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     1 Chronicles  9 - 11


1 Chronicles 9

A Genealogy of the Returned Exiles

1 Chronicles 9 1 So all Israel was recorded in genealogies, and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith. 2 Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. 3 And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem: 4 Uthai the son of Ammihud, son of Omri, son of Imri, son of Bani, from the sons of Perez the son of Judah. 5 And of the Shilonites: Asaiah the firstborn, and his sons. 6 Of the sons of Zerah: Jeuel and their kinsmen, 690. 7 Of the Benjaminites: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Hodaviah, son of Hassenuah, 8 Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, Elah the son of Uzzi, son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephatiah, son of Reuel, son of Ibnijah; 9 and their kinsmen according to their generations, 956. All these were heads of fathers’ houses according to their fathers’ houses.

10 Of the priests: Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin, 11 and Azariah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, the chief officer of the house of God; 12 and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, and Maasai the son of Adiel, son of Jahzerah, son of Meshullam, son of Meshillemith, son of Immer; 13 besides their kinsmen, heads of their fathers’ houses, 1,760, mighty men for the work of the service of the house of God. 14 Of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari; 15 and Bakbakkar, Heresh, Galal and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zichri, son of Asaph; 16 and Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, son of Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites.

17 The gatekeepers were Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman, and their kinsmen (Shallum was the chief); 18 until then they were in the king’s gate on the east side as the gatekeepers of the camps of the Levites. 19 Shallum the son of Kore, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, and his kinsmen of his fathers’ house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent, as their fathers had been in charge of the camp of the LORD, keepers of the entrance. 20 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was the chief officer over them in time past; the LORD was with him. 21 Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 22 All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were 212. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and Samuel the seer established them in their office of trust. 23 So they and their sons were in charge of the gates of the house of the LORD, that is, the house of the tent, as guards. 24 The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south. 25 And their kinsmen who were in their villages were obligated to come in every seven days, in turn, to be with these, 26 for the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted to be over the chambers and the treasures of the house of God. 27 And they lodged around the house of God, for on them lay the duty of watching, and they had charge of opening it every morning.

28 Some of them had charge of the utensils of service, for they were required to count them when they were brought in and taken out. 29 Others of them were appointed over the furniture and over all the holy utensils, also over the fine flour, the wine, the oil, the incense, and the spices. 30 Others, of the sons of the priests, prepared the mixing of the spices, 31 and Mattithiah, one of the Levites, the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with making the flat cakes. 32 Also some of their kinsmen of the Kohathites had charge of the showbread, to prepare it every Sabbath.

33 Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night. 34 These were heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, according to their generations, leaders. These lived in Jerusalem.

Saul’s Genealogy Repeated

35 In Gibeon lived the father of Gibeon, Jeiel, and the name of his wife was Maacah, 36 and his firstborn son Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, 37 Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah, and Mikloth; 38 and Mikloth was the father of Shimeam; and these also lived opposite their kinsmen in Jerusalem, with their kinsmen. 39 Ner fathered Kish, Kish fathered Saul, Saul fathered Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab, and Eshbaal. 40 And the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal, and Merib-baal fathered Micah. 41 The sons of Micah: Pithon, Melech, Tahrea, and Ahaz. 42 And Ahaz fathered Jarah, and Jarah fathered Alemeth, Azmaveth, and Zimri. And Zimri fathered Moza. 43 Moza fathered Binea, and Rephaiah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 44 Azel had six sons and these are their names: Azrikam, Bocheru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, and Hanan; these were the sons of Azel.


1 Chronicles 10

The Death of Saul and His Sons

1 Chronicles 10 1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died. 6 Thus Saul died; he and his three sons and all his house died together. 7 And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that the army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled, and the Philistines came and lived in them.

8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And they stripped him and took his head and his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10 And they put his armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. 11 But when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh. And they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh and fasted seven days.

13 So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. 14 He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.


1 Chronicles 11

David Anointed King

1 Chronicles 11 1 Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.’ ” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel.

David Takes Jerusalem

4 And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus, where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. 5 The inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You will not come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. 6 David said, “Whoever strikes the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander.” And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became chief. 7 And David lived in the stronghold; therefore it was called the city of David. 8 And he built the city all around from the Millo in complete circuit, and Joab repaired the rest of the city. 9 And David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him.

David’s Mighty Men

10 Now these are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel. 11 This is an account of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time.

12 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite. 13 He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines were gathered there for battle. There was a plot of ground full of barley, and the men fled from the Philistines. 14 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the LORD saved them by a great victory.

15 Three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David at the cave of Adullam, when the army of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 16 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 17 And David said longingly, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 18 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and took it and brought it to David. But David would not drink it. He poured it out to the LORD 19 and said, “Far be it from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.

20 Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against 300 men and killed them and won a name beside the three. 21 He was the most renowned of the thirty and became their commander, but he did not attain to the three.

22 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two heroes of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. 23 And he struck down an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 24 These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and won a name beside the three mighty men. 25 He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard.

26 The mighty men were Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 27 Shammoth of Harod, Helez the Pelonite, 28 Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, 29 Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, 30 Maharai of Netophah, Heled the son of Baanah of Netophah, 31 Ithai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin, Benaiah of Pirathon, 32 Hurai of the brooks of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, 33 Azmaveth of Baharum, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, 34 Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shagee the Hararite, 35 Ahiam the son of Sachar the Hararite, Eliphal the son of Ur, 36 Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, 37 Hezro of Carmel, Naarai the son of Ezbai, 38 Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar the son of Hagri, 39 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad the son of Ahlai, 42 Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite, a leader of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, 43 Hanan the son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, 44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel the sons of Hotham the Aroerite, 45 Jediael the son of Shimri, and Joha his brother, the Tizite, 46 Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai, and Joshaviah, the sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, 47 Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.

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In the School of Christ

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 5/01/2013

     It is not hard to complain about the government’s schools. The government, at least during every election cycle, seems less than satisfied with its own product, ever promising us that it will improve. Atheists complain about prayers before football games. Christians complain about the teaching of sexual (im)morality. Everyone complains about graduation rates and test scores.

     What precious few complain about, however, is where the schools succeed. A cursory study of both the founding fathers of the modern American educational system and its most esteemed pundits in our own day demonstrates that schools are not actually designed to train up scholars, that their goal is neither intellectual nor moral giants. Rather, they function to prepare men and women to work. School-to-Work programs, Vision 2020—these are just rehashings of the original Frankfurt School philosophy. Schools exist to create workers. It is less important, in this model, what is said between the bell that rings at 8:30 a.m. and the bell that rings at 9:15 a.m., and more important that the bells ring. We learn to think about an artificial, hermetically sealed body of information for a time. Then, when the bell rings, we turn our attention to some other artificial, hermetically sealed body of information, until another bell rings to tell us to go home. The entire system looks at children as if they were widgets, entering the education factory as toddlers and coming out the other side when they are grown.

     This is not how God designed the rearing of children. To be sure, our children must learn things. But they are not so much widgets in a factory as they are plants around our tables (Psalm 128). They are not products to be manufactured but lives to be nurtured. The Bible presents the raising of children in natural and organic terms, rather than mechanical or industrial terms.

Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the LORD

Psalm 128 A SONG OF ASCENTS.

1  Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
2  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

3  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.

5  The LORD bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6  May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!
  ESV

     This is why we are called, according to the Shema, to speak to our children of the things of God when they lie down and when they rise up (Deut. 6:7). This poetic expression should itself be seen organically. That is, Moses is assuredly not saying, “Don’t speak to your children of these things when they are seated,” or, “Do speak to them when they walk by the way, but if they are jogging, be silent.” That is, Moses is talking about an immersive educational experience — we are to talk about the things of God with our children always and everywhere.

     The things of God are to be the very warp and woof of our daily conversation. God does not here call us to be sure to have or add Bible curricula to our educational programs. He does not command us to sign our children up for Bible memory programs at our local churches. He does not require that we hire others to teach them their catechism answers. Instead, He tells us parents that we are to speak with our children about the things of God all the time.

     In order to do this, of course, we who are parents first must be thinking about the things of God all the time. Most of us are the products of schools that taught us to divide our lives, to separate what we think about Jesus and what we think about our work, to separate what we think about our work and what we think about our play. We give time to Jesus on Sundays, perhaps on Wednesday nights, and, if we are peculiarly pious, every day during our quiet times. These all may be terribly good things, but not if they are hermetically sealed. We dare not believe that Jesus matters only during these times while He is beside the point the rest of our days.

     When Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom, He is not narrowing our focus. He is not saying: “Set aside kingdom building for your best hours of the day. Then, when you are tired, you can go about your own business.” Jesus does not reign in one kingdom that we pursue through the means of grace and in another kingdom that we pursue some other way. He does not take His world and slice it into class periods. Rather, He ever, always, and everywhere reigns. How we live our lives must not merely acknowledge that, but subsist in it. Therefore, how we train our children must not merely acknowledge that, but subsist in it. It is not enough that we say a blessing over our days and go on as if the One to whom we have prayed can be ignored.

     The Shema tells us not only of the God of the covenant, but of the first law of the covenant — that we are to teach the covenant to our children. The Shema, in a new covenant context, calls us to acknowledge and proclaim the lordship of Christ over all things. It is a clarion call to all God’s people to rejoice in God’s reign over all things. It is a constant reminder that Jesus is not a subject to be mastered, but that we are subjects of Jesus, the Master. The school of Christ never takes a weekend. The school of Christ never takes a vacation. The school of Christ never takes a snow day. And the school of Christ hands out diplomas only when we die.

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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 Church and Psalm 81

By W. Robert Godfrey 5/01/2013

     What does the church most need today? In answering this important but rather general question, Psalm 81 is uniquely important and helpful. This Psalm obviously contains beautiful promises and clear directions to help the people of God. But careful study of this Psalm will deepen our appreciation of it, increase its value for us, and show us how distinctive it is for helping the church.

Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me

Psalm 81 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. Of Asaph.

1  Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2  Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
3  Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

4  For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.
5  He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6  “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
7  In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8  Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
 O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9  There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10  I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11  “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12  So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
 13  Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14  I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15  Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16  But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
  ESV

     As we study Psalms, we soon learn that the central verse of a Psalm is often significant as a key to its interpretation. The central line of Psalm 81 is the heart of that Psalm, as the plaintive cry of God is heard:  “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” (v. 8b). Perhaps this line will resonate more profoundly with the readers of this issue of Tabletalk if we translate it, “O Israel, if you would but hear me!” The center of Psalm 81 — indeed the whole Psalm — is a reflection on the Shema.

