Jesus Rejected at NazarethMark 6 1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in their belts — 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
The Death of John the Baptist14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Jesus Walks on the Water45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Traditions and CommandmentsMark 7 1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
What Defiles a Person14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Jesus Heals a Deaf Man31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
What I'm Reading
The Evidence Still Demands a Verdict
By J. Warner Wallace 10/15/2017
If you’re interested in apologetics (or “Christian Case Making,” as I like to call it), you probably own a copy of Josh McDowell’s classic work, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Did you know that there is a brand-new edition of this great resource? My good friend, Sean McDowell, has co-authored the most recent version, and he agreed to talk a little bit about the latest edition of this important book:
J. Warner: | I remember how important the first Evidence That Demands a Verdict was for me in the first years I became a Christian. I didn’t find out about it until I spent hundreds of hours investigating the Gospels, but I was comforted by the fact your dad had examined the case so carefully. How important was your father’s work in your own life? Did he share his investigation with you as a child?
Sean: | My father’s story was probably the central narrative of my childhood (pointing towards the gospel, of course). His entire life and ministry has been an extension of his painful childhood, his surprise at the evidence for Christianity, his conversion, and then his changed life. He actually wrote the first version of Evidence That Demands a Verdict in 1972, four years before I was even born. And he had converted years before that, in 1959. So, unlike Lee Strobel, my father’s investigation and conversion was long before he was married or had kids.
But, when I was growing up, he was always talking about the evidence for Christianity over the dinner table, with strangers, and in his talks. He was careful not to overwhelm us kids, but he loved the manuscript evidence so much, he just couldn’t resist talking about it. There’s no doubt his passion for truth, and the evidence itself, have played a huge role in my life.
J. Warner: | Over the years as you were growing up with your dad, what role did Evidence That Demands a Verdict play in your own life? Why do you think it still stands the test of time?
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.
If You Want to Hear God, Quiet Your Mind
By Leslie Schmucker 8/1/2017
If you are past a certain age, or if you are averse to paying for cable or satellite television, you may be familiar with rabbit ears. They are those metal, V-shaped antennas that, when positioned just so, may or may not allow you to receive a few channels on your TV.
I can remember my father adjusting the ears and, when the desired channel appeared with as much clarity as he could finesse, gingerly letting go of the antenna only to have the static return with frustrating obscurity. Many nights we watched Ed Sullivan through the maddening distortion and sound of static.
Static muddles and clouds. The enemy uses the static of self-talk, cheap advice, societal pressures, social media, and busyness, which all make us strain to hear truth. If we are not careful, the static in our hearts and minds will make it difficult to hear God’s voice, especially since he often speaks in tones that are still and small. If we allow the static to persist, we just might give up and tune in to another channel.
Tormented by Static | Eve, in Genesis 3, experienced static in the garden. The serpent craftily obscured and distorted truth as he asked, “Did God really say . . . ?” And Eve lost satisfaction in her Creator. Cain, in Genesis 4, succumbed to static. Can you picture him, tilling the ground, sweat pouring off his brow, back sore, talking himself out of giving God his best? Then, when God naturally rejected his offering, the static grew louder and culminated in Cain killing his brother out of jealousy and anger. He had stopped revering his Creator.
Job was tormented by the static of his chattering friends and wife, who added more grief to his already sorrowful soul. They made it hard for him to trust his God. King Saul was paralyzed by the static of fear, jealousy, and paranoia, ultimately leading to his dethroning and death. He rejected his Creator. We can fall into strife, despair, and sin too when we allow the static in our minds to tune out the still, true, sure voice of God.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 115To Your Name Give Glory
115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
Chapter 4 | Papal PersecutionsThe Bartholomew Massacre at Paris, etc. On the twenty second day of August, 1572, commenced this diabolical act of sanguinary brutality. It was intended to destroy at one stroke the root of the Protestant tree, which had only before partially suffered in its branches. The king of France had artfully proposed a marriage, between his sister and the prince of Navarre, the captain and prince of the Protestants. This imprudent marriage was publicly celebrated at Paris, August 18, by the cardinal of Bourbon, upon a high stage erected for the purpose. They dined in great pomp with the bishop, and supped with the king at Paris. Four days after this, the prince (Coligny), as he was coming from the Council, was shot in both arms; he then said to Maure, his deceased mother's minister, "O my brother, I do now perceive that I am indeed beloved of my God, since for His most holy sake I am wounded." Although the Vidam advised him to fly, yet he abode in Paris, and was soon after slain by Bemjus; who afterward declared he never saw a man meet death more valiantly than the admiral.
The soldiers were appointed at a certain signal to burst out instantly to the slaughter in all parts of the city. When they had killed the admiral, they threw him out at a window into the street, where his head was cut off, and sent to the pope. The savage papists, still raging against him, cut off his arms and private members, and, after dragging him three days through the streets, hung him by the heels without the city. After him they slew many great and honorable persons who were Protestants; as Count Rochfoucault, Telinius, the admiral's son-in-law, Antonius, Clarimontus, marquis of Ravely, Lewes Bussius, Bandineus, Pluvialius, Burneius, etc., and falling upon the common people, they continued the slaughter for many days; in the three first they slew of all ranks and conditions to the number of ten thousand. The bodies were thrown into the rivers, and blood ran through the streets with a strong current, and the river appeared presently like a stream of blood. So furious was their hellish rage, that they slew all papists whom they suspected to be not very staunch to their diabolical religion. From Paris the destruction spread to all quarters of the realm.
At Orleans, a thousand were slain of men, women, and children, and six thousand at Rouen.
At Meldith, two hundred were put into prison, and later brought out by units, and cruelly murdered.
At Lyons, eight hundred were massacred. Here children hanging about their parents, and parents affectionately embracing their children, were pleasant food for the swords and bloodthirsty minds of those who call themselves the Catholic Church. Here three hundred were slain in the bishop's house; and the impious monks would suffer none to be buried.
At Augustobona, on the people hearing of the massacre at Paris, they shut their gates that no Protestants might escape, and searching diligently for every individual of the reformed Church, imprisoned and then barbarously murdered them. The same curelty they practiced at Avaricum, at Troys, at Toulouse, Rouen and many other places, running from city to city, towns, and villages, through the kingdom.
As a corroboration of this horrid carnage, the following interesting narrative, written by a sensible and learned Roman Catholic, appears in this place, with peculiar propriety.
"The nuptials (says he) of the young king of Navarre with the French king's sister, was solemnized with pomp; and all the endearments, all the assurances of friendship, all the oaths sacred among men, were profusely lavished by Catharine, the queen-mother, and by the king; during which, the rest of the court thought of nothing but festivities, plays, and masquerades. At last, at twelve o'clock at night, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, the signal was given. Immediately all the houses of the Protestants were forced open at once. Admiral Coligny, alarmed by the uproar jumped out of bed, when a company of assassins rushed in his chamber. They were headed by one Besme, who had been bred up as a domestic in the family of the Guises. This wretch thrust his sword into the admiral's breast, and also cut him in the face. Besme was a German, and being afterwards taken by the Protestants, the Rochellers would have brought him, in order to hang and quarter him; but he was killed by one Bretanville. Henry, the young duke of Guise, who afterwards framed the Catholic league, and was murdered at Blois, standing at the door until the horrid butchery should be completed, called aloud, 'Besme! is it done?' Immediately after this, the ruffians threw the body out of the window, and Coligny expired at Guise's feet.
"Count de Teligny also fell a sacrifice. He had married, about ten months before, Coligny's daughter. His countenance was so engaging, that the ruffians, when they advanced in order to kill him, were struck with compassion; but others, more barbarous, rushing forward, murdered him.
"In the meantime, all the friends of Coligny were assassinated throughout Paris; men, women, and children were promiscuously slaughtered and every street was strewed with expiring bodies. Some priests, holding up a crucifix in one hand, and a dagger in the other, ran to the chiefs of the murderers, and strongly exhorted them to spare neither relations nor friends.
"Tavannes, marshal of France, an ignorant, superstitious soldier, who joined the fury of religion to the rage of party, rode on horseback through the streets of Paris, crying to his men, 'Let blood! let blood! bleeding is as wholesome in August as in May.' In the memories of the life of this enthusiastic, written by his son, we are told that the father, being on his deathbed, and making a general confession of his actions, the priest said to him, with surprise, 'What! no mention of St. Bartholomew's massacre?' to which Tavannes replied, 'I consider it as a meritorious action, that will wash away all my sins.' Such horrid sentiments can a false spirit of religion inspire!
"The king's palace was one of the chief scenes of the butchery; the king of Navarre had his lodgings in the Louvre, and all his domestics were Protestants. Many of these were killed in bed with their wives; others, running away naked, were pursued by the soldiers through the several rooms of the palace, even to the king's antichamber. The young wife of Henry of Navarre, awaked by the dreadful uproar, being afraid for her consort, and for her own life, seized with horror, and half dead, flew from her bed, in order to throw herself at the feet of the king her brother. But scarce had she opened her chamber door, when some of her Protestant domestics rushed in for refuge. The soldiers immediately followed, pursued them in sight of the princess, and killed one who crept under her bed. Two others, being wounded with halberds, fell at the queen's feet, so that she was covered with blood.
