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Jeremiah 32 - 34

Jeremiah 32

Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege

Jeremiah 32:1     The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah. 3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it; 4 Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye. 5 And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the LORD. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?”

6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ 8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

9 “And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions and the open copy. 12 And I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my cousin, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13 I charged Baruch in their presence, saying, 14 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’

Jeremiah Prays for Understanding

16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying: 17 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!   Nothing is too hard for you.  18 You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts, 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. 20 You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day. 21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror. 22 And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them. 24 Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. 25 Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses” — though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’ ”

26 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh.   Is anything too hard for me?  28 Therefore, thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it. 29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the LORD. 31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger — their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

They Shall Be My People; I Will Be Their God

36 “Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them   one heart and one way,  that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 33

The LORD Promises Peace

Jeremiah 33:1     The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: 2 “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it — the LORD is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. 4 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: 5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

10 “Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD:

“ ‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
for the LORD is good,
for  his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.

12 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD.

The LORD’s Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

17 “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 20 “Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, 21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”

23 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

Jeremiah 34

Zedekiah to Die in Babylon

Jeremiah 34:1     The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion and all the peoples were fighting against Jerusalem and all of its cities: 2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon.’ 4 Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the LORD concerning you: ‘You shall not die by the sword. 5 You shall die in peace. And as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so people shall burn spices for you and lament for you, saying, “Alas, lord!” ’ For I have spoken the word, declares the LORD.”

Ezekiel 12:12 And the prince who is among them shall lift his baggage upon his shoulder at dusk, and shall go out. They shall dig through the wall to bring him out through it. He shall cover his face, that he may not see the land with his eyes. 13 And I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare. And I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there.

2 Kings 25:5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. 6 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
6 Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, 7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah, for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained.

8 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, 9 that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother.

Exodus 21:1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

Leviticus 25:39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.

Deuteronomy 15:12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same.

  The point is they knew the law, but they had not been releasing their slaves in the 7th year. They released them now because they knew they had broken the law and with Nebuchadnezzar on their door step they were repenting, but in verse 11 they take them back. Historians say that Nebuchadnezzar got called away so the Jews thought they were safe, but he retrned and the fickle, unrepentant Jews faced disaster.
10 And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that everyone would set free his slave, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again. They obeyed and set them free. 11 But afterward they turned around and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them into subjection as slaves. 12 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 13 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I myself made a covenant with your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, saying, 14 ‘At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service.’ But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me. 15 You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, 16 but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves.

17 “Therefore, thus says the LORD: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the LORD. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— 19 the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. 20 And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. 21 And Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 Behold, I will command, declares the LORD, and will bring them back to this city. And they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.”

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Four Things We Won’t Need in Heaven (But Ought to Pursue Here on Earth)

By J. Warner Wallace 3/5/2014

     As a Christian, I have a reasonable expectation of Heaven, based on the clear teaching of Scripture and the logical consequence of God’s nature. I also anticipate a particular experience in Heavenbased on the teaching of the Old and New Testament. I’m looking forward to what each of us will become when we are united with God. At the same time, I recognize there are some earthly pursuits I will abandon in the next life. While many of our cravings and desires will be satisfied once we are reunited with the One who has created us in His Image, some needs will simply vanish once we leave this world. As we think about the future with God, let’s remember what won’t be needed in Heaven so we can live differently while we are here on Earth:

     The Need to Have Faith | Faith is the mechanism through which we are saved, and although the nature of faith (as it is described in Scripture) is not blind, it does require us to trust in the most reasonable inference from the evidence Jesus provided, even though we don’t have first-hand access to Jesus or the eyewitnesses who wrote the Gospels:

     Hebrews 11:1-2 | Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

     In this life, we are asked to trust in something often unseen (God), on the basis of something that was seen (Jesus as He was described in the Gospels) and for which there is sufficient evidence (as observed in our universe and world). God’s “hiddenness” requires us to draw conclusions and inferences from evidence, but a day is coming when we will see him directly. In that day, faith (as we understand and experience it here on earth) will no longer exist. We will simply know.

     The Need to Study | We won’t find ourselves cracking the books in Heaven to have knowledge about God. We won’t be in seminary classes, trying to understand the complexity of the Trinity or the nature of God. In Heaven, our direct contact with the God of the universe will open our eyes to the mysteries we’ve been struggling to understand:

     1 Corinthians 13:11-12 | Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

The Word of God in the Hands of Man

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2009

     It was many years ago when my grandmother related to me games that she played as a little girl in the 1880s. One game she mentioned was one that she and her Methodist girlfriends played with their Roman Catholic friends. In a playful jest of the words of the Mass, my grandmother would say, “Tommy and Johnny went down to the river to play dominoes.” Here the word dominoes was a play on the use of the term Domine that occurred so frequently in the Catholic rite of the Mass. The children, of course, were revealing their lack of knowledge of the words of the Mass because they were spoken in Latin.

     In a similar vein, those who are interested in the arts of prestidigitation know that all magicians, as they ply their trade, use certain sayings to make their magic come to pass. They will recite certain incantations, such as “abracadabra,” “presto chango,” and perhaps most famous of all, “hocus pocus.” Even today we use “hocus pocus” to describe a type of magical art. It is an incantation used for the magician to perform his magic. But from where does the phrase “hocus pocus” come?

     The origin of it is once again borrowed from people’s misunderstanding of the language used in the Roman Catholic Mass. In the words of institution uttered in Latin in the ancient formula, the statement was recited as follows: “hoc est corpus meum.” This phrase is the Latin translation of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “This is my body.” But in the Mass to the unskilled ear, the supposed miracle of the transformation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ were heard under the rubric of language that sounded like “hocus pocus.” These kinds of derivations are a direct result of people’s being involved in some kind of drama where the words that are spoken remain unknown to them.

     In the Middle Ages, the church was committed to performing the Mass in the ancient tongue of Latin. That tongue was understood by educated people, and particularly by the clergy, but it was not intelligible to the laity. As early as the ninth century, questions were raised about the propriety of keeping the words of God obscured from the layperson by being restricted to Latin. The Bible itself was literally chained to the lecterns of the churches, so that it could not fall into the hands of people who were unskilled in the languages. It was not given to the common person to interpret the Bible for himself or to have it read in the common language of the people. It took centuries for the church to get over this struggle, and it provoked issues of heresy and of persecution. Prior to the sixteenth-century Reformation, among English-speaking people, the work of Tyndale and Wycliffe was brought under the censure of the church because these men dared to translate the Bible into a language other than Latin.

     In 1521, the Imperial Diet of Worms ended dramatically when Luther, in the presence of the Holy Roman Emperor, refused to recant of his writing and stated to the assembly gathered: “Unless I’m convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I will not recant. For my conscience is held captive by the Word of God. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.” With those dramatic words, the Diet exploded in shouts of protest, while Luther’s friends faked a kidnapping, whisked him away from Worms and secreted him to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. There for a full year, Luther, disguised as a monk, worked on his project of translating the New Testament into the German language from the original Greek text. Some regard this work of setting forth the Bible in the vernacular as one of the most important contributions that Luther made to the life of the church.

     But it was not received with equanimity everywhere. The great renaissance scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam, whose motto was ad fontes (“to the sources”), who was known for his mastery of ancient languages, protested against Luther’s presumption to interpret the Bible into the vernacular. Erasmus did have enough respect for Luther to see that Luther was a world-class philologist in his own right. But he chastened Luther for daring to go against the church in translating the Bible into German. He counseled Luther by saying that if the Bible were to be translated into the common tongue and given to the people for their own reading, it would “unloose a floodgate of iniquity.”

     Erasmus was convinced that giving the Bible into the hands of the people in their own language would give them a license to turn the Bible into a wax nose to be twisted and shaped and distorted into any inclination or private opinion that the individual could stretch from the Scriptures. Luther affirmed this, that if unskilled people are given the right to read the Scriptures for themselves in their own language, much mischief will occur from it, and people will use the Bible to try to justify the wildest of all possible heresies. On the other hand, Luther was convinced of the perspicuity of Scripture, namely, that its central message of salvation is so clear that even a child can understand it. Luther believed that the salvific words communicated in Scripture are so vitally important that it is worth setting the opportunity for salvation before the people even though some dire consequences might flow from such reading. He responded to Erasmus by saying, “If a floodgate of iniquity be opened, so be it.”

     In the wake of the translation of the Bible into the common language came the basic principle of private interpretation. That principle of private interpretation was soundly condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in the fourth session of the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth century. But the die was cast, and since that time, the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages, and attempts are afoot to get the Bible translated into every language that can be found anywhere on the face of the earth. The prophetic concerns of Erasmus in many ways have come true with the vast proliferation of denominations, each calling themselves biblical. Yet at the same time, the gospel of salvation in Christ has been made known abroad throughout the world because the Bible has been given in the vernacular and made available to all people. To be sure, private interpretation does not give a license for private distortion. Anyone who presumes to interpret the Bible for himself must assume with that right the awesome responsibility of interpreting it correctly.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Perils Facing the Evangelical Church

By R.C. Sproul 5/1/2009

     When we consider the predicament that the evangelical church of the twenty-first century faces in America, the first thing we need to understand is the very designation “evangelical church” is itself a redundancy. If a church is not evangelical, it is not an authentic church. The redundancy is similar to the language that we hear by which people are described as “born-again Christians.” If a person is born again of the Spirit of God, that person is, to be sure, a Christian. If a person is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he may profess to be a Christian, but he is not an authentic Christian. There are many groups that claim to be churches that long ago repudiated the evangel, that is, the gospel. Without the gospel, a gathering of people, though they claim otherwise, cannot be an authentic church.

     In the sixteenth century, the term evangelical came into prominence as a description of the Protestant church. In many cases, the terms evangelical and Protestant were used interchangeably. Today, that synonymous use of the adjectives no longer functions with any accuracy. Historic Protestants have forgotten what they were protesting in the sixteenth century. The central protest of the Reformation church was the protest against the eclipse of the gospel that had taken place in the medieval church.

     When we turn our attention to the first century, to the churches about which we learn from the biblical record, we know that all of the churches addressed in the New Testament, including the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and the seven churches of Revelation, were evangelical churches. They all embraced the biblical gospel. Yet at the same time, these churches were different in their strengths, in their weaknesses, and in their compositions. An evangelical church is not necessarily a monolithic community. There may be unity among evangelical churches but not necessarily uniformity. The distinctions of the seven churches of Revelation are set forth clearly in that book. They manifest different greatnesses and frailties, but they all faced perils. Each confronted the dangers that assaulted the church in the first century. They faced hazards of varying proportions, but there was a common threat to the health of the New Testament church from many sides. Those dangers manifested in the first century are repeated in every age of the church. They certainly loom large at our time in the early years of the twenty-first century.

