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     2 Chronicles   25 - 27


2 Chronicles 25

Amaziah Reigns in Judah

2 Chronicles 25 1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. 3 And as soon as the royal power was firmly his, he killed his servants who had struck down the king his father. 4 But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not die because of their children, nor children die because of their fathers, but each one shall die for his own sin.”

Amaziah’s Victories

5 Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. 6 He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. 7 But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. 8 But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” 9 And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” 10 Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. 11 But Amaziah took courage and led out his people and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 men of Seir. 12 The men of Judah captured another 10,000 alive and took them to the top of a rock and threw them down from the top of the rock, and they were all dashed to pieces. 13 But the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.

Amaziah’s Idolatry

14 After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. 15 Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

Israel Defeats Amaziah

17 Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 18 And Joash the king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 19 You say, ‘See, I have struck down Edom,’ and your heart has lifted you up in boastfulness. But now stay at home. Why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. 21 So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 23 And Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for 400 cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God, in the care of Obed-edom. He seized also the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.

25 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, from first to last, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? 27 From the time when he turned away from the LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there. 28 And they brought him upon horses, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David.


2 Chronicles 26

Uzziah Reigns in Judah

2 Chronicles 26 1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers. 3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.

6 He went out and made war against the Philistines and broke through the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod, and he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. 7 God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabians who lived in Gurbaal and against the Meunites. 8 The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them. 10 And he built towers in the wilderness and cut out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s commanders. 12 The whole number of the heads of fathers’ houses of mighty men of valor was 2,600. 13 Under their command was an army of 307,500, who could make war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 And Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging. 15 In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.

Uzziah’s Pride and Punishment

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, 18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.” 19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.

22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz wrote. 23 And Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son reigned in his place.


2 Chronicles 27

Jotham Reigns in Judah

2 Chronicles 27 1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the LORD. But the people still followed corrupt practices. 3 He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD and did much building on the wall of Ophel. 4 Moreover, he built cities in the hill country of Judah, and forts and towers on the wooded hills. 5 He fought with the king of the Ammonites and prevailed against them. And the Ammonites gave him that year 100 talents of silver, and 10,000 cors of wheat and 10,000 of barley. The Ammonites paid him the same amount in the second and the third years. 6 So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God. 7 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all his wars and his ways, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 8 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. 9 And Jotham slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.

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How Could John, a Poor, Uneducated Fisherman, Write the Gospel of John?

By J. Warner Wallace 9/29/2017

     A fellow Christian Case Maker I met at Frank Turek’s CrossExamined Academy is teaching a church group about the reliability of the New TestamentA question was raised about the Apostle John: “How could John, an uneducated fisherman, have written such a literate and theologically rich gospel account?” After all, John was just a fisherman; was he educated enough to accomplish something this sophisticated? Irenaeus, certainly thought so. This historic Bishop of Lugdunum, was the student of Polycarp and Ignatius (two men who were taught directly by the Apostle John). Irenaeus identified the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel, reflecting the historic understanding of the earliest Christians. In spite of this, many skeptics are eager to dismiss the authorship of John (often in an attempt to further discredit the supernatural New Testament claims related to Jesus) by doubting John’s level of education and degree of literacy. There are, however several good reasons to resist the notion that John, the son of Zebedee, was too illiterate to have written the fourth Gospel:

     John May Have Been Educated After All | Don’t be too quick to dismiss John as uneducated. Hebrew children were required to memorize the first five books of Torah before they were twelve years old. Young students were also required to discuss these texts and write them. There is good reason to believe John and James were not exempt from this requirement. In fact, the internal evidence from the Gospel suggests John and James were more than familiar with the rabbis and Jewish teachers of their day. Take, for example, this description of Jesus’ arrest and arrival at the residence of Annas (the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest):

     John 18:15-16 | Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.

     This “other disciple” is none other than John, the son of Zebedee, and he is described as someone who was well known to the high priest. In fact, he was known adequately enough to gain admission for himself and Peter. Interestingly, while Peter was here in Anna’s courtyard, he was identified by his simple Galilean accent (see Luke 22:59). No one ever identified John in this way, however. John may have been a fisherman, but this doesn’t mean he was necessarily uneducated or unsophisticated. Paul was also quick to identify himself as a tentmaker, but obviously had access to a good education.

     John May Have Employed a Scribe | But even if John was under-educated, this does not preclude the reasonable use of a scribe. An assistant of this nature (known as an “amanuensis”) was commonplace at this point in history. Paul repeatedly used a scribe to help him as he dictated his letters to the Church. Tertius helped Paul write the letter to the Romans (Romans 16:22), and Paul admitted using a scribe to help him with 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:21). If John wrote his Gospel and letters in a similar manner, it is reasonable to infer his use of a scribe. If this was the case, the degree of Greek sophistication would be attributed to the scribe rather than to John. When skeptics point to differences in the form of Greek seen in some of John’s writings (when compared with one another), they most certainly are ignoring the use of an “amanuensis”.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment

By Albert Mohler 3/6/2017

     The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being -- or to all human beings -- is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort.

     The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s The Shack has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published by Young and two friends, has now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into over thirty languages. It is now one of the best-selling paperback books of all time, and its readers are enthusiastic.

     According to Young, the book was originally written for his own children. In essence, it can be described as a narrative theodicy — an attempt to answer the question of evil and the character of God by means of a story. In this story, the main character is grieving the brutal kidnapping and murder of his seven-year-old daughter when he receives what turns out to be a summons from God to meet him in the very shack where the man’s daughter had been murdered. In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.

     The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.

     While the literary device of an unconventional “trinity” of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

     Albert Mohler Books |  Go to Books Page

Is Biblical Teaching on Sex Hateful and Repressive?

By Sean McDowell 9/28/2017

     Let’s face it; we live in a world saturated with sex. Our movies, music, novels, politics, and even advertisements are dominated by sex. Essentially, the celebrated view of sex in our culture is: if it feels good, do it. According to the ideas propagated by the late Hugh Hefner, and others in the sexual revolution, anything that prevents someone from experiencing consensual sex in whatever fashion he or she desires is viewed as harmful and repressive.

     But is this narrative really true? In the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict, my father and I lay out the positive evidence for Christianity. But first, we felt it was critical to “clear the fog” by responding to common charges such as this. So, is biblical teaching on sex hateful and repressive?

     While Christians have certainly failed at times to teach and model the biblical view of sex, it is false to assume that God hates sex. In fact, the opposite is true—God created sex and said that it was good! Proverbs 5:18-19 says to “rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” And the Song of Solomon speaks of the power and beauty of sexual intimacy. Sex, as God designed it, is a wonderful thing. He designed it for four reasons:

     Procreation. Even though children don’t always result, sex is a baby-making act by its very nature. In Genesis 1:28, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” It’s worth noting that this is actually a command from God (it is also a blessing). Few complain about this command!

     Unity. One of the most powerful aspects of sex is its ability to bond people together. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In the act of sex, a man and woman become fully united. Sex is not merely a physical act; it involves an emotional, relational, spiritual, and even transcendent connection.

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     Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell Books:

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter

What’s the Purpose of … the Church?

By Tim Challies 9/29/2017

     Whatever else we may know about Christians, we know this: Christians are supposed to go to church. Every Sunday, Christians gather together to worship God and spend time in fellowship. But do we actually know why we do this? Do we pause to consider the purpose of the local church? In this series of articles we are considering the purpose of many things we may take for granted, and so far we have looked at marriage, sex, and children. Today we are broadening our perspective from family to the church.

     It is important to note that our concern here is not the universal church, which is comprised of all Christians of all times and places. Rather, we are answering the question: What is the purpose of the local church? In other words, why do we as Christians gather together in local congregations?

     Common Views of The Church | As we consider why we gather week by week, we can quickly identify two common but unbiblical views on the purpose of the local church.

     The first is that the local church exists for evangelism. In this view, the primary purpose of the local church is to draw unchurched people to the Christian faith. Church, then, is primarily evangelistic in its purpose. This is the heart of the “seeker-sensitive church” movement that was championed by Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, with Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church serving as its primary text. Because reaching the lost is the ultimate purpose of the church, everything the church does—from preaching to worship to the design of the building—should be determined by the perceived needs or desires of the unchurched. We must do anything and everything we can to make church a place where they feel welcome and comfortable. Warren says, “Once you know your target [unbelievers], it will determine many of the components of your seeker service: music style, message topics, creative arts, and more.” This view insists that the more we learn to think like unbelievers, the better we will do in drawing them to the church and, from the church, to Jesus Christ. “It is my deep conviction,” says Warren, “that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. … The most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs.”

     A second common view is that the local church exists for discipleship. According to this view, the purpose of the church is to serve the needs of Christians. Many people push back against the seeker-sensitive church movement and declare, “The church exists for discipleship! It exists to serve and strengthen Christians!” They claim that instead of putting all its energy into evangelism, the church should put all its energy into discipleship. Instead of making decisions based on the preferences of unbelievers, the church should make decisions based on the preferences of Christians. In this way, building up the body of Christ becomes the ultimate purpose of the local church.

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

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

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


     Tim Challies Books |  Go to Books Page

Praying for Our Children’s Salvation

By Joel Beeke 7/01/2014

     The salvation of our children is priceless; their spiritual needs far outweigh their physical needs. They need our prayers — our earnest prayers with hearts aflame, both for their initial repentance and coming to Christ by faith, and for their life of ongoing growth in faith. Matthew Henry rightly declared that it is of far more value for parents who die to leave behind a treasury of prayers for their children than it is to leave behind a treasury of silver and gold.

