Jesus Heals a ParalyticMatthew 9 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Jesus Calls Matthew9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A Question About Fasting14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The Twelve ApostlesMatthew 10 1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Persecution Will Come16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Have No Fear26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Not Peace, but a Sword34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Rewards40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
What I'm Reading
Dealing with Doubt
By Randy Alcorn 10/01/2014
In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed. So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt? How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, as it sometimes feels, even unheard?
If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might ask questions like these: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?
When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential that we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The Foundation of Our Faith
The sovereignty of God is a solid foundation for our faith. God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Rom. 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.
Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive — no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring about His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.
The Testing of Our Faith
Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward him. Though he did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”
Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the one, true, sovereign God — faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.
The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.
Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.
The Nurturing of Our Faith
In our times of doubt, God promises never to leave us. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”
Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores energy from sunlight, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.
The Hope of Our Faith
We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.
God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it: “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.
We can trust that God is refining us through our trials — and that one day He will bring us into His glorious presence.
The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).
God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty-some years, I’ve known a real person, and continue to know Him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice, He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.
Randy Alcorn Books | Go to Books Page
Coaching and the Suffering Christian
By Joe Holland 11/01/2014
I have spent my life being coached or coaching. I’ve played most of the major sports and some of the more unusual ones as well. I’ve learned that coaches face one major perennial challenge. It is the difficulty of motivating your athletes when pain and fatigue are urging them to quit.
I’ve found that there are three basic coaching styles that seek to answer this challenge.
The first coaching style asserts that true athletes don’t feel pain. It simply doesn’t exist; it is a figment of the imagination. This is the mind-over-matter rationale. Pain isn’t a challenge; or, it isn’t even to be considered. To feel pain is to be weak, these athletes are told.
Nonsense. Everyone feels pain.
The second coaching style asserts that true athletes love pain. They eat pain for breakfast. They seek pain out. They smile when their fast-twitch muscle fibers are on fire. They love to receive and deliver concussive hits, they are taught.
Nonsense. No one loves pain.
The third coaching style asserts that true athletes, successful athletes, find pain to be a necessary experience in the sport they love. Pain is the friction of growth toward accomplished goals and skill development. These athletes are taught to expect pain, respect pain, and listen to pain as a sign they are progressing. Coaches who adopt this coaching style toward pain tend to produce the healthiest athletes.
Christianity has a point of contact with these coaching styles and the presence of pain and suffering in the life of every Christian. Despite the vain thoughts of the early convert, the life of faith in Christ is not an ascent to heavenly bliss on a pillow of protection and prosperity. The way up is often the way down, a cross before a crown. Whether you are that early convert or a saint seasoned in trials, you will experience pain and suffering in the Christian life with a deep tension — a spiritual, emotional, cognitive, theological, and eschatological tension.
The psalmist in Psalm 44 leads us into just such a tension.
In the first eight verses, he asserts the give-and-take of redemption and growth. God has saved His people. And He has grown His people through that redemption into a trusting and grateful bunch who continually boast in the Lord.
But by the ninth verse, the shadow falls and boasting mouths become stilled with confusion. The psalmist provides us with words most of us would be too embarrassed to pray. Verses 9 through 22 chronicle the bewildered poet’s struggle with suffering. Despite their receptive and grateful response to redemption, the people of God are now suffering — intensely suffering. Where is the Lord? Verse 22 summarizes the plaintive pleading of the psalmist: “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
The psalm ends with a soul-stirring cry to God for help. Suffering has come. The stillness and clarity that the psalmist once knew is now turbulent and cloudy. How could this be happening?
Has God’s grace now run out? It is a simple question. “Lord, if you have loved us, redeemed us, and covenanted yourself to us — well, then, why this suffering?” The Bible not only asserts the truthfulness of Christian doctrine but also affirms the experience of Christian confusion. The Lord has ordained suffering for just such a purpose, to draw His people to Him with a “Why?” on their lips, but to draw them toward Him nonetheless.
And that is why it is fascinating to see the Apostle Paul quote Psalm 44:22 in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Christians in Rome. The citation seems out of place considering the context. In the verses immediately preceding the quotation of Psalm 44:22, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Who shall separate us from the love Christ?” He then follows the quotation of our Psalm with the statement, “We are more than conquers through him who loved us.” We are forced to ask the question, “Why was Psalm 44:22 on the lips of Paul when such amazing promises are being made?” Wouldn’t Romans 8 be so much more encouraging if Paul left out such a depressing quotation?
What we find is that what was confusing for the sons of Korah has been clarified by the Apostle of Christ. We have a suffering Savior. Suffering in the life of Jesus was God’s declaration that plan A was under way. As His crucifixion illustrates, Jesus felt pain. As His Gethsemane prayer illustrates, Jesus didn’t enjoy pain. Jesus’ approach to pain and suffering was one of necessity that would eventually give way to glory and joy. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).
And so the Christian is invited to do the same. Pain and suffering are a normal part of the Christian’s growth toward glory. Suffering is bookended by God’s inseparable love and our status as more than conquerors. And one day, when pain and sorrow are no more, God Himself will wipe away every tear.
By William W. Goligher 11/01/2014
The phrase semper reformanda has been translated to mean “always changing” and hijacked in the interests of change for the sake of change. To many, this means that everything — from what we believe to how we conduct ourselves in a fast-changing culture to the way we “do church” — is subject to review and reinvention in every generation. It used to be liberal Christians who used the phrase to justify their adjustment of the message to the times, but now evangelicals argue that it is essential to the survival of Christianity that we keep up with the changing culture if we are to save the church from extinction.
We have seen this notion gain traction in the last few decades. Church leaders and members agitate for “change” as a sign of “integrity” or an essential element in being “relevant” in today’s generation. There are pleas for new forms, methods, and structures for the church. Most calls for innovation are driven by the godless culture around us and by our rebellious hearts within us. We want to modify the message to appeal to society; we want to make church more “user friendly” for the outsider, rather than see it as the solemn assembly of God’s covenant people.
We see this spirit at work in the revision of key biblical doctrines. Urgent voices want us to reinterpret core teaching to accommodate the hegemony of evolutionary theory. The abandonment of a historical Adam (or, where that is admitted, the denial that Adam was the first man) is driven by people in the pew who daily confront the uncomfortable challenges of their non-Christian colleagues and neighbors.
This clamor for change lies behind the redrawing of the boundaries of Christian discipleship. Whether it is encouraging a “covert or silent discipleship” among converts from Islam, the acceptance of new definitions of marriage to appease the spirit of the age, or the tolerance of openly sinful lifestyles in the interests of being nonjudgmental, it seems our view of discipleship is succumbing to the outside pressure on the church.
This has also affected the use of the word worship. In some circles, it is applied only to music — whether of the classical or contemporary variety — and it has created with it a new role in the church — “worship leader.” Others want to drop the word worship altogether, arguing that worship applies to “all of life” and not to the assemblies of God’s people. So the Lord’s Day is like any other day; liturgy is replaced by “user-friendly events”; sermons become “Bible talks”; and the focus of Sunday “meetings” becomes fellowship or evangelism rather than a covenant assembly and corporate worship.
These innovations run counter to the example of the Reformers, who denied that they were change-mongers who were interested in change for change’s sake. In the strict sense, they were pushing for a return to the radix, the “root” of biblical Christianity. They were accused of fostering change by their opponents, but their defense was that, in fact, they wanted to drive the church back to the Word of God. They envisioned reformation not as our doing the changes (active) but as our being changed (passive). In other words, when we talk about reformation, we think of the Lord who reforms us and the Scripture that is His means of reformation.
What happens when we apply Scripture and our confessions to the issue of worship? The New Testament picks up Old Testament language in calling for the assembly of the people of God. Early Christians met on the Lord’s Day with the Lord’s people to hear His Word and offer prayers. Peter describes how we come to God when we come together like living stones in a temple — God is present in a special way where His people meet. Public worship with its proclamation of the Word is for God and His covenant people and leads to their being built up in the most holy faith (1 Cor. 14). Unbelievers may be present and come under conviction as they see the work of the Word in the lives of the saints.
From the earliest days, Christians sang as well as said prayers. The Old Testament even encourages God’s people to use instruments in worship (Ps. 33:2-3). Instruments of all kinds certainly contribute to Christian singing, and music is a unique and beautiful gift from God. However, the use of instruments may have a negative impact at times: they may wrongly manipulate the emotions of the people, they may drown out the praises of God’s gathered people, or they may inhibit congregational participation in worship. The musical experience in itself may be worshiped as an idol. Thus, we must be careful not to take what is worthy, useful, and helpful — music — and make it absolute. We must be careful that music does not take the place of God in our worship.
These examples illustrate the need to be constantly asking whether inherited traditions or novel practices are biblical. We need to consider whether our practices are helping or inhibiting our worship of God. Where our practices contribute something, we have to be careful lest we ascribe too much to them and thereby sacrifice the ordinary means of grace: the Word, prayer, and sacraments.
William W. Goligher Books:
Why Does It Matter?
By Jonathan Gibson 11/01/2014
The doctrine of definite atonement states that in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of His sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone, and not only was it intended to do so, but it actually achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to His name: “He will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The doctrine is theologically rich, but it is also immensely practical, especially in relation to the church.
