw and what actually happened. Was it a lone shooter or an elaborate conspiracy? Something very similar occurred when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. Most of us either saw the attack live on television or watched the video for months afterward. But the event is still interpreted in a variety of ways. Was this the act of international terrorists or an elaborate governmental conspiracy? Two well documented historical events with a rich set of evidences. In spite of this, both events have been interpreted in a variety of ways. It shouldn’t surprise us then to find the historical records of Jesus Christ might also experience the same type of scrutiny and diverse interpretation. Did Jesus truly live, minister, died and rise from the grave as the Gospels record or was it an elaborate conspiracy? One thing we know about the Kennedy assassination and the World Trade Center attack: regardless of interpretation, there were eyewitnesses to the events, and the events did truly occur. In a similar manner, the ancient evidence related to Jesus reveals there were eyewitnesses and He did exist in history. Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible? Yes, and the ancient non-Christian interpretations (and critical commentaries) of the Gospel accounts serve to strengthen the core claims of the New Testament.
Hostile Non-Biblical Pagan Accounts | There are a number of ancient classical accounts of Jesus from pagan, non-Christian sources. These accounts are generally hostile to Christianity; some ancient authors denied the miraculous nature of Jesus and the events surrounding His life:
Thallus (52AD) | Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who previously tried to explain away the darkness occurring at Jesus’ crucifixion:
“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)
If only more of Thallus’ record could be found, we might find more confirmation of Jesus’ crucifixion. But there are some things we can conclude from this account: Jesus lived, He was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of His crucifixion.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
In the Face of Terror, Let’s Help Restore the Body of Christ
By Deacon Keith A. Fournier 10/30/2017
On October 6, 2017, the Libyan police found the bodies of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs. They were murdered by Islamist Jihadists on February 15, 2015. The last words they uttered were words of prayer and praise.
What’s happening to our Christian brethren in the Middle East and North Africa is true martyrdom, Christian martyrdom. The English word, martyr, is from a Greek word which means witness. The Christian Church has always proclaimed the shedding of one’s blood in fidelity to Jesus Christ is the final witness to the Christian Faith.
Few of us in the West know this kind of martyrdom. Still, we are called to bear witness, together, to a culture that has forgotten God and wanders aimlessly in a new land of Nod. (Gen. 4:16)
Unfortunately, our divisions weaken our capacity to do so.
The Blood of Martyrs | The jihadists who murder as an expression of their religion see Christians as enemies. Their media company produced a video titled, “A Message Signed with Blood to The Nation of the Cross.” In it, they boasted of the beheading of our Coptic Christian brethren. A spokesman proclaimed:
The Just Shall Live by Faith
By John Piper 10/31/82
The situation which Habakkuk faces is the imminent invasion of the southern kingdom of Judah by the Chaldeans (who are the same as the Babylonians). This invasion eventually happened at the end of the sixth century BC, and Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The Lord revealed to Habakkuk beforehand that Judah was going to be punished for her sin by the Chaldeans.
Unlike Joel and Zephaniah and Amos, Habakkuk does not even mention the possibility that destruction could be averted. He does not call for national repentance. It is too late. Instead, he predicts the destruction of Judah, and beyond that the doom of the Chaldeans themselves. And he promises that the only way to preserve your life through the judgment is by faith. So even though destruction is decreed for the nation, there is hope for individuals who hold fast their confidence in God. The full-blown doctrine of justification by faith, as Paul taught it in Romans and Galatians, is not yet here. But the seed is here. So what I would like to do today is survey the content of this prophetic book, then focus on its main point and how it unfolds in the New Testament as the great gospel truth of justification by faith.
Judah’s Wickedness and Coming Judgment | After introducing the book as a “burden” which he received from God, Habakkuk cries out in Habakkuk 1:2–4 that Judah is full of violence and perverted justice. For example, verse 4: “So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted.” Amos had warned the northern kingdom that injustice would bring judgment, and in 722 BC Assyria swept the northern kingdom away. Now here is the southern kingdom of Judah, 130 years later, guilty of the same offenses. They had not learned anything.
So in Habakkuk 1:5–11 God foretells what he intends to do. Verse 6: “For lo, I am rousing the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize habitations not their own.” God is in control of the nations. He swings them like a sword to chastise his people. The Chaldeans will come against Judah as God’s rod of correction. But verse 12 expresses the confidence Habakkuk has that God will not utterly destroy his people. “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them as a judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established them for chastisement.” God is rousing the Chaldeans against his people, but it is not for annihilation but for correction and chastisement.
The Chaldeans’ Wickedness and Coming Judgment | Then in 1:13–17 Habakkuk shows that he is not satisfied that the proud (Habakkuk 1:11) and violent (Habakkuk 1:14, 15) and idolatrous (Habakkuk 1:16) Chaldeans should themselves escape the judgment of God. They certainly are no more righteous than Judah (Habakkuk1:13), even if God is using them to do his righteous work of judgment. So he protests in verse 17: “Is he (i.e., the Chaldean nation), then, to keep on emptying his net, and mercilessly slaying nations forever?”
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
What Is Truth?
By John MacArthur
One of the most profound and eternally significant questions in the Bible was posed by an unbeliever. Pilate — the man who handed Jesus over to be crucified — turned to Jesus in His final hour, and asked, "What is truth?" It was a rhetorical question, a cynical response to what Jesus had just revealed: "I have come into the world, to testify to the truth."
Two thousand years later, the whole world breathes Pilate's cynicism. Some say truth is a power play, a metanarrative constructed by the elite for the purpose of controlling the ignorant masses. To some, truth is subjective, the individual world of preference and opinion. Others believe truth is a collective judgment, the product of cultural consensus, and still others flatly deny the concept of truth altogether.
So, what is truth?
Here's a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God. That is the biblical meaning of truth. Because the definition of truth flows from God, truth is theological.
Truth is also ontological — which is a fancy way of saying it is the way things really are. Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.
The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the "God of truth" (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 31:5; Is. 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, "I am...the truth" (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is "the brightness of [God's] glory and the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3). He is truth incarnate — the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.
Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) "cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth "which lives and abides forever" (1 Pet. 1:23).
From 1964 to 1966 Dr. MacArthur served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank , California and from 1966 to 1969 as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated with honors.
In 1969, John came to Grace Community Church . The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage.Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders. These groups are dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.
In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College ), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita , California . In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, John regularly teaches Expository Preaching at the seminary and frequently speaks in chapel.
John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John's books, audiocassettes, free sermons (MP3s) and the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You Weekend radio programs. Grace to You airs thousands of times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 100 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and many titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages.
John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda.They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their eleven grandchildren--Johnny, Ty, Jessy, KD, Olivia, Susannah, Gracie, Kylee, Andrew, Brooke and Elizabeth.
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson
John MacArthur Books | Go to Books Page
The net did not break
By Lydia McGrew
The last coincidence in Chapter I of this book concerns an appearance of Jesus in John 21 to his disciples after his resurrection. Obviously, that coincidence concerns a miracle, since the conversation in which it is embedded could not have taken place at any time before Jesus’ resurrection. But another miracle is recorded in the same passage: The disciples haul in a great draught of fish after casting their net on the other side of the boat at Jesus’ command (John 21.4– 12).
This miracle bears a notable resemblance to a story told in Luke 5.4– 11.24 There, too, the disciples have fished all night and have caught nothing. There, too, Jesus gives them a command to do something they would not otherwise have done. In Luke the command is to launch out into the deep during the daytime after an unsuccessful night and try again. In John the command is to cast the net onto the other side of the boat. In both stories Peter is central. In Luke it is Peter’s boat that goes out again at Jesus’ command after Peter has expressed skepticism and has made it clear that he is obeying only to please Jesus (Luke 5.5). In John, Peter invites the other disciples to come fishing with him (John 21.3), it is Peter who throws himself into the sea to go as quickly as possible to Jesus after another disciple recognizes Jesus (v 7), and it is Peter who draws the net up onto the shore (v 11). Both stories are followed by a memorable exchange between Jesus and Peter. In Luke, Peter falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Jesus to depart from him, a sinful man (Luke 5.8). Jesus reassures him that from now on he will be a “fisher of men” (Luke 5.10). In John the catch of fish is followed by Jesus’ probing Peter, asking if he loves him and enjoining him to feed his sheep. Both fish miracles are connected with following Jesus. Luke says that after the miracle of the fish the disciples left all and followed him (Luke 5.11). In John, Jesus pointedly commands Peter, “Follow me” (John 21.19– 22).