     My mother died recently. She had little to pass on to her children financially, but we do treasure the years of prayers that she and my father stored up for us. When my parents commemorated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, all five of us children decided to thank my parents for one thing they had done for us. Without prior consultation, each of us chose to thank my mother for her prayers. We all knew that over many years, she had prayed earnestly, fervently, and perseveringly for each one of us.

     We are by no means alone. At a ministers’ conference in Italy, I asked the attendees how many of them were influenced by the prayers of their mother. It seemed to me from the podium that almost everyone put up a hand.  God blesses the heartfelt prayers of parents to the spiritual and eternal well-being of their children.

     According to God’s promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39), the children of believing parents are included in the covenant of grace and must be received as members of the church by baptism. This promise is precious, and the privileges it confers on our children are great indeed. But they afford us no ground to presume that our children are regenerate and no reason to treat them as such before they come to saving faith and repentance.

(Ge 17:7)7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.   ESV

     We baptize infants based on many points, but not on account of “presumptive regeneration.” The results of this view, which says that we must assume all covenant children are regenerate unless by flagrant sin they prove otherwise, can be quite tragic. Knowledge and morality are often substituted for salvation, without Spirit-worked regeneration, conviction of sin, repentance unto life, saving faith, and the necessary fruits that accompany it (John 3:5; 16:8-11; Luke 13:1-9; John 3:16; Gal. 5:22-23). Knowing God savingly and personally is then replaced with engagement in “kingdom activities” at home, in church, at school, and in the community at large.

     As a Jew, Nicodemus was included in the covenant, received the sign of the covenant (circumcision), and was educated in the Scriptures, but Christ said to him, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7, KJV). (Here Christ uses the plural form ye because He included all other Israelites in His blanket prescription.) Until he was born again, Nicodemus was spiritually blind to the truths of God’s kingdom (vv. 3, 10).

     Likewise, apart from a saving work of God’s grace, our children are fallen and sinful, not righteous (Pss. 51:5; 58:3). The Belgic Confession (Article 15) says, “Original sin is extended to all mankind, which is a corruption of the whole nature and a hereditary disease wherewith infants themselves are also infected, even in their mother’s womb.” To be saved by Christ, they must be “ingrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits, by a true faith”—the faith “which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel” in their hearts (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 20-21).

     The children of believers have an external holiness — a place in the visible church — but they do not share in the salvation promised in the covenant unless and until they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He must convert the children of Abraham in order for them to receive the blessing God promised to Abraham (Acts 3:25-26). Christian parents need to pray for the salvation of their children and call their children to trust Jesus Christ as the only Savior, for His blood alone cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

     God did indeed make a promise to Abraham that He would be a God to him, to his children, and to their children after them — to a thousand generations (Gen. 17:7; Ps. 105:8). But the Lord also said to the Jews through His prophet John the Baptist, “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father” (Matt. 3:9). To those who placed their confidence in their heritage, Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” (John 8:39), works that are the fruit of saving faith that show a spiritual lineage, not just a physical lineage (Rom. 4:11-12). God’s promise is made to all who, like Abraham, believe unto justification and life.

     How should we pray for the salvation of our children? Here is a prayer offered by nineteenth-century Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte: “O Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, give us a seed right with Thee! O God, give us our children. A second time, and by a far better birth, give us our children to be beside us in Thy holy covenant!”

     There is nothing automatic about salvation. There is no room for mere presumption; Christian parenting is an enterprise of faith. God’s promise gives us a solid foundation for all our prayers and for all our hopes for our children. But He also commands us to use the appointed means to obtain His good gifts. Do you pray daily for your children? Do you pray daily with your children? If not, what can you expect from the Lord? Whether they are saved or not, are you able to say, by God’s grace, that you storm the mercy seat for them with a heart aflame for their well-being and God’s glory?

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     Dr. Joel R. Beeke is president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is author of Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology.

Joel Beeke Books:

The Holy Love of God

By R.C. Sproul 7/01/2014

     Long ago, Augustine of Hippo pointed out that the desire of every human heart is to experience a love that is transcendent. Regrettably for us today, however, I don’t think there’s any word in the English language that’s been more stripped of the depth of its meaning than the word love. Due to the shallow romanticism of secular culture, we tend to view the love of God in the same way popular music, art, and literature view love. Yet the Bible says God’s love is far different — and greater.

     First John 4:7-11 gives us this classic statement with respect to the love of God:

     Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his only Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

     Here the Apostle grounds his admonition for Christians to love one another in the very character of God. “Love is from God,” he tells us. What he means is that Christian love comes from God Himself. This love is not natural to fallen humanity. It originates in God and is a divine gift to His people. When we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given a capacity for this supernatural love that has God as its source and foundation. When John says that “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,” he is not teaching that every human being who loves another is therefore born of God. The kind of love of which he speaks comes only from regeneration. Without the Holy Spirit’s transformation of the human heart, no one has this capacity for love. No unregenerate person has this kind of love, and no regenerate person lacks such love. Therefore, a person who does not have the ability to love in the way John describes has not been born again. “Anyone who does not love [in this manner] does not know God.”

     John does not stop there. Not only is love from God but God is love. Note that John does not use the word is as an equals sign. We cannot reverse the subject and the predicate in God is love and say love is God. John is not making a crass identification between love and God so that anyone who has a romantic feeling in his heart or any affection for another person has thereby encountered God. When he says God is love, he’s using a bit of hyperbole. In other words, love is such an intimate aspect or attribute of the character of God, that you can, in a manner of speaking, say that He is love. Any view of Him that neglects to include within it this profound sense of divine love is a distortion of who God is.

     Of course, the normal problem we face is not that people ignore God’s love; rather, people separate His love from His other attributes. I don’t know how many times I’ve taught on God’s sovereignty, holiness, or justice, only to hear the objection, “But my God is love” — as if God’s love is incompatible with justice, sovereignty, or holiness.

     Our most fundamental inclination as fallen human creatures is to exchange the truth that God reveals about Himself for a lie, and to serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18-32). We commit idolatry every time we substitute a lesser concept for His glory, whether that substitution takes the crass form of stone gods or the more sophisticated form of redefining God’s character to suit our tastes. A god stripped of justice, of holiness, of sovereignty, and the rest is as much an idol as a statue of wood or stone. We must be careful not to substitute for the biblical God a god who is exhausted in his character by the one attribute of love, especially as popular culture defines it.   Today we have substituted ourselves for God's glory. We worship self and want everyone else to worship us too.

     As Christians we believe in a God who is simple and not made up of parts. God is not one part sovereign, one part just, one part immutable, one part omniscient, one part eternal, and one part loving. Rather, He is all of His attributes at all times. To understand any single attribute, we must understand it in relation to all His other attributes. The love of God is eternal and sovereign. The love of God is immutable and holy. We treat all of His other attributes in the same way. God’s justice is loving and eternal. His holiness is loving and omniscient. Our concept of the love of God will stay on track only as we understand His love in relationship to His other attributes.

     Whatever else God’s love is, it is holy. His love is therefore characterized by the qualities that define holiness — transcendence and purity. First, God’s love is transcendent. It is set apart and different from everything we experience in creation. Second, God’s love is pure. His love is absolutely flawless, having no selfishness, wickedness, or sin mixed in with it. God’s love is not ordinary or profane. It is a majestic, sacred love that goes far beyond anything creatures can manifest. No shadow of evil covers the brightness of the pure glory of the love of God.

     The love of God is in a class by itself. It transcends our experience. Nevertheless, it is a love that He shares in part with us and expects us to manifest to each other. He grants to His people — insofar as is possible given the Creator-creature distinction — His holy love (Rom. 5:5).

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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

Jesus and the Church

By Terry Johnson 7/01/2014

     How many times does Jesus mention the church? I’ve asked that question in a number of forums (Reformed University Fellowship, Sunday school, Drug Court Bible Study, the pulpit, and so on), and have received answers ranging from thirty-six to six. Surprise is the typical response when I reveal that Jesus mentions the church, the ekklēsia, only twice.

     Initially, this seems to confirm the bias of those who say they admire Jesus but have little regard for the church. The church, they say, is man’s invention. Jesus said little about the church. He didn’t intend to found a church. We’ve built an ecclesiastical mountain out of an exegetical molehill, they insist. We follow Jesus, they claim, but have discarded the millstone that the church has become around His message.

     What should we say about this? Simply, that Jesus’ words about the church must be weighed, not merely counted. Essentially, Jesus says two things:

(Mt 16:17–18) 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Mt 18:16–17) 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
  ESV

     Take them in order. What does Jesus promise to build? His church. Anything else? No. He promises to build no other earthly institution. He attaches the personal pronoun my to no other earthly entity. He sums up His entire mission as church building. This is His chief concern. What is Jesus doing, incarnation and post-incarnation? He is building His church.

     Let’s move to the second reference. What does Jesus want us to tell to the church? He speaks of the problem of a sinning “brother” who refuses to heed admonition, who refuses to repent. His obstinacy must be revealed to the church, which must act to disassociate him: “Let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17).

     Several things are implied by this second reference to the ekklēsia. It must be that the church that Jesus envisions has standards of belief and conduct, membership from which one may be excluded, a process of discipline, a form of government, meetings at which a matter may be told, and officers who facilitate the whole. Jesus speaks in these two passages of the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the power of binding and loosing (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). The church that Jesus envisions has concrete existence. It is an organization. It is an institution. Its members are committed to each other, to the triune God, and to the church itself as something greater than the sum of its parts.