     The centrality of this line and its importance are underscored when we recognize that Psalm 81 is the central Psalm of Book 3 of the Psalter. Book 3 (Psalms 73–89) principally concerns the crisis in Israel caused by the destruction of the temple (Ps. 74) and the apparent failure of God’s promises that David’s sons would forever sit on his throne (Ps. 89). Something of the cause and character of this crisis is contained in this central line of the central Psalm.

     Since Book 3 is the central book of the five books of the Psalter, Psalm 81:8b actually is the central line of the whole book of Psalms. It stands at the very heart of Israel’s songbook. It calls Israel to deep reflection on her relationship to her God.

     This Psalm also appears to be central to Israel’s liturgical calendar. The praise at new moon and full moon can refer only to the seventh month of the year, the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24; Num. 10:10) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:26–32). Between these two feasts occurred the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). As God called Israel to celebrate His great provisions as Creator and Deliverer, so He called His people to hear Him.

     As the Shema was crucial to the Torah, so it is central to the Psalter and to the Christian life. God’s people must hear His Word, particularly to reject false gods (v. 9) and to walk in His ways (v. 13). They must not follow their own wisdom (v. 12). How sad to contemplate that God might give us what we think is good for us.

     The Lord reminds His people that in history He has been the Deliverer and now promises that when we open our mouths in prayer, He will hear us and meet our needs (v. 10). He is the God who preserves and provides for the needs of His own.

     The failure of Israel to hear the Word of God was rectified by God’s own Son. Jesus always heard and honored God’s Word. His Father delighted in Him for that reason: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus perfectly listened and followed so that His people would have a complete and perfect salvation. The Father continues to call His people to listen, now directing them to the words of His Son: “listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). The salvation and health of the church depend on it continuing to listen to God’s Word.

     Psalm 81 seems to reflect the time of exile, when God punished Israel with the loss of the temple, its king, and the land of promise. It also reminds us of an earlier time, when Israel doubted God and grumbled about Him (v. 7). At Meribah (Ex. 17), Israel tested the Lord, doubting that He was with His people, so the Lord tested Israel and found her wanting. Similarly, we can look at the history of the church and see many times and ways in which the church failed to listen to the Word of the Lord.

     The time of the Reformation, of course, was one of the greatest times in which the church returned to the Word of God. The Reformation of the church occurred because Christians began again to study the Bible carefully. The Reformers studied Greek and Hebrew, provided the church with new translations of the Bible, used the new technology of the printing press to print Bibles, and prepared some of the finest commentaries and theologies in the history of the church.

     Again in our time, the church must be called to listen to the Word of God. The churches of America too often seem interested in following other voices than the voice of God. For decades, some churches have taught that the Bible is not fully and truly the Word of God. Other churches formally recognize the Bible, but seem to have lost confidence that preaching and teaching the Bible is what will convert unbelievers and build the church. Many Christians today seem to practically ignore the Bible, and as a result, they are as worldly as their unbelieving neighbors.

     God says to us today, as He said to Israel of old and says to every generation of His people: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open ears in our churches and throughout our land. And let us listen carefully and believingly. Such listening is what the church most needs today.

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     Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is president emeritus of Westminster Seminary California, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, and author of many books.

     W. Robert Godfrey Books |  Go to Books Page

What Stories Do

By Sally Lloyd-Jones 5/01/2013

     Almost overnight, my eight-year-old niece went from being a vivacious little girl who sang her way through life — as if she were singing the soundtrack of her own life the movie — and became a frightened, withdrawn child who spoke so softly you could barely hear her. It was as if she were literally losing her voice, losing herself. And then we found out she was being bullied at school.

     Later, she told me that she thought she wouldn’t get in trouble if she tried not to be herself. It broke my heart, and I wished she had a book to read before school to hear what God says about her, not what those bullies were saying about her. So I thought I better write one — it’s called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and it has become a book of hope for children.

     Children look to us for everything. But in all that we’ve given children, have we forgotten to give them hope? Have we left them in despair, looking at what they should do but don’t? Looking at who they should be but aren’t? How, then, do we give hope to children?

     By helping them take the focus off themselves and put it back on God where it belongs. By telling them truths such as these:

God holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. If he can hold the oceans, he can hold you. (p. 106)
If God cares for the tiniest sparrow— how much more must he care for you, his child? (p. 152)
If Jesus can calm a storm on a lake, he can calm the storm in your heart. (p. 181)
God sees not just who you are— but who he is going to make you. (p. 145)


     We give hope to children when we tell them what matters most.

     They don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do better. That just leaves them in despair. Taken by itself, the moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it.  We don’t need a moral code — we need a Rescuer.

     When I go to churches and speak to children, I ask them two questions: First, “how many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?” They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them. Second, “How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?” They look around and again raise their hands.

     These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. I thought God couldn’t love me because I wasn’t doing it right.

     How, then, do we help them? What can we do?  We can teach children that the Bible is not about them.

     The Bible isn’t merely about them and what they should be doing. It’s about God and what He has done. It’s not merely a book of rules telling you how to behave so that God will love you. It’s not merely a book of heroes that gives you people to copy so that God will love you.

     Most of all, the Bible is the Story — the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. And in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost Him — God won’t ever stop loving His children with a wonderful, neverstopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. Are we telling children the Story — or teaching them a mere lesson?

     My niece didn’t need another lesson. What she needed to know was that she is loved — with a wonderful, never-stopping, never-giving- up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. What she needed was to be invited into the Story. What she needed was to meet the Hero and become part of His magnificent Story. That is because the rules don’t change you. But the Story — God’s Story — does.

     How, then, do we instill a love for God in children? Simply by telling them the Story — the Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. By telling it well. Telling it faithfully. Telling it simply. Telling it without dumbing it down. Telling it without explaining it to death. Telling it without drilling it down into a moral lesson.

     Stories don’t tell the truth confrontationally. They don’t coerce you. They don’t argue with you to believe them. They just are. The power of the story isn’t in summing it up, drilling it down, or reducing it to an abstract idea. The power of the story isn’t in the lesson. The power of the story is the story.

     When God sent the prophet Nathan to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-4), Nathan didn’t confront David with a sermon about his sin but told him a story. David didn’t see it coming. The story got by his defenses.

     That’s the thing a true story does — it doesn’t come at you directly and raise a wall of defense. It comes around the side and captures your heart.

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     Per Amazon | Sally Lloyd-Jones is a Brit who came to the US in 1989 "just for a year." She's still here.

     Born in Kampala, Uganda, raised in East, and West Africa and at a boarding school in the New Forest, the first book she ever remembers reading all the way through was THE COMPLETE NONSENSE by Edward Lear. Things have not been the same since.

     She lives in Manhattan and enjoys dividing her time between the front half of her apartment and the back.


Sally Lloyd-Jones Books:

An Interview with John Piper

By John Piper 5/01/2013

Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian?

     John Piper: God wakened me from spiritual death when I was a child under the faith-filled instruction and example of my happy, Spirit-filled, mentally healthy, fundamentalist parents. I am told I professed faith in Jesus as my Savior when I was six. I don’t remember it. So the reason I know I am alive is because I am breathing, not because I can recall the moment of my birth.

TT: Please describe your call to ministry. Did you always know that God wanted you to be a pastor?

     JP: My call from God in September 1966 was a call to the Word. It took eight more years of schooling before I had clarity about the form that would take. But under the preaching of Harold John Ockenga at Wheaton in the fall of 1966, while I was in the infirmary with mononucleosis, God showed me that my life should be devoted to the Word.

     Clarity came in 1974 with a call from Bethel College to teach Bible. I did that for six years. Then in October 1979, God broke through late at night with an irresistible passion to herald the Word in the pastoral ministry. Within a couple months, the call to Bethlehem Baptist was clear. And that is where I have been ever since.

TT: What is the mission and goal of Desiring God Ministries?

     JP: We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ, by teaching and applying the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Or, to put it another way, we try to turn everyone we can into Bible-saturated Christian Hedonists, even if they don’t like the name.

TT: How would you counsel a young man who believes God is calling him to be a pastor?

     JP: A true divine call to the ministry (in general, not to a specific place or task) has at least four components, with very rare exceptions.

     First, it involves a recurring and increasingly compelling desire for the work, in spite of fears and doubts (1 Tim. 3:1). The desire is more than a one-night flare-up at a high-spirited meeting. It endures through changes.

     It involves gifting from the Lord. An elder is to be “apt to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). A perceived call without evidence of God’s equipping for the call needs more testing.

     God’s call is perceived and confirmed by others in the fruitfulness of a person’s ministry. If God is calling you, He will incline you to humbly do whatever you can in ministry. People will see this passion and the good that comes from it. That will lead to confirmation and encouragement to do more. If spiritual people do not perceive your ministry as bearing spiritual fruit in others (faith, hope, love), it is doubtful that God has prepared you at this time for ministry.

     Sooner or later, God opens a door for service in a life of ministry. It may not be the one you dreamed. When I was twenty-eight years old, I had finished formal education and had a wife and a child. One door of ministry opened to me. I took it as God’s gift and confirmation. I had never dreamed of teaching at Bethel College. It was a gift. And it was the next step in my call to the Word.

TT: What are the unique challenges faced by those converted to Christ as children as opposed to those converted later in life?

     JP: If you grow up in the Alps, you will have a harder time feeling wonder than a grown person who sees them for the first time. So the challenge is to see with stunning clarity, and savor with passion, what you have heard all your life. This means that for most of us there are stages of “awakening.” It may be that we were never converted and that one of those awakenings is our new birth. But just as often, I think, a truly believing young person opens his eyes one day, and he is stunned at the glory of what he has known and loved all his life. Then it happens repeatedly for the rest of his life as God gives greater capacities for seeing and savoring.

TT: If you could spend twenty-four hours alone with any theologian from church history, who would it be and why?

     JP: It would be Jonathan Edwards, mainly to say thank you with all my heart. Edwards is the most influential dead theologian in my life outside the Bible. He has eyes like no one I have ever read. He sees greatness where it is. I look at greatness often and don’t see it. Then I read Edwards and I realize how blind I am.

     Most of the greatness that he sees is in God. He is a God-besotted person. The reality of God is so overwhelmingly pervasive in the world that Edwards does not have other themes, but only subthemes connected to God. When I read him, it’s like living in a garden where all the lights just went on. The blazing sun of God’s greatness and glory fills the air with brightness, and every color and fold and angle and tilt and texture and fragrance and color and void between the edges of things—all of it lives with God.