"Count de la Rochefoucault, a young nobleman, greatly in the king's favor for his comely air, his politeness, and a certain peculiar happiness in the turn of his conversation, had spent the evening until eleven o'clock with the monarch, in pleasant familiarity; and had given a loose, with the utmost mirth, to the sallies of his imagination. The monarch felt some remorse, and being touched with a kind of compassion, bid him, two or three times, not to go home, but lie in the Louvre. The count said he must go to his wife; upon which the king pressed him no farther, but said, 'Let him go! I see God has decreed his death.' And in two hours after he was murdered.
"Very few of the Protestants escaped the fury of their enthusiastic persecutors. Among these was young La Force (afterwards the famous Marshal de la Force) a child about ten years of age, whose deliverance was exceedingly remarkable. His father, his elder brother, and he himself were seized together by the Duke of Anjou's soldier. These murderers flew at all three, and struck them at random, when they all fell, and lay one upon another. The youngest did not receive a single blow, but appearing as if he was dead, escaped the next day; and his life, thus wonderfully preserved, lasted four score and five years.
"Many of the wretched victims fled to the water side, and some swam over the Seine to the suburbs of St. Germaine. The king saw them from his window, which looked upon the river, and fired upon them with a carbine that had been loaded for that purpose by one of his pages; while the queen-mother, undisturbed and serene in the midst of slaughter, looking down from a balcony, encouraged the murderers and laughed at the dying groans of the slaughtered. This barbarous queen was fired with a restless ambition, and she perpetually shifted her party in order to satiate it.
"Some days after this horrid transaction, the French court endeavored to palliate it by forms of law. They pretended to justify the massacre by a calumny, and accused the admiral of a conspiracy, which no one believed. The parliament was commended to proceed against the memory of Coligny; and his dead body was hanged in chains on Montfaucon gallows. The king himself went to view this shocking spectacle. So one of his courtiers advised him to retire, and complaining of the stench of the corpse, he replied, 'A dead enemuy smells well.' The massacres on St. Bartholomew's day are painted in the royal saloon of the Vatican at Rome, with the following inscription: Pontifex, Coligny necem probat, i.e., 'The pope approves of Coligny's death.'
"The young king of Navarre was spared through policy, rather than from the pity of the queen-mother, she keeping him prisoner until the king's death, in order that he might be as a security and pledge for the submission of such Protestants as might effect their escape.
"This horrid butchery was not confined merely to the city of Paris. The like orders were issued from court to the governors of all the provinces in France; so that, in a week's time, about one hundred thousand Protestants were cut to pieces in different parts of the kingdom! Two or three governors only refused to obey the king's orders. One of these, named Montmorrin, governor of Auvergne, wrote the king the following letter, which deserves to be transmitted to the latest posterity.
"SIRE: I have received an order, under your majesty's seal, to put to death all the Protestants in my province. I have too much respect for your majesty, not to believe the letter a forgery; but if (which God forbid) the order should be genuine, I have too much respect for your majesty to obey it."
At Rome the horrid joy was so great, that they appointed a day of high festival, and a jubilee, with great indulgence to all who kept it and showed every expression of gladness they could devise! and the man who first carried the news received 1000 crowns of the cardinal of Lorraine for his ungodly message. The king also commanded the day to be kept with every demonstration of joy, concluding now that the whole race of Huguenots was extinct.
Many who gave great sums of money for their ransom were immediately after slain; and several towns, which were under the king's promise of protection and safety, were cut off as soon as they delivered themselves up, on those promises, to his generals or captains.
At Bordeaux, at the instigation of a villainous monk, who used to urge the papists to slaughter in his sermons, two hundred and sixty-four were cruelly murdered; some of them senators. Another of the same pious fraternity produced a similar slaughter at Agendicum, in Maine, where the populace at the holy inquisitors' satanical suggestion, ran upon the Protestants, slew them, plundered their houses, and pulled down their church.
The duke of Guise, entering into Blois, suffered his soldiers to fly upon the spoil, and slay or drown all the Protestants they could find. In this they spared neither age nor sex; defiling the women, and then murdering them; from whence he went to Mere, and committed the same outrages for many days together. Here they found a minister named Cassebonius, and threw him into the river.
At Anjou, they slew Albiacus, a minister; and many women were defiled and murdered there; among whom were two sisters, abused before their father, whom the assassins bound to a wall to see them, and then slew them and him.
The president of Turin, after giving a large sum for his life, was cruelly beaten with clubs, stripped of his clothes, and hung feet upwards, with his head and breast in the river: before he was dead, they opened his belly, plucked out his entrails, and threw them into the river; and then carried his heart about the city upon a spear.
At Barre great cruelty was used, even to young children, whom they cut open, pulled out their entrails, which through very rage they gnawed with their teeth. Those who had fled to the castle, when they yielded, were almost hanged. Thus they did at the city of Matiscon; counting it sport to cut off their arms and legs and afterward kill them; and for the entertainment of their visitors, they often threw the Protestants from a high bridge into the river, saying, "Did you ever see men leap so well?"
At Penna, after promising them safety, three hundred were inhumanly butchered; and five and forty at Albia, on the Lord's Day. At Nonne, though it yielded on conditions of safeguard, the most horrid spectacles were exhibited. Persons of both sexes and conditions were indiscriminately murdered; the streets ringing with doleful cries, and flowing with blood; and the houses flaming with fire, which the abandoned soldiers had thrown in. One woman, being dragged from her hiding place with her husband, was first abused by the brutal soldiers, and then with a sword which they commanded her to draw, they forced it while in her hands into the bowels of her husband.
At Samarobridge, they murdered above one hundred Protestants, after promising them peace; and at Antsidor, one hundred were killed, and cast part into a jakes, and part into a river. One hundred put into a prison at Orleans, were destroyed by the furious multitude.
The Protestants at Rochelle, who were such as had miraculously escaped the rage of hell, and fled there, seeing how ill they fared who submitted to those holy devils, stood for their lives; and some other cities, encouraged thereby, did the like. Against Rochelle, the king sent almost the whole power of France, which besieged it seven months; though by their assaults, they did very little execution on the inhabitants, yet by famine, they destroyed eighteen thousand out of two and twenty. The dead, being too numerous for the living to bury, became food for vermin and carnivorous birds. Many took their coffins into the church yard, laid down in them, and breathed their last. Their diet had long been what the minds of those in plenty shudder at; even human flesh, entrails, dung, and the most loathsome things, became at last the only food of those champions for that truth and liberty, of which the world was not worthy. At every attack, the besiegers met with such an intrepid reception, that they left one hundred and thirty-two captains, with a proportionate number of men, dead in the field. The siege at last was broken up at the request of the duke of Anjou, the king's brother, who was proclaimed king of Poland, and the king, being wearied out, easily complied, whereupon honorable conditions were granted them.
It is a remarkable interference of Providence, that, in all this dreadful massacre, not more than two ministers of the Gospel were involved in it.
The tragical sufferings of the Protestants are too numerous to detail; but the treatment of Philip de Deux will give an idea of the rest. After the miscreants had slain this martyr in his bed, they went to his wife, who was then attended by the midwife, expecting every moment to be delivered. The midwife entreated them to stay the murder, at least till the child, which was the twentieth, should be born. Notwithstanding this, they thrust a dagger up to the hilt into the poor woman. Anxious to be delivered, she ran into a corn loft; but hither they pursued her, stabbed her in the belly, and then threw her into the street. By the fall, the child came from the dying mother, and being caught up by one of the Catholic ruffians, he stabbed the infant, and then threw it into the river.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
By R.C. Sproul 7/01/2015
Although the actual election is about a year and a half away, we’re already starting to see prospective candidates throw their hats into the ring for the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Caucuses, primaries, debates, get-out-the-vote efforts, fund-raising, and so much more will occupy the attention of the news media as it covers the candidates’ attempts to become the so-called leader of the free world. As is true every four years, we’ll see party platforms crafted and each person in the race claiming that his or her positions on the issues are the truest embodiment of American values.
Regardless of whether the term family values is bandied about during the election cycle, we’re likely to see candidates talking about the importance of issues that pertain to families. Here I have to quibble just a bit with the term family values, and that’s because of our modern propensity to confuse the concept of values with the concept of ethics. They are not synonymous ideas. Ethics is an objective science, one that seeks to determine concrete standards of right and wrong. Values, on the other hand, refers to preferences. They are, in large measure, subjective. We speak, for example, of the “subjective theory of value,” which says that the value of goods and services in an economy is determined by the worth an individual or group of individuals attributes to them. All things being equal, if an item or service is highly desired, it will go up in price. If desire for an item or service is low, it will cost less.
In the Christian worldview, ethical standards are fixed because they are objective standards of right and wrong that reflect our transcendent Creator. In contrast, values change over time according to personal preference. That does not mean, however, that ethics and values are unrelated. Biblically speaking, the two go hand in hand. We are called to align our values with what God values, and what God values is outlined in His revealed ethical norms in Scripture. This is as true of family values as it is of economic values, political values, and so forth.
Biblical revelation tells us that family values are tied to how we should value people. When it comes to the family, Scripture is quite clear that children are gifts from God, and therefore they are of inestimable value. I’m reminded of the story of Abraham in Genesis 15 when he is concerned about his lack of an heir. That great patriarch was one of the wealthiest men in his day. He was “very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Gen. 13:2). But Abraham was not concerned for his riches above all else. There was something he wanted more—a son to be his heir. Despite his wealth, he felt impoverished because he had no children. He longed for the children God promised him when he was called out of Ur (12:1–3).
