Evil and Oppression
Isaiah 59 1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
5 They hatch adders’ eggs;
they weave the spider’s web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil,
and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
desolation and destruction are in their highways.
8 The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
no one who treads on them knows peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind;
we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
11 We all growl like bears;
we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the LORD,
and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
Judgment and Redemption
14 Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
which the wind of the LORD drives.
20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.
The Future Glory of Israel
Isaiah 60 1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
3 And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will beautify my beautiful house.
8 Who are these that fly like a cloud,
and like doves to their windows?
9 For the coastlands shall hope for me,
the ships of Tarshish first,
to bring your children from afar,
their silver and gold with them,
for the name of the LORD your God,
and for the Holy One of Israel,
because he has made you beautiful.
10 Foreigners shall build up your walls,
and their kings shall minister to you;
for in my wrath I struck you,
but in my favor I have had mercy on you.
11 Your gates shall be open continually;
day and night they shall not be shut,
that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
with their kings led in procession.
12 For the nation and kingdom
that will not serve you shall perish;
those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
13 The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary,
and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
14 The sons of those who afflicted you
shall come bending low to you,
and all who despised you
shall bow down at your feet;
they shall call you the City of the LORD,
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
15 Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
with no one passing through,
I will make you majestic forever,
a joy from age to age.
16 You shall suck the milk of nations;
you shall nurse at the breast of kings;
and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17 Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
and instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
instead of stones, iron.
I will make your overseers peace
and your taskmasters righteousness.
18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation,
and your gates Praise.
19 The sun shall be no more
your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21 Your people shall all be righteous;
they shall possess the land forever,
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
that I might be glorified.
22 The least one shall become a clan,
and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the LORD;
in its time I will hasten it.
The Year of the LORD’s Favor
Isaiah 61 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
8 For I the LORD love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.
Zion’s Coming Salvation
Isaiah 62 1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
6 On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the LORD in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“I will not again give your grain
to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink your wine
for which you have labored;
9 but those who garner it shall eat it
and praise the LORD,
and those who gather it shall drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”
10 Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.
11 Behold, the LORD has proclaimed
to the end of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”
12 And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the LORD;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.
The LORD’s Day of Vengeance
Isaiah 63 1 Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”
2 Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
3 “I have trodden the winepress alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
The LORD’s Mercy Remembered
7 I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,
the praises of the LORD,
according to all that the LORD has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old,
of Moses and his people.
Where is he who brought them up out of the sea
with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is he who put in the midst of them
his Holy Spirit,
12 who caused his glorious arm
to go at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
to make for himself an everlasting name,
13 who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
they did not stumble.
14 Like livestock that go down into the valley,
the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
So you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name.
Prayer for Mercy
15 Look down from heaven and see,
from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
are held back from me.
16 For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17 O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
18 Your holy people held possession for a little while;
our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
19 We have become like those over whom you have never ruled,
like those who are not called by your name.
What I'm Reading
Why the Church Needs the Infertile Couple
By Matthew Lee Anderson 4/21/2017
At the center of the remarkable montage near the opening of Pixar’s Up stands the sorrow of infertility.
On one side lie the joys of a budding marriage, and on the other the delights of its twilight. In the hour of crisis, Carl sees Ellie sitting in the garden facing the sun with a forlorn look, feeling the devastation of their joint barrenness. Neither character speaks throughout the montage, but here their silence is particularly apt: the wordlessness of grief weighs heavily upon them, and upon us. Relief begins when Carl, who is by no means immune to their sadness, places Ellie’s “adventure book”—which has many more pages in it for them to fill—in her lap. It is the most beautiful depiction of infertility I know of; it is among the most tender five minutes of film I have ever seen.
But the adventures Carl and Ellie are given in the latter half of their lives are not the grand, exotic drama they had wanted. They hoped to someday live on top of a waterfall. Instead, car tires go flat, the roof needs replacing, and bones are broken. At every turn, the ordinary challenges of living in this world prevent them from pursuing the dreams of their youth. Yet if their adventure book is incomplete when Ellie dies, it is not empty; we glimpse the fullness of their love and feel like it is enough. The sadness at their separation stems not from their inability to live out their dream, but from the reality that they are no longer together.
While the montage is widely regarded as one of the most moving parts of the film, it almost failed make the final cut. Director Pete Docter said the studio was leery of showing their infertility because it was “going too far.” But the filmmakers had no real ...
Matthew Lee Anderson is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics at Oxford University, and the founder of Mere Orthodoxy. He invites you to follow him on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.
Family Worship: The Voice of Rejoicing in the Christian Home
By Shane Anderson 4/21/2017
“The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous!” (Psalm 118:15)
Our minister, Arie, grew up in a Reformed church tradition where daily family worship is the norm, generations of believers worship together every Lord’s Day morning and evening, and a child who falls away is a rare exception.
About a decade ago, I began arriving at those convictions and practices the hard way: humiliations, repentance, preaching, and the testimony of other Christian families. Slowly but surely, in God’s kind grace, our little tabernacle is now a place where “the voice of rejoicing and salvation” is regularly heard, and our three little girls are now in their teens, serving the Lord–and there is no greater joy! (3 John 4)
Here’s some of our advice about family worship.
Found no info on Shane Anderson
By R.C. Sproul 11/01/2011
And all the people said … “Amen!” The “amen corner” has had an important place in the life of the church throughout the ages. However, it is rare to find such a spot among Presbyterians. We are known as God’s frozen chosen for a reason. It has been said that the Methodists like to shout “Fire,” the Baptists like to shout “Water,” and the Presbyterians like to softly say, “Order, order.” Nevertheless, in spite of the idiosyncrasies of various ecclesiastical persuasions, the function of the word amen far transcends denominational usages in the modern era.
The term amen was used in the corporate worship of ancient Israel in two distinct ways. It served first as a response to praise given to God and second as a response to prayer. Those same usages of the term are still in vogue among Christians. The term itself is rooted in a Semitic word that means “truth,” and the utterance of “amen” is an acknowledgment that the word that has been heard, whether a word of praise, a word of prayer, or a sermonic exhortation, is valid, that is, sure and binding. Even in antiquity, the word amen was used in order to express a pledge to fulfill the terms of a vow. So, this little word is one that is centered on the idea of the truth of God.
The truth of God is such a remarkable element of Christian faith that it cannot be overlooked. There are those who think that truth is negotiable or, even worse, divisive, and it therefore should not be a matter of passionate concern among believers. But if we are not concerned about truth, then we have no reason to have Bibles in our homes. The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is true. It is not just true but is truth itself. This is the assessment made of it by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 17:17).
(Jn 17:17–18) 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. ESV
Therefore, when we sing a hymn that reflects biblical truth and end it with the sung word amen, we are giving our approbation of the content of the praise in the hymn. When we have a choral “amen” at the end of the pastoral prayer, again we are emphasizing our agreement with the validity and surety of the content of the prayer itself.
Worship in biblical terms is a corporate matter. The corporate body is made up of individuals, and when an individual sounds the “amen,” the individual is connecting to the corporate expression of worship and praise. However, we are told in the Scriptures that the truths of God are “yea” and “amen” (2 Cor. 1:20), which simply means that the Word of God is valid, it is certain, and it is binding. Therefore, the expression “amen” is not simply an acknowledgment of personal agreement with what has been stated; it is an expression of willingness to submit to the implications of that word, to indeed be bound by it, as if the Word of God would put ropes around us not to strangle or retard us but to hold us firmly in place.
(2 Co 1:20) 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. ESV
There is, perhaps, no more remarkable use of the term amen in the New Testament than on the lips of Jesus. Older translations render statements of our Lord with the preparatory words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” Later translations update that to “Truly, truly, I say unto you.” In such passages, the Greek word that is translated as “verily” or “truly” is the word amen. Jesus does not wait for the disciples to nod their agreement or submission to His teaching at the end of His saying; rather, He begins by saying, “Amen, amen, I say unto you.” What is the significance of this? Namely, that Jesus never uttered a desultory word; every word that came from His lips was true and important. Each word was, as “amen” suggests, valid, sure, and binding.
Furthermore, even in His own pedagogy, Jesus took the opportunity on occasion to call strict attention to something He was about to say by giving it tremendous emphasis. His practice was somewhat akin to the sounding of a whistle and an announcement over a loudspeaker on a ship: “Now hear this, this is the captain speaking.” When that announcement is made on a ship, everyone listens, realizing that when the captain speaks to the entire crew, what he is saying is of the utmost importance and urgency. However, the authority of Jesus far transcends that of a captain of a seagoing vessel. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth by the Father. So when He gives a preface to a teaching and says, “Amen, amen, I say unto you,” our listening ears should be fine-tuned to take note instantly of what our Lord is going to say following the preface, for it is of the utmost importance.
We also notice that Jesus uses the Hebrew technique of repetition by saying not merely, “Amen, I say unto you,” but “Amen, amen.” This form of repetition underlines the importance of the words that are to follow. Whenever we read in the text of Scripture our Lord giving a statement that is prefaced by the double “amen,” it is a time to pay close attention and be ready to give our response with a double amen to it. He says “amen” to indicate truth; we say it to receive that truth and to submit to it.