     Edwards’ mind was uncommonly capable of holding complexities of reasoning long enough to sort them into threads that he could then weave into compelling arguments for great biblical truth. But what gave explosive power to this use of reasoning was how Bible saturated it was, not just that it was Bible-based. Many scholars say their work is based on biblical truth. But you will look in vain for any clear evidence of that. It is as if contemporary thinkers feel the need to hide the Bible lest they be accused of proof-texting. Edwards was not so insecure. He had more respect and confidence in the Word of God.

     Then add to this that his children turned out to be believers. Of course, Edwards married a deeply spiritual woman. Together they achieved what very few pastors do.

TT: What is your prayer for the future of the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church?

     JP: My prayer is that they would be far more fruitful in every way than they have been under my leadership. God has given us good days. But measured by the need inside the church and outside, there is vast room for greater things. I pray that my successor, Jason Meyer, will be a Christ-exalting, God-centered, Bible-saturated, soul-winning, missions-advancing, justice-pursuing, profoundly loving, joyfully married pastor whose life of sacrificial service will be a magnetic force of grace for the unity of an ever-growing church.

TT: We have heard you say that you read slowly. Is that a disappointment? A hindrance? How do you think about that?

     JP: It used to bother me more than it does now. I have tried to stop kicking against this gift of God. The gift of slowness relates to poetry. The fact that hundreds of the pages of God’s inspired Word are devoted to poetry makes me aware that God thinks the sound of language matters.

     God has blessed and humbled me with the inability to speed-read. I read about the same speed that I talk. I hear what I read as I read it. Speed-reading consultants say that pronouncing the words—even in your head—turns a rabbit reader into a turtle. No use. I’m a turtle.

     So I take heart that so much of the Bible is poetry. It is self-evident to me that poetry is not meant to be speed-read, but ordinarily read aloud. So now I see that God has forced me to hear. He has forced a slow savoring of the way things are written to be heard as well as seen.

     Slowness means I can’t do lots of things other scholars and pastors can do. But when I consider what slowness offers, I give thanks. Consider this observation about what happens when poetry is read aloud and read well by a person who understands it:

     Even after almost three millennia of written literature, poetry retains its appeal to the ear as well as to the eye; to hear a poem read aloud by someone who understands it, and who wishes to share that understanding with someone else, can be a crucial experience, instructing the silently reading eye ever thereafter to hear what it is seeing. (John Hollander, ed., Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize, p. 1)

     I would recommend that pastors develop the habit of slowing down in their reading when they are reading things that were written with craft and not just as information transmission.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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A Pastor’s Love for Christ

By Nicholas Batzig 5/01/2013

     Dr. John H. Skilton was professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for almost fifty-eight years (1939–1998). He was one of the most scholarly men in the church. Rumors have circulated over the years that he had memorized the entire Greek New Testament, together with every textual variant. His doctoral dissertation, “The Translation of the New Testament into English, 1881–1950,” which he lost on a public bus in Philadelphia and then reconstructed from memory, shows something of his unique breadth of knowledge in theology and linguistics. In addition, John served as the editor of The Westminster Theological Journal from 1968 to 1973.

     While John’s commitment to biblical scholarship is certainly worthy of the highest commendation and imitation, it is not that for which he is most affectionately remembered. When John retired from full-time professorship in 1973, he opened his home in the Vietnamese section of Philadelphia to missionaries, pastors, believers, neighbors, and the homeless. Quite appropriately, this place of mercy and love became known as “The Skilton House.” Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent observing this man, whom I’ve subsequently heard others refer to as “the most loving man I’ve ever met.”

     What was the secret to John’s greatness in ministry? Was it his intellectual acumen? Was it personal ambition? Was it a desire to bring about change in the world? While all of these things have their place, at its core, the secret to John’s greatness in ministry was a heart full of love for the Christ who first loved him (John 11:5; 13:1, 32; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20; 1 John 4:19). Like the Apostle John, Dr. Skilton was a model of what it means for a minister to express love for the Lord and His people in ministry (John 15:9–13; 13:34–35; 1 John 2:5; 2:15; 5:1). Every pastor ought to carry out Christian service from a heart full of love for God.

     Sadly, many in the pastorate often neglect this all-important aspect of ministry. It is far too easy for a minister to slide into a mode of fleshly dependence and self-interest. This becomes the modus operandi when love for God is forsaken. When we are motivated by self-interest, then pride, worldly pursuits, discontentment, complacency, or discouragement begin to characterize our ministry. When internal enemies battle for the driver’s seat of the heart, love for the church tends to wane as well.

     Ministers may inadvertently neglect love to God for a variety of reasons. An awareness of how far short we fall of God’s command to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength may sometimes lie behind a neglect of love for God. We may adopt a sinful complacency since we know that we will inevitably fail to love God as we ought. For others,  an overemphasis on the objective truth of Scripture to the neglect of the subjective experience of it in our lives  can lead to lovelessness toward God in the heart. No matter how spiritually aware of personal weakness or doctrinally sound pastors may be, we are ever in danger of falling into this trap.

     So what can ministers do to cultivate an unswerving love for Christ? The loveless heart will be cured only when we know and are convinced of the love that Christ has for unworthy sinners like us. The Apostle Paul taught that this was the secret to his self-sacrificing ministry (2 Cor. 5:14). He expressed his own experiential grasp of Christ’s love for him when he wrote, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Love for God will always be absent until we remember our sinfulness and look in faith to the crucified Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us.

     We also see how love for Christ flows from the love of Christ in the account of the sinful woman who came to Jesus in selfless abandonment and brokenness (Luke 7:36–50). Our Lord explained that “she loved much” because her sins had been forgiven, but “to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). So it is for ministers of the gospel. The pastor who knows that he has been forgiven of much will love much, but he who forgets how much he has been forgiven will love little.

     All pastors can slide into seasons of lovelessness in ministry. We would be wise to heed the words of one whose life and ministry was preeminently characterized by love to Christ:

     We must ever guard against doing what is formally right without putting our heart in what we are doing… . We must remember that though we bestow all our goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits us nothing. Be not like those who draw nigh to God with their mouth and honor Him with their lips, but whose heart is far from Him. Let us keep … our hearts with a faith that works by love — a faith that is genuine and true, which joyously and spontaneously expresses itself in deeds of compassion and love. (John H. Skilton, Think on These Things)

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     Rev. Nick Batzig is pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond Hill, Ga. He is editor of The Christward Collective.

Strange Fire

By R. C. Sproul 5/01/2013

     There is an incident in the biblical record that causes abiding consternation for many of God’s people. It is the story of how two of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were slain suddenly by God.

     Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. (Lev. 10:1–3)

     Aaron, of course, was the older brother of Moses and the first high priest of Israel. God had consecrated Aaron and his sons to the holy vocation of the priesthood. It was in the context of their priestly service that two of Aaron’s four sons, Nadab and Abihu, each got a censer—a kind of vessel that was used in antiquity to contain the incense that was burned as an offering before God—put fire in them, put incense on them, and offered what the book of Leviticus calls “unauthorized fire.”

     What is “unauthorized fire,” or, as it is rendered in other translations, “profane fire” or “strange fire”? We use the word profane to refer to that which is less than holy, but the word profane comes from the Latin profanus, which literally means “outside the temple.” So, in a literal sense, Moses, as the author of Leviticus, is saying that the fire that Nadab and Abihu introduced to the altar had not been purified or consecrated. For that, God took their lives.

     On the surface, it seems that this was cruel and unusual punishment. These young priests clearly violated some prescription that God had set forth for the offering of incense in the holy place, but it may have been no more than a prank or a mischievous innovation. Was it really necessary for God to rebuke their action so decisively?

     To understand this incident more fully, we have to go back to the book of Exodus. Just before God gave His Ten Commandments, He told Moses that He soon would come to him in a thick cloud so that the people might hear Him speaking and believe (19:9). To prepare for that stupendous vision, God commanded the people to consecrate themselves (v. 10). He also set strict borders around Mount Sinai, saying that whoever touched the mountain would die (v. 12). When God came, “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (v. 16). God called Moses to ascend the mountain, but before revealing His law, God sent Moses back down the mountain to repeat and expand the warning. He said:

     Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them. (vv. 21–22)

     So, at the very formation of the nation of Israel, God laid down the fundamental laws of consecration for the priests. He warned them that if they were not consecrated or if they violated their consecration, He would “break out” against them. Nadab and Abihu violated the holy law of the priesthood. When they did so, God killed them, reminding Israel of the sanctity of His presence. That is why Moses reminded Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” When he heard this, Aaron “held his peace.” Even amid his grief, he knew his sons had committed a grave offense against Israel’s holy God.

     One aspect of the modern church that most saddens and concerns me is that believers are no longer encouraged to have a healthy fear of God. We seem to assume that the fear of the Lord is something that belonged to the Old Testament period and is not to be a part of the life of the Christian. But fear of God involves not simply a trembling before His wrath, but a sense of reverence and awe because of His glorious holiness.

     Even though we are living on the finished side of the cross, the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10a). God is still a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut. 4:24). When we come into His presence, we are to come as children, as those who have been reconciled, but there is to be a godly fear inspired by respect for the One with whom we are dealing.

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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

Should We Care About Art?

By Geoff Stevens 5/01/2013

     During my time at art school, I took part in many group critiques of student artwork. Twenty or so of us would tack our best efforts on the wall, and then everyone would take turns criticizing them. At one such critique, a classmate presented her project, which she had titled Smile Awhile. The image was a random grouping of several large yellow smiley faces inside a rectangle. That was it. While stroking our chins and thoughtfully furrowing our brows, we probed for the deeper meaning. After a bit of incoherent stammering, she finally explained, “I just like smiley faces.” I remember thinking two things. First, “This is why parents cringe when their children say, ‘I want to go to art school.’” Second, “Who cares what you like?”

     As Christians, we see so many things in the art world that repel us that we’re left wondering if perhaps the problem is inherent in the emotional and subjective nature of art itself. Some may even ask: Should we care about artists and their work at all?

     The answer is yes—we should care. Just because we have been in some shoddy buildings does not mean we forsake architecture. Just because we have read some books with which we disagree does not mean we should quit reading. In the same way, when we encounter poorly executed art, or art that has a message with which we disagree, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

THE PURPOSE OF ART

     What, then, is the use of art? What purposes does it serve? There are many, of course, but one that often goes overlooked in Christian circles is truth-telling. For example, in the Scriptures we find art used frequently in the form of poetry. Poetry is the creative use of language that attempts to express a reality or truth about the world and the way things are. It employs pictures, metaphors, and symbols. Consider Psalm 11:1–3:

     In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

     We need communication that employs propositions and arguments while relying on reason and logic, such as we find in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. But the realities about God and His truth are so grand, majestic, and transcendent that we also need communication that relies on metaphors, images, and symbols. In other words, we need art.

