Isaiah 64 - 66
Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Be not so terribly angry, O LORD,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12 Will you restrain yourself at these things, O LORD?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?
Judgment and Salvation
Isaiah 65:1 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.
2 I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;
4 who sit in tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat pig’s flesh,
and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels;
5 who say, “Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day.
6 Behold, it is written before me:
“I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their lap
7 both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together,
says the LORD;
because they made offerings on the mountains
and insulted me on the hills,
I will measure into their lap
payment for their former deeds.”
8 Thus says the LORD:
“As the new wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, ‘Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,’
so I will do for my servants’ sake,
and not destroy them all.
9 I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
and from Judah possessors of my mountains;
my chosen shall possess it,
and my servants shall dwell there.
10 Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks,
and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down,
for my people who have sought me.
11 But you who forsake the LORD,
who forget my holy mountain,
who set a table for Fortune
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny,
12 I will destine you to the sword,
and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter,
because, when I called, you did not answer;
when I spoke, you did not listen,
but you did what was evil in my eyes
and chose what I did not delight in.”
13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, my servants shall eat,
but you shall be hungry;
behold, my servants shall drink,
but you shall be thirsty;
behold, my servants shall rejoice,
but you shall be put to shame;
14 behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart,
but you shall cry out for pain of heart
and shall wail for breaking of spirit.
15 You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse,
and the Lord GOD will put you to death,
but his servants he will call by another name,
16 so that he who blesses himself in the land
shall bless himself by the God of truth,
and he who takes an oath in the land
shall swear by the God of truth;
because the former troubles are forgotten
and are hidden from my eyes.
New Heavens and a New Earth
17 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD,
and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.
The Humble and Contrite in Spirit
Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the LORD.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
3 “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them,
because when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes
and chose that in which I did not delight.”
5 Hear the word of the LORD,
you who tremble at his word:
“Your brothers who hate you
and cast you out for my name’s sake
have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified,
that we may see your joy’;
but it is they who shall be put to shame.
6 “The sound of an uproar from the city!
A sound from the temple!
The sound of the LORD,
rendering recompense to his enemies!
Rejoice with Jerusalem
7 “Before she was in labor
she gave birth;
before her pain came upon her
she delivered a son.
8 Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?
For as soon as Zion was in labor
she brought forth her children.
9 Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”
says the LORD;
“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”
says your God.
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11 that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance.”
12 For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.
Final Judgment and Glory of the LORD
15 “For behold, the LORD will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment,
and by his sword, with all flesh;
and those slain by the LORD shall be many.
18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD.
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the LORD,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the LORD.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Was John Describing Something He Saw, or Was He Trying to Make a Point?
By J. Warner Wallace 8/17/2016
When investigating the gospel accounts of the Crucifixion, I was immediately interested in John’s description of the blood and water that came from Jesus’ side when one of the soldiers pierced Him with a spear (John 19:34). I wondered how John, the ancient peasant fisherman, would have known about any of the physical conditions that could account for the appearance of water (pleural or pericardial effusion, for example; two conditions that result from heart failure). This observation is consistent with the death of Jesus on the cross and seems to reflect John’s desire to accurately record the things he saw related to the Crucifixion. John placed the observation in his account without any attempt to clarify or explain his comment. He simply appears to be describing the events as he saw them. But is it possible that John was trying to make a theological point rather than merely recording history? It’s remarkable that many early Church leaders and theologians believed this to be the case.
Tertullian (in On Baptism XVI), Augustine (in Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John), Cyril (in Catechetical Letters), and Jerome (in A Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed 23), all suggest that John is either referring to the baptism of Jesus, water regeneration, or the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Many seem to point to 1 John 5:5-8:
Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
These early theologians are trying to make sense of John’s words here in 1 John. Does this passage necessitate a metaphorical understanding of John’s account of the crucifixion in John 19:34? Did John include the description of water coming from Jesus’ side to make a theological point related to the triune witness of God (or the role of baptism), or did it really happen? I lean toward the latter.
It’s interesting to note that all the early thinkers in the church felt the need to better explain the water that emerged from Jesus’ side. Why? These theologians wanted to account for something unexpected and potentially unreasonable, and that’s precisely my point. None of these ancient thinkers knew anything about the fatal anatomical conditions that would account for the presence of water, so they sought to assign theological implications to the observation. Perhaps God supernaturally provided the water to make the points they were advocating. I think there are three possibilities here. First, John may simply have been reporting what he saw at the cross, without any intention of spiritualizing this observation for us. If this is the case, the passage in 1 John 5:5-8 is not an attempt to explain John’s observations of the crucifixion at all. Another possibility is that John observed the water come from Jesus’ body and then used this observation to make a theological point that was also true. If this is the case, John’s passage in 1 John is the fruit of this effort. A final possibility is that John simply included the information in the gospel record to make a theological point, even though it didn’t happen that way. If this is the case, John’s account in the Gospel is not historically accurate, but simply an effort to lay the groundwork for the theological point he wanted to make later in 1 John.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Diagnosis: Entitlement Leads to Chronic Disappointment
By Tim Elmore 11/22/16
Last month, I spent time with large groups of students and faculty. One of the hot topics of conversation was the “gigantic dose of entitlement” the students felt about their lives. The teachers said it was the number one problem in their classrooms and surprisingly, the students admitted to it. In short, they felt they “deserved more.”
Then, the subject shifted to the increased sadness and depression levels students were also experiencing. Both faculty and students had much to say about that as well. I began to wonder—while there are far deeper reasons for sadness, sometimes even chemical reasons—could there be a link between entitlement and sadness?
I began to dig. And found something interesting.
A recent study on entitlement, a personality trait characterized by exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority, connects a sense of entitlement to all sorts of negative emotions. “Entitlement may lead to chronic disappointment,” say researchers from Case Western Reserve University, “and can throw people into a ‘perpetual loop of distress.
A Great Reason to Fight Entitlement | Time magazine summarized the data: “The authors reached these conclusions after analyzing more than 170 academic papers, and published their results in the journal Psychological Bulletin. They found that people who possess high levels of entitlement consistently fall victim to a three-part cycle:”
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Dr. Tim Elmore Books:
- 1 Generation Iy (Updated and Expanded): 5th Anniversary Edition
- 2 Marching Off the Map: Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World
- 3 Leaders Everywhere! Nurturing a Leadership Culture in Your Organization
- 4 Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits & Attitudes 2
- 5 Habitudes for Communicators: The Art of Engaging Communication (Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes) by Dr. Tim Elmore (2012) Paperback
- 6 Marching Off the Map Travel Guide: Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World
Are People Who Believe in Minds Simply Ignorant of the Science?
By J. Warner Wallace 2/27/2017
As a Christian believer, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. “Dualism” describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If non-material minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).
Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:
Objection: Dualism Resists the Growing Acceptance of Physicalism | Philosophical naturalists deny the existence and influence of nonmaterial (or supernatural) entities, and many scientists are as committed to physicalism and physical evolutionary processes as they are opposed to dualism. The theory of evolution is a wholly physical enterprise; material processes engage matter using the laws of physics and chemistry, guided and shaped by physical, environmental influences. If materialistic, evolutionary processes produce humans such as ourselves, they must also produce human minds. If human minds are the result of purely physical processes of evolution, they must also be physical entities.
This objection may sound reasonable, but it begs the question. In the end, the explanation we embrace must account for the five distinct evidences differentiating minds from brains. We cannot begin this investigation committed to a presupposition of philosophical naturalism or physicalism when this is the very thing we are trying to investigate in the first place. (We are investigating the question: Is there a nonphysical entity called the mind?) There appear to be five distinct characteristics of mind distinguishing it from the brain (refer to God’s Crime Scene for these distinctions). Whatever explanation we finally embrace, it cannot be chosen (in advance) based purely on our prior philosophical commitments. Like detectives entering a murder scene (or jurors assessing the case in a courtroom), we cannot begin our investigation with a preconceived idea about who killed the victim. We must, instead, allow the evidence to guide our decision.
I’ve edited and excerpted this brief article from my expansive (and referenced) investigation in God’s Crime Scene. Any effort to deny the distinct differences between mental states and brain states simply ignores the evidence, errantly redefines the nature of the mind, or suffers from a logical inconsistency (three flaws common to false arguments in most criminal trials). Dualism remains the best explanation for our common experience of consciousness, in spite of the growing bias toward physicalism. The best explanation for the existence of non-material consciousness is the existence of a non-material mind who created us in his image:
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Names of God
By Names of God:
EL, ELOAH [el, el-oh-ah]: God "mighty, strong, prominent" (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 139:19) – etymologically, El appears to mean “power” and “might” (Genesis 31:29). El is associated with other qualities, such as integrity (Numbers 23:19), jealousy (Deuteronomy 5:9), and compassion (Nehemiah 9:31), but the root idea of “might” remains.
ELOHIM [el-oh-heem]: God “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33) – the plural form of Eloah, which accommodates the doctrine of the Trinity. From the Bible’s first sentence, the superlative nature of God’s power is evident as God (Elohim) speaks the world into existence (Genesis 1:1).
EL SHADDAI [el-shah-dahy]: “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5) – speaks to God’s ultimate power over all.
ADONAI [ˌædɒˈnaɪ; ah-daw-nahy]: “Lord” (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15) – used in place of YHWH, which was thought by the Jews to be too sacred to be uttered by sinful men. In the Old Testament, YHWH is more often used in God’s dealings with His people, while Adonai is used more when He deals with the Gentiles.
YHWH / YAHWEH / JEHOVAH [yah-way / ji-hoh-veh]: “LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Daniel 9:14) – strictly speaking, the only proper name for God. Translated in English Bibles “LORD” (all capitals) to distinguish it from Adonai, “Lord.” The revelation of the name is given to Moses “I Am who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). This name specifies an immediacy, a presence. Yahweh is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11) and guidance (Psalm 31:3).
YAHWEH-JIREH [yah-way-ji-reh]: "The Lord Will Provide" (Genesis 22:14) – the name memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac.
