Report from JerusalemNehemiah 1 1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
Nehemiah’s Prayer4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah Sent to JudahNehemiah 2 1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls9 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. 11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Rebuilding the WallNehemiah 3 1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.
3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.
13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.
14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and to the corner.25 Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.
What I'm Reading
Did the Apostles Lie So They Could Die as Martyrs?
By J. Warner Wallace 7/28/2017
A few years back I spoke with Bobby Conway (the One Minute Apologist) and answered the question, “Did the disciples lie about the resurrection of Jesus?“As a skeptic, I believed that the story of the Resurrection was either a late distortion (a legend) created by Christians well after the fact, or a conspiratorial lie on the part of the original Apostles. It wasn’t until I started working homicides (and homicidal conspiracies in particular) that I decided an Apostolic conspiracy was unreasonable. I’ve written a chapter in Cold Case Christianity describing the five necessary elements of successful conspiracies, and none of these elements were present for the Apostles. But even more importantly, the Apostles lacked the proper motivation to lie about the Resurrection. My case work as a homicide detective taught me something important: there are only three motives behind any murder (or any crime, or sin, for that matter). All crimes are motivated by financial greed, sexual lust (relational desire) or the pursuit of power. If the Apostles committed the crime of fraud on an unsuspecting world, they were motivated by one of these three intentions. Most people will agree that none of the Apostles gained anything financially or sexually from their testimony, but some skeptics have argued the Apostles may have been motivated by the pursuit of power. Didn’t these men become leaders in the Church on the basis of their claims? Couldn’t this pursuit of leadership status have motivated them to lie? Wasn’t it a goal of early martyrs to die for their faith anyway?
The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Ministry and Martyrdom | The Book of Acts and the letters of Paul provide us with a glimpse into the lives of the Apostles. The Apostles were clearly pursued and mistreated, and the New Testament narratives and letters describe their repeated efforts to avoid capture. The Apostles continually evaded capture in an effort to continue their personal ministries as eyewitnesses. The New Testament accounts describe men who were bold enough to maintain their ministry, but clever enough to avoid apprehension for as long as possible.
The Apostles Knew the Difference Between a Consequence and a Goal | These early eyewitnesses were fully aware of the fact that their testimony would put them in jeopardy, but they understood this to be the consequence of their role as eyewitnesses rather than the goal. That’s why they attempted to avoid death as long as possible. While it may be true that later generations of believers wanted to emulate the Apostles through an act of martyrdom, this was not the case for the Apostles themselves.
The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Fame and Infamy | It’s one thing to be famous, but another to be famously despised. Some of us have attained widespread fame based on something noble (like Mother Teresa). Some of us have attained widespread fame because of something sinister (like Jerry Sandusky). The apostles were roundly despised by their Jewish culture as a consequence of their leadership within the fledgling Christian community. If they were lying about their testimony to gain the respect and admiration of the culture they were trying to convert, they were taking the wrong approach. The Apostles only succeeded in gaining the infamy that eventually cost them their lives. This was obvious to them from the onset; they knew their testimony would leave them powerless to stop their own brutal martyrdom.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Lost in Translation How Christianese Hides the Gospel
By Greg Morse 8/23/2017
The terror of criminals sought somewhere to hide.
His pursuer was near and he, outmatched. The eerie voice cried out, “So, you think the darkness will hide you?”
Bane stalked Gotham’s Dark Knight. Shadows refused to assist the hero. Smokescreens could hide him no longer. Before Bane mauled the Batman, he mocked, “Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated . . . but we are initiated, aren’t we, Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows!”
I’m afraid many of professing Christians have started our own League of Shadows.
We have mastered the art of theatricality and deception, not in physical combat but in our communication. When we evangelize the unchurched, the uninitiated, the dead, we bruise them with abstract language and distract them with theological jargon. Whereas the early church declared their faith clearly, receiving scoffs, persecution, and souls, we often receive politically correct smiles, dizzied stares, and slow head-nods with a kind, but apathetic “Ah-huh.”
Telling the world about Christ in foggy terms is the bane of our evangelism.
How to Find Strength in the Strength of God
By John Piper 9/2/2014
How do you do a task in the strength of another? How do you exert your will to do something in such a way that you are relying on the will of another to make it happen?
Here are some passages from the Bible that press this question on us:
“By the Spirit . . . put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). So, we are to do the sin-killing, but we are to do it by the Spirit. How?
“Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). We are to work. But the willing and the working is God’s willing and God’sworking. How do we experience that?
“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul did work hard. But his effort was in some way not his. How did he do that?
“I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). We toil. We struggle. We expend effort and energy. But there is a way to do it so that it is God’s energy and God’s doing. How do we do that?
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
Love Is Not a Secondary Matter
By Steven J. Lawson 2/22/2017
It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing. When Jesus was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36), He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (v. 37). Christ then added a second commandment that follows directly from the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39). In this, Jesus asserted that our love for one another is the identifying badge of discipleship (John 13:35). The Apostle Paul further maintained that such love is the fulfillment of the Law (Gal. 5:14). That is to say, love meets every requirement of the divine standard. It is a debt that can never be repaid, so love must be given continually (Rom. 13:8). In Christian living, love is not a secondary matter — it is a primary matter. Love is never incidental. It is fundamental.
Tragically, this was the very point at which the church in Corinth fell short. By all outward appearances, the Corinthian Christians had everything going for them — strong teaching, lofty knowledge, profound giftedness, dynamic worship. Nevertheless, there was one area in which this early church was glaringly deficient: love. They had everything except love. Thus, in reality, they had nothing.
This underlying problem in the Corinthian church was due primarily to their pride. They were self-centered, self-focused, and self-absorbed. As such, they gave undue prominence to certain spiritual gifts while, at the same time, they devalued the more important virtue of love. In particular, the Corinthians elevated the public speaking gifts of preaching and teaching, promoted prophecy and speaking in tongues, and prized knowledge and learning. They treasured flashier, showier gifts that pandered to their emotions and catered to their flesh.
There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with these spiritual gifts. After all, these are gracious gifts given by God Himself. But in the Corinthian church, these gifts no longer served as means of grace to a higher end. Instead, they had become ends in themselves. Addressing this self-consumed arrogance, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13, a profound passage of Scripture that emphatically underscores the priority of love. In the Apostle’s view, love is so basic, so fundamental to the Christian faith, that one has absolutely nothing if there is no love.
As Paul addressed the subject of love, he clearly emphasized that Christian love is the sacrificial self-giving that seeks the highest good in another. In this, the Apostle was stressing that all genuine love requires costly sacrifice. The Bible says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). Because God loved, He gave what was most costly to Him. In short, there is no love where there is no sacrifice. True love costs.
