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     1 Chronicles  7 - 8

1 Chronicles 7

Descendants of Issachar

1 Chronicles 7 1 The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub, and Shimron, four. 2 The sons of Tola: Uzzi, Rephaiah, Jeriel, Jahmai, Ibsam, and Shemuel, heads of their fathers’ houses, namely of Tola, mighty warriors of their generations, their number in the days of David being 22,600. 3 The son of Uzzi: Izrahiah. And the sons of Izrahiah: Michael, Obadiah, Joel, and Isshiah, all five of them were chief men. 4 And along with them, by their generations, according to their fathers’ houses, were units of the army for war, 36,000, for they had many wives and sons. 5 Their kinsmen belonging to all the clans of Issachar were in all 87,000 mighty warriors, enrolled by genealogy.

Descendants of Benjamin

6 The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, and Jediael, three. 7 The sons of Bela: Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth, and Iri, five, heads of fathers’ houses, mighty warriors. And their enrollment by genealogies was 22,034. 8 The sons of Becher: Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth, and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Becher. 9 And their enrollment by genealogies, according to their generations, as heads of their fathers’ houses, mighty warriors, was 20,200. 10 The son of Jediael: Bilhan. And the sons of Bilhan: Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish, and Ahishahar. 11 All these were the sons of Jediael according to the heads of their fathers’ houses, mighty warriors, 17,200, able to go to war. 12 And Shuppim and Huppim were the sons of Ir, Hushim the son of Aher.

Descendants of Naphtali

13 The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shallum, the descendants of Bilhah.

Descendants of Manasseh

14 The sons of Manasseh: Asriel, whom his Aramean concubine bore; she bore Machir the father of Gilead. 15 And Machir took a wife for Huppim and for Shuppim. The name of his sister was Maacah. And the name of the second was Zelophehad, and Zelophehad had daughters. 16 And Maacah the wife of Machir bore a son, and she called his name Peresh; and the name of his brother was Sheresh; and his sons were Ulam and Rakem. 17 The son of Ulam: Bedan. These were the sons of Gilead the son of Machir, son of Manasseh. 18 And his sister Hammolecheth bore Ishhod, Abiezer, and Mahlah. 19 The sons of Shemida were Ahian, Shechem, Likhi, and Aniam.

Descendants of Ephraim

20 The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead, whom the men of Gath who were born in the land killed, because they came down to raid their livestock. 22 And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him. 23 And Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son. And he called his name Beriah, because disaster had befallen his house. 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah. 25 Rephah was his son, Resheph his son, Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26 Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, 27 Nun his son, Joshua his son. 28 Their possessions and settlements were Bethel and its towns, and to the east Naaran, and to the west Gezer and its towns, Shechem and its towns, and Ayyah and its towns; 29 also in possession of the Manassites, Beth-shean and its towns, Taanach and its towns, Megiddo and its towns, Dor and its towns. In these lived the sons of Joseph the son of Israel.

Descendants of Asher

30 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and their sister Serah. 31 The sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel, who fathered Birzaith. 32 Heber fathered Japhlet, Shomer, Hotham, and their sister Shua. 33 The sons of Japhlet: Pasach, Bimhal, and Ashvath. These are the sons of Japhlet. 34 The sons of Shemer his brother: Rohgah, Jehubbah, and Aram. 35 The sons of Helem his brother: Zophah, Imna, Shelesh, and Amal. 36 The sons of Zophah: Suah, Harnepher, Shual, Beri, Imrah. 37 Bezer, Hod, Shamma, Shilshah, Ithran, and Beera. 38 The sons of Jether: Jephunneh, Pispa, and Ara. 39 The sons of Ulla: Arah, Hanniel, and Rizia. 40 All of these were men of Asher, heads of fathers’ houses, approved, mighty warriors, chiefs of the princes. Their number enrolled by genealogies, for service in war, was 26,000 men.

1 Chronicles 8

A Genealogy of Saul

1 Chronicles 8 1 Benjamin fathered Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, Aharah the third, 2 Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. 3 And Bela had sons: Addar, Gera, Abihud, 4 Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, 5 Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram. 6 These are the sons of Ehud (they were heads of fathers’ houses of the inhabitants of Geba, and they were carried into exile to Manahath): 7 Naaman, Ahijah, and Gera, that is, Heglam, who fathered Uzza and Ahihud. 8 And Shaharaim fathered sons in the country of Moab after he had sent away Hushim and Baara his wives. 9 He fathered sons by Hodesh his wife: Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, 10 Jeuz, Sachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of fathers’ houses. 11 He also fathered sons by Hushim: Abitub and Elpaal. 12 The sons of Elpaal: Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with its towns, 13 and Beriah and Shema (they were heads of fathers’ houses of the inhabitants of Aijalon, who caused the inhabitants of Gath to flee); 14 and Ahio, Shashak, and Jeremoth. 15 Zebadiah, Arad, Eder, 16 Michael, Ishpah, and Joha were sons of Beriah. 17 Zebadiah, Meshullam, Hizki, Heber, 18 Ishmerai, Izliah, and Jobab were the sons of Elpaal. 19 Jakim, Zichri, Zabdi, 20 Elienai, Zillethai, Eliel, 21 Adaiah, Beraiah, and Shimrath were the sons of Shimei. 22 Ishpan, Eber, Eliel, 23 Abdon, Zichri, Hanan, 24 Hananiah, Elam, Anthothijah, 25 Iphdeiah, and Penuel were the sons of Shashak. 26 Shamsherai, Shehariah, Athaliah, 27 Jaareshiah, Elijah, and Zichri were the sons of Jeroham. 28 These were the heads of fathers’ houses, according to their generations, chief men. These lived in Jerusalem.

29 Jeiel the father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon, and the name of his wife was Maacah. 30 His firstborn son: Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Nadab, 31 Gedor, Ahio, Zecher, 32 and Mikloth (he fathered Shimeah). Now these also lived opposite their kinsmen in Jerusalem, with their kinsmen. 33 Ner was the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab and Eshbaal; 34 and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal was the father of Micah. 35 The sons of Micah: Pithon, Melech, Tarea, and Ahaz. 36 Ahaz fathered Jehoaddah, and Jehoaddah fathered Alemeth, Azmaveth, and Zimri. Zimri fathered Moza. 37 Moza fathered Binea; Raphah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 38 Azel had six sons, and these are their names: Azrikam, Bocheru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, and Hanan. All these were the sons of Azel. 39 The sons of Eshek his brother: Ulam his firstborn, Jeush the second, and Eliphelet the third. 40 The sons of Ulam were men who were mighty warriors, bowmen, having many sons and grandsons, 150. All these were Benjaminites.

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One Family Under God

By Tom Ascol 3/01/2013

     He was asking a question that I had heard multiple times during my years as a pastor: “Do you have children’s church?” This time, instead of giving an extensive explanation for our practice of not segregating our church worship gatherings by ages, I decided to give a brief and accurate yet intentionally provocative answer. Here’s how it went:

     “Yes, we do. Every Sunday.”

     “Great. Can you describe how it is structured?”

     “Sure. We have singing, prayer, Scripture reading, giving, and teaching. We also observe the Lord’s Supper monthly, and periodically we observe baptism.”

     “That sounds interesting. Are adults allowed to attend?”

     “Absolutely! In fact, we encourage adults to attend these worship services with their children.”

     My conscience wouldn’t let me leave this young father with a false impression, so I went on to explain that while we do have worship for children, we do not have a separate worship service exclusively for them. Rather, our worship, like our church, is designed for all ages.

     Granted, a church that is committed to ministering to people of all ages faces a daunting challenge. In our day of specialization, it is much easier to “target” ministry to those who share a stage of life than to minister to people whose ages are spread over several decades.

     Perhaps that is why some have actually tried to structure churches to do just that, resulting in youth churches, student churches, and senior-citizen churches. What is even more common is the intentional balkanization of churches into self-contained, age-segregated ministries that at best coexist within a local congregation. In this model of ministry, it is possible that the only place where grandparents, parents, and children see each other at church gatherings is in the parking lot.

     The Bible recognizes that believers occupy a wide range of life stages and that there are particular needs worth emphasizing for particular age groups. We should note the ways the Bible specifically instructs these groups. Adults, both married (Eph. 5:22–33; 1 Peter 3:1–7) and single (1 Cor. 7:25–38; 1 Tim. 5:3-8), youth and young adults (Eccl. 12:1; 2 Tim. 2:22), and children (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20) are addressed with respect to their ages.

     A church that is given to an expositional ministry cannot ignore these and other age-sensitive passages in Scripture. The real challenge arises at the point of application. How can a church effectively minister to the needs of all its members who span a wide range of ages?

     While I would never pretend that there is only one set way — or even one best way — to answer that question, there are certain biblical principles that must be observed as a church considers how to structure its energies for ministering to all ages.

     First, as already stated, the fact that the Bible recognizes and addresses believers at different stages of life should be considered as a church plans its ministries. Everything from sermon application to service opportunities should reflect this awareness. As a pastor, I know it is easy to inadvertently build my sermon applications around my own life circumstances. If the apostles occasionally gave instruction to specific age groups in the churches they served, so should I.

     Second, a church must guard against establishing specific age-sensitive ministries that unintentionally undermine the church as a family. Where ministry becomes so targeted that the children never worship, pray, serve, or study with the youth, who never do these things with the adults, who in turn never do them with the children, whatever good may be accomplished comes at the expense of undermining the very nature of the church itself. The consequences are spiritually devastating because opportunities to defer to the preferences of others and sacrifice for their wellbeing are avoided while a consumer mentality is promoted.

     Finally, a church that ministers effectively to all age groups will keep the gospel alone as the foundation for church life and unity. Believers of all ages must be taught that our union with Christ, regardless of age, is what makes us one body.  A ten-year-old Christian has more in common with an eighty-year-old Christian than with ten-year-old unbelievers.  Where this is recognized and celebrated, real gospel-centered community thrives.

     In the final analysis, our basic human need as sinners trumps all other needs that are unique to age and stage of life. That means that the gospel is more important than any targeted ministry. It also means that, though we should work hard to communicate the gospel in understandable, age-appropriate ways, there is only one message that people of every age need. Above all, a church must master and faithfully steward this message: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

     The church that has this as its foundation and overarching theme will demonstrate that it is one body with “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5–6).

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     Dr. Tom Ascol is senior minister of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., and executive director of Founders Ministries.

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Praying for Politicians

By David Robertson 3/01/2013

     Having been a minister for twenty-six years and an editor of a church magazine for some of that time, I can safely say that there is no subject more likely to get you into controversy than the troubled relationship of the gospel to politics, unless you dare to touch the modern-day idol of people’s children. So when I was asked to write this column, my heart sank; I knew the heresy antennas of many would already be raised. To make matters worse, I write this just after the re-election of President Obama, a result that caused many of my American friends to despair, although many of them did not see the alternative as being much better. But rather than despair, perhaps we should follow the Bible’s pattern for the church’s involvement in politics.

     The church must be involved, but not in the way we so often have been. When the church seeks political power, the church inevitably ends up being corrupted.   This applies to any organization and any individual. What you seek is who you are. IMHO  Creating or supporting particular political parties, policies, or philosophies is not the way of Christ. For the church to be identified with one political party is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

     Does that mean we are doomed to be pious pietists, huddling in our small groups as the world rots, just waiting for the Lord to return? God forbid. The Bible gives us very clear instructions on how we are to participate in the political process — instructions that, if we followed them today, would make an enormous difference to the politics and government of our countries. These instructions are found in 1 Timothy 2:1–4: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (NIV).