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
Problematic Analogies and Prayerful Adoration
By Carl R. Trueman 11/11/2011
Ask any children’s Sunday school teacher what the most difficult thing to teach is and he will almost certainly tell you: “The doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one but exists in three persons.” Ask them how they do it and you will probably find them outlining an analogy: “God is like water, ice, and steam” is one of the more popular.
The problem with such an analogy — indeed, with any analogy — for the Trinity is that it is actually more misleading than helpful. What it describes is not really something akin to the biblical Trinity but rather to the ancient heresy of modalism. The detailed problems of this heresy, which sees God as one and as turning from Father into Son and then into Holy Spirit, need not delay us here. My point is that analogies for the Trinity are unhelpful because the Trinity is absolutely unique. There is no analogy to the created world that is more helpful than it is misleading.
Another area where Christians are wont to use analogies is that of the incarnation. Here the analogies often flow the other way: the created realm is not used to explain the incarnation so much as the incarnation is used to explain some aspect of the creation. Thus, some have argued for an incarnational analogy as a means of understanding how the divine and the human relate to each other in the doctrine of Scripture, given that the Bible has both human and divine authors. There is no monopoly by one party in the church. Liberals have used this notion; but so did the orthodox Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck. Others have used the analogy to explain the relationship of Christ to culture. Still others have used it as a means of explaining how the eternal God works in the flux of history through providence.
There are theological arguments pro and con for these various uses of the incarnational analogy, and I will not rehearse them here. I want rather to make a simple point relating to these analogies from the perspective of the church’s praise: the Trinity and the incarnation are unique, and that is why the church had to develop particular and precise means of articulating them. We should also remember the dynamic that drove the debates that led to these formulations: Christian worship. The early church needed to know what she meant when she declared: “Jesus is Lord.” and why she baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If analogies therefore serve to reduce the uniqueness of God and the incarnation, they will eventually shape the church culture in ways that impact our worship. Whatever the problems with popular uses of theological analogies, the key practical issue is the way such watering down of uniqueness will also water down the church’s praise.
Vital to worship is the acknowledgment of the vast difference that exists between God and His human creatures. Part of that difference is the fact that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, while we are creatures and sustained in our being by God. Part of it is moral: He is holy, but we are sinful. Part of it has to do with salvation: He is the gracious Savior, and we are vessels of grace. In all three categories, mystery and incomprehensibility provide the backdrop to His action in history.
The doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation guard that mystery because they state biblical truth in a way that is not reducible to the categories of our finite minds. The result of that for the Christian is surely not to be confusion but adoration. The failure of our intellects to penetrate these mysteries is vital to our Christian lives because that very failure is what drives us to our knees in gasps of adoration, praise, and wonder.
My conviction is that analogies blunt this. By reducing the distance between creation and God, they somehow make Him more manageable, more amenable to our ways of thinking, and thus take some of the urgent spiritual hunger away from our praise and adoration. This is not to argue for fideism, to say that the more mystical our faith, the greater our praise. But it is to say that there is an appropriate place for mystery and uniqueness that must be maintained if our worship is to be truly Christian. The task of the teacher is not to explain the Trinity or incarnation, or reduce them to creaturely categories; it is rather to point to the splendor of the same as a means of provoking awe and wonder in the congregation.
When we talk of God, we should remember we walk on holy ground. We can go only so far before we have to stop and fall on our faces in adoration. As Gregory Nazianzus, an early church father, said of God as Trinity: “Every time I think of the One, my mind is drawn to the Three; yet every time I think of the Three, my mind is drawn to the One.” He could not explain the Trinity; he could simply worship and adore the Three in One and the One in Three. The mystery, the boundary of incomprehensibility, was to him a reminder that he was not God. The maintenance of such a boundary is crucial. Let us not allow any attempt to communicate the faith to become by accident a means for domesticating the faith.
Carl R. Trueman Books:
- 1 Grace Alone---Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)
- 2 Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History
- 3 The Creedal Imperative
- 4 From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
- 5 The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
- 6 Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom
- 7 Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone
- 8 Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative
- 9 The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism
- 10 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 11 Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism
- 12 Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ
- 13 Luther's Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556
- 14 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 15 John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Great Theologians)
- 16 Histories and Fallacies by Carl R. Trueman (2011-01-21)
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2011
Sometimes, indeed often, we build and maintain our paradigms for our own comfort. Our worldviews are usually less the result of careful, dispassionate, sober-minded analysis and more the result of self-serving, special pleading, rationalization of our sin. We believe not because these beliefs commend themselves to our minds but because in our minds the beliefs commend us. It is these habits of our desperately deceitful hearts that make us miss the voice of God. He speaks, but we hear what we want to.
We come to our Bibles with this most fundamental presupposition —whatever the Bible may be saying, it can’t be telling me that my life needs to be fundamentally changed. Wherever the Bible calls for such change, it must be addressing someone else. Out of this presupposition flows what I call “the diabolical art of simultaneous translation.” This is what happens when our eyes roam across the very words of God in Scripture, but our minds change what we read into something safe, something reasonable, something inoffensive. Jesus, for instance, tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, that this is what the Gentiles worry about, and that we ought to know that we are under God’s care. What our minds hear is something like this: “Those people who are more prosperous than I am need to stop worrying about money. When I get as prosperous as they are, I will be pious enough to no longer worry. Those worrying prosperous people really ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and we hear: “Those people who don’t believe, who aren’t in the kingdom, who don’t have the righteousness of Christ, need to get serious about pursuing these things. Thank heaven I already have this covered. Because I have already done this, I can now devote my time to something important, worrying about what I will wear and what I will eat.” When the Bible steps on our toes, we try to quietly tiptoe away. What we’re supposed to do is face our sins. What we’re supposed to do is repent and believe.
One way we might begin to do battle against this weakness is to come to the Bible with a prior commitment to this basic truth—whatever this text or that text is saying, it is likely that it is speaking to me and my sin. Before we decide whether a covenantal paradigm or a dispensational paradigm makes more sense, before we settle the vexing question of who wrote Hebrews or which gospel was written first, before we figure out whether Genesis 1 and 2 are history or poetry or both, we need to come willing and eager to have the mirror of the Word show us our sins. That will happen when we expect it to show us our sins.
The Word of God consists of the words of God. Their meanings tell us what His meaning is. They are little mirrors that build the big mirror. They are also, however, little hammers that together make up the sledgehammer God uses to smash our recalcitrant hearts. Because our hearts are hard, we insist on soft words. When alone with our Bibles, we soften our Bibles, translating our hammers into pillows. When in the pew on Sunday morning, we insist on preaching that does not offend, that does not confront, that does not strike, that rests lightly on our stony hearts.
God’s hammer smashes not just the icons of the world around us; it also smashes the idols of my heart. It is hard, heavy, even painful, precisely because of the love of the One who wields it. He has promised to forgive me for my hard heart but has also promised to soften it. He has promised to beat it into submission. As He pounds my heart, He, in turn, opens my ears. Thus, we move from grace to grace, from life to life, from faith to faith.
When our stony hearts are beaten, they do not merely turn into gravel. Instead, they turn to soil—soft, welcoming soil. And then the Word no longer comes as a hammer but as seed. The soft ground of our hearts welcomes that Word, and soon it bears fruit, multiplying thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold. Soon we find that we have ears to hear and eyes to see, and the very mystery of the parables unfolds before us. If we would hear, we must be willing to hear. If we would be willing, He must make us willing.
His kingdom is that place where His Word is heard, welcomed, and obeyed. That same Word has promised that if we will drop everything for the sake of the kingdom, all these things will be added to us. Therefore, His kingdom is where worry about tomorrow is banished. God’s Word is a hammer, but it is a hammer that speaks blessing to us. May He be pleased to give us ears to hear the blessings that He speaks.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Six Ways to Hinder Your Prayers
By Tim Challies 5-23-2008
It is the Lord’s delight to give us what we ask of Him in prayer. Like David, we should all pray, “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Psalm 54:2). If Christians did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, there would be no reason for us to ask anything of God. He is the one who tells us that we can have confidence that our prayers ascend to Him. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14,15). While as Christians we pay lip-service to the superlatives in that sentence (“whatever” and “anything”), how often do we really believe it? Selfish Motives Turning Away From Scripture Unforgiving Hearts Family Discord Unconfessed Sin Doubt Conclusion
The fact is that our prayers are often hindered. There are times when it feels like our prayers are reaching the ceiling and going no further; times when we are lying face-down on the floor and feel that our prayers are rising no higher than the fibers of the carpet. While we can be sure that God does hear our prayers, there are times when He chooses not to heed or answer them. In this brief article we’ll go over six reasons God may not heed our prayers. This list is incomplete, for there may be other ways our prayers are hindered, but it contains the most likely and significant ways.