     Among what I see as the three most critical perils the church faces today are, first of all, the loss of biblical truth. When the truth of the gospel is compromised or negotiated, the church ceases to be evangelical. We live in a time of crisis with respect to truth, where many churches see doctrine merely as something that divides. Therefore, they stress relationships over truth. That is a false distinction, as a commitment to truth is a commitment that should manifest itself in vital, living relationships. Relationships can never be a substitute for embracing the truth of God. So the either/or fallacy of doctrine or relationship cannot be maintained under careful biblical scrutiny.

     A second widespread peril to the church today is the loss of any sense of discipline. When the church fails to discipline its members for gross and heinous sins, particularly sins of a public nature, that community becomes infected with the immorality of the secular culture. This occurs when the church so desperately wants to be accepted by the pagan culture that it adopts the very morality of the pagan community and imitates it, baptizing it with religious language.

     The third crucial peril facing the church today is the loss of faithful worship. There are different styles of worship that can be pleasing to God. However, all worship that is pleasing to God is worship grounded in Spirit and in truth. We can have lively worship, manifesting great interest and excitement, with doctrine and truth eliminated. On the other hand, we can have what some call a dead orthodoxy, where the creedal truths of the historic Christian faith remain central to the worship of the church, but the worship itself does not flow from the heart and lacks spiritual vitality.

     Another element that threatens the evangelical church is the ongoing erosion of evangelical faith by the impact of liberal theology. Liberal theology saw its heyday in the nineteenth century and raised its head again with the neo-liberalism that captured the mainline churches of the twentieth century. Yet it is by no means dead. Perhaps the place where liberalism is manifesting itself most dangerously is within the walls of churches that have historically been strongly evangelical. David F. Wells describes the crisis of the twenty-first century church as “vacuous worship.” A vacuous worship is one that is empty of content. It is satisfied with platitudes, pop psychology, and entertainment. Such worship is devoid of the Word of God and of the authentic sacrifice of praise.

     Dr. James Montgomery Boice, before his death, lamented his concern that the church was being enticed “to do the Lord’s work in the world’s way.” We try to transfer principles of success drawn from Madison Avenue and from other secular institutions and imitate them in the life of the church. Such a process is deadly.

     In every generation, including our own, the same perils to the spiritual strength that Jesus rebuked in the seven churches of Revelation threaten us anew. These include such things as a lack of love, a lack of truth, a compromising spirit with the world, a lukewarm devotion, and a double-minded conviction, to name but a few. There were rebukes and encouragements given to these churches by our Lord that every church in every age must take seriously, examining ourselves to make sure that we are not manifesting the same departures from biblical truths that these churches were. We must be vigilant and diligent if we are to maintain a godly witness in our day.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

By John Walvoord

The Prophecy In  Joel

     Joel, the author of the book that bears his name, may have lived as early as the ninth century BC before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities or as late as the sixth century BC after the captivities. The book itself does not relate directly to any historical event or situation.

     The theme of the book of  Joel is the day of the Lord (Yahweh), an expression found often in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament. The day of the Lord refers to any period of time in which God deals directly with the human situation either in judgment or in mercy. The expression may refer to a specific day or to an extended period of time, as in the eschatological day of the Lord, which stretches from the rapture of the church to the end of the millennial kingdom ( 1 Thess. 5:1–9; 2 Peter 3:10–13 ).

 1 Thessalonians 5:1–9 (ESV) 5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 3:10–13 (ESV) 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
The Plague of Locusts

     Joel 1:1–14. What the prophet described was an invasion of locusts, a catastrophe greatly feared by those in the Old Testament. Some believe the locusts were a description of an invading army, but others consider it to be a literal invasion of locusts, which destroys like an invading army. All plant life was consumed. The priests were called to mourning and fasting. The locusts were described in verse  4, indicative of the coming destruction in the day of the Lord. The prophecy was fulfilled in the immediate destruction of the locusts, but the ultimate fulfillment will be seen in the great tribulation when a similar destruction will take place.

     Joel 1:15–20. In addition to the plague of locusts, the plague of drought was described, a divine judgment often experienced by Israel. The effect of all this on the pastures was described as fire devouring everything living. This could be literal fire but more probably refers to the effect of the locusts and drought as producing the same effect as a fire would cause. This foreshadowed the destruction of the future great tribulation.

The Day Of The Lord

      Joel 2:1–11. Though some expositors consider the locusts in  Joel 2 as literal locusts, the locusts probably described an army that devastates like the locusts did in chapter  1. It was typical of military invasions that they would ruin everything they conquered. In any case, the destruction was described as an event of the day of the Lord (v.  11 ). This was fulfilled in the Assyrian captivity.

The Call to Repentance

     Joel 2:12–17. On the basis of the power of God to bring judgment, Israel was exhorted to return to the Lord with fasting and weeping (v.  12 ). The people were assured that God was gracious and compassionate and that He would bless them instead of cursing them. The prophet exhorted all people, the elders, the children, the bridegroom and bride, and the priests to come to the Lord in prayer and repentance. This was fulfilled after the Babylonian captivity.

The Promise of Restoration

     Joel 2:18–27. In response to such repentance, the prophet promised that the Lord would answer; He would send grain and wine and oil and drive “the northern army far from you” (v.  20 ). Israel was described as a nation with plenty of food that would “repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (v.  25 ). Out of this experience Israel would know “that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other” (v.  27 ). This was fulfilled in their return to the land after the Babylonian captivity.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

     Joel 2:28–32. In addition to material blessings, the prophets promised that God would pour out His Spirit in the day of the Lord with the result that “your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (vv.  28–29 ).

     The apostle Peter quoted from this passage in his Pentecostal sermon ( Acts 2:14–21 ). It was quite clear that the entire prophecy of  Joel was not fulfilled, but what Peter was alluding to was the similarity of the situation. Just as in Joel’s time the people of Israel were called to repentance in the hope that the day of the Lord’s blessing would come on them, so those who listened to Peter’s Pentecostal sermon were exhorted to turn to the Lord in anticipation that the promised blessings might follow.

     The length of the present church age was unknown to Peter and to everyone else at the time of his Pentecostal sermon. On the basis of existing Scripture, he could rightfully expect the rapture to occur and the events following to come about immediately. This would include the dark days of the great tribulation described in  Joel 2:30–31, which would precede the second coming of Christ and a time of blessing to follow.

     Accordingly, the children of Israel should not have been surprised to see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At the same time it was a reminder that God could bless those in Israel who trusted in her Messiah. Though many individual Jews accepted Christ as Savior on the day of Pentecost, the nation as a whole as well as her religious leaders had failed to come to the Lord. Her ultimate repentance was pictured in Scripture as occurring just before the second coming of Christ ( Zech. 12:10–13 ).

Zechariah 12:10–13 (ESV) 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves;
     The prophecy of Joel awaits complete fulfillment in relation to the second coming of Christ. It will include supernatural revelation and miraculous events in the heavens and earth and will open the day of salvation to all who call on the name of the Lord (cf.  Rom. 10:13 ).

The Judgment of the Nations and Israel’s Future Restoration

     Joel 3:1–3. The future day of the Lord will include judgment on the nations after the second coming ( Matt. 25:31–46 ). The Valley of Jehoshaphat described is the valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, containing in modern times a small cemetery just outside the wall and the Brook Kidron. Whether the Valley of Jehoshaphat would literally be large enough to judge the nations, it is pictured as a place of judgment, and the name Jehoshaphat itself means “the Lord judges.” In this valley Jehoshaphat, who was king over Judah 875–850 BC, experienced a military victory over his enemies, whom God caused to quarrel among themselves so that Jehoshaphat did not need to fight them because they destroyed each other.

     Joel 3:4–8. Judgment was declared on Tyre and Sidon for their treatment of the children of Israel and the silver and gold and other treasures that they carried off. God also judged them for selling the children of Israel as slaves to Greece and promised that, in return, their sons and daughters would be sold to the people of Judah. This was fulfilled in the fourth century BC by Alexander the Great.

     Joel 3:9–15. The prophet called for the armies of the nations to be roused and to assemble themselves for war in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where they would encounter the judgment of God. Joel declared that God “will sit to judge all the nations on every side” (v.  12 ). On the basis of these prophecies being fulfilled, Joel pleaded with the multitudes to recognize that the day of the Lord was near (v.  14 ) and that it would be preceded by the darkening of the sun and the moon and the blotting out of the stars (v.  15 ). Ultimate fulfillment will be at the second coming.

     Joel 3:16–21. In the preceding portion of the prophecy of  Joel God was declared to turn from Zion and be a refuge for His people. After the second coming, God will judge the wicked but will redeem His people Israel. Abundance of food, wine, and water will characterize the period for Israel in contrast to Egypt and Edom, which were described as desert wastes (vv.  18–19 ). When this restoration of Israel takes place, “Judah will be inhabited forever in Jerusalem through all generations” (v.  20 ). The prophet closed with a declaration that God will pardon Israel for her sins (v.  21 ). The prophecies of  Joel are in harmony with the premillennial interpretation of Scripture because these events will take place before and after the second coming of Christ when Christ takes over as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

Heavenly Mindedness

By Randy Alcorn 5/01/2012

     Jonathan Edwards said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven … to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”

     In his early twenties, Edwards composed a set of life resolutions. One read, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.” Unfortunately, many believers find no joy when they think about heaven.

     A pastor once confessed to me: “Whenever I think about heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.” “Why?” I asked. “I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp … it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than hell.”

     Where did this Bible-believing, seminary-educated pastor get such a view of heaven? Certainly not from Scripture, where Paul said that to depart and be with Christ was far better than staying on a sin-cursed earth (Phil. 1:23). My friend was more honest about it than most, yet I’ve found that many Christians share his misconceptions about heaven.

     Scripture commands us to set our hearts on heaven: “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). And to make sure we don’t miss the importance of a heaven-centered life, the next verse says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things [alone].”

     While the present heaven is a pre-resurrected state, the ultimate heaven, where God will forever dwell with His people, will be in a resurrected universe (Rev. 21:1–4). Because of the biblical emphasis on the resurrection (1 Cor. 15), I think God wants us to ponder not simply where we go when we die, but where we will live with Christ forever.

     Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms… . I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). He chose familiar physical terms (house, rooms, place) to describe that place. He gave us something tangible to look forward to — a home, where we will live with Him.

     The heaven Jesus described is not an ethereal realm of disembodied spirits. A place is by nature physical, just as human beings are by nature physical as well as spiritual. What we are suited for — what we’ve been specifically designed for — is the place God originally made for us: earth.