     Artists are trying to communicate truths about reality as they see it. They are saying, “This is true, or this is beautiful, or this is good.” The great conversation of human history is a debate over the definition of these terms. Some Christians today disagree with people who are trying to answer these questions with art, but instead of joining the discussion, they decide to throw art itself out the window, or they define art so narrowly as to truncate its value. But if we limit our minds, hearts, and voices to propositional argumentation only, we risk creating a deafening silence where there ought to be loud praise to God.

ARTIST AS SUB-CREATOR

     J. R. R. Tolkien referred to artists as “sub-creators” who bring new worlds to life, worlds quite unlike our own. He created a fantasy world called Middle-earth. But he did not create new truth. Neither did he create new wisdom or beauty. He used art to display truth through a “strange and arresting lens.” There is no magical ring of power forged by a dark lord in our world, but there is such a thing as the compulsive desire of our hearts for wicked things. There was no crowning of King Aragorn in our history, but there is an unquenchable longing for a true king at the center of every human heart. Tolkien’s art is masterful because it transports his readers to a platform from which they can see eternal truths in new ways.

ART APPRECIATION

     What about artists who are not believers? If we engage, we will see them groping with questions and proclaiming ideas about reality through their art. Sometimes we will not like what they are saying or how they are saying it. But can we learn from people who do not know God and, though they may get pieces of truth right, are getting ultimate reality wrong? Can we learn from them in the same way we learn from Ben Franklin, Immanuel Kant, or Mark Twain? We do not have to hang their art in our living rooms, but can we appreciate it?

     A wise man once said that if you want to understand philosophers and the bizarre things they say sometimes, you need to understand the questions they are trying to answer. In the same way, we may encounter art that prompts us to ask, “What was the artist thinking?” That is exactly the right question to ask if we are to thoughtfully interact with our culture as it gropes in the dark for answers.

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     Geoff Stevens served as the creative director for Tabletalk magazine for five years.

Let No Man Tear Asunder

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/01/2013

     My favorite theologian of all time is wont to argue that the defining task of the theologian is to make distinctions. That’s what we do. We bring clarity through precision, precision through distinction. The man who may well be my favorite theologian’s favorite theologian, Francis Turretin, published his three-volume work Institutes of Elenctic Theology (3 Volume Set) as a sort of systematic theology by contrast. Each point is broken down, compared and contrasted, and examined in light of its opposite.

     One could argue that theologians are here following the path of their Maker. We serve a God who delights in distinctions. Reading through the creation account, for instance, we see not only the creation of light, but the separation of light and darkness, not only the creation of land, but the separation of land and sea, or land and sky.

     On the other hand, the same God who delights in distinctions warns us against tearing asunder what He has brought together. He is a God who brings people of every tongue and tribe together into a holy nation, a royal priesthood. He makes of many grains one loaf.

     Reformed theologians especially are given, at least when dealing with the critical issue of our salvation, to razor-thin distinctions. The links in our chain of the ordo salutis, or “order of salvation,” are strong, unbreakable, but nevertheless rather small. There is good reason for this, but also some danger. Sometimes the wedges we drive between concepts go too deep.

     Consider faith and repentance. There is good reason to see these as two distinct things. With one, we look with hope to the provision of God in Christ. With the other, we acknowledge and confess our need for that work. Hypothetically, one could affirm that Jesus died for sinners and miss the glaring truth that the one making the affirmation is a sinner. One could more easily recognize the reality of his sin but know nothing of the provision in Christ. Thus, the two are two, and both equally needful.

     On the other hand, one could argue that the two things are actually one, or at the very least that they flow from the same source. Faith is indeed the coming together of understanding, agreement, and trust. But on a more fundamental level, faith is simply this — believing God. Faith is displayed when God speaks and we say, “Amen.”

     The devil, of course, knows that God is true. He is quite informed on the sacrifice of Christ. He knows to his very core, from the very longing of his heart by which he misses those who slipped through his fingers, that Jesus came to save sinners. He is also quite well aware of what and who he is — a sinner. All of this knowledge will make his eternity that much more painful.

     Faith and repentance, then, might be at their closest when we confess that, as He says, we are sinners, and as we cry out, as He has commanded, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and we say, “Lord, Your judgments are true.” When God says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15), we do not merely affirm our agreement, but we sing it with hallelujahs and amens.

     For all the important nuances, for all the valuable precision, the simple truth of the matter is we fell in the garden because we failed to believe God. All sin is a failure to believe God. The good news is that we are rescued from our sins by believing Him, both His judgment and His promise. That is, we are gifted with faith and repentance.

     Just as we can make theology more complex than it need be, just as we are called, in seeking orthodoxy, to say our amens to what God has revealed about Himself, so we can make the living of our lives in faithfulness, the seeking of orthopraxy, more complex than it need be. Here, too, we are to say our amens about what God has revealed about His promises for us, about His law. He commands that we not worry about what we will eat or wear, and we are called to repent of our fears and believe His promises. He commands us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and we are called to repent for our pursuit of personal peace and affluence, and to believe His promises.

     It is true that God is true and all men are liars. It is true, in turn, that every man is miserly while God is extravagant. Were we wise, we would repent expansively, even as we would believe with both deep conviction and broad expectation. Our sin is simple — we do not believe God, and so do not obey God. The solution is simple — believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31). We do not merely believe this once and then nevermore; rather, we believe it both evermore and evermore.

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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.

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 104

O LORD My God, You Are Very Great
104

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.

5 He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

ESV Study Bible

The Blessing of Persecution

By Cal Thomas 6/01/2013

     “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; NIV).
     “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11; NIV)
     In 1997, while in Hong Kong to write about the British handover of that city to the mainland government, I visited the pastor of one of the largest house churches in China with a missionary friend who knew him. Pastor Lamb, as he was called, was in his 70s at the time. He told me he had spent half his life in prison for preaching the gospel. I asked him if the Public Security Bureau still came around to observe his activities.

     “Not so much now,” he replied.

     “Why not?” I asked.

     “Because,” he said, “every time they threw me in prison, the church grew.”

     We Americans know nothing about such persecution. We think we are being persecuted when a newspaper editorial criticizes us, or someone uses the Lord’s name in vain in our presence, or calls us religious fanatics. Most of the world understands persecution in terms of jail, torture, beheadings, and ostracism from family and friends.

     Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

     In effect, this means that if you are being persecuted, it isn’t you they are persecuting; rather, it is Jesus in you who is their target. Jesus exposes sin. He is the “smell of death” (2 Cor. 2:16) to those who are perishing, as my pastor, Dr. Robert Norris, once preached in a sermon. People don’t like the smell of death, which, it might be argued is their smell, not ours, because we are alive in Christ and they are dead in their sins. Some try to get rid of the “smell” by persecuting believers.

     The small price I have paid for my faith—angry letters to the editor, some cancellations of my column by a few newspapers (though many more retain it), the social cost of not being invited places because as one person admitted to me, “I was afraid you would start quoting Bible verses”—is nothing compared to my fellow believers in the rest of the world today and throughout history.

     If one seeks to live a life pleasing to God, one will be persecuted, according to no less an authority than Jesus. It is not something to be avoided; it is something to be accepted if the persecution is for the right reason.  It (Persection) validates our life in Christ and His life in us.

     Note that Jesus said in Matthew 5 that we are blessed if we are persecuted by those who “falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” If we are persecuted because of a judgmental attitude, a condemning spirit, or just because we behave in a boorish fashion towards unbelievers, then we get no “credit” from Jesus.

     Suffering is a companion to persecution. Only masochists enjoy suffering, but if one is a follower of Jesus, it comes with the territory. If we seek to avoid persecution and suffering, we are denying Christ because He said we will be persecuted. By seeking to accommodate ourselves to the world in order to avoid persecution and suffering, we are keeping Jesus bottled-up inside and not allowing Him to get out where He can turn our suffering into a powerful witness.

     We live in a relativistic age that says to all of us: you have your “truth,” I have my “truth,” and whatever makes you feel good ought to be fine with everyone else. That this philosophy has produced a social train wreck has not deterred those who believe and behave this way to change their minds.

     If you presume to speak of the truth, as in “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6), you will be called all sorts of things. I have been. So was Jesus.

     The price one pays for public criticism in my business is nothing compared to the rewards that are to come. I have not won many prizes or awards and don’t expect to. My rewards are not denied; they are just deferred. The rewards Jesus gives are far more valuable than any framed document, gold statue, or large check the world can offer.

      Deferring rewards and gratification is the antithesis of the spirit of our age, or any age.  Believing there is something better ahead is viewed as fanaticism and “pie in the sky” by those who are perishing. To the rest of us, it’s called faith.

     Only Jesus could claim to have overcome the world, and because He did, we can accept persecution, suffering and criticism, knowing He will wipe away every tear and make all things new. Great will be the reward of those who think, believe and act this way, not in spite of persecution, but because of it.

Click here to go to source

     Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 500 national newspapers. Thomas is a forty-year veteran of broadcast and print journalism, and has authored more than ten books, including Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America, co-authored with Bob Beckel. Thomas has worked for NBC, CNBC, PBS television, and the Fox News Channel, where he currently appears on the media critique show Fox News Watch.


  • Grieve Holy Spirit
  • Psalm 19, Part One
  • Part Two


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Are you being stretched?
     (Sept 17)    Bob Gass

     ‘All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize.’

(1 Co 9:25) 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. ESV

     When you’re being stretched spiritually, your faith in God grows. When you’re being stretched mentally, your old ideas are challenged and replaced with new ones. When you’re being stretched relationally, selfishness dies and love grows. So, are you being stretched right now? God allows us to have stretching experiences that prepare us for the race He has called us to run in life - and every so often your soul will ‘hit the wall’. No amount of strength and no amount of pressing will move the problem. This is soul stretch! Often, these moments aren’t the real test; they are just warm-ups that prepare us for future challenges. They are points of reference designed to keep us from panicking when we’re in the midst of the real race. Remember that God never allows a person to run for Him, or with Him, who hasn’t been stretched in their thinking, their faith, and their ability to live and love. So, when you face a problem that just won’t move, remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that God is stretching you. It’s the stretching of the soul that enables us to face situations we think will kill us, but don’t; to endure times when we think we won’t make it, but do. Sooner or later we will all face difficult times and relationships, but they are just the deep knee bends of life. So, when it feels like you’re being stretched to breaking point, don’t quit. See it for what it is - preparation for running and winning your God-assigned race in life.