Two pictures in the New Testament dramatize Christ’s love for the church. There is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep and the Bridegroom who sacrifices Himself for His bride (John 10:15; Eph. 5:23-25). The first picture has implications for Christian pastors; the second has implications for Christian people.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PASTORS
First, definite atonement intensifies the care of a pastor for his people because it reminds the pastor that it was for this particular group of people that Christ died. In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders to pay careful attention to the flock of God and to care for the church of God, “which he obtained with his own blood.” The relative clause is, in a way, unnecessary in the flow of Paul’s speech. Its presence, however, adds poignancy to the exhortation: pastors are to protect and care for the church because God purchased her with His own blood. As Richard Baxter wrote to pastors:
Oh, then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless; “Did I die for these souls, and will you not look after them? Were they worth my blood, and they are not worth your labor? ... How small is your condescension and labor compared to mine!”
When pastors look out on their congregations each Sunday, remembering that they are the purchase of Christ’s blood, it creates and deepens a most tender affection for them.
Second, definite atonement reassures the pastor of the eternal security of his people because his flock is safe in Christ’s hand and in the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). The security of God’s people is doubly assured because Christ and the Father are one (v. 30). This truth helps pastors not to worry so much for their sheep to the extent that they forget to whom they really belong. Each day, after a pastor has fulfilled his duties, he can rest with the conviction that Christ will lose none of those given to Him by the Father. The sheep for whom the Good Shepherd laid down His life cannot be lost.
IMPLICATIONS FOR CHRISTIAN PEOPLE
First, definite atonement intensifies the personal aspect of God’s love for believers individually and for believers corporately. Martin Luther said that the sweetness of the gospel is found in the personal pronouns: “the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). That individual expression is also accompanied by a corporate one: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25).
The love of Christ for the church is a particular, special, exclusive love that is differentiated from His universal, general, inclusive love for everyone. This discriminating love is no more offensive than a husband who vows to love his wife with the words forsaking all others, I will be faithful to you as long as we both shall live. Love discriminates. A husband’s exclusive love for his wife makes her feel positively special among other women. The same holds true for individual Christians and the church as a whole: we are the most treasured people on earth. Christ’s love for us was not an afterthought, but a forethought — we are the reason He came down from heaven.
Second, definite atonement enhances the Christian’s view of marriage. The Bible begins with a marriage between Adam and his wife, and it ends with the celebration of the marriage between Christ and His church. Central to these two marriages is the concept of union. Human marriage has at its core a one-flesh union, and thus it is a picture of the union between Christ and His church.
Paul uses the image of a head and its body to drive home the point. Christ, the Bridegroom, is also the head, who gives Himself for His body, to which He is united. Paul’s marriage exhortations to husbands and wives are based on this union between head and body (Eph. 5:28-32). The implications are profound: a husband who does not love his wife is like a man who harms his own body; a wife who does not respect her husband is like a body that ignores instructions from its head. Both behaviors result in damage and dysfunction. Yet marriages, even in Christian churches, are often sadly like this. But if we paused for a moment to consider that our marriages preach the love story of Christ’s union with His bride, how different would they be?
These observations demonstrate that, rather than being a heady doctrine discussed only by scholars, definite atonement is immensely practical for Christian pastors and people alike.
Jonathan Gibson Books:
- Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present
- From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
- NIV, Proclamation Bible, Hardcover: Correctly Handling the Word of Truth
- Covenant Continuity and Fidelity: A Study of Inner-Biblical Allusion and Exegesis in Malachi (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies)
The Church’s One Foundation
By R.C. Sproul 11/01/2014
More than forty years ago, Los Angeles experienced a terrible earthquake, one of the worst in the city’s history. I remember the event because just before the earthquake, I had driven a friend of mine to the airport so that he could catch a flight to Los Angeles, where he was a pastor. The earthquake affected his church, and he later told me that at first everything seemed to be fine with the sanctuary building. Although there was no visible damage of any significance, a later inspection revealed that the foundation of the church had shifted to such a degree that they had to close the church and rebuild the sanctuary because it was no longer safe. To any casual observer, it seemed like the sanctuary was stable. However, in reality it was unfit for use, and it had to be demolished and rebuilt upon a sure foundation.
In Psalm 11:3, David asks the question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” David draws on an analogy in the physical realm to depict a particular spiritual concern that he had. If the failure of a building’s physical foundation spells the end for the entire building, the failure of God’s people to maintain the foundation of truth means disaster for their spiritual health and well-being.
We can apply this idea to the church. If the foundation of the church is shaken, can the church survive? No. But what is the foundation of the church? Answering that question correctly will help us guard the foundation and preserve His truth.
I’ve often taught on this subject — the foundation of the church — in my years of ministry. I’ve often pointed out that while the author of the line, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord,” had his heart in the right place when he was writing his hymn, the line itself is a conduit of misinformation. With respect to the foundation of the church, Scripture does speak of Jesus as the foundation: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). However, that is not all that the New Testament says about the church’s foundation. Paul says in Ephesians 2:20 that Jesus is actually “the cornerstone.” Jesus is called the foundation because He is the linchpin, as it were, for the entire foundation. But there are other stones in this foundation.
What, then, is the rest of the foundation? The foundation, Paul tells us, consists of the prophets and the Apostles (Eph. 2:18-21). In Revelation 21, we read of the magnificent vision of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city that comes down from above. Verse 14 tells us that “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Even the heavenly Jerusalem is based upon the foundation of the apostles.
Historically, the Christian church is, in its very essence, Apostolic. The term Apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “one who is sent.” In the ancient Greek culture, an apostolos was first of all a messenger, an ambassador, or an emissary. But he wasn’t just a page. He was an emissary who was authorized by the king to represent the king in his absence, and he bore the king’s authority.
The first Apostle in the New Testament was actually Jesus, for He was sent by His Father into the world. We get the fullest picture of what it is to be an Apostle by looking at what He says in the New Testament about this role of His. Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). Christ told His disciples, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak” (12:49). He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Jesus was granted authority by God the Father to speak on behalf of the Father and to deliver His Father’s Word, so Jesus’ teaching had God’s authority.
The Apostles spoke with a transferred authority from Christ to deliver His teachings. The Apostles taught with the authority of Jesus, who taught with the authority of God. Therefore, as the church father Irenaeus argued long ago, to reject Apostolic authority is to reject the authority of Jesus. And in the final analysis, to reject the authority of Jesus is to reject the authority of God.
What we have here in the concept of Apostolic authority is of vital importance to the Christian faith. But how do we recognize Apostolic authority? By submitting to the Apostolic tradition. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul tells us, “I delivered to you, first of all, that which I also received,” and he uses the term paradosis, which is the Greek term we translate as “tradition.” Paradosis literally means “a giving over, a transfer,” and that’s what the New Testament is. It is the Apostolic tradition that the church has received. The church received it from the Apostles, who received it from Christ, who received it from God. That’s why when we reject the teaching of the Apostles — the Apostolic tradition of the New Testament — we’re rejecting the very authority of God.
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
Looking Backward, Moving Forward
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2014
It doesn’t happen often, but it had happened. A book written for businessmen had jumped the fence and become something of a universal best seller. Like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change before it, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't after it, people were talking about this book, even people in the office where I worked. As I passed by the receptionist’s desk, she had it open, and was reading it during her lunch break. “What do you think?” she asked innocently enough. “Well,” I answered, “there may well be some good wisdom in that book. If there is, however, that wisdom isn’t unique to that book. And if there is anything unique about that book, I suspect it isn’t wisdom.”
Because the Bible equips us for every good work, the truth is that we already have all that we need. Our best teachers, then, are not those bringing us new truths, but those bringing us old truths. While the world may celebrate creativity — the creation of previously unknown ideas — the church celebrates fidelity — the propagation of previously revealed ideas.
Jesus Himself, while He was noted for the authority with which He spoke, was always quick to remind His audience that He didn’t speak His own words but the words that His Father gave to Him (John 12:49). Even the notion that we must be born again in order to enter into His kingdom is something Jesus assumes the Pharisee Nicodemus must already know (John 3:10). Jesus is about the business of reminding His own of what they have forgotten.
The same, of course, is true about His call to us that we should pursue His kingdom and His righteousness. This is not some sort of course correction. The message of Jesus is not: “Well, the prophets did their best, but they steered you wrong. That’s why I have come, to tell you to stop listening to them, and start listening to Me.”
The pursuit of His kingdom — and His righteousness — has always been God’s call on our lives. Adam and Eve, as they left the garden, were called to pursue His kingdom and His righteousness. Noah, as he walked out of the ark, was called to pursue His kingdom and His righteousness. Abraham, by faith, was called righteous and was called to seek that city whose builder and maker is God.
One of the things we who are Reformed need to reform is our understanding of our place in history. Because we are twenty-first-century Westerners, we think of that which is old as passé, outdated, and that which is new as improved. The truth is that we are called to move forward. We should be enjoying in the church generational sanctification, as we stand on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who came before. But we get better not by getting newer, but by getting older. We are Reformers, not revolutionaries.
I was struck by this recently. Ascension Presbyterian Church, where I serve, is a new and small body. A year ago, we did not exist at all. Our demographic is diverse, with retired couples, college students, and even one precious yet-to-be born child of the covenant. It is our habit to seek to sing at least one Psalm each Lord’s Day. At one recent gathering, we sang the “Old Hundredth” — “All People That on Earth Do Dwell.” As the last note died out, I reminded the gathered of this astonishing truth: we are singing the same song the people of God have sung for three thousand years. To be sure, we don’t know what tune David composed. And we sing an English translation rather than in Hebrew. But we are going back to the wisdom of God revealed to our fathers in the days of David.