     Scripture tells us we should be “looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). God has not abandoned His original design and plan for humanity to rule the earth for His glory. One day, He will reverse the curse and restore what was corrupted by sin. He will come down to dwell with His people on the new earth, bringing His throne, and heaven itself, with Him (Rev. 21:1–4; 22:3).

     What’s your attitude toward heaven? Does it fill you with excitement? How often do you, your church, and your family talk about it?

     If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.

     When you fix your mind on heaven and see the present in light of eternity, even little choices become tremendously important. After death, we will never have another chance to share Christ with one who can be saved from hell, to give a cup of water to the thirsty, to invest money to help the helpless and reach the lost, or to share our homes, clothes, and love with the poor and needy.

     No wonder Scripture makes clear that the one central business of this life is to prepare for the next. What we need is a generation of heavenly minded people who see human beings and the earth not simply as they are, but as God intends them to be.

     Theologians once spoke of the “beatific vision,” Latin for “a happymaking sight.” That sight was God Himself. Revelation 22:4 says of God’s people on the new earth, “They will see his face.” God is primary, all else is secondary. Joy’s tributaries are the overflow of the swelling river of God’s own goodness. He says to the one He welcomes into His presence, “Enter into your Master’s joy.” Anticipating the eternal joy of His presence allows us to get a head start on heaven by rejoicing in Him here and now.

     Longing for that new earth, “the home of righteousness,” Peter says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him” (2 Peter 3:14).

     Knowing that our destiny is to live as redeemed, righteous people on a redeemed, righteous earth with our righteous Redeemer should be a powerful incentive to call upon His strength to live righteously today.

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     Randy Alcorn is an author and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching principles of God's Word and assisting the church in ministering to unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. His ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions, and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity. He accomplishes this by analyzing, teaching, and applying biblical truth. Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has a bachelor of theology and a master of arts in biblical studies from Multnomah University and an honorary doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and has taught on the adjunct faculties of both. A New York Times bestselling author, Randy has written more than fifty books. Randy has written for many magazines, including EPM's Eternal Perspectives. He is active on Facebook and Twitter and has been a guest on more than seven hundred radio, television, and online programs. Randy resides in Gresham, Oregon, with his wife, Nanci. They have two married daughters and are the proud grandparents of five grandsons. Randy enjoys time spent with his family, biking, snorkeling, underwater photography, researching, and reading.

     Randy Alcorn Books |  Go to Books Page

Wisdom and Knowledge

By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2012

     In college, I majored in philosophy. On the very first day of the very first course that I took in philosophy, the professor wrote the word philosophy on the chalkboard, then broke it down to show its etymological origin. The word comes from two Greek words, which is appropriate, for the Greeks are usually seen as the founding fathers of Western philosophy. The prefix philo comes from the Greek word phileō, which means “to love.” The root comes from the Greek word sophia, which means “wisdom.” So, the simple meaning of the term philosophy is “love of wisdom.”

     When I came to understand this meaning, I assumed that by studying philosophy I would learn about wisdom in a practical sense. However, I soon discovered that Greek philosophy stressed abstract questions of metaphysics (the study of ultimate being or of ultimate reality) and epistemology (the study of the process by which human beings learn). It’s true that one of the subdivisions of philosophy is ethics, particularly the science of normative ethics — the principles of how we ought to live. That was certainly a concern of the ancient Greeks, particularly Socrates. But even Socrates was convinced that proper conduct, or right living, is intimately connected with right knowledge.

     There is a section of the Old Testament known as the Wisdom Literature — the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Here, we see a completely different philosophical emphasis, one that is based on the initial assumption of the Bible. Many people regard the assertion that there is one god over all creation as a late development in Greek philosophy. In a sense, it was the conclusion of their thought. But for the Jews, the assertion of God’s sovereignty was primary. The first line of the Old Testament says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the ear th” (Gen. 1:1). Monotheism is not at the end of the trail; it is at the very beginning.

     Genesis offers no argument or proof for the existence of God. One of the reasons for this is that the Jews were convinced that God had already done the job Himself: the heavens declared the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). The Jews were not concerned about whether there is a God but about what He is like: What is His name? What are His attributes? What is His character? The whole Old Testament focuses on God’s self-disclosure to His covenant people.

     The Wisdom Literature makes a startling affirmation: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). For the Jews, wisdom meant a practical understanding of how to live a life that is pleasing to God. The pursuit of godliness was a central concern of the writers of the Wisdom Literature. They affirmed that the necessary condition for anyone to have true wisdom is a fear of the Lord.

     Such fear is not terror or horror. As Martin Luther said, it is a filial fear, the fear of a child who is in awe of his father and doesn’t want to do anything that would violate his father and disrupt their loving relationship. In a word, this concept has to do with reverence, awe, and respect. When the writers of the Wisdom Literature say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, they are saying that the absolute, essential starting point if you want to acquire true wisdom is reverence and adoration for God.

     Showing a contrast, the psalmist tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1a). Wisdom is contrasted with foolishness. However, in the Hebrew literature, the term fool does not describe a person who lacks intelligence. To be foolish to the Jew is to be irreligious and godless. The fool is the person who has no reverence for God, and when you have no reverence for God, inevitably your life will show it.

     The Wisdom Literature also makes a sharp distinction between wisdom and knowledge. A person can have unbounded knowledge and not have wisdom. But the reverse is not the case; no one can have wisdom if he does not have knowledge. The antiintellectual spirit of our times declares: “I don’t need to study. I don’t need to know the Bible. All I need is to have a personal relationship with Jesus.” That viewpoint is on a collision course with what the Wisdom Literature teaches. The purpose for learning the things of God is the acquisition of wisdom, and we cannot have wisdom without knowledge. Ignorance breeds foolishness, but true knowledge — the knowledge of God — leads to the wisdom that is more precious than rubies and pearls.

     We want to be rich, successful, and comfortable, but we do not long for wisdom. Thus, we do not read the Scriptures, the supreme textbook of wisdom. This is foolishness. Let us pursue the knowledge of God through the Word of God, for in that way we will find wisdom to live lives that please Him.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

Cultivating Virtue in Pursuit of Knowledge

By Derek Halvorson 5/01/2016

     Scripture calls us to give our whole selves as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1–2). Unfortunately, we are often tempted to go about that work such that our lives resemble groups of silos. We envision our lives divided neatly into aspects that have little or no bearing on one another. One such division that is particularly common is the perceived divide between moral and intellectual development. We too frequently view the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of knowledge as separate tasks — at worst, at odds with one another; at best, simply unrelated to one another; but certainly not interconnected and mutually supportive.

     In fact,  the cultivation of virtue is essential to healthy intellectual life.  The virtues make us better learners and better thinkers. Beyond the historic cardinal virtues — and one can easily envision how the practice of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice would aid one in the pursuit of knowledge — there are other Christian virtues that not only contribute to one’s sanctification but also are essential to the pursuit of knowledge.

The Virtue of Humility

     Paul instructs us to adopt the humility modeled by Jesus Christ in His incarnation and crucifixion (Phil. 2:5–8). As Christians, we know the reality of God’s sovereignty, and we recognize that we cannot take credit for whatever intellectual gifts we have been given. In addition, we should not assume that we have all of the answers — except, of course, for those provided explicitly in Scripture. We should not jump to conclusions. We ought to humble ourselves and listen, even to those with whom we disagree. This attitude of humility is a surefire antidote for intellectual laziness and apathy. In light of it, we are obligated to work diligently to uncover insights in the views of others. We ought to assume that those whom we read or study have something of value to say — that they might possess some common - grace insight into the nature of reality. We ought not to dismiss others out of hand. We are ourselves, after all, finite and fallen people. Humbly acknowledging our limitations and allowing that others might have something to teach us  ought to be natural for us as Christians.  And doing so will make us more effective in our pursuit of God’s truth.

The Virtue of Self-denial

     We begin our Christian walks by denying our self-righteousness, and this practice of self-denial should continue throughout our lives (Luke 9:23–24). As believers, we ought to be willing to risk something of ourselves — our desires, our ambitions, our comforts — and maybe even give up something of ourselves for the sake of truth. We should be prepared to abandon our own (perhaps cherished) beliefs in light of God’s truth revealed, either in special revelation or in general revelation. At times, the virtue of self-denial will require that we be willing to change our minds, which may even mean changing how we live. Sometimes we may have to deny ourselves in profound ways, but many times our practice of self-denial in pursuit of knowledge will be much more mundane. We may have to forgo something we really enjoy for the sake of pursuing the intellectual work to which God has called us. That sort of self-denial becomes much easier when the virtue of self-denial has become an integral aspect of our lives as followers of Christ.

The Virtue of Charity

     The virtue of charity is a defining characteristic of those who serve a God who describes Himself as love (John 13:34–35; 1 John 4:7–12). The traditional Christian understanding of the term charity derives from the Latin caritas, which in turn derives from the Greek agapē. Our intellectual endeavors as Christians ought to be marked by selfless, other-focused, God-glorifying love. As Bernard of Clairvaux famously observed:

     There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is caritas.

     Our pursuit of knowledge ought to be motivated by love for those whom it might benefit, whether inside or outside of the church, living or not yet born. It ought also to be marked by love. The manner in which we treat those with whom we engage in our intellectual work — our classmates, our colleagues, those whom we study, those with whom we debate—ought to reflect the selfless love of the triune God.

     It is critical that we not fall into the trap of dividing our lives into silos. We were created by God as integrated persons, and we are to give our whole selves to Him. The divorce of virtue and intellect has been a prominent feature of modernity, and it is one we should resist — not only because it is unnatural, but also because cultivating Christian virtues makes us better thinkers. As we apply biblical virtues such as humility, self-denial, and charity in our pursuit of knowledge, our ability to apprehend truth increases. Not only is cultivating virtue good for our souls, but it is good for our minds, because both are integral parts of the one self that we are giving to God.

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     Dr. J. Derek Halvorson is president of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., and chair of the executive committee of Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 90

Book Four

From Everlasting to Everlasting
90 A Prayer Of Moses, The Man Of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

ESV Study Bible

Principles and Situations

By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2016

     Every so often, I run across a news story that’s emblematic of our times. Recently, I read of a case wherein a woman contracted with a man to be a surrogate mother. The man agreed to pay her to bear the children, who were conceived by in vitro fertilization using the man’s sperm and eggs donated from another woman. Triplets were conceived, but the man wants to abort one of them, and the contract he signed gives him the legal right to do so. The woman does not want to abort the child, so she has sued to prevent it and has offered to raise the unwanted child herself. But the man does not want that, and now thinks it would be better to put the child up for adoption himself.

