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     2 Chronicles  9 - 12


2 Chronicles 9

Solomon Blesses the People

2 Chronicles 9 1 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 2 But I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” 3 Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 4 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 5 ‘Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel; 6 but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.’ 7 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 8 But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 9 Nevertheless, it is not you who shall build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 10 Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 11 And there I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with the people of Israel.”

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. 13 Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the court, and he stood on it. Then he knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven, 14 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 15 who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 16 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk in my law as you have walked before me.’ 17 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David.

18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

22 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 23 then hear from heaven and act and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

24 “If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers.

26 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 27 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

28 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 29 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, 30 then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, 31 that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. 32 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, 33 hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

34 “If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 35 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

36 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, 37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 38 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you. 40 Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place.

41  “And now arise, O LORD God, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation,
and let your saints rejoice in your goodness.
42  O LORD God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one!
Remember your steadfast love for David your servant.”


2 Chronicles 10

Fire from Heaven

2 Chronicles 10 1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

The Dedication of the Temple

4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. 5 King Solomon offered as a sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. 6 The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

7 And Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat.

8 At that time Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly, from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of Egypt. 9 And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for they had kept the dedication of the altar seven days and the feast seven days. 10 On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the LORD had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.

If My People Pray

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’

19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”


2 Chronicles 11

Solomon’s Accomplishments

2 Chronicles 11 1 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of the LORD and his own house, 2 Solomon rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given to him, and settled the people of Israel in them.

3 And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it. 4 He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath. 5 He also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars, 6 and Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had and all the cities for his chariots and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 7 All the people who were left of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of Israel, 8 from their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel had not destroyed—these Solomon drafted as forced labor, and so they are to this day. 9 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves for his work; they were soldiers, and his officers, the commanders of his chariots, and his horsemen. 10 And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.

11 Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”

12 Then Solomon offered up burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD that he had built before the vestibule, 13 as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. 14 According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded. 15 And they did not turn aside from what the king had commanded the priests and Levites concerning any matter and concerning the treasuries.

16 Thus was accomplished all the work of Solomon from the day the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was completed. 17 Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. 18 And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon.


2 Chronicles 12

Solomon’s Accomplishments

2 Chronicles 12 1 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of the LORD and his own house, 2 Solomon rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given to him, and settled the people of Israel in them.

3 And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it. 4 He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath. 5 He also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars, 6 and Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had and all the cities for his chariots and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 7 All the people who were left of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of Israel, 8 from their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel had not destroyed—these Solomon drafted as forced labor, and so they are to this day. 9 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves for his work; they were soldiers, and his officers, the commanders of his chariots, and his horsemen. 10 And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.

11 Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”

12 Then Solomon offered up burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD that he had built before the vestibule, 13 as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. 14 According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded. 15 And they did not turn aside from what the king had commanded the priests and Levites concerning any matter and concerning the treasuries.

16 Thus was accomplished all the work of Solomon from the day the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was completed. 17 Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. 18 And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon.

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Martyrdom Today

By George Robinson 3/01/2014

     Persecution. Jesus said that His followers should expect it (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12) and that those who experience it are blessed (Matt. 5:10–12). In our First World society, persecution may mean mocking, slander, or alienation from friends and family. However, the church extends far beyond our circles to include dozens of countries around the world. In much of the Majority World, Christians are experiencing persecution in the form of harassment, beatings, and even martyrdom.

     The Risk of Belief

     Over the past fifteen years, my work has been primarily focused on evangelism, disciple-making, and church planting in places where those activities are either strongly discouraged or even outlawed. Specifically, I have worked alongside national believers in South and Southeast Asia reaching out with the gospel to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh people groups. Many of my national partners were raised in those religions, but came to repentance and faith in Christ through the bold spread of the gospel.

     These are not just my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are yours as well. And most, if not all, daily risk paying for their faith dearly, not only with social repercussions, but some with physical abuse, imprisonment, or even death.

     In one South Asian country where I have worked, there was a mass shooting at a Christian school, multiple church bombings, and countless stories of brothers and sisters who have been threatened and abused because of their faith in Jesus. I served alongside a dear friend and encouraged him in his work, only to see him forced out of the country by those who felt threatened by his gospel ministry. In another country I worked alongside a brother who was tied up, beaten and left for dead — by his own family members — because of his decision to leave Islam and follow Jesus. Last year, as I led a small group of students and a few national friends in sharing the gospel, we were met by threats of arrest and assault by a radical Hindu group that had tracked our location via hacking a social media website.

     The difference between me and my national brothers and sisters is that I can get on a plane and fly back to the United States, where, at least for now, the likelihood of persecution is very limited. Our suffering brothers and sisters around the world have an even greater hope than an American passport — they have been promised the very presence of Jesus in the midst of their suffering (2 Cor. 4:9).

     The Call for Christians

     Today, an estimated two hundred million Christians worldwide face harsh persecution each year in dozens of countries on nearly every continent. Bill Bright once said that more Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom since the beginning of the twentieth century than in all of the rest of church history to that point.

     What should our response be? Always, our response should be informed prayer; and whenever possible, we should promote and participate in gospel-centered action.

     It is impossible to pray for situations about which we are unaware. The gospel is offensive to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18); therefore, one of the primary motives behind persecution is to eliminate the voice of a person who is heralding the gospel or to discourage the spread of the gospel. This means that thousands of persecution stories go untold because voices are hushed by the roar of oppression.

     There are several organizations that exist to give a global voice to those who are enduring persecution (see www.persecution.org and www.persecution.com). Those resources intend to mobilize both informed prayer and gospel-centered action. There are also several books that tell the stories of persecuted Christ followers, both in church history (Foxe's Book of Martyrs) and in modern times (The Privilege of Persecution: (And Other Things the Global Church Knows That We Don`t) by Carl Moeller and David Hegg; The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken). I recommend that you become familiar with these and other gospel-centered resources so that your prayers for the persecuted can be specific and substantive.

     The Scriptures beckon all Christians not only to pray informed prayers for the persecuted but also to engage in gospel-centered action on behalf of the persecuted. This action begins with standing alongside the persecuted so as to encourage them. The author of Hebrews was writing to a group of Christians who had grown weary and discouraged by the opposition they were facing. He reminded them of a time when they had personally been persecuted or had, even at great cost, stood with others who were enduring persecution (10:32–39). Their key to enduring earthly persecution was none other than the hope of the gospel and the return of King Jesus to establish His kingdom. Then in Hebrews 11, the writer unfolds a long list of those whose faith in God led to relative peace and sometimes prosperity followed by references to many who, with faith in the same God, endured harsh persecution and martyrdom. Standing with the persecuted may in fact be costly like it was for the audience of the letter to the Hebrews. But for those who have experienced the wonderful rescue of Christ, there will be no limit to our own gospel-motivated sacrificial service of others. You and I have need of endurance — and we can both encourage it and grow in it through informed prayers and gospel-centered action for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

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     Dr. George Robinson is assistant professor of missions and evangelism and holds the Headrick Chair of World Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Dream a Little Dream

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/01/2014

     It is a great thing to dream great dreams. A small vision of God and His kingdom will birth a small vision of the future. Jesus, who has already overcome the world, promised His followers that they would do greater things even than He (John 14:12). John Knox was not content merely to minister to those stray sheep who might wander into his fold. Instead his heart cried out, “Give me Scotland, or I die!” That is a big dream indeed.

     Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, warned us against worrying about the petty things of this world, the very things that tend to hold our attention— what we will eat, what we will wear. We are inveterate worriers and insatiable spenders, which together mean that we tend to fret over funds. Jesus calls us, however, not to worry over such things. Our Father in heaven knows what we need, and He provides for us. What we ought to be focused on is the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.

     Scotland is, of course, a commonwealth in the kingdom of God. Knox’s desire that her citizens would be brought into that kingdom, that they would be dressed in the righteousness of the King is good and proper, even exemplary. “Give me Scotland or I die!” was not a cry Knox should have been ashamed of. As we dream big, however, we would do well to understand the nature of the kingdom and how it is brought forth. We would be wise to learn to discern the difference between the brightness of our King’s glory and the brightness of the spotlight. There is a very thin line, one I suspect we all are tempted to dance along, between wanting to do great things for the kingdom and wanting to be great in the kingdom.

     When we read of the legacy of men like Knox, the influence first of the Reformation on Scotland and from there the influence of Scotland on the rest of the world, it is all too easy to get stars in our eyes. What if, we wonder, God would be pleased to use me the way He used Knox? What if I were able to do great things for the kingdom, the kind of great things that will have believers in five hundred years commemorating my life, cataloging my accomplishments, carving my bust in marble? We may not be worrying about what we will eat and what we will drink, but we end up worrying as the disciples did, wondering what will be my place, my stature, my rank in His kingdom?