That says much about Abraham’s values. But Abraham isn’t the only person we read about in Scripture who highly valued children. We feel the anguish of Hannah in her plea for a son, and we rejoice with her in the birth of Samuel (1 Sam. 1). Solomon tells us that “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward,” and blessed is the man who fills his house with children just as he fills a quiver with arrows (Ps. 127:3–5). And who can forget Jesus’ command that His disciples not keep the “little children” from coming to Him (Matt. 19:13– 14)? Our Savior, who Himself never married or had children, placed a high value on children. America’s abortion clinics has rejected the ethics of God’s Word and should fear the judgment of God.
Periodically, we hear of the supposed economic burden children bring. Recent statistics estimate that it costs more than $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age eighteen. Yet Christians do not consider their sons and daughters to be burdens. We know they are gifts from God to be treasured and to be raised in the fear and admonition of our Lord (Eph. 6:4). No matter the financial cost, it is a small price to pay for the joys we receive from the hugs of our children and grandchildren. May the Lord bless His church with children who love and serve Him.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Ministry in the Capital: An Interview with Mark Dever
By Mark Dever 7/01/2015
Tabletalk: How did Capitol Hill Baptist Church begin, and how were you called to minister there?
Mark Dever: In 1867, Celestia Ferris, chief washer-woman at the Bureau of Engraving, started a prayer meeting on Capitol Hill. By 1876, this prayer meeting had grown into a Sunday School Society, at which time the plot of land on which Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) now sits was purchased and a building was built. Then, in 1878, the Sunday School Society incorporated as the Metropolitan Baptist Church, only later to become Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
CHBC is more than a hundred years old. It was the first church of any denomination in the northeast quarter of Washington, D.C. They had a long and healthy pastorate in the first half of the twentieth century, followed by eight shorter pastorates in the second half, many of them not so healthy. Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, a member of CHBC since the mid-1950s, wrote me in January 1993 to let me know of their need for a pastor. I first met Carl Henry some years earlier and had gotten to know him fairly well. He encouraged me to teach in a seminary, so I was initially surprised when I got his letter asking about my interest in pastoring the church on Capitol Hill. I then visited the church and through much prayer and conversation, both the church and I concluded that I should come to be their pastor. This was clear to me and my wife by the summer of 1993, and the congregation there voted to call me in December 1993. After a couple of weeks of prayer and reflection, I accepted the call. They understood that I wouldn’t be able to start serving until the second half of 1994. My family and I moved there in the middle part of 1994, and they graciously allowed me to simply attend throughout July, August, and September so that I could get used to what their culture was like. I was finally installed as the pastor on the last Sunday of September 1994; I began preaching the first Sunday in October 1994; and I’ve been there ever since.
TT: What are some of the unique challenges of ministering in Washington, D.C.? How do you seek to overcome those challenges?
MD: I don’t really think there are any unique challenges. I guess you could say that given our location, I have to be extra careful about sounding partisan. But other than that, the ministry here is remarkably like ministry in any other urban area around the world.
The best way I know how to overcome any unique challenge is to ensure that the gospel is clear and present in every message. I keep the gospel central and try to avoid any unduly partisan expressions or language.
TT: How did 9Marks begin, and what is its mission?
MD: I first thought of the nine marks in a letter I had written to a church plant I had been involved with in the Boston area. I wrote to them in 1991 laying out nine characteristics that marked their church, that were intentional, and that any pastor coming to work with them should understand before he came. As for 9Marks as an organization, 9Marks began with Matt Schmucker wanting to export to other pastors the lessons he was learning here at CHBC. Matt has always been a builder. He likes, and is able, to start new things. Matt’s vision along with a generous donation from a neighbor allowed us to get started in November 1998. We were originally called the Center for Church Reform, but then we noticed pastors getting into trouble with their congregations for referring to an organization that seemed to suggest that they should change. So we decided to go for the simple positive name of 9Marks, which would represent those issues in the local church we were specifically addressing.
The 9Marks mission is to help pastors and church leaders, as well as all interested Christians, think more biblically about church health.
TT: What are the nine marks of a healthy church? Why are they so important?
MD: The nine marks of a healthy church are expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, church membership, church discipline, biblical church leadership, and discipleship and growth. These marks are not merely important because they are biblical; there are in fact many more biblical marks of a healthy church that could be considered. It’s that these are so often and unwittingly neglected. For example, while there may be widespread misunderstanding about worship, missions, or prayer, there has been lots of emphasis on all three from different camps for decades. Vast conferences are organized for worship leaders, for missions, or for concerts of prayer. All of these are good, but these topics are not neglected. Biblical theology, however, is often simply left to the academics. Conversion for many people is a paragraph in a systematic theology book. Church membership is downplayed or even denied by many churches. And yet these issues are absolutely vital for pastors and church leaders to understand. We had a conference just this last year on church membership that one thousand pastors and church leaders attended. These issues are important, and 9Marks is a parachurch tool to reduce their neglect.
TT: There are a number of different ecclesiologies evident in Protestantism (Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc.). How does 9Marks, birthed in a Baptist context, serve churches that have a different ecclesiological structure?
MD: 9Marks intends to bring the confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for directing the life of the church that marked earlier Protestants — whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, or Anglican — back into live conversation among pastors today. And this is a conversation in which most of these marks were never dividing points between denominations. For instance, expositional preaching was the regular practice of evangelical ministers in past generations. I’d like us to revisit those earlier conversations, which were so steeped in the Bible, and see what we can learn from them in our more pragmatic age.
TT: Can Christians who hold to different ecclesiologies have true unity in Christ? What does this unity look like?
MD: Yes. We’re indwelt by the same Spirit, saved by the same death, and justified by the same resurrection. We follow the same Lord, worship the same God according to the same faith in the same gospel. Our unity is not a goal; it’s a spiritual reality. It’s a fact. Our job now is to live out that unity.
We live out that unity through Bible-believing congregations with faith in the same gospel, praying for each other’s health and prosperity, while serving and encouraging one another. It also includes faithfully bearing witness to what we think the Bible teaches on topics where we know there is division among evangelicals. Someone else’s misunderstanding should not prevent me from thinking I understand something clearly in Scripture, and in such a situation I must be clear in my obedience to the Lord and His Word even while being charitable to brothers and sisters who intend to obey as I do, but think God has said something different in His Word.
TT: What is a local Church’s responsibility to a Church member who, though not excommunicated, just leaves and joins another church down the street?
MD: It depends. If it is not a gospel-preaching church and your church member has been taught and spoken to and reasoned with, and he or she refuses to either return to your church or go to some other gospel-preaching church, then you must excommunicate him or her. On the other hand, if he or she has simply gone to another church for any host of reasons and that church preaches the gospel, it is entirely legitimate for him or her to go, and I may even encourage him or her to go for various reasons. Every pastor knows how many situations there can be like that. We often have people leave our church for other evangelical churches, and it only causes those churches to be more dear to us and those who have left us are always welcome back. One factor we emphasize that other churches typically don’t is geography. We like people to be a part of a church near where they live. So while you can be a faithful member of a church that meets an hour from where you live, if you find one that meets thirty minutes from where you live, it would, all other factors being equal, be a better option.
Dr. Mark Dever is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he has served for more than twenty years. Dr. Dever is president of 9Marks Ministries, an organization committed to equipping church leaders with practical biblical resources for displaying the glory of God through healthy churches.Mark Dever Books:
- 1 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
- 2 Proclaiming A Cross-Centered Theology
- 3 The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever (2006-04-10)
- 4 By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life
- 5 The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept by Mark Dever (2005-11-16)
- 6 The Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
- 7 RICHARD SIBBES
- 8 90 Days in Ruth, Jeremiah and 1 Corinthians: Draw strength from God s word
- 9 God and Politics
- 10 Preach: Theology Meets Practice
- 11 Preach: Theology Meets Practice
- 12 In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement
- 13 What Does God Want of Us Anyway?: A Quick Overview of the Whole Bible (9Marks)
- 14 It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement (9Marks)
- 15 What Is a Healthy Church? (IX Marks) (9 Marks of a Healthy Church)
- 16 The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel
- 17 The Compelling Community: Where God's Power Makes a Church Attractive (9Marks)
- 18 The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Foreword by C. J. Mahaney) (9marks)
- 19 Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)
A Whole New World
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/01/2015
I’m not the world’s best shopper, and he may well be the hardest man in the world to shop for, and so I cringe each year as Father’s Day, Christmas, or my father’s birthday approaches. This year, however, I did well. I got my dad a nice plaque with a photo of Three Rivers Stadium, home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers for more than thirty years. The plaque also had a photo of the statue outside the stadium of the Great One, Roberto Clemente, one of the Pirates’ all-time greats. Plaques and photos, however, are pretty easy to come by. What was unusual about the plaque was this — it included a three-inch by three-inch strip of the actual artificial turf from Three Rivers Stadium, the very ground Roberto Clemente and the Steelers’ Franco Harris once trod.
I found this amazing gift through something even more amazing: the Internet. I’m still getting used to all that it can do, harnessing it to solve sundry shopping challenges. My computer and now even my phone have become magic boxes, opening up virtual vistas I couldn’t have dreamed of as a child. With the Internet, we do not have the old world plus the Internet, but rather a whole new world. I labor to make sense of the pre-Internet world to my children because this world is all they’ve ever known.