     I can hear the protests already: “That’s it? Pray? I thought you were against pietism. Is that what you call practical?” Yes, it is. Praying for our leaders is the most practical thing we can ever do. It is realistic, revolutionary, and leads to great results.

     First, prayer is realistic because it recognizes our own weakness and causes us to humbly bow before God, conscious that we do not have the power to accomplish anything. With all our money, strategies, techniques, and human wisdom, there really is nothing we can do that will control or change the course of history. True prayer recognizes the sovereignty and agency of God. Prayer stops us relying on ourselves and thus stops the frustrations and panic when we and our political philosophies and strategies fail. It is important at this stage to note that prayer is not to be used as a political tool, as though by holding prayer meetings we are courting or forcing God’s vote. Prayer is not protest. It is petition, which realizes that even the hearts of President Obama or Prime Minister David Cameron are not out of God’s control. Proverbs 21:1 says: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (NLT).

     Second, prayer changes the dynamics of politics by enabling the revolution of love and changing the political atmosphere. John Chrysostom, in his homily on this passage, declares, “First hatred towards those who are without is done away; for no-one can feel hatred towards those for whom he prays; and they again are made better by the prayers that are offered for them, and by losing their ferocious disposition towards us.” One of the most disturbing things in American politics recently has been the level of vitriol and hatred that has come from all quarters, sadly even from many in the church.   ... and this is March 2013!  It is not helpful to demonize those who disagree with us politically. It is surely the duty of every church in the United States (and many outwith) to pray for President Obama — and let me dare to suggest that it not be a “Smite the Amalekites” style of prayer. People may not like his politics, his view of the Christian faith, or his personality, but none of that excuses us from praying for him and for all our leaders, of whatever political hue. You will note that Paul does not distinguish between just and unjust rulers. To publically pray positively for our leaders, whether liberal or Mormon, is not an optional extra — it is a command from the Lord.

     Third, we see the results. We want to be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness — even under non-Christian leaders. This in turn results in the advancement of the good news and the knowledge of the truth. I know it is fashionable among Christians who live in comfortable circumstances to lament the lack of persecution and to equate persecution with growth, but here Paul equates gospel growth with peace. We should pray for this. As gospel growth continues in a peaceful and stable community, Christ the Mediator is exalted and lifted up as the testimony given in its proper time.

     Let us involve ourselves politically in our churches by praying for our political leaders and crying out to the Lord to grant His blessing and peace upon them as His servants and on us as His people.

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     Rev. David A. Robertson is minister of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland.

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His Heart Trusts in Her

By Steven Lawson 3/01/2013

      Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse.  She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.

     “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor, or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.

     Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her?

Her Service

     First, this extraordinary wife tirelessly serves him. Not sitting by idly, she actively “seeks wool and flax,” then extends a “willing hand” (v. 13) to spin thread and make material. She is “like a merchant ship” (v. 14), launching out to find the best fabric, at the best price, in order to make the best clothes. This selfless wife “rises while it is yet night” (v. 15) to prepare food for her family. An excellent manager, she oversees “her maidens” as they serve alongside her in the household.

Her Success

     Second, this enterprising woman exercises sound judgment in her many dealings. She shrewdly “considers a field,” then buys it. There, she plants a “vineyard” (v. 16). By her “strong” (v. 17) resolve, she earns disposable income for her family. These business dealings are “profitable” (v. 18), providing additional resources to share with others. She labors well into the “night” with her “distaff” and “spindle” (v. 19) to make garments for her family.

Her Sacrifice

     Third, this diligent woman gives generously to “the poor” and “the needy” (v. 20). As “the snow” approaches, she also gives to her family. She has planned ahead, making “scarlet” garments (v. 21) for her household. She spares no effort or cost in providing the best she can. After providing for others, this industrious wife makes “bed coverings” and clothes “for herself” with “fine linen and purple” (v. 22). Her ability to give expensive garments is clear evidence of God’s favor upon her labors.

Her Savvy

     Fourth, her many virtues enhance her husband’s position in “the gates” (v. 23), where city leaders meet. With keen savvy, this excellent wife “makes,” “sells,” and “delivers” (v. 24) her goods. Despite being very competent, she does not compete with her husband’s leadership, but undergirds it by her humble submission—and everyone knows it.

Her Strength

     Fifth, this treasured wife looks to the future with inner “strength” and “dignity” (v. 25). Though she anticipates many challenges, she nevertheless “laughs” (v. 25) with positive confidence in the Lord’s providential care. She is expectant that heaven’s supply will meet her family’s every need. As people seek her counsel, she speaks words of “wisdom” and “kindness” (v. 26) to them. Though busy outside the home, she does not neglect “her household” (v. 27).

Her Supremacy

     Sixth, she is such a fine mother that as her children observe her excellence, they “call her blessed” (v. 28). Her husband sees her character traits in parenting and “praises her.” He boasts that among women, “[she] surpass[es] them all” (v. 29). In his eyes, there are none who can legitimately claim to be her equal.   Amen!

Her Spirituality

     Seventh, this woman’s true greatness is her spiritual devotion. She “fears the Lord” (v. 30). “Charm” and “beauty” alone are “deceitful” and “vain.”   Lily always says that beauty is as beauty does.  Her real attraction to him is her reverence for God. Even the city leaders “praise her” in the “gates” (v. 31), recognizing the integrity of her life. Her husband prizes her fidelity and industry. He is the most blessed of men.

     Is it any wonder that her husband trusts her? The reality of God in her life makes her worthy of his full confidence. By every estimate, she is “the crown of her husband” (12:4). Only God can provide such an excellent helpmate.

     Has the Lord given you such an excellent wife? Do you see how she is specifically suited for you? Do you recognize how she has increased your effectiveness for the Lord? Then give thanks to God for such a woman in whom your heart trusts.

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     Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.

     Steven Lawson  |  Go to Books Page

Jesus Christ, Anointed One

By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2013

     Throughout the New Testament, we encounter many titles for Jesus of Nazareth—“Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “Lord,” and others. However, the title that is given to Jesus most often in the New Testament is one that is familiar to us, but one that we do not understand well. It is the title “Christ.”

     Why do I say that we do not understand this title well? I say it because “Christ” is used so often in conjunction with “Jesus” that we tend to think of it as His last name. However, “Christ” is not a secondary name for Jesus; He would have been known as “Jesus Bar-Joseph,” meaning “Jesus, son of Joseph.” Rather, “Christ” is Jesus’ supreme title. But what does it mean?

     The meaning of Christ is drawn from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from sin. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title Christ. The Greek word Christos, from which we get the English word Christ, is the translation of the Hebrew term Mashiach, which is the source for the English word Messiah. Mashiach, in turn, is related to the Hebrew verb masach, which means “to anoint.” Therefore, when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”

     In Old Testament times, people were subject to anointing when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, when Saul became the first king of Israel, Samuel the prophet anointed his head with oil in a ceremonial fashion (1 Sam. 10:1). This religious rite was performed to show that the king of Israel was chosen and endowed by God for the kingship. Likewise, the priests (Ex. 28:41) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed at God’s command. In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was set apart and consecrated for a servant task was a messiah, for he was one who received an anointing.

     But the people of Israel looked forward to that promised individual who was to be not merely a messiah but the Messiah, the One who would be supremely set apart and consecrated by God to be their Prophet, Priest, and King. So, at the time Jesus was born, there was a strong sense of anticipation among the Jews, who had been waiting for their Messiah for centuries.

     Amazingly, when Jesus began His public ministry, few recognized Him for who He was, despite overwhelming evidence that He possessed an anointing from God that far surpassed that which had rested on any other man. We know that there was great confusion about Him even after He had been ministering for some time. At one point, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13b). He was taking the pulse of His culture, getting feedback regarding the rumors about Himself. In response to Jesus’ question, the disciples ticked off various views that were being put forward: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (v. 14). Jesus was being identified with all kinds of people, but none of these speculations was correct.

     Then Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15b). Peter answered with what is known as the great confession, a statement of his belief as to the identity of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (v. 16). With these words, Peter declared that Jesus was the Christos, the Mashiach, the Anointed One.

     Then Jesus said an interesting thing. He told Peter that he was blessed to have this understanding of Jesus’ identity. Why did He say this? Jesus explained: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). Peter had received a divine insight that Jesus was the Messiah; it was not something that he had discerned by his own ability. Again, this amazes me because one would think that nearly everyone who encountered Jesus would have recognized Him immediately as the Messiah. After all, there is no shortage of information in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah — where He would be born, how He would behave, and what power He would manifest — and everyone could see what Jesus had done — raising people from the dead, healing all sorts of maladies, and teaching with great authority. But, of course, they did not. Jesus’ anointing was not immediately apparent.

     Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

Honoring Christ Online: An Interview with Tim Challies

By Tim Challies 4/01/2013

Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian?

     Tim Challies: Along with my brother and three sisters, I had the great privilege of growing up in a Christian home. My parents had both come to Christ through Pentecostalism and had married fresh out of college. Their honeymoon took them to Switzerland, where they spent a week at Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri. It was there that they encountered Reformed theology and a Christian faith that was intellectually fulfilling. I was raised in a home where the gospel was both celebrated and modeled. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I had a crisis of faith and began to ask if I was truly a Christian or if I was simply following along behind my parents. It was during this time that the Lord opened my eyes, and I made the faith of my parents my own.

TT: What inspired you to start blogging?

     TC: The blog came about almost by accident. A couple of years after I married and set out on my own, my parents moved from Toronto to the Atlanta area (they’ve since migrated west to Chattanooga, Tennessee). I had one child by that time and another on the way. I wanted a way to share pictures of my children with my parents and siblings, so I began a small website where I could display those photographs. I called the site challies.com because I anticipated only members of the Challies clan would be interested in it.

     At some point, I decided to share with my parents an article I had written. Google and the other search engines eventually did what they do, and soon other people were reading that article. Over time, I found that a website is an interesting medium for sharing articles and interacting with other Christians. In the months that followed, I removed the pictures of the children and focused instead on writing. In November 2003, I committed to daily blogging, a habit I’ve maintained ever since.

TT: How do you select the links you highlight on your daily links roundup?

     TC: I began the roundup of daily links (“A La Carte”) several years ago. While I had been playing an active role in creating content and sharing it online, I had come to see that there is also value in curating existing content. I have always chosen links primarily because of their interest to me, and I think that is probably the best way of doing it. This means that people who identify with me in some way are able to relate to many of these links and benefit from reading them.

TT: How do blogs benefit the church?

     TC: The church rightly has a love-hate relationship with blogs and the blogosphere. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, blogs have been both a great benefit and a great liability to the church. When blogs are at their best, they are a source of biblical exposition, a means of spiritual encouragement, and a source of valuable news and information. On a personal level, bloggers are able to model Christian living and display thoughtful engagement with ideas and competing worldviews. The blogs I appreciate most are those that remain steady, focused, and biblical over the long run.

TT: In an age of rapid social media growth, how should Christians be encouraged or discouraged to use social media?

     TC: Social media is a fact of life in the twenty-first century. Many Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) would make it all go away if they could. However, since that is not going to happen, Christians are being forced to adapt to this new world, and they are being forced to learn to use social media in a way that honors God. Social media itself is not for everyone, and certainly every form of social media is not for everyone.