     In the kingdom we are called to seek, however, the great things are the small things. Grand national reformations and great sweeping revivals are astonishing gifts from our heavenly Father. But the Son told us the kingdom is like unto a mustard seed. He told us that if we would be first, we must needs be last. Are we not susceptible to the temptation to miss on the little things while pursuing the big? How many missionary kids’ souls have been neglected on the altar of a grand vision? How many pastors’ children have come in second to their father’s ambition, masked as “kingdomseeking”? And how many of these passionate parents wish they could go back and devote themselves to that which is seen by the world — and by the worldly in the church — as small and insignificant?

     When Knox set about establishing the Kirk in Scotland, the first man that he ordained to gospel ministry was Robert Campbell Sproul, my direct ancestor. Scotland and Knox are to me not distant tributaries in the stream of church history. The history of the Scottish Reformation is my family’s history. As such, I resonate with the heart cry of Knox — “Give me Scotland or I die!” I like to believe that had I been there, I would have stood ready to march with Knox into the fray, ready later to join the Scottish Worthies who refused to bend the knee to prelacy (episcopal governance) from the Church of England, and were rewarded with martyrdom. But as I look at my own life and God’s call on it, I find myself with a very different heart cry. No one will study my legacy as they do Knox. But if they did, my prayer is that it will be said of me not that I said, “Give me America, or I die!” but that I prayed, “Take my children, or I die!”

     The Robert Campbell Sproul that matters most to me is not my ancestor, but my descendant, my son. And with him, Darby, Shannon, Delaney, Erin Claire, Maili, Reilly, and Donovan. My great hope is that my Father in heaven would be pleased to use me not only to raise these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but that He would use me to raise them to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My prayer is that my covenant children would by His grace keep covenant to their children, their children’s children, and as many as are afar off.

     I want to do great things for the kingdom. Those great things, however, are loving, training, and teaching the greatest things in the kingdom — His children whom He has put under my care. For of such is the kingdom of God.

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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

Glorifying God in the Routines

By Gloria Furman 3/01/2014

     Kiss, hug, monkey blanket, book, pray. That’s the summation of my preschool-age son’s bedtime routine. His simple bedtime routine must mean the world to him because if I miss a beat or shake up the order, he lets me know that the universe is falling apart. If you want accountability for keeping a disciplined routine, just let preschoolers know of your intentions, and they will tirelessly remind you to stay the course.

     Order and predictability go a long way to reassure young children that their world is stable. Routines work the same way in reassuring us big kids, too. Consider how disconcerting your morning would be if the coffeemaker suddenly sputtered sparks onto the countertop and broke.

     When Life Seems Boring

     Although we can all appreciate the stability that routines bring (Thank you, God, for causing the sun to rise this morning), a life of “all things ordinary” may sound, well … boring. We live in the mundane, and life-altering, dramatic moments are, by definition, extraordinary. Whatever your “normal” is, I think we can all agree that that’s where we live. Even so, we long for significant work, unique callings, and uncommon opportunities.

     It’s tempting to view everyday life as a monotonous cycle of making your bed only to lie in it again. Our perspective on the everyday business of our lives is important because when we forget about God’s activity in the world, we become functionally hopeless. What’s the point of anything if “all is vanity”? Often our view of the ordinary is ruled by the “have-to’s”: I have to take out the trash; I have to go to work; I have to change another diaper; and so on. We hear Paul’s instruction of “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) and we wonder how that squares with the “have-to’s” of our everyday lives. Grace sheds light on our mundane. Grace can transform the “have-to’s” into “get-to’s” as we live for His glory.

     Here are just three of the ways the grace of God governs the areas of our lives that seem ordinary and unimportant:

     1. We get to live outside of the garden. Live. We get to live. Let your heart soar with thankfulness as you consider that God continues to give us life even though we have all sinned against His holiness. Let your mind be blown by the reality that Jesus is currently, intentionally holding our very lives together by the word of His power. The gracious gift of life in spite of our sin is overwhelming. Surely this mercy is cause for unceasing praise to our Creator. Job teaches us that whatever condition our lives are in, God is to be praised. As recipients of such astonishing grace, far be it from us to lament that life is boring. Instead, let us spill over with praise to the Author of Life with our every breath.

     2. We get to live forever in Christ. Each of us is just a breath away from meeting the Lord face-to-face. Because of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we will behold our God and live, and we will live forever in His presence where there is fullness of joy. In the meantime, we are comforted by the indwelling Holy Spirit and we can have fellowship with God even now. God uses ordinary means to conform us to the image of His beloved Son. This is just one way the gospel of grace gives new meaning to the seemingly unimportant routines.

     3. We get to participate in God’s cosmic plan. The penal substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, His resurrection from the dead, and His subsequent exaltation above every name change how we view our ordinary lives because, indeed, they change everything. In order to experience joy in the work that God has for us, we must seek to understand the mystery of God’s will that He purposes “to unite all things in [Christ]” (Eph. 1:9– 10). While we’re tempted to fret over arranging our schedules perfectly, Jesus is infallibly putting the cosmos back in order. This big-picture theology of God’s cosmic plan sees through the morning commute and the dishes piled up in the sink to scan the horizon of the new heavens and the new earth. What remarkable grace we’ve been given to participate in God’s plan to reconcile all things to Himself (1 Cor. 15:27–28).

     Stamp Eternity on Our Eyeballs

      An eternal perspective is something you carry around in your heart. With the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which God has called you. Look through this lens of eternity when you’re tempted to walk by sight. Watch how the grace of God transforms the way you see another business trip, another potty training accident, another afternoon in gridlock traffic, another meeting, another bill, or another load of laundry. Enduring joy can be had in the ordinary stuff of life today because everything you’ve been given was ordained by Jesus, exists for Jesus, and will testify forever in eternity as a tribute to His glorious grace.

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     Gloria Furman lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with her husband, Dave, a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. She is the mother of foure.

Gloria Furman Books:

The Reformation Isn’t Over

By James White 3/01/2014

     “You do not want to end up on the wrong side of history.” This platitude has been granted prognostic status in our day, though one could properly question its fundamental truthfulness. It reflects, however, the prevailing attitude of Western culture, a pragmatism that enshrines in the judgment of “history” (whatever that means in this context) the final arbiter of morality, goodness, and worth. Often this phrase is being urged upon the church to “move on” from opposing homosexuality or the redefinition of marriage.

     But this adage also captures the general attitude of a large portion of the population on both sides of the Tiber River to the Reformation and the continuing battle over the issues that gave it birth. Isn’t it time to just move on? Can’t we lay aside our differences for a greater good?  Aren’t we a small enough minority now in the midst of a tsunami of secularism and the rising tide of Islam? Shouldn’t we be looking for unity, not for more reasons to remain separate?   That was what I heard in seminary.

     We dare not dismiss the weight that these rhetorical questions carry with many within our congregations, and even among the clergy. At the same time, we must recognize the responsibility that is ours as heirs of the great struggle that was the Reformation. Can we betray those who came before us? What would such a betrayal involve? Are we really willing to assert that the great and momentous beliefs they fought for are no longer as important as we once thought?

     The election of a new bishop of Rome in 2013 shed new light on the state of these questions in the minds of many who profess to be “evangelicals” and “biblical” in their faith and orientation. One well-known evangelical leader communicated with his followers electronically that we should be praying that God would “guide” the process of the selection of a new pope. In most venues, the objection that there is nothing remotely biblical about a “supreme pontiff” who is to be venerated as the “vicar of Christ on earth” or the “holy father” found little expression outside of those whose strongest feelings on the matter are borne of prejudice rather than conviction. And once the selection was made, many in the evangelical camp expressed pleasure at the selection, if for no other reason than Francis I has seemed significantly more, well, human — or at least less imperial — than Benedict XVI.

     But very little of the public response was prompted by a passionate commitment to, say, the solas of the Reformation, or a knowledgeable, informed rejection of Rome’s soteriology over against a deep-seated love of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

     Should the Reformation continue to hold a place of importance in the church that faces such immense opposition as that coming from radical, gospel-hating secularism? Wouldn’t a united front, free from partisan bickering, help the cause of Christ? The answer has to be, “Of course the Reformation remains important, and, in fact, its work must continue in our day, and into the future as well.”

     The reason is not hard to see, even if it seems hidden to many in our day. Wonderfully nebulous catchphrases like “the cause of Christ” often hide the truth: the cause of Christ is the glorification of the triune God through the redemption of a particular people through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, which is a rather Puritan way of saying, “The cause of Christ is the gospel.” Each of the emphases of the Reformation, summed up in the solas, is focused upon protecting the integrity and identity of the gospel itself. Without the inspiration, authority, harmony, and sufficiency of Scripture, we do not know the gospel (sola Scriptura). Without the freedom of grace and the fullness of the provision of the work of Christ, we have no saving message (sola fide). And so on.

     The Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel through the addition of man’s authority, man’s merit, man’s sovereignty. Is this not the meaning of semper reformanda, the church always reforming, always seeking to hear more clearly, walk more closely, to her Lord?