YAHWEH-RAPHA [yah-way-raw-faw]: "The Lord Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26) – “I am Jehovah who heals you” both in body and soul. In body, by preserving from and curing diseases, and in soul, by pardoning iniquities.
YAHWEH-NISSI [yah-way-nee-see]: "The Lord Our Banner" (Exodus 17:15), where banner is understood to be a rallying place. This name commemorates the desert victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17.
YAHWEH-M'KADDESH [yah-way-meh-kad-esh]: "The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy" (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28) – God makes it clear that He alone, not the law, can cleanse His people and make them holy.
YAHWEH-SHALOM [yah-way-shah-lohm]: "The Lord Our Peace" (Judges 6:24) – the name given by Gideon to the altar he built after the Angel of the Lord assured him he would not die as he thought he would after seeing Him.
YAHWEH-ELOHIM [yah-way-el-oh-him]: "LORD God" (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5) – a combination of God’s unique name YHWH and the generic “Lord,” signifying that He is the Lord of Lords.
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU [yah-way-tzid-kay-noo]: "The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16) – As with YHWH-M’Kaddesh, it is God alone who provides righteousness (from the Hebrew word tsidkenu) to man, ultimately in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became sin for us “that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
YAHWEH-ROHI [yah-way-roh-hee]: "The Lord Our Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1) – After David pondered his relationship as a shepherd to his sheep, he realized that was exactly the relationship God had with him, and so he declares, “Yahweh-Rohi is my Shepherd. I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH [yah-way-sham-mahw]: "The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35) – the name ascribed to Jerusalem and the Temple there, indicating that the once-departed glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 8—11) had returned (Ezekiel 44:1-4).
YAHWEH-SABAOTH [yah-way-sah-bah-ohth]: "The Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7) – Hosts means “hordes,” both of angels and of men. He is Lord of the host of heaven and of the inhabitants of the earth, of Jews and Gentiles, of rich and poor, master and slave. The name is expressive of the majesty, power, and authority of God and shows that He is able to accomplish what He determines to do.
EL ELYON [el-el-yohn]: “Most High" (Deuteronomy 26:19) – derived from the Hebrew root for “go up” or “ascend,” so the implication is of that which is the very highest. El Elyon denotes exaltation and speaks of absolute right to lordship.
EL ROI [el-roh-ee]: "God of Seeing" (Genesis 16:13) – the name ascribed to God by Hagar, alone and desperate in the wilderness after being driven out by Sarah (Genesis 16:1-14). When Hagar met the Angel of the Lord, she realized she had seen God Himself in a theophany. She also realized that El Roi saw her in her distress and testified that He is a God who lives and sees all.
EL-OLAM [el-oh-lahm]: "Everlasting God" (Psalm 90:1-3) – God’s nature is without beginning or end, free from all constraints of time, and He contains within Himself the very cause of time itself. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
EL-GIBHOR [el-ghee-bohr]: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) – the name describing the Messiah, Christ Jesus, in this prophetic portion of Isaiah. As a powerful and mighty warrior, the Messiah, the Mighty God, will accomplish the destruction of God’s enemies and rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).
From Pastor to President: An Interview with Philip Graham Ryken
By Philip Ryken 11/01/2011
Tabletalk: How did you make the difficult decision to leave the pastorate and enter the academy as president of Wheaton College?
Philip Graham Ryken: When the time finally came, making the decision was unexpectedly easy. Eventually God’s will became so clear that to do anything else would have been disobedience. The process leading up to the decision was difficult, though, as Lisa and I wrestled with God in prayer and asked for the grace to have only one agenda: to obey God’s calling, whether he called us to stay at Tenth Presbyterian Church or go to Wheaton College. Sharing this decision with the congregation we love was more difficult still — the most painful thing we have ever done.
It is important to say that I did not “leave the pastorate” but continue to exercise a gospel ministry that has the blessing of my denomination. My calling to a ministry of prayer and the Word of God (see Acts 6:4) is for life, and I could never leave it. What has changed is that I no longer serve a local congregation but the wider body of Christ through the work of Christian higher education.
TT: What is your hope for the future for the congregation of Tenth Presbyterian Church and the city of Philadelphia?
PGR: I praise God for the appointment of my friend Liam Goligher as Tenth’s next senior minister. Dr. Goligher is a gifted Bible expositor with a genuine zeal for evangelism, a deep love for the city, and a sound grasp of systematic theology. I have every confidence that God will bless his ministry in Philadelphia, as He has blessed it for many years in London, the United Kingdom, and beyond.
We remain in close contact with many friends from Tenth and take an ongoing interest in the church’s outreach to Philadelphia and the world. I expect we will always think of Tenth as our “home church.” In fact, most Sunday mornings we tune in to Tenth’s webcast while we are having breakfast as a family before walking over to College Church in Wheaton. Our prayer is that the congregation we love will continue to preach the Word of God, honor God with joyful praise, serve the city in gospel mercy, plant new churches that are faithful to Jesus Christ, and send out scores of missionaries to advance the kingdom of God.
TT: Are there any things you learned as a pastor that have been particularly helpful in your new role as president of Wheaton?
PGR: I would be hard-pressed to think of anything that could offer better preparation for what I do now than serving as senior pastor of a large, diverse, urban church. Perhaps the most obvious connection is that I draw on my experience as a Bible teacher every day as I preach in chapel, lead devotions for athletic teams, offer biblical perspectives on issues in higher education, write articles on spiritual themes for college publications, speak on Christian discipleship in student dorms, and work with the faculty to promote a Christ-centered vision for liberal-arts education.
The structure of my weekly schedule is surprisingly similar to the one I followed in Philadelphia: mornings for Bible study, writing, sermon preparation, and prayer; afternoons for team leadership, meetings, and a wide range of ministry connections. I find that the biggest problems on a college campus — like the biggest problems in a local church — always have a personal dimension. So it takes everything I have ever learned about discipleship to provide good leadership for a college that needs the grace of God as much as any college in America.
TT: At Wheaton you work with Christians from many theological traditions. In what ways can Christians from the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition work with Christians from other traditions to advance the gospel?
PGR: I have enjoyed and learned from the evangelical diversity of Wheaton College since I was a child. We live by a statement of faith that is fully compatible with Reformed theology and a community covenant that follows biblical principles for community life.
Generally speaking, we can work together with Christians from other traditions wherever we share a common faith in Jesus Christ and find common purpose in the specific calling God has given to each of us in the work of His kingdom. Biblically minded believers find countless ways to work together in Christian love, and a non-denominational Christian college is a place where many strong ministry connections are made.
TT: What is your understanding of the role of a Christian college in today’s world?
PGR: The mission of Wheaton College is to help develop whole and effective Christians who are able to build the church and improve society worldwide through excellence in programs of higher education.
Every aspect of this mission is appropriate for Christian learning institutions everywhere. Christ-centered colleges and universities have a unique responsibility to promote truth by developing the Christian mind. But we also develop students in a holistic way; the preparation we offer is not merely intellectual but also spiritual, social, physical, and emotional.
The impact of our graduates is twofold. First, they build up the church. In every congregation where I have served, there have been dozens of highly effective leaders who trained for work and ministry at Christian colleges. But whole and effective Christians also make a difference in the wider world. Wherever we go and whatever we do — whether we are working in the marketplace, performing in the arts, teaching at school, serving in medicine, or rebuilding the city — we seek to be a faithful presence that brings kingdom values to daily life.
TT: What place do academics have in the training and ministry of a pastor?
PGR: Many effective pastors have had little or no academic training. One thinks of Peter and John, for example (Acts 4:13). What is indispensable to effective ministry is not an academic degree but a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, with spiritual gifts for the ministry of the gospel.
Yet Reformed and Presbyterian churches rightly emphasize the value of a learned clergy, and for this there is no substitute for a rigorous education. A good example is the Apostle Paul, whose exceptional education prepared him for worldwide leadership in the church and a primary position in the development of Christian doctrine.
There are many pathways to ministry, but I will always be deeply grateful for my own intellectual preparation, starting with elementary education at a Christian grammar school and continuing with a liberal-arts curriculum at a Christ-centered college. Many students who plan on going to seminary focus on biblical studies during their undergraduate years. But I always encourage students to study literature, history, psychology, philosophy, or something else that they love.
Perhaps the most important thing to gain from college is a lively and curious mind. This is best cultivated through what John Milton called “a complete and generous education.” There will be time to study more theology later on. But a pastor who has received an education in the liberal arts is likely to be a more interesting conversationalist, a better communicator, a more sensitive reader of the biblical text — all things that are valuable to have in pastoral ministry.
TT: How has your father influenced your ministry?
PGR: My father’s influence in my life is so pervasive that this is hard to answer. Some of my earliest memories are of him reading me Bible stories at bedtime — especially about Nicodemus and the boy Samuel. God used these stories to give me the gift of the new birth and call me to gospel ministry.
Later on I studied literature with my father, taking various courses in British literature and the literature of the Bible. His sensitivity to literary genres helps me every time I open my Bible for personal study or public preaching.
My father has also set a good example for me in his commitment to the church. Growing up, our family was in church every Sunday morning and evening, including Sunday school, and generally sitting near the front for public worship. We also attended a Wednesday night home Bible study throughout most of my childhood. All of this helped to instill in me an appetite for good preaching and a deep satisfaction in the rhythms of congregational life.