     The church that Jesus builds is not merely an ad hoc gathering of believers at a coffee shop to pray and share Scripture verses. Such meetings are self-selecting; the church is not. Participants choose those with whom they will meet in such meetings, typically according to common interests. However, the New Testament church looks nothing like an organization built along lines of affinity, unless we are talking about affinity for Christ. Many of the problems with which the Apostles and the epistles are dealing in the New Testament arise precisely because of the diversity of age, class, and ethnicity of the members of the church (see Acts 6:1-7; 15:1ff; Gal. 1-3; Titus 2; James 4). Informal gatherings also lack accountability. One may simply stop participating and walk out of the lives of those with whom one has been involved.

     Because Jesus’ words imply membership, standards, and discipline, they suggest the mutual accountability and mutual responsibility of covenanted relationships. When leading evangelicals say, “Don’t go to church; be the church,” their language is misleading. The gathering of two or three in Jesus’ name is the same entity that excommunicates (Matt. 18:2, 17). That entity has a government. It has a form of discipline. It has membership. It has standards of belief and conduct. It has meetings in which it is constituted as the church. One can be included and excluded from it with eternal repercussions (certainly implied by the keys). Informal gatherings of Christians may be helpful. Interdenominational community Bible studies may be edifying. However, they are not the church. The intimate bonds created through group Bible studies and prayer are meant to be forged primarily in the context of the local church, where I can depend on you and you can depend on me, where I have covenanted to be there for you, and you for me.

     Don’t count Jesus’ words regarding the church. Weigh them—like silver, like gold. We suffer today for lack of an ecclesiology. Without warning and without explanation, families often leave a congregation with which they have been associated for more than a decade. The members who are left behind are grief stricken. They have sacrificed for those families through crisis after crisis. Prayers were offered, visits made, meals cooked, funds given, and babysitting provided. Gone. Why? Because they, like so many others, see the church as a voluntary association like a health club rather than a commitment like marriage.

     A serious hole exists in our Christian discipleship if we are not fully committed to building the church as Jesus envisioned it—where I am accountable to others and they are accountable to me; where I am responsible to others and they are responsible to me; where I count on them and they count on me.

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     Rev. Terry L. Johnson, per Amazon, Terry Johnson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He studied history at the University of Southern California, and also studied at Trinity College, Bristol, England, and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, before earning his D.Min in 2008 from Erskine Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and was assistant minister in Coral Gables, Florida, before moving to Savannah in 1987 to the Independent Presbyterian Church. He and his wife, Emily, have five children.

Terry Johnson Books:

The Church: Your Story

By Joe Holland 8/01/2014

     Why is this happening to me? What is my purpose in this life? If God is so powerful, then why does He allow me to be treated this way by people who are opposed to Him? Will God ever give me victory over this particular sin?

     These are the types of questions that pepper the ordinary Christian life. Christians want an explanation from God for their current suffering and a steadfast promise that their own life will turn out well. Christians know that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28), but it is one thing to memorize it in a Scripture memory program and quite another to believe it when life punches you in the gut.

     But as all Christians discover in time, God does not always provide explanations for the suffering or the confusing events that sum up life in this broken world. And that is why the doctrine of the church is so important.

     The church is the community of the blood-bought saints, scattered across chronology, geography, and ethnicity. The church is a collection of people dearly loved by God. That means that the story of the church is a tapestry, a stained-glass window of stories. Your triumphs and failures, your sins and sanctification, are a part of the story of the local church of which you are a member. The story of your local church is just one piece of the story of the church universal, helping us see how our own tangible experience that inspires such deep questioning of God is a small part of the story of the church as a whole.

     This, then, is our touch point. So much of the ordinary Christian life starts, continues, and ends without a specific explanation from the Lord. But God has made promises as to how the story of the church will go in the world. When the Christian roots his story in his local church’s story, which is a part of the story of the universal church, he finds comfort and rich promises from the Lord.

THE CHURCH AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE

     Are you ever discouraged by the spiritual warfare that is so often a part of the ordinary Christian life? Jesus reminds us in Matthew 16:18 that He builds His church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it. Jesus builds and protects His church. The church of Jesus will win in the end. With victory secured, your spiritual skirmishes are divine mop-up missions.

THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD

     Are you ever discouraged by what the world thinks of you because of your testimony to Jesus? Do you ever wish that the gospel would be seen for what it is by all its naysayers? Because you are a part of the universal church and a local church, you can be sure that your story is careening toward a grand revelation of Jesus as King and His followers as glorious saints. Paul in Ephesians 3:10 encourages us that the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed in the church as the vanguard of that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

THE CHURCH AND GOD’S PURPOSES

     Do you ever wish you could know for sure that you are a part of God’s unfolding plan? When Paul was converted, Jesus asked him why Paul was persecuting Him. Paul didn’t have a response because he didn’t know he was persecuting Jesus as he was persecuting the church (Acts 8:3; 9:4). Jesus so closely aligned Himself with the church that in several places in the New Testament the two — Jesus and the church — are synonymous. Simply put, God’s continuing work in the world through Jesus occurs in the church. So if you are an ordinary Christian, part of an ordinary local church, then you are a part of God’s ongoing and unfolding plan in the world.

THE CHURCH AND YOUR SIN

     Are you ever weighed down by your sin, longing for the day that you will be free from it? In Ephesians 5:27, Paul promises that one day Jesus will finish His work of perfecting His bride, the church. On that day, she will be without spot and blemish.

     Christian, you are a part of that church, so you will be a part of that spotless, beautiful bride one day. God’s work in you personally is a part of His work in your local church, which is a part of His work in His church as a whole. As you are sanctified, so the church as a whole is sanctified. And when the church is glorified in the presence of King Jesus, so will you participate in that glory.

     Your name does not appear in the pages of Scripture. But the name of God’s people, the church, does. The normal, ordinary Christian life is framed by participation in a local church and so taps into all the promises of God given to this outrageously blessed group of people.

     There is an answer to the difficult questions Christians ask. Your experiential questions find answers in the experience of the church about whom God has said much. Do you want to live a confident, ordinary Christian life that will bear extraordinary fruit for all eternity? Invest deeply as you participate in a beloved, ordinary local church.

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     Rev. Joe Holland is pastor of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church in Culpeper, Va.

Pastor, Professor, Pilgrim: An Interview with Derek Thomas

By Derek Thomas 8/01/2014

     Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian?

     Derek W.H. Thomas: I became a Christian during my first year at university. My best friend (who had recently become a Christian) sent me a copy of John Stott’s Basic Christianity (IVP Classics) in the mail. Within a few days of reading it, I prayed something akin to the sinner’s prayer and received an immediate assurance that I was a Christian.

TT: What is your role as editor-in-chief of Reformation21?

     DT: I make some behind-the-scenes contributions to the direction and content of the e-zine. Think of it like Red Adair rushing in to cap a blazing fire in a Texas oil field, and you will get a picture of what I do. The e-zine is a vehicle for expressing opinions and ideas from a highly focused team of contributors.

TT: You’ve had lengthy ministry experiences in Northern Ireland and the United States. What are the differences in ministering in these two contexts? What are the similarities?

     DT: To be more accurate, I have had ministry experiences in Northern Ireland and the Southern states of America, both of which still retain a residue of Western cultural Christianity. Both communities display what might otherwise be called “nominal” Christianity, with an acceptance of some basic ethical norms, a high regard for the institutional church, and a tolerance of conservative Christian views. Both communities display ethnic and religious tension — an “us” and a “them” with the church divided almost as much as the secular society. Ministering to received prejudices and anticipated barriers has therefore always been an issue. Uppermost, perhaps, has been the issue of the role of the church in reforming society — is the church to withdraw from these issues (as a “spiritual body”) or attempt change?

TT: Why does John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress remain valuable for believers centuries after it was written?

     DT: Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress is valuable, first, as a piece of English literature written by a seventeenth-century Christian, and second, and more importantly, because it reflects in an altogether unique way the gospel from a Reformed, Calvinistic perspective. The issues of law and grace; justification and works; the nature of Christian discipleship as another; assurance; perseverance — these and much more are weaved into its captivating narrative. It is fantasy literature of sorts (strictly speaking, it is an allegory) that captures the entire range of biblical teaching on the Christian life from a Puritan, experientialist point of view. It is the best theology told in the form of a road-trip tale that ensures its readers are both carried along and informed at the same time. As an antidote to the shallow forms of Christianity that pervade our times, Bunyan’s tale of Christian’s journey (as well as Part 2—the story of Christiana and the four children) knows no equal.

TT: If you could discuss theology with any theologian from church history, who would it be and why?

     DT: That would have to be John Calvin. I spent a good part of my life reading his material for doctoral studies, and I have many things I would like to ask him, not least of which would be his opinion on which biography best captures him. A man who could write the first edition of the Institutes in his late twenties, after only being a Christian for a few years and with no seminary education, is a phenomenon in itself. Particularly, in his communication with Westphal on the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, I would want to ask him precisely what he meant when he wrote, “By the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit life is infused into us from the substance of Christ’s flesh.”

TT: How should church members pray for their pastors and elders? What specific things should they ask God to grant these leaders?

     DT: Pray for moral and spiritual perseverance to the end. There are too many casualties around for elders and pastors to hit the cruise-control button. Two particular features constantly threaten elders and pastors, and the manner in which they view their role. The first is a view that eldership is promotion to a higher office and therefore suggests authority rather than servanthood. This often loses sight of the self-denying posture that should mark all service (Phil. 2:5-9). The other issue is gifting—every-member gifting, to be precise (Eph. 4:12, translated to imply that the purpose of the unique gifts of Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are given in order to “equip the saints to do the work of ministry”). Too often, elders and pastors think in terms of “control” rather than “enabling,” thereby stifling vision.

TT: What challenges and opportunities have you encountered in your new position as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church?