     With the ebb and flow of human history, the forces arrayed against the church and her Lord and the particular front upon which the battle rages hottest will change. Rome’s theology has evolved and her arguments have been modified, but the issues remain very much what they were when Luther and Eck battled at Leipzig, only modified and complicated. God’s kingship, man’s depravity and enslavement to sin, and the insatiable desire of sinners to control the grace of God will always be present. And today, the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture are at the forefront, just as they were then. The need for the Reformation will end when the church no longer faces foes inside and out who seek to distort her purpose, her mission, her message, and her authority. Till then, semper reformanda.

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     Dr. James R. White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministriess, a Christian apologetics organization, he is an accomplished and respected debater and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. James also blogs at the Alpha and Omega Ministries site www.aomin.org. He and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Preach the Word

By Jon Payne 4/01/2014

     In the original Table Talk, a collection of informal theological conversations at Martin Luther’s dinner table, the German Reformer gave the following advice to a young minister: “When you are to preach, speak with God and say, ‘Dear Lord God, I wish to preach in Thine honor. I wish to speak about Thee, glorify Thee, [and] praise Thy name. Although I can’t do this well of myself, I pray that Thou mayest make it good.’”

     This simple prayer provides a tiny glimpse into Luther’s theology of preaching. More importantly, it underscores to pastors in every age that faithful preaching must be about God, for the glory of God, and in utter dependence upon God.

     First, the content of our preaching must be centered on the nature and works of God (2 Cor. 4:5–6). Evangelical preaching today can often be shallow, therapeutic, and man-centered. It commonly lacks theological substance and gravitas. Personal stories and amusing anecdotes crowd the sermon, leaving God as an afterthought. The gospel, the grand theme of Scripture, is vague at best.

     Biblical preaching, however, always and unmistakably makes the triune God and His marvelous works of creation, providence, and redemption the main subject matter. God is the main subject of the Bible, and thus should be the central focus of our preaching. Why is Peter’s Pentecost sermon, for example, so powerful and memorable (Acts 2:14–41)? Why were so many who heard it “cut to the heart” with Spirit-wrought conviction? It is because Peter’s sermon boldly and skillfully directed the people’s attention to almighty God, His Word, and the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes in Christ. Moreover, it is in light of God’s mighty acts of judgment and salvation that the Apostle clearly communicated the need for sinners to turn from their rebellious ways and receive Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

     The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy (and all lawfully ordained ministers) to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). If ministers faithfully carry out this biblical mandate, their preaching will be full of God—and nothing will stir the heart of the church unto faith and obedience like a weekly view of God in the preaching of His life-transforming Word.

     Second, the ultimate aim of our preaching must be the glory and praise of God. Strictly speaking, the preaching of the Word is not primarily for the salvation of sinners. Instead, preaching is first and foremost for the glory of God—a doxological event that magnifies our Lord’s sublime character and awesome deeds. Thomas Watson said, “God is superlative good … better than anything you can put in competition with him.” Shouldn’t the content of our preaching communicate this glorious reality?

     We were created “to glorify God and enjoy him forever” (WSC Q&A 1; see Isa. 43:7). Biblical preaching, therefore, must underscore this foundational purpose, inspiring both preacher and hearer to joyfully “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 96:3–4a).

     Third, preaching must be carried out in utter dependence upon God. Pastors should not rely upon their talents, intellect, or personality. Rather, from the study to the pulpit we must earnestly and humbly pray for a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in the preaching of the Word (1 Cor. 2:4b). Indeed, apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, law and gospel will fall on deaf ears and stony hearts. In the end, preaching will never be effectual unless God makes it so (Ezek. 37:1–14). There is no place for pride or self-reliance in either the preparation or the act of preaching. Apart from Christ and the life-giving Holy Spirit, we can do nothing (John 15:5b).

     Preaching is a primary means of grace appointed by God to regenerate, sanctify, nourish, and comfort the souls of His elect in Christ (1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23–25). In confessional terms, it is

     … an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them unto his image; and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace; and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. (WLC Q&A 155)

     No task, therefore, is of greater importance for the minister or the church than the faithful proclamation of the whole counsel of God (Acts 6:4; 20:27).

     Even so, as a church planter, I experience the daily temptation to make sermon preparation and preaching a secondary matter. Of course, it is no different for pastors in established churches. Ministry is busy. Being mindful of this, let us, as ministers, renew our vow to faithfully “preach the Word.” Let us trust God’s promise to employ the foolishness of preaching for the advancement of his kingdom. And may we receive with humility the Wittenberg Reformer’s sage advice to pray that our preaching would be chiefly about God, to the glory and praise of God, and in prayerful dependence upon Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

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     Dr. Jon D. Payne is senior pastor of Christ Church Presbyterian (PCA) in Charleston, S.C., visiting lecturer in practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, and author of In the Splendor of Holiness.

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Why Theological Study Is for Everyone

By Jared Wilson 4/01/2014

     Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, this is something I tell my church often. And the looks I get from some surprised souls are the evidence that I have not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by lay people is important.

     Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.

     But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology — coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word) — simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow Him, the more we learn about Him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know Him.

     There are at least three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian.

     First, theological study of God is commanded. Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is required most notably in the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less than that.

     Second, the theological study of God is vital to salvation. Now, of course, I do not mean that intellectual pursuit merits salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) totally apart from any works of our own (Rom. 3:28), which includes any intellectual exertion. But at the same time, the faith by which we are justified, the faith that receives the completeness of Christ’s finished work and thus His perfect righteousness, is a reasonable faith. Faith may not be the same as rationality, but this does not mean that faith in God is irrational.

     Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 12:3), but it is not some amorphous, information-free spiritual vacuum. The exercise of faith is predicated on information—initially, the historical announcement of the good news of what Jesus has done—and the strengthening of faith is built on information, as well.

     Our continued growth in the grace of God, our perseverance as saints, is vitally connected to our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and God’s works as revealed in God’s Word. Contrary to the way some idolaters of doubt would have you believe, the Christian faith is founded on facts. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that for the Christian, faith is not some leap into the dark. Instead, it is inextricably connected to assurance and conviction. It stands to reason that the more theological facts we feast on in the Word, the more assurance and conviction — and thus the more faith — we will cultivate.

     Paul tells his young protégé Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He is reminding Timothy that the sanctification resulting in continual discipleship to Christ necessarily includes intense study of God’s Word.

     Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship. True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.

     Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

     But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly — it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

     True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)

     We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

     Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.

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     Rev. Jared C. Wilson is director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and managing editor of For the Church. He blogs at The Gospel Coalition. He is on Twitter @JaredCWilson.

The Fall of a Believer

By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2014

     We may live in a culture that believes everyone will be saved, that we are “justified by death” and all you need to do to go to heaven is die, but God’s Word certainly doesn’t give us the luxury of believing that. Any quick and honest reading of the New Testament shows that the Apostles were convinced that nobody can go to heaven unless they believe in Christ alone for their salvation (John 14:6; Rom. 10:9–10).

     Historically, evangelical Christians have largely agreed on this point. Where they have differed has been on the matter of the security of salvation. People who would otherwise agree that only those who trust in Jesus will be saved have disagreed on whether anyone who truly believes in Christ can lose his salvation.

     Theologically speaking, what we are talking about here is the concept of apostasy. This term comes from a Greek word that means “to stand away from.” When we talk about those who have become apostate or have committed apostasy, we’re talking about those who have fallen from the faith or at least from the profession of faith in Christ that they once made.

     Many believers have held that yes, true Christians can lose their salvation because there are several New Testament texts that seem to indicate that this can happen. I’m thinking, for example, of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:18–20:

(1 Ti 1:18–20) 18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.   ESV

     This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

     Here, in the midst of instructions and admonitions related to Timothy’s life and ministry, Paul warns Timothy to keep the faith and to keep a good conscience, and to be reminded of those who didn’t. The Apostle refers to those who made “shipwreck of their faith,” men whom he “handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” This second point is a reference to Paul’s excommunication of these men, and the whole passage combines a sober warning with concrete examples of those who fell away grievously from their Christian profession.

     There is no question that professing believers can fall and fall radically. We think of men like Peter, for example, who denied Christ. But the fact that he was restored shows that not every professing believer who falls has fallen past the point of no return. At this point, we should distinguish a serious and radical fall from a total and final fall. Reformed theologians have noted that the Bible is full of examples of true believers who fall into gross sin and even protracted periods of impenitence. So, Christians do fall and they fall radically. What could be more serious than Peter’s public denial of Jesus Christ?

     But the question is, are these people who are guilty of a real fall irretrievably fallen and eternally lost, or is this fall a temporary condition that will, in the final analysis, be remedied by their restoration? In the case of a person such as Peter, we see that his fall was remedied by his repentance. However, what about those who fall away finally? Were they ever truly believers in the first place?