Do all of these parallels mean that John merely made up the miracle of the fish after Jesus’ resurrection, copying it from Luke? Not at all. begin with, my list of parallels in the previous paragraph was deliberately cherry-picked to emphasize similarities. One could just as easily emphasize differences. In Luke, the boat is at the shore when Jesus starts to give orders. In John, the disciples are out on the water when Jesus shows up. In Luke, Peter expresses reluctance. In John, there is no record of any argument when Jesus says to cast the net on the other side. In Luke, the fish are dragged into the boats (Luke 5.7). In John, the fish are towed to land and pulled up onto the shore (John 21.8, 11). In Luke, there is no meal of fish after the catch; in John, there is. And so forth. One can often produce an appearance of astonishing similarity merely by selecting details to give that impression.
John’s account, moreover, is full of unique, vivid detail. John lists the seven disciples who went on the fishing expedition, giving names to all but two of them (v 2). John says that Peter had to put on a garment before flinging himself into the water because he was “stripped for work” (v 7). The boat came in dragging the fish in the net because they were only about a hundred yards from shore (v 8). When they came to land they saw a fire of coals with bread and fish (v 9). Peter dragged the fish ashore in response to a command by Jesus to bring some of the fish they had caught (v 10). There were 153 fish (v 11).
Here I want to focus on one detail emphasized in John 21.11: “And although there were so many [fish], the net was not torn.” This point is striking because John does not include the earlier miracle of the fish, recorded in Luke, anywhere in his own Gospel. One might read John’s account by itself and think that he is merely mentioning the fact that the net did not break despite the size of the haul. Taken by itself, this might be only another circumstantial detail such as those I listed in the previous paragraph. But, if one considers the hypothesis that these miracles actually occurred, another reason for John’s mentioning this point comes to mind: John remembered that there had been an earlier, similar, miracle, and he remembered that that time the net did break:
(Lk 5:5–7) 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. ESV
In the miracle reported in John 21, there was only one boat, but there were no such mishaps. “Although there were so many [fish], the net was not torn.” Nor did any boat begin to sink.
These details do not fit an hypothesis that John is exaggerating the earlier miracle and thus producing a made-up miracle in his own Gospel. If anything, the fact that the catch of fish in Luke not only broke the nets but also began to sink two boats might mean that the number of fish in Luke is greater than the number in John 21. But given that John 21 also says that they could not haul the catch into the boat because of the quantity of fish (v 6), it is difficult to tell which number is supposed to be greater. This is exactly what we would expect if the events actually took place. One account isn’t copied, magnified, or manipulated from the other. One isn’t meant to look like a greater or lesser miracle than the other. Rather, they are just different— two accounts of two different events that vary in random details as two different, but in some respects similar, events might vary. And John, remembering that earlier catch and mentally noting the contrast, mentions, “The net was not torn.”
One Day at a Time Trusting God with My Incurable Disease
By Tabor Laughlin 10/31/2017
In middle school, my mother started having some strange symptoms following a bad car accident. She easily felt dizzy, to the point that she couldn’t drive anymore. She began losing control over her muscles. She would kick her legs around uncontrollably, and she experienced constant twitching. We knew that something was wrong, but doctors could not figure out what it was.
During my freshman year in high school, a neurologist finally suggested that she fly to California to get tested for a specific neurological disease called Huntington’s Disease (HD). My mom and dad went together. The results came in. She did have this incurable neurological disease.
God Saved Me Through Her Disease | When I heard my mom’s diagnosis, I became incredibly depressed and spent many hours each day of my freshman year of high school looking at pornography. Depressed and hopeless, I realized that I could no longer try to fight through life alone. I felt the emptiness of my life.
But at my lowest point, the Lord began to slowly awaken me. I started going with friends to a Bible study on Wednesday nights. In a way I never would have expected, the Lord was using my mom’s disease to draw me to himself.
I soon became close to the youth pastor who led the Bible study, as well as with the other high school guys who went. For the first time in my life, I started to read the Bible on my own and asked lots of questions about it. I continued for another five years, still not truly committing to the Lord. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I fully put my trust in the Lord and became a new creation.
Supreme Court Could Hear Case on Religion and Abortion in California
By Grace Carr 10/30/2017
A challenge to a California law which mandates pregnancy crisis centers provide its clients with abortion and contraceptive information may soon head to the Supreme Court.
The Reproductive Fact Act, AB 775, requires faith-based pregnancy centers — which exist to offer women alternate options to abortion and educate them on the multiple paths they can take regarding pregnancy — to tell their patients that the state will pay for both abortions and contraception as well as what kind of professional medical staff work at the clinic, according to the Huffington Post.
The National Institute For Family And Life Advocates challenged and appealed the law, arguing that forcing religious pregnancy centers to provide such information which goes against their interests is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.
The issue is whether “the state of California can compel nonprofit, faith-based, pro-life licensed medical facilities, against their religious convictions and identity, to advertise a government program that provides free or low-cost abortions,” wrote American Center for Law and Justice attorney, Jay Alan Sekulow according to the LA Times.
The challenge comes after the California Legislature ruled in 2015 that the state’s pregnancy centers sometimes provide “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women from making fully informed decisions,” the Times reported. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected the claim that the mandatory abortion information violated the First Amendment, saying that providing information about abortion was simply informing patients of the health services available to them.
The Top 3 Regrets of 95-Year-Olds and How They Help Us Get a Heart of Wisdom
By Kevin Halloran 10/30/2017
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
One way to get a heart of wisdom is to learn from people more experienced from you and take to heart lessons they learned. There was a sociological study done several years ago that aimed at doing just that. This asked 50 people over the age of 95 this important question:
“If you could live your life again, what would you do differently?”
The question was left open-ended and a variety of answers poured in. After analyzing the results, sociologists found something very surprising.
Three answers constantly reemerged and dominated the study’s results:
1. If I could do it all over again, I would reflect more.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 HETH
119:57 The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Persecutions in VeniceWhile the state of Venice was free from inquisitors, a great number of Protestants fixed their residence there, and many converts were made by the purity of the doctrines they professed, and the inoffensiveness of the conversation they used.
The pope being informed of the great increase of Protestantism, in the year 1542 sent inquisitors to Venice to make an inquiry into the matter, and apprehend such as they might deem obnoxious persons. Hence a severe persecution began, and many worthy persons were martyred for serving God with purity, and scorning the trappings of idolatry.
Various were the modes by which the Protestants were deprived of life; but one particular method, which was first invented upon this occasion, we shall describe; as soon as sentence was passed, the prisoner had an iron chain which ran through a great stone fastened to his body. He was then laid flat upon a plank, with his face upwards, and rowed between two boats to a certain distance at sea, when the two boats separated, and he was sunk to the bottom by the weight of the stone.
If any denied the jurisdiction of the inquisitors at Venice, they were sent to Rome, where, being committed purposely to damp prisons, and never called to a hearing, their flesh mortified, and they died miserably in jail.
A citizen of Venice, Anthony Ricetti, being apprehended as a Protestant, was sentenced to be drowned in the manner we have already described. A few days previous to the time appointed for his execution, his son went to see him, and begged him to recant, that his life might be saved, and himself not left fatherless. To which the father replied, "A good Christian is bound to relinquish not only goods and children, but life itself, for the glory of his Redeemer: therefore I am resolved to sacrifice every thing in this transitory world, for the sake of salvation in a world that will last to eternity."
The lords of Venice likewise sent him word, that if he would embrace the Roman Catholic religion, they would not only give him his life, but redeem a considerable estate which he had mortgaged, and freely present him with it. This, however, he absolutely refused to comply with, sending word to the nobles that he valued his soul beyond all other considerations; and being told that a fellow-prisoner, named Francis Sega, had recanted, he answered, "If he has forsaken God, I pity him; but I shall continue steadfast in my duty." Finding all endeavors to persuade him to renounce his faith ineffectual, he was executed according to his sentence, dying cheerfully, and recommending his soul fervently to the Almighty.
What Ricetti had been told concerning the apostasy of Francis Sega, was absolutely false, for he had never offered to recant, but steadfastly persisted in his faith, and was executed, a few days after Ricetti, in the very same manner.
Francis Spinola, a Protestant gentleman of very great learning, being apprehended by order of the inquisitors, was carried before their tribunal. A treatise on the Lord's Supper was then put into his hands and he was asked if he knew the author of it. To which he replied, "I confess myself to be the author of it, and at the same time solemnly affirm, that there is not a line in it but what is authorized by, and consonant to, the holy Scriptures." On this confession he was committed close prisoner to a dungeon for several days.
Being brought to a second examination, he charged the pope's legate, and the inquisitors, with being merciless barbarians, and then represented the superstitions and idolatries practised by the Church of Rome in so glaring a light, that not being able to refute his arguments, they sent him back to his dungeon, to make him repent of what he had said.
