Adversaries Oppose the RebuildingEzra 4 1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
The Letter to King Artaxerxes7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”
The King Orders the Work to Cease17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”
23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Rebuilding Begins AnewEzra 5 1 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
3 At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.
Tattenai’s Letter to King Darius6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. 7 They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ 17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”
The Decree of DariusEzra 6 1 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. 2 And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record. 3 In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, 4 with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. 5 And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God.”
6 “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away. 7 Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. 9 And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. 12 May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem. I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”
The Temple Finished and Dedicated13 Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered. 14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15 and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.
Passover Celebrated19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel. 22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
Ezra Sent to Teach the PeopleEzra 7 1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel: 12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, 15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. 17 With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. 18 Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.
21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. 24 We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.
25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”
27 Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
What I'm Reading
Unbelievable? Four Simple Principles to Determine Ancient Historical Reliability
By J. Warner Wallace 8/27/2017
Are you prepared to answer every challenge that might be offered about the historicity of the Gospels? Do you even know every challenge that might be offered? How do you respond when someone offers a challenge for which you don’t have immediate access to the all the pertinent data? There’s an important principle for all of us as Christian Case Makers: Historical challenges are often complicated, nuanced and detailed, and while it is nearly impossible to remember all the data related to every objection, there are four overarching principles of witness reliability appropriate to the task. These are the same four principles I’ve offered as a template in Cold Case Christianity. I used this template to evaluate the Gospels when I was an unbelieving skeptic, and these four principles will help you assess any challenge offered against the Gospel accounts:
Principle One: Make Sure the Witnesses Were Present in the First Place
There are times in cold case investigations when a witness emerges with a story, even though he or she was not involved in the case when it occurred. Sometimes a person such as this is motivated by a desire to become “famous”, sometimes by a desire to harm the defendant or help the victim. It’s my job as an investigator to make sure the witness was truly present (and in a position to see anything) before the witness takes the stand in front of a jury. When it comes to the Gospel accounts, we have to ask a similar question: Were the gospels written early enough to have been written by true eyewitnesses? If the accounts were written and circulated early, the possibility of an errant or deceptive inclusion is greatly reduced. Early authorship allows the accounts to be fact-checked by those who were present and could expose the accounts as a lie. The gospels are the earliest ancient accounts describing the life of Jesus and the historical events surrounding His life. This must be considered when evaluating the gospels against any ancient account that follows them.
Principle Two: Try to Find Some Corroboration for the Claims of the Witnesses
Jurors are encouraged to evaluate witnesses in a trial on the basis of any evidence offered to verify or corroborate their testimony. Sometimes witness testimony can be corroborated with physical evidence, sometimes with the direct testimony of another witness. In either case, the witness becomes more reliable as different lines of corroborative evidence begin to support his or her testimony. In a similar way, the Gospel accounts can be evaluated on the basis of their corroboration. I wrote an entire chapter in Cold Case Christianity examining the “external” corroboration of archaeology and ancient non-Christian sources, and the “internal” corroboration between Gospel accounts (what I call, “unintentional eyewitness support”), the accurate referencing of regional 1st Century proper names, the correct description of governmental structure, the familiar description of geography and location, and the reasonable use of language.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Passive Christianity Is Dead Christianity
By Jon Bloom 7/21/2017
What do you want? What do you desire? What is your ambition?
Do you really want to know? Look at your behavior. You do what you want.
This is a devastatingly simple psychology of motivation. But it’s what the Bible teaches:
James: Faith without works is dead. Don’t tell me you have faith if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (James 2:17–18)
John: Love without deeds is dead. Don’t tell me you love if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (1 John 3:17–18)
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
Jon Bloom Books:
Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man? Letter To A Would-Be Adulteress
By Noel Piper 7/17/2017
Cleave is a strange word. It’s a contranym — a word that can have opposite meanings.
In an upper story of a concrete apartment block in a small Chinese city, I watched Rene wield her cleaver like a top chef, preparing vegetables for her family’s dinner. I was impressed how she positioned her fingers so they didn’t get chopped with the carrots. “Wow! I want some of those knives to take home as gifts,” I said. Rene pointed out the window toward a shop across the busy street. “You should be able to find them there.”
The name of one brand was Family Cleaver. It was easy to see how the difficulty of grasping a double meaning in English must have tripped up a Chinese translator. I was glad to discover a different brand with a happier name (that wouldn’t have implications of splitting a family apart).
On the opposite side of the word, there’s the other meaning of cleave, as it’s used in a time-honored wedding text: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Or as the ESV translates the same word, the husband shall “hold fast” to his wife.
Job: Reverent in Suffering
By John Piper 7/7/1985
One of my duties as your pastor is to preach and pray in such a way that you are prepared in mind and heart not to curse God in the day of your calamity. But even more: That instead of cursing, you might worship God and bless him as your free and sovereign Father no matter how intense the grief or deep the pain he brings into your life.
So for the next five Sundays I would like for us to try to understand the message of the book of Job, and be changed by it.
Baffling and Unexpected Grief | Virtually everyone in this room will experience a bitter calamity sooner or later. And you can mark it down ahead of time: It will almost certainly seem absurd and meaningless and undeserved when it comes.
You may be sitting in a restaurant in El Salvador or walking along a street in Paris or making a flight connection in Athens. You may be shaving and singing a hymn when you feel the lump on your neck. You may be buying supper for the family at the Country Club when all of a sudden you realize your two-year-old is gone.
It will seem very absurd, and you will cry out, “Why?” a hundred times before the cloud passes over. Most of our grief and pain does not come as a clear punishment for sins. Most of it comes out of nowhere and baffles our sense of justice.
John Piper Books:
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
- Don't Waste Your Life
- Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- When I Don't Desire God (Redesign): How to Fight for Joy
- A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
- Future Grace, Revised Edition: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God
- When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy
- This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
- Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Revised Edition)
- Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
- The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
- Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
- God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
- Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ
- The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin
- Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks From a Lifetime of Preaching
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul
- Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure
- Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism
- Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
- Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)
- A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
- The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce
- Don't Waste Your Cancer
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian
- The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
- Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis
- Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
- Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
- Finally Alive
- A Godward Life: Seeing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Spectacular Sins (Redesign): And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ
- Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
- God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)
- Life as a Vapor: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Faith
- Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
- 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood
- What Jesus Demands from the World (Paperback Edition)
- What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
- Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen
- Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
- A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
- Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
- The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
- The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- Quest for Joy (Pack of 25) (Proclaiming the Gospel)
- Ruth: Under the Wings of God
- Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth
The Real Root of Sexual Sin
By Jon Bloom 5/26/2017
The most powerful weapon against sexual impurity is humility. Patterns of sinful thought and behavior are fruits of a deeper root. If we want to stop bearing bad fruit, we must aim our primary attack against the root. And the root of sexual sin is not our sex drive; it’s pride.
We live in an age dominated by Darwinian explanations of biology and psychology. So we easily absorb certain naturalistic assumptions. One such assumption is that our sexual drives and impulses are remnants of our primordial, bestial ancestors, and therefore we deal with them with cages of external personal and social restraints.
This is a very conflicted perspective. It views us as both victims and monsters. On one hand, we’re victims of our ancient past, and on the other hand, we’re sexual monsters if we express our primal impulses in ways not sanctioned by the prevailing level of social tolerance.
t’s also a wholly inadequate explanation in view of our consuming sexual problem. The degrees of human sexual depravity, distortion, and destruction are of such a nature that nearly everyone thinks things and many do things that we have no other word for than evil.
Sex Is Not the Problem | It’s shocking how little our inner evil bestial impulses have to do with our primal genetic intent: procreation. No other human instinct has so many deviations in its expressions. Our culture can’t keep up with the expanding sexual definitions. LGBTQ is now just shorthand for LGBTTQQIAAPPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual, polygamous, kinkiness). And this is likely obsolete already. It’s getting tragically ridiculous.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
Jon Bloom Books:
The Nashville Statement
By Albert Mohler 9/3/2017
This past week I was part of an effort that put America’s theological and moral fault lines fully in view. I was a signer of something called the Nashville Statement, a document adopted by a group of evangelical Christians seeking to reaffirm traditional Christian values on sexuality.
Within hours, the vitriol in response to our document showed why such clarification is necessary.
One of the most intense lines of criticism was that we, signers of the document, dismiss the pain and suffering of those who live outside those historic Biblical sexual norms. That we weren’t acknowledging the rejection they feel in the church and were making their sins appear more significant than our own.
To be clear: Christians understand the brokenness of the world. We signers know ourselves, like all humanity, to be broken by sin. We have no right to face the world from a claim of moral superiority. We know and confess that Christians have often failed to speak the truth in love.
In releasing the Nashville Statement, we in fact are acting out of love and concern for people who are increasingly confused about what God has clarified in Holy Scripture.