     Our answer to this question has to be no. First John 2:19 speaks of the false teachers who went out from the church as never having truly been part of the church. John describes the apostasy of people who had made a profession of faith but who never really were converted. Moreover, we know that God glorifies all whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30). If a person has true saving faith and is justified, God will preserve that person.

     In the meantime, however, if the person who has fallen is still alive, how do we know if he is a full apostate? One thing none of us can do is read the heart of other people. When I see a person who has made a profession of faith and later repudiates it, I don’t know whether he is a truly regenerate person who’s in the midst of a serious, radical fall but who will at some point in the future certainly be restored; or whether he is a person who was never really converted, whose profession of faith was false from the start.

     This question of whether a person can lose his salvation is not an abstract question. It touches us at the very core of our Christian lives, not only with regard to our concerns for our own perseverance, but also with regard to our concern for our family and friends, particularly those who seemed, for all outward appearances, to have made a genuine profession of faith. We thought their profession was credible, we embraced them as brothers or sisters, only to find out that they repudiated that faith.

     What do you do, practically, in a situation like that? First, you pray, and then, you wait. We don’t know the final outcome of the situation, and I’m sure there are going to be surprises when we get to heaven. We’re going to be surprised to see people there who we didn’t think would be, and we’re going to be surprised that we don’t see people there who we were sure would be there, because we simply don’t know the internal status of a human heart or of a human soul. Only God can see that soul, change that soul, and preserve that soul.

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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

Do Your Duty

By Gene Edward Veith 4/01/2014

     Duty is one of those words that used to carry great weight but really doesn’t anymore. It is still an important concept in military circles, but elsewhere doing something because it’s your duty has acquired a negative connotation. “You just say you love me because you think it’s your duty.” “They just go to church out of a sense of duty.”

     In the nineteenth century, though, calls to duty were inspirational. Just before the sea battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson sent up signal flags that sent this message to the fleet: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” The words electrified not just the sailors, inspiring them to victory over Napoleon, but the English people, who turned the line into a national slogan. William Wordsworth was a Romantic poet with a revolutionary impact, but he wrote an emotional celebration of the concept in his great poem “Ode to Duty.”

     Duty carries a moral weight, but it is not exactly the same as morality. A soldier might consider it his duty to keep his uniform immaculate and his barracks always ready for inspection, but there is no moral commandment that requires it. A Victorian gentleman might be a womanizer, a gambler, and a wastrel, but if you accused him of failing to do his duty—to his family, his country, or his profession—he might challenge you to a duel.

     A duty is an obligation related to a position, office, or station. In Christian terms, duties are the responsibilities that come from a person’s vocations.

     Luther’s Small Catechism teaches the doctrine of vocation with the help of a “Table of Duties.” It consists simply of Bible verses that address how pastors and church members, rulers and citizens, husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees should carry out their callings. These vocations are all “holy orders” — a term previously reserved for priests, monks, and nuns — for living out the Christian faith.

     We have vocations in the family, the workplace, the nation, and the church. That means that we also have duties in each of these estates. Most people still feel some sense of duty in these areas, however vaguely thought through, though the Bible ramps up these duties considerably and charges them with spiritual significance.

     A man might consider it his duty to provide for his wife and children. In a traditional family, his wife might consider it her duty to keep the house clean and to keep her family fed. (Even in less-traditional domestic arrangements wherein the wife works as many hours as her husband, she may feel guilty if she shirks these household “duties.”)

     The Bible has little to say about these kinds of division of labor, but it goes much deeper into God’s expectations for these callings. Wives are told to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). This is the wife’s duty. Then husbands are told to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). This is the husband’s duty. He is to sacrifice himself for his wife. She is to deny herself for her husband. These duties of mutual self-denial out of love for the spouse may indeed take the form of the husband working hard to put food on the table and the wife working hard to prepare that food and to clean the table, or it may take other forms. But looming behind these mundane family duties is the gospel of Christ. He gave up His life out of love for His church. Those in the church deny themselves in accepting Christ’s sacrifice.

     The relationship between husband and wife thus exemplifies what Jesus said about the Christian life in general:

     If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23–24)

     The cross refers not just to suffering but to sacrifice, denial, even crucifixion, of the self for someone else’s sake. That this cross-bearing is to take place “daily” means that our Lord is not referring to some glorious martyrdom, but to the ordinary, day-by-day tasks of life—vocation.

     The purpose of every vocation, according to Luther, is to love and serve one’s neighbor. And to love someone involves sacrificing yourself for that person. This happens in every vocation. This is the parents’ duty to their children, and their children’s duty to their parents. This describes our duties to our country, in our vocation as citizens, and it describes our duties in the church.

     On the job, the duties might be as simple as showing up to work on time, following instructions, and putting in an honest day’s work. Instead of sleeping in, taking it easy, and otherwise following his personal inclinations, the worker denies himself for the sake of his customers, his boss, and his fellow workers, as well as for his family that he is providing for. When he comes home bone-tired, we might say that he has presented his body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).

     And yet, there is no merit, no special reward, for doing one’s duty. Jesus makes that crystal clear in the parable that concludes, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’ ” (Luke 17:10).

     We are saved by grace through faith in Christ and by the work of His sacrifice, not by our own works or sacrifices. But Christ then calls us to arenas of service in ordinary life, of “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). He calls us to faithfulness in our multiple vocations. This may or may not involve big things, but it always involves little things (Luke 16:10), such as simply doing our duty.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 106

Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
106

7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.

ESV Study Bible

  • Good Samaritan 1
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  • Good Samaritan 3

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Learn to be content
     (Sept 26)    Bob Gass

     ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’

(Php 4:1) Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. ESV

     Discontentment is a trap that can ensnare you and rob you of joy and fulfilment. That’s why the Bible says you must learn to be content ‘whatever the circumstances’. The notion that a bigger car or a bigger house or a bigger salary will bring you contentment is a myth. There will always be something ‘bigger and better’ out there. There will always be people who have more than you, so you’ll never be able to get off the treadmill. That’s not to imply you should be satisfied with being enslaved to debt or destructive habits, or settle for complacency and mediocrity and not fulfil the call of God on your life. Not at all! You must keep working to improve yourself, while remaining totally dependent on God to bless you, promote you, and meet your needs. Contentment means not coveting another person’s position, possessions, or personality. Your security and self-worth should be based on who you are in Christ, not what you have in material assets. What a great way to live! Paul lived like that. He said, ‘I’ve learned…to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am’ (vv. 11-13 MSG). Each day you have a choice to make regarding your attitude. So, the word for you today is: learn to be content.

Is 45-46
Philip 4

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The board of the oldest institution of higher learning in America, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, declared its purpose was to “train a literate clergy.” Ten of its twelve presidents prior to the Revolution were ministers, and over fifty percent of the seventeenth-century graduates became ministers. The Rules and Precepts for the students, which were adopted this day, September, 26, 1642, stated: “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life.” The name of the College was Harvard.

American Minute
The Soul of Prayer
     by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)


     If there must be in the Church a communion of belief, there must be there also a communion of prayer. For the communion of prayer is the very first form the communion of belief takes. It is in this direction that Church unity lies. It lies behind prayer, in something to which prayer gives effect, in that which is the source and soul of prayer—in our relation with God in Christ, in our new creation. Prayer for Church unity will not bring that unity; but that which stirs, and founds, and wings prayer will. And prayer is its chief exercise. The true Church is just as wide as the community of Christian prayer, i.e. of due response to the Gospel of our reconcilement and communion with God. And it is a thing almost dreadful that Christians who pray to the same God, Christ, and Saviour should refuse to unite in prayer because of institutional differences.

     A prayer is also a promise. Every true prayer carries with it a vow. If it do not, it is not in earnest. It is not of a piece with life. Can we pray in earnest if we do not in the act commit ourselves to do our best to bring about the answer? Can we escape some king of hypocrisy? This is especially so with intercession. What is the value of praying for the poor if all the rest of our time and interest is given only to becoming rich? Where is the honesty of praying for our country if in our most active hours we are chiefly occupied in making something out of it, if we are strange to all sacrifice for it? Prayer is one form of sacrifice, but if it is the only form it is vain oblation. If we pray for our child that he may have God’s blessing, we are really promising that nothing shall be lacking on our part to be a divine blessing to him. And if we have no kind of religious relation to him (as plenty of Christian parents have none), our prayer is quite unreal, and its failure should not be a surprise. To pray for God’s kingdom is also so engage ourselves to service and sacrifice for it. To begin our prayer with a petition for the hallowing of God’s name and to have no real and prime place for holiness in our life or faith is not sincere. The prayer of the vindictive for forgiveness is mockery, like the prayer for daily bread from a wheat-cornerer. No such man could say the Lord’s Prayer but to his judgment. What would happen to the Church if the Lord’s Prayer became a test for membership as thoroughly as the Creeds have been? The Lord’s Prayer is also a vow to the Lord. None but a Christian can pray it, or should. Great worship of God is also a great engagement of ourselves, a great committal of our action. To begin the day with prayer is but a formality unless it go on in prayer, unless for the rest of it we pray in deed what we began in word. One has said that while prayer is the day’s best beginning it must not be like the handsome title-page of a worthless book.