     The commodification of children, the nonchalant manner in which the man wants to get rid of one of the babies, and other issues raised by this case send chills down one’s spine. Here we see the logical results of what happens when human beings have no fixed, objective standard of right and wrong.

     Modern science and technology have introduced questions that the church has never had to deal with before. When it comes to many biomedical issues, we don’t have the advantage of two thousand years of careful research, debate, and insight into complex and weighty problems. The availability of life-support systems, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and other technologies have introduced new dilemmas and pose new ethical questions.

     It’s not that we don’t have basic principles to apply to these issues, for Scripture does provide them. The difficulty lies in applying these principles to new situations we’ve never faced before. And we aren’t facing abstract theoretical questions but life-or-death questions that must be answered in concrete instances. Pastors, for example, are often called to help determine when to extend and when to end life support for a patient.

     Without clear, normative principles, we’re left rudderless in these situations. Our decisions apply principles in specific situations, but the situations cannot dictate the decisions. And we can’t decide to make no decision. To make no decision is to make a decision.

     We need principles that are absolute and normative; otherwise, the decisions we make will be arbitrary, and we’ll have no basis for distinguishing right decisions from wrong decisions. Our human-enacted laws can be helpful, but they can never provide absolute norms. This is particularly clear in societies where the laws are enacted according to popular will. We will find conflict and contradiction between the laws of one society wherein laws are made by an elected body and the laws of another society that makes laws in a similar way. In the United States, abortion is legal. In Chile, abortion is illegal. Does this mean that it is ethically right to abort American babies but wrong to abort Chilean babies? Was it ethically wrong to have an abortion before Roe v. Wade but ethically proper after Roe v. Wade? The answer is yes if popularly enacted laws and court decisions are the absolute norm.

      Only the character of God as revealed in His law provides us with absolute norms for ethical issues.  It gives us fixed principles to apply in specific situations. God’s law is both situational and non-situational. It’s situational because it must always be applied in specific situations, but it’s non-situational because the situation itself never dictates the good. The unchanging principle from the law determines the good.

     In popular culture, we see a definition of right and wrong that says we must do what love requires in any situation. Why not let two men or two women get married? we are asked. After all, they love each other. How is it loving to bring a child into a situation of poverty? we are often asked in the abortion debate.

     On the one hand, it’s correct that we must always do what love requires. Love is the linchpin of God’s law, the very fulfillment of the commandments (Rom. 13:10). But love isn’t a vacuous feeling; it’s something objective. Love is defined by God Himself, for Scripture tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And the God who is love has given us a law that defines and applies what love looks like in concrete situations. For instance, Paul lays out the principle that we must “walk in love,” but then he immediately tells us that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:2–3). God defines love as being the rejection of sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness. Anything that includes such things cannot be love even if the designation of love is claimed.

     In most ethical decisions, we must apply more than one principle. This requires wisdom, but we won’t be prepared to balance these principles unless we know them. That’s why we must continue to study the law and the principles revealed therein, principles that are not subject to the shifting sands of relativism. At the final judgment, we will have to answer for what we have done with this law, for we are the creatures and God is the Creator. He has the absolute right to demand from His creatures what He defines as right. The will of the creature must submit itself to the will of the Creator, and if we don’t bow to His lordship, we will be judged accordingly.

     God’s law is the absolute, objective norm that is to govern the behavior of all people. It’s not a norm hidden from us, but it has been revealed. So, we have the responsibility to know and do what righteousness requires.

Click here to go to source

Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Continual Burnt Offering (John 18:36)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

August 21
John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”    ESV

     Jesus did not deny that He would have a kingdom in this world. The prophets of old predicted the triumph of the kingdom of God, administered by the Son of man (Daniel 7:13-14) in this lower universe. But when that day dawns it will not be a dominion of the present world order. It will be a heavenly kingdom set up on earth. Not by man’s power, as through armies and carnal weapons, will His authority be set up and maintained. God the Father will give Him the throne of David when the appointed hour shall strike. Then He will rule the nations with the inflexible rod of righteousness, and His saints will reign with Him, thus sharing His glory.

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14  And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Lo! He comes, from heaven descending,
Once for favored sinners slain!
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train!
Jesus comes, and comes to reign!
See the Saviour, long expected,
Now in solemn pomp appear!
And His saints, by man rejected,
All His heavenly glory share.
See the Son of God appear!
--- C. Wesley

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • The Uniqueness
    of Christ Part 5
  • The Uniqueness
    of Christ Part 6
  • The Normal Christian
    Birth Part 1

The Uniqueness of Christ | David Pawson


The Uniqueness of Christ | David Pawson


The Normal Christian Birth Part 1 | David Pawson


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2017    Every Thought Captive

     In our day, many Christians have a view of church history that is a popular, but unfortunate, caricature. They believe the church started in the first century, but then soon fell into apostasy. The true faith was lost until Martin Luther recovered it in the sixteenth century. Then, nothing at all significant happened until the twentieth century, when Billy Graham started hosting his evangelistic crusades. Regrettably, we form caricatures of history on account of our ignorance of history. Too often, our historical awareness is sorely lacking. What’s more, we don’t fully know where we are, because we don’t know where we’ve been. We might be aware of certain historical figures and events, but we are often unacquainted with what our sovereign Lord has been doing in all of history, particularly in those periods that are less familiar to us.

     This is the seventeenth year that we at Tabletalk are focusing on a specific century of church history, and we do so in order that the church of the twenty-first century would better understand how the Lord has worked throughout history to keep His promises. For Christ has promised to build His church and that the gates of hell will never prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Every century has a story to tell about Christ’s faithfulness to His promise, even those centuries that are perhaps less well known to us than others.

     We rightly celebrate the lives and ministries of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers whom the Lord used to help bring the church back to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Yet the Reformation did not end with the passing of the sixteenth century. The gospel seed planted by the fifteenth-century forerunners of the Reformation was watered and tended by the Reformers in the sixteenth century. However, it is in the seventeenth century that we begin to see the full flowering of Reformed doctrine, piety, and practice. During the seventeenth century, so much of what it means to be Protestant and Reformed was codified in the creeds and confessions that we affirm and confess today.

     Rome was not built in a day, and neither was the confessional, Reformed, Protestant church. The faithful men and women of the seventeenth century continued the work of the sixteenth-century Reformers by bringing every doctrine, every practice, and every thought captive to the Word of God. May they serve as a model to us as we stand on their shoulders, holding firmly to the divinely revealed truths they faithfully proclaimed for the sake of Christ’s church, kingdom, and glory.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Born in Scotland, he was one of only six founding fathers to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. President George Washington appointed him a Justice on the Supreme Court. One of the most active members at the Constitutional Convention, he spoke one hundred and sixty-eight times. His name was James Wilson and he died this day, August 21, 1798. James Wilson wrote: “It should always be remembered, that this law, natural or revealed… flows from the same divine source; it is the law of God…. Human law must rest… ultimately, upon the authority of that law, which is divine.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

True self-control means willingness
to resign the small for the sake of the great,
the present for the future,
the material for the spiritual,
and that is what faith makes possible.
--- Hugh Black

Non-violence and truth are inseparable
and presuppose one another.
Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will.
Its seat is in the heart,
and it must be an inseparable part of our being.
Non-violence is the article of faith.
Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.
It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction
devised by the ingenuity of man.
--- Mohandas Gandhi

O cleansing Word, O precious Word, Your promises are true;
They keep and purify my heart; Your truths are ever new.
--- Unknown

A particular persuasion of my heart that Christ Jesus is mine, and that I shall have life and salvation by his means; that whatsoever Christ did for the redemption of mankind, he did it for me.
--- John Rogers of Dedham c. 1570–1636), a product of Emmanuel College in Cambridge

... from here, there and everywhere

Book Recommendation
     The Cross Of Christ

     Imagine a stranger visiting St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Having been brought up in a non-Christian culture, he knows next to nothing about Christianity. Yet he is more than a tourist; he is personally interested and keen to learn.
     Walking along Fleet Street, he is impressed by the grandeur of the building’s proportions, and marvels that Sir Christopher Wren could have conceived such an edifice after the Great Fire of London in 1666. As his eyes attempt to take it in, he cannot help noticing the huge golden cross which dominates the dome.
     He enters the cathedral and stands at its central point, under the dome. Trying to grasp the size and shape of the building, he becomes aware that its ground plan, consisting of nave and transepts, is cruciform. He walks round and observes that each side chapel contains what looks to him like a table, on which, prominently displayed, there stands a cross. He goes downstairs into the crypt to see the tombs of famous men such as Sir Christopher Wren himself, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington: a cross is engraved or embossed on each.
     Returning upstairs, he decides to remain for the service which is about to begin. The man beside him is wearing a little cross on his lapel, while the lady on his other side has one on her necklace. His eye now rests on the colourful, stained-glass east window. Though he cannot make out the details from where he is sitting, he cannot fail to notice that it contains a cross.
     Suddenly, the congregation stands up. The choir and clergy enter, preceded by somebody carrying a processional cross. They are singing a hymn. The visitor looks down at the service paper to read its opening words:

   We sing the praise of him who died,
   Of him who died upon the cross;
   The sinner’s hope let men deride,
   For this we count the world but loss.

     From what follows he comes to realize that he is witnessing a Holy Communion service, and that this focuses upon the death of Jesus. For when the people around him go forward to the communion rail to receive bread and wine, the minister speaks to them of the body and blood of Christ. The service ends with another hymn:

   When I survey the wondrous cross
   On which the Prince of glory died,
   My richest gain I count but loss,
   And pour contempt on all my pride.

   Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
   Save in the cross of Christ my God;
   All the vain things that charm me most,
   I sacrifice them to his blood.

     Although the congregation now disperses, a family stays behind. They have brought their child to be baptized. Joining them at the font, the visitor sees the minister first pour water over the child and then trace a cross on its forehead, saying ‘I sign you with the cross, to show that you must not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified...’.
     The stranger leaves the cathedral impressed, but puzzled. The repeated insistence by word and symbol on the centrality of the cross has been striking. Yet questions have arisen in his mind. Some of the language used has seemed exaggerated. Do Christians really for the sake of the cross ‘count the world but loss’, and ‘boast’ in it alone, and ‘sacrifice’ everything for it? Can the Christian faith be accurately summed up as ‘the faith of Christ crucified’? What are the grounds, he asks himself, for this concentration on the cross of Christ?

The Cross of Christ
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 8.