     DT: To stand in Thornwell’s pulpit every week is both exhilarating and humbling. First Presbyterian Church is one of those historic, well-attended churches in which any pastor would dream of preaching. To be called as the senior minister is without doubt the greatest honor I have received. I had the immense pleasure of working at the church for two years when Sinclair Ferguson was the minister, and those two years were very special indeed. The challenges include the high expectation (especially in preaching) among the First Presbyterian family, as well as encountering a session that is larger than the entire membership of some churches I have been in. First Presbyterian is very much a downtown church, a few blocks away from the state capitol and the University of South Carolina. The opportunities are vast. How do we preserve our history as a church without becoming a fossil? How does one retain gospel freshness in the pulpit, especially in a congregation that expects a certain standard of homiletical skill? These are some of the challenges.

TT: What is the greatest temptation that young pastors face in gospel ministry, and how can they stand against it?

     DT: To think too highly of themselves. The ministry is a place of enormous temptation to pride. It doesn’t make any difference as to the style of church (historic or hipster-urban church plant)—young ministers often stand in a place where words and opinions sway the hearts and affections of people. This can make the most stable person giddy. Paul knew this issue when he warned Timothy about elders: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). How can one avoid issues of spiritual pride in a culture of entitlement? I am tempted to say, “Marry a girl who loves you enough to be honest enough to tell you what you need to hear,” but if current Facebook entries by pastors’ wives are to be believed, this may not be the solution. But accountability is paramount — whether with a good friend, or something more formally established with or by the session.

TT: If a man told you that he feels called to ministry and he asked you how he should pursue this calling, what would you tell him?

     DT: I find today that many young men feel called to “ministry” but not to a traditional view of a “minister.” This issue needs to be addressed carefully. Assuming the call is to preaching and pastoring, I would tell him that the subjective call is one thing and the objective another. He needs to go to the church with this sense of call. Depending upon the ecclesiology, he should go to the pastor(s), who in turn will ensure that the elders endorse this call. There is a view that the seminary will sort out candidates and reveal who is and who is not called. This is a false belief. Usually, I tell a young man to find an opportunity to speak (a Bible study, perhaps) and then ask him to record it and evaluate it so that we can talk about it later.

TT: You’ve written extensively on the book of Job. What are three lessons that Christians should learn from this book of Scripture?

     DT: God is the architect of bad things as well as good things. God has a wonderful plan for my life, and it may be one that hurts. We have no right or entitlement to understanding why trials come our way. God is incomprehensible, although we can know Him in part, and we must learn to live in submission to the superior knowledge of God, trusting Him at every turn. Also, that some counseling methods are inept. Job’s friends talked a great deal, and though what they said was often true, the context was entirely misunderstood and therefore the counsel utterly irrelevant or wrong.

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     Derek W.H. Thomas is senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He is also editorial director of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and editor of its e-zine, Reformation21. Dr. Thomas is originally from Wales, and he holds a PhD from the University of Wales.

Derek Thomas Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 106

Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
106

40 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O LORD our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD!

ESV Study Bible


  • God Shows Up for You
  • Christian Mission
  • Gospel Diagnostician

#1 Tim Muehlhoff  Biola University

 

#2 Greg Ganssle   Biola University

 

#3 Greg Ganssle   Biola University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     God is real!
     (Sept 30)    Bob Gass

     ‘The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?’

(Ps 27:1) The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ESV

     What hope or help does the atheist or agnostic have? None! Writer and editorialist W.O. Saunders said in American Magazine: ‘I’d like to introduce you to one of the loneliest and unhappiest individuals on earth…the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I myself am one, and in introducing myself you shall have an introduction to the agnostic or sceptic in your own neighbourhood, for he is everywhere in the land. You’ll be surprised to know that the agnostic envies your faith in God, your settled belief in a heaven after life, and your blessed assurance that you’ll meet with your loved ones in an afterlife where there’ll be neither sadness nor pain. He’d give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, but for him there is only the grave and the persistence of matter. After the grave all he can see is the disintegration of the protoplasm and psychoplasm of which my body and personality are composed, but in this materialist view, I find neither ecstasy nor happiness…He may put on a brave front but he isn’t happy…He sometimes yearns for a staff on which to lean. He, too, carries a cross. For him, this earth is but a tricky raft adrift in the unfathomable waters of eternity with no horizon in sight. His heart aches for every precious life upon the raft - drifting, drifting, drifting, whither no one knows. But when you put your trust in Christ, you can say with confidence, “The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?”’

Is 56-58
Col 4

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Seven times he came to America, preaching across the Colonies, sometimes to crowds of over 30,000 people. This Great Awakening spread like fire. Benjamin Franklin not only attended his meetings and printed his RS Thomas, but built an auditorium for him to speak in, afterwards donating it as the first building of the University of Pennsylvania. Who was he: George Whitefield, who died this day, September 30, 1770. Of Whitefield’s preaching, Franklin wrote: “It was wonderful to see… one could not walk thro’ the town in an Evening without hearing Psalms sung in different families of every street.”

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


     Common prayer is not necessarily public. To recite the Litany on a sick-bed is common prayer. Christ felt the danger of common prayer as public prayer (Matt. vi. 5, 6). And this is specially so when the public prayer is “extempore.” To keep that real calls for an amount of private prayer which perhaps is not for every one. “Extempore” prayers are apt to be private prayers in public, like the Pharisee’s in the temple, with too much idiosynerasy for public use; or else they lose the spontaneity of private prayer, and turn as formal as a liturgy can be, though in another (and perhaps deadlier) way. The prayers of the same man inevitably fall more or less into the same forms and phrases. But private prayer may be more common in its note than public prayer should be private in its tone. Our private prayer should be common in spirit. We are doing in the act what many are doing. In the retired place we include in sympathy and intercession a world of other men which we exclude in fact. The world of men disappears from around us but not from within. We are not indifferent to its weal or woe in our seclusion. In the act of praying for ourselves we pray for others, for no temptation befalls us but what is common to man; and in praying for others we pray with them. We pray for their prays and the success of their prayers. It is an act of union. We can thus be united even with churches that refuse to pray or unite with us.

     Moreover, it is common prayer, however solitary, that prevails most, as being most in tune with the great first goal of God’s grace—the community. So this union in prayer gives to prayer an ethical note of great power and value. If we really pray with others, it must clear, and consolidate, and exalt our moral relations with them everywhere. Could we best the man with whom and for whom we really pray? There is a great democratic note in common prayer which is also true prayer. “Eloquence and ardour have not done so much for Christ’s cause as the humble virtues, the united activity, and the patient prayers of thousands of faithful people whose names are quite unknown.” And we are united thus not only to the living but to the long dead. “He who prays is nearer Christ than even the apostles were,” certainly than the apostles before the Cross and Resurrection.

     We have been warned by a man of genius that the bane of so much religion is that it clings to God with its weakness and not with its strength. This is very true of that supreme act of religion of which our critics know least—of the act of prayer. So many of us pray because we are driven by need rather than kindled by grace. Our prayer is a cry rather than a hymn. It is a quest rather than a tryst. it trembles more than it triumphs. It asks for strength rather than exerts it. How different was the prayer of Christ! All the divine power of the Eternal Son went to it. It was the supreme form taken by His Sonship in its experience and action. Nothing is more striking in Christ’s life than His combination of selflessness and power. His consciousness of power was equal to anything, and egoism never entered Him. His prayer was accordingly. It was the exercise of His unique power rather than of His extreme need. It came from His uplifting and not His despair. It was less His duty than His joy. It was more full of God’s gift of grace than of man’s poverty of faith, of a holy love than of a seeking heart. In His prayer He poured out neither His wish nor His longing merely, but His will. And He knew He was heard always. He knew it with such power and certainty that He could distribute His value, bless with His overflow, and promise His disciples they would be heard in His name. It was by His prayer that He countered and foiled the godless power in the world, the kingdom of the devil. “Satan hath desired to have thee—but I have prayer for thee.” His prayer means so much for the weak because it arose out of this strength and its exercise. It was chiefly in His prayer that He was the Messiah, and the Revealer and Wielder of the power and kingship of God. His power with God was so great that it made His disciples feel it could only be the power of God; He prayer in the Eternal Spirit whereby He offered Himself to God. And it was so great because it was spent on God alone. So true is it that the kingdom of God comes not with observation, that the greatest things Christ did for it were done in the night and not in the day; His prayers meant more than His miracles. And His great triumph was when there were none to see, as they all forsook Him and fled. He was mightest in His action for men not when He was acting on men but on God. He felt the dangers of the publicity where His work lay, and He knew that they were only to be met in secrecy. He did most for His public in entire solitude; there He put forth all His power. His nights were not always the rest of weakness from the day before, but often the storing of strength for the day to come. Prayer (if we let Christ teach us of it) is mightiest in the mightiest. It is the ether round the throne of the Most High. Its power answers to the omnipotence of grace. And those who feel they owe everything to God’s grace need have no difficulty about the range of prayer. They may pray for everything.

     A word, as I close this chapter, to the sufferers. We pray for the removal of pain, pray passionately, and then with exhaustion, sick from hope deferred and prayer’s failure. But there is a higher prayer than that. It is a greater thing to pray for pain’s conversion than for its removal. It is more of grace to pray that God would make a sacrament of it. The sacrament of pain! That we partake not simply, nor perhaps chiefly, when we say, or try to say, with resignation, “Thy will be done.” It is not always easy for the sufferer, if he remain clear-eyed to see that it is God’s will. It may have been caused by an evil mind, or a light fool, or some stupid greed. But, now it is there, a certain treatment of it is God’s will; and that is to capture and exploit it for Him. It is to make it serve the soul and glorify God. It is to consecrate its elements and make it sacramental. It is to convert it into prayer.