Steven J. Lawson Books | Go to Books Page
What If My Worst Fears Come True?
By Jon Bloom 9/1/2017
What does it mean that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” so much so that “we will not fear” (Psalm 46:1–2)? More poignantly, what do you believe it means? That’s where the rubber of your faith meets the road of your real life.
Crises of faith occur where the rubber of our faith — what we believe should be our experience if we trust God — meets the road of an experience that contradicts (or appears to contradict) our belief. Often this happens when some evil befalls us, leaving us disoriented and confused, feeling angry and disillusioned with God, who doesn’t appear to be following through on his promises.
After all, didn’t Jesus teach us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13)? And when we do, didn’t David teach us to expect this result: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4)? Isn’t God supposed to be “a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8) from the things we most fear?
Disordered Fears | The answers to those questions are yes — and perhaps no. God does promise to ultimately deliver us from all evil and from the most fearful things, the things that pose the most real danger to our souls. But he does not promise that no evil will ever befall us in this age, nor does he promise to deliver us from what personally strikes the most fear into us.
All of us have disordered fears, and they pose more trouble and heartache for us than we can often comprehend. We tend to have too little fear for the things most dangerous to our souls, and too much fear over things far less dangerous.
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 | Go to Books Page
The Most Dangerous Place to Raise a Child
By Marco Silva 9/3/2017
Our craving for more has plagued us from the very beginning.
Our first parents lusted after more when they trusted a talking snake and took forbidden fruit to satisfy their longing to be like God (Genesis 3:5). When God brought his beloved people through the parted sea, Israel’s triumphant song devolved into grumbling over meat and bread in less than two months (Exodus 16:2–3). The prophet Amos decried the northern kingdom of Israel for their gluttonous appetite, which led them to “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:6–8).
The Old Testament leaves us with no lack for examples of greed among God’s chosen people.
And should we think we’re immune, we must realize that this diseased desire for greedy gain doesn’t just infiltrate its way from outside us into the recesses of our minds; it bubbles through the cracks of hearts that exchange “the fountain of living waters” for “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The cup of our lives might sparkle with that just-washed sheen on the outside, but inside, the grime of greed has caked itself on in layers too thick to scrub away with mere elbow grease.
The High Cost of Ambivalence
By Dan Dumas 7/01/2012
Walking away from gospel orthodoxy or disconnecting from the stream of church history should strike terror in our hearts. But because of personal compromise, far too many believers are found “walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the path of sinners and seated with the scoffers” rather than defending the faith to the death.
When was the last time you thought deeply about the consequences of “little” erroneous theological decisions that can subtly distort both your faith and practice? The Apostle Paul’s grave concern in 2 Corinthians 11:3 was that we would be so easily led astray by the Devil from our “simplicity and devotion to Christ.” The pastor who lacks theological discretion is of all men most pitied.
Oh the folly of a careless mind open to everything and falling for anything. G.K. Chesterton once said an open mind is like an open mouth. It is intended to shut on something solid. An orthodox view of Scripture is certainly worth sinking our teeth into. Let’s examine why people who are superficially orthodox turn the truth of Scripture into a lie.
As I survey the rough terrain of compromise, there are many reasons, but seven to be sure, why people depart from the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 4):
1. Fear of man. When you fear man and not God, you are not standing on solid ground but shifting sand. As Proverbs states, the fear of man is a snare and can dilute our convictions faster than any external force. Peer pressure and the thought of being narrow-minded causes many to compromise to the culture rather than being an example of steadfastness.
2. Impatience with results. Having a short fuse with people and ministries can undercut all the good will and investment that people have. The slow process of progressive sanctification causes some leaders to allow the end to justify the means. Short-circuiting the sanctification process will sometimes deliver short-term results, but it rarely has lasting fruit.
3. Personal conflict with the truth. What he does when confronted by truth on a personal level can tell a lot about a man of God. When exhortation from the Scriptures comes home, do you respond how you expect your congregation to respond? Mark Twain insightfully remarked, “It’s not the truths I don’t understand that bother me; it is the truths and texts that I do understand that bother me.” Remember Hymenaeus and Alexander, who rejected the faith and became enemies of Christ because truth contradicted them (1 Tim. 1:18–20). Possessing a good conscience was necessary to steer a first century ship through the rough seas of error, just as it is today.
4. Culpable Ignorance. As spiritual leaders, we are expected to contend diligently for the faith (Titus 1:9 and Jude 4). We can’t claim ignorance when we have failed to study and clarify in our minds a theological issue. This is why we don’t lay hands on men too quickly lest we place a person in leadership before they are ready for the task. A strong study ethic is crucial for leaders.
5. Bad influences. Jesus said, a disciple is not greater than his teacher. We are all products of our teachers in more ways than we might recognize. Choosing the wrong examples (see Phil. 3:17–19) can determine our trajectory. Paul said, “bad morals corrupts good company” (Rom. 15:33), and I would add, “Bad influences corrupt healthy ministries.” There is a New Testament expectation that we handle the Scriptures with extreme care. To abuse the Scriptures is tantamount to abusing God.
6. Lack of personal transformation. We can’t take people where we are not going ourselves. It’s a dangerous practice for any leader to transition subtly away from daily personal transformation and end up only seeking to apply the Scriptures to others (Prov. 1:20–33). We are to practice what we preach, and we are to practice before we preach. Being an example of the transforming power of the Scriptures is the New Testament expectation in 1 Timothy 4:11. Truth always starts at home before you export it. We must be aware of our besetting sins lest we lower the standard of the Scriptures to our present standard of living (Heb. 12:1). The spiritual leader’s task is to adjust his life to the Word and not the Word to his life.
7. A moving hermeneutic. Once you cross the Rubicon of adjusting your exegesis to your life and/or the culture and claiming that there are many ways to interpret what is clear in Scripture, you are moving into the dark wooded area of subjectivity. The statement, “That is your interpretation,” is code for ambivalence. Changing the science of interpretation always results in disaster for both leader and the church. Staying tethered to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the safest and best place to stand.
The Apostle Paul gave the Philippian church a four-fold picture of the kind of person to avoid in Philippians 3:18–19. Their end and future is one of destruction. They are controlled by their fleshly appetites. They glory in what should bring them shame and embarrassment and they are entirely earthy—attached to the world system and philosophy, which wars against the cosmic Christ.
Both living out the gospel and proclaiming it faithfully will keep us from “stumbling and make [us] stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). Ambivalence is like a rope that, if left unchecked, becomes a chain that binds the man to heresy.