     “Thy will be done.” Unless that were the spirit of all our prayer, how should we have courage to pray if we know ourselves at all, or if we have come to a time when we can have some retrospect on our prayers and their fate? Without this committal to the wisdom of God, prayer would be a very dangerous weapon in proportion as it was effective. No true God could promise us an answer to our every prayer. No Father of mankind could. The rain that saved my crop might ruin my neighbour’s. It would paralyse prayer to be sure that it would prevail as it is offered, certainly and at once. We should be terrified at the power put into our foolish hands. Nothing would do more to cure us of a belief in our own wisdom than the granting of some of our eager prayers. And nothing could humiliate us more than to have God say when the fulfilment of our desire brought leanness to our souls. “Well, you have it.” It is what He has said to many. But He said more, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”


--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).

The Soul of Prayer
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Faith is the whole being
turning Godward
and coming to rest
in the eternal certainties.
--- George H. Morrison

Faith is a quickening spirit,
it has insight;
and religious density betrays its absence,
being often the victim of the sermon
instead of the alumnus of the Gospel.
--- P.T. Forsyth     The Soul of Prayer

Peace is more than just the absence of war. True peace is justice. True peace is freedom. And true peace dictates the recognition of human rights.
--- Ronald Reagan

Now we can stop lying to ourselves. We are saved from our own self-deception the moment we say with the tax collector, God be merciful to me, a sinner (Luke 18:13)
--- James Bryan Smith     Embracing the Love of God: The Path and Promise of Christian Life

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 5.

     A Description Of The Temple.

     1. Now this temple, as I have already said, was built upon a strong hill. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar, for the ground about it was very uneven, and like a precipice; but when king Solomon, who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood naked. But in future ages the people added new banks, 12 and the hill became a larger plain. They then broke down the wall on the north side, and took in as much as sufficed afterward for the compass of the entire temple. And when they had built walls on three sides of the temple round about, from the bottom of the hill, and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for, [in which work long ages were spent by them, as well as all their sacred treasures were exhausted, which were still replenished by those tributes which were sent to God from the whole habitable earth,] they then encompassed their upper courts with cloisters, as well as they [afterward] did the lowest [court of the] temple. The lowest part of this was erected to the height of three hundred cubits, and in some places more; yet did not the entire depth of the foundations appear, for they brought earth, and filled up the valleys, as being desirous to make them on a level with the narrow streets of the city; wherein they made use of stones of forty cubits in magnitude; for the great plenty of money they then had, and the liberality of the people, made this attempt of theirs to succeed to an incredible degree; and what could not be so much as hoped for as ever to be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.

     2. Now for the works that were above these foundations, these were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters [of the outmost court] were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts. When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that "no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" for that second [court of the] temple was called "the Sanctuary," and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its buildings, although it were on the outside forty cubits, 13 was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits; for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps, it was no further to be entirely discerned within, being covered by the hill itself. Beyond these thirteen steps there was the distance of ten cubits; this was all plain; whence there were other steps, each of five cubits a-piece, that led to the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four, and of necessity two on the east. For since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place wherein they were to worship, there was a necessity for a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, over against the first gate. There was also on the other sides one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the court of the women; for as to the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall. This place was allotted to the women of our own country, and of other countries, provided they were of the same nation, and that equally. The western part of this court had no gate at all, but the wall was built entire on that side. But then the cloisters which were betwixt the gates extended from the wall inward, before the chambers; for they were supported by very fine and large pillars. These cloisters were single, and, excepting their magnitude, were no way inferior to those of the lower court.

     3. Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without the [inward court of the] holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold. Each gate had two doors, whose height was severally thirty cubits, and their breadth fifteen. However, they had large spaces within of thirty cubits, and had on each side rooms, and those, both in breadth and in length, built like towers, and their height was above forty cubits. Two pillars did also support these rooms, and were in circumference twelve cubits. Now the magnitudes of the other gates were equal one to another; but that over the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east over against the gate of the holy house itself, was much larger; for its height was fifty cubits; and its doors were forty cubits; and it was adorned after a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than the other. These nine gates had that silver and gold poured upon them by Alexander, the father of Tiberius. Now there were fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; whereas those that led thither from the other gates were five steps shorter.

     4. As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, and each a hundred cubits, though it was behind forty cubits narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed twenty cubits further. Its first gate was seventy cubits high, and twenty-five cubits broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward, did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those that saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty. But that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man's height. But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.

          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 25:24
     by D.H. Stern

24     It is better to live on a corner of the roof
     than to share the house with a nagging wife.


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


                The unblameable attitude

     If … thou rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee … --- Matthew 5:23.

     If when you come to the altar, there you remember that your brother has anything against you, not—If you rake up something by a morbid sensitiveness, but—“If thou rememberest,” that is, it is brought to your conscious mind by the Spirit of God: “first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Never object to the intense sensitiveness of the Spirit of God in you when He is educating you down to the scruple.

     “First be reconciled to thy brother …” Our Lord’s direction is simple—“first be reconciled.” Go back the way you came, go the way indicated to you by the conviction given at the altar; have an attitude of mind and a temper of soul to the one who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing. Jesus does not mention the other person, He says—you go. There is no question of your rights. The stamp of the saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.

     “And then come and offer thy gift.” The process is clearly marked. First, the heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, then the sudden checking by the sensitiveness of the Holy Spirit, and the stoppage at the point of conviction; then the way of obedience to the word of God, constructing an unblameable attitude of mind and temper to the one with whom you have been in the wrong; then the glad, simple, unhindered offering of your gift to God.

My Utmost for His Highest
Seven affirmations in the letter
     to the Galatians


                In order, in conclusion, to emphasize the pervasive influence of the cross, namely that we cannot eliminate it from any area of our thinking or living, we shall look through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There are two main reasons for this choice. First, it is arguably his first letter. This is not the place to assess the pros and cons of the ‘South Galatian’ and ‘North Galatian’ theories. The similarity of the contents with the letter to the Romans may suggest the later date, but the situation presupposed in Galatians fits the Acts chronology much better and strongly favours the earlier date. In this case the letter was written about AD 48, within fifteen years of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Secondly, the gospel according to Paul in Galatians (which he defends, along with his apostolic authority, as coming from God, not man) focuses on the cross. Indeed the letter contains seven striking affirmations about the death of Jesus, each of which illumines a different facet of it. When we put them together, we have an amazingly comprehensive grasp of the pervasive influence of the cross.

The Cross of Christ
After The Lecture
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                After The Lecture

I am asking the difficult question. I need help.
  I'm not asking from ill will.
  I have no desire to see you coping
  Or not coping with the unmanageable coils
  Of a problem frivolously called up.
  I've read your books, had glimpses of a climate
  That is rigorous, though not too hard
  For the spirit. I may have grown
  Since reading them; there is no scale
  To judge by, neither is the soul
  Measurable. I know all the tropes
  Of religion, how God is not there
  To go to; how time is what we buy
  With his absence, and how we look
  Through the near end of the binocular at pain,
  Evil, deformity, I have tried
  Bandaging my sharp eyes
  With humility, but still the hearing
  Of the ear holds; from as far off as Tibet
  The cries come.
       From one not to be penned
  In a concept, and differing in kind
  From the human; whose attributes are the negations
  Of thought; who holds us at bay with
  His symbols, the opposed emblems
  Of hawk and dove, what can my prayers win
  For the kindred souls brought close to the bone
  To be tortured, and burning, burning
  Through history with their own strange light?

Selected poems, 1946-1968
As if man’s authorization counted!
     The Teacher's Commentary


     It was early when the apostle rolled over on his pallet and saw the shafts of Morning sunlight sifting through the shutters.

     The confrontation over Peter’s sudden unwillingness to eat with Gentile converts (
Gal. 2:12) had heightened Paul’s awareness of the dangers facing the young church. Then messengers had come, reporting that delegations of Christian Pharisees had visited the cities where churches had been planted. They taught that the Gentile Christians must place themselves under the Law of Israel, and many were obeying them.

     Deeply burdened, Paul had called a number of the brothers together and prayed with them through most of the night.

     Now, fully awake, Paul decided to act. Filled with a deep sense of urgency, he found a pen and papyrus sheets and attacked the task he had set himself. His pen raced; passionate phrases appeared. All the churches in southern Galatia must receive a copy of this, his first letter of instruction and his first attempt to set down a theology for the new Christian movement.

     “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ” (
1:1). These Judaizers claimed to be authorized by the Jerusalem church. As if man’s authorization counted!

The Teacher's Commentary
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Deuteronomy 31:14


     A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy!