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:
- 1 God and the Transgender Debate
- 2 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 3 Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You
- 4 God's Word Alone---The Authority of Scripture: ...and Why It Still Matters
- 5 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 6 Echoes of the Reformation
- 7 The Call to Ministry
- 8 A Guide to Church Revitalization
- 9 Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
- 10 Living The Cross Centered Life Keeping The Gospel The Main Thing
- 11 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 12 Essential Reading on Preaching (Volume 1)
- 13 Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy
- 14 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 15 Unashamed of the Gospel
- 16 Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance
- 17 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 18 Gods of This Age Or... God of the Ages?
- 19 Acts 1-12: The Church is Born
- 20 More Faithful Service
- 21 The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness
- 22 Preaching: The Centrality of Scripture
- 23 Theological Education in the Evangelical Tradition
- 24 More Faithful Service
Why the Rejection of the Nashville Statement on Sexuality Is a Rejection of the Bible
By Michael Brown 9/3/2017
If a group of astronomers issued a major document stating that the earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the earth, it would be greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. Who didn’t know that? Why, then, has a recent statement by Christian leaders affirming the basics of biblical sexuality been greeted with such protest from other professing Christian leaders? It is because these other “Christian” leaders have rejected the authority of the Word of God.
For those who haven’t read the Nashville Statement, the Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical website, actually sums things up well, and with some well-placed sarcasm:
It says some really controversial stuff for Bible-believing Christians, like that God made Adam and Eve as (trigger warning) male and female, that marriage was created by God to be the union between one man and one woman, that He loves people with gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction even if He doesn’t approve of all of their actions, and that He offers His grace and mercy to sinners of all stripes.
Yes, just the most basic of the basics, reaffirming what the Church (and Synagogue) have believed about marriage and sexuality for two millennia and offering grace and mercy to all. That’s why, when I was asked to be one of the initial signatories, I signed on without hesitation. What was there to disagree with?
LGBT Activists Attack the Nashville Statement | Yet in response to the Nashville Statement a headline on the Huffington Post declared, “Hundreds Of Christian Leaders Denounce Anti-LGBTQ ‘Nashville Statement.’” The Post called the statement “divisive and bizarrely-timed.” It noted that it “drew harsh criticism from many other Christians, members of the LGBTQ community and even the mayor of Nashville.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Dr. Michael Brown Books:
- 1 Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living
- 2 Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- 3 The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah
- 4 In the Line of Fire: 70 Articles from the Front Lines of the Culture Wars
- 5 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
- 6 Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide
- 7 Our Hands Are Stained with Blood
- 8 Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire
- 9 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1
- 10 A Queer Thing Happened To America: And what a long, strange trip it's been
- 11 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3
- 12 Go And Sin No More: A Call To Holiness
- 13 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections Vol. 2
- 14 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: New Testament Objections (Vol. 4)
- 15 Whatever Happened to the Power of God?/It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 16 The Grace Controversy: Answers to 12 Common Questions
- 17 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices
- 18 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:Traditional Jewish Objections Vol 5
- 19 Israel's Divine Healer
- 20 Whatever Happened to the Power of God
- 21 A Time For Holy Fire: Preparing the Way for Divine Visitation
- 22 How Saved Are We?
- 23 Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation
- 24 Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change
- 25 What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Jewish Beliefs, Practices, and History
- 26 From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival
- 27 Revolution: Jesus' Call to Change the World
- 28 Let No One Deceive You
- 29 Revolution!: The Call to Holy War
- 30 It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 31 The End of the American Gospel Enterprise
- 32 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message by Michael L. Brown (2014-01-07)
- 33 The Revival Answer Book
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 98Make a Joyful Noise to the LORD
98 A Psalm
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
2 The LORD has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
The Bishop of Our Souls
By R.C. Sproul 7/01/2012
The titles that the New Testament writers use for Jesus make for a fascinating and enlightening study. One of the most obscure and perplexing of these titles is found in 1 Peter 2:25, where the Apostle writes, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” In the classical language of the King James Version, this title is rendered as “Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Many evangelicals react negatively to the idea of Jesus as our Bishop. What did Peter have in mind when he spoke of Jesus in this way?
Although Peter’s letter is the only place in the New Testament where Christ is called our Bishop, the concept is deeply rooted in Scripture. We even find a hint of it in the song of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. Zechariah said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). In the Old Testament, the promises of redemption that God made to His people included a promise of a day of divine visitation. The Jews were taught to expect a visit from God. Zechariah, however, said God had visited and redeemed His people. He spoke this way because he understood that the appearance of the Messiah was at hand, and He would be heralded by Zechariah’s own son.
What does this have to do with the title of “bishop”? The Greek word translated as “visited” in Luke 1:68 is episkeptomai, which is a verb form of the noun episkopos, the Greek word that is translated as “bishop” or “overseer” in 1 Peter 2:25. That word, episkopos, is reflected in the name of the Episcopalian Church, which is governed by bishops.
The word episkopos is composed of a prefix and a root. The prefix is epi-, which serves to intensify the word with which it is combined. The root is skopos, which gives us the English word “scope.” We find this root in such words as telescope, periscope, and microscope, all of which are instruments that help us to see things. If we were to add the prefix epi- to the word scope, we would have an instrument for intensive observation. That is precisely what an episkopos was in ancient Greece, except that it was a person, not an instrument. The episkopos was a high-ranking military officer who inspected the troops to be sure they were ready for battle. With that background, we can see that a bishop is one who is given oversight in the church, with the responsibility to look closely into all matters under his supervision.
Jesus, then, is our Bishop, our Episkopos, who has oversight of us as our Lord. He is vested with the power to look into our lives, to gauge our readiness for combat with the forces of darkness.
The sad fact, however, is that we do not usually like to undergo His inspection. Do you remember how Adam and Eve reacted when God visited the garden of Eden after they had eaten from the forbidden tree? They hid themselves. They understood themselves to be naked in His presence, unable to conceal their sin from His close scrutiny (Gen. 3:8–10). Adam and Eve wanted nothing to do with an episkopos. It was much the same when Jesus came in His incarnation. The Scriptures tell us that “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Like Adam and Eve, the Jews wanted nothing to do with this heavenly Visitor. Indeed, all fallen human beings are terrified of exposure to God’s scrutiny.
The Jews in Old Testament times looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. But the prophets warned them that the day of His appearing might not be the wonderful experience they expected. They hoped to see God judge their enemies, but the prophets said that the Episkopos would judge His own people if they were not ready to receive Him, if they were faithless and disobedient.
But Zechariah sang his song from the perspective of a child of God, one who was glad to see the coming of the heavenly Visitor and who welcomed His scrutiny. For all who are ready, a visit from the Episkopos is a welcome thing, for they understand that His scrutiny is directed toward the care of the souls under His supervision.
The Bishop of our souls knows us better than we know ourselves. Although ministers and bishops are called to follow our Lord’s example, we will never have a pastor or elder who cares for our souls anywhere near the degree to which Christ, our Bishop, does.
Do you want God to know you? Do you pray as David did: “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” (Ps. 139:23a)? Those are the words of a person who knows the forgiving grace of God. Once we experience God’s grace and tender mercy, we want more. The Christian delights in being known by the Bishop of his soul.
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
Rekindling the Flame
By Starr Meade 7/01/2012
“You never know what depths of sin and wickedness of hell are in your nature till you turn and start to walk the path that leads to God and Christ, the path that is paved with righteousness and truth, but bordered with grinning fiends and smiling serpents who stretch out hands to help the traitor in your soul,” said I. M. Haldeman.
What threatens a heart aflame with love for God? When this column was introduced, Sinclair Ferguson wrote that one of the things it would explore would be ways in which a heart aflame with love for God can be threatened. I look back over almost four decades of Christian experience and realize that the contribution I am most suited to make is one that addresses the threat to a heart aflame.
Long ago, in the middle of teen years ripped apart and made lonely by the dissolution of my family, it hit me with all the blinding force of Saul’s light on the road to Damascus: God loves me. It was not just people in general whom He loves, and me as one of them. He loves me. He had given His Son to die for me. He had taken great pains for me. If no other person in the universe ever cared about me, I would have all the love I could ever need in this one great Lord who loves me.
It was then that I gave myself to the life goal of knowing God. Like the Apostle Paul, my desire was to “gain Christ.” I wanted to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and … share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:8–11). I wanted to be a woman after God’s heart. Back then, it felt like I had an infinite amount of time for pursuing that goal. Now, though, I look back over years that have flown by, and I wonder: how can it be that I have lived so many years and yet made so little progress in learning to love and imitate a Savior so worthy of praise?
One thing I don’t wonder about is this: what is it that has held me back? What is it that so constantly threatens the flame of love for God in me? It is the very heart that should be on fire; it is the sin in me, that “traitor in my soul.” So many years have gone by, and still that same old idol, myself, though I have cast it down so many times, gets put back in place once more. Why don’t I give more glory to God, who is so great? Because I’m so hungry for praise for me. Why don’t I seek the face of God with greater zeal? Because I’m so busy seeking comfort and pleasure for me. Why don’t I love God as He ought to be loved? Because I’m so full of love for myself.
