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     Jeremiah 35 -37

Jeremiah 35

The Obedience of the Rechabites

Jeremiah 35 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: 2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak with them and bring them to the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers; then offer them wine to drink.” 3 So I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah and his brothers and all his sons and the whole house of the Rechabites. 4 I brought them to the house of the LORD into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of God, which was near the chamber of the officials, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, keeper of the threshold. 5 Then I set before the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups, and I said to them, “Drink wine.” 6 But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. 7 You shall not build a house; you shall not sow seed; you shall not plant or have a vineyard; but you shall live in tents all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ 8 We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, 9 and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, 10 but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem.”

12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 13 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD. 14 The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. 15 I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. 16 The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me. 17 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.”

18 But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”

Jeremiah 36

Jehoiakim Burns Jeremiah’s Scroll

Jeremiah 36 1 In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. 5 And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the LORD, 6 so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. 7 It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the LORD, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the LORD has pronounced against this people.” 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house.

9 In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the LORD. 10 Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house.

11 When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the LORD from the scroll, 12 he went down to the king’s house, into the secretary’s chamber, and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the officials. 13 And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. 14 Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Take in your hand the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. 15 And they said to him, “Sit down and read it.” So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 18 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” 19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”

20 So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. 24 Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. 25 Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.

27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’ ”

32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

Jeremiah 37

Jeremiah Warns Zedekiah

Jeremiah 37 1 Zedekiah the son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim. 2 But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. 3 King Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Please pray for us to the LORD our God.” 4 Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5 The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt. And when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

6 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7 “Thus says the LORD, God of Israel: Thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me, ‘Behold, Pharaoh’s army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt, to its own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. 9 Thus says the LORD, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away. 10 For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.’ ”

Jeremiah Imprisoned

11 Now when the Chaldean army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people. 13 When he was at the Benjamin Gate, a sentry there named Irijah the son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are deserting to the Chaldeans.” 14 And Jeremiah said, “It is a lie; I am not deserting to the Chaldeans.” But Irijah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. 15 And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison.

16 When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells and remained there many days, 17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the LORD?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” 18 Jeremiah also said to King Zedekiah, “What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land’? 20 Now hear, please, O my lord the king: let my humble plea come before you and do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, lest I die there.” 21 So King Zedekiah gave orders, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guard. And a loaf of bread was given him daily from the bakers’ street, until all the bread of the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

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The Bible, the Whole Bible, and Nothing but the Bible: An Interview with Eric J. Alexander

By Eric Alexander 5/01/2012

     Tabletalk: Describe how God first called you to ministry.

     Eric Alexander: From as early as I can remember, if anyone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would not have hesitated to answer, “I want to be a doctor.” I think that might have had something to do with a story my mother often told us of how her life was saved when she was just twenty-one, when a young and inexperienced doctor performed an emergency operation to remove her appendix. His name was Eric Anderson, and I was named “Eric” after him. So I went to a school that was well known for the number of medical doctors it produced. But soon after I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I was preparing for university when my brother asked me, “Have you asked God what he wants you to be?” Frankly, I had never thought that He would be interested. However, I started to pray seriously about this, and I know my brother (who had led me to Christ) was praying too. Before long, I found I was being drawn (it is the only word I can use) to the idea that God wanted me to be a preacher of the gospel. When I spoke with my minister, he told me that he had become increasingly persuaded of this too. Doors opened in remarkable ways. My desire for medical training receded, and I began to study for the ministry at Glasgow University.

     TT: What are a few reasons why preaching the word of God is relevant today?

     EA: The primary reason lies in the nature of Holy Scripture, which is the Word of God: it is God speaking to us about every facet of our lives. This is the primary way God communicates His truth to us. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that Scripture is literally “breathed out by God.” If that is so (and it is), then our primary concern will be to find out what God is saying to us, and the church’s primary responsibility will be to teach and preach the Bible.