Dan Dumas Books:
By Keith Mathison 7/01/2012
My first two books were on the subjects of dispensationalism and postmillennialism, respectively. I was thrilled, then, when asked to write my third book on the doctrine of sola Scriptura and a fourth book on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. You see, I didn’t want to become an “eschatology guy.” What in the world, you ask, is an “eschatology guy”? And why wouldn’t I want to be one? Is it some kind of super-villain?
In order to understand this fear I had, you have to understand a little bit about the dispensational circles I had recently left. I had become a Christian just out of high school, and the first church I attended was a small dispensationalist Baptist church. In that church, within the short space of two years, the pastor preached verse by verse through the book of Revelation. Twice. He encouraged me to read ASIN: B000LSLY7E as well as several Hal Lindsey books. I was under the impression that every significant event on the news was a sign that the rapture was imminent. My pastor was an “eschatology guy.”
When I enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary, I was surrounded by “eschatology guys.” A few of the professors, such as John Walvoord and J. Dwight Pentecost, were world-renowned “eschatology guys.” Don’t get me wrong. Most of the students and professors I met at Dallas were and are godly men. But every discussion seemed to be about the rapture and second coming of Jesus. This was during the first Gulf War, and many of us wondered whether the world would last long enough for us to graduate.
I remained very interested in the biblical doctrine of the second coming of Christ even after transferring to a Reformed seminary, but I wanted to think through other issues as well. It was refreshing, then, in a strange sort of way, to go from a student commons area where the topic of debate was almost always related to the end of the world to one in which the topic of debate was apologetics, the law of God, or almost anything but the end of the world.
A strange thing happened, however, during those years. Some of my required classes at Reformed Theological Seminary required me to read books by men with names like Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos. I have to admit that the first time I read these works, I was able to grasp maybe ten percent of what I read. It was so conceptually different from anything I had heard before (not to mention the fact that Dutch theologians apparently have contests to see who can write the longest continuous paragraphs). But what I did understand sent me back to the Scriptures repeatedly. Over time, it began to dawn on me that I had a radically distorted understanding of eschatology.
I thought of “eschatology” as having to do solely with events connected with the end of the world—the rapture, the second advent, the general resurrection, the final judgment. And there is some truth to that. Traditionally, eschatology has been defined as the “doctrine of the last things” in relation to both the individual (death and the intermediate state) and to cosmic history (the return of Christ, the general resurrection, the final judgment, heaven, and hell).
Eschatology in a broader sense, however, concerns what Scripture teaches about God’s purposes in Christ for history. As such, eschatology does include a study of the consummation of God’s purposes at the end of history, but it also includes a study of the stages in the unfolding of those purposes. If the first coming of Christ, for example, inaugurated “the last days,” as the New Testament indicates, then eschatology must include Christ’s first advent as well as His second advent. It will also include God’s preparation throughout redemptive history for the first coming of Jesus Christ.
Considered from a biblical perspective, eschatology begins in the book of Genesis with the forward-looking plan of God to establish His kingdom and His presence on earth with the creatures created in His image to worship Him. It becomes especially clear after the fall, when God’s promise to crush the Serpent sets the stage for the cosmic conflict that ensues throughout redemptive history. Genesis 1–3 lays out the major themes found throughout the rest of Scripture, and these themes have a forward-looking, eschatological focus. These same themes find their resolution in the final chapters of Revelation. God will reestablish His presence and His kingdom with man in a new heaven and earth—a creation restored. Sin, death, and the Serpent, enemies introduced in Genesis, will be completely defeated.
The first Adam failed; the last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeds. The last days began when His heel was bruised through His death on the cross and the Serpent’s head was crushed as Jesus walked out of the tomb. The last enemy, death, will be destroyed when we walk out of our tombs.
I do not worry about being an “eschatology guy” any longer because I’ve discovered that if I want to be a “biblical guy,” I have to be an “eschatology guy.” The two are one and the same.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 99The LORD Our God Is Holy
The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
4 The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
7 In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
they kept his testimonies
and the statute that he gave them.
8 O LORD our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Exalt the LORD our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the LORD our God is holy!
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
As recorded in the Journals of the Continental Congress, at nine o’clock in the Morning, on this day, September 7, 1774, in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia, the very first act of Congress was to open with prayer. John Adams wrote: “[Reverend Duche’]… read several prayers in the established form, and… the thirty-fifth Psalm… I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that Morning. After this, Mr. Duche’, unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess, I never heard a better prayer.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring,
while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound.
That is what it means to fly upside down.
--- Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
A true Christian is known by a Christian life and not by the name "Christian." He who wishes to be a true Christian must endeavor to let one see Christ in him, in his love, humility, and graciousness, for no one can be a Christian in whom Christ does not live... The spirit of Christ must rule a Christian’s life and make him conformed to Christ.
--- Johann Arndt
Johann Arndt: True Christianity (Classics of Western Spirituality)
My friends, when God’s presence comes into your life full of selfishness with his love, full of power with your anxiety, there’s going to be a clash.
--- Timothy Keller
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely killing men, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals and judicatures for that purpose; and as they intended to have Zacharias 9 the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain, so what provoked them against him was, that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him: he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a mall that had great power to destroy them. So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show, as if they were real judges, while they had no proper authority. Before these was Zacharias accused of a design to betray their polity to the Romans, and having traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was, and desired that such their affirmation might be taken for sufficient evidence. Now when Zacharias clearly saw that there was no way remaining for his escape from them, as having been treacherously called before them, and then put in prison, but not with any intention of a legal trial, he took great liberty of speech in that despair of his life he was under. Accordingly he stood up, and laughed at their pretended accusation, and in a few words confuted the crimes laid to his charge; after which he turned his speech to his accusers, and went over distinctly all their transgressions of the law, and made heavy lamentation upon the confusion they had brought public affairs to: in the mean time, the zealots grew tumultuous, and had much ado to abstain from drawing their swords, although they designed to preserve the appearance and show of judicature to the end. They were also desirous, on other accounts, to try the judges, whether they would be mindful of what was just at their own peril. Now the seventy judges brought in their verdict that the person accused was not guilty, as choosing rather to die themselves with him, than to have his death laid at their doors; hereupon there arose a great clamor of the zealots upon his acquittal, and they all had indignation at the judges for not understanding that the authority that was given them was but in jest. So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him; and as he fell down dead, they bantered him, and said, "Thou hast also our verdict, and this will prove a more sure acquittal to thee than the other." They also threw him down from the temple immediately into the valley beneath it. Moreover, they struck the judges with the backs of their swords, by way of abuse, and thrust them out of the court of the temple, and spared their lives with no other design than that, when they were dispersed among the people in the city, they might become their messengers, to let them know they were no better than slaves.