Yet something comes time and again to my little, Spirit-created spark of love for God and blows on it, coaxing it once more into a blaze. What is it that fans the flame? It is the ugly vision, yet once more, of my sin combined with the sudden awareness of God’s infinite grace. It is the reminder that God gives grace for this precise reason: that I can never be as passionate about God, as faithful to Him, as I ought to be. It is the assurance that my salvation rests so securely on what Jesus Christ has done that none of my failures will ever undo it. Caught sinning yet again and reminded of God’s grace in Christ, my heart bursts afresh into a blaze of love and delight in Him.
God’s power is such that He takes the very things most threatening to His purposes—rebellion in a garden, family favoritism and betrayal, genocide by a pharaoh, crucifixion of the Messiah—and uses those very threats to accomplish the purposes they meant to thwart. In the same way, God has used, time and again, the horror of my sin and unfaithfulness to revive, once more, a heart on fire with love for Him, His Word, and His ways.
How does that happen? It happens when I read the accounts of Israel rebelling, whining, and making idols, and I see myself right there with them. Then I hear God’s words of promise to them and know they are for me as well:
They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezek. 37:23)
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch… . And this is the name by which he will be called: The Lord is our righteousness. (Jer. 23:5–6).
It happens when I hear the gospel proclaimed in such a way that it pulls my eyes away from my sin and calls to me: “Behold, your God!” It happens when I sit, unworthy, at the feast spread at the Lord’s Table and realize, as Isaac Watts wrote, “Here peace and pardon bought with blood is food for dying souls.”
So, my sovereign God makes use of my worst enemy and His, my sin, to renew in me the vision of His sweet, infinite grace. So He ushers me again into His glorious presence, my heart aflame once more with grateful love for Him.
- 1 Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism
- 2 The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study, Volume 34: A Survey of the Bible: Vols.3-4: The New Testament
- 3 Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catachism
- 4 Grandpa's Box: Retelling the Biblical Story of Redemption
- 5 The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study: A Survey of the Bible - OT - Volumes 1 & 2
- 6 Wondrous Works of God: A Family Bible Story Book
- 7 Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book
- 8 Give Them Truth: Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds
- 9 God's Mighty Acts in Salvation
- 10 Keeping Holiday
- 11 A Survey of the Bible: OT Volume 1
- 12 A Survey of the Bible: OT Volume 2
- 13 A Survey of the Bible: NT Volume 4
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
The world was shocked as just five days after Princess Diana was killed, Mother Teresa died this day, September 5, 1997. The daughter of an Albanian grocer, she joined an order at age 18 and began working in the slums of Calcutta. She started the Missionaries of Charity, caring for the blind, aged, lepers, crippled, and the dying. A Nobel Prize recipient, she spoke at a National Prayer Breakfast, attended by the Clintons and Al Gore, saying: “Please don’t kill the child… I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Suffering is permanent,
obscure and dark,
And shares the nature of infinity.
--- William Wordsworth
Night is a time of rigor,
but also of mercy.
There are truths which one can see only when it’s dark.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Teibele and her demon
Life is God’s novel. Let him write it.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Let the past sleep,
but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.
--- Oswald Chambers
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. Now the opinion of the Idumeans and of the citizens was one and the same. The Idumeans thought that God was angry at their taking arms, and that they would not escape punishment for their making war upon their metropolis. Ananus and his party thought that they had conquered without fighting, and that God acted as a general for them; but truly they proved both ill conjectures at what was to come, and made those events to be ominous to their enemies, while they were themselves to undergo the ill effects of them; for the Idumeans fenced one another by uniting their bodies into one band, and thereby kept themselves warm, and connecting their shields over their heads, were not so much hurt by the rain. But the zealots were more deeply concerned for the danger these men were in than they were for themselves, and got together, and looked about them to see whether they could devise any means of assisting them. The hotter sort of them thought it best to force their guards with their arms, and after that to fall into the midst of the city, and publicly open the gates to those that came to their assistance; as supposing the guards would be in disorder, and give way at such an unexpected attempt of theirs, especially as the greater part of them were unarmed and unskilled in the affairs of war; and that besides the multitude of the citizens would not be easily gathered together, but confined to their houses by the storm: and that if there were any hazard in their undertaking, it became them to suffer any thing whatsoever themselves, rather than to overlook so great a multitude as were miserably perishing on their account. But the more prudent part of them disapproved of this forcible method, because they saw not only the guards about them very numerous, but the walls of the city itself carefully watched, by reason of the Idumeans. They also supposed that Ananus would be every where, and visit the guards every hour; which indeed was done upon other nights, but was omitted that night, not by reason of any slothfulness of Ananus, but by the overbearing appointment of fate, that so both he might himself perish, and the multitude of the guards might perish with him; for truly, as the night was far gone, and the storm very terrible, Ananus gave the guards in the cloisters leave to go to sleep; while it came into the heads of the zealots to make use of the saws belonging to the temple, and to cut the bars of the gates to pieces. The noise of the wind, and that not inferior sound of the thunder, did here also conspire with their designs, that the noise of the saws was not heard by the others.
7. So they secretly went out of the temple to the wall of the city, and made use of their saws, and opened that gate which was over against the Idumeans. Now at first there came a fear upon the Idumeans themselves, which disturbed them, as imagining that Ananus and his party were coming to attack them, so that every one of them had his right hand upon his sword, in order to defend himself; but they soon came to know who they were that came to them, and were entered the city. And had the Idumeans then fallen upon the city, nothing could have hindered them from destroying the people every man of them, such was the rage they were in at that time; but as they first of all made haste to get the zealots out of custody, which those that brought them in earnestly desired them to do, and not to overlook those for whose sakes they were come, in the midst of their distresses, nor to bring them into a still greater danger; for that when they had once seized upon the guards, it would be easy for them to fall upon the city; but that if the city were once alarmed, they would not then be able to overcome those guards, because as soon as they should perceive they were there, they would put themselves in order to fight them, and would hinder their coming into the temple.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
people call a schemer.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The missionary watching
Watch with Me. --- Matthew 26:40.
“Watch with Me”—with no private point of view of your own at all, but watch entirely with Me. In the early stages we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revelation of the Bible; in the circumstances of our lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself in a particular Gethsemane, and we will not go; we say—‘No, Lord, I cannot see the meaning of this, it is bitter.’ How can we possibly watch with Someone Who is inscrutable? How are we going to understand Jesus sufficiently to watch with Him in His Gethsemane, when we do not know even what His suffering is for? We do not know how to watch with Him; we are only used to the idea of Jesus watching with us.
The disciples loved Jesus Christ to the limit of their natural capacity, but they did not understand what He was after. In the Garden of Gethsemane they slept for their own sorrow, and at the end of three years of the closest intimacy they “all forsook Him and fled.”
“They were all filled with the Holy Ghost”—the same “they,” but something wonderful has happened in between, viz., Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection and Ascension, and the disciples have been invaded by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord had said—“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” and this meant that they learned to watch with Him all the rest of their lives.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Bread (Poetry for Supper)
Hunger was loneliness, betrayed
By the pitiless candour of the stars'
Talk, in an old byre he prayed
Not for food; to pray was to know
Waking from a dark dream to find
The white loaf on the white snow;
Not for warmth, warmth brought the rain's
Blurring of the essential point
Of ice probing his raw pain.
He prayed for love, love that would share
His rags' secret; rising he broke
Like sun crumbling the gold air
The live bread for the starved folk.
Bob: Excuse me, Mr. Jones, could I talk to you for a minute?
Boss: Sure, Bob. Come on in and have a seat. What’s up?
Bob: Is that a new tie, Mr. Jones? It looks great with that suit.
Boss: Oh, thanks. My wife picked it up for me for Father’s Day.
Bob: Well, she’s got exquisite taste in ties, and exquisite taste in husbands.
Boss: You’re very kind, Bob. What can I do for you?
Bob: About the Smith account … I just had to tell you that I was so impressed by your leadership on this project.
Boss: Thanks, Bob.
Bob: You handled things in an incredibly professional manner.
Boss: I appreciate your sharing that.
Bob: You were visionary, imaginative, and creative.
Boss [to himself]: Hmmm, a “visionary.” Go on, Bob, flattery will get you everywhere!
Bob: You came in well organized.
Boss [to himself]: Yes, I did, didn’t I!
Bob: You were thoroughly prepared, down to the tiniest detail.
Boss [to himself]: Well, I’m good at what I do!
Bob: You inspired us, and motivated us to work to our utmost capabilities.
Boss [to himself]: I guess I’m just a natural-born leader!
Bob: You were tough when you had to be strong.
Boss [to himself]: You’re beginning to embarrass me.
Bob: And you were flexible and willing to compromise at just the right moments.
Boss [to himself]: All right, enough.