The Internet, however, is not the first new world to change the world. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Now, a strong case can be made that earlier European explorers landed on our shores. Indeed, I find such rather likely. But the successes of Leif Erikson and St. Brendan, however great they may have been, didn’t affect the world in the same way that Columbus’ did. He not only found a new world, but he came back to report on it (even if he wasn’t clear on what he had found). That is, it was Columbus’ discovery of the New World that actually changed both the New World and the Old.
Just as the Reformation a quarter of a century later would soon challenge the settled convictions of millions and would reshape the institutions that shape us, so the New World did the same for those who lived at that time. Imagine reading the newspaper (or for you younger readers, imagine logging on to your favorite news site) after word returned from the Americas. Not only was there an undiscovered, untamed land, virtually as large as the Old World, but there were people there. Thousands upon thousands living in multiple cultures, people about whom we had heretofore known nothing. Imagine the wonder of it all.
Soon, however, would you not be called out of your revelry to ask — and answer — this simple question: Given this earth-shattering news, what ought you to do? How do you respond to this development, which, to put it in modern terms, is not that far removed from finding not just sentient life but human life on the moon?
One of the great temptations that comes with the discovery of new worlds, whether they be the Internet or two massive continents, is to believe that new worlds call for new rules, that new worlds demand new ends. Such a temptation, however, is to be fought rather than succumbed to. What must we do in or about this strange new world? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The discovery of the New World did not bring a discovery of a new purpose. It did, however, provide a new opportunity to be about the business of the old purpose. Christians were called to bring the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to the New World. They were called to exercise faithful stewardship in the New World. They were commanded to make manifest the glory and beauty of the reign of Christ over all things.
How did we do? To be certain, we believers have much for which to repent in how we have responded to this amazing new world. And one would hardly confuse the New World today with a city shining on a hill. But some perspective would be more helpful. At the close of the fifteenth century, how many saints occupied the New World? If there were any, they likely could be counted just on your fingers and toes. Now, despite all our weakness and worldliness, despite the decline and retreat of the people of God, there are millions of the children of God laboring for the kingdom on these two continents.
The story, however, is not yet over. If God has been pleased to call in millions from this corner of His world where for centuries not one soul was redeemed, what might we hope for, what ought we to work for in the future? The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, beginning as the smallest of seeds but growing until the birds of the air make their nests therein. There are old worlds and new ones. There are earthy worlds and cyber worlds. But one truth remains the same now and forever, that Jesus rules them all.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Answering from the Word
By Voddie Baucham 7/01/2015
Apologetics has been broadly defined as the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life. This definition pairs well with the practical admonition given by the apostle Peter to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Apologetics, then, boils down to knowing what we believe, why we believe it, and being able to communicate what we believe and why in an effective, winsome manner to those who question our faith.
Since our belief is based on Scripture, there is a limited number of things we have to defend. Moreover, each of those things has been articulated clearly by the biblical authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the most powerful tool we can use is the Word of God itself. Using Scripture as a model of and basis for apologetic engagement is an approach I call “expository apologetics.”
The Need for Apologetics
Apologetics has waxed and waned in terms of its popularity among Christians in America. At times, there has been more emphasis on mercy ministry, social outreach, or church growth. At other times, evangelism and apologetics have taken center stage. Currently, we are in the midst of a surge in the popularity and practice of apologetics. More and more, Christians are beginning to recognize the need. Apologetics is necessary today because of issues such as biblical illiteracy, postmodern and post-Christian thinking, and open opposition to biblical truth.
One foundational reason why we need apologetics is the basic biblical illiteracy we find in both the culture at large and in the church. People simply do not know what the Bible says. As a result, some of the most basic tenets of Christianity, ones that once would have been known and assumed to be true by most Americans in the past, are today considered obscure and suspect.
Almost no one knows the Ten Commandments anymore, let alone believes that they are relevant. And catechesis is a foreign concept even to the most committed Christians. As a result, our culture is no longer filled with people who grew up steeped in these basic ideas. Today, not even those who attended church as children have heard foundational biblical truths. Consequently, we cannot assume anything. We must be prepared to defend the most basic claims and ideas of our faith. And we must be prepared to do so from the Bible.
The belief that truth is relative directly opposes the concept of apologetics. I learned this the hard way when I was a student at Oxford University. I was finishing one doctoral program in the United States while simultaneously starting another doctoral program in the United Kingdom. My first week at Oxford, I was introduced to my primary instructor. When he learned that I was an American working on an apologetics-oriented dissertation back in the United States, he immediately set out to chart a course for me that included reading and writing on the subjects of inclusivism and pluralism. It was a very trying time.
I came face-to-face with postmodernism in its most powerful form. Here I was in the second-oldest and arguably most-respected university on earth, and everywhere I turned, truth was being denied, ambiguity affirmed, and certainty vilified. I had to learn very quickly how to hold my own and defend my faith among academic elites. I also learned that academic elites were just making slightly more sophisticated attempts at the same arguments with which I was familiar.
In the end, I learned to use the power of the Word to shape my arguments and force others to acknowledge their lack of authoritative support for the positions they held. Pressing this antithesis did not always result in the acknowledgement of the authority of Scripture. However, it often resulted in the acknowledgement that the debate was between man’s word and God’s Word.
Open Opposition to Biblical Truth
Another issue giving rise to the resurgence of apologetics is the open opposition to biblical truth prevalent in Western society. Gone are the days when the truths of the Bible were assumed and men held accountable to them. Today, Christianity is seen as a threat to freedom, or even a pathological condition. Schools accept the “theory” of evolution, but view the idea of creation as a dangerous myth. Judges see the biblical view of sodomy as hate speech. In fact, various state departments of child protective services have at times listed regular church attendance as one of the hallmarks of abusive parenting.
In this landscape, Christians must have a ready answer for those who believe that we are not just wrong — we are evil. Expository apologetics can be a powerful tool in the midst of such opposition. I am not proposing that apologetics will necessarily shut the mouths of our detractors. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. However, we can most certainly expose their hypocrisy and point them to the truth using the powerful, active, two-edged sword of God’s sword at our disposal.
Voddie makes the Bible clear and demonstrates the relevance of God's word to everyday life. However, he does so without compromising the centrality of Christ and the gospel. Those who hear him preach find themselves both challenged and encouraged.
Voddie's area of emphasis is Cultural Apologetics. Whether teaching on classical apologetic issues like the validity and historicity of the Bible, or the resurrection of Christ; or teaching on biblical manhood/ womanhood, marriage and family, he helps ordinary people understand the significance of thinking and living biblically in every area of life.
It is impossible to understand Voddie's approach to the Bible without first understanding the path he has walked. Raised in a non-Christian, single-parent home, Voddie did not hear the gospel until he was in college. His journey to faith was a very unusual and intellectual one. Consequently, he understands what it means to be a skeptic, and knows what it's like to try to figure out the Christian life without relying on the traditions of men. As a result, he speaks to 'outsiders' in ways few Bible teachers can.
Voddie Baucham holds degrees from Houston Baptist University (BA in Christianity/BA in Sociology), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Min.), an honorary degree from Southern California Seminary (D.D.), and additional post-graduate study at the University of Oxford, England.
Voddie and his wife, Bridget have been married since 1989. They have five children, Jasmine, Trey, Elijah, Asher and Judah. They are committed home educators.
- Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes
- Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word
- What He Must Be: ...If He Wants to Marry My Daughter
- Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God
- The Ever-Loving Truth
- The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World
- Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors: Reading an Old Story in a New Way
And Now You Know the Rest of the Story
By Eric Bancroft 7/01/2015
The late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was famous for telling stories of little-known facts about a range of topics that were fascinating to learn about. (Did you know that Fidel Castro, as a twelve-year-old boy, wrote to newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, congratulating him on his presidency and asking for a ten-dollar bill?) After dazzling his audience with engaging tales, he would inevitably sign off by saying, “And now you know the rest of the story.” The Rest of the Story
This leads me to think about many Christians and their knowledge of the Bible. Too often, entire sections of the Bible are virtually unknown and truths still lay unearthed to many of us. Rather than read and understand passages in context, we are tempted to seize upon a verse, perhaps overheard in conversation or read on a pillow somewhere, and it becomes “a word from the Lord” that we grab hold of for the day. Yet, while the verse is a part of the story, it is far from the rest of the story.
Compounded on top of this tragedy is the exponential increase of this mistake when we do it in small groups with other Christians. Surely you’ve seen it, if not participated in it. I have. People sitting in a circle, Bibles open, verses read, and then the fatal question, “What does this passage mean to you?” So much for learning the rest of the story. This question conveniently segues into the long narrative of our life events, which we seem to believe are more interesting.
You see, the problem is not with the Bible or the absence of any interest in it. It is with our abbreviated treatment of it. I applaud and champion people’s discussing and thinking about the Scripture. The problem comes when that exercise becomes an appetizer to the entrée of our thoughts, feelings, and subjective interpretations. I am sure people mean to apply what they have learned, but at that rate, it would be comparable to someone’s saying they are successfully swimming—in their bathtub.
So what are the alternatives? The next time we get together to open God’s Word to study it, we should hold our gaze in the text longer to learn more than what a quick reading will offer us. When we do come up to breathe, ask, “What does this text mean to you?” Second Peter 1:20–21 teaches us that the Bible claims dual authorship. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. He did that through the use of men. They used words written in history in a context within a specific genre. In order to begin to mine the truths that God has given us, we would do well to study more carefully what has been written to better understand what God’s Word is teaching.