On his third examination, they asked him if he would recant his error. To which he answered that the doctrines he maintained were not erroneous, being purely the same as those which Christ and his apostles had taught, and which were handed down to us in the sacred writings. The inquisitors then sentenced him to be drowned, which was executed in the manner already described. He went to meet death with the utmost serenity, seemed to wish for dissolution, and declaring that the prolongation of his life did but tend to retard that real happiness which could only be expected in the world to come.
An Account of Several Remarkable Individuals,
Who Were Martyred in Different Parts of Italy,
on Account of Their ReligionJohn Mollius was born at Rome, of reputable parents. At twelve years of age they placed him in the monastery of Gray Friars, where he made such a rapid progress in arts, sciences, and languages that at eighteen years of age he was permitted to take priest's orders.
He was then sent to Ferrara, where, after pursuing his studies six years longer, he was made theological reader in the university of that city. He now, unhappily, exerted his great talents to disguise the Gospel truths, and to varnish over the error of the Church of Rome. After some years residence in Ferrara, he removed to the university of Behonia, where he became a professor. Having read some treatises written by ministers of the reformed religion, he grew fully sensible of the errors of popery, and soon became a zealous Protestant in his heart.
He now determined to expound, accordingly to the purity of the Gospel, St.
Paul's Epistle to the Romans, in a regular course of sermons. The concourse of people that continually attended his preaching was surprising, but when the priests found the tenor of his doctrines, they despatched an account of the affair to Rome; when the pope sent a monk, named Cornelius, to Bononia, to expound the same epistle, according to the tenets of the Church of Rome. The people, however, found such a disparity between the two preachers that the audience of Mollius increased, and Cornelius was forced to preach to empty benches.
Cornelius wrote an account of his bad success to the pope, who immediately sent an order to apprehend Mollius, who was seized upon accordingly, and kept in close confinement. The bishop of Bononia sent him word that he must recant, or be burnt; but he appealed to Rome, and was removed thither.
At Rome he begged to have a public trial, but that the pope absolutely denied him, and commanded him to give an account of his opinions, in writing, which he did under the following heads:
Original sin. Free-will. The infallibility of the church of Rome. The infallibility of the pope. Justification by faith. Purgatory. Transubstantiation. Mass. Auricular confession. Prayers for the dead. The host. Prayers for saints. Going on pilgrimages. Extreme unction. Performing services in an unknown tongue, etc., etc.
All these he confirmed from Scripture authority. The pope, upon this occasion, for political reasons, spared him for the present, but soon after had him apprehended, and put to death, he being first hanged, and his body burnt to ashes, A.D. 1553.
The year after, Francis Gamba, a Lombard, of the Protestant persuasion, was apprehended, and condemned to death by the senate of Milan. At the place of execution, a monk presented a cross to him, to whom he said, "My mind is so full of the real merits and goodness of Christ that I want not a piece of senseless stick to put me in mind of Him." For this expression his tongue was bored through, and he was afterward burnt.
A.D. 1555, Algerius, a student in the university of Padua, and a man of great learning, having embraced the reformed religion, did all he could to convert others. For these proceedings he was accused of heresy to the pope, and being apprehended, was committed to the prison at Venice.
The pope, being informed of Algerius's great learning, and surprising natural abilities, thought it would be of infinite service to the Church of Rome if he could induce him to forsake the Protestant cause. He, therefore, sent for him to Rome, and tried, by the most profane promises, to win him to his purpose. But finding his endeavors ineffectual, he ordered him to be burnt, which sentence was executed accordingly.
A.D. 1559, John Alloysius, being sent from Geneva to preach in Calabria, was there apprehended as a Protestant, carried to Rome, and burnt by order of the pope; and James Bovelius, for the same reason, was burnt at Messina.
A.D. 1560, Pope Pius the Fourth, ordered all the Protestants to be severely persecuted throughout the Italian states, when great numbers of every age, sex, and condition, suffered martyrdom. Concerning the cruelties practiced upon this occasion, a learned and humane Roman Catholic thus spoke of them, in a letter to a noble lord:
"I cannot, my lord, forbear disclosing my sentiments, with respect to the persecution now carrying on: I think it cruel and unnecessary; I tremble at the manner of putting to death, as it resembles more the slaughter of calves and sheep, than the execution of human beings. I will relate to your lordship a dreadful scene, of which I was myself an eye witness: seventy Protestants were cooped up in one filthy dungeon together; the executioner went in among them, picked out one from among the rest, blindfolded him, led him out to an open place before the prison, and cut his throat with the greatest composure. He then calmly walked into the prison again, bloody as he was, and with the knife in his hand selected another, and despatched him in the same manner; and this, my lord, he repeated until the whole number were put to death. I leave it to your lordship's feelings to judge of my sensations upon this occasion; my tears now wash the paper upon which I give you the recital. Another thing I must mention-the patience with which they met death: they seemed all resignation and piety, fervently praying to God, and cheerfully encountering their fate. I cannot reflect without shuddering, how the executioner held the bloody knife between his teeth; what a dreadful figure he appeared, all covered with blood, and with what unconcern he executed his barbarous office."
A young Englishman who happened to be at Rome, was one day passing by a church, when the procession of the host was just coming out. A bishop carried the host, which the young man perceiving, he snatched it from him, threw it upon the ground, and trampled it under his feet, crying out, "Ye wretched idolaters, who neglect the true God, to adore a morsel of bread." This action so provoked the people that they would have torn him to pieces on the spot; but the priests persuaded them to let him abide by the sentence of the pope.
When the affair was represented to the pope, he was so greatly exasperated that he ordered the prisoner to be burnt immediately; but a cardinal dissuaded him from this hasty sentence, saying that it was better to punish him by slow degrees, and to torture him, that they might find out if he had been instigated by any particular person to commit so atrocious an act.
This being approved, he was tortured with the most exemplary severity, notwithstanding which they could only get these words from him, "It was the will of God that I should do as I did."
The pope then passed this sentence upon him.
• 1. That he should be led by the executioner, naked to the middle, through the streets of Rome.
• 2. That he should wear the image of the devil upon his head.
• 3. That his breeches should be painted with the representation of flames.
• 4. That he should have his right hand cut off.
• 5. That after having been carried about thus in procession, he should be burnt.
When he heard this sentence pronounced, he implored God to give him strength and fortitude to go through it. As he passed through the streets he was greatly derided by the people, to whom he said some severe things respecting the Romish superstition. But a cardinal, who attended the procession, overhearing him, ordered him to be gagged.
When he came to the church door, where he trampled on the host, the hangman cut off his right hand, and fixed it on a pole. Then two tormentors, with flaming torches, scorched and burnt his flesh all the rest of the way. At the place of execution he kissed the chains that were to bind him to the stake. A monk presenting the figure of a saint to him, he struck it aside, and then being chained to the stake, fire was put to the fagots, and he was soon burnt to ashes.
A little after the last-mentioned execution, a venerable old man, who had long been a prisoner in the Inquisition, was condemned to be burnt, and brought out for execution. When he was fastened to the stake, a priest held a crucifix to him, on which he said, "If you do not take that idol from my sight, you will constrain me to spit upon it." The priest rebuked him for this with great severity; but he bade him remember the First and Second Commandments, and refrain from idolatry, as God himself had commanded. He was then gagged, that he should not speak any more, and fire being put to the fagots, he suffered martyrdom in the flames.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Once and for all
(Nov 1) Bob Gass
‘He offered himself once and for all.’
(Heb 9:26) 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. ESV
There were many pieces of furniture in the tabernacle, and each served a different purpose. But there wasn’t a single seat. Do you know why? Because the priest’s work was never finished! The people sinned constantly, so lambs had to be constantly sacrificed to atone for their sins. However, when Jesus died, rose again and went back to heaven, the first thing He did was sit down (see Hebrews 10:12). That’s because the work of salvation was finished! The Bible says: ‘Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn’t like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal …instead…he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin’ (Hebrews 9:25-26 CEV). And because of Christ’s ‘once and for all’ sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God at any time. The moment you say, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus,’ you’re made welcome and all your needs are met. There’s a story from American Civil War days about a soldier sitting on a bench outside the White House looking depressed. A little boy passing by stopped and asked what was wrong. The soldier told him he needed to see President Lincoln but the guards wouldn’t let him in. Hearing this, the boy took him by the hand and led him directly into the president’s office. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘this man really needs to speak with you.’ That boy was the president’s son; he had direct and continuous access to his father. And because you belong to Jesus, you do too!