5. But by this time the Idumeans repented of their coming, and were displeased at what had been done; and when they were assembled together by one of the zealots, who had come privately to them, he declared to them what a number of wicked pranks they had themselves done in conjunction with those that invited them, and gave a particular account of what mischiefs had been done against their metropolis. He said that they had taken arms, as though the high priests were betraying their metropolis to the Romans, but had found no indication of any such treachery; but that they had succored those that had pretended to believe such a thing, while they did themselves the works of war and tyranny, after an insolent manner. It had been indeed their business to have hindered them from such their proceedings at the first, but seeing they had once been partners with them in shedding the blood of their own countrymen, it was high time to put a stop to such crimes, and not continue to afford any more assistance to such as are subverting the laws of their forefathers; for that if any had taken it ill that the gates had been shut against them, and they had not been permitted to come into the city, yet that those who had excluded them have been punished, and Ananus is dead, and that almost all those people had been destroyed in one night's time. That one may perceive many of themselves now repenting for what they had done, and might see the horrid barbarity of those that had invited them, and that they had no regard to such as had saved them; that they were so impudent as to perpetrate the vilest things, under the eyes of those that had supported them, and that their wicked actions would be laid to the charge of the Idumeans, and would be so laid to their charge till somebody obstructs their proceedings, or separates himself from the same wicked action; that they therefore ought to retire home, since the imputation of treason appears to be a Calumny, and that there was no expectation of the coming of the Romans at this time, and that the government of the city was secured by such walls as cannot easily be thrown down; and, by avoiding any further fellowship with these bad men, to make some excuse for themselves, as to what they had been so far deluded, as to have been partners with them hitherto.
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
your strength is small indeed.
11 Yes, rescue those being dragged off to death—
won’t you save those about to be killed?
12 If you say, “We knew nothing about it,”
won’t he who weighs hearts discern it?
Yes, he who guards you will know it
and repay each one as his deeds deserve.
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: Quality Paperback Edition
Diffusiveness of life
The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water. --- John 4:14.
The picture Our Lord gives is not that of a channel but a fountain. ‘Be being filled,’ and the sweetness of vital relationship to Jesus will flow out of the saint as lavishly as it is imparted to him. If you find your life is not flowing out as it should, you are to blame; something has obstructed the flow. Keep right at the Source, and—you will be blessed personally? No, out of you will flow rivers of living water, irrepressible life.
We are to be centres through which Jesus can flow as rivers of living water in blessing to everyone. Some of us are like the Dead Sea, always taking in but never giving out, because we are not rightly related to the Lord Jesus. As surely as we receive from Him, He will pour out through us, and in the measure He is not pouring out, there is a defect in our relationship to Him. Is there anything between you and Jesus Christ? Is there anything that hinders your belief in Him? If not, Jesus says, out of you will flow rivers of living water. It is not a blessing passed on, not an experience stated, but a river continually flowing. Keep at the Source, guard well your belief in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow for other lives, no dryness and no deadness.
Is it not too extravagant to say that out of an individual believer, rivers are going to flow? ‘I do not see the rivers,’ you say. Never look at yourself from the standpoint of—‘Who am I?’ In the history of God’s work you will nearly always find that it has started from the obscure, the unknown, the ignored, but the steadfastly true to Jesus Christ.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Face (Tares)
I see his face pressed to the wind's pane,
Staring with cold eyes: a country face
Without beauty, yet with the land's trace
Of sadness, badness, madness. I knew when
I first saw him that was the man
To turn the mind on, letting its beam
Discover rottenness at the seams
Of the light's garment I found him in.
Did I look long enough or too long?
On the weak brow nature's ruthless course
Was charted, but the lips' thin song
Never reached me; rain's decrepit hearse
Carried him off in the slow funeral
Of all his kind, leaving the heart full.
There is a well-known tradition in the theater that just before an actor is about to go on stage he or she is told “Break a leg!” It is a very odd sort of salutation! What could possibly be the origin or the point of such a phrase?
One theory, usually discounted, is that it is a reference to Sarah Bernhardt, the greatest actress of her time, whose leg had been amputated. A second possibility is that actors, like most people, are very superstitious. To wish them good luck before a show might jinx them; it would be asking for trouble from unseen forces that are always eager to bring about mischief or disaster. Others think it may have derived from a play on the word “break,” as in “May this performance be your big break.”
One might also speculate that the phrase might have become a part of the actor’s preparation. The essence of acting is not the memorization of lines but the transformation into a role, the becoming of another person. The actor’s craft requires sensing things that he or she as an individual does not feel. It is to look beyond the self and imagine the thoughts and emotions of someone else. Who knows? Maybe “break a leg” is an exercise allowing the actor to imagine a pain that isn’t really there.
That skill of imagining things that do not exist is something from which non-actors might benefit. Human beings tend to live in the moment. If something bad happens to us, we are upset; if something good occurs, we rejoice. We generally see things only as they affect us, and only as they affect us right now.
Rabbi Yishmael reminds us that final outcomes are often very different from initial expectations. What could be good about a cow breaking its leg? And yet, in the long run, the accident turned into a blessing in disguise. How could anything positive result from Korah’s coup against Aaron? And yet the dark cloud that initially rained upon Aaron had a silver lining that left him much more secure than he otherwise would have been.
We tend to curse the failures, obstacles, and adversities that beset us, and we bemoan our fate. Yet life is sometimes unpredictable. A man gets fired from his job and thinks that his career is over. A month later, he is free when an incredible opportunity that will lead to great success comes his way. Had he still been working at his old firm, he never would have been available for the new job.
On the verge of getting engaged, a woman is “dumped” by her boyfriend of three years. She goes into a deep depression, thinking that her one chance for happiness is gone for good. But six months later she meets another man who turns out to be her soul mate.
There’s something else about breaking a leg. While it’s terribly painful and leaves us hobbling around for several weeks, there is a magic to the way bones heal: They end up even stronger than they were before the break. That’s often how it is in life as well.
In English, one brings a “sacrifice,” something you lose or forego, to the Temple. In Hebrew, it’s a קָרְבָּן/korban, from the root meaning “close” or “near.” A korban was intended to bring the individual closer to God. The question was not “Have you been affected by what you gave up?” but “Did what you give bring you up toward God?”