     Christian leaders are finding that if they are to have a voice to the current generation, they need to have a voice that includes at least some forms of social media. As Albert Mohler states in his book The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters, a refusal to take advantage of at least some forms of social media is essentially a refusal to engage an entire generation.

TT: How can Christians interact online with others in a God-honoring manner?

     TC: Part of the beauty of the Bible is that its wisdom is timeless, transcending any one time, context, or culture. This assures us that God has a lot to say to us about how we govern ourselves in communication. All of the wisdom in Proverbs, in James, in the Gospels, and in the Epistles is equally applicable to words typed into Twitter as to words spoken verbally. One of the issues we face is that online interactions are mediated interactions, and in the mediation — in the screen that separates one person from another — we are prone to lose some of our humanity. We do well to remind ourselves continually that “pixels are people,” which is to say that the rules that govern offline communication also need to govern what we say through our mobile phones or across the Internet.

TT: Can you describe how you were called to the pastorate?

     TC: I did not set out to be a pastor any more than I set out to be a blogger. In fact, a friend recently looked back through old emails to find the very first time he and I interacted. The first time we wrote to one another, I was explaining how I felt no call to the ministry and had no desire to be a pastor. Yet today I find myself as one of the pastors of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto.

     My path to the pastorate began when I visited Grace Fellowship Church. I had been attending a local Southern Baptist church that had been swept up in the church-growth movement. I was eager to find a church where the gospel was central and where the theology was Reformed. Grace Fellowship was just such a church. After I had been a member at the church for several years, the elders approached me and asked if I would become an elder. After a process of evaluation, the church members affirmed me as an elder. Not too long after that, our associate pastor planted a church, leaving a vacancy that I was asked to fill. And just like that, I was in full-time pastoral ministry. As I have gone about the work of ministry, I have been finding that the Lord has given me a growing passion for it.

TT: Excluding the bible, what have been the five most influential books in your life and why?

     TC: Though I was raised in the Reformed tradition, I drifted into the Evangelical mainstream shortly after I got married and left my parents’ home. There were several books that were instrumental in showing me that sound doctrine really does matter and that served to rekindle my love for Reformed theology. John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World exposed the church I was attending as being driven by pragmatism rather than Scripture; James Montgomery Boice’s Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World showed me the beauty of sound doctrine while R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God opened my eyes to the sheer wonder and majesty of God. Those three books played a pivotal role in my life; they were just the books I needed within a very particular circumstance, and I regard it as the Lord’s kindness that He exposed me to all three of them.

     Since then, John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Redesign) is one I have returned to often as I’ve done battle with sin, while Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace has taught me the value of preaching the gospel to myself and ensuring that the gospel is instrumental, not supplemental, to all of faith and practice.

TT: What does the future of Challies.com look like?

     TC: To be honest, I don’t really know. When I look back at my life and see how it has unfolded in such unexpected ways—a blog I didn’t mean to begin and a vocation I really didn’t think I was cut out for—I find myself hesitating when it comes to making long-term plans and prognostications.

     Having said that, what seems to resonate most with the people who read the site are book reviews and my grappling with issues that are of interest to contemporary Christians. Whatever the future holds, I would expect these to remain central. I have always viewed the site as a place where I can simply think out loud and in public about the issues that I and other Christians are thinking about. If that is my niche in the blogosphere and if that is a way I can serve the church, then I am very glad to carry it on.

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     Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.

     I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

     Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.

     Tim Challies Books  |  Go to Books Page

Blood in the Streets

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2013

     How prone we are to miss the drama. The tyranny of the urgent, the plainness of our patterns, and our propensity to look inward rather than outward all push us to regard our callings, our surroundings, and our souls as rather dull affairs. We read of the great upheavals of history, then find ourselves scraping the burnt remains of casseroles off dishes. We watch Hollywood make believe about terrifying invaders from outer space, then go home to balance our checkbooks. We, according to Jesus, construct foolish drama by worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear while missing the battle of eternity that is going on right before our eyes.

     When Jesus calls us to cease worrying about those things the heathen worry about, He isn’t inviting us to heave a sigh of relief and flop down on our hammock with a glass of lemonade. No,  we put down our petty concerns that we might take up the one vital concern, the kingdom of God.

     Our Lord reigns. His kingdom knows no bounds, for all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. But there remains in His realm rebellion. There is work to do. In this country, we have once again denied the humanity of an entire class of people — the unborn. In so doing, we have shown forth our inhumanity. What may be worse is that this great evil demonstrates our lack of humanity. How twisted, how distorted, is a state that God ordained to punish evildoers, but that instead uses the sword God gave it to guard the grisly practitioners of this crime? How twisted, how distorted, are men who were made to protect and defend women and children, but who now drag their girlfriends, wives, or daughters to killing centers? How twisted,  how distorted, are women who were made to nurture their babies, but who now hire assassins to kill them?

     This, beloved, is the battle. Here is the drama. Souls of men and women are being twisted and slowly dragged into the very pit of hell. Babies are being burned alive, on purpose. And we, even though we have been made alive, even though we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, worry more about stock markets and football teams.

     Right now, in our own neighborhoods, people’s lives are at stake. Every one of our neighbors, young or old, male or female, believer or not, will die. And when they die, they will become fully, finally, and forever one thing or another.

     C.S. Lewis, in his classic work The Weight of Glory, reminds us what is at stake. He reminds us what is wood, hay, and stubble, and which jewels will shine evermore. In turn, he helps us see what this means for our todays — that forever counts right now.

     It is a serious thing … to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no “ordinary” people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — 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 splendours.

     We don’t seek the kingdom merely when we read our Bibles or sing our hymns. We seek the kingdom when we love our wives and cherish our children. We seek it when we weep and mourn for the murder of our neighbors, and when we weep and mourn for our neighbors’ murderers. We seek the kingdom when we call on men to be men and women to be women. We seek the kingdom when we welcome the least of these into our lives, into our homes, and into our families.

     The righteousness we seek for our justification is ours by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness — the sole ground of our right standing before God. Yet righteousness is also becoming ours in our experience through sanctification. We in Christ, despite all for which we have to repent, are being made into everlasting splendors. Despite all for which we must repent, despite all over which we mourn, despite all the horror of what we as a nation have become, we rejoice to know that we are citizens of another kingdom. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We once were not a people, but now we are the people of God. We are those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. May we then keep our conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against us as evildoers, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

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

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

The Voice of the Church

By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2013

     When Planned Parenthood adopted a strategy to win the debate on abortion and establish the legal right for women to have abortions on demand, it asked a strategic question: “From where will our strongest opposition come?” The organization anticipated that opposition would come most fiercely from the Roman Catholic Church. In order to offset the impact of the Roman community, Planned Parenthood adopted a strategy to encourage Protestant churches to support a woman’s right to abortion on demand. It encouraged the use of the mantras “A woman’s right to choose” and “A woman’s right over her own body.” A further part of the strategy was to use the slogan “prochoice” rather than “pro-abortion.” In other words, the effort to legalize abortion on demand was wrapped in the flag of personal liberty.

     The Planned Parenthood strategy was eminently successful. For the most part, the mainline liberal churches backed the feminist crusade in favor of “choice.” What was most distressing was the silence of evangelical churches, churches committed to the authority of the Bible and the classical Christian faith. It took many years for the evangelical church to come to a consensus on the evil of abortion but, more tragically, many evangelical churches still refuse to speak out against the destruction of babies made in the image of God.

     Several years ago, I produced a series of video lectures, out of which emerged my book on abortion. We made an effort to get these educational materials to evangelical churches, to help them instruct their members concerning this profoundly serious ethical issue. I was saddened to receive the same response over and over again.  Innumerable evangelical pastors told me they could not use our materials in their churches because the issue of abortion is so controversial. If they took a stand against abortion on demand, they said, they would divide their churches. What? Divide these churches? What could be a greater evil than such a division?  The answer is this: Remaining silent on the most serious ethical issue that the United States has ever faced.

     If the slaughter of millions of unborn babies is to stop, the church must once again become the church. Those who hide behind the idea that the church should never speak to political issues have missed the scriptural accounts of what we would call prophetic criticism. It may have been politically incorrect for Nathan to confront David over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (2 Sam. 12:1–15a). It may have been politically incorrect for Elijah to confront Ahab for his sinful confiscation of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21). It may have been politically incorrect for John the Baptist to challenge Herod the Tetrarch’s illicit marriage (Matt. 14). In these and other examples from sacred Scripture, we see representatives of the church not trying to become the state but offering prophetic criticism to the state — despite the potential consequences. The church is not the state, but it is the conscience of the state, and it is a conscience that cannot afford to become seared and silent.

     The state is an instrument ordained by God. It is also governed by God. The church does not need to be the state, but it must remind the state of its God-given duty. The principal reason for the existence of any government is to maintain, sustain, and protect the sanctity of human life. When the state fails to do that, it has become demonized. And it is the sacred duty of the church and of every Christian to voice opposition to it.

     The evangelical church’s chief strategies to end abortion have been to put pressure on abortion clinics and on elected officials. There is nothing wrong with these strategies; however, one strategy that has not been used or adopted widely is that of protesting those churches that support the ghastly murder of unborn babies. It is time for Christians to give prophetic criticism to the church, specifically to those churches that support abortion on demand or remain silent on this major issue.

     In my own city, one of the largest evangelical churches has publicly welcomed the woman in America who is the most visible and vocal supporter of partial-birth abortions. That’s a scandal to the Christian community. It’s a scandal to the cause of Jesus Christ. That church needs to be called to account.

     It is time for churches that see the evil of abortion to stand up and be counted—no matter the risk or the cost. When the church is silent in the midst of a holocaust, she ceases to be a real church. Wherever human dignity is under attack, it is the duty of the church and of the Christian to rise up in protest against it. This is not a political matter, and neither is it a temporary matter. It is not a matter over which Christians may disagree. It is a matter of life and death, the results of which will count forever.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

When God is Not Enough

By Scotty Smith 4/01/2013

     “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine).

     “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Dover Thrift Editions)).

     Certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces… . Therefore speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.’” (Ezek. 14:1–5)

     The new hearts we have in Christ are yet-to-be-perfected hearts, and  when God is functionally “not enough,” our anxieties and fears take over;  then we go on the hunt for designer gods and pseudosaviors. What does this look like?

     At the beginning of Ezekiel 14, we get to eavesdrop on a fascinating conversation that took place between the prophet and God. Here’s the back story: Instead of showing and telling God’s story of redemption to the nations, Israel had progressively been drawn into the worship of the gods of the surrounding nations.

     Israel’s drift into idolatry didn’t happen because the people became bored with the liturgy of their temple, enamored with the music of the worship bands in pagan temples, or impressed with the oratory of the new Canaanite prophet who had just moved into the neighborhood. No one in Israel went looking for a new worship service, but for new gods to service them. The center of their worship shifted from God to themselves. They began to worship worship more than they worshiped God—that is, their relationship with God became utilitarian rather than doxological.

     When the glory of the one true living God is no longer our principal passion in life, worship becomes a pragmatic vehicle for fulfilling two basic quests in life: provision and protection. Instead of living for God’s glory and looking to Him to meet our needs, we exist for our glory and look for gods who will meet our demands.