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this day, November 1, 1800, John Adams became the first U.S. President to move into the White House. The following day he wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, in which he composed a beautiful prayer. A portion of that prayer was inscribed on the mantlepiece in the State Dining Room by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it.” President Adams ended his prayer with the words: “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
For whom are we to cater in revising the language? A country parson I know asked his sexton what he understood by indifferently in the phrase "truly and indifferently administer justice." The man replied, "It means making no difference between one chap and another." "And what would it mean if it said impartially?" asked the parson. "Don’t know. Never heard of it," said the sexton. Here, you see, we have a change intended to make things easier. But it does so neither for the educated, who understand indifferently already, nor for the wholly uneducated, who don't understand impartially. It helps only some middle area of the congregation which may not even be a majority. Let us hope the revisers will prepare for their work by a prolonged empirical study of popular speech as it actually is, not as we (a priori) assume it to be. How many scholars know (what I discovered by accident) that when uneducated people say impersonal they sometimes mean incorporeal?
What of expressions which are archaic but not unintelligible? ("Be ye lift up.') I find that people react to archaism most diversely. It antagonizes some; makes what is said unreal. To others, not necessarily more learned, it is highly numinous and a real aid to devotion. We can't please both.
I know there must be change. But is this the right moment? Two signs of the right moment occur to me. One would be a unity among us which enabled the Church-not some momentarily triumphant party-to speak through the new work with a united voice. The other would be the manifest presence, somewhere in the Church, of the specifically literary talent needed for composing a good prayer. Prose needs to be not only very good but very good in a very special way, if it is to stand up to reiterated reading aloud. Cranmer may have his defects as a theologian; as a stylist, he can play all the moderns, and many of his predecessors, off the field. I don't see either sign at the moment.
Yet we all want to be tinkering. Even I would gladly see "Let your light so shine before men" removed from the offertory. It sounds, in that context, so like an exhortation to do our alms that they may be seen by men.
I'd meant to follow up what you say about Rose Macaulay's letters, but that must wait till next week.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The test of character posed by the gentleness of God's approach to us is especially dangerous for those formed by the ideas that dominate our modern world. We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character. Only a very hardy individualist or social rebel -- or one desperate for another life -- therefore stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though because of powerful intellectual propaganda they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as wildly individualistic and unbearably bright.
--- Dallas Willard Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the Evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems & Other Writings: (Library of America 118)
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
--- John F. Kennedy Therapist as Life Coach: An Introduction for Counselors and Other Helping Professionals (Revised and Expanded) (Norton Professional Books (Hardcover))
Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.
--- Leon Kass
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning Machaerus, And How Lucilius Bassus Took That Citadel, And Other Places.
1. Now Lucilius Bassus was sent as legate into Judea, and there he received the army from Cerealis Vitellianus, and took that citadel which was in Herodium, together with the garrison that was in it; after which he got together all the soldiery that was there, [which was a large body, but dispersed into several parties,] with the tenth legion, and resolved to make war upon Machaerus; for it was highly necessary that this citadel should be demolished, lest it might be a means of drawing away many into a rebellion, by reason of its strength; for the nature of the place was very capable of affording the surest hopes of safety to those that possessed it, as well as delay and fear to those that should attack it; for what was walled in was itself a very rocky hill, elevated to a very great height; which circumstance alone made it very hard to be subdued. It was also so contrived by nature, that it could not be easily ascended; for it is, as it were, ditched about with such valleys on all sides, and to such a depth, that the eye cannot reach their bottoms, and such as are not easily to be passed over, and even such as it is impossible to fill up with earth. For that valley which cuts it on the west extends to threescore furlongs, and did not end till it came to the lake Asphaltites; on the same side it was also that Machaerus had the tallest top of its hill elevated above the rest. But then for the valleys that lay on the north and south sides, although they be not so large as that already described, yet it is in like manner an impracticable thing to think of getting over them; and for the valley that lies on the east side, its depth is found to be no less than a hundred cubits. It extends as far as a mountain that lies over against Machaerus, with which it is bounded.
2. Now when Alexander [Janneus], the king of the Jews, observed the nature of this place, he was the first who built a citadel here, which afterwards was demolished by Gabinius, when he made war against Aristobulus. But when Herod came to be king, he thought the place to be worthy of the utmost regard, and of being built upon in the firmest manner, and this especially because it lay so near to Arabia; for it is seated in a convenient place on that account, and hath a prospect toward that country; he therefore surrounded a large space of ground with walls and towers, and built a city there, out of which city there was a way that led up to the very citadel itself on the top of the mountain; nay, more than this, he built a wall round that top of the hill, and erected towers at the corners, of a hundred and sixty cubits high; in the middle of which place he built a palace, after a magnificent manner, wherein were large and beautiful edifices. He also made a great many reservoirs for the reception of water, that there might be plenty of it ready for all uses, and those in the properest places that were afforded him there. Thus did he, as it were, contend with the nature of the place, that he might exceed its natural strength and security [which yet itself rendered it hard to be taken] by those fortifications which were made by the hands of men. Moreover, he put a large quantity of darts and other machines of war into it, and contrived to get every thing thither that might any way contribute to its inhabitants' security, under the longest siege possible.
3. Now within this place there grew a sort of rue 10 that deserves our wonder on account of its largeness, for it was no way inferior to any fig tree whatsoever, either in height or in thickness; and the report is, that it had lasted ever since the times of Herod, and would probably have lasted much longer, had it not been cut down by those Jews who took possession of the place afterward. But still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself 11 its color is like to that of flame, and towards the Evenings it sends out a certain ray like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. Here are also fountains of hot water, that flow out of this place, which have a very different taste one from the other; for some of them are bitter, and others of them are plainly sweet. Here are also many eruptions of cold waters, and this not only in the places that lie lower, and have their fountains near one another, but, what is still more wonderful, here is to be seen a certain cave hard by, whose cavity is not deep, but it is covered over by a rock that is prominent; above this rock there stand up two [hills or] breasts, as it were, but a little distant one from another, the one of which sends out a fountain that is very cold, and the other sends out one that is very hot; which waters, when they are mingled together, compose a most pleasant bath; they are medicinal indeed for other maladies, but especially good for strengthening the nerves. This place has in it also mines of sulfur and alum.
by D.H. Stern
but the righteous, like lions, feel sure of themselves.
2 A land which transgresses [is punished by] having many rulers;
but with a man of understanding and knowledge, stability is prolonged.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Ye are not your own
Know ye not that … ye are not your own? --- 1 Cor. 6:19.
There is no such thing as a private life—‘a world within the world’—for a man or woman who is brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ’s sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves, we are called into the fellowship of the Gospel, and things happen which have nothing to do with us, God is getting us into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have his way, if you do not, instead of being of the slightest use to God in His Redemptive work in the world, you will be a hindrance and a clog.
The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged Reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn’t we go through heartbreaks? Through these doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God’s purpose and die away of self-pity, and all so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death-bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says—‘Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.’ If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Oh, I know it and don't
care. I know there is nothing in me
but cells and chromosomes
waiting to beget chromosomes
and cells. You could take me to pieces
and there would be no angel hard
by, wringing its hands over
the demolition of its temple.
I accept I'm predictable,
that of the thousands of choices
open to me the computer can calculate
the one I'll make. There is a woman
I know, who is the catalyst
of my conversions, who is
a mineral to dazzle. She will
grow old and her lovers will not
pardon her for it. I have made
her songs in the laboratory
of my understanding, explosives timed
to go off in the blandness of time's face.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The recognition of this limitation, which can be established by rational arguments, makes it possible for one to fully embrace both the task of being a philosopher and of being a loyal Jew:
The utmost power of one who adheres to a law and who has acquired knowledge of true reality consists, in my opinion, in his refuting the proofs of the philosophers bearing on the eternity of the world. How sublime a thing it is when the ability is there to do it! And everyone who engages in speculation, who is perceptive, and who has acquired true knowledge of reality and does not deceive himself, knows that with regard to this question—namely the eternity of the world or its temporal creation—no cogent demonstration can be reached and that it is a point before which the intellect stops.
The acceptance of the doctrine of creation, on the basis of tradition, is made possible by a knowledge of epistemology. He who knows both the scope and the limits of demonstrative reason realizes that claims based upon authority have a legitimate place in the philosophical mind. Even Aristotle, according to Maimonides, appealed to the authority of consensus to establish belief in the eternity of the universe.