We no longer offer animal sacrifices, but we still look for ways to link the human and the divine. At times, we may reach out to God out of a sense of thanksgiving and gratitude. At other times, it will be our neediness that causes us to pray (just as the English word “prayer” is from the Latin root meaning “to beg”). We may also seek God’s presence because of guilt, the realization that we have not lived up to our God-given potential.
Ancient man understood that the sacrifice could unite the person, who offered it, and God, who received it. And this process could be repeated often during the year. The Kohen, the clergy of that time, was the officiant who shared in the life of the Israelite and helped him find that sense of God in the experience of a sacrifice.
The Rabbis also saw a message in a Hebrew word used when referring to offerings. The word וְנָתְנוּ/v’natnu, “they shall give,” is a palindrome, reading the same way in both directions. It’s a two-way street. When you give, you also receive in turn. Thus, the korban was an opportunity not for sacrifice, but for the giving-and-receiving experience that brought the Israelite closer to God.
We, too, should strive to transform religion from an experience of sacrifice to one of drawing nearer to God.
In my Father’s house are many rooms. --- John 14:2.
This means that there are seats of various dignity and different degrees and circumstances of honor and happiness. (Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards ) Though they are all seats of great honor and blessedness, yet some are greater than others.
This is how a palace is built. Though every part of the palace is magnificent, some apartments are more stately and costly than others. One apartment is the king’s chamber, other apartments [are] for the heir to the crown, others for other children, others for their attendants and the great officers of the household.
Another image of this was in Solomon’s temple. There were many rooms of different degrees of honor and dignity. There was the holy of holies, where the ark was, the place of God’s residence, where the high priest alone might enter. There was another apartment called the holy place, where the other priests might enter. Next to that was the inner court of the temple, where the Levites were admitted, and [wherein were] lodgings for the priests. Next to that was the court of Israel where the people of Israel might enter. Next to that was the court of the Gentiles, where the Gentiles might enter.
Not that we are to understand the words of Christ so much in a literal sense, that every saint in heaven is to have a certain seat or room or dwelling where he or she is locally fixed. But we are to understand what Christ says chiefly in a spiritual sense. People will have different degrees of honor and glory in heaven, aptly represented as different seats of honor. Some will be nearer the throne than others. Some will be next to Christ.
When Christ was going to heaven and the disciples were sorrowful at parting with their Lord, he let them know that there are rooms of various degrees of honor in his Father’s house, that there was not only one for him, the head of the church, but also for those who were his disciples and younger brothers and sisters.
Christ also may mean not only degrees of glory in heaven but different activities. We know their activities in general—some may be set in one place for one kind of work and others in another. God has set everyone in the body as it has pleased him; one is the eye, another the ear, another the head, and so on.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Turf Wars September 7
In twelfth-century Europe, the relationship between pope and emperor was like the dance of the porcupines. The emperor needed the pope to instill reverence; the pope needed the emperor to protect the church. But which of the two was supreme?
On September 7, 1159 Cardinal Orlando Roland was proclaimed Pope Alexander III, but he wasn’t well received by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, for he had once quipped, “From whom does the emperor receive his dignity if not from the pope?” Frederick immediately named a rival pope, Octavian, who moved into the Vatican. France, Spain, and England sided with Alexander. Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Norway, and Sweden supported Octavian. Italy was divided.
War broke out. In November 1166 Frederick crossed the Alps, attacking and routing the armies supporting Alexander. But he soon found himself facing a mightier enemy than the pope’s. The Roman Fever broke out among his troops, sweeping away his noblemen, knights, and soldiers. Frederick broke camp in haste and recrossed the Alps with a few straggling survivors.
He eventually took steps to reconcile with Alexander, the spiritual head of his enemies; and after 18 years of conflict, the two men met to sign peace accords in front of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice on July 24, 1177. The pope sat in his pontifical dress, surrounded by cardinals, archbishops, and other dignitaries. The emperor arrived in a magnificent gondola with a train of nobles. He emerged from his conveyance and proceeded toward the cathedral. Overcome by feelings of reverence, he cast off his mantle, bowed, and fell at the pope’s feet. Alexander wept, raised him up, and kissed him. The multitude burst into song.
Legend persists of a whispered exchange in which Frederick reputedly said in the pope’s ear, “I do this homage to Peter, not to thee,” to which Alexander replied, “To Peter and to me.”
It wasn’t a lasting peace; and Alexander III was again driven from Rome to Civata Castellana where he died in exile in 1181.
Jesus called the disciples together and said: You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule. But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others.
--- Matthew 20:25,26.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 7
"And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay." --- Mark 2:4.
Faith is full of inventions. The house was full, a crowd blocked up the door, but faith found a way of getting at the Lord and placing the palsied man before him. If we cannot get sinners where Jesus is by ordinary methods we must use extraordinary ones. It seems, according to Luke 5:19, that a tiling had to be removed, which would make dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent we must not mind running some risks and shocking some proprieties. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore fall what might, faith ventured all so that her poor paralysed charge might have his sins forgiven. O that we had more daring faith among us! Cannot we, dear reader, seek it this Morning for ourselves and for our fellow-workers, and will we not try to-day to perform some gallant act for the love of souls and the glory of the Lord.
The world is constantly inventing; genius serves all the purposes of human desire: cannot faith invent too, and reach by some new means the outcasts who lie perishing around us? It was the presence of Jesus which excited victorious courage in the four bearers of the palsied man: is not the Lord among us now? Have we seen his face for ourselves this Morning? Have we felt his healing power in our own souls? If so, then through door, through window, or through roof, let us, breaking through all impediments, labour to bring poor souls to Jesus. All means are good and decorous when faith and love are truly set on winning souls. If hunger for bread can break through stone walls, surely hunger for souls is not to be hindered in its efforts. O Lord, make us quick to suggest methods of reaching thy poor sin-sick ones, and bold to carry them out at all hazards.
Evening - September 7
“There is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet.”
--- Jeremiah 49:23.