Philip Ryken Books:
- 1 The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth: Images of Christ's Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings (Hansen Lectureship)
- 2 Courage to Stand: Jeremiah's Message for Post-Christian Times
- 3 The Message of Salvation: By God's Grace, for God's Glory (The Bible Speaks Today)
- 4 Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature
- 5 Exodus (ESV Edition): Saved for God's Glory (Preaching the Word)
- 6 Ryken's Bible Handbook
- 7 Galatians (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 8 Discovering God in Stories from the Bible
- 9 Loving Jesus More
- 10 When Trouble Comes
- 11 Ecclesiastes (Redesign): Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word)
- 12 Loving the Way Jesus Loves
- 13 Christian Worldview: A Student's Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition)
- 14 City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century
- 15 Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts
- 16 1 Timothy (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 17 When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own
- 18 1 Kings (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 19 Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today's Moral Crisis
- 20 Our Triune God: Living in the Love of the Three-in-One
- 21 The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel
- 22 Is Jesus the Only Way? (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 23 Jeremiah and Lamentations (ESV Edition): From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word)
- 24 What Is the Christian Worldview? (Basics of the Faith) (Basics of the Reformed Faith)
- 25 14 Words from Jesus
- 26 King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power
- 27 Luke: 2 Volume Set (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 28 Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word)
- 29 Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship
- 30 The Heart of the Cross
Holy People Are Happy People
By John Starke 12/01/2011
So much could be said of the consequences of sin and impurity for the Christian. And we should speak of them — the Bible certainly does. David, in Psalm 32, described the misery of unrepentant sin as his bones wasting away (v. 3). His energy was dried up as he felt God’s displeasure. But the warnings of misery for the backsliding believer should also be coupled with the joys of holiness. There is real joy when we turn from evil and delight in the Lord and His ways.
The Bible describes this delight in experiential terms — an existential reality that is meant to be tasted, felt, and seen. Proverbs 3:7–8 describes the experience like this:
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones (emphasis mine).
If you read this slowly, just slow enough to taste the truth as it goes by, don’t you crave this sense of refreshment? Not surprisingly, God’s designs for our sanctification are most satisfying. In contrast, a life in sin is tiring, placing joy just outside our reach.
There are particular realities to the Christian faith that we’d sometimes rather experience than expound, and so too it may be with the joy of holiness. But I believe the Bible gives us some indication of the nature of this joy and happiness that come from holiness. It isn’t simply a “you gotta experience it to believe it” reality. So, let’s ask the question: “Why does holiness bring happiness?” We could say, and I think we’d be right, that going along with God’s intentions for life brings us happy living. That’s not a difficult conclusion to come to, and the Bible is full of examples of the miseries of the foolish. But we should say more.
Holiness brings happiness because it creates a clearer vision of the fullness of Christ. Holiness clears our palette, so to speak, of the deceitfulness of sin. We cannot taste and see the goodness of the Lord if we are satisfying our sinful cravings. Sin is deceitful (Heb. 3:13), veiling our vision of Christ. It magnifies idols and self rather than Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, transforms us from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2–3).
John Calvin illuminates the connection between holiness and happiness. “Indeed,” he writes, “we shall not say that God is known where there is no religion or piety.” Let me quickly rescue Calvin’s use of “piety.” I realize it comes fully loaded with confusion and abuse today, so we should give a definition. What Calvin means by “piety” has a lot to say about our discussion on happiness. Here’s how he defines it: “I call ‘piety’ that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.” It’s interesting to note that Calvin’s view of piety is synonymous with holy living and depends upon our happiness in God. For “unless they establish their complete happiness in him,” says Calvin, “they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.” In other words, unless we are holy, we will never be happy. But unless we find our happiness fully in the Lord, we will never be holy.
We must be careful at this point. If we allow the world to define our terms as opposed to the Bible, we can lose sight of a few very important things. We aren’t pursuing holiness in order to be happy with ourselves. No, our holiness focuses our vision on Christ, a vision that satisfies us with every glance, and clears away all that would ensnare us from looking.
The longer I live as a Christian the more it becomes apparent that the holy life — a life lived with a conscience before God — is a happy life. Sadly, it takes some misery to see it. Sin not only offends God, it disrupts the Christian’s communion with God and forces him to sense his Maker’s displeasure. This, of course, results in all sorts of unfortunate consequences, not the least of which is joylessness. There is no casual way to say it other than the pleasure that springs from a peaceful conscience and communion with God cannot exist while the Christian lives in sin.
This unhappy communion with God, so to speak, thankfully, is not one between a judge and the guilty, but of Father and child. That is really good news. And the rod that corrects is from the Good Shepherd, not a tyrant.
Nevertheless, the existential realities of the effects of sin are real, and we are better Christians when we let the wounds of our sin do their work, revealing the misery of sin and the pleasures of holiness.
So then, the line of logic goes like this: Real and lasting joy — a happiness that refreshes our bones — only comes from tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord. Therefore, let us make every effort to put aside everything that entangles our affections and obscures our sight of Him.
Children of the Day I
By Albert Mohler 5/14/2015
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ESV]
To affirm the church is to affirm the Trinity. The church is a sign of the redemptive reciprocity of the Father and the Son, as the Father gives a redeemed people to the Son and as the Son will one day present the church without spot or blemish to the Father. The church exists by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Holy Spirit. These facts and these facts alone explain why the church has come to be, why the church has survived to this day, and why the church will be preserved throughout eternity to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
To affirm the church is to affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without that gospel there would be no good news, no message of salvation, no redemption of sinners, and thus no redeemed people of God. Every true church is a gospel church and without the gospel there is no church. The church has received from Christ the commission to make the gospel known to all people, everywhere, with the confidence that whoever hears the gospel and believes will be saved.
To affirm the church is to affirm the authority of the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. As Martin Luther rightly noted, the church is where the Word of God is rightly preached. Where the Word is not rightly preached, there is no church, plain and simple. Where the church is found, the Word of God is honored, preached, taught, cherished, obeyed, and believed.
To affirm the church is to affirm the ministry. God has given ministers to his church in order that the redeemed people of God may be fed, taught, counseled, instructed, edified, encouraged, corrected, and led. The Christian ministry was not an organizational invention of the early church, but the gift of God. The New Testament reveals that God calls ministers for his church and gifts them according to his call.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
By John Walvoord
Belshazzar’s Feast and the Fall of Babylon
When Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, his son Evil-Merodach succeeded him. He turned out to be a poor leader and was assassinated by Neriglisar after he had reigned two years. Neriglisar occupied the throne for four years, when he died and was succeeded by his son Lavorosoarchod, who was only a child. He occupied the throne for only nine months until he was beaten to death by a group of conspirators who made Nabonidus king. Nabonidus reigned from 556 BC to 539 BC, when Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persians. Belshazzar, who was named as king of Babylon in Daniel 5, was appointed by Nabonidus after he had reigned for three years; and Belshazzar assumed this position of coregent in 553 BC and principally governed the city of Babylon because Nabonidus lived elsewhere.
Liberal scholars had long attacked the historicity of Belshazzar because his name had not been discovered in any secular history. However, with the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder, in which Belshazzar was mentioned, liberals no longer can attack the historicity of Belshazzar, even though they were slow in acknowledging their previous mistake.
The beginning of Belshazzar’s service as coregent with Nabonidus in 553 BC became important because it was in that year that Daniel had the first of his four visions in Daniel 7. Actually, Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 both occur in the time period between Daniel 4 and Daniel 5 and are out of chronological order, possibly because Daniel desired to give the final chapter of history on Babylon and the resulting incident of himself in the lions’ den before turning to prophetic analysis of the four empires in chapter 7 with additional information in chapter 8.
Perhaps more important was the fact that Daniel had received the revelation of chapters 7 and 8 before he came to Belshazzar’s feast. The revelation of Daniel 7–8 reinforced the earlier information given in Daniel 2 when Daniel prophesied the downfall of Babylon. The message on the wall that Daniel was to interpret supported Daniel’s opinion that this was the night of destiny when Babylon would fall.
The situation King Belshazzar faced at the time of the banquet was that the Medes and the Persians had already conquered all the empire of Babylon except the city of Babylon itself. Babylon was built to withstand a siege of twenty years, and according to the account of Herodotus, it was a tremendous city fourteen miles square, the outer walls of the city were 87 feet thick and 350 feet high with 100 great bronze gates in the walls. There was also a system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between them, which made the city even more secure. The wall was so strong and broad that chariots could parade on top of it four abreast. Herodotus also pictured hundreds of towers that reached 100 feet in the air above the wall.
Most contemporary scholars believe, however, that Herodotus greatly exaggerated the size of the city, and archaeology seems to confirm that it was much smaller than Herodotus claimed. Actually, it may have been about a third of the size of Herodotus’s description.
One of the important facts, however, was that the Euphrates River flowed through the middle of the city in a general direction from north to south, the water going underneath the outside walls and the riverbank itself with walls on each side. Even with the reduced dimensions, Babylon was still the greatest city of the ancient world, with many tall buildings, some as high as the Temple of Bel, eight stories high. The king’s palace, which has been excavated, corresponds to what Scripture records. The river was crossed both by a bridge and by a tunnel. In recent years efforts have been made to restore some of the buildings, including the king’s palace, for the sake of tourist trade.
Thousands of visitors come to Babylon each year. Because more than ten thousand clay tablets have been found and inscriptions reciting various aspects of Babylon’s history, a great deal is known about the city. Because of Babylon’s great construction and wall system, Belshazzar and his fellow rulers in Babylon felt safe, even though the city had been surrounded for some time.
There was cause for alarm, however. Nabonidus had already been captured, and the fact that the city was surrounded did not speak well for her future history. The banquet was designed to reassure the leaders and the people of Babylon of the superiority of their god Bel and the certainty of their victory over their enemies.
Daniel 5:1–4. The opening verses of Daniel 5 reveal that a thousand Babylonian nobles had assembled for this great feast, probably meeting in the throne room itself, which archaeologists believe they have identified in contemporary Babylon. It was a typical orgy where many drank wine until they were drunk. Not only nobles but also their wives and concubines drank with them (vv. 1–2 ). Because of his desire to attribute his future victory to their god Bel, Belshazzar gave orders to bring the gold and silver goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem and use them to drink to their god. This was a special act of blasphemy against the true God. This was probably the first time that they had been so used. Scripture records: “As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (v. 4 ).
Daniel 5:5–6. In the smoke-filled banquet room lit only by torches and resounding with the noise of the banquet, something happened that almost immediately stilled conversations and the revelry. As Daniel recorded it, “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way” (vv. 5–6 ). This was obviously a message from God because although the hand was writing on the plastered wall there was no arm or body connected to it. No doubt, there swept over Belshazzar’s mind some of the supernatural feats attributed to Daniel and his three companions as outlined in chapters 2 and 3 and also Nebuchadnezzar’s experience as recorded in Daniel 4.