We, too, are called to make a joyful shout to the Lord; indeed, we are the all you lands that are called to so shout. We, too, are called to serve the Lord with joy, to enter His gates with gladness, to be thankful to Him and to bless His name. We are the sheep of His pasture precisely because He is merciful.
The Psalm ends with this reminder of why all our reforming is a returning: “And His truth endures to all generations.” We are not modernists trying to climb an intellectual tower of Babel. We are not evolving toward wisdom. We are instead always reforming because we are always returning — back to our Father, back to the Word, back to our primordial paradise.
In eternity, it will be the same. There, we will never have to unlearn, for we will be without sin. But we will continually learn more and more, know more and more, the glory of our heavenly Father. We will move further up and further in, growing into all that He reveals. He is wisdom precisely because He is the Ancient of Days. And to the everlasting glory of His name, we rejoice in knowing that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Rejoice in knowing that we are even now being reformed into His image, who is the express image of the glory of the Father.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Bearers of God’s Image
By Trillia Newbell 11/01/2014
In the beginning, God created all of mankind in His image, male and female alike (Gen. 1:26). And we know that before the foundation of the world, God, in His goodness and kindness, had His people in mind (Eph. 1:4). It was no surprise to our omniscient Father that Adam and Eve fell and sin entered the world. He knew people would not worship and delight in Him. Knowing this, He didn’t have to give us aspects of Himself, but He did. God — the holy one, pure and awesome — created us to reflect aspects of His beauty and character. We are not worthy of such a generous apportionment.
As God’s image-bearers, we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth, and we are also fallen equally (Rom. 3:23). Genesis 1:26 explains that God created man in His image. Of all the creatures in God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, so we have dominion over the rest (1:28). It is a profound mystery (God is spirit, so we do not bear His physical image; see John 4:24) and yet a great privilege.
Image-bearing alone should cause our hearts to leap for joy, but, as we know, even as God has revealed Himself, many have chosen to suppress the truth that they know about Him (Rom. 1:18-19). And it is with this knowledge that the Christian delights to share the gospel. As image-bearers, we are all made to glorify and magnify the Lord. And by all, I mean all mankind. The Lord did not distinguish between the Christian and non-Christian in creating them in His image.
Understanding our equality as image-bearers changes everything about our human relationships. As image-bearers, we should view others as God views us. One way the Lord identifies us — and I’d argue this is the most important differentiation — is as either in Christ or not in Christ. C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote in The Weight of Glory:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
There is no one walking the earth who is not in need of the gospel. We are a part of humanity, each one of us heading toward either heaven or hell. It takes the power of the gospel to transform an image-bearer’s heart of stone and bring it into worship and delight of God. The only way for a heart to be aflame for God is through the pursuing, saving grace of God, which takes our hearts and transforms them from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). The Christian who understands his nature before God is eager to share with his fellow man.
My own testimony comes to mind here. God sent a young girl aflame for Jesus and His gospel to share the good news with me. I was not running after God — actually, quite the opposite. My salvation required His pursuit. I remember this when I read Ephesians 2 and the truth of the words seems to jump off the page: I was dead, but God made me alive through Jesus’ death on the cross. By a free gift, I was made alive by grace through faith (vv. 1-10). I could never have saved myself, and I didn’t think my heart needed transformation, but He knew what I needed, He did the work, and He used a sinner saved by that same grace to teach me about Him.
Since that day, my heart and its desires have changed. Even as I wrestle with the sin that so easily distracts me, there remains a longing for the Lord.
As image-bearers, when we hear the good news, we are changed from the inside out. This does not mean that we are immediately sanctified, nor does it mean that we will not have ebbs and flows in our excitement or devotion to and for the Lord. For we know that we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
Sanctification is a process. And this, too, is God’s doing. Like Paul, we proclaim, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us” (2 Cor. 3:5). Fundamentally, the work of sanctification in our lives is the Lord’s doing, and we devote ourselves to Him because we know we are His — His workmanship, His image-bearers, and His children. We love God because He first loved us and gave His Son to be a ransom for us (1 John 4:9). As we interact with others, our lives proclaim what we know about God in love for them and for God.
Trillia Newbell Books:
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Book 5 | Psalm 107Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say So
107:33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.
39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108In the third persecution Pliny the Second, a man learned and famous, seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did any thing contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution. "The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this-viz. that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation - not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary - never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal."
In this persecution suffered the blessed martyr, Ignatius, who is held in famous reverence among very many. This Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. Some do say, that he, being sent from Syria to Rome, because he professed Christ, was given to the wild beasts to be devoured. It is also said of him, that when he passed through Asia, being under the most strict custody of his keepers, he strengthened and confirmed the churches through all the cities as he went, both with his exhortations and preaching of the Word of God. Accordingly, having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the Church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, lest they should deprive him of that which he most longed and hoped for. "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!" And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such as the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake, what time he heard the lions roaring, saying: "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread."
Trajan being succeeded by Adrian, the latter continued this third persecution with as much severity as his predecessor. About this time Alexander, bishop of Rome, with his two deacons, were martyred; as were Quirinus and Hernes, with their families; Zenon, a Roman nobleman, and about ten thousand other Christians.
In Mount Ararat many were crucified, crowned with thorns, and spears run into their sides, in imitation of Christ's passion. Eustachius, a brave and successful Roman commander, was by the emperor ordered to join in an idolatrous sacrifice to celebrate some of his own victories; but his faith (being a Christian in his heart) was so much greater than his vanity, that he nobly refused it. Enraged at the denial, the ungrateful emperor forgot the service of this skilful commander, and ordered him and his whole family to be martyred.
At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many, and their patience so great, that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration, and exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy, "Great is the God of the Christians!" for which he was apprehended, and suffered a similar fate.
Many other similar cruelties and rigors were exercised against the Christians, until Quadratus, bishop of Athens, made a learned apology in their favor before the emperor, who happened to be there and Aristides, a philosopher of the same city, wrote an elegant epistle, which caused Adrian to relax in his severities, and relent in their favor.
Adrian dying A.D. 138, was succeeded by Antoninus Pius, one of the most amiable monarchs that ever reigned, and who stayed the persecutions against the Christians.
The Fourth Persecution, Under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 162Marcus Aurelius, followed about the year of our Lord 161, a man of nature more stern and severe; and, although in study of philosophy and in civil government no less commendable, yet, toward the Christians sharp and fierce; by whom was moved the fourth persecution.
The cruelties used in this persecution were such that many of the spectators shuddered with horror at the sight, and were astonished at the intrepidity of the sufferers. Some of the martyrs were obliged to pass, with their already wounded feet, over thorns, nails, sharp shells, etc. upon their points, others were scourged until their sinews and veins lay bare, and after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised, they were destroyed by the most terrible deaths.
Germanicus, a young man, but a true Christian, being delivered to the wild beasts on account of his faith, behaved with such astonishing courage that several pagans became converts to a faith which inspired such fortitude.
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, "Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ."
Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?" At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.
Metrodorus, a minister, who preached boldly, and Pionius, who made some excellent apologies for the Christian faith, were likewise burnt. Carpus and Papilus, two worthy Christians, and Agatonica, a pious woman, suffered martyrdom at Pergamopolis, in Asia.
Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of a considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety.
Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.
Justin, the celebrated philosopher, fell a martyr in this persecution. He was a native of Neapolis, in Samaria, and was born A.D. 103. Justin was a great lover of truth, and a universal scholar; he investigated the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophy, and attempted the Pythagorean; but the behavior of our of its professors disgusting him, he applied himself to the Platonic, in which he took great delight. About the year 133, when he was thirty years of age, he became a convert to Christianity, and then, for the first time, perceived the real nature of truth.
He wrote an elegant epistle to the Gentiles, and employed his talents in convincing the Jews of the truth of the Christian rites; spending a great deal of time in travelling, until he took up his abode in Rome, and fixed his habitation upon the Viminal mount.
He kept a public school, taught many who afterward became great men, and wrote a treatise to confuse heresies of all kinds. As the pagans began to treat the Christians with great severity, Justin wrote his first apology in their favor. This piece displays great learning and genius, and occasioned the emperor to publish an edict in favor of the Christians.
Soon after, he entered into frequent contests with Crescens, a person of a vicious life and conversation, but a celebrated cynic philosopher; and his arguments appeared so powerful, yet disgusting to the cynic, that he resolved on, and in the sequel accomplished, his destruction.
The second apology of Justin, upon certain severities, gave Crescens the cynic an opportunity of prejudicing the emperor against the writer of it; upon which Justin, and six of his companions, were apprehended. Being commanded to sacrifice to the pagan idols, they refused, and were condemned to be scourged, and then beheaded; which sentence was executed with all imaginable severity.
Several were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter; in particular Concordus, a deacon of the city of Spolito.
Some of the restless northern nations having risen in arms against Rome, the emperor marched to encounter them. He was, however, drawn into an ambuscade, and dreaded the loss of his whole army. Enveloped with mountains, surrounded by enemies, and perishing with thirst, the pagan deities were invoked in vain; when the men belonging to the militine, or thundering legion, who were all Christians, were commanded to call upon their God for succor. A miraculous deliverance immediately ensued; a prodigious quantity of rain fell, which, being caught by the men, and filling their dykes, afforded a sudden and astonishing relief. It appears that the storm which miraculously flashed in the face of the enemy so intimidated them, that part deserted to the Roman army; the rest were defeated, and the revolted provinces entirely recovered.