Bob: You demonstrated great people skills; you were equally good with the bank president in the boardroom and with the receptionist over the phone.
Boss [to himself]: I’m getting a little uncomfortable now.
Bob: And you demonstrated an expertise of the field that left us all in awe.
Boss [to himself]: You’re starting to annoy me.
Bob: You stayed cool during the crises and taught us how best to deal with stress.
Boss [to himself]: You’re really “kissing up” now.
Bob: I know I speak for everyone here, sir, when I tell you that we are so proud to work for you.
Boss [to himself]: What is it you want from me? A raise? A corner office?
Bob: And if I may add a personal note, Mr. Jones: I consider myself blessed to be working for a man of your substance and stature.
Boss [to himself]: You’re making me sick, damn it! I hate you!! Get out of my sight!!!
Bob: So, again, thank you for being the best boss that a person could ever hope for!
Boss [to himself]: One more word and you’re fired!
Bob: That really is a great tie, sir.
hould we be worried that people might get swelled heads? That there might be too much praise? Overdoing compliments is not our problem today! Halevai—if only people showed appreciation to others to the degree they deserve it.
Our problem today is that we hardly give praise at all. We live in a world filled with criticism—drama critics, food critics, theater critics. We rate each other’s performance on a scale of one to ten, as if Mom’s dinner or an e-mail from a friend is a Hollywood movie. We give the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to almost everything. College professors lose bids for tenure not because their credentials or scholarship are in any way lacking but rather because online reviews of their courses have been negative.
While some of these disapproving reviews may be deserved, it is questionable that the majority are. Whether it’s toward our children, fellow workers, or friends—we are very quick to point out faults and criticisms. In most cases, we would do better, as they would, if we were to offer them a little praise. In the words of the well-known axiom, “Honey works better than vinegar.” Or as the poet Edgar A. Guest once wrote:
Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those around me,
Let me praise a little more.
In my Father’s house are many rooms. --- John 14:2.
Heaven is God’s house. (Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards) When the disciples perceived that Christ was going away, they expressed a desire to go with him. Peter asked him where he went, that he might follow. Christ told him that he could not follow him now, but that he would follow him afterwards. But Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” (John 13:37).
A house of public worship is a house where God’s people meet and is called God’s house. The temple of Solomon was called God’s house. God was represented as dwelling there. There he had his throne in the holy of holies.
Sometimes the whole universe is represented in Scripture as God’s house, built one story above another. But the highest heaven is represented in Scripture as the house of God, reserved for himself for his own dwelling. The heavens are the Lord’s, [thus], though he is everywhere present, God is represented both in Old Testament and New as being in heaven in a special and peculiar manner. Heaven is the temple of God. Solomon’s temple was a foreshadow of heaven. The epistle to the Hebrews calls heaven the holy of holies, the place of God’s most immediate residence. Houses where assemblies of Christians worship God are in some respects figures of this house of God above. When God is worshipped in them in spirit and truth, they become the outworks of heaven and, as it were, its gates.
Heaven is represented in Scripture as God’s dwelling: “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven”
(Ps. 123:1). Heaven is God’s palace. ’Tis the house of the great King of the universe; there he has his throne, which is therefore represented as his house or temple: “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne” (Ps. 11:4).
God is represented as a householder or head of a family, and heaven is his house. The saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. And though some of this family are now on earth, all are going home. God has many children, and the place designed for them is heaven.
Heaven is the house not only where God has his throne, but also where he keeps his table, where his children sit down with him and where they are feasted in a royal manner becoming the children of so great a King (Luke 22:30).
God is the King of Kings, and heaven is the place where he keeps his court. There are his angels and archangels that, as the nobles of his court, attend him.
--- Jonathan Edwards
No Stone Unturned September 5
Allen Francis Gardiner grew up in a Christian home, took to the sea, and achieved a successful British naval career with little thought for God. But in 1822 he fell ill and reevaluated his life. He scribbled in his journal: After years of ingratitude, unbelief, blasphemy and rebellion, have I at last been melted? Alas, how slow, how reluctant I have been to admit the heavenly guest who stood knocking without!
Traveling around the world had given Captain Gardiner a glimpse of the need for missionaries, and he gave himself for the task. Leaving England for South America, he hoped to minister among the Araucanian or Mapuche Indians of southern Chile. Government interference and intertribal fighting forced him back to England. Three years later he was at it again, visiting the Falklands and investigating the possibility of taking the Gospel to the islands of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Sensing opportunity at hand, Gardiner returned to England and on July 4, 1844, established a small organization called the Patagonian Missionary Society. He wrote, I have made up my mind to go back to South America and leave no stone unturned, no effort untried, to establish a mission among the aboriginal tribes. While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me.
Gardiner visited South America a third time, but his efforts were again thwarted by intertribal fighting and governmental interference, the land being strongly Catholic, intolerant of Protestant missions. He returned to England, recruited six missionaries, and set sail for Tierra del Fuego. But all seven men died of disease, starvation, and exposure on Picton Island. Gardiner, the last to die, dated his final journal entry September 5, 1851: Good and marvelous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God unto me. He has preserved me hitherto and for four days, although without bodily food, without any feelings of hunger or thirst.
Captain Allen Gardiner died without seeing a single soul saved among those for whom he was most burdened. But he lit a fire which has never gone out. His South American Missionary Society (as it came to be called) has been sending missionaries and saving souls for over 150 years.
My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 5
"Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar." --- Psalm 120:5.
As a Christian you have to live in the midst of an ungodly world, and it is of little use for you to cry “Woe is me.” Jesus did not pray that you should be taken out of the world, and what he did not pray for, you need not desire. Better far in the Lord’s strength to meet the difficulty, and glorify him in it. The enemy is ever on the watch to detect inconsistency in your conduct; be therefore very holy. Remember that the eyes of all are upon you, and that more is expected from you than from other men. Strive to give no occasion for blame. Let your goodness be the only fault they can discover in you. Like Daniel, compel them to say of you, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” Seek to be useful as well as consistent. Perhaps you think, “If I were in a more favourable position I might serve the Lord’s cause, but I cannot do any good where I am”; but the worse the people are among whom you live, the more need have they of your exertions; if they be crooked, the more necessity that you should set them straight; and if they be perverse, the more need have you to turn their proud hearts to the truth. Where should the physician be but where there are many sick? Where is honour to be won by the soldier but in the hottest fire of the battle? And when weary of the strife and sin that meets you on every hand, consider that all the saints have endured the same trial. They were not carried on beds of down to heaven, and you must not expect to travel more easily than they. They had to hazard their lives unto the death in the high places of the field, and you will not be crowned till you also have endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Therefore, “stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
Evening - September 5
“Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?”
--- Job 38:16.
Some things in nature must remain a mystery to the most intelligent and enterprising investigators. Human knowledge has bounds beyond which it cannot pass. Universal knowledge is for God alone. If this be so in the things which are seen and temporal, I may rest assured that it is even more so in matters spiritual and eternal. Why, then, have I been torturing my brain with speculations as to destiny and will, fixed fate, and human responsibility? These deep and dark truths I am no more able to comprehend than to find out the depth which coucheth beneath, from which old ocean draws her watery stores. Why am I so curious to know the reason of my Lord’s providences, the motive of his actions, the design of his visitations? Shall I ever be able to clasp the sun in my fist, and hold the universe in my palm? yet these are as a drop of a bucket compared with the Lord my God. Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love. What I cannot gain by intellect I can possess by affection, and let that suffice me. I cannot penetrate the heart of the sea, but I can enjoy the healthful breezes which sweep over its bosom, and I can sail over its blue waves with propitious winds. If I could enter the springs of the sea, the feat would serve no useful purpose either to myself or to others, it would not save the sinking bark, or give back the drowned mariner to his weeping wife and children; neither would my solving deep mysteries avail me a single whit, for the least love to God, and the simplest act of obedience to him, are better than the profoundest knowledge. My Lord, I leave the infinite to thee, and pray thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.
O DAY OF REST AND GLADNESS
Christopher Wordsworth, 1807–1885
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest … Hebrews 4:9, 10, 11
Christopher Wordsworth, a nephew of the renowned English poet, William Wordsworth, reminds us in this hymn that since God rested after His acts of creation, we who are made in His image also need a day of rest and spiritual renewal. We need the encouragement and fellowship of other believers to keep our lives aglow for God. The way we use the Lord’s Day reflects our true devotion to God. Very early in the Christian era, the first day of the week replaced the Jewish Sabbath as the day of worship because it was on Sunday that the resurrection took place. Although we do not observe it according to the many set rules such as the Jews had for their Sabbath, Sunday should always be a special day of refreshment and of giving honor and worship to our God.