It is important to know from the outset that I am the only one who can hinder my prayers. You are the only one who can hinder your prayers. I cannot hinder your prayers anymore than you can hinder mine. And while we may have done much to hinder our prayers, we are not necessarily even aware of this. So let’s look at these as six warnings from Scripture.
So the first hindrance to our prayer is our motives. We must ask in accordance with God’s will as revealed in the Bible. We must ask only for things that are consistent with the character and nature of God. We must ask for things that are for the spiritual benefit of ourselves or for the person on whose behalf we pray. God will not answer our self-centered, self-serving prayers.
When we read the Words of Scripture, we ask and encourage God to speak to us. He provides the understanding we need to live lives that bring glory to Him—lives that are increasingly consistent with His standards of grace and holiness. If we thumb our nose at the importance of this discipline and if we disobey what He teaches, He will not answer our prayers. Without submitting ourselves to Scripture, we may not even know what and how to pray. We pray best and most effectively when we are saturated in the Word of God.
Our ongoing assurance of pardon before the Father is in some way dependent on our willingness to forgive others. We must be attentive to our hearts, to ensure that we are not harboring hatred and resentment towards others. If we have this attitude we should expect our prayers to be hindered.
The relationship between a husband and a wife is to reflect that of Christ to His church. It is to be a relationship of absolute love, adoration and sacrifice. If Christ gave His life for the church, how can a husband do any less for his wife? This is, of course, impossible when the relationship is strained or broken. Thus a man should examine his relationship with his wife to ensure this is not a hindrance to his prayers (and to hers).
While we need to continually examine our hearts, we need also to ask God to reveal our sin to us. We should ask those closest to us what they have observed in our lives. While God most often reveals sin through the reading of and meditating upon His Word, we should realize that if we do not learn our lesson from Scripture, He may have to resort to harsher tactics where our sin is revealed before others, even publicly. While this may be difficult and humiliating, He does so because He loves us and does not wish for this sin to continue to corrupt us and to stand as a barrier between Himself and us.
Our prayers cannot be separated from our faith. If we are to ask God, we must ask with expectancy, believing in our heart of hearts that God can and will give what we desire, provided that what we desire is really what we need and what will bring glory to Him! We are to ask with confidence and expectancy, praying out of the faith He has given us.
Selfish MotivesAll humans are selfish. It is part of our human nature that we naturally regard our own interests ahead of the interests of others. And sadly, we often regard our own interests ahead of God’s. In the passage we read above, 1 John 5:14 and 15, the apostle tells us that our confidence comes from asking “according to his [God’s] will.” James similarly exhorts “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).
Turning Away From ScriptureIf we are not spending time immersing ourselves in Scripture and are not obeying what we have learned, we should not expect God to answer our prayers. Our defiance in ignoring the life-giving Words of the Bible may hinder us from having our prayers answered. Solomon goes so far as to suggest that prayers made from such a hardened heart are an abomination to God. “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).
Unforgiving HeartsThe Christian has been forgiven for the greatest of offenses. He has been forgiven for knowingly, purposely and unrepentantly transgressing the Law of God. And yet we are often slow to forgive our fellow man for the smallest of transgressions. Even the biggest of the sins committed against us are as nothing compared to how we sinned against God. God does not honor this attitude. In Mark 11:25 Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Family DiscordIt is God’s will that families live together in peace and harmony. It is, of course, impossible for us to live in perfect peace, but God demands that we maintain close relationships and that we seek harmony in our family relationships. It is foremost the responsibility of the father, as the head of the household, to ensure that there is not discord within the family. When this discord exists, especially in the relationship of a husband to his wife, his prayers may well be hindered. The apostle Peter, a married man himself, exhorted husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, being sensitive to their needs, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Unconfessed SinJust as unforgiveness can hinder our prayers, so can sin in our lives that we have refused to confess before God. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18), says the Psalmist. Before we conclude that God has simply not heard or prayers or that it is not His will to give us what we ask, we need to examine our hearts to see if unconfessed sin stands as a barrier between ourselves and God.
DoubtGod wants us to have confidence in His ability and willingness to provide what is necessary for us to attain to godliness. He wants us to believe that He can and will do what He says. Thus when we doubt—when we ask expecting rejection and when we ask almost hoping for rejection—we will hinder our prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7).
ConclusionThe eighteenth chapter of Luke is premised with the following words: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus goes on to share the parable of the persistent widow. It is a parable designed to teach the importance of persisting in prayer. It is God’s desire that we persist in our petitions before Him. When we ask and do not receive, we need to examine ourselves and question why our prayers are being hindered. Are we asking selfishly? Have we turned away from God, harbored unforgiveness in our hearts or ignored sin in our lives? Or have we allowed discord to creep into our families? These questions can lead us back to the Word of God, guide us to an examination of our hearts, and lead us back to sweet communion with the Lord.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
What Kind of Unity?
By William W. Goligher 11/01/2011
Thomas Manton (1620-1677), a seventeenth century minister, once wrote, “Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world.” Certainly the lack of unity in the church distracts minds, breaks hearts, squanders energy, and inhibits evangelism. Unity in the church is important to God. John 17 has been described as “a standing monument of Christ’s affection to the Church.” At least three times Jesus prays for the Church’s unity and witness: “that they all may be one” (v. 21); “that they may be one even as we are one” (v. 22); “that they may become perfectly one” (v. 23); so that all “the world may believe that you have sent me… and loved them even as you loved me” (vv. 21, 23). So the stakes are high. In the twentieth century, these verses were taken out of context and used to argue for a lowest-common-denominator kind of unity—an institutional union that flattened out distinctions and minimized the very doctrines that make the church distinctively “Christian.” What is striking, however, is to see that, rather than being minimalistic, Jesus’ prayer paints a grand picture of the rich contours of Christian belief that hold His people together in the world.
Specifically, the church is united in a shared history. Here we find an exalted view of God the Trinity as the Son speaks to His Father of the pretemporal glory they shared “before the world existed” (v. 5). We listen to the Son speak of an eternal covenant, or arrangement, forged between the members of the Godhead in which they planned the salvation of a people out of the world. (Theologians call this the pactum salutis, or the covenant of redemption.) In other words, the church’s history began before history in the mind and heart of God, when the Father promised a people as a love gift to His Son. We hear the Son reporting that He had “accomplished the work” that the Father had given Him to do. That work finds its focus on the cross, for “the hour has come” when both God the Father and the Son will be “glorified” (17:1). He had linked His glory to His death before when He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (12:23–24). This was the “hour” for Him to “depart out of this world to the Father” (13:1). The hour of His death would be the hour of His glorification. It is with a view to this death that the Son, as our Great High Priest, “consecrates” Himself (17:19) the sacrificial victim to be our sinbearer and Savior. So we have a shared history as those chosen by the Father, then given to and redeemed by the Son.
The church is united in a shared legacy, which was given by Christ to the Apostles for our sake. John 17:6–17 refers primarily to these men whom Christ had chosen and gathered around Him in the upper room. He had “manifested” the Father’s “name” to them (17:6) and given them God’s “words” (17:8). That “word” of God, given to the Apostles, “is truth” (17:16), and it is “through their word” that we today have come to “believe” in Jesus (17:20). In other words, as our Lord peers into the future, He sees generation after generation of His followers who will believe in Him through the word of the Apostles.
From the very beginning, the church of Christ has been an Apostolic church: “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship” (Acts 2:42). This leads the Apostle Paul to say that the church is one, a single building, God’s temple, because it is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). For Jesus, it is the truth that unites us. Our spiritual legacy is both a common truth and a common life, for the church shares the very life of God by being organically united to both the Father and the Son: “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (17:21). John Stott has written,
The two potential enemies of Christian unity are time and space. It is these that separate believers from each other. But the same apostolic truth spans the successive generations of the church, and the same divine life animates all believers of the same generation.
The church is united in a shared destiny. For as Jesus finishes His prayer, He looks beyond history to eternity and expresses His final will for His church. He prays that His people will be with Him where He is and see His glory. This is the church’s destiny: both to be with Christ and to see Him as He is, and the vision of Jesus will be the vision of God. What distinguishes the church from the world now is that the world does not know God, but Christ has made Him known to the church. In eternity, that knowledge will be complete, and our fellowship perfect, for we will enjoy the very same love with which the Father has loved the Son (17:26).
William W. Goligher Books:
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 86Great Is Your Steadfast Love
86 A Prayer Of David.
1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
5/1/2016 Reformed Theology & John 3:16
We see it everywhere. From bumper stickers to billboards, from T-shirts to tattoos, from old faded church signs to spray-painted signs along country roads—John 3:16 is everywhere. As such, some Christians have become complacent about the simple truth of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Some think it’s just for children, some think it’s too elementary, and some perhaps think it’s doctrinally beneath them to spend time studying such a simple verse in depth. But in John 3:16 we find both the beautiful simplicity of the gospel and the glorious depths of the gospel. John 3:16 is not just for children to memorize in Sunday school; it is for the greatest biblical scholars and theologians to examine, and it is for every Christian to contemplate daily as we rest in the sovereign, gracious, and sacrifcial love of God.