This affair occasioned the persecution to subside for some time, at least in those parts immediately under the inspection of the emperor; but we find that it soon after raged in France, particularly at Lyons, where the tortures to which many of the Christians were put, almost exceed the powers of description.
The principal of these martyrs were Vetius Agathus, a young man; Blandina, a Christian lady, of a weak constitution; Sanctus, a deacon of Vienna; red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body; Biblias, a weak woman, once an apostate. Attalus, of Pergamus; and Pothinus, the venerable bishop of Lyons, who was ninety years of age. Blandina, on the day when she and the three other champions were first brought into the amphitheater, she was suspended on a piece of wood fixed in the ground, and exposed as food for the wild beasts; at which time, by her earnest prayers, she encouraged others. But none of the wild beasts would touch her, so that she was remanded to prison. When she was again produced for the third and last time, she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen, and the constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude that neither the sex of the one nor the youth of the other were respected, being exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. Being strengthened by Blandina, he persevered unto death; and she, after enduring all the torments heretofore mentioned, was at length slain with the sword.
When the Christians, upon these occasions, received martyrdom, they were ornamented, and crowned with garlands of flowers; for which they, in heaven, received eternal crowns of glory.
It has been said that the lives of the early Christians consisted of "persecution above ground and prayer below ground." Their lives are expressed by the Coliseum and the catacombs. Beneath Rome are the excavations which we call the catacombs, whivch were at once temples and tombs. The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs. There are some sixty catacombs near Rome, in which some six hundred miles of galleries have been traced, and these are not all. These galleries are about eight feet high and from three to five feet wide, containing on either side several rows of long, low, horizontal recesses, one above another like berths in a ship. In these the dead bodies were placed and the front closed, either by a single marble slab or several great tiles laid in mortar. On these slabs or tiles, epitaphs or symbols are graved or painted. Both pagans and Christians buried their dead in these catacombs. When the Christian graves have been opened the skeletons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph. Here are a few:
"Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace."
"Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels."
"Victorious in peace and in Christ."
"Being called away, he went in peace."
Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire.
But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as:
"Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else."
"I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty though I had done no harm."
"Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine."
"Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer."
The most frequent Christian symbols on the walls of the catacombs, are, the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder, a ship under full sail, harps, anchors, crowns, vines, and above all the
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Celebrate yourself - God does!
(Oct 5) Bob Gass
‘He celebrates and sings because of you.’
(Zep 3:17) 17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ESV
Some of us think so little of ourselves that we’d rather be in a bad relationship than none at all. Being around people doesn’t guarantee you won’t feel lonely. Actually, being with the wrong people guarantees you’ll end up feeling empty and used. Until you overcome your fear of being alone and wait for God to give you the right relationships, you’ll continue to feel lonely. Sometimes loneliness is more about not liking yourself than about not having people around who like you. Otherwise, why would you spend so much energy avoiding rejection instead of building healthy relationships? Perhaps you think if you don’t get involved you won’t get hurt. Or you’re afraid to open up in case people criticise you for sharing anything personal. Such anxieties just contribute to your sense of isolation. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, ‘What you picture in your mind, your mind will go to work to accomplish. When you change your pictures, you automatically change your performance.’ So: 1) You need a true picture of how God sees you. Paul says, ‘Because of what Christ has done we have become gifts…God…delights in’ (Ephesians 1:11 TLB). Zephaniah writes, ‘He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.’ 2) You need a true picture of yourself. David said, ‘You…put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvellous!’ (Psalm 139:13-14 CEV). Having these two pictures clearly in mind stops you from operating with a devalued self-image, and enables you to ask for what you need in a relationship.
1 Thess 4
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
He entered Yale College at age 13 and graduated with honors. He became a pastor, and his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” started the Great Awakening, a revival that swept America, uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution. He became President of Yale College. His name was Jonathan Edwards, born this day, October 5, 1703. Jonathan married Sarah Pierrepont, and their descendants included: a U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, and nearly 100 missionaries.American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Truly the course of events has been the answer to this question easier than at first. We are driven by events to believe that a great moral blindness has befallen Germany; that its God, ceasing to be Christian, has become but Semitic; that it has lost the sense of the great imponderables; that the idolatry of the State has barrack-bound the conscience of the Church and stilled that witness of the kingdom of God which beards kings and even beheads them. We are forced to think that the cause of righteousness has passed from its hands with the passing from them of humanity, with the submersion of the idea of God’s kingdom in nationality or the cult of race, with the worship of force, mammon, fright, and ruthlessness, with the growth of national cynicism in moral things, and with the culture of a withering, self-searing hate which is the nemesis of mortal sin, and which even God cannot use as He can use anger, but must surely judge. This people has sinned against its own soul, and abjured the kingdom of God. That settles our prayer for victory. We must pray for the side more valuable for the kingdom of God—much as we have to confess.
It would more than repay much calamity if we were moved and enlarged to a surer sense, a greater use, and a franker confession of the power of prayer for life, character, and history. There is plenty of discussion of the present situation, historic, ethical, or political, and much of it is competent, and even deep. There is much speculation about the situation after the War, at home and abroad. But its greatest result may be the discredit of elegant, paltering, and feeble types of religion, the end of the irreligious wits and fribbles, and the rise of a new moral seriousness and a new spiritual realism. Many will be moved, in what seems the failure of civilization, to a new reliance on the Church, and especially on the more historic, ethical, and positive Churches, which have survived the paganism of culture and which ride the waves of storm. Yet even these impressions can evaporate unless they are fixed by action. And the action that fixes them in their own kind is prayer—prayer which is really action. A religion of prosperity grows dainty, petty, sentimental, and but pseudo-heroic. We unlearn our fathers’ creed that religion is, above all things, an act, that worship is the greatest act of which man is capable, and that true worship culminates in the supreme labour, and even sorrow, of real prayer. This is man at his utmost; and it has for it near neighbours all the great things that men or nations do. But when a nation must go to righteous war it embarks on one of the very greatest acts of its life, especially if its very existence as a servant of God’s kingdom hang on it. A state of war is really the vast and prolonged act of a corporate soul, with a number of minor acts organized into it. It is capable of being offered to a God whose kingdom is a public campaign moving through history, and coming by the faith, toil, peril, sacrifice, grief, and glory of nations, as well as the hearts and souls. It is not possible to separate moral acts so great and solemn as the act of prayer (especially common and corporate prayer) and the act of war; nor to think them severed in the movement, judgment, and purpose of the Eternal. And we are forced into paradox again. The deeper we go down into the valley of decision the higher we must rise (if we are to possess and command our souls) into the mount of prayer, and we must hold up the hands of those whose chief concern is to prevail with God. If we win we shall have a new sense of power amid all our loss and weakness; but what we shall need most of all if the power to use that power, and to protest us from our victory and its perilous sequels, whether of pride or poverty. And if we do not win we shall need it more. There will be much to sober us either way, more perhaps than ever before in our history.
But that is not all, and it is not enough. As Christian people we need something to sanctify that very sobering and to do for the new moral thoughtfulness itself what that does for the peace-bred levity of the natural man. For such a purpose there is no agent like prayer—serious, thinking, private prayer, or prayer in groups, in small, grave, congenial, understanding groups—prayer with the historic sense, church-nurtured and Bible-fed. Public prayer by all means, but, apart from liturgical form, the more open the occasions and the larger the company the more hard it may be to secure for such prayer the right circumstances or the right lead. Public facility is apt to outstrip the real intimacy and depth with God. While on the other hand, the prayer that freely rises and aptly flows in our audience of God may be paralyzed in an audience of men. So that public prayer does not always reflect the practice of private petition as the powerful factor it is in Christian life and history. It does not always suggest a door opened in heaven, the insight or fellowship of eternal yet historic powers in awful orbits. It does not always do justice to our best private prayer, to private prayer made a business and suffused with as much sacred mind as goes to the more secular side even of the Christian life. Should ministers enlist? it is asked. But to live in true and concrete prayer is to be a combatant in the War, as well as a statesman after it, if statesmen ought to see the whole range of forces at work. The saintly soldier still needs the soldier saint. Yet so much prayer has ceased to be a matter of thought, will, or conflict, and religion therefore has become so otiose, that it is not easy even for the Christian public to take such a saying as more than a phrase. This is but one expression of a general scepticism, both in the Church and out, about prayer, corporate or private, as power with God, and therefore as momentous in the affairs of life and history. But momentous and effectual it must be. Other things being equal, a voluntary and convinced army is worth more than a conscript one. So to know that we are morally right means worlds for our shaping of the things that face us and must be met; and we are never so morally right as in proficient prayer with the Holy One and the Just. It has, therefore, a vast effect on the course of things if we believe at all in their moral destiny. More is wrought by it than the too wise world wots; and all the more as it is the prayer of a great soul or a great Church. It is a power behind thrones, and it neutralizes, at the far end, the visible might of armies and their victories. It settles at last whether morality or machinery is to rule the world. If it lose battles, it wins in the long historic campaign. Whereas, if we have no such action with God, we lose delicacy of perception in the finer forces of affairs; we are out of touch and understanding with the final control in things, the power that is working to the top always; we become dense in regard to the subtle but supreme influences that take the generals and chancellors by surprise; and we are at the mercy of the sleepless action of the kingdom of evil on the world. It is a fatal thing to under estimate the enemy; and it is in Christian prayer, seriously and amply pursued, that the soul really learns to gauge evil’s awful and superhuman power in affairs. I am speaking not only of the single soul, perhaps at the moment not chiefly, but of the soul and prayer of a society like the true Church or a sobered people. The real power of prayer in history is not a fusillade of praying units of whom Christ is the chief, but it is the corporate action of a Saviour-Intercessor and His community, a volume and energy of prayer organized in a Holy Spirit and in the Church the Spirit creates. The saints shall thus judge the world and control life. Neither for the individual nor for the Church is true prayer an enclave in life’s larger and more actual course. It is not a sacred enclosure, a lodge in some vast wilderness. That is the weak side of pietism. But, however intimate, it is in the most organic and vital context of affairs, private and public, if all things work together, deeply and afar, for the deep and final kingdom of God. Its constant defeat of our egoism means the victory of our social unity and its weal. For the egoist neither prays nor loves. On the other hand, such prayer recalls us from a distraught altruism, teeming with oddities, and frayed down to atomism by the variety of calls upon it; because the prayer is the supreme energy of a loving will and believing soul engaged with the Love that binds the earth, the sun, and all the stars. So far it is from being the case that love to God has no sphere outside love to man that our love to man perishes unless it is fed by the love that spends itself on God in prayer, and is lifted thereby to a place and a sway not historic only, but cosmic.