     BIBLE TEXT /
Deuteronomy 31:14 / The Lord said to Moses: The time is drawing near for you to die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting, that I may instruct him. Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the Tent of Meeting.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Deuteronomy Rabbah 9, 9 / Call Joshua. He said to Him, “Master of the World, let Joshua take my position, so I can live.” The Holy One, praised is He, said, “Do to him what he does to you.” Moses immediately arose and went to Joshua’s house. Joshua was afraid and said, “Moses, my master come to me.” They went out for a walk, Moses walking to the left of Joshua. They entered the Tent of Meeting, the pillar of cloud came down and separated them. When the pillar of cloud left, Moses went to Joshua and said, “What did the Word say to you?” Joshua said to him, “When the Word used to reveal itself to you, did I know what it spoke to you?” At that moment Moses cried out, saying, “A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy!” And Solomon has explained it, “For love is as fierce as death, jealousy as severe as Sheol” (
Song of Songs 8:6, authors’ translation)—the love that Moses had for Joshua [was as fierce as death], and the jealousy Moses had for Joshua [was as severe as Sheol]. When he [Moses] accepted that he would die, the Holy One, praised is He, began to appease him. He [God] said to him, “I swear [lit., by your life]! In this world you led My children, so too in the world to come, through you I will lead them.” From where [is the proof]? As it says, “Then his people will remember the ancient days, and Moses” (Isaiah 63:11, authors’ translation).

     CONTEXT / How does a human being act when he or she knows death is near? For Moses, according to the Torah, it was with quiet acceptance. In the Midrash, however, the Rabbis imagine a very different reaction. They picture Moses trying to save his life by making a deal with God: “Master of the World, let Joshua take my position, so I can live. I’ll give up my job as leader of the people, and in return, let me not die.”

     God agrees to the suggestion. Moses and Joshua will switch positions. Following accepted protocol, Moses immediately arose and went to Joshua’s house, and not vice versa. Joshua at first has great difficulty treating his former master as his disciple: Joshua was afraid and said, “Moses, my master, come to me.” Moses even walks to the left of Joshua, in accordance with proper etiquette. But when God, through the pillar of cloud, reveals a divine message (“the Word”) only to Joshua, Moses feels left out. He asks Joshua, “What did the Word say to you?” And Moses is put in his place. Joshua, it seems, has quickly gotten accustomed to his new superior role and isn’t about to share the privileges of his office with anyone.

     Moses is terribly hurt. “A hundred deaths but not one bit of envy! I would rather die a hundred times than experience even one taste of envy!” Moses retracts the deal with God and prepares for death. The prooftext for how hurt Moses is comes from
Song of Songs: “For love is as fierce as death, jealousy as severe as Sheol.” Sheol is, in biblical thought, the dark place beneath the earth where all souls go for eternal repose after death.

     God consoles Moses. Note God’s opening word: He [God] said to him, “I swear [lit., by your life]! The word חַיֶיךָ/ḥayyekha, “by your life,” is an idiomatic expression used when someone is about to swear an oath. How ironic: We humans usually swear using God as the ultimate reference point. God swears using Moses. This expression has both a positive and a negative side. How painful it must have been for Moses to hear God say, at the moment he accepts death, that his life is so fleeting. At the same time, by making Moses the point of reference—“by your life!”—God is saying, in essence, “You will be around in the future.” Though he must die, he will live again and serve as leader of the people. The basis for that promise comes from the Rabbis’ noticing that the verb in
Isaiah is in the future tense: וַיִּזְכֹּר/va-yizkor, “Then his people will remember the ancient days, and Moses.”

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 26

     How great is God—beyond our understanding!
---
Job 36:26.

     I cannot read the Bible without seeing that God has moved his believers in the direction of courage and sacrifice. (Preaching Through the Bible)

     In the direction of courage, this is not mere animal courage, for then the argument might be matched by many gods whose names are spelled without capitals. No, this is moral courage, noble heroism, fierce rebuke of personal and national corruption, lofty and inspiring judgment of all good and all evil.

     The God idea made mean people valiant soldier-prophets; it broadened the piping voice of the timid inquirer into the thunder of the national teacher and leader. For brass it brought gold; for iron, silver; for wood, brass; and for stones, iron. Instead of the thorn it brought up the fir tree and instead of the brier the myrtle tree, and it made the bush burn with fire.

     Wherever the God idea took complete possession of the mind, every faculty was lifted up to a new capacity and borne on to heroic attempts and conquests. The saints who received it conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames. Their weakness was turned to strength, they became powerful in battle, they routed foreign armies.

     Any idea that inspired life and hope in humankind is to be examined with reverent care. The quality of the courage determines its value and the value of the idea that excited and sustained it.

     What is true of the courage is true also of the sacrifice, which has ever followed the acceptance of the God idea. This is not the showy and fanatical sacrifice of mere bloodletting. Many a juggernaut, great and small, drinks the blood of its devotees.

     But spiritual discipline, self-renunciation, the esteeming of others better than one’s self, the suppression of selfishness—these are the practical uses of the God idea. It is not a barren sentiment.

     It arouses courage. It necessitates self-sacrifice. It touches the imagination as with fire. It deepens every thought. It sanctifies the universe. It makes heaven possible. Unknown, unknowable. Yes, but not therefore unusable or unprofitable.
--- Joseph Parker

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day   September 26
     How One Sermon Killed Another


     At age 18, while studying in a city near his home, Aeneas Sylvius de’ Piccolomini heard a friar preaching. He was impressed and entered church life, but without giving up his vices. Aeneas worked his way up the religious ladder, and was elected as Pope Pius II at age 53. He understood world politics as few did, and he was brilliant. He was a grammarian, geographer, historian, novelist, and orator. But he wasn’t pious. He wrote explicit love stories, fathered children here and there, and instructed young men in ways to “indulge” themselves.

     He also had something to say to princes. On September 26, 1460 Pius called European leaders together in Mantua to discuss his life’s dream—a new crusade against the Turks. He preached three hours at the opening session, telling the princes they must emulate Stephen, Peter, and Andrew who were willing to lay down their lives in holy warfare. The Turks have robbed Christianity of its greatest treasures, he said—Jerusalem, where Christ lived; Bethlehem, where he was born; the Jordan River, where he was baptized; Calvary, where he was crucified; Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians. Joshua had fought for this land. So had Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Earlier crusaders had demolished Muslim strongholds and liberated Christian sites. “O! That Godfrey were once more present, and Baldwin and the other mighty men who broke through the ranks of the Turks and regained Jerusalem!”

     His message greatly stirred the assembly, and for a moment the princes appeared ready to rush from the room to undertake a new crusade. But the pope was followed by another preacher, Cardinal Bessarion, who spoke for another three hours. By the end of the day, the princes were so worn out by the preaching they had no passion for the cause.

     The congress became mired in political rivalry, and the promises made there were never kept; the days of the crusades were over. Yet Pope Pius continued dreaming of one, and his dying words were, “Pray for me, for I am a sinner. Bid my brethren continue this holy expedition.”

     It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. Our tongues are small too, and yet they brag about big things.
---
James 3:4,5a.

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

          Morning - September 26

     “The myrtle trees that were in the bottom.” --- Zechariah 1:8.

     The vision in this chapter describes the condition of Israel in Zechariah’s day; but being interpreted in its aspect towards us, it describes the Church of God as we find it now in the world. The Church is compared to a myrtle grove flourishing in a valley. It is hidden, unobserved, secreted; courting no honour and attracting no observation from the careless gazer. The Church, like her head, has a glory, but it is concealed from carnal eyes, for the time of her breaking forth in all her splendour is not yet come. The idea of tranquil security is also suggested to us: for the myrtle grove in the valley is still and calm, while the storm sweeps over the mountain summits. Tempests spend their force upon the craggy peaks of the Alps, but down yonder where flows the stream which maketh glad the city of our God, the myrtles flourish by the still waters, all unshaken by the impetuous wind. How great is the inward tranquility of God’s Church! Even when opposed and persecuted, she has a peace which the world gives not, and which, therefore, it cannot take away: the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps the hearts and minds of God’s people. Does not the metaphor forcibly picture the peaceful, perpetual growth of the saints? The myrtle sheds not her leaves, she is always green; and the Church in her worst time still hath a blessed verdure of grace about her; nay, she has sometimes exhibited most verdure when her winter has been sharpest. She has prospered most when her adversities have been most severe. Hence the text hints at victory. The myrtle is the emblem of peace, and a significant token of triumph. The brows of conquerors were bound with myrtle and with laurel; and is not the Church ever victorious? Is not every Christian more than a conqueror through him that loved him? Living in peace, do not the saints fall asleep in the arms of victory?


          Evening - September 26

     “Howl, fir tree, for the cedar is fallen.” --- Zechariah 11:2.