     How Josephus Was Discovered By A Woman, And Was Willing To Deliver Himself Up To The Romans; And What Discourse He Had With His Own Men, When They Endeavored To Hinder Him; And What He Said To Vespasian, When He Was Brought To Him; And After What Manner Vespasian Used Him Afterward.

     1. And now the Romans searched for Josephus, both out of the hatred they bore him, and because their general was very desirous to have him taken; for he reckoned that if he were once taken, the greatest part of the war would be over. They then searched among the dead, and looked into the most concealed recesses of the city; but as the city was first taken, he was assisted by a certain supernatural providence; for he withdrew himself from the enemy when he was in the midst of them, and leaped into a certain deep pit, whereto there adjoined a large den at one side of it, which den could not be seen by those that were above ground; and there he met with forty persons of eminency that had concealed themselves, and with provisions enough to satisfy them for not a few days. So in the day time he hid himself from the enemy, who had seized upon all places, and in the night time he got up out of the den and looked about for some way of escaping, and took exact notice of the watch; but as all places were guarded every where on his account, that there was no way of getting off unseen, he went down again into the den. Thus he concealed himself two days; but on the third day, when they had taken a woman who had been with them, he was discovered. Whereupon Vespasian sent immediately and zealously two tribunes, Paulinus and Gallicanus, and ordered them to give Josephus their right hands as a security for his life, and to exhort him to come up.

     2. So they came and invited the man to come up, and gave him assurances that his life should be preserved: but they did not prevail with him; for he gathered suspicions from the probability there was that one who had done so many things against the Romans must suffer for it, though not from the mild temper of those that invited him. However, he was afraid that he was invited to come up in order to be punished, until Vespasian sent besides these a third tribune, Nicanor, to him; he was one that was well known to Josephus, and had been his familiar acquaintance in old time. When he was come, he enlarged upon the natural mildness of the Romans towards those they have once conquered; and told him that he had behaved himself so valiantly, that the commanders rather admired than hated him; that the general was very desirous to have him brought to him, not in order to punish him, for that he could do though he should not come voluntarily, but that he was determined to preserve a man of his courage. He moreover added this, that Vespasian, had he been resolved to impose upon him, would not have sent to him a friend of his own, nor put the fairest color upon the vilest action, by pretending friendship and meaning perfidiousness; nor would he have himself acquiesced, or come to him, had it been to deceive him.

     3. Now as Josephus began to hesitate with himself about Nicanor's proposal, the soldiery were so angry, that they ran hastily to set fire to the den; but the tribune would not permit them so to do, as being very desirous to take the man alive. And now, as Nicanor lay hard at Josephus to comply, and he understood how the multitude of the enemies threatened him, he called to mind the dreams which he had dreamed in the night time, whereby God had signified to him beforehand both the future calamities of the Jews, and the events that concerned the Roman emperors. Now Josephus was able to give shrewd conjectures about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, as being a priest himself, and of the posterity of priests: and just then was he in an ecstasy; and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said, "Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since thou hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretell what is to come to pass hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, and am content to live. And I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee."

     4. When he had said this, he complied with Nicanor's invitation. But when those Jews who had fled with him understood that he yielded to those that invited him to come up, they came about him in a body, and cried out, "Nay, indeed, now may the laws of our forefathers, which God ordained himself, well groan to purpose; that God we mean who hath created the souls of the Jews of such a temper, that they despise death. O Josephus! art thou still fond of life? and canst thou bear to see the light in a state of slavery? How soon hast thou forgotten thyself! How many hast thou persuaded to lose their lives for liberty! Thou hast therefore had a false reputation for manhood, and a like false reputation for wisdom, if thou canst hope for preservation from those against whom thou hast fought so zealously, and art however willing to be preserved by them, if they be in earnest. But although the good fortune of the Romans hath made thee forget thyself, we ought to take care that the glory of our forefathers may not be tarnished. We will lend thee our right hand and a sword; and if thou wilt die willingly, thou wilt die as general of the Jews; but if unwillingly, thou wilt die as a traitor to them." As soon as they said this, they began to thrust their swords at him, and threatened they would kill him, if he thought of yielding himself to the Romans.

     5. Upon this Josephus was afraid of their attacking him, and yet thought he should be a betrayer of the commands of God, if he died before they were delivered. So he began to talk like a philosopher to them in the distress he was then in, when he said thus to them: "O my friends, why are we so earnest to kill ourselves? and why do we set our soul and body, which are such dear companions, at such variance? Can any one pretend that I am not the man I was formerly? Nay, the Romans are sensible how that matter stands well enough. It is a brave thing to die in war; but so that it be according to the law of war, by the hand of conquerors. If, therefore, I avoid death from the sword of the Romans, I am truly worthy to be killed by my own sword, and my own hand; but if they admit of mercy, and would spare their enemy, how much more ought we to have mercy upon ourselves, and to spare ourselves? For it is certainly a foolish thing to do that to ourselves which we quarrel with them for doing to us. I confess freely that it is a brave thing to die for liberty; but still so that it be in war, and done by those who take that liberty from us; but in the present case our enemies do neither meet us in battle, nor do they kill us. Now he is equally a coward who will not die when he is obliged to die, and he who will die when he is not obliged so to do. What are we afraid of, when we will not go up to the Romans? Is it death? If so, what we are afraid of, when we but suspect our enemies will inflict it on us, shall we inflict it on ourselves for certain? But it may be said we must be slaves. And are we then in a clear state of liberty at present? It may also be said that it is a manly act for one to kill himself. No, certainly, but a most unmanly one; as I should esteem that pilot to be an arrant coward, who, out of fear of a storm, should sink his ship of his own accord. Now self-murder is a crime most remote from the common nature of all animals, and an instance of impiety against God our Creator; nor indeed is there any animal that dies by its own contrivance, or by its own means, for the desire of life is a law engraven in them all; on which account we deem those that openly take it away from us to be our enemies, and those that do it by treachery are punished for so doing. And do not you think that God is very angry when a man does injury to what he hath bestowed on him? For from him it is that we have received our being, and we ought to leave it to his disposal to take that being away from us. The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter; but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies. Besides, if any one destroys or abuses a depositum he hath received from a mere man, he is esteemed a wicked and perfidious person; but then if any one cast out of his body this Divine depositum, can we imagine that he who is thereby affronted does not know of it? Moreover, our law justly ordains that slaves which run away from their master shall be punished, though the masters they run away from may have been wicked masters to them. And shall we endeavor to run away from God, who is the best of all masters, and not guilty of impeity? Do not you know that those who depart out of this life according to the law of nature, and pay that debt which was received from God, when he that lent it us is pleased to require it back again, enjoy eternal fame; that their houses and their posterity are sure, that their souls are pure and obedient, and obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence, in the revolutions of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies; while the souls of those whose hands have acted madly against themselves are received by the darkest place in Hades, and while God, who is their Father, punishes those that offend against either of them in their posterity? for which reason God hates such doings, and the crime is punished by our most wise legislator. Accordingly, our laws determine that the bodies of such as kill themselves should be exposed till the sun be set, without burial, although at the same time it be allowed by them to be lawful to bury our enemies [sooner]. The laws of other nations also enjoin such men's hands to be cut off when they are dead, which had been made use of in destroying themselves when alive, while they reckoned that as the body is alien from the soul, so is the hand alien from the body. It is therefore, my friends, a right thing to reason justly, and not add to the calamities which men bring upon us impiety towards our Creator. If we have a mind to preserve ourselves, let us do it; for to be preserved by those our enemies, to whom we have given so many demonstrations of our courage, is no way inglorious; but if we have a mind to die, it is good to die by the hand of those that have conquered us. For my part, I will not run over to our enemies' quarters, in order to be a traitor to myself; for certainly I should then be much more foolish than those that deserted to the enemy, since they did it in order to save themselves, and I should do it for destruction, for my own destruction. However, I heartily wish the Romans may prove treacherous in this matter; for if, after their offer of their right hand for security, I be slain by them, I shall die cheerfully, and carry away with me the sense of their perfidiousness, as a consolation greater than victory itself."

     6. Now these and many the like motives did Josephus use to these men to prevent their murdering themselves; but desperation had shut their ears, as having long ago devoted themselves to die, and they were irritated at Josephus. They then ran upon him with their swords in their hands, one from one quarter, and another from another, and called him a coward, and everyone of them appeared openly as if he were ready to smite him; but he calling to one of them by name, and looking like a general to another, and taking a third by the hand, and making a fourth ashamed of himself, by praying him to forbear, and being in this condition distracted with various passions, [as he well might in the great distress he was then in,] he kept off every one of their swords from killing him, and was forced to do like such wild beasts as are encompassed about on every side, who always turn themselves against those that last touched them. Nay, some of their right hands were debilitated by the reverence they bare to their general in these his fatal calamities, and their swords dropped out of their hands; and not a few of them there were, who, when they aimed to smite him with their swords, they were not thoroughly either willing or able to do it.

     7. However, in this extreme distress, he was not destitute of his usual sagacity; but trusting himself to the providence of God, he put his life into hazard [in the manner following]: "And now," said he, "since it is resolved among you that you will die, come on, let us commit our mutual deaths to determination by lot. He whom the lot falls to first, let him be killed by him that hath the second lot, and thus fortune shall make its progress through us all; nor shall any of us perish by his own right hand, for it would be unfair if, when the rest are gone, somebody should repent and save himself." This proposal appeared to them to be very just; and when he had prevailed with them to determine this matter by lots, he drew one of the lots for himself also. He who had the first lot laid his neck bare to him that had the next, as supposing that the general would die among them immediately; for they thought death, if Josephus might but die with them, was sweeter than life; yet was he with another left to the last, whether we must say it happened so by chance, or whether by the providence of God. And as he was very desirous neither to be condemned by the lot, nor, if he had been left to the last, to imbrue his right hand in the blood of his countrymen, he persuaded him to trust his fidelity to him, and to live as well as himself.

     8. Thus Josephus escaped in the war with the Romans, and in this his own war with his friends, and was led by Nicanor to Vespasian. But now all the Romans ran together to see him; and as the multitude pressed one upon another about their general, there was a tumult of a various kind; while some rejoiced that Josephus was taken, and some threatened him, and some crowded to see him very near; but those that were more remote cried out to have this their enemy put to death, while those that were near called to mind the actions he had done, and a deep concern appeared at the change of his fortune. Nor were there any of the Roman commanders, how much soever they had been enraged at him before, but relented when they came to the sight of him. Above all the rest, Titus's own valor, and Josephus's own patience under his afflictions, made him pity him, as did also the commiseration of his age, when he recalled to mind that but a little while ago he was fighting, but lay now in the hands of his enemies, which made him consider the power of fortune, and how quick is the turn of affairs in war, and how no state of men is sure; for which reason he then made a great many more to be of the same pitiful temper with himself, and induced them to commiserate Josephus. He was also of great weight in persuading his father to preserve him. However, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept with great caution, as though he would in a very little time send him to Nero.