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Certain thoughts are prayers.
There are moments when,
whatever be the attitude of the body,
the soul is on its knees.
--- Victor Hugo
The higher goal of spiritual living
is not to amass a wealth of information,
but to face sacred moments.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel
Those who deny freedom deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
--- Abraham Lincoln
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How The Jews Were Crucified Before The Walls Of The City Concerning Antiochus Epiphanes; And How The Jews Overthrew The Banks That Had Been Raised By The Romans.
1. So now Titus's banks were advanced a great way, notwithstanding his soldiers had been very much distressed from the wall. He then sent a party of horsemen, and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food. Some of these were indeed fighting men, who were not contented with what they got by rapine; but the greater part of them were poor people, who were deterred from deserting by the concern they were under for their own relations; for they could not hope to escape away, together with their wives and children, without the knowledge of the seditious; nor could they think of leaving these relations to be slain by the robbers on their account; nay, the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out; so nothing remained but that, when they were concealed from the robbers, they should be taken by the enemy; and when they were going to be taken, they were forced to defend themselves for fear of being punished; as after they had fought, they thought it too late to make any supplications for mercy; so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures, before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more: yet it did not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way, and to set a guard over so many he saw would be to make such as great deal them useless to him. The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this, that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterwards be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.
2. But so far were the seditious from repenting at this sad sight, that, on the contrary, they made the rest of the multitude believe otherwise; for they brought the relations of those that had deserted upon the wall, with such of the populace as were very eager to go over upon the security offered them, and showed them what miseries those underwent who fled to the Romans; and told them that those who were caught were supplicants to them, and not such as were taken prisoners. This sight kept many of those within the city who were so eager to desert, till the truth was known; yet did some of them run away immediately as unto certain punishment, esteeming death from their enemies to be a quiet departure, if compared with that by famine. So Titus commanded that the hands of many of those that were caught should be cut off, that they might not be thought deserters, and might be credited on account of the calamity they were under, and sent them in to John and Simon, with this exhortation, that they would now at length leave off [their madness], and not force him to destroy the city, whereby they would have those advantages of repentance, even in their utmost distress, that they would preserve their own lives, and so find a city of their own, and that temple which was their peculiar. He then went round about the banks that were cast up, and hastened them, in order to show that his words should in no long time be followed by his deeds. In answer to which the seditious cast reproaches upon Caesar himself, and upon his father also, and cried out, with a loud voice, that they contemned death, and did well in preferring it before slavery; that they would do all the mischief to the Romans they could while they had breath in them; and that for their own city, since they were, as he said, to be destroyed, they had no concern about it, and that the world itself was a better temple to God than this. That yet this temple would be preserved by him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing, because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only. These words were mixed with reproaches, and with them they made a mighty clamor.
3. In the mean time Antiochus Epiphanes came to the city, having with him a considerable number of other armed men, and a band called the Macedonian band about him, all of the same age, tall, and just past their childhood, armed, and instructed after the Macedonian manner, whence it was that they took that name. Yet were many of them unworthy of so famous a nation; for it had so happened, that the king of Commagene had flourished more than any other kings that were under the power of the Romans, till a change happened in his condition; and when he was become an old man, he declared plainly that we ought not to call any man happy before he is dead. But this son of his, who was then come thither before his father was decaying, said that he could not but wonder what made the Romans so tardy in making their attacks upon the wall. Now he was a warlike man, and naturally bold in exposing himself to dangers; he was also so strong a man, that his boldness seldom failed of having success. Upon this Titus smiled, and said he would share the pains of an attack with him. However, Antiochus went as he then was, and with his Macedonians made a sudden assault upon the wall; and, indeed, for his own part, his strength and skill were so great, that he guarded himself from the Jewish darts, and yet shot his darts at them, while yet the young men with him were almost all sorely galled; for they had so great a regard to the promises that had been made of their courage, that they would needs persevere in their fighting, and at length many of them retired, but not till they were wounded; and then they perceived that true Macedonians, if they were to be conquerors, must have Alexander's good fortune also.
by D.H. Stern
is a passer-by who mixes in a fight not his own.
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
The bias of degeneration
Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. --- Romans 5:12.
The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin; but that the disposition of sin, viz., my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race by one man, and that another Man took on Him the sin of the human race and put it away (Heb. 9:26)—an infinitely profounder revelation. The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization—I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself. When Our Lord faced men with all the forces of evil in them, and men who were clean living and moral and upright, He did not pay any attention to the moral degradation of the one or to the moral attainment of the other; He looked at something we do not see, viz., the disposition.
Sin is a thing I am born with and I cannot touch it; God touches sin in Redemption. In the Cross of Jesus Christ God redeemed the whole human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a man responsible for having the heredity of sin. The condemnation is not that I am born with a heredity of sin, but if when I realize Jesus Christ came to deliver me from it, I refuse to let Him do so, from that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. “And this is the judgment” (the critical moment) “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light.”
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
What to do? It's the old boredom
Come again: indolent grass,
Wind creasing the water
Hardly at all; a bird floating
Round and round. For one hour
I have known Eden, the still place
We hunger for. My hand lay
Innocent; the mind was idle.
Nothing has changed; the day goes on
With its business, watching itself
In a calm mirror. Yet I know now
I am ready for the sly tone
Of the serpent, ready to climb
My branches after the same fruit.
Some argue that the second half of Isaiah was written by a person other than Isaiah the son of Amoz. There is a dramatic change in theme and emphasis. But the real reason for postulating two Isaiahs lays in the refusal of liberal scholars to accept the supernatural. Isaiah spoke of Babylon before that city was capital of a world power. He even named Cyrus, the Persian who overcame Babylon. Only God could have known ahead of time.
Why do conservatives maintain the unity of this great book?
• The Jews treated this book as a unity and believed Isaiah
• New Testament writers who quote Isaiah treat passages
from the first and second halves the same.
• Jesus, given the “scroll of the Prophet Isaiah” read from
61:1–2 (Luke 4:17–19).
• Similar passages occur in both parts of the book
(cf. 1:15 with 59:3; 30:26 with 60:19).
• The book maintains a strong theological unity, and uses
terms and names of God in both sections unique to Isaiah.
• Prophetic utterances often foretell distant events. The
predictive elements in Isaiah are in full harmony with
the Bible’s general supernaturalism.
• The two-Isaiah theory was not introduced until the 18th
century. It was offered by antisupernaturalists to explain
away the predictive accuracy of the book. That view has
no basis in history, nor is compelling evidence found in
How good to know that in the Word of God we have revealed truth. The God who speaks through Isaiah was well able to tell the future then, and still speaks to us today.
This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God. Who then is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before Me what has happened since I established My ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.
With Isaiah 40 we move into the second half of Isaiah, and immediately burst into a fresh and joyful world. A tone of optimism and celebration pervades these last chapters of the prophet’s work. We hear that tone in the very first words of Isaiah 40:
In this half of Isaiah the prophet seems to look back on judgment past. The prospect of terror is gone. Now comes the promised joy. Isaiah looks beyond even the Babylonian Captivity of Judah, still a hundred years in his future. There Isaiah sees Babylon’s power shattered by Cyrus of Persia (Isa. 45–46). He looks even beyond this to the restoration of all things. In prophetic vision Isaiah sees history’s end, when God will say to His redeemed people:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.… To give drink to My people, My chosen, the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim My praise.
--- Isaiah 43:18–21.
In the new world, former things will not be remembered or come to mind. God will make all things new.
--- Isaiah 44:6–8.
By the breath of God frost is given. --- Job 37:10. KJV
The leaves are down. (500 selected sermons) The warmth has gone out of the air. The birds have winged southward. The landscape has been scarred by the autumnal equinox. Another element now comes to bless and adorn and instruct the world. It is the frost. The palaces of this king are far up in the Arctic, glittering winter palaces of ice, [and] from those hard, white, portals King Frost descends and waves his silvery scepter over our temperate zone. You already feel his breath in the night wind. By most considered an enemy, the frost is a friend, charged with lessons potent and tremendous.