Daniel 5:7–8. Just as Nebuchadnezzar had done in chapter 2 and 4, so Belshazzar “called out for enchanters, astrologers and diviners” with a view of having them interpret the writing. He promised, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom” ( 5:7 ). As Nabonidus was the number one ruler and Belshazzar was number two, he was offering the most he could by making the interpreter number three in the kingdom of Babylon.
When the wise men came, however, they were unable to interpret the writing any more than they could the dreams in Daniel 2 or Daniel 4. This left Belshazzar all the more in a panic, his face grew paler, and his nobles did not know what to say (5:8).
Daniel 5:10–12. Daniel recorded that the queen, hearing of the problem, came into the banquet hall. Scholars are uncertain as to whom this was. She could have been the surviving wife of Nebuchadnezzar; she could have been the wife of Nabonidus; she could have been a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar; or she might have been the wife of Belshazzar, whether or not she was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. In effect, she said to Belshazzar, “Pull yourself together; there is a solution to your problem.” Daniel recorded, “The queen, hearing the voice of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall, ‘O king, live forever!’ she said. ‘Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father — your father the king, I say — appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means’” (vv. 10–12 ).
The reference to Nebuchadnezzar, the father of Belshazzar, can be explained as he may have been his grandfather, in which case Belshazzar was his grandson, or possibly it could be used simply in a successor sense of one who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar. In any case, she addressed Belshazzar to remind him that there was one in the kingdom who could interpret the writing. The fact that the queen was allowed to enter and speak so freely was characteristic of the ancient world, which honored parents particularly ( Ex. 20:12; 1 Kings 2:13–20; 2 Kings 24:12–15 ).
Daniel 5:13–16. When Daniel was brought before the king, the king informed him that he understood that Daniel was able to interpret dreams and therefore would be able to read the writing on the wall. Belshazzar promised, “If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom” (v. 16 ).
The appearance of Daniel, a venerable man of possibly eighty years of age, was in contrast to the drunken nobles who with their wives and concubines occupied the banquet hall. It was as if God was there to challenge their wickedness.
Daniel 5:17–21. Daniel disavowed any interest in the gifts or positions offered him and assured Belshazzar that he would read the writing.
Daniel reminded Belshazzar, “The Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor” (v. 18 ). Daniel pointed out how Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute ruler who would promote or demote as he wished. However, as Belshazzar already knew, Nebuchadnezzar had his period of insanity when he acted like one of the beasts (vv. 19–21 ). Only when Nebuchadnezzar “acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone He wishes” (v. 21 ) was his sanity restored.
Daniel 5:22–23. Daniel then reminded Belshazzar that he knew all these things but did not humble himself before the Most High God. Instead, Belshazzar had blasphemed God as he had taken the goblets from the sacred temple of Israel and had used them in praise of his own gods “of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone” (v. 23 ). Daniel reminded him that his gods would not hear or understand. But the important fact was that Belshazzar had honored his Babylonian gods instead of the true God.
Daniel 5:24–28. Daniel then interpreted, “This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN” (v. 25 ).
Only the consonants of these words appeared on the wall, making it even more difficult to discern what was meant. The word mene meant “numbered”: “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end” (v. 26 ). The repetition of the first word made it all the more certain.
The word tekel meant “weighed”: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting” (v. 37 ). Peres, the singular of parsin, meant “divided”: “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (v. 28 ). The inscription meant that his kingdom had been numbered, weighed, and divided.
Daniel 5:29–31. In keeping with his promise, Belshazzar put purple clothing around Daniel and a gold chain around his neck and proclaimed him the third highest ruler in the kingdom. All this, however, was empty, because as Daniel recorded, “that very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two” (v. 30 ).
The sudden end of the Babylonian Empire, which came on that fateful night, is typical of the end of Gentile power at the second coming of Christ. Though the city of Babylon was not destroyed in 539 BC when the Medo-Persian Empire took over political power, at the second coming of Christ even Babylon the city will be suddenly destroyed ( Rev. 18 ). This prophecy and its fulfillment provides further proof that literal fulfillment of prophecy is normal as illustrated in hundreds of instances in the Old Testament. Daniel’s prophecy of an empire that would follow Babylon was fulfilled by the Medes and Persians conquering Babylon.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 86Great Is Your Steadfast Love
86 A Prayer Of David.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 11:25-26)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 11John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ESV
Two very precious truths are unfolded in these words of our Lord to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Death does not end all. When Jesus returns as the Resurrection and the Life all who have died in Christ will live again, raised up from the dead in the likeness of Him who died for them and rose again. Those who still abide in the body in that day shall never die, but will be changed in a moment and caught up to meet the descending Savior in company with all the risen saints. This is our blessed hope. Do we believe it? When faith lays hold of this glorious revelation all things become new.
TODAY? Perhaps! Perhaps today
The Lord may come and catch away
His ransomed Church, His blood-bought Bride,
To take her place at His blest side;
When dead and living saints shall share
One trumpet summons to the air.
Perhaps today! Yes! He may come
And call us to our Heavenly Home—
That wondrous place beyond compare
Which He, in love, doth now prepare.
Our Father’s house! How sweet, how blest,
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2016 Legalism vs. Gospel Religion
The word religion has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many have tried to pit religion against faith, saying that Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship. That sounds nice, but that isn’t quite the case. Faith and religion are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary. Christianity is a religion founded on a relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, Christianity is the only true religion in the world because it is the religion established by the one and only true God. The Christian religion is the all-encompassing life of trusting, worshiping, following, and loving God and loving our neighbor, enabled by the regenerating and empowering work of the Holy Spirit, and established on our relationship with Christ through the gospel by grace alone through faith alone.
Nevertheless, we rightly speak critically of religion when we speak of man-made religion. When we speak of such religion, we are either speaking of all the false religions of the world, such as Islam and Buddhism, or we are speaking of the religious rules that men add to Scripture and with which they attempt to bind our consciences. This latter type of religion was the religion of the Pharisees and later of the Judaizers. However, the fundamental problem of the Pharisees and Judaizers was not that they were overly zealous about religious orthodoxy, but that they invented their own religious orthodoxy. Based on their man-made legalistic inventions, they judged hearts and tyrannized those whom Christ had set free. And that is the precise problem with all forms of legalism in our churches today. We invent laws around God’s law. We attempt to turn our preferences into God’s principles. We say “you can’t” when God says “you can.”
At the same time, we must also understand what legalism is not. Legalism is not obedience to God and His law. Legalism is not learning to obey all that Christ has commanded us. Legalism is not pursuing holiness. Legalism is not striving to please God and glorify God in all that we do. Legalism is not being zealous in our good works and in bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.
Legalism is not an error of Christianity—it’s a different religion altogether. Legalism draws attention to us, but gospel religion draws attention to Jesus Christ. Legalism gives us glory, but gospel religion gives God glory. Legalism is rooted in self-worship, but gospel religion is rooted in the worship of God. And the ironic thing about legalism is that it doesn’t make people want to work harder, it makes them want to give up.
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.
by Bill Federer
On this day, August 11, 1984, Congress voted the Equal Access Act into law, allowing students who wish to conduct religious meetings the same access to schools as other groups. President Ronald Reagan stated: “In 1962, the Supreme Court… banned… prayers. In 1963, the Court banned the reading of the Bible… We had to pass a special law… to allow student prayer groups the same access to school rooms… that a Young Marxist Society… enjoys… Without God there is a coarsening of the society… If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
If you have God's presence,
you have favor.
One minute of God's presence
can accomplish more than 20 years of your striving.
--- Heidi Baker
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
--- Thomas Merton
Once my hands were always trying,
Trying hard to do my best;
Now my heart is sweetly trusting,
And my soul is all at rest.
--- A. B. Simpson
Sin, in the biblical perspective, is both an act and a state ….What should be borne in mind is that the bias of sin precedes the act of sin.
--- D.G. Bloesch
Essentials of Evangelical Theology Volume 1: God, Authority, & Salvation
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now when they are to go out of their camp, the trumpet gives a sound, at which time nobody lies still, but at the first intimation they take down their tents, and all is made ready for their going out; then do the trumpets sound again, to order them to get ready for the march; then do they lay their baggage suddenly upon their mules, and other beasts of burden, and stand, as at the place of starting, ready to march; when also they set fire to their camp, and this they do because it will be easy for them to erect another camp, and that it may not ever be of use to their enemies. Then do the trumpets give a sound the third time, that they are to go out, in order to excite those that on any account are a little tardy, that so no one may be out of his rank when the army marches. Then does the crier stand at the general's right hand, and asks them thrice, in their own tongue, whether they be now ready to go out to war or not? To which they reply as often, with a loud and cheerful voice, saying, "We are ready." And this they do almost before the question is asked them: they do this as filled with a kind of martial fury, and at the same time that they so cry out, they lift up their right hands also.
5. When, after this, they are gone out of their camp, they all march without noise, and in a decent manner, and every one keeps his own rank, as if they were going to war. The footmen are armed with breastplates and head-pieces, and have swords on each side; but the sword which is upon their left side is much longer than the other, for that on the right side is not longer than a span. Those foot-men also that are chosen out from the rest to be about the general himself have a lance and a buckler, but the rest of the foot soldiers have a spear and a long buckler, besides a saw and a basket, a pick-axe and an axe, a thong of leather and a hook, with provisions for three days, so that a footman hath no great need of a mule to carry his burdens. The horsemen have a long sword on their right sides, axed a long pole in their hand; a shield also lies by them obliquely on one side of their horses, with three or more darts that are borne in their quiver, having broad points, and not smaller than spears. They have also head-pieces and breastplates, in like manner as have all the footmen. And for those that are chosen to be about the general, their armor no way differs from that of the horsemen belonging to other troops; and he always leads the legions forth to whom the lot assigns that employment.