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

The Soul of Prayer
Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7


The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion
because if a mother can kill her own child,
what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me?
There is nothing between.
--- Mother Teresa


Sometimes love is stronger than a man's convictions.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer


If we walk in the Spirit daily, surrendered to His power, we have the right to expect anything we need to hear from God.
--- Charles Stanley     How to Listen to God


The road of denial leads to the precipice of destruction
--- John Bunyan

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 7.

     How One Of The Towers Erected By The Romans Fell Down Of Its Own Accord; And How The Romans After Great Slaughter Had Been Made Got Possession Of The First Wall. How Also Titus Made His Assaults Upon The Second Wall; As Also Concerning Longinus The Roman, And Castor The Jew.

     1. Now, on the next night, a surprising disturbance fell upon the Romans; for whereas Titus had given orders for the erection of three towers of fifty cubits high, that by setting men upon them at every bank, he might from thence drive those away who were upon the wall, it so happened that one of these towers fell down about midnight; and as its fall made a very great noise, fear fell upon the army, and they, supposing that the enemy was coming to attack them, ran all to their arms. Whereupon a disturbance and a tumult arose among the legions, and as nobody could tell what had happened, they went on after a disconsolate manner; and seeing no enemy appear, they were afraid one of another, and every one demanded of his neighbor the watchword with great earnestness, as though the Jews had invaded their camp. And now were they like people under a panic fear, till Titus was informed of what had happened, and gave orders that all should be acquainted with it; and then, though with some difficulty, they got clear of the disturbance they had been under.

     2. Now these towers were very troublesome to the Jews, who otherwise opposed the Romans very courageously; for they shot at them out of their lighter engines from those towers, as they did also by those that threw darts, and the archers, and those that flung stones. For neither could the Jews reach those that were over them, by reason of their height; and it was not practicable to take them, nor to overturn them, they were so heavy, nor to set them on fire, because they were covered with plates of iron. So they retired out of the reach of the darts, and did no longer endeavor to hinder the impression of their rams, which, by continually beating upon the wall, did gradually prevail against it; so that the wall already gave way to the Nico, for by that name did the Jews themselves call the greatest of their engines, because it conquered all things. And now they were for a long while grown weary of fighting, and of keeping guards, and were retired to lodge in the night time at a distance from the wall. It was on other accounts also thought by them to be superfluous to guard the wall, there being besides that two other fortifications still remaining, and they being slothful, and their counsels having been ill concerted on all occasions; so a great many grew lazy and retired. Then the Romans mounted the breach, where Nico had made one, and all the Jews left the guarding that wall, and retreated to the second wall; so those that had gotten over that wall opened the gates, and received all the army within it. And thus did the Romans get possession of this first wall, on the fifteenth day of the siege, which was the seventh day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] when they demolished a great part of it, as well as they did of the northern parts of the city, which had been demolished also by Cestius formerly.

     3. And now Titus pitched his camp within the city, at that place which was called "the Camp of the Assyrians," having seized upon all that lay as far as Cedron, but took care to be out of the reach of the Jews' darts. He then presently began his attacks, upon which the Jews divided themselves into several bodies, and courageously defended that wall; while John and his faction did it from the tower of Antonia, and from the northern cloister of the temple, and fought the Romans before the monuments of king Alexander; and Sireoh's army also took for their share the spot of ground that was near John's monument, and fortified it as far as to that gate where water was brought in to the tower Hippicus. However, the Jews made violent sallies, and that frequently also, and in bodies together out of the gates, and there fought the Romans; and when they were pursued all together to the wall, they were beaten in those fights, as wanting the skill of the Romans. But when they fought them from the walls, they were too hard for them; the Romans being encouraged by their power, joined to their skill, as were the Jews by their boldness, which was nourished by the fear they were in, and that hardiness which is natural to our nation under calamities; they were also encouraged still by the hope of deliverance, as were the Romans by their hopes of subduing them in a little time. Nor did either side grow weary; but attacks and rightings upon the wall, and perpetual sallies out in bodies, were there all the day long; nor were there any sort of warlike engagements that were not then put in use. And the night itself had much ado to part them, when they began to fight in the Morning; nay, the night itself was passed without sleep on both sides, and was more uneasy than the day to them, while the one was afraid lest the wall should be taken, and the other lest the Jews should make sallies upon their camps; both sides also lay in their armor during the night time, and thereby were ready at the first appearance of light to go to the battle. Now among the Jews the ambition was who should undergo the first dangers, and thereby gratify their commanders. Above all, they had a great veneration and dread of Simon; and to that degree was he regarded by every one of those that were under him, that at his command they were very ready to kill themselves with their own hands. What made the Romans so courageous was their usual custom of conquering and disuse of being defeated, their constant wars, and perpetual warlike exercises, and the grandeur of their dominion; and what was now their chief encouragement—Titus who was present every where with them all; for it appeared a terrible thing to grow weary while Caesar was there, and fought bravely as well as they did, and was himself at once an eye-witness of such as behaved themselves valiantly, and he who was to reward them also. It was, besides, esteemed an advantage at present to have any one's valor known by Caesar; on which account many of them appeared to have more alacrity than strength to answer it. And now, as the Jews were about this time standing in array before the wall, and that in a strong body, and while both parties were throwing their darts at each other, Longinus, one of the equestrian order, leaped out of the army of the Romans, and leaped into the very midst of the army of the Jews; and as they dispersed themselves upon the attack, he slew two of their men of the greatest courage; one of them he struck in his mouth as he was coming to meet him, the other was slain by him by that very dart which he drew out of the body of the other, with which he ran this man through his side as he was running away from him; and when he had done this, he first of all ran out of the midst of his enemies to his own side. So this man signalized himself for his valor, and many there were who were ambitious of gaining the like reputation. And now the Jews were unconcerned at what they suffered themselves from the Romans, and were only solicitous about what mischief they could do them; and death itself seemed a small matter to them, if at the same time they could but kill any one of their enemies. But Titus took care to secure his own soldiers from harm, as well as to have them overcome their enemies. He also said that inconsiderate violence was madness, and that this alone was the true courage that was joined with good conduct. He therefore commanded his men to take care, when they fought their enemies, that they received no harm from them at the same time, and thereby show themselves to be truly valiant men.

     4. And now Titus brought one of his engines to the middle tower of the north part of the wall, in which a certain crafty Jew, whose name was Castor, lay in ambush, with ten others like himself, the rest being fled away by reason of the archers. These men lay still for a while, as in great fear, under their breastplates; but when the tower was shaken, they arose, and Castor did then stretch out his hand, as a petitioner, and called for Caesar, and by his voice moved his compassion, and begged of him to have mercy upon them; and Titus, in the innocency of his heart, believing him to be in earnest, and hoping that the Jews did now repent, stopped the working of the battering ram, and forbade them to shoot at the petitioners, and bid Castor say what he had a mind to say to him. He said that he would come down, if he would give him his right hand for his security. To which Titus replied, that he was well pleased with such his agreeable conduct, and would be well pleased if all the Jews would be of his mind, and that he was ready to give the like security to the city. Now five of the ten dissembled with him, and pretended to beg for mercy, while the rest cried out aloud that they would never be slaves to the Romans, while it was in their power to die in a state of freedom. Now while these men were quarrelling for a long while, the attack was delayed; Castor also sent to Simon, and told him that they might take some time for consultation about what was to be done, because he would elude the power of the Romans for a considerable time. And at the same time that he sent thus to him, he appeared openly to exhort those that were obstinate to accept of Titus's hand for their security; but they seemed very angry at it, and brandished their naked swords upon the breast-works, and struck themselves upon their breast, and fell down as if they had been slain. Hereupon Titus, and those with him, were amazed at the courage of the men; and as they were not able to see exactly what was done, they admired at their great fortitude, and pitied their calamity. During this interval, a certain person shot a dart at Castor, and wounded him in his nose; whereupon he presently pulled out the dart, and showed it to Titus, and complained that this was unfair treatment; so Caesar reproved him that shot the dart, and sent Josephus, who then stood by him, to give his right hand to Castor. But Josephus said that he would not go to him, because these pretended petitioners meant nothing that was good; he also restrained those friends of his who were zealous to go to him. But still there was one Eneas, a deserter, who said he would go to him. Castor also called to them, that somebody should come and receive the money which he had with him; this made Eneas the more earnestly to run to him with his bosom open. Then did Castor take up a great stone, and threw it at him, which missed him, because he guarded himself against it; but still it wounded another soldier that was coming to him. When Caesar understood that this was a delusion, he perceived that mercy in war is a pernicious thing, because such cunning tricks have less place under the exercise of greater severity. So he caused the engine to work more strongly than before, on account of his anger at the deceit put upon him. But Castor and his companions set the tower on fire when it began to give way, and leaped through the flame into a hidden vault that was under it, which made the Romans further suppose that they were men of great courage, as having cast themselves into the fire.

          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 25:28
     by D.H. Stern

28     Like a city breached, without walls,
     is a person who lacks self-control.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Glimpsing the Triune God
     From Simply Christian - N.T. Wright

     How, then, can we summarize the Christian understanding of God? What does it mean, theologically speaking, to learn to stare at the sun?

     God is the creator and lover of the world. Jesus spoke of God as “the Father who sent me,” indicating that, as he says elsewhere, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” ( John 14:9). Look hard at Jesus, especially as he goes to his death, and you will discover more about God than you could ever have guessed from studying the infinite shining heavens or the moral law within your own conscience. God is the one who satisfies the passion for justice, the longing for spirituality, the hunger for relationship, the yearning for beauty.