     When in the forest there is heard the crash of a falling oak, it is a sign that the woodman is abroad, and every tree in the whole company may tremble lest to-morrow the sharp edge of the axe should find it out. We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the appointed hour is stealing on apace. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it. May we never be like the birds in the steeple, which build their nests when the bells are tolling, and sleep quietly when the solemn funeral peals are startling the air. May we regard death as the most weighty of all events, and be sobered by its approach. It ill behoves us to sport while our eternal destiny hangs on a thread. The sword is out of its scabbard—let us not trifle; it is furbished, and the edge is sharp—let us not play with it. He who does not prepare for death is more than an ordinary fool, he is a madman. When the voice of God is heard among the trees of the garden, let fig tree and sycamore, and elm and cedar, alike hear the sound thereof.

     Be ready, servant of Christ, for thy Master comes on a sudden, when an ungodly world least expects him. See to it that thou be faithful in his work, for the grave shall soon be digged for thee. Be ready, parents, see that your children are brought up in the fear of God, for they must soon be orphans; be ready, men of business, take care that your affairs are correct, and that you serve God with all your hearts, for the days of your terrestrial service will soon be ended, and you will be called to give account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. May we all prepare for the tribunal of the great King with a care which shall be rewarded with the gracious commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant”

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 26

          WHEN ALL THY MERCIES, O MY GOD

     Joseph Addison, 1672–1719

     Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. (1 Chronicles 16:11 KJV)

     A reflection upon God’s blessings will always result in a response of worship and praise; a neglect of gratitude will eventually produce a lifestyle of self-centeredness.

     Joseph Addison, the author of this hymn, wrote this introduction for his text:

     If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker. The Supreme being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed immediately from His hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Any blessing which we enjoy, by what means soever derived, is the gift of Him who is the great author of good and the Father of mercies.

     Joseph Addison was recognized in his era as one of England’s literary greats. He was not only a writer and a moralist, but a man of affairs in his government. He was elected to Parliament and then appointed successively as Under Secretary, Secretary for Ireland, and finally Secretary of State.

     These words are thought to have been written by Joseph Addison following his rescue from a shipwreck during a storm off the Coast of Genoa, Italy. The hymn originally had 13 stanzas. It was published on August 9, 1712, in a London daily paper, The Spectator, of which Addison served for a time as editor. The surviving four stanzas have since provided God’s people with a meaningful aid in expressing grateful worship to God for all of His enduring mercies:

     When all Thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost in wonder, love and praise.
     Unnumbered comforts to my soul Thy tender care bestowed before my infant heart conceived from whom those comforts flowed.
     When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou with health renewed my face; and, when in sins and sorrows bowed, revived my soul with grace.
     Thru ev’ry period of my life Thy goodness I’ll pursue, and after death, in distant worlds, the glorious theme renew.


     For Today: Psalm 63:1-5; 86:5–17; 89:1; 103:8–14; James 3:17

     Reflect with this author upon God’s mercy of comfort, His mercy of physical and spiritual healing, His mercy of reviving grace—then, respond to Him with grateful expressions of worship and praise. Allow this hymn to help ---

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

          DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD

     4. If God be immutable, it is sad news to those that are resolved in wickedness, or careless of returning to that duty he requires. Sinners must not expect that God will alter his will, make a breach upon his nature, and violate his own word to gratify their lusts. No, it is not reasonable God should dishonor himself to secure them, and cease to be God, that they may continue to be wicked, by changing his own nature, that they may be unchanged in their vanity. God is the same; goodness is as amiable in his sight, and sin as abominable in his eyes now, as it was at the beginning of the world. Being the same God, he is the same enemy to the wicked as the same friend to the righteous.  He is the same in knowledge, and cannot forget sinful acts. He is the same in will, and cannot approve of unrighteous practices. Goodness cannot but be always the object of his love, and wickedness cannot but be always the object of his hatred: and as his aversion to sin is always the same, so as he hath been in his judgments upon sinners, the same he will be still; for the same perfection of immutability belongs to his justice for the punishment of sin, as to his holiness for his disaffection to sin. Though the covenant of works was changeable by the crime of man violating it, yet it was unchangeable in regard of God’s justice vindicating it, which is inflexible in the punishment of the breaches of his law. The law had a preceptive part, and a minatory part: when man changed the observation of the precept, the righteous nature of God could not null the execution of the threatening; he could not, upon the account of this perfection, neglect his just word, and countenance the unrighteous transgression. Though there were no more rational creatures in being but Adam and Eve, yet God subjected them to that death he had assured them of: and from this immutability of his will, ariseth the necessity of the suffering of the Son of God for the relief of the apostate creature. His will in the second covenant is as unchangeable as that in the first, only repentance is settled as the condition of the second, which was not indulged in the first; and without repentance, the sinner must irrevocably perish, or God must change his nature: there must be a change in man; there can be none in God; his bow is bent, his arrows are ready, if the wicked do not turn (Psalm 7:11). There is not an atheist, an hypocrite, a profane person, that ever was upon the earth, but God’s soul abhorred him as such, and the like he will abhor forever; while any therefore continue so, they may sooner expect the heavens should roll as they please, the sun stand still at their order, the stars change their course at their beck, than that God should change his nature, which is opposite to profaneness and vanity; “Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” (Job 9:4.)

     Use 2. Of comfort. The immutability of a good God is a strong ground of consolation. Subjects wish a good prince to live forever, as being loth to change him, but care not how soon they are rid of an oppressor. This unchangeableness of God’s will shows him as ready to accept any that come to him as ever he was; so that we may with confidence make our address to him, since he cannot change his affections to goodness. The fear of change in a friend hinders a full reliance upon him; an assurance of stability encourages hope and confidence. This attribute is the strongest prop for faith in all our addresses; it is not a single perfection, but the glory of all those that belong to his nature; for he is unchangeable in his love (Jer. 31:3), in his truth (Psalm 117:2). The more solemn revelation of himself in this name, Jehovah, which signifies chiefly his eternity and immutability, was to support the Israelites’ faith in expectation of a deliverance from Egypt, that he had not retracted his purpose, and his promise made to Abraham for giving Canaan to his posterity (Exod. 3:14–17). Herein is the basis and strength of all his promises; therefore, saith the Psalmist, “Those that know thy name, will put their trust in thee” (Psalm 9:10): those that are spiritually acquainted with thy name, Jehovah, and have a true sense of it upon their hearts, will put their trust in thee. His goodness could not be distrusted, if his unchangeableness were well apprehended and considered. All distrust would fly before it, as darkness before the sun; it only gets advantage of us when we are not well grounded in his name; and if ever we trusted God, we have the same reason to trust him forever: (Isa. 26:4) “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;” or, as it is in the Hebrew, “a Rock of Ages,” that is, perpetually unchangeable. We find the traces of God’s immutability in the creatures. He has, by his peremptory decree, set bounds to the sea: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). Do we fear the sea overflowing us in this island? No, because of his fixed decree. And is not his promise in his Word as unchangeable as his word concerning inanimate things, as good a ground to rest upon?

     1. The covenant stands unchangeable. Mutable creatures break their leagues and covenants, and snap them asunder like Samson’s cords, when they are not accommodated to their interests. But an unchangeable God keeps his: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, nor shall the covenant of my peace be removed” (Isa. 54:10). The heaven and earth shall sooner fall asunder, and the strongest and firmest parts of the creation crumble to dust, sooner than one iota of my covenant shall fail. It depends upon the unchangeableness of his will and the unchangeableness of his word, and, therefore, is called “the immutability of his counsel” (Heb. 6:17). It is the fruit of the everlasting purpose of God; whence the apostle links purpose and grace together (2 Tim. 1:9). A covenant with a nation may be changeable, because it may not be built upon the eternal purpose of God, “to put his fear in the heart;” but with respect to the creature’s obedience. Thus God chose Jerusalem as the place wherein he would “dwell forever” (Psalm 132:14), yet he threatens to depart from them when they had broken covenant with him; “and the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city to the mountain on the east side” (Ezek. 11:33). The covenant of grace doth not run, “I will be your God if you will be my people;” but “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hos. 2:19, &c.) “I will betroth thee to me forever; I, will say, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art my God.” His everlasting purpose is, to write his laws in the hearts of the elect. He puts a condition to his covenant of grace, the condition of faith, and he resolves to work that condition in the hearts of the elect; and, therefore, believers have two immutable pillars for their support, stronger than those erected by Solomon at the porch of the temple (1 Kings 7:21), called Jakin and Boaz, to note the firmness of that building dedicated to God; these are election, or the standing. counsel of God, and the covenant of grace. He will not revoke the covenant, and blot the names of his elect out of the book of life.