With that in mind, here are five steps to guide your group Bible studies:
Pray before you study. Ask God to guide the minds of the group members and to give you a sensitive heart to what you learn in order to understand and obey (Ps. 119:26–27, 29).
One of the most neglected disciplines of studying the Bible is staring at the text long enough to ask important questions and find the answers. Who is the author and who is the audience? How does the context in which the author writes inform the understanding of the lessons that God’s Word teaches? Is there an imperative to obey, a principle to learn, or a sin to flee? What does this text teach you about the character of God?
This is when you move from considering what the text says to what it means. At times, it will be obvious. Other times, it will take more investigation. Are there similar themes addressed in other places of Scripture that cast light on this text? Consider the genre of writing (poetry, prophecy, narrative, etc.) and how that informs your interpretation.
Questions might have been answered at this point, but lives have not changed (James 1:22). Ask what you intend to do or what needs to change in your thinking in light of the text you are studying.
A group studying the Bible together is well served by a leader who has experience in accurately handling the Word. The leader should be capable of helping point out what might be missed while affirming others who have contributed. Groups need someone to say, “That is a good point from the Bible but that is not found in this text.”
The Rest of the StoryIf you follow these steps, I promise you will get closer to learning the rest of the story. What will it tell you? It will tell you of a God who is powerful in creation and wise in all of His purposes. It will teach you that man is unimaginably sinful in all his ways but, amazingly, offered redemption in Christ. It will tell you of a people whom God has redeemed for His divine purposes to serve as a billboard of His grace and mercy. You will learn of a future when justice is final, redemption is complete, and the righteous triumphant. And woven through all of this are destroyed kings and empowered prisoners, sarcastic prophets and repenting tax collectors, all telling the story that Jesus saves. So keep studying, and you will know the rest of the story. ( Somewhere I read that it doesn't matter what we think the verse means. What God says it means is the truth.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Passing the fear test
(Oct 17) Bob Gass
‘God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid.’
(Is 12:2) 2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” ESV
How much of a factor is fear in your life? Go ahead, take the fear test. Circle the number that best corresponds to how you feel. 1) I don’t remember the last time I was really afraid. 2) I am afraid rarely, and only when I or someone close to me is in physical danger. 3) I am a little more fearful than I’d like to be. 4) Fear is a significant factor in my everyday life. I avoid anything risky or dangerous. 5) I’m afraid of many things on a daily basis, and it changes the way I live my life. If you circled number one you’re an unusual individual who doesn’t experience normal fear. You may have to temper your actions with greater discernment and wisdom. If you circled number two, you have a healthy attitude towards fear and you’ve got a handle on it. You should try to encourage others who have a more difficult time with fear than you do. If you circled number three or four, you’re in an excellent position to improve your life by changing your attitude. Begin by identifying the source of your fears, and determining to turn your fear into faith in God (see Romans 10:17). For each area of fear, figure out a positive opposite, and create a plan of action to cultivate that quality. Then focus on what you can control today. If you circled number five, chances are fear is getting the better of you and you’ll have a difficult time overcoming it on your own. So, pray and reprogram your mind with God’s Word (see 2 Timothy 2:15). And don’t be afraid to seek help from a trusted friend or counsellor.
(2 Ti 2:15) 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ESV
(Rom 10:17) 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ESV
See the article below under What I'm Reading, If You Want to Hear God, Quiet Your Mind.
1 Tim 6
by Bill Federer
Five thousand seven hundred British troops, under the command of General Burgoyne, surrendered this day, October 17, 1777, at Saratoga, New York, to the revolutionary forces led by General Gates. After swearing never to fight against America again, the British troops were boarded on ships at Boston and sent back to England. When this news reached Europe, it encouraged further support of the Revolution. In a letter to his brother, John Augustine Washington, General George Washington wrote of this victory, saying: “I most devoutly congratulate my country, and every well-wisher to the cause, on this signal stroke of Providence.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Prayer is for the religious life what original research is for science—by it we get direct contact with reality. The soul is brought into union with its own vaster nature—God. Therefore, also, we must use the Bible as an original; for indeed, the Bible is the most copious spring of prayer, and of power, and of range. If we learn to pray from the Bible, and avoid a mere cento of its phrases, we shall cultivate in our prayer the large humane note of a universal Gospel. Let us nurse our prayer on our study of our Bible; and let us, therefore, not be too afraid of theological prayer. True Christian prayer must have theology in it; no less than true theology must have prayer in it and must be capable of being prayed. “Your theology is too difficult,” said Charles V to the Reformers; “it cannot be understood without much prayer.” Yes, that is our arduous puritan way. Prayer and theology must interpenetrate to keep each other great, and wide, and mighty. The failure of the habit of prayer is at the root of much of our light distaste for theology. There is a conspiracy of influences round us whose effect is to belittle our great work. Earnest ministers suffer more from the smallness of their people than from their sins, and far more than from their unkindness. Our public may kill by its triviality a soul which could easily resist the assaults of opposition or wickedness. And our newspapers will greatly aid their work. Now, to resist this it is not enough to have recourse to prayer and to cultivate devotion. Unfortunately, there are signs in the religious world to show that prayer and piety alone do not save men from pettiness of interest, thinness of soul, spiritual volatility, the note of insincerity, or foolishness of judgment, or even vindictiveness. The remedy is not prayer alone, but prayer on the scale of the whole Gospel and at the depth of searching faith. It is considered prayer—prayer which rises above the childish petitions that disfigure much of our public pietism, prayer which issues from the central affairs of the kingdom of God. It is prayer with the profound Bible as its book of devotion, and a true theology of faith for half of its power. It is the prayer of a mind that moves in Bible passion, and ranges with Bible scope, even when it eschews Bible speech and “the language of Canaan.”
And yet, with all its range, it is prayer with concentration. It has not only thought but will in it. The great reason why so many will not decide for Christ is that Christ requires from the world concentration; not seclusion and not renunciation merely, but concentration. And we ministers have our special form of that need. I am speaking not of our share in the common troubles of life, but of those specially that arise from the ministerial office and care. No minister can live up to his work on the casual or interjectional kind of prayer that might be sufficient for many of his flock. He must think, of course, in his prayers—in his private prayers—and he must pray his faith’s thought. But, still more, in his praying he must act. Prayer is not a frame of mind, but a great energy. He must rise to conceive his work as an active function of the work of Christ; and he must link his faith, therefore, with the intercession which covers the whole energy of Christ in His kingdom. In this, as in many ways, he must remember, to his great relief and comfort, that it is not he who is the real pastor of his church, but Christ, and that he is but Christ’s curate. The final responsibility is not his, but Christ’s, who bears the responsibility of all the sins and frets, both of the world and, especially, of the Church.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I freed a thousand slaves
I could have freed a thousand more
if only they knew they were slaves.
--- Harriet Tubman
We must not think that faith itself is the soul’s rest; it is only the means of it. We cannot find rest in any work or duty of our own, but we may find it in Christ, whom faith apprehends for justification and salvation.
--- John Flavel
From the world’s perspective, there are many places you can go to find comfort. But there is only one place you will find a hand to catch your tears and a heart to listen to your every longing. True peace comes only from God.
--- Charles Stanley
Into His Presence: An In Touch Devotional
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
When The Banks Were Completed And The Battering Rams Brought, And Could Do Nothing, Titus Gave Orders To Set Fire To The Gates Of The Temple; In No Long Time After Which The Holy House Itself Was Burnt Down, Even Against His Consent.
1. And now two of the legions had completed their banks on the eighth day of the month Lous [Ab]. Whereupon Titus gave orders that the battering rams should be brought, and set over against the western edifice of the inner temple; for before these were brought, the firmest of all the other engines had battered the wall for six days together without ceasing, without making any impression upon it; but the vast largeness and strong connexion of the stones were superior to that engine, and to the other battering rams also. Other Romans did indeed undermine the foundations of the northern gate, and after a world of pains removed the outermost stones, yet was the gate still upheld by the inner stones, and stood still unhurt; till the workmen, despairing of all such attempts by engines and crows, brought their ladders to the cloisters. Now the Jews did not interrupt them in so doing; but when they were gotten up, they fell upon them, and fought with them; some of them they thrust down, and threw them backwards headlong; others of them they met and slew; they also beat many of those that went down the ladders again, and slew them with their swords before they could bring their shields to protect them; nay, some of the ladders they threw down from above when they were full of armed men; a great slaughter was made of the Jews also at the same time, while those that bare the ensigns fought hard for them, as deeming it a terrible thing, and what would tend to their great shame, if they permitted them to be stolen away. Yet did the Jews at length get possession of these engines, and destroyed those that had gone up the ladders, while the rest were so intimidated by what those suffered who were slain, that they retired; although none of the Romans died without having done good service before his death. Of the seditious, those that had fought bravely in the former battles did the like now, as besides them did Eleazar, the brother's son of Simon the tyrant. But when Titus perceived that his endeavors to spare a foreign temple turned to the damage of his soldiers, and then be killed, he gave order to set the gates on fire.