     And God, the true God, is the God we see in Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah, the world’s true Lord. The earliest Christians spoke of God and Jesus in the same breath and, so to speak, on the same side of the equation. When Paul quoted the most famous slogan of Jewish monotheism (“Hear, O Israel; YHWH our God, YHWH is One”), he explained “the Lord”—that is, YHWH—in terms of Jesus, and “God” in terms of “the Father”: “For us,” he wrote, “there is one God (the Father, from whom are all things and we to him), and one Lord ( Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things and we through him)” (1 Corinthians 8:6). Even earlier, he had written that if you want to know who the real God is, as opposed to the non-gods of paganism, you must think in terms of the God who, to fulfill his age-old plan to rescue the world, sent first his Son and then the Spirit of his Son (Galatians 4:4–7).

     The church’s official “doctrine of the Trinity” wasn’t fully formulated until three or four centuries after the time of Paul. Yet when the later theologians eventually worked it all through, it turned out to consist, in effect, of detailed footnotes to Paul, John, Hebrews, and the other New Testament books, with explanations designed to help later generations grasp what was already there in principle in the earliest writings.

     But it would be a mistake to give the impression that the Christian doctrine of God is a matter of clever intellectual word games or mind games. For Christians it’s always a love game: God’s love for the world calling out an answering love from us, enabling us to discover that God not only happens to love us (as though this was simply one aspect of his character) but that he is love itself. That’s what many theological traditions have explored as the very heart of God’s own being, the love which passes continually between Father, Son, and Spirit. Indeed, some have suggested that one way of understanding the Spirit is to see the Spirit as the personal love which the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father. In that understanding, we are invited to share in this inner and loving life of God, by having the Spirit live within us. Some of the most evocative names and descriptions of God in the New Testament are ways of drawing us in to this inner life. “The one who searches the hearts,” writes Paul, “knows what the Spirit is thinking, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people according to God’s will” (Romans 8:27). “The heart-searcher”—there’s a divine name to ponder.

     And it’s all because of Jesus. Once we glimpse the doctrine—or the fact!—of the Trinity, we dare not slide back into a generalized sense of a religion paying distant homage to a god who (though somewhat more complicated than we had previously realized) is merely a quasi-personal source of general benevolence. Christian faith is much more hard-edged, more craggy, than that. Jesus exploded into the life of ancient Israel—the life of the whole world, in fact—not as a teacher of timeless truths, nor as a great moral example, but as the one through whose life, death, and resurrection God’s rescue operation was put into effect, and the cosmos turned its great corner at last. All worldviews are challenged to the core by this claim. When they in turn challenge Christianity, it stands up remarkably well. It is because of Jesus that Christians claim they know who the creator God of the world really is. It is because he, a human being, is now with the Father in the dimension we call “heaven” that Christians came so quickly to speak of God as both Father and Son. It is because he remains as yet in heaven while we are on earth (though the Spirit makes him present to us) that Christians came to speak of the Spirit, too, as a distinct member of the divine Trinity. It is all because of Jesus that we speak of God the way we do.

     And it is all because of Jesus that we find ourselves called to live the way we do. More particularly, it is through Jesus that we are summoned to become more truly human, to reflect the image of God into the world.


Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                The commission of the call

     Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake. --- Col. 1:24.

     We make calls out of our own spiritual consecration, but when we get right with God He brushes all these aside, and rivets us with a pain that is terrific to one thing we never dreamed of, and for one radiant, flashing moment we see what He is after, and we say—“Here am I, send me.”

     This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never makes us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

     I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine would have been remarkably bitter. To be a sacramental personality means that the elements of the natural life are presenced by God as they are broken providentially in His service. We have to be adjusted to God before we can be broken bread in His hands. Keep right with God and let Him do what He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

My Utmost for His Highest
No, Senor
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                No, Senor

We were out in the hard country.
  The railroads kept crossing our path,
  Signed with important names,
  Salamanca to Madrid.
  Malaga to Barcelona.
  Sometimes an express went by,
  Tubular in the newest fashion;
  The faces were a blurred frieze,
  A hundred or so city people
  Digesting their latest meal,
  Over coffee, over a cigarette,
  Discussing the news from Viet Nam,
  Fondling imaginary wounds
  Of the last war, honoring themselves
  In the country to which they belonged
  By proxy. Their landscape slipped by
  On a spool. We saw the asses
  Hobbling upon the road
  To the village, no Don Quixote
  Upon their backs, but all the burden
  Of a poor land, the weeds and grasses
  Of the mesa. The men walked
  Beside them; there was no sound
  But the hoarse music of the bells.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Tree
     Eugene Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
The Candle
     Eugene Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     IS THERE STILL MIDRASH TODAY?


     If we define Midrash as “homiletic or legal interpretations of the Bible,” that is, interpretive readings of sacred text, then the process of Midrash certainly continues today—in two formats. There are contemporary commentaries written on the Bible, often reflecting the needs and interests of the day. And secular culture commonly adapts religious themes for artistic purposes.

     As an example of the first, the “rabbi’s sermon” given in the modern synagogue is often a Midrash-like exposition on the week’s Torah reading; by attempting to relate Torah to life today, the sermon is the example par excellence of contemporary Midrash. It is not uncommon for a contemporary rabbi to hold an ancient midrashic text in one hand, and a news clipping from the daily paper in the other, as he or she tries to make sense out of the present by searching for meaning in the past.

     Works like Ellen Frankel’s The Five Books of Miriam are another prime example. This is a collection of modern midrashic statements put into the mouths of women to answer the question “What did women then, and what do women now, make of the events in this chapter?” Here is one such selection from The Five Books of Miriam:

     OUR DAUGHTERS ASK: Why does Jethro advise Moses to appoint only men to help him share the onerous burden of leadership? As it is written: “SEEK OUT CAPABLE MEN WHO FEAR GOD, TRUSTWORTHY MEN WHO SPURN ILL-GOTTEN GAIN” (
Exodus 18:21). We can’t believe that there weren’t capable, God-fearing women among the people.

     THE SAGES IN OUR OWN TIME ANSWER: We must be careful not to judge Jethro by the standards of twentieth-century Western democracy. After all, in his time and place, women generally did not occupy such leadership roles.

     LILITH THE REBEL COUNTERS: But we can hold today’s Jethros in our own communities to such standards! Especially since the burdens of leadership have not gotten any lighter—and since capable, God-fearing, trustworthy women now stand ready to share them.

     The Five Books that were once attributed to Moses have now been expanded to include the insights of all of our Miriams as well.

     Midrash can be “done” by Christians, as well as by Jews, though the process would have a different name and would draw on a different set of techniques and values, since “Midrash” is a uniquely Jewish product. In
Deuteronomy, chapters 31–34
, Moses gives his final farewell to the Israelite nation. Their leader tells them that although he will die on this side of the Jordan, they will get to the land that God has promised them. God instructs Moses to go to the top of a mountain, to see the land that the Israelites will soon enter but that he will not. Moses’ final speeches are poignant and moving: The greatest leader will see his goal accomplished by others, yet he himself will not arrive there.

     Compare these chapters in Deuteronomy to the famous “I See the Promised Land” speech by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., given on April 3, 1968:

     Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

     By ending with a stirring message about seeing the Promised Land from the mountaintop, the Reverend Dr. King evoked images of Moses entering the land. This Midrash turned out to be prophetic, for King was assassinated the very next day.

     One of the oldest collections of Midrash, if not the oldest, is the Passover Haggadah. The process of Midrash on the Exodus story remains alive and well in modern haggadot. There are literally hundreds of Haggadah interpretations, each giving its own spin on the verses from Exodus—an archaeological Haggadah, a feminist version, an Israeli version that focuses on the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem us.

     Yet, the process of interpreting the Bible and of writing Midrash, especially on the Exodus theme, goes well beyond these works. In the biblical account, we are told that Moses was placed in a basket on the Nile by his mother, that Moses’ sister watched as the daughter of Pharaoh came to bathe in the Nile and saw the basket:

     Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter: “Shall I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to suckle the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter answered, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moses, explaining, “I drew him out of the water.”

     Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors.
(Exodus 2:7–10)

     The Bible does not tell us how Moses finds out he is a Hebrew, only that “he went out to his kinsfolk.” The few details in the biblical story led to many midrashic interpretations, including those in the 1998 movie The Prince of Egypt. This is from the story line of The Prince of Egypt:

     That night as Moses returns to his room, he discovers that Tzipporah has escaped. Intrigued by the rebellious girl, he follows her through the Hebrew settlement of Goshen where he comes upon his true siblings, Miriam and Aaron. Believing that Moses has returned to help them, Miriam reveals to Moses the truth about his identity, that he is the son of a Hebrew slave. Shocked and dismayed, Moses refuses to believe her and flees back to the palace. That night he has a nightmare about the slaughter of the newborn Hebrews many years ago.

     The movie’s authors and producers added many details to the terse biblical narrative. They have Tzipporah, Moses’ future wife, meeting him in Egypt, where in the biblical account he meets her later, in Midian. The Bible does not tell us exactly how Moses found out he is a Hebrew, while in the movie, “Miriam reveals to Moses the truth about his identity, that he is the son of a Hebrew slave.” These are plausible answers to questions about the Exodus story. Yet, they—as well as much of the Prince of Egypt animated feature—are a Midrash, filling in the holes for those curious about what exactly took place. And if we compare Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Midrash in The Prince of Egypt to Cecil B. De Mille’s in The Ten Commandments, we have an understanding of the distinct approaches of different interpreters of the same text—one reflecting the sensibilities of America in the 1950s, the other of an American Jew at the end of the twentieth century.

     The process of Midrash can also be seen in art, music, and literature. Chagall’s paintings are often modern expressions of traditional themes. The spiritual hymn “Let My People Go” took a well-known phrase from the Bible, one that Moses directed to Pharaoh, and reframed it as referring to blacks talking to Southern slave owners.