John 3:16 is the verse that the late Professor John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary used to begin his classic treatment of the atonement Redemption Accomplished and Applied. “No treatment of the atonement can be properly oriented that does not trace its source to the free and sovereign love of God. It is with this perspective that the best known text in the Bible provides us.” He adds, “Here [in John 3:16] we have an ultimate of divine revelation and therefore of human thought. Beyond this we cannot and dare not go.” The powerful truth of John 3:16 permeated the preaching of Charles Spurgeon, who said, “John 3:16 might be put in the forefront of all my volumes of discourses as the sole topic of my life’s ministry.” Puritan pastor Matthew Henry asserted that in John 3:16, “we have the very marrow and quintessence of the whole gospel.”
As I fought against Reformed theology more than twenty years ago with all the free will I could muster, I firmly believed that John 3:16 was directly opposed to Reformed theology. But I finally came to see that John 3:16 is at the very foundation of Reformed theology. In John 3:16, we find every tenet of Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) in its most basic form. For those who want to understand Reformed theology, they can begin by striving to understand John 3:16. And for those who have studied the depths of Reformed theology, may we never become so sophisticated that we cannot boldly proclaim John 3:16.
click here for article source
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Black Thursday. The Stock Market crash ended the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. Millions were out of work. This was just seven months after America’s 31st President swore into office. His name was Herbert Hoover, born this day, August 10, 1874. The son of a Quaker blacksmith, he studied at Stanford and became a world renown engineer before entering politics. In the Great Depression, President Hoover stated: “American life is builded… upon… that… philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago… [It] can not survive with the defense of Cain, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ”
Compilation by RickAdams7
We talk of the voices of the winds and waves,
but the voices
are only the echo of our souls.
--- George H. Morrison
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
Upon the Lord your burden cast,
To Him bring all your care;
He will sustain and hold you fast,
And give thee strength to bear.
What an immense workman is God! In miniature as well as in the great. With the one hand, perhaps, He is making a ring of one hundred thousand miles in diameter, to revolve round a planet like Saturn, and with the other is forming a tooth in the ray of the feather of a humming-bird, or a point in the claw of the foot of a microscopic insect. When He works in miniature, everything is gilded, polished, and perfect, but whatever is made by human art, as a needle, etc., when viewed by a microscope, appears rough, and coarse, and bungling.
--- William Law
Thirty Thousand Thoughts; Jehovistic names and titles of God. The attributes of God. Sins. Christian dogmatics
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
A Description Of The Roman Armies And Roman Camps And Of Other Particulars For Which The Romans Are Commended.
1. Now here one cannot but admire at the precaution of the Romans, in providing themselves of such household servants, as might not only serve at other times for the common offices of life, but might also be of advantage to them in their wars. And, indeed, if any one does but attend to the other parts of their military discipline, he will be forced to confess that their obtaining so large a dominion hath been the acquisition of their valor, and not the bare gift of fortune; for they do not begin to use their weapons first in time of war, nor do they then put their hands first into motion, while they avoided so to do in times of peace; but, as if their weapons did always cling to them, they have never any truce from warlike exercises; nor do they stay till times of war admonish them to use them; for their military exercises differ not at all from the real use of their arms, but every soldier is every day exercised, and that with great diligence, as if it were in time of war, which is the reason why they bear the fatigue of battles so easily; for neither can any disorder remove them from their usual regularity, nor can fear affright them out of it, nor can labor tire them; which firmness of conduct makes them always to overcome those that have not the same firmness; nor would he be mistaken that should call those their exercises unbloody battles, and their battles bloody exercises. Nor can their enemies easily surprise them with the suddenness of their incursions; for as soon as they have marched into an enemy's land, they do not begin to fight till they have walled their camp about; nor is the fence they raise rashly made, or uneven; nor do they all abide in it, nor do those that are in it take their places at random; but if it happens that the ground is uneven, it is first leveled: their camp is also four-square by measure, and carpenters are ready, in great numbers, with their tools, to erect their buildings for them.
2. As for what is within the camp, it is set apart for tents, but the outward circumference hath the resemblance to a wall, and is adorned with towers at equal distances, where between the towers stand the engines for throwing arrows and darts, and for slinging stones, and where they lay all other engines that can annoy the enemy, all ready for their several operations. They also erect four gates, one at every side of the circumference, and those large enough for the entrance of the beasts, and wide enough for making excursions, if occasion should require. They divide the camp within into streets, very conveniently, and place the tents of the commanders in the middle; but in the very midst of all is the general's own tent, in the nature of a temple, insomuch, that it appears to be a city built on the sudden, with its market-place, and place for handicraft trades, and with seats for the officers superior and inferior, where, if any differences arise, their causes are heard and determined. The camp, and all that is in it, is encompassed with a wall round about, and that sooner than one would imagine, and this by the multitude and the skill of the laborers; and, if occasion require, a trench is drawn round the whole, whose depth is four cubits, and its breadth equal.
3. When they have thus secured themselves, they live together by companies, with quietness and decency, as are all their other affairs managed with good order and security. Each company hath also their wood, and their corn, and their water brought them, when they stand in need of them; for they neither sup nor dine as they please themselves singly, but all together. Their times also for sleeping, and watching, and rising are notified beforehand by the sound of trumpets, nor is any thing done without such a signal; and in the Morning the soldiery go every one to their centurions, and these centurions to their tribunes, to salute them; with whom all the superior officers go to the general of the whole army, who then gives them of course the watchword and other orders, to be by them carried to all that are under their command; which is also observed when they go to fight, and thereby they turn themselves about on the sudden, when there is occasion for making sallies, as they come back when they are recalled in crowds also.
by D.H. Stern
apply your heart to my knowledge;
18 for it is pleasant to keep them deep within you;
have all of them ready on your lips.
19 I want your trust to be in ADONAI;
this is why I’m instructing you about them today.
20 I have written you worthwhile things
full of good counsel and knowledge,
21 so you will know that these sayings are certainly true
and bring back true sayings to him who sent you.
by Frank W. Boreham
Mr. G. K. Chesterton does not like mushrooms. That is the most arresting fact that I have gleaned from reading, carefully and with delight, his Victorian Age in Literature. In his treatment of Dickens, he writes very contemptuously of 'that Little Bethel to which Kit's mother went,' and he likens it to 'a monstrous mushroom that grows in the moonshine and dies in the dawn.' Now no man who was really fond of the esculent and homely fungus would have employed such a metaphor by way of disparagement. I can only infer that Mr. Chesterton thinks mushrooms very nasty. His opinion of Little Bethel does not concern me. It is neither here nor there. But Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms! I cannot get over that!
I feel very sorry for Mr. Chesterton. It is not merely a matter of taste. I would not presume to set my opinion in a matter of this kind over against his. But the authorities are with me. I have looked up the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and its opening sentence on the subject affirms that 'there are few more delicious members of the vegetable kingdom than the common mushroom.' I suppose that in these matters association has a lot to do with it. I cannot forget those delicious summer mornings in England when we boys, rising with the lark, stole out of the house like so many burglars, and scampered with our baskets across the fragrant meadows to gather the white buttons that dotted the sparkling, dew-drenched grass. It was, as I have said in the introduction to this book, a large part of childhood's radiant romance! What tales our fancy wove into the fairy-rings under the elm-trees! We lifted each moist fungus half expecting to see the brownies and the elves fly from beneath it! And what fearsome care we took to include no single hypocritical toadstool among our treasures! I am really afraid that Mr. Chesterton would have been less conscientious. Mushrooms and toadstools are all alike to him. He can never have had such frolics in the fields as we enjoyed in those ecstatic summer mornings. And he never, therefore, knew the fierce joy of the breakfast that followed when, hungry as hunters, we returned with flushed faces to feast upon the spoils of our boisterous foray. Over such brave memories Mr. Chesterton cannot fondly linger. For Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms.
What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton? For, to Gene Stratton Porter's hero, mushrooms were half-way to destiny. 'In the morning, brilliant sunshine awoke him, and he arose to find the earth steaming.
'"If ever there was a perfect mushroom morning!" he said to his dog. "We must hurry and feed the stock and ourselves, and gather some!" The Harvester breakfasted, fed the stock, hitched Betsy to the spring wagon, and went into the dripping, steamy woods. If any one had asked him that morning concerning his idea of heaven, he would never have dreamed of describing gold-paved streets, crystal pillars, jewelled gates, and thrones of ivory. He would have told you that the woods on a damp sunny May morning was heaven. He only opened his soul to beauty, and steadily climbed the hill to the crest, and then down the other side to the rich, half-shaded, half-open spaces, where big, rough mushrooms sprang in a night.'
Yes, a mushroom morning was heaven to the Harvester. And it was the mushrooms that led him the first step of the way towards the discovery of his dream-girl. The mushrooms represented the first of those golden stairs by which he climbed to his paradise. And Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms! What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton?