     9. When Josephus heard him give those orders, he said that he had somewhat in his mind that he would willingly say to himself alone. When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said, "Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero's successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God." When he had said this, Vespasian at present did not believe him, but supposed that Josephus said this as a cunning trick, in order to his own preservation; but in a little time he was convinced, and believed what he said to be true, God himself erecting his expectations, so as to think of obtaining the empire, and by other signs fore-showing his advancement. He also found Josephus to have spoken truth on other occasions; for one of those friends that were present at that secret conference said to Josephus, "I cannot but wonder how thou couldst not foretell to the people of Jotapata that they should be taken, nor couldst foretell this captivity which hath happened to thyself, unless what thou now sayest be a vain thing, in order to avoid the rage that is risen against thyself." To which Josephus replied, "I did foretell to the people of Jotapata that they would be taken on the forty-seventh day, and that I should be caught alive by the Romans." Now when Vespasian had inquired of the captives privately about these predictions, he found them to be true, and then he began to believe those that concerned himself. Yet did he not set Josephus at liberty from his hands, but bestowed on him suits of clothes, and other precious gifts; he treated him also in a very obliging manner, and continued so to do, Titus still joining his interest in the honors that were done him.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 23:12
     by D.H. Stern

12     Apply your mind to discipline
and your ears to words of knowledge.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The ministry of the unnoticed

     Blessed are the poor in spirit. --- Matthew 5:3.

     The New Testament notices things which from our standards do not seem to count. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” literally—Blessed are the paupers—an exceedingly commonplace thing! The preaching of today is apt to emphasize strength of will, beauty of character—the things that are easily noticed. The phrase we hear so often, ‘Decide for Christ,’ is an emphasis on something Our Lord never trusted. He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him, a very different thing. At the basis of Jesus Christ’s Kingdom is the unaffected loveliness of the commonplace. The thing I am blessed in is my poverty. If I know I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says—Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter His Kingdom. I cannot enter His Kingdom as a good man or woman, I can only enter it as a complete pauper.

     The true character of the loveliness that tells for God is always unconscious. Conscious influence is priggish and un-Christian. If I say, ‘I wonder if I am of any use,’ I instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord. “He that believeth in Me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water.” If I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.

     Which are the people who have influenced us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us. In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious; if it is conscious, it ceases to have this unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.

My Utmost for His Highest
That Day
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                That Day

Stopped the car, asked a man the way
To some place; he rested on it
Smiling, an impression of charm
As of ripe fields; talking to us
He held a reflection of the sky
In his brushed eyes. We lost interest
In the way, seeing him old
And content, feeling the sun's warmth
In his voice, watching the swallows
Above him -- thirty years back
To this summer. Knowing him gone,
We wander the same flower-bordered road,
Seeing the harvest ripped from the land,
Deafened by the planes' orchestra;
Unable to direct the lost travellers
Of convince them this is a good place to be.

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas
God hardened
     Pharaoh's Heart

                Is It Pharaoh's Fault?

     Now I know I may be reading more into the text then I should, but it is well to remember that the Gospel can be intensely and deeply personal. Our relationship with God has a tremendous impact on our understanding of Scripture.

     How does God harden our hearts? You know what hardens or breaks our heart? Mercy! When we do something and nothing happens we are convicted. This is a critical moment. Ashamed, we tell God and ourselves we will not do it again, or the opposite happens. We are emboldened to do it again or something even more serious. Are laws for good people?

     When God takes you to the wood shed you react with anger or conviction. Your heart is stiffened or broken, but we always have a choice. God knows the future, whether we will react in the flesh or respond in the spirit. God always ... always gives you, me, Pharaoh, a choice. God says to choose, but God knows how we will choose. God hardened Pharaoh's heart with mercy.

     The Bible is all about Jesus and Jesus permeates the Bible from beginning to end. Jesus stands between us and destruction. I see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. Dr. Delamarter called it the Cycle of Discipline. Indeed, mercy is a two edged sword. God knows whether we will respond with the mind of Christ or be hardened in our own stubborness. In that sense God hardened Pharaoh's heart, Esau's heart. Remember, we are told God shows no partiality. You and I must choose whether to react or respond to the mercy God continues to show us.

Seeking to establish
     their own righteousness

                Self-determined to a fault

     There is no place in God’s economy for our agendas. Neither can we have any hope of establishing our own righteousness because there is no righteousness apart from God.

     Try as we might God will always steer us back to God, unless we are so headstrong to think we can make our own way, find our identity in what we do, or in who we think we are. We are nothing apart from God, pure and simple, nothing. Our schemes and dreams, whatever our motivations and despite even our best intentions are only vapors, dust, nothing.

     God’s desire is that we trust God and get on board with what God is doing. We are supposed to stand where God has placed us, keeping our eyes fixed and focused on Jesus.

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 32:9–11

     BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 32:9–11 / The Lord further said to Moses, “I see that this is a stiffnecked people. Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, saying, “Let not Your anger, O Lord, blaze forth against Your people, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 42, 9 / The Lord further said to Moses, “I see that this is a stiffnecked people.” What does “stiffnecked people” mean? Rabbi Yehudah son of Polvaya said in the name of Rabbi Meir, “They deserve to have their necks broken!” Rav Yakim said, “Three are arrogant: among the animals, the dog; among the fowl, the rooster; and among the nations, Israel.” Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa said in the name of Rabbi Ammi, “You think it’s disparaging, but it’s really in praise: Either a Jew or hanged!” Rabbi Avin said, “Now Israel in the Diaspora is called ‘the stiffnecked people.’ ” Rav Naḥman said, “Know that they are stiff [inflexible]: When the Holy One, praised is He, came to give them the Torah, what does it say about them? ‘On the third day, as Morning dawned [there was thunder, and lightning …]’ [
Exodus 19:16]. The Holy One, praised is He, said: ‘I will show them all My signs. Would that they work!’ ”

     CONTEXT / The biblical chapter cited above deals with the incident of the Golden Calf. Moses has been on the mountain forty days:

     When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who shall go before us, for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt—we do not know what has happened to him.”

     Aaron fashions an idol, a calf, from the people’s gold. God tells Moses: “Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely.” Note that God calls the Israelites Moses’ people whom he—Moses—took out of Egypt. This is not unlike the mother who, as her husband walks in the house from work, blurts out, “Just look at what your child did today!” When Moses and Joshua come down the mountain, they find the Israelites dancing around this golden idol.

     The Lord further said to Moses, “I see that this is a stiffnecked people.” Rabbi Yehudah son of Polvaya said in the name of Rabbi Meir, “They deserve to have their necks broken!” God accuses the Israelites of being stiffnecked and tells Moses to step aside so that the people can be destroyed and a new nation created from Moses. Moses uses several arguments, including that of the embarrassment that God will sustain, to convince God not to do this. Thus, the Israelites are accused by God, and cursed by God, for being stiffnecked.

     Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa said in the name of Rabbi Ammi, “You think it’s disparaging, but it’s really in praise: Either a Jew or hanged!” Rabbi Ammi had a different understanding of the stiffnecked Jewish people. To him, the stubbornness and inflexibility of the Jews were actually a virtue and an advantage. In order for Jews to survive in these later, and often more difficult, times, the Jews would require a certain obstinate side. Rabbi Ammi, living in fourth-century Israel, quotes an apparently well-known aphorism, “Either a Jew or hanged!” to mean Jews in his day are so “stubborn” that nothing short of death will sway them from their devotion to their religion.

     “On the third day, as Morning dawned, [there was thunder, and lightning …]” [
Exodus 19:16]. The Midrash understands the thunder and lightning that accompanied Sinai as a sign from God of the people’s stubbornness. God, in effect, has to “wow” this stiffnecked people, the Israelites, with divine wonders and marvels. Only then are they willing to listen and obey.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     August 21

     The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.

     That everything is in Christ’s hands will be evident from the following demonstrations.
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9

     All good things in the world are only shadows of what is in Christ. Outward riches are but a shadow of the unsearchable riches of Christ. Outward life is only a shadow of him who is the way, the truth, and the life. Outward liberty is only a shadow of that freedom which is to be had in Christ,
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
John 8:36), meaning that no freedom is freedom indeed and in truth but this. Outward rest is only a shadow of the rest that is to be had in him: “Come to me,… and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The sun in the sky is only a shadow of the Sun of righteousness and of his glory. Rivers and fountains are only shadows of his fullness who is the fountain of living waters. Plants and trees are only a shadow of the foliage of him who is the tree of life. All things that have any excellence in them are only shadows of him in whom all worthwhile qualities come to a common center. All the stars are only shadows of him who is the bright and Morning Star.

     If Christ can supply all wants, then everything must be in his hands, [and] so it is, he can supply all wants: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (
Phil. 4:19). Whatever you suffer from, there is in Christ that which can supply and support. Do you suffer from desertion? Then, he says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Do you suffer from corruption and bondage to sin? It is he who says, “Sin shall not be your master” (Rom. 6:14). Do you suffer from temptation? It is he who, as “the God of peace will… crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20) and says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). Do you suffer from weakness? It is he who says, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). Do you suffer from affliction, inward or outward? “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Ps. 34:19). Do you suffer from fears of public calamities? It is said of him, “He will be their peace”
Mic. 5:5). Do you suffer from the fears of death? It is he who says, “I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”
Hos. 13:14).
--- Ralph Erskine

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     The Warrior Pope  August 21

     Giuliano della Rovere began climbing the ecclesiastical ladder as a youth, aided by his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV. In 1503 Giuliano himself became Pope Julius II. He secured his office by promising the cardinals to seek their advice on important issues, to call a general council, and to continue the war against the Turks.

     He kept his promises just as he had kept his monastic vow of celibacy, which is to say loosely. He was a powerful, restless man—massive head, deep eyes, lips tight with resolution, face somber, temper violent. He kept Italy in war and Rome in turmoil. He liberated the papal states, leading his own troops and actually scaling the walls of Bologna himself.

     He tore down the old St. Peter’s Cathedral, and at age 63 climbed down a long, trembling rope ladder to lay the cornerstone for the new one; and he instituted the sale of indulgences to pay for the new basilica, provoking Luther. His love for architecture prompted prelates, nobles, bankers, and merchants to build opulent palaces. Broad avenues were cut through the ancient city, hundreds of new streets opened, and Rome again began looking like the home of a Caesar.