     How does God respond? Three phrases jump out at me in this pivotal passage—each of which highlights just how tenaciously God loves us in Christ and how relentlessly He pursues our hearts’ affection.

     God’s Lament: “These men have set up idols in their hearts.”

     We are quite capable of setting up physical idols anywhere. But whether it’s a golden calf in the courtyard or a new car in the driveway, the main real estate of idolatry is the heart. The works of our hands and the words from our mouths are simply the overflow of what’s gong on in the sanctuaries of our hearts. God’s cry, and command, to us is always, “My son, give me your heart” (Prov. 23:26). He will have our hearts, because God alone deserves our hearts.

     God’s Promise: “I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.”

     Though His patience is limitless, God’s love for His people moves Him to act powerfully and, if need be, painfully. How does God answer us in keeping with our idolatry? God allows us to taste the often destructive consequences of trusting idols. Only when our idols fail us will we begin to understand the futility and insanity of idolatry (Isa. 44). Idolatry carries a blinding and binding power. Only a power as great as the grace of God can possibly cut through the delusions and destroy the entrapments of idolatry.

     God’s Hope: “I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.”

     As I have been led, and at times dragged, into the process of gospel transformation, few words of hope have meant more to me than these. Why does God make life painful for us at times? Why does God often write stories we would never pen; observe a time line we would never choose; and answer our prayers in ways that feel like He is rejecting us? He gives us His answer: “I will do this to recapture the hearts of My people, who have all deserted Me for their idols.” No one loves us like God does in Jesus — even if it takes a Babylonian captivity to convince us.

     God’s jealousy for our love is the greatest compliment He could ever pay us, but it’s also the costliest gift He could ever give us. It was costly to God because it required the life and death of His Son; it is costly to us because it means God’s love will never let us go. That can get very disruptive and messy. Sometimes we proclaim, “Nothing will ever separate me from the love of God,” not fully realizing everything implied. The God of love will not tolerate our love of idols. Hallelujah, and brace yourself.

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     Scotty Smith is founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Scotty Smith Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O My Soul
103 Of David.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

ESV Study Bible

The Sons of God

By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2013

     In the twentieth century, the German biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann gave a massive critique of the Scriptures, arguing that the Bible is filled with mythological references that must be removed if it is to have any significant application to our day. Bultmann’s major concern was with the New Testament narratives, particularly those that included records of miracles, which he deemed impossible. Other scholars, however, have claimed that there are mythological elements in the Old Testament as well. Exhibit A for this argument is usually a narrative that some believe parallels the ancient Greek and Roman myths about gods and goddesses occasionally mating with human beings.

     In Genesis 6, we read this account: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… . The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (vv. 1–4).

     This narrative is basically a preface to the account of the flood God sent to eradicate all people from the earth, except for the family of Noah. Of course, the flood narrative itself is often regarded as mythological, but this preparatory section, where we read of the intermarriage of “the sons of God” and “the daughters of man,” is seen as blatant myth.

     The assumption in this interpretation of Genesis 6 is that “the sons of God” refers to angelic beings. Why do some biblical interpreters make this assumption? The simple answer is that the Scriptures sometimes refer to angels as sons of God, and it is assumed that the reference in Genesis 6 means the same. This is certainly a possible inference that could be drawn, but is it a necessary inference? I would answer no; I do not believe this text necessarily teaches the idea of sexual relations between angels and human beings.

     To understand this difficult passage, we have to look at the broader application of the phrase “sons of God.” Pre-eminently, it is used for Jesus Himself; He is the Son of God. As noted, it is sometimes used to refer to angels (Job 1:6; 21:1; Ps. 29:1). Also, it is sometimes used to speak of followers of Christ (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26). So, the concept of divine sonship in the Scriptures is not always linked to a biological or ontological relationship (relationship of being). Rather, it is chiefly used to set forth a relationship of obedience. This means Genesis 6 could simply be speaking about the intermarriage of those who manifested a pattern of obedience to God in their lives and those who were pagans in their orientation. In other words, this text likely describes marriages between believers and unbelievers.

     The immediate context of Genesis 6 supports this conclusion. Following the narrative of the fall in Genesis 3, the Bible traces the lines of two families, the descendents of Cain and of Seth. Cain’s line is recounted in Genesis 4, and this line displays proliferating wickedness, capped by Lamech, who was the first polygamist (v. 19) and who rejoiced in murderous, vengeful use of the sword (vv. 23–24). By contrast, the line of Seth, which is traced in Genesis 5, displays righteousness. This line includes Enoch, who “walked with God, and … was not, for God took him” (v. 24). In the line of Seth was born Noah, who was “a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (6:9). Thus, we see two lines, one obeying God and the other willfully disobeying Him.

     Therefore, many Hebrew scholars believe that Genesis 6 is describing not the intermarriage of angels and human women but the intermarriage of the descendents of Cain and Seth. The two lines, one godly and one wicked, come together, and suddenly everyone is caught up in the pursuit of evil, such that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). We do not need to surmise an invasion of the earth by angels in order to make sense of this chapter.

     Resolving the interpretive difficulties of Genesis 6 reminds us to be very careful about drawing inferences from Scripture that are not necessarily warranted. The descriptive terms “sons of God” and “daughters of man” do not give us license to make the assumption of interaction between heavenly beings and earthly beings. We have to be very careful when we look at a difficult text like this to see how the language is used in the broader context of Scripture. It is a very important principle that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Gates of Hell

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2013

     As a Presbyterian, I’m not terribly comfortable with the language of spiritual warfare. I’m not given to subtle premonitions, nor do I have an internal “powers and principalities” alert system. But I’m also not spiritually blind. So, despite my austerity and native skepticism, there was no denying what I was feeling as I stood on the sidewalk outside one of Orlando’s abortion mills. Though the sun was shining, it was a dark place. Though the weather was balmy, there was a definite chill. It wasn’t ordinary humidity that slowed my steps, but an invisible, gloomy cloud that carried the acrid odor of blood. Were I a less uptight man, I might have seen demons dancing on the roof. I had come to the gates of hell.

     Jesus, we all remember, made an astonishing promise to His disciples. After Peter boldly affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). I did not come to the gates of hell merely to experience their horror. I did not come merely to make some sort of political statement. I did not come merely to support the pro-life movement. I came to see the power of the gospel at work.

     There on the sidewalk, I got on my knees and prayed. I repented first. I confessed my selfishness, the callousness of my heart. I confessed that whole hours, indeed whole days, go by when I do not even think of the suffering of His littlest image-bearers. I repented for my country. I confessed that we corporately stand before Him more guilty than even Nazi Germany. The numbers killed in the American holocaust, fifty million and counting,   ( This is April 2013, and today. )  dwarf the numbers killed in the German Holocaust. And we, all of us, know it is going on. Forty years later, and it is business as usual.

     Finally, I repented for the church. We who have been rescued from the darkness, we who were dead but have been made alive, we who carry within us the Holy Spirit of God, are so often numb, indifferent, distant, and uncaring.

     We might vote for the less pro-abortion candidate every four years. We might collect diapers or dollars for our local crisis pregnancy centers. These, of course, are good things. But they are not all that the true religion of Scripture requires of us in regards to legalized abortion on demand in the United States and throughout the world.

     James tells us that true religion consists in visiting the widow and the orphan in their trouble, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. We can’t even do the last, as statistics suggest that one in every six, or more than 200,000 of the mothers who commit the dark art of in-utero infanticide every year, are professing evangelical Christians, members in good standing at our churches. More evangelicals today will visit abortion mills as clients than as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

     Is there ever a more vulnerable widow than the woman whose husband/ father/ boyfriend fails to protect her, but instead brings her to the gates of hell? Is there ever a more vulnerable orphan than a baby whose mother and father are alive and well, but seeking to commit murder? In short, your local abortion mill is not only among the most potent manifestations of the gates of hell in the world today, but it is also the very locus of where we can, and must, practice true religion. It is exactly where the church must be, if it would be the church.

     I don’t go, however, only to repent. I visit our local abortion mills because I rejoice and delight to see the power of the gospel at work in those places.

     If we want to see the Holy Spirit move in power, we have to go to the front lines. Where we are safe, the power is muted. Where the stakes are highest, that’s where He moves. No one is closer to understanding her own depravity than a mom about to murder her own baby. I go to watch the demons move from dancing to mourning, because the Word has come with power. I go to see moms move from weeping in their guilt to weeping in their forgiveness. I go to see babies move from flailing for their lives to jumping for joy.

     But there is still more. I go to have my own heart melted. I go so that I will come home a little less stuffy, a little less crusty, a little less safe. I come home changed.

     The church needs a broken heart, a contrite spirit. That is why the church needs to be at every mill, every day, repenting and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

     That is why you need to go. You don’t need a program; you already have one — “Go into all the world.” You don’t need a leader; you already have one — Jesus the Christ. You don’t need a calling; you already have one — take up your cross and follow Him. You don’t need a message; you already have one — “Repent and believe.”

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

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

  • Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
  • ... Mohler
  • ... Mohler

Recovering a Vision  SBTS


Gratitude and Christian Discipleship  SBTS


Doctrine and Character in the Mirror  SBTS


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Become A Good Thinker
     (Sept 16)    Bob Gass

(Pr 23:7) 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. ESV

     With practice, you can become a good thinker. Observe two things: 1) Good thinkers have foresight. ‘The plans of the diligent lead to profit’ (Proverbs 21:5 NIV 2011 Edition). The word diligent means ‘to work, study, and plan’. You don’t stumble into success and figure it out afterwards. Whether you’re in business or ministry, your level of success will increase dramatically if you place a high value on good thinking. Novelist Victor Hugo wrote, ‘A small man is made up of small thoughts.’ People who don’t practise good thinking usually find themselves at the mercy of circumstances - or other people’s thoughts. Unable to solve problems, they find themselves facing the same obstacles over and over. And because they don’t think ahead they’re habitually in reaction mode. An old German proverb says, ‘Better an empty purse than an empty head.’ Good thinkers overcome difficulties, including lack of resources, that often leave poor thinkers at the mercy of good thinkers. In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen says, ‘All that a man achieves or fails to achieve, is a direct result of his thoughts.’ Do you believe that? If you do, you’ll place a high value on good thinking and make it a priority in your life. 2) Good thinkers look for the best, not the worst. They live by this scriptural principle: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things’ (Philippians 4:8 NIV 2011 Edition).