Christopher Wordsworth was an Anglican bishop, a noted scholar, and a distinguished writer. He composed 127 hymn texts that were intended to teach the truths of Scripture and encourage worship. “O Day of Rest and Gladness,” his only hymn widely used today, focuses on the doctrine of the Trinity. In the second stanza, the triune Godhead is compared to three important events or a “triple light” that occurred on the first day of the week: The creation of light (Genesis 1:1), the resurrection of Christ, and the advent of the Holy Spirit. In the final stanza, Wordsworth addresses each member of the Godhead by name, as the church raises its perpetual voice to “Thee, blest Three in One.”
O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light, O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright: On thee, the high and lowly, thru ages joined in tune, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” to the great God Triune.
On thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth; on thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth; on thee, our Lord, victorious, the Spirit sent from heav’n; and thus on thee, most glorious, a triple light was giv’n.
New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest, we reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blest. To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son; the Church her voice upraises to Thee, blest Three in One.
For Today: Genesis 1:3–5; Psalm 118:24; Isaiah 58:13, 14; Revelation 14:13
Do you anticipate with joy the Lord’s Day, when you can worship God in your local church? How can Sunday become a more meaningful time of renewal and refreshment for you and your family? Reflect on this hymn as you go ---
“May those who love you be secure.”
NOTE: This prayer may be prayed in one hour, or it may be prayed section by section over a longer period of time. Although it is patterned after Daniel 9, it is my personal prayer. It comes from deep within my heart, because I believe the rapture of the church may be imminent. When that moment comes, and every born again believer is caught up to be with Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit who indwells them and presently restrains evil, Israel will be more alone in the family of nations than she ever has been since her rebirth in 1948. And I wonder…is it at that moment that God will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication? Is it at that moment that they will look on the One they have pierced, and recognize Him as their Messiah? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am utterly convinced it’s time to pray for Jerusalem.
Our Father in Heaven. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are the Eternal I AM. The One who is age to age the same. There is no shadow of turning with You. You are fully present in every generation—past, present, and future. You are the All-Mighty. Your power has not been deleted or depleted over the millennia of human history. We know that You so loved the world that You gave us Heaven’s treasure when You sent Your only Son to die, so that anyone and everyone who places their faith in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Yet we also know that Your great heart of love still longs to pour out Your blessing on the City and the people that You have uniquely chosen as Your own. Jerusalem. The House of Israel. The Jews.
In this present worldwide climate of unbridled evil, we are desperate! Nations are unraveling. Wars are raging. There are rumors of more wars breaking out. Kingdom is rising against kingdom. Our spirits feel the turmoil and agitation that surely is a reflection of the warfare being waged in the invisible realms. We need You! For everything! But our hearts are now burdened for the Epicenter of the world. For Jerusalem and all that she represents at this critical, strategic last hour.
So we humbly turn to You now. For one hour we turn away from our responsibilities and routines, our busyness and our business, our own problems and pressures. We turn away from focusing on our own nation and the needs of the church. We turn away from any self-reliance or self-interests, and we look to You. We run to You. We join together with one heart and one voice to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. You alone are the One who makes us to dwell in safety. You alone are the One who makes us secure. You alone are God. And You alone are our God. We turn to You, deeply aware we do not deserve in ourselves to address You, yet boldly confident of access into Your most holy presence through the blood of Your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so…
We pray with confidence, because You are the God of Creation, Lord of the Universe. Elohim. The Strong One. You alone are The LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You. We sing Your praises, for You are highly exalted. No one is higher than You. You are our strength and our song. Again and again, You have been the salvation of Your people: from bondage in Egypt, from Pharoh’s pursuing army, from Midianites and Amorites and Edomites and Moabites and Canaanites and Perizzites and Philistines; from captivity in Babylon, from the four corners of the earth, from the Nazi death camps, and now from Hamas and Hezbollah and ISIS and the Taliban and Al Queda and the Muslim Brotherhood and Boko Haram, You alone are able to shatter Israel’s enemies.
Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power. And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up again You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff.
Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.
You will reign forever and ever. We long for the day when our faith becomes sight and the whole world is filled with the glory of who You are. Our highest joy will be to see You face to face; to gather around Your throne with multitudes from every tribe, language, people, and nation that you have purchased with the blood of Your own Son, and worship You.
We pray with compulsion for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the whole House of Israel. Your people and the city that bear Your name are surrounded by a vast multitude of hostile, evil men seeking to kill and destroy. Men who behead those who refuse to embrace their evil dogma, who bury alive those who refuse to submit to their will, who crucify those who are identified with Your Son. Your people are under the incessant barrage of enemy missiles and mortars that are destroying farms and families, communities and children. While one ceasefire after another promises peace, peace there is no peace. Are You not the God who rules over all the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.
We are compelled to pray for Your people because they are facing their enemies without the strength, wisdom, peace, comfort, security and hope that You reserve for those who are indwelt by Your Spirit through faith in Your Son, Jesus. They have no deep, blessed assurance that their sins are forgiven, that eternal life is theirs, and that a heavenly Home is waiting to welcome them.
We are compelled to pray because…
• You have promised that You will give Your people a new heart and put a new spirit within them; that You will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
• You have promised that in the very last days, You will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.
• You have promised that You will open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and they would look on You, the One they have pierced.
• You have promised that all of Israel, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, will mourn for their sin of rebellion and rejection of their Messiah.
• You have promised that on that day of national mourning and repentance, all of Israel will be saved. That the deliverer will come from Zion; that You will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
• You have promised that You will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and You will cleanse them.
• You have promised that they will be Your people, and You will be their God.
• You have promised that You will make an everlasting covenant of peace with them.
• You have promised that one day, and we believe soon, You will set aside 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel who have been redeemed and on whose foreheads You write Your name, to be proclaimers of the Gospel to the whole world.
O Abba Father! We do not ask for what we want or what we hope. We are asking You to do what You have said! You are a great covenant-keeping God. You do not mock Your children. You keep Your word. We are therefore compelled at this moment when faced with problems that have no human solution to pray and hold You to Your promises.
We pray with a contrite spirit. We are ashamed and embarrassed to lift up our faces to You, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens. So now, our God, what shall we say?
We have sinned and done wrong.
We have been wicked and have rebelled.
We have turned away from Your commands and Your Word.
We have not listened to Your servants the prophets…like Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah…who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and to all Your people.
We have not obeyed or kept the laws You have given us.
We have rationalized and explained away the evidence of Your greatness that we see in Creation around us.
We have suppressed the truth that we were created by You and for You, and have exchanged it for the lie that we are masters of our own fate.
We do not glorify You as God, nor give thanks to You, but live our lives as though we have no accountability to You.
We have looked to our own strength for salvation and have forgotten Your mighty acts of deliverance in the past. As though the God of Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah no longer exists. Or if You do, You no longer involve Yourself in the affairs of Your people.
We confess that our faith in You and Your strength is weak, as though what we face today is beyond Your ability to overcome. Or beneath Your interest to intervene.
We confess to pride and arrogance that have determined we must face our enemies in our own strength. That this present darkness will pass without Your intervention.
We confess to religious intolerance that condemns those who are not like us.
We confess to religious indifference that gives lip service to You, but lacks sincere faith so that our lives are lived and our decisions are made as practical atheists—as though You do not exist.
You are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against You. But this day we are covered with shame.
We pray with clarity. We ask, great Creator God, that You give sight to those born spiritually blind. Open the eyes of Your people to see You for who You truly are. Don’t let their sight be dimmed or distorted by centuries of religiosity and rejection of the Truth. Open their eyes to Jesus as their Messiah. Then show up in great power, giving Your people supernatural strength to withhold vengeance, to execute justice, to remember mercy, to walk humbly as they acknowledge that victory will be won not by their might nor by their own power, but by Your Spirit. Yet we do ask You for victory over the enemy…
We pray for the enemies who are coming against Jerusalem to be convicted of their sin, for them to repent and turn from it and ask You for forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. But if they do not, we ask that this day, You defeat and destroy them.
We ask that You strip Jerusalem’s enemies of peace and cooperation among themselves, so that they are divided and turn on each other.
We ask that their evil plans would be exposed or fall back on their own heads.
We ask that the face of every man, woman or child that they have slaughtered, beheaded, buried, or crucified be indelibly imprinted on their mind’s eye, filling them with turmoil and robbing them of clear thinking.
We ask that for every man, woman or child who is martyred for their faith in You, ten others would rise up to take their place, so that the persecution would fan revival fires throughout the Muslim world. Please, dear Jesus, keep showing up in dreams and visions and in any form You choose in order to change hearts and minds, melting generations of prejudice and hatred with Your love and peace.
We ask that the fear of the One, True, Living God would fall on Israel’s neighbors…and on Israel.
We ask that the ancient prince of the Persian kingdom and every other demonic force coming against Your City be bound and rendered powerless in the face of the hosts of Heaven.
We ask that the Iron Dome would be 100% effective, and that You would continue to anoint Israel’s engineers and physicists with ability to design systems that would provide a protective shield for The Beautiful Land.
We ask for supernatural wisdom for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Cabinet, his counselors, and all government officials, so that they make decisions in line with Your perfect will. Draw the Prime Minister into Your Word; and when he opens and reads it, speak to him through it.