     Julius discovered and developed Michelangelo and Raphael; moved the center of the Renaissance from Florence to Rome; financed hundreds of promising artists; and gave the world the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

     But his enemies and adversities increased. Julius was stricken with a severe illness and hovered near death three days. On August 21, 1511, as he lay unconscious, the cardinals prepared to name his successor. Julius disappointed them by recovering. He wasn’t finished yet. He soon formed England’s King Henry VIII, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland into a military alliance against France. They launched the war, but during the campaign the warrior-pope’s energy finally ran out. Consumed by a fever (thought by some to be caused by venereal disease or by his immoderate eating and drinking), he gave instructions for his funeral, confessed himself a great sinner, and died.

     The LORD says: Don’t brag about your wisdom or strength or wealth. If you feel you must brag, then have enough sense to brag about worshiping me, the LORD. What I like best is showing kindness, justice, and mercy To everyone on earth.
--- Jeremiah 9:23,24.

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

          Morning - August 21

     “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” --- Proverbs 11:25.

     We are here taught the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; and that in order to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered. How? Our efforts to be useful, bring out our powers for usefulness. We have latent talents and dormant faculties, which are brought to light by exercise. Our strength for labour is hidden even from ourselves, until we venture forth to fight the Lord’s battles, or to climb the mountains of difficulty. We do not know what tender sympathies we possess until we try to dry the widow’s tears, and soothe the orphan’s grief. We often find in attempting to teach others, that we gain instruction for ourselves. Oh, what gracious lessons some of us have learned at sick beds! We went to teach the Scriptures, we came away blushing that we knew so little of them. In our converse with poor saints, we are taught the way of God more perfectly for ourselves and get a deeper insight into divine truth. So that watering others makes us humble. We discover how much grace there is where we had not looked for it; and how much the poor saint may outstrip us in knowledge. Our own comfort is also increased by our working for others. We endeavour to cheer them, and the consolation gladdens our own heart. Like the two men in the snow; one chafed the other’s limbs to keep him from dying, and in so doing kept his own blood in circulation, and saved his own life. The poor widow of Sarepta gave from her scanty store a supply for the prophet’s wants, and from that day she never again knew what want was. Give then, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and running over.

          Evening - August 21

     “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”
--- Isaiah 45:19.

     We may gain much solace by considering what God has not said. What he has said is inexpressibly full of comfort and delight; what he has not said is scarcely less rich in consolation. It was one of these “said nots” which preserved the kingdom of Israel in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, for “the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven.” 2 Kings 14:27. In our text we have an assurance that God will answer prayer, because he hath “not said unto the seed of Israel, Seek ye me in vain.” You who write bitter things against yourselves should remember that, let your doubts and fears say what they will, if God has not cut you off from mercy, there is no room for despair: even the voice of conscience is of little weight if it be not seconded by the voice of God. What God has said, tremble at! But suffer not your vain imaginings to overwhelm you with despondency and sinful despair. Many timid persons have been vexed by the suspicion that there may be something in God’s decree which shuts them out from hope, but here is a complete refutation to that troublesome fear, for no true seeker can be decreed to wrath. “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I have not said,” even in the secret of my unsearchable decree, “Seek ye me in vain.” God has clearly revealed that he will hear the prayer of those who call upon him, and that declaration cannot be contravened. He has so firmly, so truthfully, so righteously spoken, that there can be no room for doubt. He does not reveal his mind in unintelligible words, but he speaks plainly and positively, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Believe, O trembler, this sure truth—that prayer must and shall be heard, and that never, even in the secrets of eternity, has the Lord said unto any living soul, “Seek ye me in vain.”

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 21


     Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851–1920

     I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10, 11)

     The Christian Gospel is thrilling to contemplate. It is so simple that even a small child can understand and respond to its basic message—the necessity of placing one’s implicit faith in Christ. But, on the other hand, it is so profound that a lifetime is far too brief to fully comprehend it, since its message is really a person—a growing knowledge and relationship to the eternal Son of God.

     The author of this hymn text, Eliza Edmunds Hewitt, was an invalid for an extended period of her life. Out of this experience she developed an intimate relationship with God and the Scriptures and a desire to share her feelings with others through writing. She became a prolific author of children’s poetry and Sunday school literature. Various Gospel musicians soon became aware of her many fine poems and set them to suitable music. In later years, Eliza’s physical condition improved and she was able to be even more active in her Christian ministries. She was a close friend of Fanny Crosby and often met with her for fellowship and discussion of new hymns they had written. “More About Jesus” was first published in 1887. Miss Hewitt’s prayer, “Spirit of God, my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me,” was beautifully answered in her many hymns with heart-felt words such as these:

     More about Jesus would I know, more of His grace to others show, more of His saving fullness see, more of His love who died for me.
     More about Jesus let me learn, more of His holy will discern; Spirit of God my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me.
     More about Jesus—in His Word holding communion with my Lord, hearing His voice in ev’ry line, making each faithful saying mine.
     More about Jesus on His throne, riches in glory all His own, more of His kingdom’s sure increase, more of His coming-—Prince of Peace.
     Refrain: More, more about Jesus, more, more about Jesus; more of His saving fullness see, more of His love who died for me.

     For Today: 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 3; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 1:4

     A person who has had an intimate relationship with Christ radiates much more Gospel truth to our world than volumes of theological arguments do. Strive to experience more of Christ’s love so that you may “more of His grace to others show.” Sing this prayer as you go ---

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


     1. It is usurping God’s prerogative. It is God’s prerogative to be his own end, and act for his own glory; because there is nothing superior to him in excellency and goodness to act for: he had not his being from anything without himself, whereby he should be obliged to act for anything but himself. To make ourselves then our last end, is to corrival God in his being the supreme good, and blessedness to himself: as if we were our own principle, the author of our own being, and were not obliged to a higher power than ourselves, for what we are and have. To direct the lines of all our motions to ourselves, is to imply that they first issued only from ourselves. When we are rivals to God in his chief end, we own or desire to be rivals to him in the principle of his being: this is to set ourselves in the place of God. All things have something without them, and above them as their end; all inferior creatures act for some superior order in the rank of creation; the lesser animals are designed for the greater, and all for man: man, therefore, for something nobler than himself. To make ourselves therefore our own end, is to deny any, superior, to whom we are to direct our actions. God alone being the supreme Being, can be his own ultimate end: for if there were anything higher and better than God, the purity and righteousness of his own nature would cause him to act for and toward that as his chiefest mark: this is the highest sacrilege, to alienate the proper good and rights of God, and employ them for our own use; to steal from him his own honor, and put it into our own cabinets; like those birds that ravished the sacrifice from the altar and carried it to their own nests. When we love only ourselves, and act for no other end but ourselves, we invest ourselves with the dominion which is the right of God, and take the crown from his head. For as the crown belongs to the king, so to love his own will, to will by his own will and for himself, is the property of God; because he hath no other will, no other end above him to be the rule and scope of his actions. When therefore we are by self-love transformed wholly into ourselves, we make ourselves our own foundation, without God and against God; when we mind our own glory and praise, we would have a royal state equal with God, who created all things for himself. What can man do more for God than he naturally doth for himself, since he dotb all those things for himself which he should do for God? We own ourselves to be our own creators and benefactors, and fling off all sentiments of gratitude to him.

     2. It is a vilifying of God. When we make ourselves our end, it is plain language that God is not our happiness; we postpone God to ourselves, as if he were not an object so excellent and fit for our love as ourselves are (for it is irrational to make that our end, which is not God, and not the chiefest good); it is to deny him to be better than we, to make him not to be so good as ourselves, and so fit to be our chiefest good as ourselves are; that he hath not deserved any such acknowledgment at our hands by all that he hath done for us: we assert ourselves his superiors by such kind of acting, though we are infinitely more inferior to God than any creature can be to us. Man cannot dishonor God more than by referring that to his own glory, which God made for his own praise, upon account whereof he only hath a right to glory and praise, and none else. He thus “changeth the glory of the incorruptible God into a corruptible image;” a perishing fame and reputation, which extends but little beyond the limits of his own habitation; or if it doth, survives but a few years, and perishes at last with the age wherein he lived.

     3. It is as much as in us lies a destroying of God. By this temper we destroy that God that made us, because we destroy his intention and his honor. God cannot outlive his will and his glory: because he cannot have any other rule but his own will, or any other end but his own honor. The setting up self as our end puts a nullity upon the true Deity; by paying to ourselves that respect and honor which is due to God, we make the true God as no God. Whosoever makes himself a king of his prince’s rights and territories, manifests an intent to throw him out of his government. To choose ourselves as our end is to undeify God, since to be the last end of a rational creature is a right inseparable from the nature of the Deity; and therefore not to set God, but self always before us, is to acknowledge no being but ourselves to be God.

     Secondly. The second thing, Man would make anything his end and happiness rather than God. An end is so necessary in all our actions, that he deserves not the name of a rational creature that proposeth not one to himself. This is the distinction between rational creatures and others; they act with a formal intention, whereas other creatures are directed to their end by a natural instinct, and moved by nature to what the others should be moved by reason: when a man, therefore, acts for that end which was not intended him by the law of his creation, nor is suited to the noble faculties of his soul, he acts contrary to God, overturns his order, and merits no better a title than that of an atheist. A man may be said two ways to make a thing his last end and chief good.

     1. Formally. When he actually judges this or that thing to be his chiefest good, and orders all things to it. So man doth not formally judge sin to be good, or any object which is the incentive of sin to be his last end: this cannot be while he hath the exercise of his rational faculties.

     2. Virtually and implicitly. When he loves anything against the command of God, and prefers in the stream of his actions the enjoyment of that, before the fruition of God, and lays out more strength and expends more time in the gaining that, than answering the true end of his creation. when he acts so as if something below God could make him happy without God, or that God could not make him happy without the addition of something else. Thus the glutton makes a god of his dainties; the ambitious man of his honor; the incontinent man of his lust; and the covetous man of his wealth; and consequently esteems them as his chiefest good, and the most noble end, to which he directs his thoughts: thus he vilifies and lessens the true God, which can make him happy, in a multitude of false gods, that can only render him miserable. He that loves pleasure more than God, says in his heart there is no God but his pleasure. He that loves his belly more than God, says in his heart there is no God but his belly: their happiness is not accounted to lie in that God that made the world, but in the pleasure or profit they make their god. In this, though a created object be the immediate and subordinate term to which we turn, yet principally and ultimately, the affection to it terminates in self. Nothing is naturally entertained by us, but as it affects our sense or mingles with some promise of advantage to us. This is seen,

     1. In the fewer thoughts we have of God than of anything else. Did we apprehend God to be our chiefest good and highest end, should we grudge him the pains of a few days’ thoughts upon him? Men in their travels are frequently thinking upon their intended stage: but our thoughts run upon new acquisitions to increase our wealth, rear up our families, revenge our injuries, and support our reputation: trifles possess us; but “God is not in all our thoughts;” seldom the sole object of them. We have durable thoughts of transitory things, and flitting thoughts of a durable and eternal good. The covenant of grace engageth the whole heart to God, and bars anything else from engrossing it: but what strangers are God and the souls of most men! Though we have the knowledge of him by creation, yet he is for the most part an unknown God in the relations wherein he stands to us, because a God undelighted in: hence it is, as one observes, that because we observe not the ways of God’s wisdom, conceive not of him in his vast perfections, nor are stricken with an admiration of his goodness, that we have fewer good sacred poems, than of any other kind. The wits of men hang the wing when they come to exercise their reasons and fancies about God. Parts and strength are given us, as well as corn and wine to the Israelites, for the service of God; but those are consecrated to some cursed Baal. Like Venus in the Poet, we forsake heaven to follow some Adonis.