Luke 17:20-37
Ps 94-96

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “Done… the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.” This was the last line of the U.S. Constitution, which was approved this day. A study done by Professors Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, examining nearly 15,000 writings of the fifty-five men that wrote the Constitution, including newspaper articles, pamphlets, books and monographs, reported that the Bible, especially the book of Deuteronomy, contributed 34% of all direct quotations. When indirect citations were included, they found 94% of all quotations referenced by the Founders were derived from the Bible.

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves,
we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table
which we did not spread.

The sun, the earth, love, friends,
our very breath are parts of the banquet….
Shall we think of the day as a chance
to come nearer to our Host,
and to find out something of Him
who has fed us so long?
--- Rebecca Harding Davis

Character is supreme in life, hence Jesus stood supreme in the supreme thing - so supreme that, when we think of the ideal, we do not add virtue to virtue, but think of Jesus Christ, so that the standard of human life is no longer a code but a character.
--- E. Stanley Jones

It looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that, if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us ‘good,’ and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should.
--- Arthur Allen Leff (an unbeliever)

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 11.

     That Upon The Conquest And Slaughter Of Vitellius Vespasian Hastened His Journey To Rome; But Titus His Son Returned To Jerusalem.

     1. And now, when Vespasian had given answers to the embassages, and had disposed of the places of power justly, 25 and according to every one's deserts, he came to Antioch, and consulting which way he had best take, he preferred to go for Rome, rather than to march to Alexandria, because he saw that Alexandria was sure to him already, but that the affairs at Rome were put into disorder by Vitellius; so he sent Mucianus to Italy, and committed a considerable army both of horsemen and footmen to him; yet was Mucianus afraid of going by sea, because it was the middle of winter, and so he led his army on foot through Cappadocia and Phrygia.

     2. In the mean time, Antonius Primus took the third of the legions that were in Mysia, for he was president of that province, and made haste, in order to fight Vitellius; whereupon Vitellius sent away Cecinna, with a great army, having a mighty confidence in him, because of his having beaten Otho. This Cecinna marched out of Rome in great haste, and found Antonius about Cremona in Gall, which city is in the borders of Italy; but when he saw there that the enemy were numerous and in good order, he durst not fight them; and as he thought a retreat dangerous, so he began to think of betraying his army to Antonius. Accordingly, he assembled the centurions and tribunes that were under his command, and persuaded them to go over to Antonius, and this by diminishing the reputation of Vitellius, and by exaggerating the power of Vespasian. He also told them that with the one there was no more than the bare name of dominion, but with the other was the power of it; and that it was better for them to prevent necessity, and gain favor, and, while they were likely to be overcome in battle, to avoid the danger beforehand, and go over to Antonius willingly; that Vespasian was able of himself to subdue what had not yet submitted without their assistance, while Vitellius could not preserve what he had already with it.

     3. Cecinna said this, and much more to the same purpose, and persuaded them to comply with him; and both he and his army deserted; but still the very same night the soldiers repented of what they had done, and a fear seized on them, lest perhaps Vitellius who sent them should get the better; and drawing their swords, they assaulted Cecinna, in order to kill him; and the thing had been done by them, if the tribunes had not fallen upon their knees, and besought them not to do it; so the soldiers did not kill him, but put him in bonds, as a traitor, and were about to send him to Vitellius. When [Antonius] Primus heard of this, he raised up his men immediately, and made them put on their armor, and led them against those that had revolted; hereupon they put themselves in order of battle, and made a resistance for a while, but were soon beaten, and fled to Cremona; then did Primus take his horsemen, and cut off their entrance into the city, and encompassed and destroyed a great multitude of them before the city, and fell into the city together with the rest, and gave leave to his soldiers to plunder it. And here it was that many strangers, who were merchants, as well as many of the people of that country, perished, and among them Vitellius's whole army, being thirty thousand and two hundred, while Antonius lost no more of those that came with him from Mysia than four thousand and five hundred: he then loosed Cecinna, and sent him to Vespasian to tell him the good news. So he came, and was received by him, and covered the scandal of his treachery by the unexpected honors he received from Vespasian.

     4. And now, upon the news that Antonius was approaching, Sabinus took courage at Rome, and assembled those cohorts of soldiers that kept watch by night, and in the night time seized upon the capitol; and, as the day came on, many men of character came over to him, with Domitian, his brother's son, whose encouragement was of very great weight for the compassing the government. Now Vitellius was not much concerned at this Primus, but was very angry with those that had revolted with Sabinus; and thirsting, out of his own natural barbarity, after noble blood, he sent out that part of the army which came along with him to fight against the capitol; and many bold actions were done on this side, and on the side of those that held the temple. But at last, the soldiers that came from Germany, being too numerous for the others, got the hill into their possession, where Domitian, with many other of the principal Romans, providentially escaped, while the rest of the multitude were entirely cut to pieces, and Sabinus himself was brought to Vitellius, and then slain; the soldiers also plundered the temple of its ornaments, and set it on fire. But now within a day's time came Antonius, with his army, and were met by Vitellius and his army; and having had a battle in three several places, the last were all destroyed. Then did Vitellius come out of the palace, in his cups, and satiated with an extravagant and luxurious meal, as in the last extremity, and being drawn along through the multitude, and abused with all sorts of torments, had his head cut off in the midst of Rome, having retained the government eight months and five days 26 and had he lived much longer, I cannot but think the empire would not have been sufficient for his lust. Of the others that were slain, were numbered above fifty thousand. This battle was fought on the third day of the month Apelleus [Casleu]; on the next day Mucianus came into the city with his army, and ordered Antonius and his men to leave off killing; for they were still searching the houses, and killed many of Vitellius's soldiers, and many of the populace, as supposing them to be of his party, preventing by their rage any accurate distinction between them and others. He then produced Domitian, and recommended him to the multitude, until his father should come himself; so the people being now freed from their fears, made acclamations of joy for Vespasian, as for their emperor, and kept festival days for his confirmation, and for the destruction of Vitellius.

     5. And now, as Vespasian was come to Alexandria, this good news came from Rome, and at the same time came embassies from all his own habitable earth, to congratulate him upon his advancement; and though this Alexandria was the greatest of all cities next to Rome, it proved too narrow to contain the multitude that then came to it. So upon this confirmation of Vespasian's entire government, which was now settled, and upon the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin, Vespasian turned his thoughts to what remained unsubdued in Judea. However, he himself made haste to go to Rome, as the winter was now almost over, and soon set the affairs of Alexandria in order, but sent his son Titus, with a select part of his army, to destroy Jerusalem. So Titus marched on foot as far as Nicopolis, which is distant twenty furlongs from Alexandria; there he put his army on board some long ships, and sailed upon the river along the Mendesian Nomus, as far as the city Tumuis; there he got out of the ships, and walked on foot, and lodged all night at a small city called Tanis. His second station was Heracleopolis, and his third Pelusium; he then refreshed his army at that place for two days, and on the third passed over the mouths of the Nile at Pelusium; he then proceeded one station over the desert, and pitched his camp at the temple of the Casian Jupiter, 27 and on the next day at Ostracine. This station had no water, but the people of the country make use of water brought from other places. After this he rested at Rhinocolura, and from thence he went to Raphia, which was his fourth station. This city is the beginning of Syria. For his fifth station he pitched his camp at Gaza; after which he came to Ascalon, and thence to Jamnia, and after that to Joppa, and from Joppa to Cesarea, having taken a resolution to gather all his other forces together at that place.

     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 25:1-10
     by D.H. Stern

1     These also are proverbs of Shlomo;
     the men of Hizkiyah king of Y’hudah copied them out:
2     God gets glory from concealing things;
     kings get glory from investigating things.
3     Like the sky for height or the earth for depth
     is the heart of kings—unfathomable.
4     Remove the impurities from the silver,
     and the smith has material to make a vessel.
5     Remove the wicked from the king’s presence,
     and his throne will rest firmly on righteousness.
6     Don’t put yourself forward in the king’s presence;
     don’t take a place among the great.
7     For it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
     than be degraded in the presence of a nobleman.

     What your eyes have seen,
8     don’t rush to present in a dispute.
     For what will you do later on,
     if your neighbor puts you to shame?
9     Discuss your dispute with your neighbor,
     but don’t reveal another person’s secrets.
10     If you do, and he hears of it, he will disgrace you,
     and your bad reputation will stick.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                What’s the good of temptation?

     There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. --- 1 Cor. 10:13.

     The word ‘temptation’ has come down in the world; we are apt to use it wrongly: Temptation is not sin, it is the thing we are bound to meet if we are men. Not to be tempted would be to be beneath contempt. Many of us, however, suffer from temptations from which we have no business to suffer, simply because we have refused to let God lift us to a higher plane where we would face temptations of another order.

     A man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of the nature. Every man has the setting of his own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.

      Temptation is a suggested short cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim—not towards what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good. Temptation is something that completely baffles me for a while, I do not know whether the thing is right or wrong. Temptation yielded to is lust deified, and is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before.

     Temptation is not something we may escape, it is essential to the full-orbed life of a man. Beware lest you think you are tempted as no one else is tempted; what you go through is the common inheritance of the race, not something no one ever went through before. God does not save us from temptations; He succours us in the midst of them (Heb. 2:18.)

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


                There (Pieta)

They are those that life happens to.
  They didn't ask to be born
  In those bleak farmsteads, but neither
  Did they ask not. Life took the seed
  And broadcast it upon the poor,
  Rush-stricken soil, an experiment
  In patience.
              What is a man's
  Price? For promises of a break
  In the clouds; for harvests that are not all
  Wasted; for one animal born
  Healthy, where seven have died,
  He will kneel down and give thanks
  In a chapel whose stones are wrenched
  From the moorland.
              I have watched them bent
  For hours over their trade,
  Speechless, and have held my tongue
  From its question. It was not my part
  To show them, like a meddler from the town,
  Their picture, nor the audiences
  That look at them in pity or pride.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     A similar maxim appears above, as the fourth entry in Exodus: “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” These midrashim are similar in two respects. First, each speaks about destroying a useful source of drinking water. In Exodus, the Midrash asks, “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” whereas this Midrash text instructs, “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” Second, in both cases, it is Moses who is asked to be the instrument of destruction or retribution. In each case, Moses refuses.

     However, there are differences between the Midrash texts. Aside from style and language, the biggest contrast would seem to be in the enemy. In the Exodus story, the enemy is Egypt; God wants Moses to turn the water of the Nile into blood. In the text above, it is the Midianites. God tells Moses to avenge the Midianites.