6. This is the manner of the marching and resting of the Romans, as also these are the several sorts of weapons they use. But when they are to fight, they leave nothing without forecast, nor to be done off-hand, but counsel is ever first taken before any work is begun, and what hath been there resolved upon is put in execution presently; for which reason they seldom commit any errors; and if they have been mistaken at any time, they easily correct those mistakes. They also esteem any errors they commit upon taking counsel beforehand to be better than such rash success as is owing to fortune only; because such a fortuitous advantage tempts them to be inconsiderate, while consultation, though it may sometimes fail of success, hath this good in it, that it makes men more careful hereafter; but for the advantages that arise from chance, they are not owing to him that gains them; and as to what melancholy accidents happen unexpectedly, there is this comfort in them, that they had however taken the best consultations they could to prevent them.
7. Now they so manage their preparatory exercises of their weapons, that not the bodies of the soldiers only, but their souls may also become stronger: they are moreover hardened for war by fear; for their laws inflict capital punishments, not only for soldiers running away from the ranks, but for slothfulness and inactivity, though it be but in a lesser degree; as are their generals more severe than their laws, for they prevent any imputation of cruelty toward those under condemnation, by the great rewards they bestow on the valiant soldiers; and the readiness of obeying their commanders is so great, that it is very ornamental in peace; but when they come to a battle, the whole army is but one body, so well coupled together are their ranks, so sudden are their turnings about, so sharp their hearing as to what orders are given them, so quick their sight of the ensigns, and so nimble are their hands when they set to work; whereby it comes to pass that what they do is done quickly, and what they suffer they bear with the greatest patience. Nor can we find any examples where they have been conquered in battle, when they came to a close fight, either by the multitude of the enemies, or by their stratagems, or by the difficulties in the places they were in; no, nor by fortune neither, for their victories have been surer to them than fortune could have granted them. In a case, therefore, where counsel still goes before action, and where, after taking the best advice, that advice is followed by so active an army, what wonder is it that Euphrates on the east, the ocean on the west, the most fertile regions of Libya on the south, and the Danube and the Rhine on the north, are the limits of this empire? One might well say that the Roman possessions are not inferior to the Romans themselves.
8. This account I have given the reader, not so much with the intention of commending the Romans, as of comforting those that have been conquered by them, and for the deterring others from attempting innovations under their government. This discourse of the Roman military conduct may also perhaps be of use to such of the curious as are ignorant of it, and yet have a mind to know it. I return now from this digression.
by D.H. Stern
and don’t crush the poor in court,
23 for ADONAI will plead their case for them
and withhold life from those who defraud them.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
Just along the old rut-riddled road that winds through the bush on its way to Bulman's Gully there lives a poor old man who fancies that he is of no use in the world. I am going to send him an onion. I am convinced that it will cure him of his most distressing malady. I shall wrap it up in tissue paper, pack it in a dainty box, tie it with silk ribbons, and post it without delay. No gift could be more appropriate. The good man's argument is very plausible, but an onion will draw out all its defects. He thinks, because he never hears any voice trumpeting his fame or chanting his praise, that he is therefore without any real worth or value to his fellow men. Could anything be more preposterous? Who ever heard a panegyric in praise of onions? At what concert was the song of the onion sung? Roses and violets, daisies and daffodils, are the theme of every warbler; but when does the onion come in for adulation? Run through your great poets and show me the epic, or even the sonnet, addressed to the onion! Are we, therefore, to assume that onions have no value in a world like this? What a wealth of appetizing piquancy would vanish from our tables if the onion were to come no more! As a relish, as a food, and as a medicine, the onion is simply invaluable; yet no orator ever loses himself in rhetorical transports in honour of onions! It is clearly not safe to assume that because we are not much praised, we are therefore of not much profit. And so I repeat my suggestion that if any man is known to be depressed over his apparent uselessness, it would be a service to humanity in general, and to that member of the race in particular, to post him an onion.
'I always bless God for making anything so strong as an onion!' exclaimed William Morris, in a fine and characteristic burst of fervour. That is the point: an onion is so strong. The very strength of a thing often militates against applause. If a strong man lifted a bag of potatoes we should think no more about it; but if a schoolboy picked it up and ran off with it we should be speechless with amazement. We take the strength of the strong for granted; it is the strength of the weak that we applaud. If a man is known to be good or useful or great, we treat his goodness or usefulness or greatness as one of the given factors of life's intricate problem, and straightway dismiss it from our minds. It is when goodness or usefulness or greatness breaks out in unexpected places or in unexpected people that we vociferously shout our praise. We applaud the singers at a concert because it appeals to us as such an amazing and delightful incongruity that so practical and prosaic a creature as Man should suddenly burst into melody; but when the angels sang at Bethlehem the shepherds never thought of clapping. The onion is therefore in company with the angels. I am not surprised that the Egyptians accorded the onion divine honours and carved its image on their monuments. I am prepared to admit that onions do not move in the atmosphere of sentiment and of poetry. Tears have been shed over onions, as every housewife knows. Shakespeare speaks of the tears that live in an onion. But, as Shakespeare implies, they are crocodile tears—without tenderness and without emotion. Old John Wolcott, the satirist, tells how
. . . . . . Master Broadbrim
Pored o'er his father's will and dropped the onioned tear.
And Bernard Shaw writes of 'the undertaker's handkerchief, duly onioned with some pathetic phrase.' No, onions do not lend themselves to passion or to pathos. You would scarcely decorate the church with onions for your sister's wedding, or plant a row of onions on a hero's grave. And yet I scarcely know why. For, in a suitable setting, a touch of warm romance may light up even so apparently prosaic a theme. The coming of the swallows in the spring is scarcely a more delightful event in Cornwall than the annual arrival of the onion-sellers from Brittany. What a picturesque world we invade when we get among those dreamy old fishing-villages that dot the Cornish coast!
Gold mists upon the sea and sky,
The hills are wrapped in silver veils,
The fishing-boats at anchor lie,
Nor flap their idle orange sails.
The wild and rugged sea-front is itself suggestive of rich romance and reminiscent of bold adventure. The smugglers, the pirates, the wreckers, and the Spanish mariners knew every bluff and headland perfectly. And, however the world beyond may have changed, these tiny hamlets have triumphantly defied the teeth of time. They know no alteration. The brogue of the people is strange but rhythmic, and, though pleasant to hear, very hard for ordinary mortals to understand. The fisherfolk, with their strapping and stalwart forms, their bronzed and weather-beaten features, their dark, idyllic eyes, their tanned and swarthy skins, their odd and old-world garb, together with their general air of being the daughters of the ocean and the sons of the storm, seem to be a race by themselves. And he who tarries long enough among them to become infected by the charm of their secluded and well-ordered lives knows that one of the events of their uneventful year is the coming of the onion-sellers from over the sea. The historic connexion between Cornwall and Brittany is very ancient, and is a romance in itself. The English and French coasts, as they face each other there, are very much alike—broken, precipitous, and grand. The peoples live pretty much the same kind of lives on either side of the Channel. And when the onion-sellers come from France they are greeted with enthusiasm by the Cornish people, and although they speak their own tongue, they are perfectly understood. See! there is one of the Breton onion-sellers lounging among a knot of fishermen near the door of yonder picturesque old Cornish cottage, whilst the wife stands in the open doorway, arms a-kimbo, listening as the foreigner tells of the things that he has seen across the Channel since last he visited this coast. And up the hill there, on the rickety old settle, beneath the creaking signboard of the village inn, is another such group. As I gaze upon these masculine but kindly faces I am half inclined to withdraw my too hasty admission that onions have nothing about them of sentiment, poetry, or romance.
It always strikes me as a funny thing about onions that, however fond a man may be of the onions themselves, he detests things that are oniony. Give him onions, and he will devour them with magnificent relish. But, through some slip in the kitchen, let his porridge or his tea taste of onions, and his wry face is a sight worth seeing! A friend of mine keeps a large apiary. One summer he was in great glee at the immense stores of honey that his bees were collecting. Then, one dreadful day, he tasted it. The dainty little square of comb, oozing with the exuding fluid, was passed round the table. Horror sat upon every face! It turned out that the bees had discovered a large onion plantation some distance away, and had gathered their heavy stores from that odorous and tainted source! What could be more abominable, even to a lover of onions, than oniony honey? We remember Thackeray and his oniony sandwiches. Now why is it possible for me to love onions and to hate all things oniony? The fact is that the world has a few vigorous, decided, elementary things that absolutely decline to be modified or watered down. 'Onions is onions!' as a well-known character in fiction remarked on a memorable occasion, and there is a world of significance in the bald assertion. There are some things that are as old as the world, and as universal as man, and that are too vivid and pronounced to humble their pride or compromise their own distinctive glory. The exquisite shock of the bather as his naked body plunges into the flowing tide; the instinctive recoil on seeing for the first time a dead human body; the delicious thrill with which the lover presses for the first time his lady's lips; the terrifying roar of a lion, the flaunting scarlet of a poppy, and the inimitable flavour of an onion—these are among the world's most familiar quantities, the things that decline to be modified or changed. You might as well ask for an ice-cream with the chill off as ask for a diluted edition of any of these vivid and primitive things. Onions may be regarded by a man as simply delicious, but oniony honey or oniony tea! The bather's plunge is a rapture to every stinging and startled nerve in his body, but to stand ankle-deep in the surf, shivering with folded arms in the breeze that scatters the spray! Life is full of delightful things that are a transport to the soul if we take them as they are, but that become a torment and an abomination if we water them down. And it is just because Christianity itself is so distinctive, so outstanding, so boldly pronounced a thing, that we insist on its being unadulterated. Even a worldling feels that a Christian, to be tolerable, must be out and out. The man who waters down his religion is like the shivering bather who, feeling the cold, cold waters tickling his toes, cannot muster up the courage to plunge; he is like the man who wants an ice-cream with the chill off; he is like oniony honey or oniony tea!