There are passages of Scripture that once were enigmas and impossible for you to understand, but the frosts of trouble after awhile exposed the full meaning to your soul. You said, “I do not see why David keeps rolling over in his Psalms the story of how he was pursued and persecuted.” He describes himself as surrounded by bees. You think, What an exaggeration for him to exclaim, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord” (Ps. 130:1). There is so much lamentation in his writings you think he overdoes it. But after awhile the frost comes upon you in the shape of persecution, and you are pierced with censure, wounded with defamation, and stung with lies in swarms [that] are buzzing about your ears, and at last you understand what David meant.
For a long while a disproportionate amount of the Bible seemed given to consolation. Why page after page and chapter after chapter taken up with comforts [and] consolations? The Book seems like an apothecary, one-half of the shelves occupied with soothing salves. But after a while, bankruptcy, sickness, and bereavement. Now the consolatory parts of the Bible do not seem disproportionate. You want something off almost all the shelves of that sacred dispensary. What has uncovered to you the usefulness of so much of the Bible that was hidden before? The frosts have been fulfilling their mission.
Thank God for frosts. What helped make Milton the greatest of poets? The frost of blindness. What helped make Washington the greatest of generals? The frost of Valley Forge. Special trials fit for special work.
Without complaint, take the hard knocks. It will not take long for God to make up to you in the next world for all you have suffered in this. Trouble comes for beneficial purpose, and on the coldest nights the aurora is brightest in the northern heavens.
--- T. DeWitt Talmage
Toothpicks & Oranges
The Tower of London, sitting forbiddingly on the Thames, is a small village within impregnable walls. It has served as a palace, a fortress, and, more ominously, a prison. Here a young Catholic named John Gerard suffered for his faith during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I.
He was a Jesuit priest, educated on the Continent, who began covertly performing priestly work in England at age 18, moving from place to place one step ahead of the law. He was eventually captured and taken to the Clink, a prison so infamous that its name lives to this day. For three years he was kept there, sometimes chained, often attempting to escape. Then he was moved to the Tower.
One of the buildings there, the White Tower, contains a deep vault without windows or outer doors. There in the eerie glow of flickering torches, Gerard was hung by his hands for hours, day after day. When he fainted, he was revived and the torture reapplied. His arms swelled monstrously, his whole body throbbed, his bones screamed, and his hands became so damaged he couldn’t even feed himself.
The torture was finally suspended for a while. The young priest did finger exercises, and within three weeks he could again feed himself. Soon he asked for oranges and toothpicks. The toothpicks became pens. Orange juice became ink, visible only when heated. Messages flew back and forth. A rope, a boat, and outside helpers were recruited. On October 5, 1597 Gerard climbed through a hole to the roof of Cradle Tower, threw a rope over the side, and slid down it, wincing as it mutilated his hands. Friends whisked him to a hiding place outside London.
He was soon back at his clandestine priestly work, always a mere step from recapture. Finally it became untenable for him to stay in England, and he sadly slipped out of the country in the retinue of the Spanish and Dutch ambassadors. He labored in Rome until July 27, 1637, when he passed away at age 73. He is known today as one of an elite handful of people who outwitted the Tower of London.
Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins—even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge.
--- Job 11:13-16.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 5
“He arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights.” --- 1 Kings 19:8.
All the strength supplied to us by our gracious God is meant for service, not for wantonness or boasting. When the prophet Elijah found the cake baked on the coals, and the cruse of water placed at his head, as he lay under the juniper tree, he was no gentleman to be gratified with dainty fare that he might stretch himself at his ease; far otherwise, he was commissioned to go forty days and forty nights in the strength of it, journeying towards Horeb, the mount of God. When the Master invited the disciples to “Come and dine” with him, after the feast was concluded he said to Peter, “Feed my sheep”; further adding, “Follow me.” Even thus it is with us; we eat the bread of heaven, that we may expend our strength in the Master’s service. We come to the passover, and eat of the paschal lamb with loins girt, and staff in hand, so as to start off at once when we have satisfied our hunger. Some Christians are for living on Christ, but are not so anxious to live for Christ. Earth should be a preparation for heaven; and heaven is the place where saints feast most and work most. They sit down at the table of our Lord, and they serve him day and night in his temple. They eat of heavenly food and render perfect service. Believer, in the strength you daily gain from Christ labour for him. Some of us have yet to learn much concerning the design of our Lord in giving us his grace. We are not to retain the precious grains of truth as the Egyptian mummy held the wheat for ages, without giving it an opportunity to grow: we must sow it and water it. Why does the Lord send down the rain upon the thirsty earth, and give the genial sunshine? Is it not that these may all help the fruits of the earth to yield food for man? Even so the Lord feeds and refreshes our souls that we may afterwards use our renewed strength in the promotion of his glory.
Evening - October 5
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” --- Mark 16:16.
Mr. MacDonald asked the inhabitants of the island of St. Kilda how a man must be saved. An old man replied, “We shall be saved if we repent, and forsake our sins, and turn to God.” “Yes,” said a middle-aged female, “and with a true heart too.” “Aye,” rejoined a third, “and with prayer”; and, added a fourth, “It must be the prayer of the heart.” “And we must be diligent too,” said a fifth, “in keeping the commandments.” Thus, each having contributed his mite, feeling that a very decent creed had been made up, they all looked and listened for the preacher’s approbation, but they had aroused his deepest pity. The carnal mind always maps out for itself a way in which self can work and become great, but the Lord’s way is quite the reverse. Believing and being baptized are no matters of merit to be gloried in—they are so simple that boasting is excluded, and free grace bears the palm. It may be that the reader is unsaved—what is the reason? Do you think the way of salvation as laid down in the text to be dubious? How can that be when God has pledged his own word for its certainty? Do you think it too easy? Why, then, do you not attend to it? Its ease leaves those without excuse who neglect it. To believe is simply to trust, to depend, to rely upon Christ Jesus. To be baptized is to submit to the ordinance which our Lord fulfilled at Jordan, to which the converted ones submitted at Pentecost, to which the jailer yielded obedience the very night of his conversion. The outward sign saves not, but it sets forth to us our death, burial, and resurrection with Jesus, and, like the Lord’s Supper, is not to be neglected. Reader, do you believe in Jesus? Then, dear friend, dismiss your fears, you shall be saved. Are you still an unbeliever, then remember there is but one door, and if you will not enter by it you will perish in your sins.
Mary E. Maxwell, 20th century
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (2 Timothy 2:21)
A vessel He will make of you, if small or great, ’twill surely do—
Great joy and peace will always fill the one who’s yielded to His will.
To be a channel of the purposes of God is the highest calling in life. Every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift for this work (1 Peter 4:10). When we use that gift, our own lives are blessed and enriched by God as we bless others. For instance, after a visit to a nursing home or an invalid person, we often come away spiritually rejuvenated. Ministering to the needs of others is one of the best remedies for self-centeredness and joyless living.
Our ministry to others, however, is always based on what we have first received and experienced from God. We can never give out spiritual nourishment until we have first taken it in ourselves. Our experiences of suffering can be used to equip us to help others who suffer as we do. Difficulties can either make us bitter or they can fill us with a compassion and sensitivity for the hurts of others. People who are hurting can sense when we really understand and care for them in Christian love.
Our Lord is seeking representatives who realize their insufficiencies but are willing to be a channel filled with His power and love. That’s the vessel He can use.
How I praise Thee, precious Savior, that Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me that I might Thy channel be.
Emptied that thou shouldest fill me, a clean vessel in Thy hand,
with no pow’r but as Thou givest graciously with each command.
Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me, setting free from self and sin,
Thou who boughtest to possess me, in Thy fullness, Lord, come in.
Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit hearts that full surrender know,
that the streams of living water from our inner man may flow.
Chorus: Channels only, blessed Master—but with all Thy wondrous pow’r
flowing thru us, thou canst use us ev’ry day and ev’ry hour.
For Today: Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 4:1–7; Galatians 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:14–26; James 1:22
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your particular gift in channeling God’s love to others. Share an encouraging, comforting word with someone you know is hurting. Use this musical message to help ---
DISCOURSE VIII - ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
Psalm 147:5. —Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite. It is uncertain who was the author of this Psalm, and when it was penned; some think after the return from the Babylonish captivity. It is a Psalm of praise, and is made up of matter of praise from the beginning to the end: God’s benefits to the church, his providence over his creatures, and the essential excellency of his nature.
The psalmist doubles his exhortation to praise God (ver. 1), “Praise ye the Lord, sing praise to our God;” to praise him from his dominion as “Lord,” from his grace and mere as “our God;” from the excellency of the duty itself, “it is good, it is comely:” some read it comely, some lovely, or desirable, from the various derivations of the word. Nothing doth so much delight a gracious soul, as an opportunity of celebrating the perfections and goodness of the Creator. The highest duties a creature can render to the Creator are pleasant and delightful in themselves; “it is comely.” Praise is a duty that affects the whole soul. The praise of God is a decent thing; the excellency of God’s nature deserves it, and the benefits of God’s grace requires it. It is comely when done as it ought to be, with the heart as well as with the voice; a sinner sings ill, though his voice be good; the soul in it is to be elevated above earthly things. The first matter of praise is God’s erecting and preserving his church (ver. 2): “The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, he gathers together the outcasts of Israel.” The walls of demolished Jerusalem are now re-edified; God hath brought back the captivity of Jacob, and reduced his people from their Babylonish exile, and those that were dispersed into strange regions, he hath restored to their habitations. Or, it may be prophetic of the calling of the Gentiles, and the gathering the outcasts of the spiritual Israel, that were before as without God in the world, and strangers to the covenant of promise. Let God be praised, but especially for building up his church, and gathering the Gentiles, before counted as outcasts (Isa. 11:12); he gathers them in this world to the faith, and hereafter to glory.