     Couldn’t the Rabbis of the Midrash have been more original? Aren’t they guilty of a kind of plagiarism in using two so similar epigrams and two comparable stories about Moses?

     We cannot judge them by today’s literary standards. In the ancient world, good ideas were shared and reused, often without attribution. Thus, the phrase “nation shall not take up sword against nation” is best known from Isaiah 2:4. However, it also appears in Micah 4:3, which, while “later” in the way the Bible is now set up, is actually earlier chronologically. Isaiah likely heard this beautiful phrase and repeated it in his prophecy. There was no stigma attached to this appropriation.

     In addition, we can understand why the Rabbis repeated a good idea if we compare the obvious well/cistern images to the subtle and indirect symbol in the phrase “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” It’s doubtful that this latter image is universally comprehensible without explanation. On the other hand, in a world of scarce water supply and in the days before public plumbing, the local well served a crucial, life-giving function. Everyone would understand the image of a well or cistern, and thus it would be used again and again.

     This reminds us that the Rabbis weren’t afraid to reuse a good idea in various formats (while making sure to quote the source). They went back to the well and found additional inspiration from the very same thought. As we study midrashim—in this volume as well as in other texts—we would do well to follow the example of reusing and recycling precious resources. We believe that this is precisely what the Rabbis would have us do.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” What’s the difference between a well and a cistern? In Hebrew, the words are very similar.

     בְּאֵר/Be’er is a well or a spring; בּוֹר/bor is a cistern or a pit. A well has a source of water and fills up on its own. A cistern, on the other hand, whether it’s a hole in the ground or a man-made crater, has no water in it naturally. It must be filled by human hands.

     When the Rabbis taught “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” they were teaching us not to damage the world that God gave us. When the Rabbis say “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from,” they’re teaching us not to wreck our own handiwork: Don’t damage the contents of the cistern—that otherwise empty container that you yourselves filled up.

     With a cistern, we get out only if we put in. Otherwise, it remains empty. This is similar to education, where we reap benefits only to the extent of our involvement and participation. College courses may be wellsprings of knowledge, but they are really closer to cisterns of learning. If we fill the courses with our hard work and interest, then we may be enriched in return. On their own, college courses are only hollow vessels, waiting to be filled.

     Exercise can make us healthier, stronger, less susceptible to illness and stress. Yet, we would do well to remember that exercise is like a cistern: It is an empty vehicle waiting for what we put into it. It is not in the divine realm but in the human sphere. God fills wells around us; we humans are responsible for supplying the cisterns of life.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 17

     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.

     Peter began to sink when he began to fear. ( Wind on the Heath (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) And Scripture tells when he began to fear: it was when he took his eyes off his Lord. There is not a trace that the wind had grown more fierce while the disciple was walking on the water. It had been just as fierce, and the waves had been just as boisterous when he had sprung from the gunwale of the boat. But then he had thought of nothing but the Master and had eyes for nobody except the Master; as long as that continued he was safe. Looking to Christ he could go anywhere. The very sea was as a pavement to him. Looking away from Christ he was as other people, and the perils that surrounded him were terrible. And then he regretted the rashness of his venture and saw nothing around him but the seething waters, and so Peter began to be afraid and beginning to be afraid, began to sink.

     That is true of every kind of life. It is true especially of spiritual life. In the perilous calling of the spiritual life, to lose heart is to lose everything. And that is why the Lord is always saying to us, “Give me your heart,” for only in his keeping is it safe. It is a simple message—looking to Jesus—yet it is the message of salvation. To trust in him and to keep the eye on him is the one secret of all Christian victory. When we have failed to do so in the stress of life, as all of us, like Simon Peter, fail, then there is nothing left but to cry with Peter, Lord, save me.

     And so I close by saying that when Peter began to sink, his Savior was not far away. Immediately, he put out his hand and grasped him. My brother or sister, just beginning to sink, will you remember that Christ is at your side? All human help may seem very far away; remember that he is not very far away. He is near you now, near you where you sit. You need him greatly and he is there for you. Cry out now, “Lord, save me,” and he will do it, completely, for you!
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     The Rat Pit  September 17

     Soon after the Civil War, reporter Oliver Dyer wrote that if all the bars, prostitution houses, and gambling dens of New York City ran along one street, it would stretch 30 miles. Each night on that street, he said, there would be a murder every half mile, a robbery every 165 yards, six outcasts at every door, and eight preachers barking the Gospel. And Dyer pronounced barkeeper John Allen the “wickedest” of the city’s wicked.

     A minister, reading the story, entered Allen’s bar on Water Street to witness to him. To his surprise, Allen, though not converted, was seized by pious pangs and offered to open his saloon to daily prayer meetings. Hundreds began flocking there. Newspapers puffed the story, and Allen became a media sensation. He soon announced his bar would become a house of worship, adding that since he was now famous he intended to join a church … someday.

     The success of the meetings led organizers to rent the nearby rat pit at Kit Burns’s Saloon, a makeshift amphitheater with seats rising above a pit in which scores of rats were released. Dogs were turned loose, and bets taken on the number of rats they could kill within a certain time. Burns’s son-in-law often ended shows by jumping into the pit and killing surviving rats with his teeth. Kit Burns cleaned the blood from the floor each day and rented out his pit for prayer. As soon as services ended each afternoon, rat shows resumed (to “ratify” the prayers, Burns quipped).

     On September 17, 1868 John Allen, basking in publicity, prepared to leave on a “Lecture Tour” of New England. He made it to Connecticut before getting so drunk he was ejected. Public interest plunged, and within a month Allen took his saloon back. But Christians rented another building down the street, and it became the first home of the McAuley Water Street Mission.

     That’s not all. Kit Burns’s place was eventually transformed into a home for reformed prostitutes, the bar becoming a chapel and the rat pit becoming … a kitchen.

  Turn to the LORD! He can still be found.
  Call out to God! He is near.
  Give up your crooked ways and your evil thoughts.
  Return to the LORD our God.
  He will be merciful and forgive your sins.
--- Isaiah 55:6,7.

  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 17

     "Bring him unto me." --- Mark 9:19.

     Despairingly the poor disappointed father turned away from the disciples to their Master. His son was in the worst possible condition, and all means had failed, but the miserable child was soon delivered from the evil one when the parent in faith obeyed the Lord Jesus’ word, “Bring him unto me.” Children are a precious gift from God, but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy or a great bitterness to their parents; they may be filled with the Spirit of God, or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one receipt for the curing of all their ills, “Bring him unto me.” O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf while they are yet babes! Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it. Our cries for our offspring should precede those cries which betoken their actual advent into a world of sin. In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul, but Jesus still commands, “Bring them unto me.” When they are grown up they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God; then when our hearts are breaking we should remember the great Physician’s words, “Bring them unto me.” Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives.

The Lord sometimes suffers his people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary he is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us. Whatever our Morning’s need may be, let it like a strong current bear us to the ocean of divine love. Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to him while he waits to meet us.


          Evening - September 17

     “Encourage him.” --- Deuteronomy 1:38.

     God employs his people to encourage one another. He did not say to an angel, “Gabriel, my servant Joshua is about to lead my people into Canaan—go, encourage him.” God never works needless miracles; if his purposes can be accomplished by ordinary means, he will not use miraculous agency. Gabriel would not have been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother’s sympathy is more precious than an angel’s embassy. The angel, swift of wing, had better known the Master’s bidding than the people’s temper. An angel had never experienced the hardness of the road, nor seen the fiery serpents, nor had he led the stiff-necked multitude in the wilderness as Moses had done. We should be glad that God usually works for man by man. It forms a bond of brotherhood, and being mutually dependent on one another, we are fused more completely into one family. Brethren, take the text as God’s message to you. Labour to help others, and especially strive to encourage them. Talk cheerily to the young and anxious enquirer, lovingly try to remove stumblingblocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by degrees, but tell him of the strength which dwells in God, of the sureness of the promise, and of the charms of communion with Christ. Aim to comfort the sorrowful, and to animate the desponding. Speak a word in season to him that is weary, and encourage those who are fearful to go on their way with gladness. God encourages you by his promises; Christ encourages you as he points to the heaven he has won for you, and the spirit encourages you as he works in you to will and to do of his own will and pleasure. Imitate divine wisdom, and encourage others, according to the word of this Evening.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 17

          HALLELUJAH, WHAT A SAVIOR!

     Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876

     He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering … He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

     A life of praise is not something that can be worked up. Rather, it is a remembrance and a response to Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf. As we reflect on who Christ is and what He has accomplished for us, what He provides in our daily lives as an advocate before God, and what He has promised for our future, our hearts are melted before Him. We bow at His feet in humble adoration and proclaim with all sincerity, “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

     It is said that the word Hallelujah is basically the same in all languages. It seems as though God has given this word as a preparation for the great celebration of heaven, when His children from every tribe, language, people and nation shall have been gathered home to sing their eternal “Hallelujah to the Lamb!”

     Philip Bliss, along with Ira Sankey, was one of the truly important leaders and publishers of early Gospel music. Before his tragic train accident death at the age of 38, he wrote hundreds of Gospel songs, many of which are still widely sung today. “Hallelujah, What a Savior!” is one of the best and most enduring of the songs produced by Bliss. The first four stanzas present Christ’s atoning work simply and clearly. The last stanza, “When He comes, our glorious King,” is in an entirely different mood, joyful and triumphant in its anticipation of the praise that will continue throughout eternity —“Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

     “Man of Sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God, who came ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood-—Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Guilty, vile and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He; full atonement! can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished,” was His cry; now in heav’n exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

     For Today: Isaiah 53:3-6; Philippians 2:7–11; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:24

     Carry your “Hallelujah, what a Savior!” with you into every situation. Reflect often on Christ’s atoning work on your behalf and the glorious promise of His return.

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

          DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD

     Psalm 102:26, 27.—They shall perish but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old as a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

     This Psalm contains a complaint of a people pressed with a great calamity; some think of the Jewish church in Babylon; others think the Psalmist doth here personate mankind lying under a state of corruption, because he wishes for the coming of the Messiah, to accomplish that redemption promised by God, and needed by them. Indeed the title of the Psalm is “A prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the Lord;” whether afflicted with the sense of corruption, or with the sense of oppression. And the redemption by the Messiah, which the ancient church looked upon as the fountain of their deliverance from a sinful or a servile bondage, is in this Psalm spoken of. A set time appointed for the discovery of his mercy to Sion (ver. 13); an appearance in glory to build up Sion (ver. 16); the loosing of the prisoner by redemption, and them that are appointed to death (ver. 17); the calling of the Gentiles (ver. 22); and the latter part of the Psalm, wherein are the verses I have read, are applied to Christ (Heb. 1.) Whatsoever the design of the Psalm might be, many things are intermingled that concern the kingdom of the Messiah, and redemption by Christ.