Little know we what sorrow may be upon the sea at this moment. We are safe in our quiet chamber, but far away on the salt sea the hurricane may be cruelly seeking for the lives of men. Hear how the death fiends howl among the cordage; how every timber starts as the waves beat like battering rams upon the vessel! God help you, poor drenched and wearied ones! My prayer goes up to the great Lord of sea and land, that he will make the storm a calm, and bring you to your desired haven! Nor ought I to offer prayer alone, I should try to benefit those hardy men who risk their lives so constantly. Have I ever done anything for them? What can I do? How often does the boisterous sea swallow up the mariner! Thousands of corpses lie where pearls lie deep. There is death-sorrow on the sea, which is echoed in the long wail of widows and orphans. The salt of the sea is in many eyes of mothers and wives. Remorseless billows, ye have devoured the love of women, and the stay of households. What a resurrection shall there be from the caverns of the deep when the sea gives up her dead! Till then there will be sorrow on the sea. As if in sympathy with the woes of earth, the sea is for ever fretting along a thousand shores, wailing with a sorrowful cry like her own birds, booming with a hollow crash of unrest, raving with uproarious discontent, chafing with hoarse wrath, or jangling with the voices of ten thousand murmuring pebbles. The roar of the sea may be joyous to a rejoicing spirit, but to the son of sorrow the wide, wide ocean is even more forlorn than the wide, wide world. This is not our rest, and the restless billows tell us so. There is a land where there is no more sea—our faces are steadfastly set towards it; we are going to the place of which the Lord hath spoken. Till then, we cast our sorrows on the Lord who trod the sea of old, and who maketh a way for his people through the depths thereof.
GREAT GOD OF WONDERS
Samuel Davies, 1723–1761
O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty. Psalm 104:1
It is possible for Christians to lose a sense of the infinite power and greatness of God and make of Him merely a heavenly friend—a God who is no bigger than our mundane needs. Our personal and intimate relationship with God must always be balanced with the realization that He is still the “Great God of Wonders.” This great God is as unbounded in His presence as He is in His glory and power—even the heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). This was the awareness that King Solomon had after building his magnificent temple. He stated in this passage that if God cannot be contained even in the highest heaven, “how much less in this temple I have built.” God’s great design in all of His works is the manifestation of His own glory. His glory is the result of His very nature and acts. A mark of a mature Christian is the ability to say “not unto us, but unto Thy name be glory” (Psalm 29:2).
The author of this hymn text, Samuel Davies, was an American Presbyterian minister who was appointed president of Princeton University in 1759, succeeding the well-known evangelist, Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Davies was a man of distinguished ability and was highly influential in the fields of religion and education. He wrote a number of fine hymns that had a wide acceptance in the 18th century, especially in England.
Although not a trained musician, composer John Newton could, when necessary, compose the music for texts as well. His musical setting is well-suited to this fine text by Samuel Davies, and it makes a strong vehicle for conveying its majestic quality, especially on the refrain:
Great God of wonders! all Thy ways are matchless, God-like and divine; but the fair glories of Thy grace more God-like and unrivaled shine, more God-like and unrivaled shine.
In wonder lost, with trembling joy, we take the pardon of our God: Pardon for crimes of deepest dye, a pardon bought with Jesus’ blood, a pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.
O may this strange, this matchless grace, this God-like miracle of love, fill the whole earth with grateful praise, and all th’ angelic choirs above, and all th’ angelic choirs above.
Refrain: Who is a pard’ning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free? Or who has grace so rich and free?
For Today: 1 Chronicles 29:11; Job 36:5; Psalm 31:19; 145:3; Isaiah 40:26, 28
Reflect again on God’s greatness. In what ways do we sometimes try to contain His greatness? Determine to let “God be God” in every situation. Carry this musical question as you go ---
DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
III. The third general is, Why a spiritual worship is due to God, and to be offered to him. We must consider the object of worship, and the subject of worship; the worshipper and the worshipped. God is a spiritual Being; man is a reasonable creature. The nature of God informs us what is fit to be presented to him; our own nature informs us what is fit to be presented by us.
Reason I. The best we have is to be presented to God in worship. For,
1. Since God is the most excellent Being, he is to be served by us with the most excellent thing we have, and with the choicest veneration. God is so incomprehensibly excellent, that we cannot render him what he deserves: we must render him what we are able to offer: the best of our affections; the flower of our strength; the cream and top of our spirits. By the same reason that we are bound to give God the best worship, we must offer it to him in the best manner. We cannot give to God anything too good for so blessed a Being; God being a “great king,” slight services become not his majesty (Mal. 1:13, 14); it is unbecoming the majesty of God, and the reason of a creature, to give him a trivial thing; it is unworthy to bestow the best of our strength on our lust, and the worst and weakest in the service of God. An infinite Spirit should have affections as near to infinite as we can; as he is a Spirit without bounds, so he should have a service without limits; when we have given him all, we cannot serve him according to the excellency of his nature (Josh. 24:19); and shall we give him less than all? His infinite excellency, and our dependence on him as creatures, demands the choicest adoration; our spirits, being the noblest part of our nature, are as due to him as the service of our bodies, which are the vilest; to serve him with the worst only, is to diminish his honor.
2. Under the law, God commanded the best to be offered him. He would have the males, the best of the kind; the fat, the best of the creature; he commanded them to offer him the firstlings of the flock; not the firstlings of the womb, but the firstlings of the year the Jewish cattle having two breeding-times, in the beginning of the spring and the beginning of September; the latter breed was the weaker, which Jacob knew (Gen. 30.) when he laid the rods before the cattle when they were strong in the spring, and withheld them when they were feeble in the autumn. One reason (as the Jews say) why God accepted not the offering of Cain was, because he brought the meanest, not the best of the fruit; and therefore, it is said, only that he brought of the “fruit” of the ground (Gen. 4:3), not the first of the fruit, or the best of the fruit, as Abel, who brought the “firstling” of his flock, and the fat thereof (ver. 4).
3. And this the heathen practised by the, light of nature. They for the most part offered males, as being more worthy; and burnt the male, not the female frankincense, as it is divided into those two kinds; they offered the best, when they offered their children to Moloch. Nothing more excellent than man, and nothing dearer to parents than their children, which are part of themselves. When the Israelites would have a golden calf for a representation of God, they would dedicate their jewels, and strip their wives and children of their richest ornaments, to show their devotion. Shall men serve their dumb idols with the best of their substance, and the strength of their souls; and shall the living God have a duller service from us, than idols had from them? God requires no such hard, but delightful worship from us, our spirits.
4. All creatures serve man, by the providential order of God, with the best they have. As we, by God’s appointmnt, receive from creatures the best they can give, ought we not with a free will to render to God the best we can offer? The beasts give us their best fat; the trees their best fruit; the sun its best light; the fountains their best streams; shall God order us the best from creatures, and we put him off with the worst from ourselves?