A man cannot, of course, live upon onions. Onions have their place and their purpose, and, as I have said, are simply invaluable. But they must be kept to that place and to that purpose. The modern tendency is to eat nothing but onions. We are fast becoming the victims of a perfect passion for piquancy. Time was when we expected our newspapers to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We don't care a rap about the truth now, so long as they'll give us a thrill. We must have onions. We used to demand of the novelist a love-story; now he must be morbidly sexual and grimly sensational. Our grandfathers went to a magic lantern entertainment and thought it a furious frolic. And on Sundays they prayed. 'From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us!' Their grandchildren pray, 'From all churches and chapels, Good Lord, deliver us!' And, during the week, they like to see all the blood-curdling horrors of lightning and tempest; of plague, pestilence, and famine; of battle, murder, and of sudden death, enacted before their starting eyes with never a flicker to remind them that the film is only a film. The dramas, the dances, and the dresses of the period fortify my contention. The cry is for onions, and the stronger the better. It is not a healthy sign. Mr. H. G. Wells, in his graphic description of the changes that overcame Bromstead, and turned it from green fields into filthy slums, says that he noticed that 'there seemed to be more boards by the railway every time I passed, advertising pills and pickles, tonics and condiments, and such-like solicitudes of a people with no natural health or appetite left in them.' The pills, that is to say, kept pace with the pickles. The more pickles Bromstead ate, the more pills Bromstead wanted. That is the worst of the passion for piquancy. The soul grows sick if fed on sensations. Onions are splendid things, but you cannot live upon onions. Pickles inevitably lead to pills.
But that is not all. For the trouble is that, if I develop an inordinate appetite for onions, I lose all relish for more delicately flavoured foods. The most impressive instance of such a dietary tragedy is recorded in my Bible. 'The children of Israel wept and said, "We remember the onions, but now there is nothing except this manna before our eyes!"' Onions seem to have a special connexion with Egypt. Herodotus tells us that the men who built the Pyramids fed upon onions, although the priests were forbidden to touch them. 'We remember the onions!' cried the children of Israel, looking wistfully back at Egypt, 'but now we have nothing but this manna!' The onions actually destroyed their appetite for angels' food! That, I repeat, is the most mournful aspect of our modern and insatiable passion for piquancy. If I let my soul absorb itself in the sensational novel, the hair-raising drama, and the blood-curdling film, I find myself losing appreciation for the finer and gentler things in life. I no longer glory, as I used to do, in the sweetness of the morning air and the glitter of the dew-drenched grass; in the purling stream and the fern-draped hills; in the curling waves and the twinkling stars. The bound of the hare and the flight of the sea-bird lose their charm for me. The world is robbed of its wonder and its witchery when my eyes grow accustomed to the gaudy blinding glare. Jenny Lind was asked why she renounced the stage. She was sitting at the moment on the sands by the seaside, with her Bible on her knee. She pointed her questioner to the setting sun, transforming the ocean into a sea of glory. 'I found,' she said, 'that I was losing my taste for that, and'—holding up her Bible—'my taste for this; so I gave it up!' She was a wise woman. Onions are fine things in their own way. God has undoubtedly left a place in His world for the strong, vivid, elemental things. But they must be kept to that place. God has strewn the ground around me with the food that angels eat, and I must allow nothing on earth to destroy my taste for such sublime and wondrous fare.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
This experience must come
And he saw him no more. --- 2 Kings 2:12.
It is not wrong to depend upon Elijah as long as God gives him to you, but remember the time will come when he will have to go; when he stands no more to you as your guide and leader, because God does not intend he should. You say—‘I cannot go on without Elijah.’ God says you must.
Alone at your Jordan. v. 14. Jordan is the type of separation where there is no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one can take the responsibility for you. You have to put to the test now what you learned when you were with your Elijah. You have been to Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are up against it alone. It is no use saying you cannot go; this experience has come, and you must go. If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.
Alone at your Jericho. v. 15. Jericho is the place where you have seen your Elijah do great things. When you come to your Jericho you have a strong disinclination to take the initiative and trust in God, you want someone else to take it for you. If you remain true to what you learned with Elijah, you will get the sign that God is with you.
Alone at your Bethel. v. 23. At your Bethel you will find yourself at your wits’ end and at the beginning of God’s wisdom. When you get to your wits’ end and feel inclined to succumb to panic, don’t; stand true to God and He will bring His truth out in a way that will make your life a sacrament. Put into practice what you learned with your Elijah, use his cloak and pray. Determine to trust in God and do not look for Elijah any more.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And having built it
I set about furnishing it
To my taste: first moss, then grass
Annually renewed, and animals
To divert me: faces stared in
From the wild. I thought up the flowers
Then birds. I found the bacteria
Sheltering in primordial
Darkness and called them forth
To the light. Quickly the earth
Teemed. Yet still an absence
Disturbed me. I slept and dreamed
Of a likeness, fastening it,
When I woke, to a slow
Music; in love with it
For itself, giving it freedom
To love me; risking the disappointment.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 20:1–2 / God spoke all these words, saying: I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods besides Me.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 29, 1 / I the Lord am your God. Thus it is written, “Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking …?” [Deuteronomy 4:33]. Heretics asked Rabbi Simlai, “Are there many gods in the world?” He said to them, “Why do you say this?” “Because it is written, ‘Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking?’ ” He said to them, “Then it would have said מְדַבְּרִים/medabrim [speaking, plural], rather than מְדַבֵּר/medaber [speaking, singular].” His students said to him, “Rabbi, you have dismissed them with a crushed reed! But what do you answer us?” Rabbi Levi responded, saying to them, “ ‘Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking?’ How [is this to be understood]? If it had been written ‘The voice of the Lord is [equals] His power’ then the world could not exist! Rather, ‘The voice of the Lord is power’ [Psalm 29:4]—each [listener understanding] according to his power. The young according to their power, the old according to their power, children according to their power. The Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, ‘Just because you heard many voices, don’t think that there are many gods in heaven. But know that I the Lord am your God, as it says, “I the Lord am your God” ’ ”
CONTEXT / This Midrash is based on an oddity in one of God’s Hebrew names. The word Elohim has the form of a Hebrew plural noun. (The singular, Eloah, is also used of God, though much less frequently.) Furthermore, because it is in the plural, the Hebrew word Elohim is also used in the Bible to describe foreign gods. Thus, in the phrase “You shall have no other gods besides Me,” the text uses this same word Elohim. The reader must figure out from context when Elohim is used to mean the one God or the many gods. At times, later commentators noted in the margins of the printed Bible whether the use was sacred or not.
This ambiguity in the Hebrew leads certain people to question if Elohim in our verse refers to foreign gods. Heretics asked Rabbi Simlai, “Are there many gods in the world?” The מִינִים/minim, or “heretics,” were any number of small groups of people who adopted non-normative (as far as the Rabbis were concerned) Jewish beliefs and practices. Rabbi Simlai answers, “Then it would have said מְדַבְּרִים/medabrim [speaking, plural], rather than מְדַבֵּר/medaber [speaking, singular].” The verb “speaking” in this sentence is in the singular, clearly indicating that the word Elohim refers to the one God, not gods.
His students said to him, “Rabbi, you have dismissed them with a crushed reed! But what do you answer us?” The words of Rabbi Simlai’s students, which seem like a compliment for their teacher, are actually a challenge. They likely mean, “You gave them a flimsy explanation, and they took it!” These students demand a much more substantive answer. The Midrash brings an answer in the name of Rabbi Levi, “Has any people heard the voice of a god [Elohim] speaking?” He quotes a verse from Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord is power.” Had the verse read “The voice of the Lord is His power,” then God’s voice would equal all of God’s power, which would destroy the entire world. Instead, the verse reads, “The voice of the Lord is power.” As the Rabbis interpret it, the word “power” refers not to God’s capabilities but to the capabilities of the Israelites listening to the voice of God. In other words, “the voice of the Lord is [in the] power”—in the power of each person to hear God in his or her own way.
The Rabbis interpret this to mean that even though God speaks in many voices and each person hears God uniquely, there is still only one Deity. “Just because you heard many voices, don’t think that there are many gods.” As the verse from the Bible text asserts, “I”—in the singular—“the Lord am your God.”
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
Let me press [two more] duties on those who have this marriage union with Christ. (The Essential Works of John Flavel)
1. Adorn this marriage relationship, so that you may be a crown to your husband.
Wear a veil. We read of the spouse’s veil (Song 5:7). This veil is humility.
Put on your jewels. These are the graces that for their luster are compared to rows of jewels and chains of gold (Song 1:10 KJV). These precious jewels distinguish Christ’s bride from strangers.
Behave as becomes Christ’s spouse in chastity. Be chaste in your judgments; do not defile yourselves with error. Error corrupts the mind (1 Tim. 6:5). It is one of Satan’s devices first to defile the judgment, then the conscience.
Behave as becomes Christ’s spouse in sanctity. It is not for Christ’s spouse to behave like harlots. An exposed body and impure speech do not become a saint. Christ’s bride must shine forth in Gospel purity, so though we can bring Christ no dowry, yet he expects us to keep ourselves pure.
2. Love your husband, Christ (Song 2:5). Love him though he is reproached and persecuted. A wife loves her husband when [he is] in prison. To kindle your love toward Christ, consider
Nothing else is fit for you to love. If Christ is your husband, it is not fit to have other lovers who would make Christ grow jealous.
He is worthy of your love. He is unparalleled in beauty: “altogether lovely” (Song 5:16).
How fervent is Christ’s love toward you! He loves you in your worst condition, he loves you in affliction. He loves you notwithstanding your fears and blemishes. The saints’ infirmities cannot wholly remove Christ’s love from them. Oh, then, how the spouse should delight in her love to Christ! This will be the excellence of heaven: Our love will then be like the sun in its full strength.
--- Thomas Watson
A Curious Romance August 11
Theirs was a curious romance, spiritual but not sexual, ministerial but not marital. Francis and Clare were celibates, evidently in love but unable to marry, who joined forces for Christ.
Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1194, growing up in a palace. When 16, she heard St. Francis preach and was deeply moved. She sought him out, and he spoke to her of spiritual things. For two years he visited often in her home.