     The second reason lies in the nature of humanity. Men and women have not changed with the changing centuries. The world around us has changed dramatically, but we are essentially the same people. That is why we recognize ourselves in the pages and characters of the Bible: we are like Jacob, Esau, David, Peter, Mary, Timothy, and so on. We find that the eternal Word of God goes to the heart of the human situation as nothing else does. That is why, when we are preaching the Bible, people will say, “He was speaking about me.”

     TT: What are a few things Christians can do to prepare themselves for the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day?

     EA: It is perhaps unwise to overgeneralize, but for most people, the preparation of a good night’s sleep is impor tant. How you spend Saturday evening may well be a strong influence on how you benefit from Sunday morning. Pray much for the preacher, and for yourself and those who worship with you. If you know the text or passage for Sunday’s ministry, study it well and pray over it in the days before. Guard your conversation both before and after the services.

     TT: What counsel would you give to the aspiring pastor?

     EA: Covet a humble spirit. Only God can produce genuine humility, and almost nothing is more important. Write out in large letters and place it where it will always confront you: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” John Stott has written, “Nothing is more hostile to spiritual growth than arrogance, and nothing is more conducive to spiritual growth than humility.” Devote your mornings to studying the Scripture and prayer. Your “office” should be for your secretary (if you have one). Your study should be recognized as your workplace, where you are not to be disturbed unless it is essential. Jesus was not “always available.” Decide at an early stage that by God’s grace you will preach the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.

     TT: Did you ever question your calling to the ministry? If so, how was your calling re-confirmed?

     EA: I would have to say that I cannot think of a time when I seriously doubted whether God had called me to be a preacher and a pastor. This may be due to several factors:

     1. The manner in which the call came and the fact that I eventually found I could do nothing else.

     2. I was deeply impressed by the fact that the call came from God, and He had said in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” So God never withdraws His call, and that is the vital truth.

     3. My conviction from studying Scripture that life in Christ and service for Christ are both a continuing warfare (Paul says, “we wrestle”), and the obvious place Satan would seek to unsettle us would be in the whole area of whether we are in the wrong place or the wrong job. The only ideal place in which to serve God is the place where He has currently set you down.

     TT: Please share with us a time when you were discouraged in your life, and how did God provide encouragement in the midst of it ?

     EA: My greatest discouragement is with myself and with how unprofitable a servant I have been. But the undeserved encouragements I have known have swamped my discouragements in the ministry so that I have to think hard to find them. Of course, there have been some. Many years ago, a situation arose in the church in which I was then serving that was a heartbreak of an immeasurable kind. That was a circumstance that could have seriously disabled me. A senior colleague in the ministry helped me through those days with wise counsel, and people from all sorts of places prayed earnestly for me. Jeremiah 32:17 was a source of great encouragement to me, especially the phrase, “nothing is too hard for you” in Jeremiah’s prayer. That has often been God’s word to me over the years.

     TT: How did you manage to preach through the New Testament twice during your ministry?

     EA: The key to explain this is twofold. First, I preached twice every Sunday and once on Wednesday evenings. On average, that would be so for forty-five weeks in the year and for forty years. That gave me a total of some 5,400 preaching occasions. Second, I was not preaching through every verse of the New Testament separately. Sometimes I would take a substantial passage, sometimes just a few verses or even one verse, but always in context. I must add that in these years I also covered the great majority of the Old Testament, preached special series at Christmas and Easter, and also a series of “subjects.” It is not a great feat to do this.

     TT: What three chief lessons have you learned in ministry that you did not learn in seminary?

     EA: The man I am is more important to God than the work I do. The secret of failure is often failure in secret. Resist professionalism in the ministry: be yourself.

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     Eric J. Alexander was born and educated in Glasgow, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, philosophy, and theology at the University of Glasgow. He ministered for fifteen years in a rural parish in Ayrshire, Scotland, after which he spent twenty years at historic St. George’s-Tron Church in the city center of Glasgow, retiring at the end of 1997. Since his retirement, he has traveled around the world preaching and teaching at churches, conferences, and theological seminaries. He lives in St. Andrews, Scotland, with his wife, with whom he has a son and a daughter. His books are  Prayer: A Biblical Perspective  and  Our Great God And Saviour.