The condition for embracing philosophy and Judaism is one’s ability to discern the epistemological status of different types of statements. Regarding the talmudic statement that ascribes the following virtue to the wise man, “He questions according to the subject and replies according to the rule” (T.B. Avot 5:7), Maimonides comments:
He would question what is necessary to question relative to that matter; he would neither request a mathematical demonstration in the science of physics, nor an argument from physics in the mathematical sciences and matters of the like. If he were the one who were questioned, he would also answer in accordance with the subject of the question. [That is], if he would be questioned in subjects which by their nature require a proof, he will answer in accordance with the subject of the questioner with a proof. If he could be questioned in that which is beneath this [i.e., which does not require a proof], he will answer according to that which is his opinion and [according to] its [i.e., the subject’s] nature. Moreover, he would not be asked for the material cause to which he will offer the formal cause, or be asked for the formal cause to which he will offer the material cause. Rather, he will reply from the standpoint of the object [of the question], as it was said, “He questions according to the subject and replies according to the rule.” This will come to pass only after extraordinary wisdom.
The “extraordinary wisdom” which is required to discern appropriate criteria of knowledge is especially important for the Jew who embraces philosophy. The key to intellectually harmonizing philosophy with Judaism is knowledge of epistemology, insofar as this prevents one from confusing claims based upon authority with claims based upon reason. To confuse the two is to experience conflict and perplexity where they do not exist. The consequences of a limited knowledge of logic can lead not only to perplexity, but ultimately to apostasy. It is from this perspective that Maimonides interprets the talmudic parable dealing with the apostasy of Elisha ben Abuya:
Four men entered pardes and they were: Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Elisha Aḥer and Rabbi Akiva … Ben Azzai gazed and died … Ben Zoma gazed and went mad … Elisha Aher cut the roots … Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and departed in peace.
Maimonides identified pardes with the philosophical disciplines of physics and metaphysics. His interpretation of the reason that Rabbi Akiva was able to sustain his commitment to Judaism within pardes, whereas Elisha was not, is:
For if you stay your progress because of a dubious point; if you do not deceive yourself into believing that there is a demonstration with regard to matters that have not been demonstrated; if you do not hasten to reject and categorically to pronounce false any assertions whose contradictories have not been demonstrated; if, finally, you do not aspire to apprehend that which you are unable to apprehend—you will have achieved human perfection and attained the rank of Rabbi Akiva, peace be on him, who “entered in peace and went out in peace” when engaged in the theoretical study of these metaphysical matters. If, on the other hand, you aspire to apprehend things that are beyond your apprehension; or if you hasten to pronounce false, assertions the contradictories of which have not been demonstrated or that are possible, though very remotely so—you will have joined Elisha Aḥer.
Elisha Aḥer, the celebrated apostate of the Talmud, was led to apostasy due to his deficient knowledge of logic. Maimonides knew that when engaged in philosophical speculation, inability to analyze the logical status of different types of arguments would destroy one’s loyalty to tradition. If one forgets the distinction between speculative arguments, which are logically subject to appeals to authority, and demonstrative arguments (where such appeals are illegitimate), it will be impossible to maintain belief in Torah. To accept the Torah, one must believe in the doctrine of creation:
Know that with a belief in the creation of the world in time, all the miracles become possible and the Law becomes possible, and all questions that may be asked on this subject, vanish.
Were one to mistakenly accept the philosophers’ speculative arguments for the eternity of the universe as having the same force as a demonstrative proof, he would be compelled to abandon his allegiance to Torah. Belief in eternal necessity makes belief in revelation at Sinai logically impossible:
… if the philosophers would succeed in demonstrating eternity as Aristotle understands it, the Law as a whole would become void, and a shift to other opinions would take place.
This is where Elisha erred. He thought that the speculative arguments for eternity had the status of demonstrative proofs. He therefore found it impossible to remain within a tradition based upon a false belief in creation. Maimonides attempts to prevent such lapses as Elisha’s apostasy by offering the Guide as an epistemological map which leads the student along a route that integrates the claims of authority and reason.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
--- 1 Corinthians 2:8
Fitz-James Stephen thought that Pilate’s report of Christ’s trial would make, could it be found, one of the most arresting state papers in history. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life And this is not only because of the prisoner’s personality, but because of the strong case that Pilate could make out for himself. There had been trouble before; there was always trouble with these pestilent Jews, with their mad hearts and touchy patriotism, quick to read offense in just nothing at all, and so unyielding about even their smallest rights. And Rome had laid it down that they must not be irritated. And yet here out of nowhere the old trouble was breaking out once more—and at the worst possible time in the whole year, when the city was thronged and overflowing far into the country on every side with multitudes of the fanatical creatures, two million of them, it is said, only too ready and willing to be inflamed. These wretched priests would soon have this inflammable mass ablaze, and once more the gutters would be running blood. And that was not to be. The orders given him were strict that bloodshed was to be avoided and that peace must be kept unbroken. Thus, looking at it from Pilate’s standpoint, it comes down to this, that it was to keep peace Christ’s cross was set up on Calvary.
“It is better for you that one man die for the people” (John 11:50), Caiaphas announced. And Pilate, put in a cruel dilemma, came at last to think that of it too. The man was innocent. But if he set him free, far worse was bound to happen; lives by the score would be sacrificed, and who could say where it would end? We must have peace. That was the one fixed point. And yet he hesitated, was unwilling. If only this had happened any other time! But with these Passover crowds about I cannot risk it. Peace we must have, and he must die. Quite plainly Pilate was impressed by Christ. Yet no doubt there is something in what Luther says. “Pilate took our Savior Christ to be a simple, honest, ignorant man, one perchance come out of a wilderness; a simple fellow, a hermit who knew or understood nothing of the world or of government.” Yes, it was a pity, but he must die.
--- Arthur John Gossip
Council of Chalcedon
The old church of St. Euphemia, sitting atop a hill in Chalcedon across the Bosphorus from Constantinople, hosted the fourth great council of the church in the fall of 451. The emperor called the bishops together to combat a series of heresies about the person of Christ and to formulate a creed that would unite Christianity.
The nature of Christ was the chief theological question of the first 400 years of church history. Christendom as a whole remained unified in an orthodox faith, but periodic assaults by heretics forced the church in its councils to state its definition of Christ. The Council of Nicaea in 325 had affirmed Christ as fully God. But how, then, could he also be truly human?
The Council of Chalcedon tackled that problem, and it wasn’t pretty. Bishops and delegates shouted at each other in rough-and-tumble debates, interrupting each other, losing their tempers, shouting down speakers, and wreaking havoc. In the end, however, it managed to affirm that Jesus: (1) is fully God; (2) is fully human; (3) is one person; and (4) possesses two distinct natures. The Chalcedon document, one of the most important in church history, says in part:
Following the holy fathers, we confess with one voice that the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, that he is of one substance with the Father as God, he is also of one substance with us as man. He is like us in all things without sin. This one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten is made known in two natures (which exist) without confusion, without change, without division, without separation. The distinction of the natures is in no way taken away by their union, but rather the distinctive properties of each nature are preserved.
The Council of Chalcedon thus affirmed that Jesus Christ is one person having both a divine and a human nature. He is one Lord. He is both God and man.
And with that, the council dissolved on November 1, 451.
Here is the great mystery of our religion: Christ came as a human. The Spirit proved that he pleased God, and he was seen by angels. Christ was preached to the nations. People in this world put their faith in him, and he was taken up to glory.
--- 1 Timothy 3:16.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 1
“The church in thy house.” --- Philemon 2.
Is there a Church in this house? Are parents, children, friends, servants, all members of it? or are some still unconverted? Let us pause here and let the question go round—Am I a member of the Church in this house? How would father’s heart leap for joy, and mother’s eyes fill with holy tears if from the eldest to the youngest all were saved! Let us pray for this great mercy until the Lord shall grant it to us. Probably it had been the dearest object of Philemon’s desires to have all his household saved; but it was not at first granted him in its fulness. He had a wicked servant, Onesimus, who, having wronged him, ran away from his service. His master’s prayers followed him, and at last, as God would have it, Onesimus was led to hear Paul preach; his heart was touched, and he returned to Philemon, not only to be a faithful servant, but a brother beloved, adding another member to the Church in Philemon’s house. Is there an unconverted servant or child absent this Morning? Make special supplication that such may, on their return to their home, gladden all hearts with good news of what grace has done! Is there one present? Let him partake in the same earnest entreaty.
If there be such a Church in our house, let us order it well, and let all act as in the sight of God. Let us move in the common affairs of life with studied holiness, diligence, kindness, and integrity. More is expected of a Church than of an ordinary household; family worship must, in such a case, be more devout and hearty; internal love must be more warm and unbroken, and external conduct must be more sanctified and Christlike. We need not fear that the smallness of our number will put us out of the list of Churches, for the Holy Spirit has here enrolled a family-church in the inspired book of remembrance. As a Church let us now draw nigh to the great head of the one Church universal, and let us beseech him to give us grace to shine before men to the glory of his name.
Evening - November 1
“And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” --- Matthew 24:39.