One faint, struggling glimmer of hope I am delighted to discover. Mr. Chesterton likens Little Bethel to a monstrous mushroom. There can be only one reason for this inartistic mixture of analogy and antithesis. Mr. Chesterton evidently knows that a large mushroom is not so sweet or so toothsome as a small one. A 'monstrous mushroom,' even to those who like mushrooms, is coarse and less tasty. Now the gleam of hope lies in the circumstance that Mr. Chesterton knows the fine gradations of niceness (or nastiness) that distinguish mushrooms of one size from mushrooms of another. As a rule, if you get to know a thing, you get to like it. Mr. Chesterton is coming to know mushrooms. He will soon be ordering them for breakfast. He may even come, like certain tribes mentioned in the Encyclopaedia, to eat nothing else! And by that time he may have come to know Little Bethel. And if he comes to know it, he may come to like it. He will still liken it to a mushroom. But we shall be able to tell, by the way he says it, that he means that it is very good. We shall see at once that Mr. Chesterton likes mushrooms. At present, however, the stern fact remains. Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms. Richard Jefferies, in his Amateur Poacher, says that mushrooms are good either raw or cooked. The great naturalist is therefore altogether on the side of the Encyclopaedia. 'Some eat mushrooms raw, fresh as taken from the ground, with a little salt; but to me the taste is then too strong.' Perhaps that is how Mr. Chesterton has taken his mushrooms—and Little Bethel!' Of the many ways of cooking mushrooms,' Richard Jefferies goes on, 'the simplest is the best; that is, on a gridiron.' Mr. Chesterton gives the impression that that is precisely how he would prefer his mushrooms—and Little Bethel! For Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms.
The really extraordinary feature of the whole thing is that I like mushrooms all the better for the very reason that leads Mr. Chesterton to pour upon them his most withering and pitiless contempt. He hates them because they spring up in the night. Little Bethel is a 'monstrous mushroom that grows in the moonshine.' It is perfectly true that Little Bethel, like the mushrooms, flourished in the darkness. Like Mark Tapley, she was at her brightest when her surroundings were most dreary. In this respect both the meeting-house and the mushrooms are in excellent company. Many fine things grow in the night. Indeed, Sir James Crichton-Browne, the great doctor, in his lecture on 'Sleep,' argues that all things that grow at all grow in the night. Night is Nature's growing-time. Now Michael Fairless shared Richard Jefferies' fondness for mushrooms. Every reader of The Roadmender will recall the night in the woods. 'Through the still night I heard the nightingales calling, calling, calling, until I could bear it no longer, and went softly out into the luminous dark. The wood was manifold with sound. I heard my little brothers who move by night rustling in grass and tree; and above and through it all the nightingales sang and sang and sang! The night wind bent the listening trees, and the stars yearned earthwards to hear the song of deathless love. Louder and louder the wonderful notes rose and fell in a passion of melody, and then sank to rest on that low thrilling call which it is said Death once heard and stayed his hand. At last there was silence. The grey dawn awoke and stole with trailing robes across earth's floor. Gathering a pile of mushrooms—children of the night—I hasten home.'
The nightingales—the singers of the night!
The mushrooms—the children of the night!
These singers of the night, and these 'children of the night,' almost remind me of Faber:
Angels of Jesus, angels of light,
Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night!
But Mr. Chesterton does not like 'the children of the night.'
Now we must really learn better manners. It will not do to treat things contemptuously either because they spring up suddenly, or because they spring up in the night. In this matter we Australians live in glass houses and must not throw stones. Mr. Chesterton is treading on our pet corns. For Australia and America are the two most 'monstrous mushrooms' on the face of the earth! Like the nations of which the prophet wrote, they were 'born in a day.' Think of what happened in America in the ten short years between 1830 and 1840! No nation in the history of the world can produce so astounding a record! In 1830 America had 23 miles of railway; in 1840 she had 800. In 1830 the country presented all the wilder characteristics of early colonial settlement; in 1840 it was a great and populous nation. In 1830 Chicago was a frontier fort; in 1840 Chicago was a city. In 1830 the population of Michigan was 32,000; in 1840 it was 212,000. It was during this sensational decade, too, that the first steamships crossed the Atlantic. And the spirit of the age reflected itself in the literary wealth of which America became possessed at that extraordinary time. Whittier and Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emerson and Bancroft, Poe and Prescott, all arose during that eventful period, and made for themselves names that have become classical and immortal. Here is a monstrous mushroom for you! Or, to pass from the things of yesterday to the things of to-day, see how, under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Canadian cities are in our own time shooting up with positively incredible swiftness. No, no; Mr. Chesterton must not speak disparagingly of mushrooms!
And look at the rapidity at which these young nations beneath the Southern Cross sprang into existence! I remember standing on the sea-shore in New Zealand talking to a couple of old whalers, who told me of the times they spent before the first emigrant ships arrived, when they were the only white men for hundreds of miles around. And now! Why, in their own lifetime these men had seen a great nation spring into being! Here, I say again, are mushrooms for you!
But do mushrooms really spring up as suddenly as they appear to do? Dan Crawford tells us that, in Central Africa, if a young missionary attempts to prove the existence of God, the natives laugh, and, pointing to the wonders of Nature around, exclaim, 'No rain, no mushrooms!' In effect they mean to say, without some adequate cause. If there were no God, whence came the forest and the fauna? Now that African proverb is very suggestive. 'No rain, no mushrooms.' The mushroom, that is to say, has its roots away back in old rainstorms, in fallen forests, and in ancient climatic experiences too subtle to trace. I have been reading Dr. Cooke's text-book, and he and Mr. Cuthill have convinced me that it takes about a million years to grow a mushroom. The conditions out of which the fungus suddenly springs are as old as the world itself. And that same consideration saves America and Australia from contempt. For both America and Australia—these mushroom nations—are very, very old. Dr. Stanley Hall, the President of the Clark University, was speaking on this aspect of things the other day. 'In a very pregnant psychological sense,' he said, 'ours is an unhistoric land. Our very constitution had a Minerva birth.'
(That is a classical way of saying that it had a mushroom birth.) 'Our literature, customs, fashions, institutions, and legislation were inherited or copied, and our religion was not a gradual indigenous growth, but both its spirit and its forms were imported ready-made from Holland, Rome, England, and Palestine. No country is so precociously old for its years.' It follows, therefore, that Australia is as old as the Empire. And the Empire has its roots away back where the first man delved. We must not allow ourselves to be duped by the trickery of appearances. These new things are very ancient. 'How long did it take you to paint that picture?' somebody asked Sir Joshua Reynolds. 'All my life!' he replied.
Anybody can grow fine flowers in the daytime. But what can you grow in the dark? That is the challenge of the mushrooms—what can you grow in the dark? 'The nights are the test!' as Charlotte Brontë used to say. When things were as black as black could be, poor Charlotte wrote: 'The days pass in a slow, dark march; the nights are the test; the sudden wakings from restless sleep, the revived knowledge that one sister lies in her grave, and another not at my side, but in a separate and sick-bed. The nights are the test.' They are indeed. Tell me: Can you grow faith, and restfulness, and patience, and a quiet heart in the darkness? If so, you will never speak contemptuously of mushrooms again.
Why, dear me, some of the very finest things in this world of ours spring up suddenly, like the mushroom, and spring up in the dark! Dean Hole used to tell how he became a preacher.
For years he could not lift his eyes from his manuscript. Then, one Sunday evening, the light suddenly failed. His manuscript was useless, and he found himself speaking heart to heart to his people. The eloquence for which he was afterwards famed appeared in a moment, and appeared in the dark! And I am very fond of that story of the old American soldier. He was stone blind, but very happy, and always wore his medal on his breast.
'What do you do in these days of darkness?' somebody asked him.
'Do?' he replied almost scornfully. 'Why, I thank God that for fifty years I had the gift of sight. I saw Abraham Lincoln, and heard the bugles call for the victory of Truth and Righteousness. I go back to those scenes now, and realize them anew. I have lost my sight, but memory has been born again in the dark.'
If, therefore, we allow mushrooms to be treated with contempt, simply because they spring up suddenly, and spring up in the night, we shall soon find other beautiful things, much more precious, brought under the same cruel condemnation. And what of a sudden conversion? Think of Down in Water Street, and Broken Earthenware, and Varieties of Religious Experience! What of that tremendous happening on the road to Damascus? The Philippian jailer, too! See him, with a grim smile of satisfaction, locking the apostles in their terrible dungeon; yet before the night is through, he is tenderly bathing their stripes and ministering to them with all the gentle graces of Christian courtesy and compassion!' A monstrous mushroom that grew in the night,' would you call it? At any rate, it did not die with the dawn. 'Minerva births' these, with a vengeance. As for me, I have nothing but reverence for the mushrooms. They are among the wonders of a very wondrous world.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The sacrament of the saint
Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing.
--- 1 Peter 4:19.
To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint.