The Coming of the Kingdom

By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2012

     The gospel of Mark is notable for its lack of extended accounts of Jesus’ teaching. Furthermore, Mark gives us noticeably fewer parables than do Matthew and Luke. However, in chapter 4 of his gospel, Mark records four parables. He begins with the lengthy parable of the sower, then follows with three short, pithy parables, each clearly communicating one central idea, as do most parables. All three of these parables teach us something about the kingdom of God.

     In 4:26–29, Mark writes:

     And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

     In this parable, as in the parable of the sower, Jesus taps the metaphor of sowing and seed. Here, however, Jesus does not talk about the different soils into which seed is sown, but about one of the most remarkable dimensions of nature. We plant seeds and go to bed. Overnight, rain falls on the seeds. The next day, sunlight warms them. Germination occurs and tiny green shoots emerge from the ground. Soon, the crop is ready for harvesting. Jesus said the spread of the kingdom of God is much like this process. It begins small, but while our attention is elsewhere, so to speak, the kingdom grows. Like the growth of a seed, it is a mysterious process.

     I find it comforting to know that this is how God’s kingdom works. This parable teaches me that the things I say and do, though they seem infinitely insignificant to me, may have eternal significance as God uses me in the building of His kingdom. Of His own good pleasure, He works through what we do and say not to exalt us but to glorify Himself.

     Once, when I was standing at the church door after a service, a young man came up to me and began to tell me that he had heard me speak fifteen years before at a small church in Pennsylvania. He told me that following that service, he had asked me a question, and he was able to repeat my answer to him verbatim all those years later. He said, “When I went home, I could not get your words out of my head, and God used the comment you made that day to convict me to go into the ministry.” As I reflected on his story, I wondered how many other words I had spoken to people that had helped them or, perhaps, wounded them, leaving scars on their souls that they carry to this day. We have no idea how powerful a simple word can be, for good or ill.

     Every year in the United States, thousands of pastors leave the ministry. Some leave for moral reasons, but most leave because they feel unappreciated by their congregations. They feel like they’re spinning their wheels, that they’re preaching their hearts out but nothing is happening. They need to hear this parable. Or they need to listen to Paul when he says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). God can and does use their faithful preaching of His Word, though the preachers themselves may never see their words’ effect.

     Yet sometimes God does give us a glimpse into how He has used us and our words to glorify Himself. Over the years, I’ve been a part of countless pastors conferences and seminars. It always amazes me how ministers in vastly different settings have similar stories about their preaching experiences. So often, I have heard preachers talk about those occasions when they stood in the pulpit and gave a sermon that they did not consider particularly compelling, even though they put their heart and soul into preparing for it. These same pastors have told me that those sermons are what their people remembered and benefitted from years later. God used what these preachers considered weak and unremarkable for great good. I can also testify that this has often been my own experience.

     That’s the way the kingdom is. We often do not know what God does with our service. We plant the seed, go to bed, and, while we sleep, God germinates the seed so that life grows and eventually produces a full harvest. Then God Himself reaps for His own glory. We simply need to forget about trying to see the fruit of our service immediately. It does not matter if we ever see it. We are called to take the light and let it shine, then let God do with it whatever He pleases.

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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

Pray the Scriptures

By Scotty Smith 5/01/2012

     I am a recovering self-centered pragmatic pray-er — a believer who spent many of my first years in Christ thinking of God more as a sugar daddy than the sovereign Father. Prayer, for me, had more in common with programming a heavenly computer than surrendering to a loving Master. I worked harder at claiming God’s promises for my ease than being claimed by God’s purposes for His kingdom. Instead of being still and knowing that God is God, my prayer life was that of an antsy man, trying to help God be God.