Obs. 1. From the two first verses, observe: 1. All people are under God’s care; but he has a particular regard to his church. This is the signet on his hand, as a bracelet upon his arm; this is his garden which he delights to dress; if he prunes it, it is to purge it; if he digs about his vine, and wounds the branches, it is to make it beautiful with new clusters, and restore it to a fruitful vigor.
2. All great deliverances are to be ascribed to God, as the principal Author, whosoever are the instruments. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, he gathers together the outcasts of Israel. This great deliverance from Babylon is not to be ascribed to Cyrus or Darius, or the rest of our favorers; it is the Lord that doth it; we had his promise for it, we have now his performance. Let us not ascribe that which is the effect of his truth, only to the good will of men; it is God’s act, not by might, nor by power, nor by weapons of war, or strength of horses, but by the Spirit of the Lord. He sent prophets to comfort us while we were exiles; and now he hath stretched out his own arm to work our deliverance according to his word; blind man looks so much upon instruments, that he hardly takes notice of God, either in afflictions or mercies, and this is the cause that robs God of so much prayer and praise in the world. (ver. 3.) “He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.” He hath now restored those who had no hope but in his word; he hath dealt with them as a tender and skilful chirurgeon; he hath applied his curing plasters, and dropped in his sovereign balsams; he hath now furnished our fainting hearts with refreshing cordials, and comforted our wounds with strengthening ligatures. How gracious is God, that restores liberty to the captives, and righteousness to the penitent! Man’s misery is the fittest opportunity for God to make his in mercy illustrious in itself, and most welcome to the patient. He proceeds (ver. 4), wonder not that God calls together the outcasts, and singles them out from every corner for a return; why can he not do this, as well as tell the number of the stars, and call them all by their names? There are none of his people so despicable in the eye of man, but they are known and regarded by God; though they are clouded in the world, yet they are the stars of the world; and shall God number the inanimate stars in the heavens, and make no account of his living stars on the earth? No, wherever they are disperred, he will not forget them; however they are afflicted, he will not despise them; the stars are so numerous, that they are innumerable by man; some are visible and known by men; others lie more hid and undiscovered in a confused light, as those in the milky way; man cannot see one of them distinctly. God knows all his people. As he can do what is above the power of man to perform, so he understands what is above the skill of man to discover; shall man measure God by his scantiness? Proud man must not equal himself to God, nor cut God as short as his own line. He tells the number of the stars, and calls them all by their names. He hath them all in his list, as generals the names of their soldiers in their muster-roll, for they are his host, which he marshals in the heavens, as in Isaiah 40:26, where you have the like expression; he knows them more distinctly than man can know anything, and so distinctly, as to call “them all by their names.” He knows their names, that is, their natural offices, influences the different degrees of heat and light, their order and motion; and all of them, the least glimmering star, as well as the most glaring planet: this, man cannot do; “Tell the stars if thou be able to number them” (Gen. 15:5), saith God to Abraham, whom Josephus represents as a great astronomer: “Yea, they cannot be numbered” (Jer. 33:22); and the uncertainty of the opinions of men, evidenceth their ignorance of their number; some reckoning 1022; others 1025; others 1098; others 7000, beside those that by reason of their mixture of light with one another, cannot be distinctly discerned, and others perhaps so high, as not to be reached by the eye of man. To impose names on things, and names according to their natures, is both an argument of power and dominion, and of wisdom and understanding: from the imposition of names upon the creatures by Adam, the knowledge of Adam is generally concluded; and it was also a fruit of that dominion God allowed him over the creatures. Now he that numbers and names the stars that seem to lie confused among one another, as well as those that appear to us in an unclouded night, may well be supposed accurately to know his people, though lurking in secret caverns, and know those that are fit to be instruments of their deliverance; the one is as easy to him as the other; and the number of the one as distinctly known by him as the multitude of the other. “For great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite” (ver. 5). He wants not knowledge to know the objects, nor power to affect his will concerning them. Of great power, יבכוח . Much power, plenteous in power; so the word רב , is rendered (ver. 5), יבחרד , a multitude of power, as well as a multitude of mercy; a power that exceeds all created power and understanding. His understanding is infinite. You may not imagine, how he can call all the stars by name, the multitude of the visible being so great, and the multitude of the invisible being greater; but you must know, that as God is Almighty, so he is omniscient; and as there is no end of his power, so no account can exactly be given of his understanding; his understanding is infinite, .איוממפד ( There are about 10 billion galaxies in the observable universe! The number of stars in a galaxy varies, but assuming an average of 100 billion stars per galaxy means that there are about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that's 1 billion trillion) stars in the observable universe!)
No number or account of it; and so the same words are rendered, “a nation strong, and without number” (Joel 1:6): no end of his understanding: (Syriac) no measure, no bounds. His essence is infinite, and so is his power and understanding; and so vast is his knowledge, that we can no more comprehend it, than we can measure spaces that are without limits, or tell the minutes or hours of eternity. Who, then, can fathom that whereof there is no number, but which exceeds all, so that there is no searching of it out? He knows universals, he knows particulars: we must not take understanding here, as noting a faculty, but the use of the understanding in the knowledge of things, and the judgment, תגינח , in the consideration of them, and so it is often used. In the verse there is a description of God. 1. In his essence, “great is our Lord.” 2. In his power of “great power.” 3. In his knowledge, “his understanding is infinite:” his understanding is his eye, and his power is his arm. Of his infinite understanding I am to discourse.
Doctrine. God hath an infinite knowledge and understanding. All knowledge. Omnipresence, which before we spake of, respects his essence; omniscience respects his understanding, according to our manner of conception. This is clear in Scripture; hence God is called a God of knowledge (1 Sam. 2:3), “the Lord is a God of knowledge,” (Heb.) knowledges, in the plural number, of all kind of knowledge; it is spoken there to quell man’s pride in his own reason and parts; what is the knowledge of man but a spark to the whole element of fire, a grain of dust, and worse than nothing, in comparison of the knowledge of God, as his essence is in comparison of the essence of God? All kind of knowledge. He knows what angels know, what man knows, and infinitely more; he knows himself, his own operations, all his creatures, the notions and thoughts of them; he is understanding above understanding, mind above mind, the mind of minds, the light of lights; this the Greek word, Θὲος, signifies in the etymology of it, of Θεῖσθαι, to see, to contemplate; and δαίμων of δαίω, scio. The names of God signify a nature, viewing and piercing all things; and the attribution of our senses to God in Scripture, as hearing and seeing, which are the senses whereby knowledge enters into us, signifies God’s knowledge.
1. The notion of God’s knowledge of all things lies above the ruins of nature; it was not obliterated by the fall of man. It was necessary offending man was to know that he had a Creator whom he had injured, that he had a Judge to try and punish him; since God thought fit to keep up the world, it had been kept up to no purpose, had not this notion been continued alive in the minds of men; there would not have been any practice of his laws, no bar to the worst of crimes. If men had thought they had to deal with an ignorant Deity, there could be no practice of religion. Who would lift lap his eyes, or spread his hands towards heaven, if he imagined his devotion were directed to a God as blind as the heathens imagined fortune? To what boot would it be for them to make heaven and earth resound with their cries, if they had not thought God bad an eye to see them, and an ear to hear them? And indeed the very notion of a God at the first blush, speaks him a Being endued with understanding; no man can imagine a Creator void of one of the noblest perfections belonging to those creatures, that are the flower and cream of his works.
2. Therefore all nations acknowledge this, as well as the existence and being of God. No nation but had their temples, particular ceremonies of worship, and presented their sacrifices, which they could not have been so vain as to do, without an acknowledgment of this attribute. This notion of God’s knowledge owed not its rise to tradition, but to natural implantation; it was born and grew up with every rational creature. Though the several nations and men of the world agreed not in one kind of deity, or in their sentiments of his nature or other perfections, some judging him clothed with a fine and pure body, others judging him an uncompounded spirit, some fixing him to a seat in the heavens, others owning his universal presence in all parts of the world; yet they all agreed in the universality of his knowledge, and their own consciences reflecting their crimes, unknown to any but themselves, would keep this notion in some vigor, whether they would or no. Now this being implanted in the minds of all men by nature, cannot be false, for nature imprints not in the minds of all men an assent to a falsity. Nature would not pervert the reason and minds of men. Universal notions of God are from original, not lapsed nature, and preserved in mankind in order to a restoration from a lapsed state. The heathens did acknowledge this: in all the solemn covenants, selemnized with oaths and the invocation of the name of God, this attribute was supposed. They confessed knowledge to be peculiar to the Deity; scientia deorum vita, saith Cicero.
Some called him Νοῦς, mens, mind, pure understanding, without any note, ̓Επόπιης, the inspector of all. As they called him life, because he was the author of life, so they called him intellectus, because he was the author of all knowledge and understanding in his creatures; and one being asked, whether any man could be hid from God? Do, saith he, not so much as thinking. Some call him the eye of the world; and the Egyptians represented God by an eye on the top of a sceptre, because God is all eye, and can be ignorant of nothing.