We ask that You turn the heart of The Honorable Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, toward You; that he would acknowledge his need of You and issue a city-wide call to prayer.
We ask that You comfort the mothers, fathers, and children living in the farming communities near the Gaza border. Give them an overwhelming sense of Your presence and love for each of them. As they turn to You, give them peace…and a good night’s sleep.
We ask that You woo Your people to Yourself. Draw them to put their trust in You, so that You are their refuge and their fortress. Save them. Cover them. Be with them in trouble. Command Your angels to guard them and keep them in all their ways.
You are a great prayer-hearing, prayer-answering, covenant-keeping, miracle-working God. Hear our prayer! Listen to Your children as we pray for the peace of the city on which You have placed Your name. Rise up, great Lion of Judah, and defend Your people. Deliver Jerusalem from her enemies so that all the nations of the earth may know that You alone are God. Answer us! For the glory of Your great name!
We will pray until our prayers are confirmed, because we believe in You. We believe that Jerusalem’s God is God. We believe You are as strong today on her behalf as You were in the beginning, and always have been, and always will be. We believe that since the first day we set our minds to gain understanding and to humble ourselves before our God, our words have been heard. We believe that we have asked according to Your will, in the name of Your dear Son, and for His glory alone. Therefore we expect to receive answers.
Now we await Your confirmation. We have prayed for the peace of Jerusalem. We don’t know what else to do. But our eyes are fixed expectantly on You.
For the Glory of Yeshua / Jesus Christ. AMEN
 Zechariah 12:10
 Nehemiah 9:6
 Based on the Song of Moses, Exodus 15
 The promises above were taken from Ezekiel 36:26; Zechariah 12:10-12; Romans 11:26-27; Ezekiel 37:23; Ezekiel 37:26, Revelation 7:1-4, 14:1-5
 Paraphrased from Ezra 9, Daniel 9, and Romans 1
 Israel has the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Tel Aviv is marketed as the gay capital of the Middle East. Alcohol consumption among Israeli children is surging to the extent that Prime Minister Netanyahu has called it “an epidemic.”
 Paraphrased from Romans 1; 42% of Israelis are secular.
 Zechariah 4:6
 Romans 2:9
 2 Chronicles 20:29
 Daniel 10:12-13
 Psalm 91
 Daniel 10:12
 John 14:13-14
 2 Chronicles 20:12
DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
2. Love must be acted to render a worship spiritual. Though God commanded love in the Old Testament, yet the manner of giving the law bespoke more of fear than love. The dispensation of the law was with fire, thunder, &c., proper to raise horror, and benumb the spirit; which effect it had upon the Israelites, when they desired that God would speak no more to them. Grace is the genius of the gospel, proper to excite the affection of love. The law was given by the “disposition of angels,” with signs to amaze; the gospel was ushered in with the “songs of angels,” composed of peace and good-will, calculated to ravish the soul. Instead of the terrible voice of the law, “Do this and live,” the comfortable voice of the gospel is, “Grace, grace!” Upon this account the principle of the Old Testament was fear, and the worship often expressed by the fear of God. The principle of the New Testament is love. The Mount Sinai gendereth to bondage (Gal. 4:44); Mount Sion, from whence the gospel or evangelical law goes forth, gendereth to libery; and therefore the “spirit of bondage unto fear,” as the property of the law, is opposed to the state of adoption, the principle of love, as the property of the gospel (Rom. 8:15); and therefore the worship of God under the gospel, or New Testament, is oftener expressed by love than fear, as proceeding from higher principles, and acting nobler passions. In this state we are to serve him without fear (Luke 1:74); without a bondage fear; not without a fear of unworthy treating him; with a “fear of his goodness” as it is prophesied of (Hosea 9:5). Goodness is not the object of terror, but reverence; God, in the law, had more the garb of a judge; in the gospel, of a father; the name of a father is sweeter and bespoaks more of affection. As their services were with a feeling of the thunders of the law in their consciences, so is our worship to be with a sense of gospel grace in our spirits; spiritual worship is that, therefore, which is exercised with a spiritual and heavenly affection, proper to the gospel. The heart should be enlarged according to the liberty the gospel gives of drawing near to God as a father. As he gives us the nobler relation of children, we are to act the nobler qualities of children. Love should act according to its nature, which is desired of union; desire of a moral union by affections, as well as a mystical union by faith; as flame aspires to reach flame, and become one with it. In every act of worship we should endeavor to be united to God, and become one spirit with him. This grace doth spiritualize worship; in that one word, love, God hath wrapt up all the devotion he requires of us; it is the total sum of the first table, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God:” it is to be acted in everything we do; but in worship our hearts should more solemnly rise up and acknowledge him amiable and lovely, since the law is stripped of its cursing power, and made sweet in the blood of the Redeemer. Love is a thing acceptable of itself, but nothing acceptable without it; the gifts of one man to another are spiritualized by it. We would not value a present without the affection of the nor; every man would lay claim to the love of others, though he would not to their possessions. Love is God’s right in every service, and the noblest thing we can bestow upon him in our adorations of him. God’s gifts to us are not so estimable without his love; nor our services valuable by him without the exercise of a choice affection. Hezekiah regarded not his deliverance without the love of the Deliverer; “In love to my soul thou hast delivered me” (Isa. 38:17). So doth God say, In love to my honor thou hast worshipped me: so that love must be acted, to render our worship spiritual.
3. A spiritual sensibleness of our own weakness is necessary to make our worship spiritual. Affections to God cannot be without relentings in ourselves. When the eye is spiritually fixed upon a spiritual God, the heart will mourn that the worship is no more spiritually suitable. The more we act love upon God, as amiable and gracious, the more we should exercise grief in ourselves, as we are vile and offending. Spiritual worship is a melting worship, as well as an elevating worship; it exalts God, and debaseth the creature. The Publican was more spiritual in his humble address to God, when the Pharisee was wholly carnal with his swelling language. A spiritual love in worship will make us grieve that we have given him so little, and could give him no more. It is a part of spiritual duty to bewail our carnality mixed with it; as we receive mercies spiritually, when we receive them with a sense of God’s goodness and our own vileness; in the same manner we render a spiritual worship.
4. Spiritual desires for God render the service spiritual; when the soul “follows hard after him” (Psalm 3:8); pursues after God as a God of infinite and communicative goodness, with sighs and groans unutterable. A spiritual soul seems to be transformed into hunger and thirst, and becomes nothing but desire. A carnal worshipper is taken with the beauty and magnificence of the temple; a spiritual worshipper desires to see the glory of God in the sanctuary (Psalm 3:2), he pants after God: as he came to worship, to find God, he boils up in desires for God, and is loth to go from it without God, “the living God” (Psalm 42:2). He would see the Urim and the Thummim; the unusual sparkling of the stones upon the high-priest’s breast-plate. That deserves not the title of spiritual worship, when the soul makes no longing inquiries: “Saw you him whom my soul loves?” A spiritual worship is when our desires are chiefly for God in the worship; as David desires to dwell in the house of the Lord; but his desire is not terminated there, but to behold the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4), and taste the ravishing sweetness of his presence. No doubt but Elijah’s desires for the enjoyment of God while he was mounting to heaven, were as fiery as the chariot wherein he was carried. Unutterable groans acted in worship are the fruit of the Spirit, and certainly render it a spiritual service (Rom. 8:26). Strong appetites are agreeable to God, and prepare us to eat the fruit of worship. A spiritual Paul presseth forward to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection; and a spiritual worshipper actually aspires in every duty to know God, and the power of hia grace. To desire worship as an end is carnal; to desire it as a means, and act desires in it for communion with God in it, is spiritual, and the fruit of a spiritual life.
5. Thankfulness and admiration are to be exercised in spiritual service. This is a worship of spirits; praise is the adoration of the blessed angels (Isa. 6:3), and of glorified spirits (Rev. 4:11): “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor, and power;” and (Rev. 5:13, 14), they worship him ascribing “Blessing, honor, glory, and power to Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.” Other acts of worship are confined to this life, and leave us as soon as we have set our foot in heaven; there, no notes but this of praise are warbled out; the power, wisdom, love, and grace in the dispensation of the gospel, seat themselves in the thoughts and tongues of blessed souls. Can a worship on earth be spiritual, that hath no mixture of an eternal heavenly duty with it? The worship of God in innocence had been chiefly an admiration of him in the works of creation; and should not our evangelical worship be an admiration of him in the works of redemption, which is a restoration to a better state? After the petitioning for pardoning grace (Hos. 14:2), there is a rendering the calves or heifers of our lips, alluding to the heifers used in eucharistical sacrifices. The praise of God is the choicest sacrifice and worship under a dispensation of redeeming grace; this is the prime and eternal part of worship under the gospel. The Psalmist (Psalm 149:; 150.), speaking of the gospel times, spurs on to this kind of worship; “Sing to the Lord a new song; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king; let the saints be joyful in glory, and sing aloud upon their beds; let the high praises of God be in their mouths;” he begins and ends both Psalms with “Praise ye the Lord.” That cannot be a spiritual and evangelical worship, that hath nothing of the praise of God in the heart. The consideration of God’s adorable perfections, discovered in the gospel, will make us come to him with more seriousness; beg blessings of him with more confidence; fly to him with a winged faith and love, and more spiritually glorify him in our attendances upon him.