5. God hath given us the choicest thing he had — a Redeemer that was the power of God, and the wisdom of God; the best he had in heaven, his own Son, and in himself a sacrifice for us, that we might be enabled to present ourselves a sacrifice to him. And Christ offered himself for us, the best he had, and that with the strength of the Deity through the eternal Spirit; and shall we grudge God the best part of ourselves? As God would have a worship from his creature, so it must be with the best part of his creature. If we have “given ourselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5), we can worship with no less than ourselves. What is the man without his spirit? If we are to worship God with all that we have received from him, we must worship him with the best part we have received from him; it is but a small glory we can give him with the best, and shall we deprive him of his right by giving him the worst? As what we are is from God, so what we are ought to be for God. Creation is the foundation of worship (Psalm 100:2, 3): “Serve the Lord with gladness; know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us.” He hath ennobled us with spiritual affections; where is it fittest for us to employ them, but upon him? and at what time, but when we come solemnly to converse with him? Is it justice to deny him the honor of his best gift to us? our souls are more his gift to us, than anything in the world; other things are so given that they are often taken from us, but our spirits are the most durable gift. Rational faculties cannot be removed without a dissolution of nature. Well then, as he is God, he is to be honored with all the propensions and ardor that the infiniteness and excellency of such a Being require, and the incomparable obligations he hath laid upon us in this state deserve at our hands. In all our worship, therefore, our minds ought to be filled with the highest admiration, love, and reverence. Since our end was to glorify God, we answer not our end, and honor him not, unless we give him the choicest we have.
Reason II. We cannot else act towards God according to the nature of rational creatures. Spiritual worship is due to God, because of his nature; and due from us, because of our nature. As we are to adore God, so we are to adore him as men; the nature of a rational creature makes this impression upon him; he cannot view his own nature without having this duty striking upon his mind. As he knows, by inspection into himself, that there was a God that made him; so, that he is made to be in subjection to God, subjection to him in his spirit as well as his body, and ought morally to testify this natural dependence on him. His constitution informs him that he hath a capacity to converse with God; that he cannot converse with him, but by those inward faculties; if it could be managed by his body without his spirit, beasts might as well converse with God as men. It can never be a “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1), as it ought to be, unless the reasonable faculties be employed in the management of it; it must be a worship prodigiously lame, without the concurrence of the chiefest art of man with it. As we are to act conformably to the nature of the object, so also to the nature of our own faculties. Our faculties, in the very gift of them to us, were destined to be exercised, about what? What? All other things but the Author of them. It is a conceit cannot enter into the heart of a rational creature, that he should act as such a creature in other things, and as a stone in things relating to the donor of them; as a man, with his mind about him in the affairs of the world; as a beast, without reason in his acts towards God. If a man did not employ his reason in other things, he would be an unprofitable creature in the world: if he do not employ his spiritual faculties in worship, he denies them the proper end and use for which they were given him; it is a practical denial that God hath given him a soul, and that God hath any right to the exercise of it. If there were no worship appointed by God in the world, the natural inclination of man to some kind of religion would be in vain; and if our inward faculties were not employed in the duties of religion they would be in vain; the true end of God in the endowment of us with them would be defeated by us, as much as lies in us, if we did not serve him with that which we have from him solely at his own cost. As no man can with reason conclude, that the rest commanded on the Sabhath and the sanctification of it, was only a rest of the body, that had been performed by the beasts as well as men, but some higher end was aimed at for the rational creature; so no man can think that the command for worship terminated only in the presence of the body; that God should give the command to man as a reasonable creature, and expect no other service from him than that of a brute. God did not require a worship from man for any want he had, or any essential honor that could accrue to him, but that men might testify their gratitude to him, and dependence on him. It is the most horrid ingratitude not to have lively and deep sentiments of gratitude after such obligations, and not to make those due acknowledgments that are proper for a rational creature. Religion is the highest and choicest act of a reasonable creature; no creature under heaven is capable of it that wants reason. As it is a violation of reason not to worship God, so it is no less a violation of reason not to worship him with the heart and spirit; it is a high dishonor to God, and defeats him not only of the service due to him from man, but that which is due to him from all the creatures. Every creature, as it is an effect of God’s power and wisdom, doth passively worship God; that is, it doth afford matter of adoration to man that hath reason to collect it, and return it where it is due. Without the exercise of the soul, we can no more hand it to God, than without such an exercise, we can gather it from the creature; so that by this neglect, the creatures are restrained from answering their chief end; they cannot pay any service to God without man; nor can man, without the employment of his rational faculties, render a homage to God, any more than boasts can. This engagement of our inward power stands firm and inviolable, let the modes of worship be what they will, or the changes of them by the sovereign authority of God never so frequent; this could not expire or be changed as long as the nature of man endured. As man had not been capable of a command for worship, unless he had been endued with spiritual faculties; so he is not active in a true practice of worship, unless they be employed by him in it. The constitution of man makes this manner of worship perpetually obligatory, and the oblation can never cease, till man cease to be a creature furnished with such faculties; in our worship, therefore, if we would act like rational creatures, we should extend all the powers of our souls to the utmost pitch, and essay to have apprehensions of God, equal to the excellency of his nature, which, though we may attempt, we can never attain.
Reason III. Without this engagement of our spirits no act is an act of worship. True worship, being an acknowledgment of God and the perfections of his nature, results only from the soul, that being only capable of knowing God and those perfections which are the object and motive of worship. The posture of the body is but to testify the inward temper and affection of the mind; if, therefore, it testifies what it is not, it is a lie, and no worship; the cringes a beast may be taught to make to an altar may as well be called worship, since a man thinks as little of that God he pretends to honor, as the beast doth of the altar to which he bows. Worship is a reverent remembrance of God, and giving some honor to him with the intention of the soul; it cannot justly have the name of worship, that wants the essential part of it; it is an ascribing to God the glory of his nature, an owning subjection and obedience to him as our sovereign Lord; this is as impossible to be performed without the spirit, as that there can be life and motion in a body without a soul; it is a drawing near to God, not in regard of his essential presence, so all things are near to God, but in an acknowledgment of his excellency, which is an act of the spirit; without this, the worst of men in a place of worship are as near to God as the best. The necessity of the conjunction of our soul ariseth from the nature of worship, which being the most serious thing we can be employed in, the highest converse with the highest object requires the choicest temper of spirit in the performance. That cannot be an act of worship, which is not an act of piety and virtue; but there is no act of virtue done by the members of the body, without the concurrence of the powers of the soul. We may as well call the presence of a dead carcass in a place of worship, an act of religion, as the presence of a living body without an intent spirit; the separation of the soul from one is natural, the other moral; that renders the body lifeless, but this renders the act loathsome to God; as the being of the soul gives life to the body, so the operation of the soul gives life to the actions. As he cannot be a man that wants the form of a man, a rational soul; so that cannot be a worship that wants an essential part, the act of the spirit; God will not vouchsafe any acts of man so noble a title without the requisite qualifications (Hos. 5:6): “They shall go with their flocks and their herds to seek the Lord,” &c. A multitude of lambs and bullocks for sacrifice, to appease God’s anger. God would not give it the title of worship, though instituted by himself, when it wanted the qualities of such a service. “The spirit of whoredom was in the midst of them” (v. 4). In the judgment of our Saviour, it is a “vain worship, when the traditions of men are taught for the doctrines of God” (Matt. 15:9); and no less vain must it be, when the bodies of men are presented to supply the place of their spirits. As an omission of duty is a contempt of God’s sovereign authority, so the omission of the manner of it is a contempt of it, and of his amiable excellency; and that which is a contempt and mockery, can lay no just claim to the title of worship.