     Alas, this was a manifestation of the man-centered gospel that distorted my view of God and, therefore, enfeebled my practice of prayer. Thankfully, continued growth in grace has led me to a better understanding of the gospel, which, in turn, has radically reoriented my prayer life. It’s not cliché; it’s wondrously true: the gospel changes everything.

     Nothing has been of greater importance to my growth in grace than learning to pray the Scriptures while wearing the lens of the gospel, and nothing has proven to be more fruitful. A gospel-centered approach to praying through the Bible will yield a mind informed by the will of God, a heart enflamed with the love of God, and hands extended in the service of God. All three of these are central to life in Christ, and all three flow out of our union and communion with Christ.

     So, what’s involved in this doxological discipline of praying the Scriptures? I don’t suggest my way is the only way, but here’s how my commitment to Bible study and prayer have been tremendously enriched in recent years.

     Praying the Scriptures requires us first to be in the Scriptures regularly, preferably daily. A “diligent use of the means of grace” doesn’t earn us anything, but it profits us in every way. We can’t hide the Word in our hearts if we’re not lingering in the Bible’s pages. Personally, the best time for me to meet with God in an unrushed, expectant way is early in the morning, but we’re all wired differently.

     Jack Miller, my spiritual dad and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, taught me the importance of reading through the whole Bible while at the same time having a smaller portion of Scripture read me. If we aren’t careful, we can read the Scriptures for information and inspiration while playing dodgeball with our calling to transformation. Having the Scriptures “read me” deepens my prayer life because it exposes my sin, reveals Jesus, and makes me hunger and thirst for more of the gospel.

     As Martin Luther said, we need the gospel every day because we forget the gospel every day. There’s nothing like knowing our need for Jesus to cure us of gospel amnesia. Nothing will so enflame our hearts like a fresh experience of God’s grace for our current needs. Reading the Bible and having the Bible read me constantly convinces me of this: there’s nothing more than the gospel, there’s just more of the gospel.

     Praying the Scriptures, therefore, calls us to look for Jesus in every part of the Bible, for He is the heart, heartbeat, and hero of the gospel. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27), we want to discover everything prophesied and promised about Jesus as He is progressively revealed in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation.

     All of God’s promises find their “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20), but they’re not God’s “yes” to all of our fancies and fantasies. Jack Miller taught me to pray the promises of God with my eyes fixed on Jesus and His kingdom purposes. This represents an important paradigm shift away from looking for verses we can name and claim to pursuing the Christ we can know and serve.

     Minds informed by the will of God and hearts enflamed with the love of God will be authenticated by hands extended in the service of God. The more we pray through the Scriptures wearing the lens of the gospel, the less we’ll find ourselves giving God bit parts in our story and the more we’ll think about finding our place in His story. The central and operative question in life is not “What can I do for Jesus?” while He’s away in heaven. Rather, it’s “What can I do with Jesus?” since He’s right here, right now. Each of us is called to live as a character in and a carrier of His story of redemption and restoration.

     Praying the Scriptures involves heart-fully engaging with Christ in His three offices of prophet, priest, and king:

     Because Jesus is our Prophet — the final Word from God — reading the Bible isn’t merely about gaining information; it’s about prayerfully listening to the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are to give Jesus our rapt attention and our grace-liberated consciences.

     Because Jesus is our Priest — our great High Priest — we must read the Scriptures doxologically, for Christ is the completed sacrifice for our sins, our perfect righteousness from God, and the Shepherd of our souls. We are to give Jesus our current brokenness and our fresh adoration.

     Because Jesus is our King — the King of kings and Lord of lords — we must pray through the Bible with bowed heads and surrendered lives. We are to give Jesus our humble obeisance and our overjoyed obedience.

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     Rev. Scotty Smith is founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Rev. Scotty Smith Books:

The Pastor’s Example of Evangelism

By Steven Lawson 6/1/2012

     In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

     With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?

     First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace.

     In The Reformed Pastor, Puritan Richard Baxter addressed the ministers of his day, many of whom were unconverted: “See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others.” Simply put, pastors must embrace the very message they preach.