     Some make three parts of the Psalm. 1. A petition plainly delivered (ver. 1, 2): “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee,” &c. 2. The petition strongly and argumentatively enforced and pleaded (ver. 3), from the misery of the petitioner in himself, and his reproach from his enemies. 3. An acting of faith in the expectation of an answer in the general redemption promised (ver. 12, 13): “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever; thou shalt arise and the mercy upon Sion; the heathen shall fear thy name.”

     The first part is the petition pleaded; the second part is the petition answered, in an assurance that there should in time be a full deliverance. The design of the penman is to confirm the church in the truth of the divine promises; that though the foundations of the world should be razed, and the heavens be folded together, and the whole fabric of them be unpinned and fall to pieces, the firmest parts of it dissolved; yet the church should continue in its stability, because it stands not upon the changeableness of creatures, but is built upon the immutable rock of the truth of God, which is as little subject to change, as his essence.

     They shall perish, thou shalt change them. As he had before ascribed to God the “foundation of heaven and earth” (ver. 25), so he ascribes to God here the destruction of them. Both the beginning and end of the world are here ascertained. There is nothing, indeed, from the present appearance of things, that can demonstrate the cessation of the world. The heaven and earth stand firm; the motions of the heavenly bodies are the same, their beauty is not decayed; individuals corrupt, but the species and kinds remain. The successions of the year observe their due order; but the sin of man renders the change of the present appearance of the world necessary to accomplish the design of God for the glory of his elect. The heavens do not naturally perish, as some fancied an old age of the world, wherein it must necessarily decay as the bodies of animals do; or that the parts of the heavens are broken off by their rubbing one against another in their motion, and falling to the earth, are the seeds of those things that grow among us.

     The earth and heavens. He names here the most stable parts of the world, and the most beautiful parts of the creation; those that are freest from corruptibility and change, to illustrate thereby the immutability of God; that though the heavens and earth have a prerogative of fixedness above other parts of the world, and the creatures that reside below, the heavens remain the same as they were created, and the centre of the earth retains its fixedness, and are as beautiful and fresh in their age as they were in their youth many years ago, notwithstanding the change of the elements, fire and water being often turned into air, so that there may remain but little of that air which was first created by reason of the continual transmutation; yet this firmness of the earth and heavens is not to be regarded in comparison of the unmovableness and fixedness of the being of God; as their beauty comes short of the glory of his being, so doth their firmness come short of his stability.

     Some, by heavens and earth, understand the creatures which reside in the earth, and those which are in the air, which is called heaven often in Scripture; but the ruin and fall of these being seen every day, had been no fit illustration of the unchangeableness of God. They shall perish, they shall be changed. 1. They may perish, say some; they have it not from themselves that they do not perish, but from thee, who didst endue them with an incorruptible nature; they shall perish if thou speakest the word; thou canst with as much ease destroy them, as thou didst create them. But the Psalmist speaks not of their possibility, but the certainty of their perishing. 2. They shall perish in their qualities and motion, not in their substance, say others. They shall cease from that motion which is designed properly for the generation and corruption of things in the earth; but in regard of their substance and beauty they shall remain. As when the strings or wheels of a clock or watch are taken off, the material parts remain, though the motion of it, and the use for discovering the time of the day, ceaseth. To perish, doth not signify alway a falling into nothing, an annihilation, by which both the matter and the form are destroyed, but a ceasing of the present appearance of them; a ceasing to be what they now are; as a man is said to perish when he dies, whereas the better part of man doth not cease to be. The figure of the body moulders away, and the matter of it returns to dust; but the soul being immortal ceaseth not to act, when the body, by reason of the absence of the soul, is incapable of acting. So the heavens shall perish; the appearance they now have shall vanish, and a more glorious and incorruptible frame be erected by the power and goodness of God. The dissolution of heaven and earth is meant by the word perish; the raising a new frame is signified by the word changed: as if the Spirit of God would prevent any wrong meaning of the word perish, by alleviating the sense of that, by another which signifies only a mutation and change; as when we change a habit and garment, we quit the old to receive the new.

     As a garment, as a vesture. Thou shalt change them, ἐλίξεις, thou shalt fold them up. The heavens are compared to a curtain (Psalm 104:2), and shall in due time be folded up as clothes and curtains are. As a garment encompasseth the whole body, so do the heavens encircle the earth. Some say, as a garment is folded up to be laid aside, that when there is need it may be taken again for use; so shalt thou fold up the heavens like a garment, that when they are repaired, thou mayest again stretch them out about the earth; thou shalt fold them up, so that what did appear shall not now appear. It may be illustrated by the metaphor of a scroll or book, which the Spirit of God useth (Isa. 34:4; Rev. 6:14): “The heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.” When a book is rolled up or shut, nothing can be read in it till it be opened again; so the face of the heavens, wherein the stars are as letters declaring the glory of God, shall be shut or rolled together, so that nothing shall appear, till by its renovation it be opened again: as a garment it shall be changed, not to be used in the same fashion, and for the same use again. It seems, indeed, to be for the worse; an old garment is not changed but into rags, to be put to other uses, and afterwards thrown upon the dunghill; but similitudes are not to be pressed too far; and this will not agree with the new heavens and new earth, physically so, as well as metaphorically so. It is not likely the heavens will be put to a worse use than God designed them for in creation; however, a change as a garment, speaks not a total corruption, but an alteration of qualities; as a garment not to be used in the same fashion as before. We may observe, that it is probable the world shall not be annihilated, but refined. It shall lose its present form and fashion; but not its foundation: indeed, as God raised it from nothing, so he can reduce it into nothing; yet it doth not appear that God will annihilate it, and utterly destroy both the matter and form of it; part shall be consumed, and part purified (2 Pet. 3:12, 13): “The heavens shall be on fire and dissolved; nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth.” They shall be melted down as gold by the artificer, to be refined from its dross, and wrought into a more beautiful fashion, that they may serve the design of God for those that shall reside therein; a new world wherein righteousness shall dwell: the apostle opposing it thereby to the old world wherein wickedness did reside. The heavens are to be purged, as the vessels that held the sin-offering were to be purified by the fire of the sanctuary. God, indeed, will take down this scaffold, which he hath built to publish his glory. As every individual hath a certain term of its duration, so an end is appointed for the universal nature of heaven and earth (Isa. 51:6): “The heavens shall vanish like smoke” which disappears. As smoke is resolved and attenuated into air, not annihilated, so shall the world assume a new face, and have a greater clearness and splendor; as the bodies of men, dissolved into dust, shall have more glorious qualities at their resurrection; as a vessel of gold is melted down to remove the batterings in it, and receive a more comely form by the skill of the workman.

     1. The world was not destroyed by the deluge: it was rather washed by water, than consumed; so it shall be rather refined by the last fire, than lie under an irrecoverable ruin.

     2. It is not likely God would liken the everlastingness of his covenant, and the perpetuity of his spiritual Israel, to the duration of the ordinances of the heavens (as he doth in Jer. 31:35, 36), if they were wholly to depart from before him. Though that place may only tend to an assurance of a church in the world, while the world endures; yet it would be but small comfort, if the happiness of believers should endure no longer than the heavens and earth, if they were to have a total period.

     3. Besides, the bodies of the saints must have place for their support to move in, and glorious objects suited to those glorious senses which shall be restored to them; not in any carnal way, which our Saviour rejects, when he saith, There is no eating, or drinking, or marrying, &c. in the other world; but whereby they may glorify God; though how or in what manner their senses shall be used, would be rashness to determine; only something is necessary for the corporeal state of men, that there may be an employment for their senses as well as their souls.

     4. Again, How could the creature, the world, or any part of it, be said to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, if the whole frame of heaven and earth were to be annihilated (Rom. 8:21)? The apostle saith also, that the creature waits with an “earnest expectation for this manifestation of the sons of God” (ver. 19); which would have no foundation if the whole frame should be reduced to nothing. What joyful expectation can there be in any of a total ruin? How should the creature be capable of partaking in this glorious liberty of the sons of God? As the world for the sin of man lost its first dignity, and was cursed alter the fall, and the beauty bestowed upon it by creation defaced; so it shall recover that ancient glory, when he shall be fully restored by the resurrection to that dignity he lost by his first sin.

     As man shall be freed from his corruptibility to receive that glory which is prepared for him, so shall the creatures be freed from that imperfection or corruptibility, those stains and spots upon the face of them, to receive a new glory suited to their nature, and answerable to the design of God, when the glorious liberty of the saints shall be accomplished. As when a prince’s nuptials are solemnized, the whole country echoes with joy; so the inanimate creatures, when the time of the marriage of the Lamb is come, shall have a delight and pleasure from that renovation. The apostle sets forth the whole world as a person groaning; and the Scripture is frequent in such metaphors; as when the creatures are said to wait upon God, and to be troubled, the hills are said to leap and the mountains to rejoice (Psalm 104:27–29); the creature is said to groan, as the heavens are said to declare the glory of God, passively, naturally, not rationally. It is not likely angels are here meant, though they cannot but desire it; since they are affected with the dishonor and reproach God hath in the world, they cannot but long for the restoration of his honor in the restoration of the creature to its true end: and, indeed, the angels are employed to serve man in this sinful state, and cannot but in holiness wish the creature freed from his corruption. Nor is it meant of the new creatures, which have the first fruits of the Spirit; those he brings in afterwards, groaning and waiting for the adoption (ver. 23); where he distinguisheth the rational creature from the creature he had spoken of before. If he had meant the believing creature by that creature that desired the liberty of the sons of God, what need had there been of that additional distinction, and not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves? Whereby it seems he means some creatures below rational creatures, since neither angels nor blessed souls can be said to travail in pain, with that distress as a woman in travail hath, as the word signifies, who perform the work joyfully which God sets them upon. If the creatures be subject to vanity by the sin of man, they shall also partake of a happiness by the restoration of man. The earth hath borne thorns and thistles, and venomous beasts; the air hath had its tempests and infectious qualities; the water hath caused its floods and deluges. The creature hath been abused to luxury and intemperance; and been tyrannized over by man, contrary to the end of its creation. It is convenient that some time should be allotted for the creature’s attaining its true end, and that it may partake of the peace of man, as it hath done of the fruits of his sin; otherwise it would seem, that sin had prevailed more than grace, and would have had more power to deface, than grace to restore things into their due order.