2. In the mean time, there deserted to him Ananus, who came from Emmaus, the most bloody of all Simon's guards, and Archelaus, the son of Magadatus, they hoping to be still forgiven, because they left the Jews at a time when they were the conquerors. Titus objected this to these men, as a cunning trick of theirs; and as he had been informed of their other barbarities towards the Jews, he was going in all haste to have them both slain. He told them that they were only driven to this desertion because of the utmost distress they were in, and did not come away of their own good disposition; and that those did not deserve to be preserved, by whom their own city was already set on fire, out of which fire they now hurried themselves away. However, the security he had promised deserters overcame his resentments, and he dismissed them accordingly, though he did not give them the same privileges that he had afforded to others. And now the soldiers had already put fire to the gates, and the silver that was over them quickly carried the flames to the wood that was within it, whence it spread itself all on the sudden, and caught hold on the cloisters. Upon the Jews seeing this fire all about them, their spirits sunk together with their bodies, and they were under such astonishment, that not one of them made any haste, either to defend himself or to quench the fire, but they stood as mute spectators of it only. However, they did not so grieve at the loss of what was now burning, as to grow wiser thereby for the time to come; but as though the holy house itself had been on fire already, they whetted their passions against the Romans. This fire prevailed during that day and the next also; for the soldiers were not able to burn all the cloisters that were round about together at one time, but only by pieces.
3. But then, on the next day, Titus commanded part of his army to quench the fire, and to make a road for the more easy marching up of the legions, while he himself gathered the commanders together. Of those there were assembled the six principal persons: Tiberius Alexander, the commander [under the general] of the whole army; with Sextus Cerealis, the commander of the fifth legion; and Larcius Lepidus, the commander of the tenth legion; and Titus Frigius, the commander of the fifteenth legion: there was also with them Eternius, the leader of the two legions that came from Alexandria; and Marcus Antonius Julianus, procurator of Judea: after these came together all the rest of the procurators and tribunes. Titus proposed to these that they should give him their advice what should be done about the holy house. Now some of these thought it would be the best way to act according to the rules of war, [and demolish it,] because the Jews would never leave off rebelling while that house was standing; at which house it was that they used to get all together. Others of them were of opinion, that in case the Jews would leave it, and none of them would lay their arms up in it, he might save it; but that in case they got upon it, and fought any more, he might burn it; because it must then be looked upon not as a holy house, but as a citadel; and that the impiety of burning it would then belong to those that forced this to be done, and not to them. But Titus said, that "although the Jews should get upon that holy house, and fight us thence, yet ought we not to revenge ourselves on things that are inanimate, instead of the men themselves;" and that he was not in any case for burning down so vast a work as that was, because this would be a mischief to the Romans themselves, as it would be an ornament to their government while it continued. So Fronto, and Alexander, and Cerealis grew bold upon that declaration, and agreed to the opinion of Titus. Then was this assembly dissolved, when Titus had given orders to the commanders that the rest of their forces should lie still; but that they should make use of such as were most courageous in this attack. So he commanded that the chosen men that were taken out of the cohorts should make their way through the ruins, and quench the fire.
by D.H. Stern
but to the hungry, any bitter thing is sweet.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
And greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father. --- John 14:12.
Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayer answered; a wise man does not.
Prayer is the battle; it is a matter of indifference where you are. Whichever way God engineers circumstances, the duty is to pray. Never allow the thought—‘I am of no use where I am’; because you certainly can be of no use where you are not. Wherever God has dumped you down in circumstances, pray, ejaculate to Him all the time. “Whatsoever ye ask in My name, that will I do.” We won’t pray unless we get thrills, that is the intensest form of spiritual selfishness. We have to labour along the line of God’s direction, and He says pray. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.”
There is nothing thrilling about a labouring man’s work, but it is the labouring man who makes the conceptions of the genius possible; and it is the labouring saint who makes the conceptions of his Master possible. You labour at prayer and results happen all the time from God’s standpoint. What an astonishment it will be to find, when the veil is lifted, the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you had been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
God woke, but the nightmare
did not recede. Word by word
the tower of speech grew.
He looked at it from the air
he reclined on. One word more and
it would be on a level
with him; vocabulary
would have triumphed. He
measured the thin gap
with his mind. No, no, no,
wider than that! But the nearness
persisted. How to live with
the fact, that was the feat
now. How to take his rest
on the edge of a chasm a
word could bridge.
over and looked in the dictionary
they used. There was the blank still
by his name of the same
order as the territory
between them, the verbal hunger
for the thing in itself. And the darkness
that is a god's blood swelled
in him, and he let it
to make the sign in the space
on the page, that is in all languages
and none; that is the grammarian's
torment and the mystery
at the cell's core, and the equation
that will not come out, and is
the narrowness that we stare
over into the eternal
silence that is the repose of God.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides’ treatment of philosophy in his legal works establishes that the rational approach to God can be understood within the categories of the legal and aggadic tradition of Judaism. Maimonides is not trying to show the Jewish universalist—embarrassed by Jewish particularity—that Judaism is compatible with the universal way of philosophy. Rather, he tries to show pious Jews how their commitment to Halakhah can be enriched by a philosophical understanding of God. Maimonides leads the halakhic Jew toward a unification of the particularity of Torah and the universality of philosophy. This goal constitutes the core of his concern as a Jewish philosopher.
Maimonides can be misunderstood in two ways. One may emphasize his concern and love for the Torah and minimize the importance he ascribes to the study of philosophy. Or one may emphasize his philosophic spiritual ideal and ignore his commitment to Halakhah as being essential for understanding his philosophic thought. In either case, one misses the important connection between his philosophic and legal thought.
The integration of philosophy and Judaism was made possible by the talmudic tradition. “Jerusalem” to Maimonides was not defined solely by the Bible but included the vast corpus of talmudic writings. To establish the incompatibility of Athens and Jerusalem exclusively on the basis of the Bible, would be to misconceive Maimonides’ understanding of Jerusalem; Maimonides employs numerous aggadot to support his non-literal approach to religious language. To Maimonides, the midrashic treatment of Abraham serves as a model of the way to God, based on philosophic reflection.
In chapter one it was noted that Maimonides took the talmudic model of the ḥasid as a paradigm of one who achieves the unity of the contemplative ideal and of halakhic observance. Maimonides made this seemingly exaggerated claim on behalf of both tradition and human reason: Without the perfection of theoretical virtue, as understood by the philosophers, one could not become a ḥasid. This conviction can be buttressed by proving that the theological model which emerges from reason’s understanding of nature makes the halakhic observance of the ḥasid intelligible.
In demonstrating a relationship between a person’s actions and his conception of God, one must not expect to discover the same rigorous connection which one finds in a deductive argument. Logical entailment is not the model with which to understand the relationship of thought to action. It is sufficient to show how conceptions of God influence and give direction to one’s life. “Influence” and “direction” are categories which make intelligible the life-patterns set into motion by one’s theoretical beliefs. Theoretical frameworks make some life-patterns more appropriate than others for an individual; they do not necessarily make alternate life-patterns logically untenable.
A religious man’s conception of God informs him of how to act in His presence. He seeks a community of existence with his God and thus proceeds to structure his actions in a way that makes this possible. Man’s understanding of his relationship to God, therefore, has an emphatic influence on the way he acts.
What an individual anticipates as a result of his observance of the commandments indicates how he perceives his relationship to God. If the world of philosophy is to be compatible with Judaism then the expectations of the religious Jew must be in keeping with the theocentric universe of reason. The Mishnah in Sanhedrin states that “All Israel have a share in the world to come.” This expectation of the world to come (olam ha-ba) provides Maimonides with a foundation from which to analyze the varying eschatological expectations of Jewish traditionalists.
Maimonides begins his introduction to Ḥelek by describing what people expect from God as a result of their commitment to Torah:
One class of thinkers holds that the hoped for good will be the Garden of Eden, a place where people eat and drink without bodily toil or faintness. Houses of costly stones are there, couches of silk, and rivers flowing with wine and perfumed oils, and many other things of this kind.… This set of thinkers on this principle of faith bring their proofs from many statements of the Sages, peace to them, whose literal interpretation forsooth accords with their contention or with the greater part of it.
The second class of thinkers firmly believes and imagines that the hoped for good will be the days of the Messiah, may he soon appear! They think that when that time comes all men will be kings forever. Their bodily frames will be mighty.… They also bring proofs for their statements from many remarks of the Sages, and from Scriptural texts which in their outward interpretation agree with their claim, or a portion of it.
The third class is of the opinion that the desired good will consist in the resurrection of the dead.… These thinkers also point for proof to the remarks of the Sages, and to certain verses of the Bible, whose literal sense tallies with their view.
The fourth class is of the opinion that the good which we shall reap from obedience to the Law will consist in the repose of the body and the attainment in this world of all worldly wishes, as, for example, the fertility of lands, abundant wealth, abundance of children.… The holders of this view point for proof to all the texts of Scripture which speak of blessings and curses and other matters, and to the whole body of narratives existing in Holy Writ.
The fifth set of thinkers is the largest. Its members combine all the aforesaid opinions, and declare the objects hoped for are the coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, their entry into the Garden of Eden, their eating and drinking and living in health there as long as heaven and earth endure.
How are we to understand these expectations? Are they the fantasies of deprived persons who spin dreams of glory, power, and endless material gratification to escape from the misery of the present? Is there any basis in Judaism for assuming that these expectations are based on reality?