Is 28-29
Eph 3

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     September 16, 1620, using the Gregorian Calendar, one hundred and two Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower. The two-month journey was beset with storms. At one point the beam under the main mast cracked, being propped back in place using the screw of a printer’s press. One youth was rescued after being swept overboard by a freezing wave. A boy died, and a mother gave birth. Intending to land in Virginia, they were blown off-course. In that first bitter winter half died. Governor Bradford wrote: “Last and not least, they cherished a[n]… inward zeal… for the… advance of the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us,
and one should not even attempt to do so.
One must simply hold out and endure it.
At first that sounds very hard,
but at the same time it is also a great comfort.
For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled
one remains connected to the other person through it.
It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness.
God in no way fills it
but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve --
even in pain --
the authentic relationship.
Further more,
the more beautiful and full the remembrances,
the more difficult the separation.
But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past
not as a thorn
but as a precious gift deep within,
a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Spiritual [trans]formation is the continuing response (our responsibility to respond) to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.
--- Jeffrey Greenman, May 2006

The most important task of teaching is to teach what it means to know.
--- Simone Veil   (The last night of her life)

You never know what depths of sin and wickedness of hell are in your nature till you turn and start to walk the path that leads to God and Christ, the path that is paved with righteousness and truth, but bordered with grinning fiends and smiling serpents who stretch out hands to help the traitor in your soul,
--- I. M. Haldeman

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     5. So upon the exhortations of Mucianus, and the other commanders, that he would accept of the empire, and upon that of the rest of the army, who cried out that they were willing to be led against all his opposers, he was in the first place intent upon gaining the dominion over Alexandria, as knowing that Egypt was of the greatest consequence, in order to obtain the entire government, because of its supplying of corn [to Rome]; which corn, if he could be master of, he hoped to dethrone Vitellius, supposing he should aim to keep the empire by force [for he would not be able to support himself, if the multitude at Rome should once be in want of food]; and because he was desirous to join the two legions that were at Alexandria to the other legions that were with him. He also considered with himself, that he should then have that country for a defense to himself against the uncertainty of fortune; for Egypt 23is hard to be entered by land, and hath no good havens by sea. It hath on the west the dry deserts of Libya; and on the south Siene, that divides it from Ethiopia, as well as the cataracts of the Nile, that cannot be sailed over; and on the east the Red Sea extended as far as Coptus; and it is fortified on the north by the land that reaches to Syria, together with that called the Egyptian Sea, having no havens in it for ships. And thus is Egypt walled about on every side. Its length between Pelusium and Siene is two thousand furlongs, and the passage by sea from Plinthine to Pelusium is three thousand six hundred furlongs. Its river Nile is navigable as far as the city called Elephantine, the forenamed cataracts hindering ships from going any farther, The haven also of Alexandria is not entered by the mariners without difficulty, even in times of peace; for the passage inward is narrow, and full of rocks that lie under the water, which oblige the mariners to turn from a straight direction: its left side is blocked up by works made by men's hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, which is situated just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it, that ships may cast anchor a great way off in the night time, by reason of the difficulty of sailing nearer. About this island are built very great piers, the handiwork of men, against which, when the sea dashes itself, and its waves are broken against those boundaries, the navigation becomes very troublesome, and the entrance through so narrow a passage is rendered dangerous; yet is the haven itself, when you are got into it, a very safe one, and of thirty furlongs in largeness; into which is brought what the country wants in order to its happiness, as also what abundance the country affords more than it wants itself is hence distributed into all the habitable earth.

     6. Justly, therefore, did Vespasian desire to obtain that government, in order to corroborate his attempts upon the whole empire; so he immediately sent to Tiberius Alexander, who was then governor of Egypt and of Alexandria, and informed him what the army had put upon him, and how he, being forced to accept of the burden of the government, was desirous to have him for his confederate and supporter. Now as soon as ever Alexander had read this letter, he readily obliged the legions and the multitude to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, both which willingly complied with him, as already acquainted with the courage of the man, from that his conduct in their neighborhood. Accordingly Vespasian, looking upon himself as already intrusted with the government, got all things ready for his journey [to Rome]. Now fame carried this news abroad more suddenly than one could have thought, that he was emperor over the east, upon which every city kept festivals, and celebrated sacrifices and oblations for such good news; the legions also that were in Mysia and Pannonia, who had been in commotion a little before, on account of this insolent attempt of Vitellius, were very glad to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, upon his coming to the empire. Vespasian then removed from Cesarea to Berytus, where many embassages came to him from Syria, and many from other provinces, bringing with them from every city crowns, and the congratulations of the people. Mucianus came also, who was the president of the province, and told him with what alacrity the people [received the news of his advancement], and how the people of every city had taken the oath of fidelity to him.

     7. So Vespasian's good fortune succeeded to his wishes every where, and the public affairs were, for the greatest part, already in his hands; upon which he considered that he had not arrived at the government without Divine Providence, but that a righteous kind of fate had brought the empire under his power; for as he called to mind the other signals, which had been a great many every where, that foretold he should obtain the government, so did he remember what Josephus had said to him when he ventured to foretell his coming to the empire while Nero was alive; so he was much concerned that this man was still in bonds with him. He then called for Mucianus, together with his other commanders and friends, and, in the first place, he informed them what a valiant man Josephus had been, and what great hardships he had made him undergo in the siege of Jotapata. After that he related those predictions of his 24 which he had then suspected as fictions, suggested out of the fear he was in, but which had by time been demonstrated to be Divine. "It is a shameful thing [said he] that this man, who hath foretold my coming to the empire beforehand, and been the minister of a Divine message to me, should still be retained in the condition of a captive or prisoner." So he called for Josephus, and commanded that he should be set at liberty; whereupon the commanders promised themselves glorious things, froth this requital Vespasian made to a stranger. Titus was then present with his father, and said, "O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all." For that is the usual method as to such as have been bound without a cause. This advice was agreed to by Vespasian also; so there came a man in, and cut the chain to pieces; while Josephus received this testimony of his integrity for a reward, and was moreover esteemed a person of credit as to futurities also.

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

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:30-34
     by D.H. Stern

30     I passed by the field of the lazy man
     and the vineyard of the man lacking sense.
31     There it was, overgrown with thistles;
     the ground was covered with nettles,
     and its stone wall was broken down.
32     I looked, and I thought about it;
     I saw, and I learned this lesson:
33     “I’ll just lie here a bit, rest a little longer,
     just fold my hands for a little more sleep”—
34     and poverty comes marching in on you,
     scarcity hits you like an invading soldier.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Tree
     Eugene Peterson

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
--- Isaiah 11:1.

Jesse’s roots, composted with carcasses
Of dove and lamb,
     parchments of ox and goat,
Centuries of dried up prayers and bloody
Sacrifice, now bear me Gospel fruit.

David’s branch, fed on kosher soil,
Blossoms a messianic flower, and then
Ripens into a kingdom crop, conserving
The fragrance and warmth of spring
     for winter use.

Holy Spirit, shake our family tree;
Release your ripened fruit
     to our outstretched arms.

I’d like to see my children sink their teeth
Into promised land pomegranates

And Canaan grapes, bushel gifts of God,
While I skip a grace rope to a Christ tune.

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

The Candle
     Eugene Peterson

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light:
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
--- Isaiah 9:2.

Uncandled menorahs
and oilless lamps abandoned
By foolish virgins too much in a hurry to wait
And tend the light are clues
to the failed watch,
The missed arrival,
the midnight might-have-been.

Wick and beeswax make a guttering protest,
Fragile, defiant flame against demonic
Terrors that gust, invisible and nameless,
Out of galactic ungodded emptiness.

Then deep in the blackness
fires nursed by wise
Believers surprise with shining
all groping derelicts

Bruised and stumbling in a world benighted.
The sudden blazing backlights
each head with a nimbus.

Shafts of storm-filtered sun
search and destroy
The Stygian desolation:
I see. I see.

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The divine region of religion

     But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret. -- Matthew 6:6.

     The main idea in the region of religion is—Your eyes upon God, not on men. Do not have as your motive the desire to be known as a praying man. Get an inner chamber in which to pray where no one knows you are praying, shut the door and talk to God in secret. Have no other motive than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to conduct your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer:

     “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.…” (Matthew 6:7). God is never impressed by our earnestness. He does not hear us because we are in earnest, but only on the ground of Redemption. Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is an initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. If the Son of God is formed in us by regeneration, He will press forward in front of our common sense and change our attitude to the things about which we pray.

      “Everyone that asketh receiveth.” We pray pious blether, our will is not in it, and then we say God does not answer; we never asked for anything. “Ye shall ask what ye will,” said Jesus. Asking means our will is in it. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He put it with the grand simplicity of a child; we bring in our critical temper and say—‘Yes, but …’ Jesus said—“Ask.” But remember that we have to ask of God things that are in keeping with the God Whom Jesus Christ revealed.

My Utmost for His Highest
Ravens (Pieta)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Ravens (Pieta)

It was the time of the election
  The ravens loitered above the hill
  In slow circles; they had all air
  To themselves. No eyes were lifted
  From the streets, no ears heard
  Them exulting, recalling their long
  History, presidents of the battles
  Of flesh, the sly connoisseurs
  Of carrion; desultory flags
  Of darkness, saddening the sky
  At Catraeth and further back,
  When two, who should have been friends,
  Contended in the innocent light
  For the woman in her downpour of hair.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Numbers 31:1–6

     Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.

Numbers 31:1–6 / The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.”

     Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Let men be picked out from among you for a campaign, and let them fall upon Midian to wreak the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall dispatch on the campaign a thousand from every one of the tribes of Israel.”

     So a thousand from each tribe were furnished from the divisions of Israel, twelve thousand picked for the campaign. Moses dispatched them on the campaign, a thousand from each tribe, with Phinehas son of Eleazar serving as a priest on the campaign.…

     MIDRASH TEXT / Numbers Rabbah 22, 4 / Moses dispatched them. The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, Avenge—you, personally, yet he sends others! However, since he grew up in the land of Midian, he said, “It is not right that I do harm to someone who did good for me.” The proverb says, “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.”

     But there are those who say that this is not the same Midian that Moses grew up in, for the Midian is near Moab, and is desolate until today.

     Why did he send Phinehas? He [Moses] said, “He who began the mitzvah is the one who finishes it. He [Phinehas] is the one who turned back His wrath and killed the Midianite woman; he should finish his mitzvah.”


     The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, “Avenge.…” The Hebrew word for “avenge” that God uses in the command to Moses is in the masculine singular, נְקֹם/nekom. The Rabbis assume therefore that God is speaking specifically to Moses and ordering him, and him alone, to conduct the campaign against the Midianites: You, personally. Had God wanted the entire Israelite nation to go to war against the enemy, the plural form of the verb would have been used, נִקְמוּ/nikmu.

     But Moses is unable—or unwilling—to do this task of vengeance by himself. “It is not right that I do harm to someone who did good for me.” As a young man, Moses had killed an Egyptian taskmaster and had been forced to flee from Egypt. He took refuge in the land of Midian and married the daughter of a Midianite priest. The Rabbis imagined Moses being very uncomfortable about destroying the very people who had helped him so many years before. “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” How appropriate that the proverb speaks about a cistern, or well, from which one drank. It was at such a spot in the wilderness that Moses first encountered his wife-to-be, the Midianite shepherd girl Zipporah.

     There is, however, a dissenting opinion that questions whether the Midianites that Moses married into (Exodus 2) are the very same Midianites upon whom he is commanded to take vengeance (Numbers 31). But there are those who say that this is not the same Midian that Moses grew up in. The “first Midian,” where Moses took refuge, was not very far from Egypt. The “latter Midian,” cited in Numbers 31, is near Moab, east of the Sinai peninsula, close to the Arabian desert (in what today would be Saudi Arabia or Jordan). Contemporary historians see the Midianites as a group of seminomadic traders who traveled and camped throughout the Sinai peninsula and the Arabian desert.

     We are left with the question of how a people so friendly to Moses early in his life could be so cruel to the Israelites later on. We need only remember that when the Midianites first encountered Moses, he was one man, alone. The later stories have him leading many thousands of Israelites through Midianite territory. And, of course, there were probably several tribes of Midianites, clans that were not in contact with one another.