The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. The people who do us good are never those who sympathize with us, they always hinder, because sympathy enervates. No one understands a saint but the saint who is nearest to the Saviour. If we accept the sympathy of a saint, the reflex feeling is—‘Well, God is dealing hardly with me.’ That is why Jesus said self-pity was of the devil (see Matt. 16:23). Be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy to blacken God’s character because God never answers back, He never vindicates Himself. Beware of the thought that Jesus needed sympathy in His earthly life; He refused sympathy from man because He knew far too wisely that no one on earth understood what He was after. He took sympathy from His Father only, and from the angels in heaven.
(Cf. Luke 15:10.)
Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints. According to the judgment of the world, God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say—‘God intends me to be here because I am so useful.’ God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Abel looked at the wound
His brother had dealt him, and loved him
For it. Cain saw that look
And struck him again. The blood cried
On the ground; God listened to it.
He questioned Cain. But Cain answered:
Who made the blood? I offered you
Clean things: the blond hair
Of the corn; the knuckled vegetables; the
Flowers; things that did not publish
Their hurt, that bled
Silently. You would not accept them.
And God said: It was part of myself
He gave me. The lamb was torn
From my own side. The limp head,
The slow fall of red tears --- they
Were like a mirror to me in which I beheld
My reflection. I anointed myself
In readiness for the journey
by Amos R. Wells
When I Read the Bible Through
I supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit and miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third!);
Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs—
Yes, I thought I knew the Word!
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
Oh, the massive, mighty volume!
Oh, the treasures manifold!
Oh, the beauty of the wisdom
And the grace it proved to hold!
As the story of the Hebrews
Swept in majesty along,
As it leaped in waves prophetic,
As it burst to sacred song,
As it gleamed with Christly omens,
The Old Testament was new,
Strong with cumulative power,
When I read the Bible through.
Ah! Imperial Jeremiah,
With his keen, coruscant mind;
And the blunt old Nehemiah,
And Ezekiel refined!
Newly came the Minor Prophets
Each with his distinctive robe,
Newly came the Song idyllic,
And the tragedy of Job;
Deuteronomy, the regal,
To a towering mountain grew,
With its comrade peaks around it,
When I read the Bible through.
What a radiant procession
As the pages rise and fall,
James the sturdy, John the tender
O the myriad-minded Paul!
Vast apocalyptic glories
Wheel and thunder, flash and flame,
While the church triumphant raises
One incomparable Name.
Ah, the story of the Saviour
Never glows supremely true
Till you read it whole and swiftly,
Till you read the Bible through.
You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn thro’ a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book—
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look—
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through!
According to Wikipedia, Amos Russel Wells (23 December 1862 in Glens Falls, New York – 6 March 1933 in Massachusetts) was a United States editor, author and professor.
He graduated from Antioch College in 1883. He was professor of Greek and geology at Antioch College from 1883 to 1891 and from 1891 editor of the Christian Endeavor World, Boston. From 1901, he was associate author of Peloubet's Notes on the Sunday School Lessons. He was a member of the International Sunday-School Lesson Committee. He was a voluminous author, no less than 63 titles being credited to his pen. His works include books dealing with young people's work, the Sunday school, juvenile fiction, poetry and devotional literature.
In September of 1960, the first of the “Great Debates” took place between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. While Nixon’s political career was always controversial, he had been vice president of the United States for eight years, including the time that President Eisenhower was incapacitated by a heart attack. Kennedy, on the other hand, had at least three things going against him: Some said he was too young; others were troubled because he was a Catholic; and many questioned his lack of seriousness as a senator and congressman.
Historians credit the televised debates as being one of the key factors that ultimately gave the very close election to Kennedy. The nation saw him as a man who could hold his own in discussing very serious issues. They were attracted to the image of youth and confidence that he conveyed—a stark contrast to the aging and not-always-eloquent Eisenhower, who was then president. But mostly, the audience was struck by the difference in the two men they saw on their screens. Kennedy was handsome, young, and charismatic. He had a sharp wit and a good sense of humor. Nixon, on the other hand, had recently suffered a knee injury and appeared haggard and uncomfortable. The television cameras seemed to emphasize his five o’clock shadow and excessive perspiration. Most people who saw the debates believed that Kennedy had won them. However, not everyone who followed the debates saw them on television. A significant audience listened to them on radio. And according to polls taken at the time, a majority of people who listened to the debates (but did not see them) believed that Nixon had bested Kennedy.
What do we learn from the very different reactions of those two separate audiences? Clearly, the Midrash is correct when it tells us that hearing isn’t like seeing. Listening to something is a very different experience from viewing it. But which of the two is more authentic? Which is closer to the truth? Which one should we rely upon in making a decision? If a debate is about the positions of two people on the critical issues of the day, then perhaps it is better to listen to the candidates on radio.
Did the election of 1960 go to Kennedy because he had a better make-up person than Nixon did? Did people choose a president of the United States to lead them through the most dangerous years of the Cold War based on which of the two candidates remembered to shave that afternoon? Or do we take the position that the television camera revealed to us something about the character of both men, that looking at them was just as important as listening to them? Sweating in a stressful situation is an important clue as to how a person will react under pressure. If the “eyes are the windows to the soul,” then it is critical that we get to stare into the face of the person who has the power to destroy the world.
Hearing certainly isn’t like seeing. But is it better—or worse?
The parent of a friend dies, and we can’t be there to make a personal shivah visit and express our condolences. Is it appropriate to comfort our friend—the mourner—by sending a card through the mail or making a telephone call? It may be that this is the only way possible, and it will have to do. Yet, we also know that there is no substitute for seeing the mourner in person, holding our friend’s hand, and saying kind words face-to-face.
The personal visit can be hard on us, much harder than sending a card or calling to express our sentiments. Both for the mourner and for the comforter, hearing is surely not like seeing. We can be much more personal, much more comforting, much more empathetic when we see someone we care about. Though it takes much more from us, the personal contact also gives more.
The traditional greeting to mourners is:
הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָיִם
“May God comfort you together with the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
In this phrase, God is called הַמָּקוֹם/Ha-Makom, “the place.” The Rabbis referred to God as הַמָּקוֹם/Ha-Makom, “the place” because hearing God is not enough. To be truly comforted, we need to feel God’s presence, to have God’s very being touch us.
We feel comfort when we sense “the place,” God. And we also are comforted when God’s human agents in the world see us face-to-face.
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
Let me press [the first duty] on those who have this marriage union with Christ: (The Essential Works of John Flavel)
Rejoice in your husband, Christ. Has Christ honored you by taking you into the marriage relationship and making you one with himself? This calls for joy. By virtue of the union, believers are sharers with Christ in his riches. It was a custom among the Romans when the wife was brought home for her to receive the keys of her husband’s house, intimating that the treasure and custody of the house was now committed to her. When Christ brings his bride home to those glorious rooms that he has gone ahead to prepare for her (John 14:2), he will hand over the keys of his treasure to her, and she shall be as rich as heaven can make her.
Christians, let the times be ever so sad, you may rejoice in your spiritual betrothals.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior”
--- Hab. 3:17–18.
Let me tell you, it is a sin not to rejoice. You disparage your husband, Christ. When a wife is always sighing and weeping, what will others say? “This woman has a bad husband.” Is this the fruit of Christ’s love to you, to reflect dishonor on him? A melancholy spouse saddens Christ’s heart. I do not deny that Christians should grieve for sins of daily occurrence, but to be always weeping (as if they mourned without hope) is dishonorable to the marriage relationship. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing brings credit to your husband. Christ loves a cheerful bride, and indeed the very purpose of God’s making us sad is to make us rejoice. We sow in tears, so that we may reap in joy. The excessive sadness and contrition of the godly will make others afraid to embrace Christ. They will begin to question whether there is that satisfactory joy in religion which is claimed. Oh, you saints of God, do not forget consolation; let others see that you do not regret your choice. It is joy that puts liveliness and activity into a Christian: “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). The soul is swiftest in duty when it is carried on the wings of joy.
--- Thomas Watson
The Fall of Jerusalem August 10
Jesus warned of a time when Herod’s beautiful temple would be destroyed, but the disciples could hardly believe him. The temple was arguably the most magnificent structure in the world, and its glow in the setting sun seemed as eternal as Jerusalem itself.
But a generation later Jewish zealots revolted against Rome. The rebellion began at the fortress of Masada then spread throughout Judea and Galilee. Romans were slaughtered, Jewish defenders battled bravely, and Emperor Nero sent General Vespasian to quell the uprising.
When Nero died, the general left for Rome, placing his son Titus in charge of the 80,000 troops. The siege began in April, 70, immediately after the Passover when Jerusalem was filled with strangers. Within city walls, the Jews splintered into various factions, fighting each other at the very time they needed solidarity. Food supplies ran out and the population began dying from starvation. The high priest’s wife, accustomed to living in luxury, begged for crumbs like a street urchin. Captured Jews were crucified at a rate of 500 a day, crosses encircling the city. Daily temple sacrifices ceased July 17, all hands being needed for defense.
The Romans, using catapults and battering rams, finally broke through the walls. The Jews streamed into the temple. Titus had reportedly wanted to spare the edifice, but his soldiers would not be restrained. A firebrand was hurled through the golden gate and exploded like a bomb. The temple became an ocean of fire. It was August 10, 70, the same day of the year, it was said, in which Solomon’s earlier temple had been destroyed by Babylon.