On Palm Sunday, 1211, Clare pulled off her beautiful clothes, donned an ash-colored robe, and slipped from an unused gate on her parent’s estate. She found her way through the darkening woods to a spot where Francis awaited her. There she joined a group of Benedictine nuns. Francis prepared a home for her in the Chapel of St. Damian just outside Assisi, and according to some biographers, Clare never left the cloister for the remaining 40 years of her life, entertaining those seeking spiritual help. Francis, too, visited often.
She grieved deeply at his death, but lived another 30 years, confined to a bench from a leg disease. But from that bench, she taught, counseled, and prayed while sewing linens for churches.
In 1249, her cloister was attacked by marauders intent on ransacking and burning it. Showing no fear, she had herself carried to the door where she prayed resolutely for protection. The invaders scrambled from the walls and retreated.
Another tradition, an odd one, developed from her deathbed. From her room in San Damian, she reportedly saw and heard solemn midnight Mass being conducted in a basilica miles away. In 1958, citing this ability to receive images and sound over distance, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of television.
Her more common title has been “The Little Flower of St. Francis.”
She died on August 11, 1253, but her sisters, the Poor Clares, are serving the needy to this day.
God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!
--- Matthew 5:3-5.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 11
“Oh that I were as in months past.” --- Job 29:2.
Numbers of Christians can view the past with pleasure, but regard the present with dissatisfaction; they look back upon the days which they have passed in communing with the Lord as being the sweetest and the best they have ever known, but as to the present, it is clad in a sable garb of gloom and dreariness. Once they lived near to Jesus, but now they feel that they have wandered from him, and they say, “O that I were as in months past!” They complain that they have lost their evidences, or that they have not present peace of mind, or that they have no enjoyment in the means of grace, or that conscience is not so tender, or that they have not so much zeal for God’s glory. The causes of this mournful state of things are manifold. It may arise through a comparative neglect of prayer, for a neglected closet is the beginning of all spiritual decline. Or it may be the result of idolatry. The heart has been occupied with something else, more than with God; the affections have been set on the things of earth, instead of the things of heaven. A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; he must be loved first and best. He will withdraw the sunshine of his presence from a cold, wandering heart. Or the cause may be found in self-confidence and self-righteousness. Pride is busy in the heart, and self is exalted instead of lying low at the foot of the cross. Christian, if you are not now as you “were in months past,” do not rest satisfied with wishing for a return of former happiness, but go at once to seek your Master, and tell him your sad state. Ask his grace and strength to help you to walk more closely with him; humble yourself before him, and he will lift you up, and give you yet again to enjoy the light of his countenance. Do not sit down to sigh and lament; while the beloved Physician lives there is hope, nay there is a certainty of recovery for the worst cases.
Evening - August 11
“Everlasting consolation.” --- 2 Thessalonians 2:16.
“Consolation.” There is music in the word: like David’s harp, it charms away the evil spirit of melancholy. It was a distinguished honour to Barnabas to be called “the son of consolation”; nay, it is one of the illustrious names of a greater than Barnabas, for the Lord Jesus is “the consolation of Israel.” “Everlasting consolation”—here is the cream of all, for the eternity of comfort is the crown and glory of it. What is this “everlasting consolation”? It includes a sense of pardoned sin. A Christian man has received in his heart the witness of the Spirit that his iniquities are put away like a cloud, and his transgressions like a thick cloud. If sin be pardoned, is not that an everlasting consolation? Next, the Lord gives his people an abiding sense of acceptance in Christ. The Christian knows that God looks upon him as standing in union with Jesus. Union to the risen Lord is a consolation of the most abiding order; it is, in fact, everlasting. Let sickness prostrate us, have we not seen hundreds of believers as happy in the weakness of disease as they would have been in the strength of hale and blooming health? Let death’s arrows pierce us to the heart, our comfort dies not, for have not our ears full often heard the songs of saints as they have rejoiced because the living love of God was shed abroad in their hearts in dying moments? Yes, a sense of acceptance in the Beloved is an everlasting consolation. Moreover, the Christian has a conviction of his security. God has promised to save those who trust in Christ: the Christian does trust in Christ, and he believes that God will be as good as his word, and will save him. He feels that he is safe by virtue of his being bound up with the person and work of Jesus.
THY WORD HAVE I HID IN MY HEART
Words and Music by Ernest O. Sellers, 1869–1952
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
O cleansing Word, O precious Word, Your promises are true;
They keep and purify my heart; Your truths are ever new.
God has made provision for each believer to live holy and pure lives—regardless of his or her environment. That provision is the power of His Word. The ability to live above the filth and evil in the daily world around us can be achieved only through listening to and responding to the truth of the Scriptures.
Portions of the wonderful 119th Psalm, with the majority of its 176 verses speaking pointedly regarding the importance of God’s Word, were paraphrased by Ernest O. Sellers and set to a melody in 1908 to provide us with a hymn that still has an important place in our hymnals.
The first stanza of this hymn is based on verse 105: “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Stanza two is based on verses 89 and 90: “Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.” The third stanza is taken from the 44th, the 62nd, and the 164th verses of this psalm: “Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments. At midnight, I will rise to give thanks unto Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments. So shall I keep Thy law continually forever and ever.” The final stanza is based on the 41st verse: “Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation according to Thy Word.”
For the chorus of his hymn, Mr. Sellers used the words directly from Psalm 119:11. They provide a strong closing summary for the reason we hide God’s Word in our hearts: “Thy Word have I hid in my heart—that I might not sin against Thee.”
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path alway, to guide and to save me from sin and show me the heav’nly way.
Forever, O Lord, is Thy Word established and fixed on high; Thy faithfulness unto all men abideth forever nigh.
At Morning, at noon, and at night I ever will give Thee praise; for Thou art my portion, O Lord, and shall be thru all my days!
Thru Him whom Thy Word hath foretold, the Savior and Morning Star, salvation and peace have been brought to those who have strayed afar.
Chorus: Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.
For Today: Psalm 119:11, 41, 44, 62, 89, 90, 105, 164; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
Take one of these choice verses from Psalm 119 and let it saturate your life. Carry with you verse 11 in this musical form ---
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Secondly, It is pernicious to the atheist himself. If he fear no future punishment, he can never expect any future reward: all his hopes must be confined to a swinish and despicable manner of life, without any imaginations of so much as a drachm of reserved happiness.
He is in a worse condition than the silliest animal, which hath something to please it in its life: whereas an atheist can have nothing here to give him a full content, no more than any other man in the world, and can have less satisfaction hereafter. He deposeth the noble end of his own being, which was to serve a God and have a satisfaction in him, to seek a God and be rewarded by him; and he that departs from his end, recedes from his own nature. All the content any creature finds, is in performing its end, moving according to its natural instinct; as it is a joy to the sun to run its race. In the same manner it is a satisfaction to every other creature, and its delight to observe the law of its creation. What content can any man have that runs from his end, opposeth his own nature, denies a God by whom and for whom he was created, whose image he bears, which is the glory of his nature, and sinks into the very dregs of brutishness? How elegantly it is described by Bildad, “His own counsel shall cast him down, terrors shall make him afraid on every side, destruction shall be ready at his side, the first-born of death shall devour his strength, his confidence shall be rooted out, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation; he shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.
They that come after him shall be astonished at his day, as they that went before were affrighted. And this is the place of him that knows not God.” If there be a future reckoning (as his own conscience cannot but sometimes inform him of), his condition is desperate, and his misery dreadful and unavoidable. It is not righteous a hell should entertain any else, if it refuse him.
Use II. How lamentable is it, that in our times this folly of atheism should be so rife! That there should be found such monsters in human nature, in the midst of the improvements of reason, and shinings of the gospel, who not only make the Scripture the matter of their jeers, but scoff at the judgments and providences of God in the world, and envy their Creator a being, without whose goodness they had none themselves; who contradict in their carriage what they assert to be their sentiment, when they dreadfully imprecate damnation to themselves! Whence should that damnation they so rashly wish be poured forth upon them, if there were not a revenging God? Formerly atheism was as rare as prodigious, scarce two or three known in an age; and those that are reported to be so in former ages, are rather thought to be counted so for mocking at the senseless deities the common people adored, and laying open their impurities. A mere natural strength would easily, discover that those they adored for gods, could not deserve that title, since their original was known, their uncleanness manifest and acknowledged by their worshippers. And probably it was so; since the Christians were termed ἄθεοι, because they acknowledged not their vain idols.
I question whether there ever was, or can be in the world, an uninterrupted and internal denial of the being of God, or that men (unless we can suppose conscience utterly dead) can arrive to such a degree of impiety; for before they can stifle such sentiments in them (whatsoever they may assert), they must be utter strangers to the common conceptions of reason, and despoil themselves of their own humanity. He that dares to deny a God with his lips, yet sets up something or other as a God in his heart. Is it not lamentable that this sacred truth, consented to by all nations, which is the band of civil societies, the source of all order in the world, should be denied with a bare face, and disputed against in companies, and the glory of a wise Creator ascribed to an unintellient nature, to blind chance? Are not such worse than heathens? They worshipped many gods, these none; they preserved a notion of God in the world under a disguise of images, these would banish him both from earth and heaven, and demolish the statutes of him in their own consciences; they degraded him, these would destroy him; they coupled creatures with him— (Rom. 1:25), “Who worshipped the creature with the Creator,” as it may most properly be rendered—and these would make him worse than the creature, a mere nothing. Earth is hereby become worse than hell.
Atheism is a persuasion which finds no footing anywhere else. Hell, that receives such persons, in this point reforms them: they can never deny or doubt of his being, while they feel his strokes. The devil, that rejoices at their wickedness, knows them to be in an error; for he “believes, and trembles at the belief.”