     What had the Midianites done to Israel that required such a harsh response—“Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites”? They had conspired with the Moabites to destroy the Israelites, first by engaging Balaam to curse them (Numbers 22:24), and later by trying to seduce them into the worship of their god, Baal-peor (Numbers 25). Why did he send Phinehas? Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was the first to strike back at the Midianite threat by killing an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who were consorting in the presence of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 25:6–8). It was for this reason, the Rabbis surmised, that Phinehas is singled out by name, as he led the final campaign of vengeance against the Midianites: “He who began the mitzvah is the one who finishes it.”

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 16

     Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
--- Matthew 14:29–30.

     The first thought to force itself on me is that it was Peter’s temperament that put him in this danger. (George H. Morrison, “Beginning to Sink,” in Wind on the Heath (original title: The Afterglow of God, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1994), 40–45.) He began to sink not because he was wicked—he began to sink because he was Simon Peter. The other disciples were all safe and sound. It never occurred to them to leave the vessel. They were men of wisdom and common sense and knew the difference between land and water. But Peter was reckless, headstrong, and impetuous, acting on the impulse of the moment. Peter followed the dictate of his heart and never waited for his laggard reason. In a sense, that was the glory of his character. It made him do what no one else would do. It gave him the charm of daring and enthusiasm that always fascinates.

     But those very qualities, which in the hand of Christ were to go to the upbuilding of the church, sometimes brought him to the verge of ruin. It was only Peter who would begin to walk, and it was only Peter who would begin to sink. He was led into peril on these stormy waters because of what was self-forgetful in him. And it may be you have not sunk yet, but are beginning to sink because you have a temperament like that. Our perils do not always reach us through our worst. Our perils sometimes reach us through our best, through what is charming in us and delightful and self-forgetful and enthusiastic. And so, like Peter, we begin to do what the cold and calculating would never do, and then, like Peter, we begin to sink. That is why we all need to be saved not only from sin but from ourselves. That is why God, in his holy love, to save us gave us not a message but a Man. For our brightest social qualities may wreck us. A touch of genius may be our ruin. For all that is implied in that word temperament, we need the keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ.
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Friends of Israel  September 16

     The reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a crowning achievement for the Zionist movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among the Zionists were many Christians, especially in Great Britain, who believed the restoration of the Jews to Palestine was part of God’s plan for the final chapters of history. Even before the end of the 1600s, at least 12 publications appeared in England advocating the return of the Jews to Palestine. Many British Christians viewed this as a mandate of biblical prophecy and linked it with the return of Christ. On September 16, 1840 Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne wrote to his friend in Belfast, George Shaw:

     You cannot tell how much real joy your letter gave me when you tell of the dear brethren who meet with you on Monday Mornings, to read and pray concerning Israel. I feel deeply persuaded from prophecy, that it will always be difficult to stir up and maintain a warm and holy interest in outcast Israel. The lovers and pleaders of Zion’s cause will be always few. Do you not think this is hinted at in
Jeremiah 30:13
: “There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up” (KJV)? And is not this one of the very reasons why God will take up their cause.

     It is sweet encouragement to learn, that though the friends of Zion will probably be few, yet there always will be some who will keep watch over the dust of Jerusalem, and plead the cause of Israel with God and with man. See
Isaiah 62:6b,7
: “Ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (KJV). Oh, my dear brethren, into whose hearts I trust God is pouring a scriptural love for Israel, what an honor is it for us, worms of the dust, to be made watchmen by God over the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and to be made the Lord’s remembrancers, to call His own promises to His mind, that He would fulfill them, and make Jerusalem a blessing to the whole world!

  Jerusalem, on your walls I have stationed guards,
  Whose duty it is to speak out day and night,
  Without resting.
  They must remind the LORD and not let him rest
  Till he makes Jerusalem strong
  And famous everywhere.
--- Isaiah 62:6,7.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 16

     "Partakers of the divine nature." --- 2 Peter 1:4.

     To be a partaker of the divine nature is not, of course, to become God. That cannot be. The essence of Deity is not to be participated in by the creature. Between the creature and the Creator there must ever be a gulf fixed in respect of essence; but as the first man Adam was made in the image of God, so we, by the renewal of the Holy Spirit, are in a yet diviner sense made in the image of the Most High, and are partakers of the divine nature. We are, by grace, made like God. “God is love”; we become love—“He that loveth is born of God.” God is truth; we become true, and we love that which is true: God is good, and he makes us good by his grace, so that we become the pure in heart who shall see God. Moreover, we become partakers of the divine nature in even a higher sense than this—in fact, in as lofty a sense as can be conceived, short of our being absolutely divine. Do we not become members of the body of the divine person of Christ? Yes, the same blood which flows in the head flows in the hand: and the same life which quickens Christ quickens his people, for “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Nay, as if this were not enough, we are married unto Christ. He hath betrothed us unto himself in righteousness and in faithfulness, and he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Oh! marvellous mystery! we look into it, but who shall understand it? One with Jesus—so one with him that the branch is not more one with the vine than we are a part of the Lord, our Saviour, and our Redeemer! While we rejoice in this, let us remember that those who are made partakers of the divine nature will manifest their high and holy relationship in their intercourse with others, and make it evident by their daily walk and conversation that they have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. O for more divine holiness of life!

          Evening - September 16

     “Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” --- Job 7:12.

     This was a strange question for Job to ask of the Lord. He felt himself to be too insignificant to be so strictly watched and chastened, and he hoped that he was not so unruly as to need to be so restrained. The enquiry was natural from one surrounded with such insupportable miseries, but after all, it is capable of a very humbling answer. It is true man is not the sea, but he is even more troublesome and unruly. The sea obediently respects its boundary, and though it be but a belt of sand, it does not overleap the limit. Mighty as it is, it hears the divine hitherto, and when most raging with tempest it respects the word; but self-willed man defies heaven and oppresses earth, neither is there any end to this rebellious rage. The sea, obedient to the moon, ebbs and flows with ceaseless regularity, and thus renders an active as well as a passive obedience; but man, restless beyond his sphere, sleeps within the lines of duty, indolent where he should be active. He will neither come nor go at the divine command, but sullenly prefers to do what he should not, and to leave undone that which is required of him. Every drop in the ocean, every beaded bubble, and every yeasty foam-flake, every shell and pebble, feel the power of law, and yield or move at once. O that our nature were but one thousandth part as much conformed to the will of God! We call the sea fickle and false, but how constant it is! Since our fathers’ days, and the old time before them, the sea is where it was, beating on the same cliffs to the same tune; we know where to find it, it forsakes not its bed, and changes not in its ceaseless boom; but where is man-vain, fickle man? Can the wise man guess by what folly he will next be seduced from his obedience? We need more watching than the billowy sea, and are far more rebellious. Lord, rule us for thine own glory. Amen.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 16


     Samuel Medley, 1738–1799

     Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. (Psalm 73:25)

     The distinctiveness of the Christian faith is that it focuses all of its teachings and emphasis on a single person, Jesus Christ—the God-man. All that we really know about our heavenly Father is learned from this One who lived among us for 33 years.

     Some people speak eloquently about the Fatherhood of God yet seldom extol the virtues of Christ. But without a biblical knowledge of Christ and a personal relationship with Him, our understanding of God the Father would be incomplete. The Scriptures teach that Christ was the visible representation of the invisible Godhead (John 4:9).

     Samuel Medley served in the British Royal Navy until he was wounded in battle at the age of 21. While recuperating from his injury, he was converted to Christ as he was reading a sermon by Isaac Watts. Soon Medley felt the call of God to the ministry and pastored several Baptist churches, including one in Liverpool, where he was especially successful, particularly in work with young sailors.

     This hymn text first appeared in Medley’s hymnal of 1789. It was originally titled “Praise of Jesus,” and it presents a rich picture of our Lord. It extols His matchless worth, unfathomable to the human mind; His redemptive work; His characters and many forms of love; His righteousness; and the fact that He will one day receive us to an eternal heavenly home.

     O could I speak the matchless worth, O could I sound the glories forth which in my Savior shine, I’d soar and touch the heav’nly strings, and vie with Gabriel while he sings in notes almost divine, in notes almost divine.
     I’d sing the precious blood He spilt, my ransom from the dreadful guilt of sin and wrath divine! I’d sing His glorious righteousness, in which all perfect heav’nly dress my soul shall ever shine, my soul shall ever shine.
     I’d sing the characters He bears, and all the forms of love He wears, exalted on His throne: In loftiest songs of sweetest praise, I would to everlasting days make all His glories known, make all His glories known.
     Well, the delightful day will come when my dear Lord will bring me home and I shall see His face; then with my Savior, Brother, Friend, a blest eternity I’ll spend, triumphant in His grace, triumphant in His grace.

     For Today: Psalm 73:21–28; Matthew 14:33; 27:54; 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11

     Spend a few moments delighting yourself in Christ alone. Then sing as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     Use 3. For exhortation. 1. To something which concerns us in ourselves; 2. To something which concerns us with respect to God.

     1. To something which concerns us in ourselves.

     (1.) Let us be deeply affected with our sins long since committed. Though they are past with us, they are, in regard of God’s eternity, present with him; there is no succession in eternity, as there is in time. All things are before God at once; our sins are before him, as if committed this moment, though committed long ago. As he is what he is in regard of duration, so he knows what he knows in regard of knowledge.

     As he is not more than he was, nor shall not be any more than he is, so he always knew what he knows, and shall not cease to know what he now knows. As himself, so his knowledge, is one indivisible point of eternity. He knows nothing but what he did know from eternity; he shall know no more for the future than he now knows. Our sins being present with him in his eternity, should be present with us in our regard of remembrance of them, and sorrow for them.

     What though many years are lapsed, much time run out, and our iniquities almost blotted out of our memory; yet since a thousand years are, in God’s sight, and in regard of his eternity, but as a day — “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4) — they are before him. For suppose a man were as old as the world, above five thousand six hundred years; the sins committed five thousand years ago, are, according to that rule, but as if they were committed five days ago; so that sixty-two years are but as an hour and a half; and the sins committed forty years since as if they were committed but this present hour. But if we will go further, and consider them but as a watch of the night, about three hours (for the night, consisting of twelve hours, was divided into set watches), then a thousand years are but as three hours in the sight of God; and then sins committed sixty years ago are but as if they were committed within this five minutes. Let none of us set light by the iniquities committed many years ago, and imagine that length of time can wipe out their guilt. No: let us consider them in relation to God’s eternity, and excite an inward remorse, as if they had been but the birth of this moment.

     (2.) Let the consideration of God’s eternity abate our pride. This is the design of the verses following the text: the eternity of God being so sufficient to make us understand our own nothingness, which ought to be one great end of man, especially as fallen. The eternity of God should make us as much disesteem ourselves, as the excellency of God made Job abhor himself (Job 42:5, 6. His excellency should humble us under a sense of our vanity, and his eternity under a sense of the shortness of our duration. If man compares himself with other creatures, he may be too sensible of his greatness; but if he compares himself with God, he cannot but be sensible of his baseness.