This, and the subsequent fall of Masada, extinguished Israel as a nation until its rebirth in the twentieth century. Most Christians had fled Jerusalem before its final hour, but the city’s destruction remains a defining event in Christian history. It further severed the young church from its Jewish roots, making it a global entity distinct from Israel and destined to develop its own identity among the Gentiles, bearing a message for all the world.
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these beautiful stones and wonderful buildings!” Jesus replied, “Do you see these huge buildings? They will certainly be torn down! Not one stone will be left in place.”
--- Mark 13:1,2.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 10
“Christ, who is our life.” --- Colossians 3:4.
Paul’s marvellously rich expression indicates, that Christ is the source of our life. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” That same voice which brought Lazarus out of the tomb raised us to newness of life. He is now the substance of our spiritual life. It is by his life that we live; he is in us, the hope of glory, the spring of our actions, the central thought which moves every other thought. Christ is the sustenance of our life. What can the Christian feed upon but Jesus’ flesh and blood? “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” O wayworn pilgrims in this wilderness of sin, you never get a morsel to satisfy the hunger of your spirits, except ye find it in him! Christ is the solace of our life. All our true joys come from him; and in times of trouble, his presence is our consolation. There is nothing worth living for but him; and his lovingkindness is better than life! Christ is the object of our life. As speeds the ship towards the port, so hastes the believer towards the haven of his Saviour’s bosom. As flies the arrow to its goal, so flies the Christian towards the perfecting of his fellowship with Christ Jesus. As the soldier fights for his captain, and is crowned in his captain’s victory, so the believer contends for Christ, and gets his triumph out of the triumphs of his Master. “For him to live is Christ.” Christ is the exemplar of our life. Where there is the same life within, there will, there must be, to a great extent, the same developments without; and if we live in near fellowship with the Lord Jesus we shall grow like him. We shall set him before us as our Divine copy, and we shall seek to tread in his footsteps, until he shall become the crown of our life in glory. Oh! how safe, how honoured, how happy is the Christian, since Christ is our life!
Evening - August 10
“The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” --- Matthew 9:6.
Behold one of the great Physician’s mightiest arts: he has power to forgive sin! While here he lived below, before the ransom had been paid, before the blood had been literally sprinkled on the mercy-seat, he had power to forgive sin. Hath he not power to do it now that he hath died? What power must dwell in him who to the utmost farthing has faithfully discharged the debts of his people! He has boundless power now that he has finished transgression and made an end of sin. If ye doubt it, see him rising from the dead! behold him in ascending splendour raised to the right hand of God! Hear him pleading before the eternal Father, pointing to his wounds, urging the merit of his sacred passion! What power to forgive is here! “He hath ascended on high, and received gifts for men.” “He is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins.” The most crimson sins are removed by the crimson of his blood. At this moment, dear reader, whatever thy sinfulness, Christ has power to pardon, power to pardon thee, and millions such as thou art. A word will speak it. He has nothing more to do to win thy pardon; all the atoning work is done. He can, in answer to thy tears, forgive thy sins today, and make thee know it. He can breathe into thy soul at this very moment a peace with God which passeth all understanding, which shall spring from perfect remission of thy manifold iniquities. Dost thou believe that? I trust thou believest it. Mayst thou experience now the power of Jesus to forgive sin! Waste no time in applying to the Physician of souls, but hasten to him with words like these: ---
“Jesus! Master! hear my cry;
Save me, heal me with a word;
Fainting at thy feet I lie,
Thou my whisper’d plaint hast heard.”
NEARER, STILL NEARER
Words and Music by Leila N. Morris, 1862–1929
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
It has often been observed that there were at least four groups of people who had a relationship with Christ while He was here on earth. There was the multitude, those who followed from a distance. They were interested merely in what Jesus could do. They were the spectators of the Savior. There was a second group—the 120 gathered in the upper room at Pentecost. They moved much closer to Christ. They shared in His suffering and crucifixion. There was a still closer group—the 12 (later the 11) disciples who were personally taught by Christ. And even this small band of helpers advanced to a more intimate relationship when Christ announced that they were no longer servants but His friends (John 15:15). But within the family of disciples there was another even closer group—Peter, James, and John. They were the ones who enjoyed the closest fellowship with the Lord and were the ones Jesus counted on the most.
Even today there are various levels of closeness to the Lord. It is possible to be involved in much religious activity that does not really draw us nearer to God. To move into closer relationships with Him, we must employ the spiritual means He has provided: An understanding and application of the Scriptures to our lives and daily communion with our Lord. Our spiritual growth is in direct proportion to this vital truth.
Leila Morris, the author and composer of this hymn, was active in the Methodist Episcopal church and in holiness camp meetings. She wrote more than 1,000 Gospel hymns, and she continued writing even after going blind. “Nearer, Still Nearer,” was first published in 1898 in the Pentecostal Praises Hymnal.
Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart, draw me, my Savior, so precious Thou art; fold me, O fold me close to Thy breast; shelter me safe in that haven of rest.
Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring, naught as an offering to Jesus my King: Only my sinful, now contrite heart; grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.
Nearer, still nearer, Lord, to be Thine. Sin with its follies I gladly resign; all of its pleasures, pomp and its pride, give me but Jesus, my Lord crucified.
Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last, till safe in glory my anchor is cast; through endless ages, ever to be, nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee.
For Today: Psalm 119:133; Ephesians 2:13; Philippians 3:10; James 4:8; 2 Peter 3:18
Reflect on those attitudes and actions that would move your life into a higher level of closeness with Christ. Make this your resolve. Carry this musical prayer as you go ---
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Reason IV. As it is a folly to deny that which all nations in the world have consented to, which the frame of the world evidenceth, which man in his body, soul, operations of conscience, witnesseth to; so it is a folly to deny the being of God, which is witnessed unto by extraordinary occurrences in the world.
1. In extraordinary judgments. When a just revenge follows abominable crimes, especially when the judgment is suited to the sin by a strange concatenation and succession of providences, methodized to bring such a particular punishment; when the sin of a nation or person is made legible in the inflicted judgment, which testifies that it cannot be a casual thing. The Scripture gives us an account of the necessity of such judgments, to keep up the reverential thoughts of God in the world (Ps. 9:16): “The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hand: and jealousy is the name of God,” (Exod. 34:14), “Whose name is jealous.” He is distinguished from false gods by the judgments which he sends, as men are by their names.
Extraordinary prodigies in many nations have been the heralds of extraordinary judgments, and presages of the particular judgments which afterwards they have felt, of which the Roman histories, and others, are full. That there are such things is undeniable, and that the events have been answerable to the threatening, unless we will throw away all human testimonies, and count all the histories of the world forgeries. Such things are evidences of some invisible power which orders those affairs. And if there be invisible powers, there is also an efficacious cause which moves them; a government certainly there is among them, as well as in the world, and then we must come to some supreme governor which presides over them. Judgments upon notorious offenders have been evident in all ages; the Scripture gives many instances. I shall only mention that of Herod Agrippa, which Josephus mentions. He receives the flattering applause of the people, and thought himself a God; but by the sudden stroke upon him, was forced by his torture to confess another. “I am God,” saith he, “in your account, but a higher calls me away; the will of the heavenly Deity is to be endured.” The angel of the Lord smote him. The judgment here was suited to the sin; he that would be a god, is eaten up of worms, the vilest creatures. Tully Hostilius, a Roman king, who counted it the most unroyal thing to be religious, or own any other God but his sword, was consumed himself, and his whole house, by lightning from heaven. Many things are unaccountable unless we have recourse to God. The strange revelations of murderers, that have most secretly committed their crimes; the making good some dreadful imprecations, which some wretches have used to confirm a lie, and immediately have been struck with that judgment they wished; the raising often unexpected persons to be instruments of vengeance on a sinful and perfidious nation; the overturning the deepest and surest counsels of men, when they have had a successful progress, and come to the very point of execution; the whole design of men’s preservation hath been eaten in pieces by some unforeseen circumstance, so that judgments have broken in upon them without control, and all their subtleties been outwitted; the strange crossing of some in their estates, though the most wise, industrious, and frugal persons, and that by strange and unexpected ways; and it is observable how often everything contributes to carry on a judgment intended, as if they rationally designed it: all those loudly proclaim a God in the world; if there were no God, there would be no sin; if no sin, there would be no punishment.