And the same nation made eyes and ears of the most excellent metals, consecrating them to God, and hanging them up in the midst of their temples, in signification of God’s seeing and hearing all things; hence they called God light, as well as the Scripture, because all things are visible to him.
For the better understanding of this, we will enquire,
I. What kind of knowledge or understanding there is in God.
II. What God knows.
III. How God knows things.
IV. The proof that God knows all things.
V. The use of all to ourselves.
I. What kind of understanding or knowledge there is in God. The knowledge of God in Scripture hath various names, according to the various relations or objects of it: in respect of present things, it is called knowledge or sight; in respect of things past, remembrance; in respect of things future, or to come, it is called foreknowledge, or prescience (1 Pet. 1:2); in regard of the universality of the objects, it is called omniscience; in regard to the simple understanding of things, it is called knowledge; in regard of acting and modelling the ways of acting, it is called wisdom and prudence (Eph. 1:8). He must have knowledge, otherwise he could not be wise; wisdom is the flower of knowledge, and knowledge is the root of wisdom. As to what this knowledge is, if we know what knowledge is in man, we may apprehend what it is in God, removing all imperfection from it, and ascribing to him the most eminent way of understanding; because we cannot comprehend God, but as he is pleased to condescend to us in his own ways of discovery, that is, under some way of similitude to his perfectest creatures, therefore we have a notion of God by his understanding and will; understanding, whereby he conceives and apprehends things; will, whereby he extends himself in acting according to his wisdom, and whereby he doth approve or disapprove; yet we must not measure his understanding by our own, or think it to be of so gross a temper as a created mind; that he hath eyes of flesh, or sees or knows as man sees (Job 10:4). We can no more measure his knowledge by ours than we can measure his essence by our essence. As he hath an incomprehensible essence, to which ours is but as a drop of a bucket, so he hath an incomprehensible knowledge, to which ours is but as a grain of dust, or mere darkness: his thoughts are above our thoughts, as the heavens are above the earth. The knowledge of God is variously divided by the schools, and acknowledged by all divines.
1. A knowledge visionis et simplicis intelligentiæ; the one we may call a sight, the other an understanding; the one refers to sense, the other to the mind.
(1.) A knowledge of vision or sight. Thus God knows himself and all things that really were, are, or shall be in time; all those things which he hath decreed to be, though they are not yet actually sprung up in the world, but lie couchant in their causes.
(2.) A knowledge of intelligence or simple understanding. The object of this is not things that are in being, or that shall by any decree of God ever be existent in the world, but such things as are possible to be wrought by the power of God, though they shall never in the least peep up into being, but lie forever wrapt up in darkness and nothing. This also is a necessary knowledge to be allowed to God, because the object of this knowledge is necessary. The possibility of more creatures than ever were or shall be, is a conclusion that hath a necessary truth in it; as it is necessary that the power of God can produce more creatures, though it be not necessary that it should produce more creatures, so it is necessary that whatsoever the power of God can work, is possible to be. And as God knows this possibility, so he knows all the objects that are thus possible; and herein doth much consist the infiniteness of his knowledge, as shall be shown presently. These two kinds of knowledge differ; that of vision, is of things which God hath decreed to be, though they are not yet; that of intelligence is of things which never shall be; yet they may be, or are possible to be, if God please to will and order their being; one respects things that shall be, the other, things that may be, and are not repugnant to the nature of God to be. The knowledge of vision follows the act of God’s will, and supposeth an act of God’s will before, decreeing things to be. (If we could suppose any first or second in God’s decree, we might say God knew them as possible before he decreed them; he knew them as future, because he decreed them.) For without the will of God decreeing a thing to come to pass, God cannot know that it will infallibly come to pass. But the knowledge of intelligence stands without any act of his will, in order to the being of those things he knows; he knows possible things only in his power; he knows other things both in his power as able to effect them, and in his will, as determining the being of them; such knowledge we must grant to be in God, for there is such a kind of knowledge in man; for man doth not oft know and see what is before his eyes in this world, but he may have a conception of many more worlds, and many more creatures, which he knows are possible to the power of God.
2. There is a speculative and practical knowledge in God.
(1.) A speculative knowledge is, when the truth of a thing is known without a respect to any working or practical operation. The knowledge of things possible is in God only speculative, and some say God’s knowledge of himself is only speculative, because there is nothing for God to work in himself: and though he knows himself, yet this knowledge of himself doth not terminate there, but flowers into a love of himself, and delight in himself; yet this love of himself, and delight in himself, is not enough to make it a practical knowledge, because it is natural, and naturally and necessarily flows from the knowledge of himself and his own goodness: he cannot but love himself, and delight in himself, upon the knowledge of himself. But that which is properly practice, is where there is a dominion over the action, and it is wrought not naturally and necessarily, but in a way of freedom and counsel. As when we see a beautiful flower or other thing, there ariseth a delight in the mind; this no man will call practice, because it is a natural affection of the will, arising from the virtue of the object, without any consideration of the understanding in a practical manner by counselling, commanding,
(2.) A practical knowledge: which tends to operation and practice, and is the principle of working about things that are known; as the knowledge an artificer hath in an art or mystery. This knowledge is in God: the knowledge he hath of the things he hath decreed, is such a kind of knowledge; for it terminates in the act of creation, which is not a natural and necessary act, as the loving himself, and delighting in himself is, but wholly free: for it was at his liberty whether he would create them or no; this is called discretion (Jer. 10:12): “He hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Such also is his knowledge of the things he hath created, and which are in being, for it terminates in the government of them for his own glorious ends. It is by this knowledge “the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down their dew” (Prov. 3:20). This is a knowledge whereby he knows the essence, qualities, and properties of what he creates and governs in order to his own glory, and the common good of the world over which he resides; so that speculative knowledge is God’s knowledge of himself and things possible; practical knowledge is his knowledge of his creatures and things governable; yet in some sort this practical knowledge is not only of things that are made, but of things which are possible, which God might make, though he will not: for as he knows that they can be created, so he knows how they are to be created, and how to be governed, though he never will create them. This is a practical knowledge for it is not requisite to constitute a knowledge practical, actually to act, but that the knowledge in itself be referable to action.
3. There is a knowledge of approbation, as well as apprehension. This the Scripture often mentions. Words of understanding are used to signify the acts of affection. This knowledge adds to the simple act of the understanding, the complacency and pleasure of the will, and is improperly knowledge, because it belongs to the will, and not to the understanding; only it is radically in the understanding, because affection implies knowledge: men cannot approve of that which they are ignorant of. Thus knowledge is taken (Amos 3:2), “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”; and (2 Tim. 2:19), “The Lord knows who are his,” that is, he loves them; he doth not only know them, but acknowledges them for his own. It notes, not only an exact understanding, but a special care of them; and so is that to be understood (Gen. 1.), “God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good:” that is, he saw it with an eye of approbation, as well as apprehension. This is grounded upon God’s knowledge of vision, his sight of his creatures; for God doth not love or delight in anything but what is actually in being, or what he hath decreed to bring into being. On the contrary, also, when God doth not approve, he is said not to know (Matt. 25:12), “I know you not,” and (Matt. 7:23), “I never knew you;” he doth not approve of their works. It is not an ignorance of understanding, but an ignorance of will; for while he saith he never knew them, he testifies that he did know them, in rendering the reason of his disapproving them, because he knows all their works: so he knows them, and doth not know them in a different manner: he knows them so as to understand them, but he doth not know them so as to love them. We must, then, ascribe an universal knowledge to God. If we deny him a speculative knowledge, or knowledge of intelligence, we destroy his Deity, we make him ignorant of his own power: if we deny him practical knowledge, we deny ourselves to be his creatures; for, as his creatures, we are the fruits of this, his discretion, discovered in creation: if we deny his knowledge of vision, we deny his governing dominion. How can he exercise a sovereign and uncontrollable dominion, that is ignorant of the nature and qualities of the things he is to govern? If he had not knowledge he could make no revelation; he that knows not cannot dictate; we could then have no Scripture. To deny God knowledge, is to dash out the Scripture, and demolish the Deity. God is described in Zech. 3:9, “with seven eyes,” to show his perfect knowledge of all things, all occurrences in the world; and the cherubims, or whatsoever is meant by the wings, are described to be full of eyes, both “before and behind” (Ezek. 1:18), round about them; much more is God all eye, all ear, all understanding. The sun is a natural image of God; if the sun had an eye, it would see; if it had an understanding, it would know all visible things; it would see what it shines upon, and understand what it influenceth, in the most obscure bowels of the earth. Doth God excel his creature, the sun, in excellency and beauty, and not in light and understanding? certainly more than the sun excels an atom or grain of dust. We may yet make some representation of this knowledge of God by a lower thing, a picture, which seems to look upon every one, though there be never so great a multitude in the room where it hangs; no man can cast his eye upon it, but it seems to behold him in particular, and so exactly, as if there were none but him upon whom the eye of it were fixed; and every man finds the same cast of it: shall art frame a thing of that nature, and shall not the God of art and all knowledge, be much more in reality than that is in imagination? Shall not God have a far greater capacity to behold everything in the world, which is infinitely less to him than a wide room to a picture?
The Existence and Attributes of God