6. Spiritual worship is performed with delight. The evangelical worship is prophetically signified by keeping the feast of tabernacles; “They shall go up from year to year, to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16): why that feast, when there were other feasts observed by the Jews? That was a feast celebrated with the greatest joy, typical of the gladness which was to be under the exhibition of the Messiah, and a thankful commemoration of the redemption wrought by him. It was to be celebrated five days after the “solemn day of atonement” (Lev. 23:34, compared with ver. 27), wherein there was one of the solemnest types of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. In this feast they commemorated their exchange of Egypt for Canaan; the manna wherewith they were fed; the water out of the rock wherewith they were refreshed; in remembrance of this, they poured water on the ground, pronouncing those words in Isaiah, they shall “draw waters out of the wells of salvation;” which our Saviour refers to himself (John 7:37), inviting them to him, to drink “upon the last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles,” wherein the solemn ceremony was observed. Since we are freed by the death of the Redeemer from the curses of the law, God requires of us a joy in spiritual privileges. A sad frame in worship gives the lie to all gospel liberty, to the purchase of the Redeemer’s death, the triumphs of his resurrection: it is a carriage, as if we were under the influences of the legal fire and lightning, and an entering a protest against the freedom of the gospel. The evangelical worship is a spiritual worship; and praise, Joy, and delight are prophesied of, as great ingredients in attendance on gospel ordinances (Isaiah 12:3–5). What was occasion of terror in the worship of God under the law, is the occasion of delight in the worship of God under the gospel. The justice and holiness of God, so terrible in the law, becomes comfortable under the gospel; since they have feasted themselves on the active and passive obedience of the Redeemer. The approach is to God as gracious, not to God as unpacified; as a son to a father, not as a criminal to a judge. Under the law, God was represented as a judge; remembering their sin in their sacrifices, and representing the punishment they had merited: in the gospel as a father, accepting the atonement, and publishing the reconciliation wrought by the Redeemer. Delight in God is a gospel frame; therefore the more joyful, the more spiritual: “The sabhath is to be a delight;” not only in regard of the day, but in regard to the duties of it (Isa. 58:13); in regard of the marvellous work he wrought on it; raising up our blessed Redeemer on that day, whereby a foundation was laid for the rendering our persons and services acceptable to God (Psalm 118:24; “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will be glad and rejoice in it.” A lumpish frame becomes not a day and a duty, that hath so noble and spiritual a mark upon it. The angels, in the first act of worship after the creation, were highly joyful (Job 38:7): “They shouted for joy,” &c. The saints have particularly acted this in their worship. David would not content himself with an approach to the altar, without going to God as his “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4). My triumphant joy when he danced before the ark, he seems to be transformed into delight and pleasure (2 Sam. 6:14, 16). He had as much delight in worship, as others had in their harvest and vintage. And those that took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, would as joyfully attend upon the communications of God. Where there is a fulness of the Spirit, there is a “waking melody to God in the heart” (Eph. 5:18, 19); and where there is an acting of love (as there is in all spiritual services), the proper fruit of it is joy in a near approach to the object of the soul’s affection. Love is appetites unionzs; the more love, the more delight in the approachings of God to the soul, or the outgoings of the soul to God. As the object of worship is amiable in a spiritual eye, so the means tending to a communion with this object are delightful in the exercise. Where there is no delight in a duty, there is no delight in the object of the duty; the more of grace, the more of pleasure in the actings of it; as the more of nature there is in any natural agent, the more of pleasure in the act, so the more heavenly the worship, the more spiritual. Delight is the frame and temper of glory. A heart filled up to the brim with joy, is a heart filled up to the brim with the Spirit; joy is the fruit of the Holy Ghost (Gal. 5:22). (1.) Not the joy of God’s dispensation flowing from God, but a gracious active joy streaming to God. There is a joy, when the comforts of God are dropped into the soul, as oil upon the wheel; which indeed makes the faculties move with more speed and activity in his service, like the chariots of Aminadab; and a soul may serve God in the strength of this taste, and its delight terminate in the sensible comfort. This is not the joy I mean, but such a joy that hath God for its object, delighting in him as the term, in worship as the way to him; the first is God’s dispensation, the other is our duty; the first is an act of God’s favor to us, the second a sprout of habitual grace in us. The comforts we have from God may elevate our duties; but the grace we have within doth spiritualize our duties.
(2.) Nor is every delight an argument of a spiritual service. All the requisites to worship must be taken in. A man may invent a worship and delight in it; as Micah in the adoration of his idol, when he was glad he had got both an Ephod and a Levite (Judges 17). As a man may have a contentment in sin, so he may have a contentment in worship; not because it is a worship of God, but the worship of his own invention, agreeable to his own humor and design, as (Isa. 58:2) it is said, they “delighted in approaching to God;” but it was for carnal ends. Novelty engenders complacency; but it must be a worship wherein God will delight; and that must be a worship according to his own rule and infinite wisdom, and not our shallow fancies. God requires a cheerfulness in his service, especially under the gospel, where he sits upon a throne of grace; discovers himself in his amiableness, and acts the covenant of grace, and the sweet relation of a father. The priests of old were not to sully themselves with any sorrow, when they were in the exercise of their functions. God put a bar to the natural affections of Aaron and his sons, when Nadab and Abihu had been cut off by a severe hand of God (Lev. 10:6). Every true Christian in a higher order of priesthood, is a person dedicated to joy and peace, offering himself a lively sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; and there is no christian duty, but is to be set off and seasoned with cheerfulness: he that loves a cheerful giver in acts of charity, requires no less a cheerful spirit in acts of worship; as this is an ingredient in worship, so it is the means to make your spirits intent in worship. When the heart triumphs in the consideration of divine excellency and goodness, it will be angry at anything that offers to jog and disturb it.
7. Spiritual worship is to be performed, though with a delight in God, yet with a deep reverence of God. The gospel, in advancing the spirituality of worship, takes off the terror, but not the reverence of God; which is nothing else in its own nature, but a due and high esteem of the excellency of a thing according to the nature of it; and, therefore, the gospel presenting us with more illustrious notices of the glorious nature of God, is so far from indulging any disesteem of him, that it requires of us a greater reverence suitable to the height of its discovery, above what could be spelt in the book of creation; the gospel worship is therefore expressed by trembling (Hos.11:10): “They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the West.” When the lion of the tribe of Judah shall lift up his powerful voice in the gospel, the western Gentiles shall run trembling to walk after the Lord. God hath alway attended his greatest manifestations with remarkable characters of majesty, to create a reverence in his creature he caused the “wind to march before him,” to cut the mountain, when he manifested himself to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11); “A wind and a cloud of fire,” before that magnificent vision to Ezekiel (chap. 1:4, 5); “Thunders and lightnings” before the giving the law (Exod. 19:18); and a “mighty wind” before the giving the Spirit (Acts 2.): God requires of us an awe of him in the very act of performance. The angels are pure, and cannot fear him as sinners, but in “reverence they cover their faces” when they stand before him (Isa. 6:2): his power should make us reverence him, as we are creatures; his justice, as we are sinners; his goodness, as we are restored creatures. “God is clothed with unspeakable majesty; the glory of his face shines brighter than the lights of heaven in their beauty. Before him the angels tremble, and the heavens melt; we ought not therefore to come before him with the sacrifice of fools, nor tender a duty to him, without falling low upon our faces, and bowing the knees of our hearts in token of reverence.” Not a slavish fear, like that of devils; but a “godly fear,” like that of saints (Heb. 12:28); joined with a sense of an unmovable kingdom, becometh us; and this the apostle calls a grace necessary to make our service acceptable, and therefore the grace necessary to make it spiritual, since nothing finds admission to God, but what is of a spiritual nature. The consideration of his glorious nature should imprint an awful respect upon our souls to him; his goodness should make his majesty more adorable to us, as his majesty makes his goodness more, admirable in his condescensions to us. As God is a Spirit, our worship must be spiritual; and being, as he is, the supreme Spirit, our worship must be reverential; we must observe the state he takes upon him in his ordinances; “He is in heaven, we upon the earth;” we must not therefore be “hasty to utter anything before God” (Eccles. 5:7). Consider him a Spirit in the highest heavens, and ourselves spirits dwelling in a dreggy earth. Loose and garish frames debase him to our own quality; slight postures of spirit intimate him to be a slight and mean being; our being in covenant with him, must not lower our awful apprehensions of him; as lie is the Lord thy God, it is a glorious and fearful name, or wonderful (Deut. 28:58); though he lay by his justice to believers, he doth not lay by his majesty; when we have a confidence in him, because he is the Lord our God, we must have awful thoughts of his majesty, because his name is glorious. God is terrible from his holy places, in regard of the great things he doth for his Israel (Psalm 68:35); we should behave ourselves with that inward honor and respect of him, as if he were present to our bodily eyes; the higher apprehensions we have of his majesty, the greater awe will be upon our hearts in his presence, and the greater spirituality in our acts. We should manage our hearts so, as if we had a view of God in his heavenly glory.