Reality, as understood by the believing Jew, is not determined only by empirical conditions. The unseen power of divine governance enters into the domain of reality. The prophets taught the Jew to interpret his history in terms of his relationship to God. The Torah explicitly states that there is a direct relationship between man’s material well-being and his strict observance of the commandments. Crops grow or fail as a result of man’s response to God’s will. Jews fast and engage in deep introspection when faced with natural calamities. When they are defeated by the Romans they examine their past halakhic observance to discover reasons for their political humiliation. The religious Jew inhabits a world in which he was delivered from the oppressive might of Egypt even though he lacked a well-trained army and he survived in a desert for forty years. The conception of God and history which results from such literal reading of the biblical covenant and aggadic literature molded the historical self-understanding of the Jew and expressed itself in hopes and expectations which, to outsiders, appear as exaggerated fantasies.
What is common to all the views which Maimonides presents is their firm literal understanding of Torah and Aggadah. But this literalist viewpoint not only presented Maimonides with cognitive problems, but was as well responsible for a religious perspective of God as primarily the master of material benefits which He would bestow on man. The community’s lack of concern for what Maimonides believed to be the true end of Judaism, olam ha-ba, was symptomatic of the quality of relationship which existed between many members of the halakhic community and God. Maimonides attempted to change the community’s perception of its relationship to God by convincing his readers that exclusive concern with material expectations was not in keeping with the true telos of Jewish tradition. In order to achieve his goal, Maimonides had to convince his readers that by viewing olam ha-ba as the ultimate goal of Judaism, one came to somewhat different perceptions of the meaning and the significance of religious observances.
For your sakes he became poor. --- 2 Corinthians 8:9.
There are a few [more] things we may take notice of as properly belonging to Christ’s humiliation: Samuel Willard, “Christ Humbled Himself,” preached May 12, 1696, the second in a series of twelve sermons on this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism; downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritansermons.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.
4. The time of his birth is very important. There was a time when [Israel] enjoyed its liberty. But he was born when the nation was in slavery to the Roman Empire, when, in witness of his slavery, there was a proclamation of a tax, and everyone was required to appear at his city to submit. Therefore even in the circumstances of his birth, he not only took on himself human form, but the nature of a servant
(Phil. 2:7), because we by sin have become slaves, brought under the most cruel bondage.
5. The place and circumstances of his birth further set forth its humble condition. When we hear the report that the King of the world is to be born, we would picture the greatest preparations imaginable to be made for the occasion. But how far is it from this? Instead of a palace, he is content with a stable; for attendants, he is born among the beasts; for apparel, either some rags obtained by charity or whatever his poor parents could afford. Instead of a cradle richly prepared, he had a manger, with some hay for a pillow. The best attendants at this solemn occasion was a company of poor folks, who had better places to lodge than Joseph’s. Thus he came silently into the world; no bells rung, no bonfires, no proclamations inviting the world to come and pay homage. This was because we had turned ourselves out of all and forfeited our right to every blessing.
Learn from this how low sin had laid us and how much Christ has loved us. Truly everything Christ suffered in his humiliation points to this lesson. When we consider what Christ made himself, it shows us what we had made of ourselves by sin. When we reflect on the fact that he did it for us, it declares his unspeakable kindness to us. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, entering into his dominion in the lowest and most obscure situation imaginable. He who made both heaven and earth not accommodated with so much as a house to be born in but turned out among the beasts. And why? Our sins procured it; we lost our right to all, we deserved poverty and misery, we deserved to be turned out of house and home. We were under this curse. It was for this reason he was born. Wasn’t this condescension a disclosure of his great love? Let this stable and manger make him exceedingly precious to us.
--- Samuel Willard
The Bishop’s Sepulcher
When the apostle John addressed his readers as “my children,” he perhaps had in mind his pupil Ignatius, a young man whose name doesn’t appear in the New Testament but who figures prominently in early church history. About 69 Ignatius became the third bishop of the church in Antioch (where the Lord’s followers were first called “Christians”—Acts 11:26), and he became the first to use the terms “Christianity” and “Catholic.”
We know little of his ministry, but he faithfully served the church at Antioch 40 years. When persecution arose Ignatius was arrested, chained, and entrusted to ten soldiers who treated him as if they were “leopards.” The story of his prison-voyage to Rome reads as though it leaped from the pages of the New Testament.
The party made its way overland and by the shipping routes, following the footsteps of Paul. As they passed Smyrna, Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica, Christians gathered to ask his blessings. Along the way, Ignatius wrote seven letters that rank among the most famous documents in church history. In his letter to Rome, intended to precede his arrival, Ignatius begged the brothers there to avoid using their political connections to hinder his expected martyrdom. “You cannot do me a greater favor,” he wrote, “than allow me to be poured out as an offering to God while the altar is ready.” Not wanting to bother them with the burial of his remains, he desired to be entirely consumed by the beasts in the arena. “Entice the beasts to become my sepulcher,” he wrote, “that they may leave nothing of my body.”
And so were his prayers answered. He died, reportedly on October 17, 108, under the claws and teeth of lions or tigers as entertainment for Emperor Trajan. But his influence didn’t die. Fourteen hundred years later a young Spanish soldier was so moved by reading Ignatius’s story that he dedicated his life to God and changed his name to Ignatius—of Loyola.
My children, I am writing this so that you won’t sin. But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world’s people.
--- 1 John 2:1-2.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 17
“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” --- 1 Samuel 27:1.
The thought of David’s heart at this time was a false thought, because he certainly had no ground for thinking that God’s anointing him by Samuel was intended to be left as an empty unmeaning act. On no one occasion had the Lord deserted his servant; he had been placed in perilous positions very often, but not one instance had occurred in which divine interposition had not delivered him. The trials to which he had been exposed had been varied; they had not assumed one form only, but many—yet in every case he who sent the trial had also graciously ordained a way of escape. David could not put his finger upon any entry in his diary, and say of it, “Here is evidence that the Lord will forsake me,” for the entire tenor of his past life proved the very reverse. He should have argued from what God had done for him, that God would be his defender still. But is it not just in the same way that we doubt God’s help? Is it not mistrust without a cause? Have we ever had the shadow of a reason to doubt our Father’s goodness? Have not his lovingkindnesses been marvellous? Has he once failed to justify our trust? Ah, no! our God has not left us at any time. We have had dark nights, but the star of love has shone forth amid the blackness; we have been in stern conflicts, but over our head he has held aloft the shield of our defence. We have gone through many trials, but never to our detriment, always to our advantage; and the conclusion from our past experience is, that he who has been with us in six troubles, will not forsake us in the seventh. What we have known of our faithful God, proves that he will keep us to the end. Let us not, then, reason contrary to evidence. How can we ever be so ungenerous as to doubt our God? Lord, throw down the Jezebel of our unbelief, and let the dogs devour it.
Evening - October 17
“He shall gather the lambs with his arm.” --- Isaiah 40:11.
Our good Shepherd has in his flock a variety of experiences, some are strong in the Lord, and others are weak in faith, but he is impartial in his care for all his sheep, and the weakest lamb is as dear to him as the most advanced of the flock. Lambs are wont to lag behind, prone to wander, and apt to grow weary, but from all the danger of these infirmities the Shepherd protects them with his arm of power. He finds new-born souls, like young lambs, ready to perish—he nourishes them till life becomes vigorous; he finds weak minds ready to faint and die—he consoles them and renews their strength. All the little ones he gathers, for it is not the will of our heavenly Father that one of them should perish. What a quick eye he must have to see them all! What a tender heart to care for them all! What a far- reaching and potent arm, to gather them all! In his lifetime on earth he was a great gatherer of the weaker sort, and now that he dwells in heaven, his loving heart yearns towards the meek and contrite, the timid and feeble, the fearful and fainting here below. How gently did he gather me to himself, to his truth, to his blood, to his love, to his church! With what effectual grace did he compel me to come to himself! Since my first conversion, how frequently has he restored me from my wanderings, and once again folded me within the circle of his everlasting arm! The best of all is, that he does it all himself personally, not delegating the task of love, but condescending himself to rescue and preserve his most unworthy servant. How shall I love him enough or serve him worthily? I would fain make his name great unto the ends of the earth, but what can my feebleness do for him? Great Shepherd, add to thy mercies this one other, a heart to love thee more truly as I ought.
MY SOUL, BE ON THY GUARD
George Heath, 1750–1822
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27)
There is nothing more tragic than to see a Christian negate a lifetime of worthy living and service for God through some spiritual defeat and dishonor to the Gospel. Imagine the shame of Job when Eliphaz the Temanite rebuked him with these cutting words:
Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees, but now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? (Job 4:3–6)
The apostle Paul’s fervent concern for his life, that after he had preached to others he himself might be disqualified by God through careless living, seems to apply to the writer of this hymn text. George Heath was an English independent minister, who in 1770 became pastor of a Presbyterian church at Honiton, Devonshire. Later, proving himself unworthy of this office, he was deprived of his parish “for cause.” Eventually, it seems, he became a Unitarian minister. It is difficult to understand how a person could write such a stirring challenge on the subject of spiritual steadfastness and then change so drastically in later years. Yet the Scriptures are clear that the Christian life is a lifetime of perseverance, and whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is unfit for service in God’s kingdom (Luke 9:62). We must have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit each day if we intend to be on guard.
My soul, be on thy guard—ten thousand foes arise. The hosts of sin are pressing hard to draw thee from the skies.
O watch and fight and pray; the battle ne’er give o’er; renew it boldly ev’ry day, and help divine implore.
Ne’er think the vict’ry won, nor lay thine armor down; the work of faith will not be done till thou obtain thy crown.
Fight on, my soul, till death shall bring thee to thy God; He’ll take thee, at thy parting breath, to His divine abode.