     1st. In regard of our impotence to comprehend this eternity of God. How little do we know, how little can we know, of God’s eternity! We cannot fully conceive it, much less express it; we have but a brutish understanding in all those things, as Agur said of himself (Prov. 3:7). What is infinite and eternal, cannot be comprehended by finite and temporary creatures; if it could, it would not be infinite and eternal; for to know a thing, is to know the extent and cause of it. It is repugnant to eternity to be known, because it hath no limits, no causes; the most soaring understanding cannot have a proportionable understanding of it. What disproportion is there between a drop of water and the sea in their greatness and motion; yet by a drop we may arrive to a knowledge of the nature of the sea, which is a mass of drops joined together; but the longest duration of times cannot make us know what eternity is, because there is no proportion between time and eternity. The years of God are as numberless as his thoughts (Psalm 40:5), and our minds as far from reckoning the one as the other. If our understandings are too gross to comprehend the majesty of his infinite works, they are much more too sort to comprehend the infiniteness of his eternity.

     2d. In regard of the vast disproportion of our duration to this duration of God.

     [1.] We have more of nothing than being. We were nothing from an unbegun eternity, and we might have been nothing to an endless eternity, had not God called us into being; and if he please we may be nothing by as short an annihilating word, as we were something by a creating word. As it is the prerogative of God to be, “I am that I am;” so it is the property of a creature to be, “I am not what I am;” I am not by myself what I am, but by the indulgence of another. I was nothing formerly; I may be nothing again, unless he that is “I Am” make me to subsist what I now am. Nothing is as much the title of the creature as being is the title of God. Nothing is so holy as God, because nothing hath being as God: “There is none holy as the Lord, for there is none besides thee” (1 Sam. 2:2). Man’s life is an image, a dream, which are next to nothing; and if compared with God, worse than nothing; a nullity as well as a vanity, because “with God only is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). The creature is but a drop of life from him, dependent on him: a drop of water is a nothing if compared with the vast conflux of waters and numberless drops in the ocean. How unworthy is it for dust and ashes, kneaded together in time, to strut against the Father of eternity! Much more unworthy for that which is nothing, worse than nothing, to quarrel with that which is only being, and equal himself with Him that inhabits eternity.

     [2.] What being we have had a beginning. After an unaccountable eternity was run out, in the very dregs of time, a few years ago we were created, and made of the basest and vilest dross of the world, the slime and dust of the earth; made of that wherewith birds build their nests; made of that which creeping things make their habitation, and beasts trample upon. How monstrous is pride in such a creature, to aspire, as if he were the Father of eternity, and as eternal as God, and so his own eternity!

     [3.] What being we have is but of a short duration in regard of our life in this world. Our life is in a constant change and flux; we remain not the same an entire day; youth quickly succeeds childhood, and age as speedily treads upon the heels of youth; there is a continual defluxion of minutes, as there is of sands in a glass. He is as a watch wound up at the beginning of his life, and from that time is running down, till he comes to the bottom; some part of our lives is cut off every day, every minute. Life is but a moment: what is past cannot be recalled, what is future cannot be ensured. If we enjoy this moment, we have lost that which is past, and shall presently lose this by the next that is to come. The short duration of men is set out in Scripture by such creatures as soon disappear: a worm (Job 25:6), that can scarce outlive a winter; grass, that withers by the summer sun. Life is a “flower,” soon withering (Job 14:2); a “vapor,” soon vanishing (James 4:14); a “smoke,” soon disappearing (Psalm 102:3). The strongest man is but compacted dust; the fabric must moulder; the highest mountain falls and comes to naught.

     Time gives place to eternity; we live now, and die tomorrow. Not a man since the world began ever lived a day in God’s sight; for no man ever lived a thousand years. The longest day of any man’s life never amounted to twenty-four hours in the account of divine eternity: a life of so many hundred years, with the addition “he died,” makes up the greatest part of the history of the patriarchs (Gen. 5.); and since the life of man hath been curtailed, if any be in the world eighty years, he scarce properly lives sixty of them, since the fourth part of time is at least consumed in sleep. A greater difference there is between the duration of God and that of a creature, than between the life of one for a minute, and the life of one that should live as many years as the whole globe of heaven and earth, if changed into papers, could contain figures. And this life, though but of a short duration according to the period God hath determined, is easily cut off; the treasure of life is deposited in a brittle vessel. A small stone hitting against Nebuchadnezzar’s statue will tumble it down into a poor and nasty grave; a grape-stone, the bone of a fish, a small fly in the throat, a moist damp, are enough to destroy an earthly eternity, and reduce it to nothing. What a nothing, then, is our shortness, if compared with God’s eternity; our frailty, with God’s duration! How humble, then, should perishing creatures be before an eternal God, with whom “our days are as a hand’s breadth, and our age as nothing!” (Psalm 39:5.) The angels, that have been of as long a duration as heaven and earth, tremble before him; the heavens melt at his presence; and shall we, that are but of yesterday, approach a divine eternity with unhumbled souls, and offer the calves of our lips with the pride of devils, and stand upon our terms with him, without falling upon our faces, with a sense that we are but dust and ashes, and creatures of time? How easy is it to reason out man’s humility! but how hard is it to reason man into it!

     (3.) Let the consideration of God’s eternity take off our love and confidence from the world, and the things thereof. The eternity of God reproaches a pursuit of the world, as preferring a momentary pleasure before an everlasting God; as though a temporal world could be a better supply than a God whose years never fail. Alas! what is this earth men are so greedy of, and will get, though by blood and sweat? What is this whole earth, if we had the entire possession of it, if compared with the vast heavens, the seat of angels and blessed spirits? It is but as an atom to the greatest mountain, or as a drop of dew to the immense ocean. How foolish is it to prefer a drop before the sea, or an atom before the world! The earth is but a point to the sun; the sun with its whole orb, but a little part of the heavens if compared with the whole fabric. If a man had the possession of all those, there could be no comparison between those that have had a beginning, and shall have an end, and God who is without either of them. Y et how many are there that make nothing of the divine eternity, and imagine an eternity of nothing!

     [1.] The world hath been but of a short standing. It is not yet six thousand years since the foundations of it were laid, and therefore it cannot have a boundless excellency, as that God, who hath been from everlasting, Both possess. If Adam had lived to this day, and been as absolute lord of his posterity, as he was of the other creatures, had it been a competent object to take up his heart? had he not been a madman, to have preferred this little created pleasure before an everlasting uncreated God? a thing that had a dependent beginning, before that which had an independent eternity?

     [2.] The beauties of the world are transitory and perishing. The whole world is nothing else but a fluid thing; the fashion of it is a pageantry, “passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31): though the glories of it might be conceived greater than they are, yet they are not consistent, but transient; there cannot be an entire enjoyment of them, because they grow up and expire every moment, and slip away between our fingers while we are using them. Have we not heard of God’s dispersing the greatest empires like “chaff before a whirlwind,” or as “smoke out of a chimney” (Hos. 13:3), which, though it appears as a compacted cloud, as if it would choke the sun, is quickly scattered into several parts of the air, and becomes invisible?

     Nettles have often been heirs to stately palaces, as God threatens Israel (Hos. 9:6). We cannot promise ourselves over night anything the next day. A kingdom with the glory of a throne may be cut off in a morning (Hos. 10:15). The new wine may be taken from the mouth when the vintage is ripe; the devouring locust may snatch away both the hopes of that and the harvest (Joel 1:15); they are, therefore, things which are not, and nothing cannot be a fit object for confidence or affection; “Wilt thou set thy eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves whigs” (Prov. 23:5). They are not properly beings, because they are not stable, but flitting. They are not, because they may not be the next moment to us what they are this: they are but cisterns, not springs, and broken cisterns, not sound and stable; no solidity in their substance, nor stability in their duration. What a foolish thing is it then, to prefer a transient felicity, a mere nullity, before an eternal God! What a senseless thing would it be in a man to prefer the map of a kingdom, which the band of a child can tear in pieces, before the kingdom shadowed by it! How much more inexcusable is it to value things, that are so far from being eternal, that they are not so much as dusky resemblances of an eternity. Were the things of the world more glorious than they are, yet they are but as a counterfeit sun in a cloud, which comes short of the true sun in the heavens, both in glory and duration; and to esteem them before God, is inconceivably baser, than if a man should value a party-colored bubble in the air, before a durable rock of diamonds. The comforts of this world are as candles, that will end in a snuff; whereas the felicity that flows from an eternal God, is like the sun, that shines more and more to a perfect day.

     [3.] They cannot therefore be fit for a soul, which was made to have an interest in God’s eternity. The soul being of a perpetual nature, was made for the fruition of an eternal good; without such a good it can never be perfect. Perfection, that noble thing, riseth not from anything in this world, nor is a title due to a soul while in this world; it is then they are said to be made perfect, when they arrive at that entire conjunction with the eternal God in another life (Heb. 7:23). The soul cannot be ennobled by an acquaintance with these things, or established by a dependence on them; they cannot confer what a rational nature should desire, or supply it with what it wants. The soul hath a resemblance to God in a post-eternity; why should it be drawn aside by the blandishments of earthly things, to neglect its true establishment, and lackey after the body, which is but the shadow of the soul, and was made to follow it and serve it? But while it busieth itself altogether in the concerns of a perishing body, and seeks satisfaction in things that glide away, it becomes rather a body than soul, descends below its nature, reproacheth that God who hath imprinted upon it an image of his own eternity, and loseth the comfort of the everlastingness of its Creator. How shall the whole world, if our lives were as durable as that, be a happy eternity to us, who have souls that shall survive all the delights of it, which must fry in those flames that shall fire the whole frame of nature at the general conflagration of the world? (2 Pet. 3:10.)

     [4.] Therefore let us provide for a happy interest in the eternity of God. Man is made for an eternal state. The soul hath such a perfection in its nature, that it is fit for eternity, and cannot display all its operations but in eternity. To an eternity it must go, and live as long as God himself lives. Things of a short duration are not proportioned to a soul made for an eternal continuance; to see that it be a comfortable eternity, is worth all our care. Man is a forecasting creature, and considers not only the present, but the future too, in his provisions for his family; and shall he disgrace his nature in casting off all consideration of a future eternity? Get possession, therefore, of the eternal God. “A portion in this life” is the lot of those who shall be forever miserable (Psalm 17:14). But God, “an everlasting portion,” is the lot of them that are designed for happiness. “God is my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). “Time is short.” (1 Cor. 7:29) The whole time for which God designed this building of the world, is of a little compass; it is a stage erected for rational creatures to act their parts upon for a few thousand years; the greatest part of which time is run out; and then shall time, like a rivulet, fall into the sea of eternity, from whence it sprung. As time is but a slip of eternity, so it will end in eternity; our advantages consist in the present instant; what is past never promised a return, and cannot be fetched back by all our vows. What is future, we cannot promise ourselves to enjoy; we may be snatched away before it comes. Every minute that passeth, speaks the fewer remaining, till the time of death; and as we are every hour further from our beginning, we are nearer our end. The child born this day grows up, to grow nothing at last. In all ages there is “but a step between us and death,” as David said of himself (1 Sam. 20:3). The little time that remains for the devil till the day of judgment, envenoms his wrath; he rageth, because “his time is short” (Rev. 12:12). The little time that remains between this moment and our death, should quicken our diligence to inherit the endless and unchangeable eternity of God.