This is a forerunner of judgment. Boldness in sin is a presage of vengeance, especially when the honor of God is more particularly concerned therein; it tends to the overturning human society, taking off the bridle from the wicked inclinations of men and God appears not in such visible judgments against sin immediately committed against himself, as in the case of those sins that are destructive to human society. Besides, God, as Governor of the world, will uphold that, without which all his ordinances in the world would be useless. Atheism is point blank against all the glory of God in creation, and against all the glory of God in redemption, and pronounceth at one breath, both the Creator, and all acts of religion and divine institutions, useless and insignificant. Since most have had, one time or other, some risings of doubt, whether there be a God, though few do in expressions deny his being, it may not be unnecessary to propose some things for the further impressing this truth, and guarding themselves against such temptations.
1. It is utterly impossible to demonstrate there is no God. He can choose no medium, but will fall in as a proof for his existence, and a manifestation of his excellency, rather than against it. The pretences of the atheist are so ridiculous, that they are not worth the mentioning. They never saw God, and therefore know not how to believe such a being; they cannot comprehend him. He would not be a God, if he could fall within the narrow model of a human understanding; he would not be infinite, if he were comprehensible, or to be terminated by our sight. How small a thing must that be which is seen by a bodily eye, or grasped by a weak mind! If God were visible or comprehensible, he would be limited. Shall it be a sufficient demonstration from a blind man, that there is no fire in the room, because he sees it not, though he feel the warmth of it? The knowledge of the effect is sufficient to conclude the existence of the cause. Who ever saw his own life? Is it sufficient to deny a man lives, because he beholds not his life, and only knows it by his motion?
He never saw his own soul, but knows he hath one by his thinking power. The air renders itself sensible to men in its operations, yet was never seen by the eye. If God should render himself visible, they might question as well as now, whether that which was so visible were God, or some delusion. If he should appear glorious, we can as little behold him in his majestic glory, as an owl can behold the sun in its brightness: we should still but see him in his effects, as we do the sun by his beams.
If he should show a new miracle, we should still see him but by his works; so we see him in his creatures, every one of which would be as great a miracle as any can be wrought, to one that had the first prospect of them. To require to see God, is to require that which is impossible (1 Tim. 6:16): “He dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” It is visible that he is, “for he covers himself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2); it is visible what he is, “for he makes darkness his secret place” (Psalm 18:11). Nothing more clear to the eye than light, and nothing more difficult to the understanding than the nature of it: as light is the first object obvious to the eye, so is God the first object obvious to the understanding. The arguments from nature do, with greater strength; evince his existence, than any pretences can manifest there is no God. No man can assure himself by any good reason there is none; for as for the likeness of events to him that is righteous, and him that is wicked; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not (Eccles. 9:2): it is an argument for a reserve of judgment in another state, which every man’s conscience dictates to him, when the justice of God shall be glorified in another world, as much as his patience is in this.
2. Whosoever doubts of it, makes himself a mark, against which all the creatures fight. All the stars fought against Sisera for Israel: all the stars in heaven, and the dust on earth, fight for God against the atheist. He hath as many arguments against him as there are creatures in the whole compass of heaven and earth. He is most unreasonable, that denies or doubts of that whose image and shadow he sees round about him; he may sooner deny the sun that warms him, the moon that in night walks in her brightness, deny the fruits he enjoys from the earth, yea, and deny that he doth exist. He must tear his own conscience, fly from his own thoughts, be changed into the nature of a stone, which hath neither reason nor sense, before he can disengage himself from those arguments which evince the being of a God. He that would make the natural religion professed in the world a mere romance, must give the lie to the common sense of mankind; he must be at an irreconcilable enmity with his own reason, resolve to hear nothing that it speaks, if he will not hear what it speaks in this case, with a greater evidence than it can ascertain anything else. God hath so settled himself in the reason of man, that he must vilify the noblest faculty God hath given him, and put off nature itself, before he can blot out the notion of a God.
3. No question but those that have been so bold as to deny that there was a God, have sometimes been much afraid they have been in an error, and have at least suspected there was a God, when some sudden prodigy hath presented itself to them, and roused their fears; and whatsoever sentiments they might have in their blinding prosperity, they have had other kind of motions in them in their stormy afflictions, and, like Jonah’s mariners, have been ready to cry to him for help, whom they disdained to own so much as in being, while they swam in their pleasures. The thoughts of a Deity cannot be so extinguished, but they will revive and rush upon a man, at least under some sharp affliction. Amazing judgments will make them question their own apprehensions. God sends some messengers to keep alive the apprehension of him as a Judge, while men resolve not to own or reverence him as a Governor. A man cannot but keep a scent of what was born with him; as a vessel that hath been seasoned first with a strong juice will preserve the scent of it, whatsoever liquors are afterwards put into it.
4. What is it for which such men rack their wits, to form notions that there is no God? Is it not that they would indulge some vicious habit, which hath gained the possession of their soul, which they know “cannot be favored by that holy God,” whose notion they would raze out? Is it not for some brutish affection, as degenerative of human nature, as derogatory to the glory of God; a lust as unmanly as sinful? The terrors of God are the effects of guilt; and therefore men would wear out the apprehensions of a Deity, that they might be brutish without control. They would fain believe there were no God, that they might not be men, but beasts. How great a folly is it to take so much pains in vain, for a slavery and torment; to cast off that which they call a yoke, for that which really is one! There is more pains and toughness of soul requisite to shake off the apprehensions of God, than to believe that he is, and cleave constantly to him. What a madness is it in any to take so much pains to be less than a man, by razing out the apprehensions of God, when, with less pains, he may be more than an earthly man, by cherishing the notions of God, and walking answerably thereunto?
5. How unreasonable is it for any man to hazard himself at this rate in the denial of a God! The atheist saith he knows not that there is a God; but may he not reasonably think there may be one for aught he knows? and if there be, what a desperate confusion will he be in, when all his bravadoes shall prove false! What can they gain by such an opinion? A freedom, say they, from the burdensome yoke of conscience, a liberty to do what they list, that doth not subject them to divine laws. It is a hard matter to persuade any that they can gain this. They can gain but a sordid pleasure, unworthy the nature of man. But it were well that such would argue thus with themselves: If there be a God, and I fear and obey him, I gain a happy eternity; but if there be no God, I lose nothing but my sordid lusts, by firmly believing there is one. If I be deceived at last, and find a God, can I think to be rewarded by him, for disowning him? Do not I run a desperate hazard to lose his favor, his kingdom, and endless felicity for an endless torment? By confessing a God I venture no loss; but by denying him, I run the most desperate hazard, if there be one. He is not a reasonable creature, that will not put himself upon such a reasonable arguing. What a doleful meeting will there be between the God who is denied, and the atheist that denies him, who shall meet with reproaches on God’s part, and terrors on his own! All that he gains is a liberty to defile himself here, and a certainty to be despised hereafter, if he be in an error, as undoubtedly he is.
6. Can any such person say he hath done all that he can to inform himself of the being of God, or of other things which he denies? Or rather they would fain imagine there is none, that they may sleep securely in their lusts, and be free (if they could from the thunder-claps of conscience. Can such say they have used their utmost endeavors to instruct themselves in this, and can meet with no satisfaction? Were it an abstruse truth it might not be wondered at; but not to meet with satisfaction in this which everything minds us of, and helpeth, is the fruit of an extreme negligence, stupidity, and a willingness to be unsatisfied, and a judicial process of God against them. It is strange any man should be so dark in that upon which depends the conduct of his life, and the expectation of happiness hereafter. I do not know what some of you may think, but believe these things are not useless to be proposed for ourselves to answer temptations; we know not what wicked temptation in a debauched and skeptic age, meeting with a corrupt heart, may prompt men to; and though there may not be any atheist here present, yet I know there is more than one, who have accidentally met with such, who openly denied a Deity; and if the like occasion happen, these considerations may not be unuseful to apply to their consciences. But I must confess, that since those that live in this sentiment, do not judge themselves worthy of their own care, they are not worthy of the care of others; and a man must have all the charity of the christian religion, which they despise, not to condemn them, and leave them to their own folly. As we are to pity madmen, who sink under an unavoidable distemper, we are as much to abominate them, who wilfully hug this prodigious frenzy.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXIV. — ANOTHER passage is that of Gen. viii. 21, “The thought and imagination of man’s heart, is evil from his youth.” And that also Gen. vi. 5, “Every imagination of man’s heart is only evil continually.” These passages it evades thus: — “The proneness to evil which is in most men, does not, wholly, take away the freedom of the will.” —
Does God, I pray you, here speak of ‘most men,’ and not rather of all men, when, after the flood, as it were repenting, He promises to those who were then remaining, and to those who were to come, that He would no more bring a flood upon the earth “for man’s sake:” assigning this as the reason: — because man is prone to evil! As though He had said, If I should act according to the wickedness of man, I should never cease from bringing a flood. Wherefore, henceforth, I will not act according to that which he deserves, &c. You see, therefore, that God, both before and after the flood, declares that man is evil: so that what the Diatribe says about ‘most men,’ amounts to nothing at all.
Moreover, a proneness or inclination to evil, appears to the Diatribe, to be a matter of little moment; as though it were in our own power to keep ourselves upright, or to restrain it: whereas the Scripture, by that proneness, signifies the continual bent and impetus of the will, to evil. Why does not the Diatribe here appeal to the Hebrew? Moses says nothing there about proneness. But, that you may have no room for cavillation, the Hebrew, (Gen. vi. 5), runs thus: — “CHOL IETZER MAHESCHEBOTH LIBBO RAK RA CHOL HAIOM:” that is, “Every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil all days.” He does not say, that he is intent or prone to evil; but that, evil altogether, and nothing but evil, is thought or imagined by man throughout his whole life. The nature of his evil is described to be that, which neither does nor can do any thing but evil, as being evil itself: for, according to the testimony of Christ, an evil tree can bring forth none other than evil fruit. (Matt. vii. 17-18).
And as to the Diatribe’s pertly objecting — “Why was time given for repentance, then, if no part of repentance depend on Free-will, and all things be conducted according to the law of necessity.” —
I answer: You may make the same objection to all the precepts of God; and say, Why does He command at all, if all things take place of necessity? He commands, in order to instruct and admonish, that men, being humbled under the knowledge of their evil, might come to grace, as I have fully shewn already. — This passage, therefore, still remains invincible against the freedom of the will!
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