Universal was the doom, neither rich nor poor escaped: the learned and the illiterate, the admired and the abhorred, the religious and the profane, the old and the young, all sank in one common ruin. Some had doubtless ridiculed the patriarch—where now their merry jests? Others had threatened him for his zeal which they counted madness—where now their boastings and hard speeches? The critic who judged the old man’s work is drowned in the same sea which covers his sneering companions. Those who spoke patronizingly of the good man’s fidelity to his convictions, but shared not in them, have sunk to rise no more, and the workers who for pay helped to build the wondrous ark, are all lost also. The flood swept them all away, and made no single exception. Even so, out of Christ, final destruction is sure to every man of woman born; no rank, possession, or character, shall suffice to save a single soul who has not believed in the Lord Jesus. My soul, behold this wide-spread judgment and tremble at it.
How marvellous the general apathy! they were all eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, till the awful Morning dawned. There was not one wise man upon earth out of the ark. Folly duped the whole race, folly as to self-preservation—the most foolish of all follies. Folly in doubting the most true God—the most malignant of fooleries. Strange, my soul, is it not? All men are negligent of their souls till grace gives them reason, then they leave their madness and act like rational beings, but not till then.
All, blessed be God, were safe in the ark, no ruin entered there. From the huge elephant down to the tiny mouse all were safe. The timid hare was equally secure with the courageous lion, the helpless cony as safe as the laborious ox. All are safe in Jesus. My soul, art thou in him?
COME, CHRISTIANS, JOIN TO SING
Christian Henry Bateman, 1813–1889
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. (Psalm 95:1)
A New Testament church should always be a singing church, for sacred song is the natural outpouring of joyous Christian hearts. Of all the world’s religions, only Christianity is a singing faith. But singing should not be limited to the church services; rather, it should become the Christian’s normal daily lifestyle.
Singing God’s praises provides many important benefits to believers. There is the awareness that God is pleased when the voice is lifted in praise: “He who offers praise honors me” (Psalm 50:23). Then we learn many important spiritual truths and concepts when we sing. For many of us, our first awareness that God loves us and that He loves all the children of the world was gained through a song sung at our mother’s knee or in the Sunday school nursery. Singing will also provide encouragement and comfort in times of need. Often when we are experiencing periods of discouragement and despondency, a simple hymn will come to mind and will be used of God to mend our fragile emotions. Also, singing is one of our best preparations for heaven. The Bible teaches that we will enjoy giving praise and singing throughout eternity.
This hymn was originally titled “Come, Children, Join to Sing.” It first appeared in 1843 in a collection Sacred Melodies for Sabbath Schools and Families, edited by the author of this text, Christian H. Bateman. Bateman served three Congregational churches in Scotland and England and then was ordained in the Anglican church.
Come, Christians, join to sing—Alleluia! Amen! Loud praise to Christ our King—Alleluia! Amen! Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice; praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen!
Come, lift your hearts on high—Alleluia! Amen! Let praises fill the sky—Alleluia! Amen! He is our Guide and Friend; to us He’ll condescend; His love shall never end: Alleluia! Amen!
Praise yet our Christ again—Alleluia! Amen! Life shall not end the strain—Alleluia! Amen! On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore, singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!”
For Today: Psalm 95; 150; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:9
When tempted to complain or feel despondent, determine to sing a song of praise. It is one of the best ways to experience calm and contentment when life becomes bleak. Try this musical message as you go ---
8. The eighth consideration, for the right understanding of this attribute; the impossibility of God’s doing some things, is no
infringing of his almightiness, but rather a strengthening of it. It is granted that some things God cannot do; or, rather, as Aquinas
and others, it is better to say, such things cannot be done, than to say that God cannot do them; to remove all kind of imputation or
reflection of weakness on God, and because the reason of the impossibility of those things is in the nature of the things themselves.
1. Some things are impossible in their own nature. Such are all those things which imply a contradiction; as for a thing to be, and not to be at the same time; for the sun to shine, and not to shine at the same moment of time; for a creature to act, and not to act at the same instant: one of those parts must be false; for if it be true that the sun shines this moment, it must be false to say it doth not shine. So it is impossible that a rational creature can be without reason: ’Tis a contradiction to be a rational creature, and yet want that which is essential to a rational creature. So it is impossible that the will of man can be compelled, because liberty is the essence of the will; while it is will it cannot be constrained; and if it be constrained, it ceaseth to be will. God cannot at one time act as the author of the will and the destroyer of the will. It is impossible that vice and virtue, light and darkness, life and death, should be the same thing. Those things admit not of a conception in any understanding. Some things are impossible to be done, because of the incapability of the subject; as for a creature to be made infinite, independent, to preserve itself without the Divine concourse and assistance. So a brute cannot be taken into communion with God, and to everlasting spiritual blessedness, because the nature of a brute is incapable of such an elevation: a rational creature only can understand and relish spiritual delights, and is capable to enjoy God, and have communion with him. Indeed, God may change the nature of a brute, and bestow such faculties of understanding and will upon it, as to render it capable of such a blessedness; but then it is no more a brute, but a rational creature: but, while it remains a brute, the excellenty of the nature of God doth not admit of communion with such a subject; so that this is not for want of power in God, but because of a deficiency in the creature: to suppose that God could make a contradiction true, is to make himself false, and to do just nothing.
2. Some things are impossible to the nature and being of God. As to die, implies a flat repugnance to the nature of God; to be able to die, is to be able to be cashiered out of being. If God were able to deprive himself of life, he might then cease to be: he were not then a necessary, but an uncertain, contingent being, and could not be said only to have immortality, as he is (1 Tim. 6:16). He can not die who is life itself, and necessarily existent; he cannot grow old or decay, because he cannot be measured by time: and this is no part of weakness, but the perfection of power. His power is that whereby he remains forever fixed in his own everlasting being. That cannot be reckoned as necessary to the omnipotence of God which all mankind count a part of weakness in themselves: God is omnipotent, because he is not impotent; and if he could die, he would be impotent, not omnipotent: death is the feebleness of nature. It is undoubtedly the greatest impotence to cease to be: who would count it a part of ommpotency to disenable himself, and sink into nothing and not being? The impossibility for God to die is not a fit article to impeach his omnipotence; this would be a strange way of arguing: a thing is not powerful, because it is not feeble, cannot cease to be powerful, for death is a cessation of all power. God is almighty in doing what he will, not in suffering what he will not. To die is not an active, but a passive power; a defect of a power: God is of too noble a nature to perish. Some things are impossible to that eminency of nature which he hath above all creatures; as to walk, sleep, feed, these are imperfections belonging to bodies and compounded natures. If he could walk, he were not everywhere present: motion speaks succession. If he could increase, he would not have been perfect before.
3. Some things are impossible to the glorious perfections of God. God cannot do anything unbecoming his holiness and goodness; any thing unworthy of himself, and against the perfections of his nature. God can do whatsoever he can will. As he doth actually do whatsoever he doth actually will, so it is possible for him to do whatsoever it is possible for him to will. He doth whatsoever he will, and can do whatsoever he can will; but he cannot do what he cannot will: he cannot will any unrighteous thing, and therefore cannot do any unrighteous thing. God cannot love sin, this is contrary to his holiness; he cannot violate his word, this is a denial of his truth; he cannot punish an innocent, this is contrary to his goodness; he cannot cherish an impenitent sinner, this is an injury to his justice; he cannot forget what is done in the world, this is a disgrace to his omniscience; he cannot deceive his creature, this is contrary to his faithfulness: none of these things can be done by him, because of the perfection of his nature. Would it not be an imerfection in God to absolve the guilty, and condemn the innocent? Is it congruous to the righteous and holy nature of God, to command murder and adultery; to command men not to worship him, but to be base and unthankful? These things would be against the rules of righteousness; as, when we say of a good man, he cannot rob or fight a duel, we do not mean that he wants a courage for such an act, or that he hath not a natural strength and knowledge to manage his weapon as well as another, but he hath a righteous principle strong in him which will not suffer him to do it; his will is settled against it: no power can pass into act unless applied by the will; but the will of God cannot will anything but what is worthy of him, and decent for his goodness.