     5. Again, Upon what account should the Psalmist exhort the heavens to rejoice, and the earth to be glad, when God “comes to judge the world with righteousness” (Psalm 96:11–13), if they should be annihilated and sunk forever into nothing? “It would seem,” saith Daille,“to be an impertinent figure, if the Judge of the world brought to them a total destruction; an entire ruin could not be matter of triumph to creatures, who naturally have that instinct or inclination put into them by their Creator, to preserve themselves, and to effect their own preservation.”

     6. Again, the Lord is to rejoice in his works (Psalm 104:31): “The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; the Lord shall rejoice in his works;” not hath, but shall rejoice in his works: in the works of creation, which the Psalmist had enumerated, and which is the whole scope of the Psalm: and he intimates that it is part of the glory of the Lord which endures forever; that is, his manifestative glory, to rejoice in his works: the glory of the Lord must be understood with reference to the creation he had spoken of before. How short was that joy God had in his works after he had sent them beautified out of his hand! How soon did he repent, not only that he had made man, but was grieved at the heart also, that he made the other creatures which man’s sin had disordered! (Gen. 6:7.) What joy can God have in them, since the curse upon the entrance of sin into the world remains upon them? If they are to be annihilated upon the full restoration of his holiness, what time will God have to rejoice in the other works of creation? It is the joy of God to see all his works in due order; every one pointing to their true end; marching together in their excellency, according to his first intendment in their creation. Did God create the world to perform its end only for one day; scarce so much, if Adam fell the very first day of his creation? What would have been their end, if Adam had been confirmed in a state of happiness as the angels were? ’tis likely will be answered and performed upon the complete restoration of man to that happy state from whence he fell. What artificer compiles a work by his skill, but to rejoice in it? And shall God have no joy from the works of his hands? Since God can only rejoice in goodness, the creatures must have that goodness restore to them which God pronounced them to have at the first creation, and which he ordained them for, before he can again rejoice in his works. The goodness of the creatures is the glory and joy of God.

     Inference 1. We may infer from hence, what a base and vile thing sin is, which lays the foundation of the world’s change. Sin brings it to a decrepit age; sin overturned the whole work of God (Gen. 3:17); so that to render it useful to its proper end, there is a necessity of a kind of a new creating it. This causes God to fire the earth for a purification of it from that infection and contagion brought upon it by the apostasy and corruption of man. It hath served sinful man, and therefore must undergo a purging flame, to be fit to serve the holy and righteous Creator. As sin is so riveted in the body of man, that there is need of a change by death to raze it out; so hath the curse for sin got so deep into the bowels of the world, that there is need of a change by fire to refine it for its master’s use. Let us look upon sin with no other notion than as the object of God’s hatred, the cause of his grief in the creatures, and the spring of the pain and ruin of the world.

     2. How foolish a thing is it to set our hearts upon that which shall perish, and be no more what it is now! The heavens and the earth, the solidest and firmest parts of the creation, shall not continue in the posture they are; they must perish and undergo a refining change. How feeble and weak are the other parts of the creation, the little creatures walking upon and fluttering about the world, that are perishing and dying every day; and we scarce see them clothed with life and beauty this day, but they wither and are despoiled of all the next; and are such frail things fit objects for our everlasting spirits and affections?

     Though the dail employment of the heavens is the declaration of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), yet neither this, nor their harmony, order, beauty, amazing greatness and glory of them, shall preserve them from a dissolution and melting at the presence of the Lord. Though they have remained in the same posture from the creation till this day, and are of so great antiqcity, yet they must bow down to a change before the will and word of their Creator; and shall we rest upon that which shall vanish like smoke? Shall we take any creature for our support like ice, that will crack under our feet, and must, by the order of their Lord Creator, deceive our hopes? Perishing things can be no support to the soul; if we would have rest, we must run to God and rest in God. How contemptible should that be to us, whose fashion shall pass away, which shah not endure long in its present form and appearance; contemptible as a rest, not contemptible as the work of God; contemptible as an end, not contemptible as a means to attain our end! If these must be changed, how unworthy are other things to be the centre of our souls, that change in our very using of them, and slide away in our very enjoyment of them!

     Thou art the same. The essence of God, with all the perfections of his nature, are pronounced the same, without any variation from eternity to eternity; so that the text doth not only assert the eternal duration of God, but his immutability in that duration. His eternity is signified in that expression, “Thou shalt endure;” his immutability in this, “Thou art the same.” To endure, argues indeed his immutability as well as eternity; for what endures, is not changed, and what is changed, doth not endure; but “Thou art the same” doth more fully signify it. He could not be the same if he could be changed into any other thing than what he is; the Psalmist therefore puts not thou halt been, or shalt be, but thou art the same, without any alteration. “Thou art the same;” that is, the same God; the same in essence and nature; the same in will and purpose. Thou dost change all other things as thou pleanest, but thou art immutable in every respect, and receivest no shadow of change, though never so light and small. The Psalmist here alludes to the name Jehovah, I Am; and doth not only ascribe immutability to God, but exclude everything else from partaking in that perfection. All things else are tottering; God sees all other things in continual motion under his feet, like water passing away and no more seen; while he remains fixed and immovable; his wisdom and power, his knowledge and will, are always the same. His essence can receive no alteration, neither by itself, nor by any external cause; whereas other things either naturally decline to destruction, pass from one term to another, till they come to their period; or shall at the last day be wrapped up, after God hath completed his will in them and by them, as a man doth a garment he intends to repair and transform to another use. So that in the text, God, as immutable, is opposed to all creatures as perishing and changeable.

The Existence and Attributes of God

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


     Sect. CLXIV. — I OMIT to bring forward that truly Achillean Scripture of mine, which the Diatribe proudly passes by untouched — I mean, that which Paul teaches, Rom. vii. and Gal. v., that there is in the saints, and in the godly, so powerful a warfare between the spirit and the flesh, that they cannot do what they would. From this warfare I argue thus: — If the nature of man be so evil, even in those who are born again of the Spirit, that it does not only not endeavour after good, but is even averse to, and militates against good, how should it endeavour after good in those who are not born again of the Spirit, and who are still in the “old man,” and serve under Satan? Nor does Paul there speak of the ‘grosser affections’ only, (by means of which, as a common scape-gap, the Diatribe is accustomed to get out of the way of all the Scriptures,) but he enumerates among the works of the flesh heresy, idolatry, contentions, divisions, &c.; which he describes as reigning in those most exalted faculties; that is, in the reason and the will. If therefore, flesh with these affections war against the Spirit in the saints, much more will it war against God in the ungodly, and in “Free-will.” Hence, Rom. viii. 7, he calls it “enmity against God.” — I should like, I say, to see this argument of mine overturned, and “Free-will” defended against it.

     As to myself, I openly confess, that I should not wish “Free-will” to be granted me, even if it could be so, nor anything else to be left in my own hands, whereby I might endeavour something towards my own salvation. And that, not merely because in so many opposing dangers, and so many assaulting devils, I could not stand and hold it fast, (in which state no man could be saved, seeing that one devil is stronger than all men;) but because, even though there were no dangers, no conflicts, no devils, I should be compelled to labour under a continual uncertainty, and to beat the air only. Nor would my conscience, even if I should live and work to all eternity, ever come to a settled certainty, how much it ought to do in order to satisfy God. For whatever work should be done, there would still remain a scrupling, whether or not it pleased God, or whether He required any thing more; as is proved in the experience of all justiciaries, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost, through so many years of my own experience.      But now, since God has put my salvation out of the way of my will, and has taken it under His own, and has promised to save me, not according to my working or manner of life, but according to His own grace and mercy, I rest fully assured and persuaded that He is faithful, and will not lie, and moreover great and powerful, so that no devils, no adversities can destroy Him, or pluck me out of His hand. “No one (saith He) shall pluck them out of My hand, because My Father which gave them Me is greater than all.” (John x. 27-28). Hence it is certain, that in this way, if all are not saved, yet some, yea, many shall be saved; whereas by the power of “Free-will,” no one whatever could be saved, but all must perish together. And moreover, we are certain and persuaded, that in this way, we please God, not from the merit of our own works, but from the favour of His mercy promised unto us; and that, if we work less, or work badly, He does not impute it unto us, but, as a Father, pardons us and makes us better. — This is the glorying which all the saints have in their God!

     Sect. CLXV. — AND if you are concerned about this, — that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God, seeing that, He damns the undeserving, that is, those who are for that reason ungodly, because, being born in iniquity, they cannot by any means prevent themselves from being ungodly, and from remaining so, and being damned, but are compelled from the necessity of nature to sin and perish, as Paul saith, “We all were the children of wrath, even as others,” (Eph. ii. 3.), when at the same time, they were created such by God Himself from a corrupt seed, by means of the sin of Adam, —

     Here God is to be honoured and revered, as being most merciful towards those, whom He justifies and saves under all their unworthiness: and it is to be in no small degree ascribed unto His wisdom, that He causes us to believe Him to be just, even where He appears to be unjust. For if His righteousness were such, that it was considered to be righteousness according to human judgment, it would be no longer divine, nor would it in any thing differ from human righteousness. But as He is the one and true God, and moreover incomprehensible and inaccessible by human reason, it is right, nay, it is necessary, that His righteousness should be incomprehensible: even as Paul exclaims, saying, “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. xi. 33). But they would be no longer “past finding out” if we were in all things able to see how they were righteous. What is man, compared with God! What can our power do, when compared with His power! What is our strength, compared with His strength! What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom! What is our substance, compared with His substance! In a word, what is all that we are, compared with all that He is!

     If then we confess, even according to the teaching of nature, that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, substance, and all human things together, are nothing when compared with the divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, and substance, what perverseness must it be in us to attack the righteousness and judgments of God only, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment, as to wish to comprehend, judge, and rate, the divine judgments! Why do we not, here in like manner say at once — What! is our judgment nothing, when compared with the divine judgments! — But ask reason herself if she is not, from conviction, compelled to confess, that she is foolish and rash for not allowing the judgments of God to be incomprehensible, when she confesses that all the other divine things are incomprehensible? In every thing else we concede to God a Divine Majesty; and yet, are ready to deny it to His judgments! Nor can we for a little while believe, that He is just, even when He promises that it shall come to pass, that when He shall reveal His glory, we shall all see, and palpably feel, that He ever was, and is, — just!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


September 17 1 Chronicles 9-11
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