Reason IV. There is in worship an approach of God to man. It was instituted to this purpose, that God might give out his blessings to man; and ought not our spirits to be prepared and ready to receive his communications? We are, in such acts, more peculiarly, in his presence. In the Israelites hearing the law, it is said, God was to “come among them” (Exod. 19:10, 11). Then, men are said to stand before the Lord (Deut. 10:8): “God, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 17:1): that is, whom I worship; and therefore when Cain forsook the worship of God settled in his father’s family, he is said, “to go out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:6). God is essentially present in the world; graciously present in his church. The name of the evangelical city is Jehovah Shammah (Ezek. 48:35), “the Lord is there.” God is more graciously present in the evangelical institutions than in the legal; he “loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Psalm 87:2); his evangelical law and worship which was to go forth from Zion, as the other did from Sinai (Mic. 4:2). God delights to approach to men, and converse with them in the worship instituted in the gospel, more than in all the dwellings of Jacob. If God be graciously present, ought not we to be spiritually present? A lifeless carcass service becomes not so high and delectable a presence as this; it is to thrust him from us, not invite him to us; it is to Practise in the ordinances what the prophet predicts concerning men's usage of our Saviour (Isa. 53:2): “There is no form, no comeliness, nor beauty that we should desire him.” A slightness in worship reflects upon the excellency of the object of worship. God and his worship are so linked together, that whosoever thinks the one not worth his inward care, esteems the other not worth his inward affection. How unworthy a slight is it of God, who proffers the opening his treasure; the re-impressing his image; conferring his blessings; admits us into his presence, when he hath no need for us; who hath millions of angels to attend him in his court, and celebrate his praise! He that worships not God with his spirit, regards not God’s presence in his ordinances, and slights the great end of God in them, and that perfection he may attain by them. We can only expect what God hath promised to give, when we tender to him what he hath commanded us to present. If we put off God with a shell, he will put us off with a husk. How can we expect his heart, when we do not give him ours; or hope for the blessing needful for us, when we render not the glory due to him? It cannot be an advantageous worship without spiritual graces; for those are uniting, and union is the ground of all communion.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Sect. CXLII. — PAUL however proceeds; and testifies, that he now expressly speaks with reference to all men, and to those more especially who are the greatest and most exalted: saying, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” (Rom. iii. 19-20).
How, I pray you, shall every mouth be stopped, if there be still a power remaining by which we can do something? For one might then say to God — That which is here in the world is not altogether nothing. There is that here which you cannot damn: even that, to which you yourself gave the power of doing something. The mouth of this at least will not be stopped, for it cannot be obnoxious to you. — For if there be any sound power in “Free-will”, and it be able to do something, to say that the whole world is obnoxious to, or guilty before God, is false; for that power, whose mouth is not to be stopped, cannot be an inconsiderable thing, or a something in one small part of the world only, but a thing most conspicuous, and most general throughout the whole world. Or, if its mouth be to be stopped, then it must be obnoxious to, and guilty before God, together with the whole world. But how can it rightly be called guilty, if it be not unrighteous and ungodly; that is, meriting punishment and vengeance?
Let your friends, I pray you, find out, by what ‘convenient interpretation’ that power of man is to be cleared from this charge of guilt, by which the whole world is declared guilty before God; or by what contrivance it is to be excepted from being comprehended in the expression “all the world.” These words — “They are all gone out of the way, there is none righteous, no not one,” are mighty thunderclaps and riving thunder-bolts; they are in reality that hammer breaking the rock in pieces mentioned by Jeremiah; by which, is broken in pieces every thing that is, not in one man only, nor in some men, nor in a part of men, but in the whole world, no one man being excepted: so that the whole world ought, at those words, to tremble, to fear, and to flee away. For what words more awful or fearful could be uttered than these — The whole world is guilty; all the sons of men are turned out of the way, and become unprofitable; there is no one that fears God; there is no one that is not unrighteous; there is no one that understandeth; there is no one that seeketh after God!
Nevertheless, such ever has been, and still is, the hardness and insensible obstinacy of our hearts, that we never should of ourselves hear or feel the force of these thunder-claps or thunder-bolts, but should, even while they were sounding in our ears, exalt and establish “Free-will” with all its powers in defiance of them, and thus in reality fulfil that of Malachi i. 4, “They build, but I will throw down!”
With the same power of words also is this said — “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” — “By the deeds of the law” is a forcible expression; as is also this, “The whole world;” and this, “All the children of men.” For it is to be observed, that Paul abstains from the mention of persons, and mentions their ways only: that is, that he might comprehend all persons, and whatever in them is most excellent. Whereas, if he had said the commonalty of the Jews, or the Pharisees, or certain of the ungodly, are not justified, he might have seemed to leave some excepted, who, from the power of “Free-will” in them, and by a certain aid from the law, were not altogether unprofitable. But now, when he condemns the works of the law themselves, and makes them unrighteous in the sight of God, it becomes manifest, that he condemns all who were mighty in a devoted observance of the law and of works. And none devotedly observed the law and works but the best and most excellent among them, nor did they thus observe them but with their best and most exalted faculties; that is, their reason and their will.
If therefore, those, who exercised themselves in the observance of the law and of works with all the devoted striving and endeavouring both of reason and of will, that is, with all the power of “Free-will,” and who were assisted by the law as a divine aid, and were instructed out of it, and roused to exertion by it; if, I say, these are condemned of impiety because they are not justified, and are declared to be flesh in the sight of God, what then will there be left in the whole race of mankind which is not flesh, and which is not ungodly? For all are condemned alike who are of the works of the law: and whether they exercise themselves in the law with the utmost devotion, or moderate devotion, or with no devotion at all, it matters nothing. None of them could do any thing but work the works of the law, and the works of the law do not justify: and if they do not justify, they prove their workmen to be ungodly, and leave them so: and if they be ungodly, they are guilty, and merit the wrath of God! These things are so clear, that no one can open his mouth against them.