(1.) The Scripture saith it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18); and God cannot deny himself because of his faithfulness (2 Tim. 2:13). As he cannot die, because he is life itself; as be can not deceive, because he is goodness itself; as he cannot do an unwise action, because he is wisdom itself, so he cannot speak a false word, because he is truth itself. If he should speak anything as true, and not know it, where is his infinite knowledge and comprehensiveness of understanding? If he should speak anything as true, which he knows to be false, where is his infinite righteousness? If he should deceive any creature, there is an end of his perfection of fidelity and veracity. If he should be deceived himself, there is an end of his omniscience; we must then fancy him to be a deceitful God, an ignorant God, that is, no God at all. If he should lie, he would be God and no God; God upon supposition, and no God, because not the first truth. All unrighteousness is weakness, not power; it is a defection from right reason, a deviation from moral principles, and the rule of perfect action, and ariseth from a defect of goodness and power: it is a weakness, and not omnipotence, to lose goodness: God is light; it is the perfection of light not to become darkness, and a want of power in light, if it should become darkness: his power is infinitely strong, so is his wisdom infinitely clear, and his will infinitely pure: would it not be a part of weakness to have a disorder in himself, and these perfections shock one against another? Since all perfections are in God, in the most sovereign height of perfection, nothing can be done by the infiniteness of one against the infiniteness of the other. He would then be unstable in his own perfections, and depart from the infinite rectitude of his own will, if he should do an evil action. Again, what is an argument of greater strength , than to be utterly ignorant of infirmity? God is omnipotent because he cannot do evil, and would not be omnipotent if he could; those things would be marks of weakness, and not characters of majesty. Would you count a sweet fountain impotent because it cannot send forth bitter streams? or the sun weak, because it cannot diffuse darkness as well as light in the air? There is an inability arising from weakness, and an ability arising from perfection: it is the perfection of angels and blessed spirits, that they cannot sin; and it would be the imperfection of God, if he could do evil.
(2.) Hence it follows, that it is impossible that a thing past should not be past. If we ascribe a power to God, to make a thing that is past not to be past, we do not truly ascribe power to him, but a weakness; for it is to make God to lie, as though God might not have created man, yet, after he had created Adam, though he should presently have reduced Adam to his first nothing, yet it would be forever true that Adam was created, and it would forever be false that Adam never was created: so, though God may prevent sin, yet when sin hath been committed, it will alway be true that sin was committed; it will never be true to say such a creature that did sin, did not sin; his sin cannot be recalled: though God, by pardon, take off the guilt of Peter’s denying our Saviour, yet it will be eternally true that Peter did deny him. It is repugnant to the righteousness and truth of God to make that which was once true to become false, and not true; that is, to make a truth to become a lie, and a lie to become a truth. This is well argued from Heb. 6:18: “It is impossible for God to lie.” The apostle argues, that what God had promised and sworn will come to pass, and cannot but come to pass. Now, if God could make a thing past not to be past, this consequence would not be good, for then he might make himself not to have promised, not to have sworn, after he hath promised and sworn; and so, if there were a power to undo that which is past, there would be no foundation for faith, no certainty of revelation. It cannot be asserted, that God hath created the world; that God hath sent his Son to die; that God hath accepted his death for man. These might not be true, if it were possible, that that which hath been done, might be said never to have been done: so that what any may imagine to be a want of power in God, is the highest perfection of God, and the greatest security to a believing creature that hath to do with God.
4. Some things are impossible to be done, because of God’s ordination, Some things are impossible, not in their own nature, but in regard of the determined will of God: so God might have destroyed the world after Adam’s fall, but it was impossible; not that God wanted power to do it, but because he did not only decree from eternity to create the world, but did also decree to redeem the world by Jesus Christ, and erected the world in order to the manifestation of his “glory in Christ” (Eph. 1:4, 5). The choice of some in Christ was “before the foundation of the world.” Supposing that there was no hindrance in the justice of God to pardon the sin of Adam after his fall, and to execute no punishment on him, yet in regard of God’s threatening, that in the day he eat of the forbidden fruit he should die, it was impossible: so, though it was possible that the cup should pass from our blessed Saviour, that is, possible in its own nature, yet it was not possible in regard of the determination of God’s will, since he had both decreed and published his will to redeern man by the passion and blood of his Son. These things God, by his absolute power, might have done; but upon the account of his decree, they were impossible, because it is repugnant to the nature of God to be mutable: it is to deny his own wisdom which contrived them, and his own will which resolved them, not to do that which he had decreed to do. This would be a diffidence in his wisdom, and a change of his will. The impossibility of them is no result of a want of power, no mark of an imperfection, of feebleness and impotence; but the perfection of immutability and unehanneableness. Thus have I endeavored to give you a right notion of this excellent attribute of the power of God, in as plain terms as I could, which may serve us for a matter of meditation, admiration, fear of him, trust in him, which are the proper uses we should make of this doctrine of Divine power. The want of a right understanding of this doctrine of the Divine power hath caused many to run into mighty absurdities; I have, therefore, taken the more pains to explain it.
II. . The second thing I proposed, is the reasons to prove God to be omnipotent. The Scripture describes God by this attribute of power (Psalm 115:3): “He hath done whatsoever he pleased.” It sometimes sets forth his power in a way of derision of those that seem to doubt of it. When Sarah doubted of his ability to give her a child in her old age (Gen. 18:14), “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” They deserve to be scoffed, that will despoil God of his strength, and measure him by their shallow models. And when Moses uttered something of unbelief of this attribute, as if God were not able to feed 600,000 Israelites, besides women and children, which he aggravates by a kind of imperious scoff; “Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them to suffice them? Or, shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them?” &c. (Num. 11:22). God takes him up short (ver. 23): “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” What! can any weakness seize upon my hand? Can I draw out of my own treasures what is needful for a supply? The hand of God is not at one time strong, and another time feeble. Hence it is that we read of the hand and arm of God, an outstretched arm; because the strength of a man is exerted by his hand and arm; the power of God is called the arm of his power, and the right hand of his strength. Sometimes, according to the different manifestation of it, it is expressed by finger, when a less power is evidenced; by hand, when something greater; by arm, when more mighty than the former. Since God is eternal, without limits of time, he is also Almighty, without limits of strength. As he cannot be said to be more in being now than he was before, so he is neither more nor less in strength than he was before: as he cannot cease to be so, so he cannot cease to be powerful, because he is eternal. His eternity and power are linked together as equally demonstrable (Rom. 1:20); God is called the God of gods El Elohim (Dan. 11:36); the Mighty of mighties, whence all mighty persons have their activity and vigor he is called the Lord of Hosts, as being the Creator and Conductor of the heavenly militia.
Reason 1. The power that is in creatures demonstrates a greater and an unconceivable power in God.
Nothing in the world is without a power of activity according to its nature: no creature but can act something. The sun warms and enlightens everything: it sends its influences upon the earth, into the bowels of the earth, into the depths of the sea: all generations owe themselves to its instrumental virtue. How powerful is a small seed to rise into a mighty tree with a lofty top, and extensive branches, and send forth other seeds, which can still multiply into numberless plants! How wonderful is the power of the Creator, who hath endowed so small a creature as a seed, with so fruitful an activity! Yet this is but the virtue of a limited nature. God is both the producing and preserving cause of all the virtue in any creature, in every creature. The power of every creature belongs to him as the Fountain, and is truly his power in the creature. As he is the first Being, he is the original of all being; as he is the first Good, he is the spring of all goodness; as he is the first Truth, he is the source of all truth; so, as he is the first Power, he is the fountain of all power.
1. He, therefore, that communicates to the creature what power it hath, contains eminently much more power in himself. (Psalm 94:10), “He that teaches man knowledge, shall not he know?” So he that gives created beings power, shall not he be powerful? The first Being must have as much power as he Hath given to other: he could not transfer that upon another, which he did not transcendently possess himself. The sole cause of created power cannot be destitute of any power in himself. We see that the power of one creature transcends the power of another. Beasts can do the things that plants cannot do; besides the power of growth, they have a power of sense and progressive motion. Men can do more than beasts; they have rational souls to measure the earth and heavens, and to be repositories of multitudes of things, notions, and conclusions. We may well imagine angels to be far superior to man: the power of the Creator must far surmount the power of the creature, and must needs be infinite: for if it be limited, it is limited by himself or by some other; if by some other, he is no longer a Creator, but a creature; for that which limits him in his nature, did communicate that nature to him: not by himself, for he would not deny himself any necessary perfection: we must still conclude a reserve of power in him, that he that made these can make many more of the same kind.