2. In miracles. The course of nature is uniform; and when it is put out of its course, it must be by some superior power invisible to the world; and by whatsoever invisible instruments they are wrought, the efficacy of them must depend upon some first cause above nature. (Psalm 72:18): “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things,” by himself and his sole power. That which cannot be the result of a natural cause, must be the result of something supernatural: what is beyond the reach of nature, is the effect of a power superior to nature; for it is quite against the order of nature, and is the elevation of something to such a pitch, which all nature could not advance it to. Nature cannot go beyond its own limits; if it be determined by another, as hath been formerly proved, it cannot lift itself above itself, without that power that so determined it. Natural agents act necessarily; the sun doth necessarily shine, fire doth necessarily burn: that cannot be the result of nature, which is above the ability of nature; that cannot be the work of nature which is against the order of nature; nature cannot do anything against itself, or invert its own course. We must own that such things have been, or we must accuse all the records of former ages to be a pack of lies; which whosoever doth, destroys the greatest and best part of human knowledge. The miracles mentioned in the Scripture, wrought by our Saviour, are acknowledged by the heathen, by the Jews at this day, though his greatest enemies. There is no dispute whether such things were wrought, “the dead raised,” the “blind restored to sight.” The heathens have acknowledged the miraculous eclipse of the sun at the passion of Christ, quite against the rule of nature, the moon being then in opposition to the sun; the propagation of Christianity contrary to the methods whereby other religions have been propagated, that in a few years the nations of the world should be sprinkled with this doctrine, and give in a greater catalogue of martyrs courting the devouring flames, than all the religions of the word. To this might be added, the strange hand that was over the Jews, the only people in the world professing the true God, that should so often be befriended by their conquerors, so as to rebuild their temple, though they were looked upon as a people apt to rebel. Dion and Seneca observe, that wherever they were transplanted, they prospered, and gave laws to the victors; so that this proves also the authority of the Scripture, the truth of christian religion, as well as the being of a God, and a superior power over the world. To this might be added, the bridling the tumultuous passions of men for the preservation of human societies, which else would run the world into unconceivable confusions, (Psalm 65:7) “Which stilleth the noise of the sea, and the tumults of the people” as also the miraculous deliverance of a person or nation, when upon the very brink of ruin; the sudden answer of prayer when God hath been sought to, and the turning away a judgment, which in reason could not be expected to be averted, and the raising a sunk people from a ruin which seemed inevitable, by unexpected ways.
3. Accomplishments of prophecies. Those things which are purely contingent, and cannot be known by natural signs and in their causes, as eclipses and changes in nations, which may be discerned by an observation of the signs of the times; such things that fall not within this compass, if they be foretold and come to pass, are solely from some higher hand, and above the cause of nature. This in Scripture is asserted to be a notice of the true God (Isa. 41:23): “Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are God,” and (Isa. 46:10), “I am God declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” And prophecy was consented to by all the philosophers to be from divine illumination: that power which discovers things future, which all the foresight of men cannot ken and conjecture, is above nature. And to foretell them so certainly as if they did already exist, or had existed long ago, must be the result of a mind infinitely intelligent; because it is the highest way of knowing, and a higher cannot be imagined: and he that knows things future in such a manner, must needs know things present and past. Cyrus was prophesied of by Isaiah (44:28, and 45:1) long before he was born; his victories, spoils, all that should happen in Babylon, his bounty to the Jews came to pass, according to that prophecy; and the sight of that prophecy which the Jews shewed him, as other historians report, was that which moved him to be favorable to the Jews.
Alexander’s sight of Daniel’s prophecy concerning his victories moved him to spare Jerusalem. And are not the four monarchies plainly deciphered in that book, before the fourth rose up in the world? That power which foretells things beyond the reach of the wit of man, and orders all causes to bring about those predictions, must be an infinite power, the same that made the world, sustains it and governs all things in it according to his pleasure, and to bring about his own ends; and this being is God.
Use I. If atheism be a folly, it is then pernicious to the world and to the atheist himself. Wisdom is the band of human societies, the glory of man. Folly is the disturber of families, cities, nations; the disgrace of human nature.
First, It is pernicious to the world.
1. It would root out the foundations of government. It demolisheth all order in nations. The being of a God is the guard of the world: the sense of a God is the foundation of civil order: without this there is no tie upon the consciences of men. What force would there be in oaths for the decisions of controversies, what right could there be in appeals made to one that had no being? A city of atheists would be a heap of confusion; there could be no ground of any commerce, when all the sacred bands of it in the consciences of men were snapt asunder, which are torn to pieces and utterly destroyed by denying the existence of God. What magistrate could be secure in his standing? what private person could be secure in his right? Can that then be a truth that is destructive of all public good?
If the atheist’s sentiment, that there were no God, were a truth, and the contrary that there were a God, were a falsity, it would then follow, that falsity made men good and serviceable to one another; that error were the foundation of all the beauty, and order, and outward felicity of the world, the fountain of all good to man. If there were no God, to believe there is one, would be an error; and to believe there is none, would be the greatest wisdom, because it would be the greatest truth. And then as it is the greatest wisdom to fear God, upon the apprehension of his existence, so it would be the greatest error to fear him if there were none. It would unquestionably follow, that error is the support of the world, the spring of all human advantages; and that every part of the world were obliged to a falsity for being a quiet habitation, which is the most absurd thing to imagine. It is a thing impossible to be tolerated by any prince, without laying an aye to the root of the government.
2. It would introduce all evil into the world. “If you take away God, you take away conscience, and thereby all measures and rules of good and evil. And how could any laws be made when the measure and standard of them were removed? All good laws are founded upon the dictates of conscience and reason, upon common sentiments in human nature, which spring from a sense of God; so that if the foundation be demolished, the whole superstructure must tumble down: a man might be a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, and could not in a strict sense be an offender. The worst of actions could not be evil, if a man were a god to himself, a law to himself. ... and so it is today in 2018
Nothing but evil deserves a censure, and nothing would be evil if there were no God, the Rector of the world against whom evil is properly committed. No man can make that morally evil that is not so in itself: as where there is a faint sense of God, the heart is more strongly inclined to wickedness; so where there is no sense of God, the bars are removed, the flood-gates set open for all wickedness to rush in upon mankind. Consider the book of Judges. Religion pinions men from abominable practices, and restrains them from being slaves to their own passions: an atheist’s arms would be loose to do anything.” Nothing so villanous and unjust but would be acted if the natural fear of a Deity were extinguished. The first consequence issuing from the apprehension of the existence of God, is his government of the world. If there be no God, then the natural consequence is that there is no supreme government of the world: such a notion would cashier all sentiments of good, and be like a Trojan horse, whence all impurity, tyranny, and all sorts of mischiefs would break out upon mankind: corruption and abominable works in the text are the fruit of the fool’s persuasion that there is no God. The perverting the ways of men, oppression and extortion, owe their rise to a forgetfulness of God (Jer. 3:21): “They have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.” (Ezek. 22:12): “Thou hast greedily gained by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord.” The whole earth would be filled with violence, all flesh would corrupt their way, as it was before the deluge, when probably atheism did abound more than idolatry; and if not a disowning the being, yet denying the providence of God by the posterity of Cain: those of the family of Seth only “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 6:11, 12, compared with Gen. 4:26).
The greatest sense of a Deity in any, hath been attended with the greatest innocence of life and usefulness to others; and a weaker sense hath been attended with a baser impurity. If there were no God, blasphemy would be praiseworthy; as the reproach of idols is praiseworthy, because we testify that there is no divinity in them. What can be more contemptible than that which hath no being? Sin would be only a false opinion of a violated law, and an offended deity. If such apprehensions prevail, what a wide door is opened to the worst of villanies! If there be no God, no respect is due to him; all the religion in the world is a trifle, and error; and thus the pillars of all human society, and that which hath made commonwealths to flourish, are blown away.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXIII. — NOR is it at all to the purpose, your saying, — ‘that Moses is speaking with reference to the men of that age’ — for the same applies unto all men; because, all are flesh; as Christ saith, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John iii. 6.) And how deep a corruption that is, He Himself shews in the same chapter, where He saith, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Let, therefore, the Christian know, that Origen and Jerome, together with all their train, perniciously err, when they say, that “flesh” ought not, in these passages, to be understood as meaning ‘corrupt affection:’ because, that of 1 Cor. iii. 3, “For ye are yet carnal,” signifies ungodliness. For Paul means, that there are some among them still ungodly: and moreover, that even the saints, in as far as they savour of carnal things, are “carnal,” though justified by the Spirit.
In a word; you may take this as a general observation upon the Scriptures. — Wherever mention is made of “flesh” in contradistinction to “spirit,” you may there, by “flesh,” understand every thing that is contrary to spirit: as in this passage, “The flesh profiteth nothing.” (John vi. 63.) But where it is used abstractedly, there you may understand the corporal state and nature: as “They twain shall be one flesh,” (Matt. xix. 5,) “My flesh is meat indeed,” (John vi. 55,) “The Word was made flesh,” (John i. 14.) In such passages, you may make a figurative alteration in the Hebrew, and for ‘flesh,’ say ‘body’. For in the Hebrew tongue, the one term “flesh” embraces in signification our two terms, ‘flesh’ and ‘body.’ And I could wish that these two terms had been distinctively used throughout the Canon of the Scripture. — Thus then, I presume, my passage Gen. vi. still stands directly against “Free-will:” since “flesh” is proved to be that which Paul declares, Rom. viii. 5-8, cannot be subject to God, as we may there see; and since the Diatribe itself asserts, ‘that it cannot will any thing good.’
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library