     Let’s look at a modern Midrash on Ecclesiastes, chapter 3. Here is a translation of verses 1 to 8 of that chapter:

To everything there is a season,
     And a time for every purpose under heaven:
     A time for being born and a time for dying,
     A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
     A time for slaying and a time for healing;
     A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
     A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
     A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
     A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
     A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
     A time for seeking and a time for losing,
     A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
     A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
     A time for silence and a time for speaking;
     A time for loving and a time for hating;
     A time for war and a time for peace.

     The 1960s hit “Turn, Turn, Turn,” sung by the Byrds and written by folk singer Pete Seeger, begins as a fairly straightforward musical presentation of the Bible text.

Chorus:
     To everything, turn, turn, turn,
     There is season, turn, turn, turn,
     And a time for every purpose under heaven.

     A time to be born, a time to die,
     A time to plant, a time to reap,
     A time to kill, a time to heal,
     A time to laugh, a time to weep.
Chorus …

     And the second stanza is also faithful to the biblical text:

     A time of love, a time of hate,
     A time of war, a time of peace,
     A time you may embrace,
     A time to refrain from embracing.
Chorus …

     Seeger leaves out certain verses and rearranges the sequence, but the song retains the flow of the biblical text—until the last lines. Where Ecclesiastes ends with “A time for war, and a time for peace,” the Byrds’ hit adds a 1960s anti-war postscript to reflect the mood of the time:

     A time to gain, a time to lose,
     A time to rend, a time to sow,
     A time to love, a time to hate,
     A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late.

     The author of Ecclesiastes states that there is a time for everything in life, predetermined by a power beyond our control. Pete Seeger’s song completely changes the meaning: War and peace are in the hands of human beings; the choices that people make can change the world.

     The list goes on and on: Leonard Bernstein’s Jeremiah is an example of music-as-Midrash. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, and (more recently) Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent each took a biblical theme and wove it into a story, creating a literary Midrash of its own.

     The Rabbis took the Bible seriously, searching for new and deeper meaning from the text and for an understanding (or, better, understandings) that spoke to their day and age. The Bible is the greatest example of a classic text, one which we go back to over and over, finding new meaning and inspiration in it time and time again, generation after generation. Our attempts to understand and interpret the Bible today—be they literary (like classic midrashim), musical, or artistic—demonstrate that we, too, are trying to incorporate sacred scripture into our own lives. If, as we claimed in Part I, “What Is Midrash,” “the process of Midrash began the very first time the Torah was read,” then surely the process of Midrash continues today, as we continue to read, ponder, and gain inspiration from the TANAKH.

     The Rabbis read the Bible seriously, and they created the Midrash. If we, today, read the Bible and the Midrash seriously, we can create our own midrashim, our interpretations, not only of the Bible but also of the Midrash itself. By confronting sacred text and engaging in a struggle with it, we affirm its sanctity and relevance in our lives. We engage in Midrash with a sense of awe, with an appreciation that we stand in the presence of something sacred, something holy, something of ultimate importance.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 30

     I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
---
Romans 12:1. KJV

     [Paul] discourses at large on the love of God toward us and points out God’s concern for us and [his] goodness, which cannot even be traced out. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. XI: St. Chrysostom ) He next persuades those who have received the benefit to exhibit a way of life worthy of the gift. He beseeches them—not for any enjoyment he was likely to get himself but for what they would gain.

     And no wonder he beseeches when he puts God’s mercies before them. For since, he means, it is from the mercies of God you have those numberless blessings, reverence them, be moved to compassion by them, that you would show no conduct unworthy of them. I entreat you then, he means, by the very things through which you were saved to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (KJV). When he said “sacrifice,” to prevent any from thinking he bade them kill themselves, he at once added (Greek order) “living.” Then to distinguish it from the Jewish [sacrifice], he calls it “holy, acceptable unto God”—for theirs was a material one, and not very acceptable, either. So Paul also here bids us present our bodies as living sacrifices.

     And how is the body to become a sacrifice? Let your eye look on no evil thing, and it has become a sacrifice; let your tongue speak nothing filthy, and it has become an offering; let your hand do no lawless deed, and it has become a whole burnt offering. Or rather, this is not enough, but we must have good works also: let the hand give gifts for the poor, the mouth bless them that curse you, and the hearing find leisure evermore for lessons taught from Scripture.

     Let us then from our hands and feet and mouth and all other members yield a firstfruit to God. Such a sacrifice is well pleasing—as that of the Jews was even unclean. Not so ours. That presented the thing sacrificed dead; this makes the thing sacrificed to be living. For the law of this sacrifice is new, and so the sort of fire is a marvelous one. For it needs no wood under it, but our fire lives of itself and does not burn up the victim but rather makes it live. This was the sacrifice that God sought of old.
--- John Chrysostom

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day   September 30
     The Contrarian


     The Lord has often used people in church history whom we may not have liked had we lived during their days. Jerome, for example. He possessed a brilliant mind, a sharp tongue, hot blood, and thin skin. He was a contrarian, remembered as one of the church’s most irritable scholars and among the first of the great Bible translators who have spread the Gospel abroad.

     Jerome was an Italian, born about 330, who early fell in love with women and books. After indulging in the former, he joined an ascetic group to enjoy the latter; but his sandpaper personality caused the group to disintegrate. As Jerome struggled to control his sexual energy, he began advancing the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. He believed that after Jesus’ birth, Mary continued to live a virgin’s life; and his own Herculean efforts to remain celibate led to his so exalting virginity that he considered marriage beneficial only because it brought virgins into the world.

     Perhaps the answer for him was a hermit’s life in the desert, practicing severe self-disciplines. It didn’t work. He still dreamed of Roman dancing girls. Returning to Rome, he faced the temptations head-on and avoided the dancing girls. But he didn’t avoid Paula, a young widow who became, not a sexual partner, but a lifelong soulmate. In Rome in the early 380s he discovered his life’s work. Pope Damasus suggested he prepare a new Latin version of the Gospels and Psalms. Jerome set to work on it, and for the next 22 years he labored tirelessly as a Bible translator.

     His sharp tongue made trouble in Rome, so he and Paula moved to Bethlehem in 386. Near the birthplace of Jesus, they established separate monasteries for men and women where Jerome balanced his need for companionship with a corresponding need for solitude, study, and asceticism. He poured himself into the Latin translation of the Bible, his life’s crowning achievement. He died, white-haired and wrinkled, on September 30, 420.

     With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me … ? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.
--- Romans 7:22-25a.

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

          Morning - September 30

     “Sing forth the honour of his name, make his praise glorious.” --- Psalm 66:2.

     It is not left to our own option whether we shall praise God or not. Praise is God’s most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of his grace, is bound to praise God from day to day. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: but the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai. Yes, it is the Christian’s duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Think not ye who are always mourning, that ye are guiltless in this respect, or imagine that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of his love to bless his name so long as you live, and his praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed, in order that you may bless him; “this people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise”; and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which he, as the Divine Husbandman, has a right to expect at your hands. Let not your harp then hang upon the willows, but take it down, and strive, with a grateful heart, to bring forth its loudest music. Arise and chant his praise. With every Morning’s dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, and God himself will hearken from heaven and accept your music.

     “E’en so I love thee, and will love,
     And in thy praise will sing,

     Because thou art my loving God,
     And my redeeming King.”

          Evening - September 30

     “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” --- Ecclesiastes 9:4.

     Life is a precious thing, and in its humblest form it is superior to death. This truth is eminently certain in spiritual things. It is better to be the least in the kingdom of heaven than the greatest out of it. The lowest degree of grace is superior to the noblest development of unregenerate nature. Where the Holy Ghost implants divine life in the soul, there is a precious deposit which none of the refinements of education can equal. The thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne; Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is in the sight of God superior to Plato. Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only coarser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in trespasses and sins.

     A living, loving, Gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power. A living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion, and is of more service to his master; and so the poorest spiritual preacher is infinitely to be preferred to the exquisite orator who has no wisdom but that of words, no energy but that of sound. The like holds good of our prayers and other religious exercises; if we are quickened in them by the Holy Spirit, they are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, though we may think them to be worthless things; while our grand performances in which our hearts were absent, like dead lions, are mere carrion in the sight of the living God. O for living groans, living sighs, living despondencies, rather than lifeless songs and dead calms. Better anything than death. The snarlings of the dog of hell will at least keep us awake, but dead faith and dead profession, what greater curses can a man have? Quicken us, quicken us, O Lord!

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 30

          THE SPIRIT BREATHES UPON THE WORD

     William Cowper, 1731–1800

     Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

     The Bible is the only book whose Author is always present when one reads it.
--- Unknown

     We can never really be exposed to the truths of God’s Word without our lives being affected. Either we become more desirous of becoming like the author of the Book, or we become increasingly hardened to its truths. It has been said that we must know the Word of God in order to know the God of the Word. However, a study of God’s Word must never stop at merely gaining biblical knowledge. It must always lead us to a more intimate relationship with God Himself.

     Although William Cowper, the author of this hymn text, was regarded as one of the leading English poets of his day, he suffered periods of severe depression throughout his lifetime. Yet during times of normalcy he wrote great literary works and worked with John Newton to produce the important Olney Hymns hymnal of 1779, to which Cowper contributed 67 texts. “The Spirit Breathes Upon the Word” was from this collection.

     This hymn teaches an important truth: The same Spirit of God who authored the Bible is the One who enlightens it for our understanding and guidance—“The hand that gave it still supplies the gracious light and heat.” May we increasingly use this enlightened Word as we pursue the steps of Christ till they lead us to “brighter worlds above.”