     2. In the greedy pursuit of the world. When we pursue worldly wealth or worldly reputation with more vehemency than the riches of grace, or the favor of God; — when we have a foolish imagination, that our happiness consists in them, we prefer earth before heaven, broken cisterns which can hold no water, before an ever-springing fountain of glory and bliss; and, as though there were a defect in God, cannot be content with him as our portion, without an addition of something inferior to him; — when we make it our hopes, and say to the wedge, “Thou art my confidence;” and rejoice more because it is great, and because “our hand hath gotten much, than in the privilege of communion with God and the promise of an everlasting fruition of him;” this is so gross, that Job joins it with the idolatry of the sun and moon, which he purgeth himself of (31:26). And the apostle, when he mentions covetousness or covetous men, passes it not over without the title of idolatry to the vice, and idolater to the person; in that it is a preferring clay and dirt as an end more desirable than the original of all goodness, in regard of affection and dependence.

     3. In a strong addictedness to sensual pleasures (Phil. 3:19). Who make their “belly their god;” subjecting the truths of God to the maintenance of their luxury. In debasing the higher faculties to project for the satisfaction of the sensitive appetite as their chief happiness, whereby many render themselves no better than a rout of sublimated brutes among men, and gross atheists to God. When men’s thoughts run also upon inventing new methods to satisfy their bestial appetite, forsaking the pleasures which are to be had in God, which are the delights of angels, for the satisfaction of brutes. This is an open and unquestionable refusal of God for our end, when our rest is in them, as if they were the chief good, and not God.

     4. In paying a service, upon any success in the world, to instruments more than to God, their sovereign Author. When “they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their drag.” Not that the Assyrian did offer a sacrifice to his arms, but ascribed to them what was due only to God, and appropriated the victory to his forces and arms. The prophet alludes to those that worshipped their warlike instruments, whereby they had attained great victories; and those artificers who worshipped the tools by which they had purchased great wealth, in the stead of God; preferring them as the causes of their happiness, before God who governs the world. And are not our affections, upon the receiving of good things, more closely fixed to the instruments of conveyance, than to the chief Benefactor, from whose coffers they are taken? Do we not more delight in them, and hug them with a greater endearedness, as if all our happiness depended on them, and God were no more than a bare spectator? Just as if when a man were warmed by a beam, he should adore that and not admire the sun that darts it out upon him.

     5. In paying a respect to man more than God. When in a public attendance on his service, we will not laugh, or be garish, because men see us; but our hearts shall be in a ridiculous posture, playing with feathers and trifling fancies, though God see us; as though our happiness consisted in the pleasing of men, and our misery in a respect to God. There is no fool that saith in his heart, There is no God, but he sets up something in his heart as a god. This is,

     1. A debasing of God, (1.) In setting up a creature. It speaks God less amiable than the creature, short of those perfections which some silly, sordid thing, which hath engrossed their affections, is possessed with; as if the cause of all being could be transcended by his creature, and a vile lust could equal, yea, surmount the loveliness of God. It is to say to God, as the rich to the poor (James 2:3), “Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool;” it is to sink him below the mire of the world, to order him to come down from his glorious throne, and take his place below a contemptible creature, which, in regard of its infinite distance, is not to be compared with him. It strips God of the love that is due to him by the right of his nature and the greatness of his dignity; and of the trust that is due to him, as the First Cause and the chiefest good, as though he were too feeble and mean to be our blessedness. This is intolerable, to make that which is God’s footstool, the earth, to climb up into his throne; to set that in our heart which God hath made even below ourselves and put under our feet; to make that which we trample upon to dispose of the right God hath to our hearts. It is worse than if a queen should fall in love with the little image of the prince in the palace, and slight the beauty of his person; and as if people should adore the footsteps of a king in the dirt, and turn their backs upon his presence. (2.) It doth more debase him to set up a sin, a lust, a carnal affection as our chief end. To steal away the honor due to God, and appropriate it to that which is no work of his hands, to that which is loathsome in his sight, hath disturbed his rest, and wrung out his just breath to kindle a hell for its eternal lodging, a God-dishonoring and a soul-murdering lust, is worse than to prefer Barabbas before Christ. The baser the thing, the worse is the injury to him with whom we would associate it. If it were some generous principle, a thing useful to the world, that we place in an equality with, or a superiority above him, though it were a vile usage, yet it were not altogether so criminal; but to gratify some unworthy appetite with the displeasure of the Creator, something below the rational nature of man, much more infinitely below the excellent majesty of God, is a more unworthy usage of him. To advance one of the most virtuous nobles in a kingdom as a mark of our service and subjection, is not so dishonorable to a despised prince as to take a scabby beggar or a rotten carcase to place in his throne. Creeping things, abominable beasts, the Egyptian idols, cats and crocodiles, were greater abominations, and a greater despite done to God, than the image of jealousy at the gate of the altar. And let not any excuse themselves, that it is but one lust or one creature which is preferred as the end: is not he an idolater that worships the sun or moon, one idol, as well as he that worships the whole host of heaven? The inordinacy of the heart to one lust may imply a stronger contempt of him, than if a legion of lusts did possess the heart. It argues a greater disesteem, when he shall be slighted for a single vanity. The depth of Esau’s profaneness in contemning his birth-right, and God in it, is aggravated by his selling it for one morsel of meat, and that none of the daintiest, none of the costliest—a mess of pottage; implying, had he parted with it at a greater rate, it had been more tolerable, and his profaneness more excusable. And it is reckoned as a high aggravation of the corruption of the Israelite judges (Amos 2:6), that they sold the poor for a pair of shoes; that is, that they would betray the cause of the poor for a bribe of no greater value than might purchase them a pair of shoes. To place any one thing as our chief end, though never so light, doth not excuse. He that will not stick to break with God for a trifle, a small pleasure, will leap the hedge upon a greater temptation. Nay, and if wealth, riches, friends, and the best thing in the world, our own lives, be preferred before God, as our chief happiness and end but one moment, it is an infinite wrong, because the infinite goodness and excellency of God is denied; as though the creature or lust we love, or our own life, which we prefer in that short moment before him, had a goodness in itself, superior to, and more desirable than the blessedness in God. And tough it should be but one minute, and a man in all the period of his days, both before and after that failure, should actually and intentionally prefer God before all other things; yet he doth him an infinite wrong, because God in every moment is infinitely good, and absolutely desirable, and can never cease to be good, and cannot have the least shadow or change in him and his perfections.

     2. It is a denying of God (Job 31:26–28): “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in its brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were iniquity to be punished by the judge, for I should have denied the Lord above.” This denial of God is not only the act of an open idolater, but the consequent of a secret confidence, and immoderate joy in worldly goods. This denial of God is to be referred to ver. 24, 25. When a man saith to gold, “Thou art my confidence,” and rejoices because his wealth is great; he denies that God which is superior to all those, and the proper object of trust. Both idolatries are coupled here together; that which hath wealth and that which hath those glorious creatures in heaven for its object. And though some may think it a light sin, yet the crime being of deeper guilt, a denial of God, deserves a severer punishment, and falls under the sentence of the just Judge of all the earth, under that notion which Job intimates in those words, “This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge.” The kissing the hand to the sun, moon, or any idol, was an external sign of religious worship among those and other nations. This is far less than an inward hearty confidence, and an affectionate trust. If the motion of the hand be, much more the affection of the heart to an excrementitious creature, or a brutish pleasure, is a denial of God, and a kind of an abjuring of him, since the supreme affection of the soul is undoubtedly and solely the right of the Sovereign Creator, and not to be given in common to others, as the outward gesture may in a way of civil respect. Nothing that is an honor peculiar to God can be given to a creature, without a plain exclusion of God to be God; it being a disowning the rectitude and excellency of his nature. If God should command a creature such a love, and such a confidence in anything inferior to him, he would deny himself his own glory, he would deny himself to be the most excellent being. Can the Romanists be free from this, when they call the cross spem unicam, and say to the Virgin, In te Domina speravi, as Bonaventure? &c. Good reason, therefore, have worldlings and sensualists, persons of immoderate fondness to anything in the world, to reflect upon themselves; since though they own the being of God, they are guilty of so great disrespect to him, that cannot be excused from the title of an unworthy atheism; and those that are renewed by the spirit of God, may here see ground of a daily humiliation for the frequent and too common excursions of their souls in creature confidences and affections, whereby they fall under the charge of an act of practical atheism, though they may be free from a habit of it.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CXXIV. — THERE is that passage of Prov. xvi. 1, 9, also, “It is of man to prepare the heart, but of the Lord to govern the tongue, “which the Diatribe says — ‘refers to events of things.’ —

     As though this the Diatribe’s own saying would satisfy us, without any farther authority. But however, it is quite sufficient, that, allowing the sense of these passages to be concerning the events of things, we have evidently come off victorious by the arguments which we have just advanced: ‘that, if we have no such thing as Freedom of Will in our own things and works, much less have we any such thing in divine things and works.’

     But mark the great acuteness of the Diatribe — “How can it be of man to prepare the heart, when Luther affirms that all things are carried on by necessity?” —

     I answer: If the events of things be not in our power, as you say, how can it be in man to perform the causing acts? The same answer which you gave me, the same receive yourself! Nay, we are commanded to work the more for this very reason, because all things future are to us uncertain: as saith Ecclesiastes, “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening hold not thine hand: for thou knowest not: which shall prosper, either this or that” (Eccles. xi. 6). All things future, I say, are to us uncertain, in knowledge, but necessary in event. The necessity strikes into us a fear of God that we presume not, or become secure, while the uncertainty works in us a trusting, that we sink not in despair.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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