     [5.] Often meditate on the eternity of God. The holiness, power, and eternity of God, are the fundamental articles of all religion, upon which the whole body of it leans; his holiness for conformity to him, his power and eternity for the support of faith and hope. The strong and incessant cries of the four Casts, representing that christian church, are “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). Though his power is intimated, yet the chiefest are his holiness, three times expressed; and his eternity which is repeated, “who lives forever and ever” (ver. 9). This ought to be the constant practice in the church of the Gentiles, which this book chiefly respects; the meditation of his converting grace manifested to Paul, ravished the apostle’s heart; but not without the triumphant consideration of his immortality and eternity, which are the principal parts of the doxology: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal., invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:15, 17). It could be no great transport to the spirit, to consider him glorious without considering him immortal. The unconfinedness of his perfections in regard of time, presents the soul with matter of the greatest complacency. The happiness of our souls depends upon his other attributes, but the perpetuity of it upon his eternity. Is it a comfort to view his immense wisdom; his overflowing goodness; his tender mercy; his unerring truth? What comfort were there in any of those, if it were a wisdom that could be baffled; a goodness that could be damped; a mercy that can expire; and a truth that can perish with the subject of it? Without eternity, what were all his other perfections, but as glorious, yet withering flowers; a great, but a decaying beauty? By a frequent meditation of God’s eternity, we should become more sensible of our own vanity and the world’s triflingness; how nothing should ourselves; how nothing would all other things appear in our eyes! how coldly should we desire them! how feebly should we place any trust in them! Should we not think ourselves worthy of contempt to dote upon a perishing glory, to expect support from an arm of flesh, when there is an eternal beauty. to ravish us, an eternal arm to protect us? Asaph, when he considered God “a portion forever,” thought nothing of the glories of the earth, or the beauties of the created heavens, worth his appetite or complacency, but “God” (Psalm 73:25, 26). Besides, an elevated frame of heart at the consideration of God’s eternity, would batter down the strongholds and engines of any temptation: a slight temptation will not know where to find and catch hold of a soul high and hid in a meditation of it; and if it doth, there will not be wanting from hence preservatives to resist and conquer it. What transitory pleasures will not the thoughts of God’s eternity stifle? When this work busieth a soul, it is too great to suffer it to descend, to listen to a sleeveless errand from hell or the world. The wanton allurements of the flesh will be put off with indignation. The proffers of the world will be ridiculous when they are cast into the balance with the eternity of God, which sticking in our thoughts, we shall not be so easy a prey for the fowler’s gin. Let us, therefore, often meditate upon this, but not in a bare speculation, without engaging our affections, and making every notion of the divine eternity end in a suitable impression upon our hearts. This would be much like the disciples gazing upon the heavens at the ascension of their Master, while they forgot the practice of his orders (Acts 1:11). We may else find something of the nature of God, and lose ourselves, not only in eternity, but to eternity.

     2. And hence the second part of the exhortation is, to something which concerns us with a respect to God.

     (1.) If God be eternal, how worthy is he of our choicest affections, and strongest desires of communion with him! Is not everything to be valued according to the greatness of its being! How, then, should we love him, who is not only lovely in his nature, but eternally lovely; having from everlasting all those perfections centered in himself, which appear in time! If everything be lovely, by how much more it partakes of the nature of God, who is the chief good; how much more infinitely lovely is God, who is superior to all other goods, and eternally so! Not a God of a few minutes, months, years, or millions of years; not of the dregs of time or the top of time, but of eternity; above time, inconceivably immense beyond time. The loving him infinitely, perpetually, is an act of homage due to him for his eternal excellency; we may give him the one, since our souls are immortal, though we cannot the other, because they are finite. Since he incloseth in himself all the excellencies of heaven and earth forever, he should have an affection, not only of time in this world, but of eternity in future; and if we did not owe him a love for what we are by him, we owe him a love for what he is in himself; and more for what he is, than for what he is to us. He is more worthy of our affections because he is the eternal God, than because he is our Creator; because he is more excellent in his nature, than in his transient actions; the beams of his goodness to us, are to direct our thoughts and affections to him; but his own eternal excellency ought to be the ground and foundation of our affections to him. And truly, since nothing but God is eternal, nothing but God is worth the loving; and we do but a just right to our love, to pitch it upon that which can always possess us and be possessed by us; upon an object that cannot deceive our affection, and put it out of countenance by a dissolution. And if our happiness consists in being like to God, we should imitate him in loving him as he loves himself, and as long as he loves himself; God cannot do more to himself than love himself; he can make no addition to his essence, nor diminution from it. What should we do less to an eternal Being, than to bestow affections upon him, like his own to himself; since we can find nothing so durable as himself, for which we should love it?

     (2.) He only is worthy of our best service. The Ancient of Days is to be serve before all that are younger than himself; our best obedience is due to him as a God of unconfined excellency; everything that is excellent deserves a veneration suitable to its excellency. As God is infinite, he hath right to a boundless service; as he is eternal, he hath right to a perpetual service: as service is a debt of justice upon the account of the excellency of his nature, so a perpetual service is as much a debt of justice upon the account of his eternity. If God be infinite and eternal, he merits an honor and comportment from his creatures, suited to the unlimited perfection of his nature, and the duration of his being. How worthy is the Psalmist’s resolution! “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have any being” (Psalm 104:33). It is the use he makes of the endless duration of the glory of God; and will extend to all other service as well as praise. To serve other things, or to serve ourselves, is too vast a service upon that which is nothing. In devoting ourselves to God, we serve him that is, that was, so as that he never began; is to come, so as that he never shall end; by whom all things are what they are; who hath both eternal knowledge to remember our service, and eternal goodness to reward it.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CLXI – AGAIN, the Baptist saith, “A man can receive nothing, except it were given him from above.” (John iii. 27).

     Let not the Diatribe here produce its forces, where it enumerates all those things which we have from heaven. We are now disputing, not about nature, but about grace: we are inquiring, not what we are upon earth, but what we are in heaven before God. We know that man was constituted lord over those things which are beneath himself; over which, he has a right and a Free-will, that those things might do, and obey as he wills and thinks. But we are now inquiring whether he has a “Free-will” over God, that He should do and obey in those things which man wills: or rather, whether God has not a Free-will over man, that he should will and do what God wills, and should be able to do nothing but what He wills and does. The Baptist here says, that he “can receive nothing, except it be given him from above.” — Wherefore, “Free-will” must be a nothing at all!

     Again, “He that is of the earth, is earthly and speaketh of the earth, He that cometh from heaven is above all.” (John iii. 31).

     Here again, he makes all those earthly, who are not of Christ, and says that they savour and speak of earthly things only, nor does he leave any medium characters. But surely, “Free-will” is not “He that cometh from heaven.” Wherefore it must of necessity, be “he that is of the earth,” and that speaks of the earth and savours of the earth. But if there were any power in man, which at any time, in any place, or by any work, did not savour of the earth, the Baptist ought to have excepted this person, and not to have said in a general way concerning all those who are out of Christ, that they are of the earth, and speak of the earth.

     So also afterwards, Christ saith, “Ye are of the world, I am not of the world. Ye are from beneath, I am from above.” (John viii. 23).

     And yet, those to whom He spoke had “Free-will,” that is, reason and will; but still He says, that they are “of the world.” But what news would He have told, if He had merely said, that they were of the world, as to their ‘grosser affections?’ Did not the whole world know this before? Moreover, what need was there for His saying that men were of the world, as to that part in which they are brutal? For according to that, beasts are also of the world.

      Sect. CLXII. — AND now what do those words of Christ, where He saith, “No one can come unto Me except My Father which hath sent Me draw him,” (John vi. 44), leave to “Free-will?” For He says it is necessary, that every one should hear and learn of the Father Himself, and that all must be “taught of God.” Here, indeed, He not only declares that the works and devoted efforts of “Free-will” are of no avail, but that even the word of the Gospel itself, (of which He is here speaking,) is heard in vain, unless the Father Himself speak within, and teach and draw. “No one can,” “No one can (saith He) come:” by which, that power, whereby man can endeavour something towards Christ, that is, towards those things which pertain unto salvation, is declared to be a nothing at all.

     Nor does that at all profit “Free-will,” which the Diatribe brings forward out of Augustine, by way of casting a slur upon this all-clear and all-powerful Scripture — ‘that God draws us, in the same way as we draw a sheep, by holding out to it a green bough.’ By this similitude he would prove, that there is in us a power to follow the drawing of God. But this similitude avails nothing in the present passage. For God holds out, not one of His good things only, but many, nay, even His Son, Christ Himself; and yet no man follows Him, unless the Father hold Him forth otherwise within, and draw otherwise! — Nay, the whole world follows the Son whom He holds forth!

     But this similitude harmonizes sweetly with the experience of the godly, who are now made sheep, and know God their Shepherd. These, living in, and being moved by, the Spirit, follow wherever God wills, and whatever He holds out to them. But the ungodly man comes not unto Him, even when he hears the word, unless the Father draw and teach within: which He does by shedding abroad His Spirit. And where that is done, there is a different kind of drawing from that which is without: there, Christ is held forth in the illumination of the Spirit, whereby the man is drawn unto Christ with the sweetest of all drawing: under which, he is passive while God speaks, teaches, and draws, rather than seeks or runs of himself.

      Sect. CLXIII. — I WILL produce yet one more passage from John, where, he saith, “The Spirit shall reprove the world of sin, because they believe not in me.” (John xvi. 9).

     You here see, that it is sin, not to believe in Christ: And this sin is seated, not in the skin, nor in the hairs of the head, but in the very reason and will. Moreover, as Christ makes the whole world guilty from this sin, and as it is known by experience that the world is ignorant of this sin, as much so as it is ignorant of Christ, seeing that, it must be revealed by the reproof of the Spirit; it is manifest, that “Free-will,” together with its will and reason, is accounted a captive of this sin, and condemned before God. Wherefore, as long as it is ignorant of Christ and believes not in Him, it can will or attempt nothing good, but necessarily serves that sin of which it is ignorant.

     In a word: Since the Scripture declares Christ everywhere by positive assertion and by antithesis, (as I said before), in order that, it might subject every thing that is without the Spirit of Christ, to Satan, to ungodliness, to error, to darkness, to sin, to death, and to the wrath of God, all the testimonies concerning Christ must make directly against “Free-will;” and they are innumerable, nay, the whole of the Scripture. If therefore our subject of discussion is to be decided by the judgment of the Scripture, the victory, in every respect, is mine; for there is not one jot or tittle of the Scripture remaining, which does not condemn the doctrine of “Free-will” altogether!

     But if the great theologians and defenders of “Free-will” know not, or pretend not to know, that the Scripture every where declares Christ by positive assertion and by antithesis, yet all Christians know it, and in common confess it. They know, I say, that there are two kingdoms in the world mutually militating against each other. — That Satan reigns in the one, who, on that account is by Christ called “the prince of this world,” (John xii. 31), and by Paul “the God of this world;” (2 Cor. iv. 4), who, according to the testimony of the same Paul, holds all captive according to his will, who are not rescued from him by the Spirit of Christ: nor does he suffer any to be rescued by any other power but that of the Spirit of God: as Christ testifies in the parable of “the strong man armed” keeping his palace in peace. — In the other kingdom Christ reigns: which kingdom, continually resists and wars against that of Satan: into which we are translated, not by any power of our own, but by the grace of God, whereby we are delivered from this present evil world, and are snatched from the power of darkness. The knowledge and confession of these two kingdoms, which thus ever mutually war against each other with so much power and force, would alone be sufficient to confute the doctrine of “Free-will:” seeing that, we are compelled to serve in the kingdom of Satan, until we be liberated by a Divine Power. All this, I say, is known in common among Christians, and fully confessed in their proverbs, by their prayers, by their pursuits, and by their whole lives.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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