2. All the power which is distinct in the creatures, must be united in God. One creature hath a strength to do this, another to do that; every creature is as a cistern filled with a particular and limited power, according to the capacity of its nature, from this fountain; all are distinct streams from God. But the strength of every creature, though distinct in the rank of creatures, is united in God the centre, whence those lines were drawn, the fountain whence those streams were derived. If the power of one creature be admirable, as the power of an angel, which the Psalmist saith (Psalm 103:20), “excelleth in strength;” how much greater must the power of a legion of angels be! How inconceivably superior the power of all those numbers of spiritual natures, which are the excellent works of God! Now, if all this particular power, which is in every angel distinct, were compacted in one angel, how would it exceed our understanding, and be above our power to form a distinct conception of it! What is thus divided in every angel, must be thought united in the Creator of angels, and far more excellent in him. Everything is in a more noble manner in the fountain, than in the streams which distil and descend from it. He that is the Original of all those distinct powers, must be the seat of all power without distinction: in him is the union of all without division; what is in them as a quality, is in him as his essence. Again, if all the powers of several creatures, with all their principal qualities and vigors, both of beasts, plants, and rational creatures, were united in one subject; as if one lion had the strength of all the lions that ever were; or, if one elephant had the strength of all the elephants that ever were; nay, if one bee had all the power of motion and stinging that all bees ever had, it would have a vast strength; but if the strength of all those thus gathered into one of every kind should be lodged in one sole creature, one man, would it not be a strength too big for our conception? Or, suppose one cannon had all the force of all the cannons that ever were in the world. what a battery would it make, and, as it were, shake the whole frame of heaven and earth! All this strength must be much more incomprehensible in God; all is united in him. If it were in one individual created nature, it would still be but a finite power in a finite nature: but in God it is infinite and immense.
Reason 2. If there, were not an incomprehensible power in God, he would not be infinitely perfect.
God is the first Being; it can only be said of him, Est, he is. All other things are nothing to him; “less than nothing and vanity” (Isa. 40:17), and “reputed as nothing” (Dan. 4:30). All the inhabitants of the earth, with all their wit and strength, are counted as if they were not; just in comparison with Him and his being, as a little mote in the sun-beams: God, therefore, is a pure Being. Any kind of weakness whatsoever is a defect, a degree of not being; so far as anything wants this or that power, it may be said not to be. Were there anything of weakness in God, any want of strength which belonged to the perfection of a nature, it might be said of God, He is not this or that, he wants this or that perfection of Being, and so he would not be a pure Being, there would be something of not being in him. But God being the first Being, the only original Being, he is infinitely distant from not being, and therefore infinitely distant from anything of weakness. Again, if God can know whatsoever is possible to be done by him, and cannot do it, there would be something more in his knowledge than in his power. What would then follow? That the essence of God would be in some regard greater than itself, and less than itself, because his knowledge and his power are his essence; his power as much his essence as his knowledge: and therefore, in regard of his knowledge, his essence would be greater; in regard of his power, his essence would be less; which is a thing impossible to be conceived in a most perfect Being. We must understand this of those things which are properly and in their own nature subjected to the Divine knowledge; for otherwise God knows more than he can do, for he knows sin, but he cannot act it, because sin belongs not to power but weakness; and sin comes under the knowledge of God, not in itself and its own nature, but as it is a defect from God, and contrary to good, which is the proper object of Divine knowledge. He knows it also not as possible to be done by himself, but as possible to be done by the creature. Again, if God were not omnipotent, we might imagine something more perfect than God: for if we bar God from any one thing which in its own nature is possible, we may imagine a being that can do that thing, one that is able to effect it; and so imagine an agent greater than God, a being able to do more than God is able to do, and consequently a being more perfect than God: but no being more perfect than God can be imagined by any creature. Nothing can be called most perfect, if anything of activity be wanting to it. Active power follows the perfection of a thing, and all things are counted more noble by how much more of efficacy and virtue they possess. We count those the best and most perfect plants, that have the greatest medicinal virtue in them, and power of working upon the body for the cure of distempers. God is perfect of himself, and therefore most powerful of himself. If his perfection in wisdom and goodness be unsearchable, his power, which belongs to perfection, and without which all the other excellencies of his nature were insignificant, and could not show themselves, (as was before evidenced,) must be unsearchable also. It is by the title of Almighty he is denominated, when declared to be unsearchable to perfection (Job 11:7): “Canst thou by searching find out God, canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?” This would be limited and searched out, if he were destitute of an active ability to do whatsoever he pleased to do, whatsoever was possible to be done. As he hath not a perfect liberty of will, if he could not will what he pleased; so he would not have a perfect activity, if he could not do what he willed.
Reason, 3. The simplicity of God manifests it. Every substance, the more spiritual it is, the more powerful it is. All perfections are more united in a simple, than in a compounded being. Angels, being spirits, are more powerful than bodies. Where there is the greatest simplicity, there is the greatest unity; and where there is the greatest unity, there is the greatest power. Where there is a composition of a faculty and a member, the member or organ may be weakened and rendered unable to act, though the power doth still reside in the faculty. As a man, when his arm or hand is cut off or broke, he hath the faculty of motion still; but he hath lost that instrument that part whereby he did manifest and put forth that motion: but God being a pure spiritual nature, hath no members, no organs to be defaced or impaired. All impediments of actions arise either from the nature of the thing that acts, or from something without it. There can be no hindrance to God to do whatsoever he pleases; not in himself, because he is the most simple being, hath no contrariety in himself, is not composed of divers things; and it cannot be from anything without himself, because nothing is equal to him, much less superior. He is the greatest, the Supreme: all things were made by him, depend upon him, nothing can disappoint his intentions.
Reason 4. The miracles that have been in the world evidence the power of God. Extraordinary productions have awakened men from their stupidity, to the acknowledgment of the immensity of Divine power. Miracles are such effects as have been wrought without the assistance and co-operation of natural causes, yea, contrary and besides the ordinary course of nature, above the reach of any created power.
Miracles have been; and saith Bradwardine, to deny that ever such things were, is uncivil: it is inhuman to deny all the histories of Jews and Christians; whosoever denies miracles, must deny all possibility of miracles, and so must imagine himself fully skilled in the extent of Divine power. How was the sun suspended from its motion for some hours (Josh. 10:13); “the dead raised from the grave;” those reduced from the brink of it, that had been brought near to it by prevailing diseases; and this by a word speaking? How were the famished lions bridled from exercising their rage upon Daniel, exposed to them for a prey (Dan. 6:22)? the activity of the fire curbed for the preservation of the three children (Dan. 3:10)? which proves a Deity more powerful than all creatures. No power upon earth can hinder the operation of the fire upon combustible matter, when they are united, unless by quenching the fire, or removing the matter: but no created power can restrain the fire, so long as it remains so, from acting according to its nature. This was done by God in the case of the three children, and that of the burning bush (Exod. 3:2). It was as much miraculous that the bush should not consume, as it was natural that it should burn by the efficacy of the fire upon it. No element is so obstinate and deaf, but it bears and obeys his voice, and performs his orders, though contrary to its own nature: all the violence or the creature is suspended as soon as it receives his command. He that gave the original to nature, can take away the necessity of nature; he presides over creatures, but is not confined to those laws he hath prescribed to creatures. He framed nature, and can turn the channels of nature according to his own, pleasure. Men dig into the bowels of nature, search into all the treasures of it, to find medicines to cure a disease, and after all their attempts it may prove labor in vain: but God, by one act of his will, one word of his mouth, overturns the victory of death, and rescues from the most desperate diseases. All the miracles which were wrought by the apostles, either speaking some words or touching with the hand, were not effected by any virtue inherent in their words or in their touches; for such virtue inherent in any created finite subject would be created and finite itself, and consequently were incapable to produce effects which required an infinite virtue, as miracles do which are above the power of nature. So when our Saviour wrought miracles, it was not by any quality resident in his human nature, but by the sole power of his Divinity. The flesh could only do what was proper to the flesh; but the Deity did what was proper to the Deity. “God alone doth wonders” (Psalm 136:4): excluding every other cause from producing those things. He only doth those things which are above the power of nature, and cannot be wrought by any natural causes whatsoever. He doth not hereby put his omnipotence to any stress: it is as easy with him to turn nature out of its settled course, as it was to place it in that station it holds, and appoint it that course it runs. All the works of nature are indeed miracles and testimonies of the power of God producing them, and sustaining them: but works above the power of nature, being novelties and unusual, strike men with a greater admiration upon their appearance, because they are not the products of nature, but the convulsions of it. I might also add as an argument, the power of the mind of man to conceive more than hath been wrought by God in the world. And God can work whatsoever perfection the mind of man can conceive: otherwise the reaches of a created imagination and fancy would be more extensive than the power of God. His power, therefore, is far greater than the conception of any intellectual creature; else the creature would be of a greater capacity to conceive than God is to effect. The creature would have a power of conception above God’s power of activity; and consequently a creature, in some respect greater than himself. Now whatsoever a creature can conceive possible to be done, is but finite in its own nature; and if God could not produce what being a created understanding can conceive possible to be done, he would be less than infinite in power, nay, he could not go to the extent of what is finite. But I have touched this before; that God can create more than he hath created, and in a more perfect way of being, as considered simply in themselves.
The Existence and Attributes of God