8. Spiritual worship is to be performed with humility in our spirits. This is to follow upon the reverence of God. As we are to have high thoughts of God, that we may not debase him; we must have low thoughts of ourselves, not to vaunt before him. When we have right notions of the Divine Majesty, we shall be as worms in our own thoughts, and creep as worms into his presence; we can never consider him in his glory, but we have a fit opportunity to reflect upon ourselves, and consider how basely we revolted from him, and how graciously we are restored by him. As the gospel affords us greater discoveries of God’s nature, and so enhanceth our reverence of him, so it helps us to a fuller understanding of our own vileness and weakness, and therefore is proper to engender humility; the more spiritual and evangelical therefore any service is, the more humble it is. That is a spiritual service that doth most manifest the glory of God; and this cannot be manifested by us, without manifesting our own emptiness and nothingness. The heathens were sensible of the necessity of humility by the light of nature; after the name of God, signified by in scribed on the temple at Delphos, followed Γνῶθί σεαυιον, whereby was insinuated, that when we have to do with God, who is the only Ens, we should behave ourselves with a sense of our own infirmity, and infinite distance from him. As a person, so a duty leavened with pride, hath nothing of sincerity, and therefore nothing of spirituality in it (Hab. 2:4): “His soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him.” The elders that were crowned by God to be kings and priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices, uncrown themselves in their worship of him, and cast down their ornaments at “his feet” the Greek word to worship, προσκυνείν, signifies to creep like a dog upon his belly before his master; to lie low. How deep should our sense be of the privilege of God’s admitting us to his worship, and affording us such a mercy under our deserts of wrath! How mean should be our thoughts, both of our persons and performances! How patiently should we wait upon God for the success of worship! How did Abraham, the father of the faithful, equal himself to the earth, when he supplicated the God of heaven, and devote himself to him under the title of very “dust and ashes!” (Gen. 18:27.) Isaiah did but behold an evangelical apparition of God and the angels worshipping him, and presently reflects upon his “own uncleanness” (Isa. 6:5). God’s presence both requires and causes humility. How lowly is David in his own opinion, after a magnificent duty performed by himself and his people (1 Chron. 29:14): “Who am I? and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly?” The more spiritual the soul is in its carriage to God, the more humble it is; and the more gracious God is in his communications to the soul, the lower it lies. God commanded not the fiercer creatures to be offered to him in sacrifices, but lambs and kids, meek and lowly creatures; none that had stings in their tails, or venom in their tongues. The meek lamb was the daily sacrifice; the doves were to be offered by pairs; God would not have honey mixed with any sacrifice (Lev. 2:11), that breeds choler, and choler pride; but oil he commanded to be used, that supples and mollifies the parts. Swelling pride and boiling passions render our services carnal; they cannot be spiritual, without a humble sweetness and an innocent sincerity; one grain of this transcends the most costly sacrifices: a contrite heart puts a gloss upon worship (Psalm 51:16, 17). The departure of men and angels from God, began in pride; our approaches and return to him must begin in humility; and therefore all those graces, which are bottomed on humility, must be acted in worship, as faith, and a sense of our own indigence. Our blessed Saviour, the most spiritual worshiper, prostrated himself in the garden with the greatest lowliness, an offered himself upon the cross a sacrifice with the greatest humility. Melted souls in worship have the most spiritual conformity to the person of Christ in the state of humiliation, and his design in that state; as worship without it is not suitable to God, so neither is it advantageous for us. A time of worship is a time of God’s communication. The vessel must be melted to receive the mould it is designed for; softened wax is fittest to receive a stamp, and a spiritually melted soul fittest to receive a spiritual impression. We cannot perform duty in an evangelical and spiritual strain, without the meltingness and meanness in ourselves which the gospel requires.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXXIX. — BUT let us hear Paul, who is his own interpreter. In the third chapter, drawing up, as it were, a conclusion, he saith, “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” (Rom. iii. 9). Where is now “Free-will!” All, saith he, both Jews and Greeks are under sin! Are there any ‘tropes’or ‘difficulties’here? What would the ‘invented interpretations’ of the whole world do against this all-clear sentence? He who says “all,” excepts none. And he who describes them all as being “under sin,” that is, the servants of sin, leaves them no degree of good whatever. But where has he given this proof that “they are all, both Jews and Gentiles, under sin?” Nowhere, but where I have already shewn: viz., where he saith, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” This he proves to them afterwards from experience: shewing them, that being hated of God, they were given up to so many vices, in order that they might be convinced from the fruits of their ungodliness, that they willed and did nothing but evil. And then, he judges the Jews also separately; where he saith, that the Jew “in the letter,” is a transgressor of the law: which he proves, in like manner, from the fruits, and from experience: saying, “Thou who declarest that a man should not steal, stealest thyself: thou who abhorrest idols, committest sacrilege.” Thus excepting none whatever, but those who are Jews “in the spirit.”
Sect. CXL. — BUT let us see how Paul proves his sentiments out of the Holy Scriptures: and whether the passages which he adduces ‘are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in their own places.’ “As it is written, (saith he,) There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” &c. (Rom. iii. 10-23).
Here let him that can, produce his ‘convenient interpretation,’ invent ‘tropes,’ and pretend that the words ‘are ambiguous and obscure!’ Let him that dares, defend “Free-will” against these damnable doctrines! Then I will at once give up all and recant, and will myself become a confessor and assertor of “Free-will.” It is certain, that these words apply to all men: for the prophet introduces God, as looking down from heaven upon men and pronouncing this sentence upon them. So also Psalm xiv. 2-3. “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God. But they are all gone out of the way,” &c. And that the Jews might not imagine that this did not apply to them by anticipation, and asserts, that it applied to them most particularly: saying, “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law.” (Rom. iii. 19). And his intention is the same, where he saith, “To the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
You hence hear, that all the sons of men, all that are under the law, that is, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, are accounted before God ungodly; not understanding, not seeking after God, no, not even one of them; being all gone out of the way and become unprofitable. And surely, among all the “children of men,” and those who are “under the law,” those must also be numbered who are the best and most laudable, who aspire after that which is meritorious and good, with all the powers of “Free-will;” and those also of whom the Diatribe boasts as having the sense and certain seeds of good implanted in them; — unless it means to contend that they are the “children” of angels!
How then can they endeavour toward good, who are all, without exception, ignorant of God, and neither regard nor seek after God? How can they have a power able to attain unto good, who all, without exception, decline from good and become utterly unprofitable? Are not the words most clear? And do they not declare this, — that all men are ignorant of God and despise God, and then, turn unto evil and become unprofitable unto good? For Paul is not here speaking of the ignorance of seeking food, or the contempt of money, but of the ignorance and contempt of religion and of godliness. And that ignorance and contempt, most undoubtedly, are not in the “flesh,” that is, (as you interpret it,) ‘the inferior and grosser affections,’ but in the most exalted and most noble powers of man, in which, righteousness, godliness, the knowledge and reverence of God, ought to reign; that is, in the reason and in the will; and thus, in the very power of “Free-will,” in the very seed of good, in that which is the most excellent in man!
Where are you now, friend Erasmus! you who promised ‘that you would freely acknowledge, that the most excellent faculty in man is “flesh,” that is, ungodly, if it should be proved from the Scriptures?’ Acknowledge now, then, when you hear, that the most excellent faculty in man is not only ungodly, but ignorant of God, existing in the contempt of God, turned to evil, and unable to turn towards good. For what is it to be “unrighteous,” but for the will, (which is one of the most noble faculties in man,) to be unrighteous? What is it to understand nothing either of God or good, but for the reason (which is another of the most noble faculties in man) to be ignorant of God and good, that is, to be blind to the knowledge of godliness? What is it to be “gone out of the way,” and to have become unprofitable, but for men to have no power in one single faculty, and the least power in their most noble faculties, to turn unto good, but only to turn unto evil! What is it not to fear God, but for men to be in all their faculties, and most of all in their noblest faculties, contemners of all the things of God, of His words, His works, His laws, His precepts, and His will! What then can reason propose, that is right, who is thus blind and ignorant? What can the will choose that is good, which is thus evil and impotent? Nay, what can the will pursue, where the reason can propose nothing, but the darkness of its own blindness and ignorance? And where the reason is thus erroneous, and the will averse, what can the man either do or attempt, that is good!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library