     2. Perseverance is ascertained. It consists not with the majesty of God to call a person effectually to himself to-day, to make him fit for his eternal love, to give him faith, and take away that faith to-morrow. His effectual call is the fruit of his eternal election, and that counsel hath no other foundation but his constant and unchangeable will; a foundation that stands sure, and, therefore, called the foundation of God, and not of the creature; “the foundation of God stands sure, the Lord knows who are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). It is not founded upon our own natural strength; it may be then subject to change, as all the products of nature are. The fallen angels had created grace in their innocency, but lost it by their fall. Were this the foundation of the creature, it might soon be shaken; since man, after his revolt, can ascribe nothing constant to himself, but his own inconstancy. But the foundation is not in the infirmity of nature, but the strength of grace, and of the grace of God, who is immutable, who wants not virtue to be able, nor kindness to be willing, to reserve his own foundation. To what purpose doth our Saviour tell his disciples their names “were written in heaven” (Luke 10:20), but to mark the infallible certainty of their salvation by an opposition to those things which perish, and have their “names written in the earth” (Jer. 17:23); or upon the sand, where they may be defaced? And why should Christ order his disciples to rejoice that their names were written in heaven, if God were changeable to blot them out again? or why should the apostle assure us, that though God had rejected the greatest part of the Jews, he had not, therefore, rejected his people elected according to his purpose and immutable counsel; because there are none of the elect of God but will come to salvation? For, saith he, the “election hath obtained it” (Rom. 11:7); that is, all those that are of the election have obtained it, and the others are hardened. Where the seal of sanctification is stamped, it is a testimony of God’s election, and that foundation shall stand sure: “The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, the Lord knows who are his;” that is the foundation, the “naming the name of Christ,” or believing in Christ, and “departing from iniquity,” is the seal. As it is impossible when God calls those things that are not, but that they should spring up into being and appear before him; so it is impossible but that the seed of God, by his eternal purpose, should be brought to a spiritual life, and that calling cannot be retracted; for that “gift and calling is without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). And when repentance is removed from God in regard of some works, the immutability of those works is declared; and the reason of that immutability is their pure dependence on the eternal favor and unchangeable grace of God “purposed in himself” (Eph. 1:9, 11), and not upon the mutability of the creature. Hence their happiness is not as patents among men, quam diu bene se gesserint, so long as they behave themselves well; but they have a promise that they shall behave themselves so as never wholly to depart from God (Jer. 32:40): “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God will not turn from them, to do them good, and promiseth that they shall not turn from him forever, or forsake him. And the bottom of it is the everlasting covenant, and, therefore, believing and sealing for security are linked together (Eph. 1:13). And when God doth inwardly teach us his law, he puts in a will not to depart from it: (Psalm 119:102) “I have not departed from thy judgments;” what is the reason? “For thou hast taught me.”

     3. By this eternal happiness is insured. This is the inference made from the eternity and unchangeableness of God in the verse following the text (ver. 28): “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.” This is the sole conclusion drawn from those perfections of God solemnly asserted before. The children which the prophets and apostles have begotten to thee, shall be totally delivered from the relics of their apostasy, and the punishment due to them, and rendered partakers of immortality with thee, as sons to dwell in their Father’s house forever. The Spirit begins a spiritual life here, to fit for an immutable life in glory hereafter, where believers shall be placed upon a throne that cannot be shaken, and possess a crown that shall not be taken off their heads forever.

     Use 3. Of exhortation. 1. Let a sense of the changeableness and uncertainty of all other things beside God, be upon us. There are as many changes as there are figures in the world. The whole fashion of the world is a transient thing; every man may say as Job, “Changes and war are against me” (Job 10:17). Lot chose the plain of Sodom, because it was the richer soil. He was but a little tine there before he was taken prisoner, and his substance made the spoil of his enemies. That is again restored; but a while after, fire from heaven devours his wealth, though his person was secured from the judgment by a special Providence. We burn with a desire to settle ourselves, but mistake the way, and build castles in the air, which vanish like bubbles of soap in water. And, therefore,

     (1.) Let not our thoughts dwell much upon them. Do but consider those souls that are in the possession of an unchangeable God, that behold his never-fading glory! Would it not be a kind of hell to them to have their thoughts starting out to these things, or find any desire in themselves to the changeable trifles of the earth? Nay, have we not reason to think that they cover their faces with shame, that ever they should have such a weakness of spirit when they were here below, as to spend more thoughts upon them than were necessary for this present life; much more that they should at any time value and court them above an unchangeable good? Do they not disdain themselves that they should ever debase the immutable perfections of God, as to have neglecting thoughts of him at any time, for the entertainment of such a mean and inconstant rival?

     (2.) Much less should we trust in them, or rejoice in them. The best things are mutable, and things of such a nature are not fit objects of confidence. Trust not in riches, they have their wanes as well as increases; they rise sometimes like a torrent, and flow in upon men, but resemble also a torrent in as sudden a fall and departure, and leave nothing but slime behind them. Trust not in honor; all the honor and applause in the world is no better than an inheritance of wind, which the pilot is not sure of, but shifts from one corner to another, and stands not perpetually in the same point of the heavens. How, in a few ages did the house of David, a great monarch, and a man after God’s own heart, descend to a mean condition, and all the glory of that house shut up in the stock of a carpenter?   ( The Hebrew for carpenter is the same for a stone cutter.)  David’s sheep-hook was turned into a seeptre, and the sceptre by the same hand of Providence turned into a hatchet in Joseph his descendant. Rejoice not immoderately in wisdom; that, and learning languish with age. A wound in the head may impair that which is the glory of man. If an organ be out of frame, folly may succeed, and all a man’s prudence be wound up in an irrecoverable dotage. Nebuchadnezzar was no fool, yet, by a sudden hand of God, he became not only a fool or a madman, but a kind of brute. Rejoice not in strength; that decays, and a mighty man may live to see his strong arm withered, and a grasshopper to become a burthen (Eccles. 12:5): “The strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders shall cease because they are few” (ver. 3): nor rejoice in children; they are like birds upon a tree, that make a little chirping music, and presently fall into the fowler’s net. Little did Job expect such sad news as the loss of all his progeny at a blow, when the messenger knocked at his gate; and such changes happen oftentimes when our expectations of comfort, and a contentment in them, are at the highest. How often doth a string crack when the musician hath wound it up to a just height for a tune, and all his pains and delight marred in a moment! Nay, all these things change while we are using them, like ice that melts between our fingers, and flowers that wither while we are smelling to them. The apostle gave them a good title when he called them “uncertain riches,” and thought it a strong argument to dissuade them from trusting in them (1 Tim. 6:17). The wealth of the merchant depends upon the winds and waves, and the revenue of the husbandman upon the clouds; and since they depend upon those things which are used to express the most changeableness, they can be no fit object for trust. Besides, God sometimes kindles a fire under all a man’s glory, which doth insensibly consume it (Isa. 10:16); and while we have them, the fear of losing them renders us not very happy in the fruition of them; we can scarce tell whether they are contentments or no, because sorrow follows them so close at the heels. It is not an unnecessary exhortation for good men; the best men have been apt to place too much trust in them. David thought himself immutable in his prosperity, and such thoughts could not be without some immoderate outlets of the heart to them, and confidences in them; and Job promised himself to die in his nest, and “multiply his days as the sand,” without any interruption (Job 29:18, 19, &c.); but he was mistaken and disappointed. Let me add this: trust not in men, who are as inconstant as anything else, and often change their most ardent affections into implacable hatred; and though their affections may not be changed, the power to help you may. Haman’s friends, that depended on him one day, were crest-fallen the next, when their patron was to exchange his chariot of state for an ignominious gallows.

     (3.) Prefer an immutable God before mutable creatures. Is it not a horrible thing to see what we are, and what we possess, daily crumbling to dust, and in a continual flux from us, and not seek out something that is permanent, and always abide the same, for our portion? In God, or Wisdom, which is Christ, there is substance (Prov. 8:21), in which respect he is opposed to all the things in the world, that are but shadows, that are shorter or longer, according to the motion of the sun; mutable also, by every little body that intervenes. God is subject to no decay within, to no force without; nothing in his own nature can change him from what he is, and there is no power above can hinder him from being what he will to the soul. He is an ocean of all perfection: he wants nothing without himself to render him blessed, which may allure him to a change. His creatures can want nothing out of him to make them happy, whereby they may be enticed to prefer anything before him. If we enjoy other things, it is by God’s donation, who can as well withdraw them as bestow them; and it is but a reasonable, as well as a necessary thing, to endeavor the enjoyment of the immutable Benefactor, rather than his revocable gifts. If the creatures had a sufficient virtue in themselves to ravish our thoughts and engross our souls; yet when we take a prospect of a fixed and unchangeable Being, what beauty, what strength have any of those things to vie with him? How can they bear up and maintain their interest against a lively thought and sense of God? All the glory of them would fly before him like that of the stars before the sun. They were once nothing, they may be nothing again; as their own nature brought them not out of nothing, so their nature secures them not from being reduced to nothing. What an unhappiness is it to have our affections set upon that which retains something of its non esse with its esse, its not being with its being; that lives indeed, but in a continual flux, and may lose that pleasurableness to-morrow which charms us to-day?

The Existence and Attributes of God


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