For Today: Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13; Hebrews 10:23
Be alert to the many distractions that can easily undermine your spiritual life. Resolve to keep short accounts with God. Depend on the Holy Spirit for your inner strength. Reflect on this musical message as you go ---
Arguments to prove that God is wise.—Reason 1. God could not be infinitely perfect without wisdom.
A rational nature is better than an irrational nature. A man is not a perfect man without reason; how can God without it be an
infinitely perfect God? Wisdom is the most eminent of all virtues; all the other perfections of God without this, would be as a body
without an aye, a soul without understanding. A Christian’s graces want their lustre, when they are destitute of the guidance of
w isdom: mercy is a feebleness, and justice a cruelty; patience a timorousness, and courage a madness, without the conduct of
wisdom; so the patience of God would be cowardice, his power an oppression, his justice a tyranny, without wisdom as the spring and
holiness as the rule. No attribute of God could shine with a clue lustre and brightness without it. Power is a great perfection, but
wisdom a greater. Wisdom may be without much power, as in bees and ants; but power is a tyrranical thing without wisdom and
righteousness. The pilot is more valuable because of his skill, than the galley slave because of his strength; and the conduct of a
general more estimable than the might of a private soldier. Generals are chosen more by their skill to guide, than their strength to act;
what a God is a man without prudence; what a nothing would God be without it! This is the salt that gives relish to all other
perfections in a creature; this is the jewel in the ring of all the excellencies of the Divine nature, and holiness is the splendor of that
jewel. Now God being the first Being, possesses whatsoever is most noble in any being. If therefore wisdom, which is the most noble
perfection in any creature, were wanting to God, he would be deficient in that which is the highest excellency. God being the living
God, as he is frequently termed in Scripture, he hath therefore the most perfect manner of living, and that must be a pure and
intellectual life; being essentially living, he is essentially in the highest degree of living. As he hath an infinite life above all creatures, so
he hath an infinite intellectual life, and therefore an infinite wisdom; whence some have called God, not sapientem, but super
sapientem, not only wise, but above all wisdom.
Reason 2. Without infinite wisdom he could not govern the world. Without wisdom in forming the matter, which was made by Divine power, the world could have been no other than a chaos; and without wisdom in government, it could have been no other than a heap of confusion; without wisdom the world could not have been created in the posture it is. Creation supposeth a determination of the will putting power upon acting; the determination of the will supposeth the counsel of the understanding, determining the will: no work, but supposeth understanding as well as will in a rational agent. As without skill things could not be created, so without it things cannot be governed. Reason is a necessary perfection to him that presides over all things: without knowledge there could not be in God a foundation for government, and without wisdom there could not be an exercise of government; and without the most excellent wisdom, he could not be the most excellent governor. He could not be an universal governor, without a universal wisdom; nor the sole governor without an unimitable wisdom; nor an independent governor without an original and independent wisdom; nor a perpetual governor wihout an incorruptible wisdom. He would not be the Lord of the world in all points, without skill to order the affairs of it. Power and wisdom are foundations of all authority and government; wisdom to know how to rule and command; power to make those commands obeyed: no regular order could issue out without the first, nor could any order be enforced without the second. A feeble wisdom, and a brutish power, seldom or never produce any good effect. Magistracy without wisdom, would be a frantic power, a rash conduct; like a strong arm when the eye is out, it strikes it knows not what, and leads it knows not whither. Wisdom without power, would be like a great body without feet, like the knowledge of a pilot that hath lost his arm, who, though he knows the rule of navigation, and what course to follow in his voyage, yet cannot manage the helm: but when those two, wisdom and power, are linked together, there ariseth from both a fitness for government.
There is wisdom to propose an end, and both wisdom and power employ means that conduct to that end. And therefore when God demonstrates to Job his right of government, and the unreasonableness of Job’s quarrelling with his proceedings, he chiefly urgeth upon him the consideration of those two excellencies of his nature, power and wisdom, which are expressed in his works (chap. 38– 41) A prince without wisdom, is but a title without a capacity to perform the office; no man without it is fit for government; nor could God without wisdom exercise a just dominion in the world. He hath, therefore, the highest wisdom, since he is the universal governor. That wisdom which is able to govern a family, may not be able to govern a city; and that wisdom which governs a city, may not be able to govern a nation or kingdom, much less a world. The bounds of God’s government being greater than any, his wisdom for government must needs surmount the wisdom of all. And though the creatures be not in number actually infinite, yet they cannot be well governed, but by One endowed with infinite discretion. Providential government can be no more without infinite wisdom, than infinite wisdom can be without Providence.
Reason 3. The creatures working for an end, without their own knowledge, demonstrate the wisdom of God that guides them. All things in the world work for some end; the ends are unknown to them, though many of their ends are visible to us. As there was some prime cause, which by his power inspired them with their several instincts; so there must be some supreme wisdom, which moves and guides them to their end. As their being manifests his power that endowed them, so the acting according to the rules of their nature, which they themselves understand not, manifests his wisdom in directing them. Everything that acts for an end, must know that end, or be directed by another to attain that end. The arrow doth not know who shoots it, or to what end it is shot, or what mark is aimed at; but the archer that puts it in, and darts it out of the bow, knows. A watch hath a regular motion, but neither the spring, nor the wheels that move, know the end of their motion; no man will judge a wisdom to be in the watch, but in the artificer that disposed the wheels and spring, by a joint combination to produce such a motion for such an end.
Doth either the sun that enlivens the earth, or the earth that travels with the plant, know what plant it produceth in such a soil, what temper it should be of, what fruit it should bear, and of what color? What plant knows its own medicinal qualities, its own beautiful flowers, and for what use they are ordained? When it strikes up its head from the earth, doth it know what proportion of them there will be? yet it produceth all these things in a state of ignorance. The sun warms the earth, concocts the humors, excites the virtue of it, and cherishes the seeds which are cast into her lap, yet all unknown to the sun or the earth. Since, therefore, that nature, that is the immediate cause of those things doth not understand its own quality, nor operation, nor the end of its action, that which thus directs them must be conceived to have an infinite wisdom. When things act by a rule they know not, and move for an end they understand not, and yet work harmoniously together for an end, that all of them, we are sure, are ignorant of, it mounts up our minds to acknowledge the wisdom of that Supreme Cause that hath ranged all these inferior causes in their order, and imprinted upon them the laws of their motions. according to the ideas in his own mind, who orders the rule by which they act, and the end for which they act, and directs every motion according to their several natures, and therefore possessed with infinite wisdom in his own nature.
Reason 4. God is the fountain of all wisdom in the creatures, and, therefore, is infinitely wise himself.
As he hath a fulness of being in himself, because the streams of being are derived to other things from him, so he hath a fulness of wisdom, because he is the spring of wisdom to angels and men. That being must be infinitely wise from whence all other wisdom derives its original; for nothing can be in the effect, which is not eminently in the cause; the cause is alway more perfect than the effect. If, therefore, the creatures are wise, the Creator must be much more wise. If the Creator were destitute of wisdom, the creature would be much more perfect than the Creator. If you consider the wisdom of the spider in her web, which is both her house and net; the artifice of the bee in her comb, which is both her chamber and granary; the provision of the pismire in her repositories for corn,— the wisdom of the Creator is illustrated by them: whatsoever excellency you see in any creature, is an image of some excellency in God. The skill of the artificer is visible in the fruits of his art; a workman transcribes his spirit in the work of his hands. But the wisdom of rational creatures, as men, doth more illustrate it; all arts among men are the rays of Divine wisdom shining upon them, and, by a common gift of the Spirit, enlightening their minds to curious inventions, as (Prov. 8:12): “I, wisdom, find out the knowledge of witty inventions;” that is, I give a faculty to men to find them out; without my wisdom all things would be buried in darkness and ignorance: whatsoever wisdom there is in the world, it is but a shadow of the wisdom of God, a small rivulet derived from him, a spark leaping out from uncreated wisdom (Isa. 54:16): “He created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and makes the instruments.” The skill to use those weapons in warlike enterprises is from him: “I have created the waster to destroy;” it is not meant of creating their persons, but communicating to them their art; he speaks it there to expel fear from the church of all warlike reparations against them; he had given men the skill to form and use weapons, and could as well strip them of it, and defeat their purposes. The art of husbandry is a fruit of divine teaching (Isa. 28:24, 25). If those lower kinds of knowledge, that are common to all nations, and easily learned by all, are discoveries of Divine wisdom, much more the nobler sciences, intellectual and political wisdom (Dan. 2:21): “He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding;” speaking of the more abstruse parts of knowledge, “The inspiration of the Almighty gives understanding” (Job 32:8). Hence the wisdom which Solomon expressed in the harlot’s case (1 Kings 3:28), was, in the judgment of all Israel, the wisdom of God; that is, a fruit of Divine wisdom, a beam communicated to him from God. Every man’s soul is endowed, more or less, with those noble qualities; the soul of every man exceeds that of a brute; if the streams be so excellent, the fountain must be fuller and clearer. The first Spirit must infinitely more possess what other spirits derive from him by creation; were the wisdom of all the angels in heaven, and men on earth, collected in one spirit, it must be infinitely less than what is in the spring; for no creature can be equal to the Creator. As the highest creature already made, or that we can conceive may be made by infinite power, would be infinitely below God in the notion of a creature, so it would be infinitely below God in the notion of wise.
The Existence and Attributes of God