     The Spirit breathes upon the Word, and brings the truth to sight; precepts and promises afford a sanctifying light.
     A glory gilds the sacred page, majestic like the sun: It gives a light to ev’ry age; it gives but borrows none.
     The Hand that gave it still supplies the gracious light and heat; His truths upon the nations rise; they rise but never set.
     Let everlasting thanks be Thine for such a bright display as makes a world of darkness shine with beams of heav’nly day.
     My soul rejoices to pursue the steps of Him I love, till glory breaks upon my view in brighter worlds above.


     For Today: Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 4:4; 24:35; 1 Timothy 3:14, 15; 2 Timothy 3:15–17; 1 Peter 2:2

     Determine to enter into a fresh study of God’s Word with the desire that the Holy Spirit will bring some new truth and insight into your daily life. Carry this musical truth with you ---

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

          DISCOURSE VII - ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE

     (3.) This essential presence is not by multiplication. For that which is infinite cannot multiply itself, or make itself more or greater than it was.

     (4.) This essential presence is not by extension or diffusion, as a piece of gold may be beaten out to cover a large compass of ground; no, if God should create millions of worlds he would be in them all, not by stretching out his being, but by the infiniteness of his being; not by a new growth of his being, but by the same essence he had from eternity: upon the same reasons mentioned before, his simplicity and indivisibility.

     (5.) But totally. There is no space, not the least, wherein God is not wholly, according to his essence, and wherein his whole substance doth not exist; not a part of heaven can be designed wherein the Creator is not wholly; as he is in one part of heaven, he is in every part of heaven. Some kind of resemblance we may have from the water of the sea, which fills the great space of the world, and is diffused through all; yet the essence of water is in every drop of water in the sea, as much as the whole; and the same quality of water, though it comes short in quantity; and why shall we not allow God a nobler way of presence without diffusion, as is in that? or take this resemblance; since God likens himself to light in the Scripture, “he covereth himself with light.” A crystal globe hung up in the air hath light all about it, all within it, every part is pierced by it, wherever you see the crystal you see the light; the light in one part of the crystal cannot be distinguished from the light in the other part; and the whole essence of light is in every part; and shall not God be as much present with his creatures, as one creature can be with another? God is totally everywhere by his own simple substance.

     Prop. IV. God is present beyond the world. He is within and above all places, though places should be infinite in number; as he was before and beyond all time, so he is above and beyond all place; being from eternity before any real time, he must also be without as well as within any real space; if God were only confined to the world, he would be no more infinite in his essence than the world is in quantity; as a moment cannot be conceived from eternity, wherein God was not in being, so a space cannot be conceived in the mind of man, wherein God is not present; he is not contained in the world nor in the heavens (1 Kings 8:27). “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.” Solomon wonders that God should appoint a temple to be erected to him upon the earth, when he is not contained in the vast circuit of the heavens; his essence is not straitened in the limits of any created work; he is not contained in the heavens, i. e. in the manner that he is there; but he is there in his essence, and therefore cannot be contained there in his essence. If it should be meant only of his power and providence, it would conclude also for his essence; if his power and providence were infinite, his essence must be so too; for the infiniteness of his essence is the ground of the infiniteness of his power. It can never enter into any thought, that a finite essence can have an infinite power, and that an infinite power can be without an infinite essence; it cannot be meant of his providence, as if Solomon should say, the heaven of heavens cannot contain thy providence; for naming the heaven of heavens, that which encircles and bounds the other parts of the world, he could not suppose a providence to be exercised where there was no object to exercise it about; as no creature is mentioned to be beyond the uttermost heaven, which he calls here the heaven of heavens: besides, to understand it of his providence, doth not consist with Solomon’s admiration: he wonders that God, that hath so immense an essence, should dwell in a temple made with hands; he could not so much wonder at his providence in those things that immediately concern his worship. Solomon plainly asserts this of God, That he was so far from being bounded within the rich wall of the temple, which with so much cost he had framed for the glory of his name, that the richer palace of the heaven of heavens could not contain him; it is true, it could not contain his power and wisdom, because his wisdom could contrive other kind of worlds, and his power erect them. But doth the meaning of that wise king reach no farther than this? Will the power and wisdom of God reside on the earth? He was too wise to ask such a question, since every object that his eyes met with in the world resolved him, that the wisdom and power of God dwelt upon the earth, and glittered in everything he had created; and reason would assure him that the power that had framed this world, was able to frame any more; but Solomon, considering the immensity of God’s essence, wonders that God should order a house to be built for him, as if he wanted roofs and coverings, and habitation, as bodily creatures do. Will God indeed dwell in a temple, who hath an essence so immense as not to be contained in the heaven of heavens? It is not the heaven of heavens that can contain him, his substance. Here he asserts the immensity of his essence, and his presence not only in the heaven, but beyond the heavens; he that is not contained in the heavens, as a man is in a chamber, is without, and above, and beyond the heavens; it is not said, they do not contain him, but it is impossible they should contain him; they cannot contain him. It is impossible, then, but that he should be above them; he that is without the compass of the world, is not bounded by the limits of the world, as his power is not limited by the things he hath made, but can create innumerable worlds, so can his essence be in innumerable spaces; for as he hath power enough to make more worlds, so he hath essence enough to fill them, and therefore cannot be confined to what he hath already created; innumerable worlds cannot be a sufficient place to contain God; he can only be a sufficient place to himself; He that was before the world, and place, and all things, was to himself a world, a place, and everything: He is really out of the world in himself, as he was in himself before the creation of the world: as because God was before the foundation of the world, we conclude his eternity; so because he is without the bounds of the world, we conclude his immensity, and from thence his omnipresence. The world cannot be said to contain him, since it was created by him; it cannot contain him now, who was contained by nothing before the world was: as there was no place to contain him before the world was, there can be no lace to contain him since the world was. God might create more words, circular and round as this, and those could not be so contiguous, but some spaces would be left between; as, take three round balls, lay them as close as you can to one another, there will be some spaces between; none would say but God would be in these spaces, as well as in the world he had created, though there were nothing real and positive in those spaces: why should we then exclude God from those imag’~nary spaces without the world? God might also create many worlds, and separate them by distances, that they might not touch one another, but be at a great distance from one another; and would not God fill them as well as he doth this? if so, he must also fill the spaces between them; for if he were in all those worlds, and not in the spaces between those worlds, his essence would be divided; there would be gaps in it, his essence would be cut into parts, and the distance between every part of his essence, would be as great as the space between each world. The essence of God may be conceived then well enough to be in all those infinite spaces where he can erect new worlds. I shall give one place more to prove both these propositions, viz. that God is essentially in every part of the world, and essentially above ours without the world (Isa. 66:1): “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” He is essentially in every part of the world; he is in heaven and earth at the same time, as a man is upon his throne and his footstool. God describes himself in a human shape, accommodated to our capacity; as if he had his head in heaven, and his feet on earth. Doth not his essence then, fill all intermediate spaces between heaven and earth? As when the head of a man is in the upper part of a room, and his feet upon the floor, his body fills up the space between the head and his feet: this is meant of the essence of God; it is a similitude drawn from kings sitting upon the throne, and not their power and authority, but the feet of their persons are supported by the footstool; so here it is not meant only of the perfections of God, but the essence of God. Besides, God seems to tax them with an erroneous conceit they had, as though his essence were in the temple, and not in any part of the world; therefore God makes an opposition between heaven and earth, and the temple: “Where is the house that you built unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” Had he understood it only of his providence, it had not been anything against their mistake; for they granted his providence to be not only in the temple, but in all parts of the world. “Where is the house that you build to me;” to Me, not to my power or providence, but think to include Me within those walls. Again, it shows God to be above the heavens, if the heavens be his throne; he sits upon them, and is above them, as kings are above the thrones on which they sit. So it cannot be meant of his providence, because no creature being without the sphere of the heavens, there is nothing of the power and the providence of God visible there, for there is nothing for him to employ his providence about; for providence supposeth a creature in actual being; it must be therefore meant of his essence, which is above the world and in the world. And the like ptoof you may see (Job 11:7, 8), “It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” Where he intends the unsearchableness of God’s wisdom, but proves it by the infiniteness of his essence, (Heb.) “he is the height of the heavens,” he is the top of all the heavens; so that, when you have begun at the lowest part, and traced him through all the creatures, you will find his essence filling all the creatures, to be at the top of the world, and infinitely beyond it.

     Prop. V. This is the property of God, incommunicable to any creature. As no creature can be eternal and immutable, so no creature can be immense, because it cannot be infinite; nothing can be of an infinite nature, and therefore nothing of an immense presence but God. It cannot be communicated to the human nature of Christ, though in union with the Divine; some indeed argue, that Christ in regard of his human nature is everywhere, because he sits at the right hand of God, and the right hand of God is everywhere. His sitting at the right hand of God signifies his exaltation, and cannot with any reason, be extended to such a kind of arguing. “The hearts of kings are in the hand of God;” are the hearts of kings everywhere, because God’s hand is everywhere? The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God; is the soul, therefore, of every righteous man everywhere in the world? The right hand of God is from eternity; is the humanity of Christ, therefore, from eternity, because it sits at the right hand of God? The right hand of God made the world; did the humanity of Christ, therefore, make heaven and earth? the humanity of Christ must then be confounded with his divinity; be the same with it, not united to it. All creatures are distinct from their Creator, and cannot inherit the properties essential to his nature, as eternity, immensity, immutability, omnipresence, omniscience; no angel, no soul, no creature can be in all paces at once; before they can be so they must be immense, and so must cease to be creatures, and commence God; this is impossible.

The Existence and Attributes of God


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