     Charles Spurgeon writes:

     A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon … the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark! He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man f luent upon symphonies and harmonies! He is a mole professing to educate eaglets.

     Sadly, unconverted pastors do exist. Martin Luther was a doctor of theology and professor of Bible before he was born again. John Wesley was an overseas missionary prior to his conversion. Every pastor must be certain of his own salvation before he can powerfully preach the gospel to others.

     Second, every pastor must preach the gospel to his family. Evangelism in the home begins with shepherding one’s own wife in her relationship with Christ. I will never forget an elder’s meeting in which one of our pastors shared that his wife had been converted the previous night. She was one of the nicest people in the church, yet, unknown to us, she was unconverted. How often is this the reality? To this end, every pastor must give attention to the spiritual state of his wife.

     Similarly, he must give the same attention to his children. This evangelism should begin early and involve disciplines such as Bible readings, catechizing, and family devotions. I came to faith in Christ as a result of my father reading the Bible to me in the evenings. Moreover, home evangelism should include informal conversations, probing questions, and a consistently godly life modeled before the children.

     Third, every pastor must preach the gospel to his flock. There must be a sober realization that not every church member is regenerate. Every pastor’s evangelistic work must center in his pulpit ministry as he regularly presents the gospel with clear, decisive appeals. He must implore his congregation to respond to the gospel and be saved. There should be a distinct urgency in his voice as he exhorts, even pleads, for his flock to be converted.

     Certainly, this evangelistic thrust is not to be confused with abuses and manipulative methods. I am not contending that people raise a hand, walk an aisle, parrot a prayer, and be declared saved—all within five minutes. But I am insisting that our gospel preaching must be compelling. It must come with bold proclamations of the cross, warm appeals to come to Christ, and passionate persuasions that urge people to respond by faith alone. Pastors must give gospel messages that call for repentance and issue severe warnings of eternal consequences for unbelief.

     Fourth, every pastor should evangelize the community. The strategies will differ from one man to the next, depending upon his gifts and opportunities. As a fisher of men, he must go where the fish are. He must leave dry land, sail out into deep waters, and cast his net. Pastors must venture out into the community, share the gospel, and urge people to believe upon Christ. Community outreach involves building bridges to unbelievers. This may include hosting a Bible study in an office, a restaurant, or a home. It can involve a local radio program, a newspaper editorial, or an Internet blog. It means showing acts of mercy with a gospel presentation. Whatever the strategy, making such inroads requires going where unconverted people are and unashamedly sharing Christ.

     It has been rightly said that the greatest joy is knowing Christ and the second greatest is making Him known. May every pastor enter joyfully into this privileged task of doing the work of an evangelist.

Click here to go to source

     Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.

     Steven Lawson  |  Go to Books Page

The Church is One

By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2012

     In the seventeenth chapter of his gospel, the Apostle John recounts the most extensive prayer that is recorded in the New Testament. It is a prayer of intercession by Jesus for His disciples and for all who would believe through their testimony. Consequently, this prayer is called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. Christ implored the Father in this prayer that His people might be one. He went so far as to ask the Father that “they may be one even as we are one” (v. 22b). He desired that the unity of the people of God — the unity of the church — would reflect and mirror the unity that exists between the Father and the Son.

     Early in church history, as the church fathers were hammering out the cardinal doctrines of the faith, they wrestled with the nature of the church. In the fourth century, in the Nicene Creed, the church was defined with four adjectival qualifiers: one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic. These early saints believed, as Scripture teaches, that the church is one, a unity.

     We know that the prayers of Christ, our High Priest, are efficacious and powerful. We know that the early church experienced remarkable unity (Acts 2:42–47; 4:32). Yet the church today, in its visible manifestation, is probably more fragmented and fractured than at any time in church history. There are thousands of denominations in the United States and even more around the world. How, then, are we to understand Christ’s prayer for the unity of the church? How are we to understand the ancient church’s declaration that the church is one?

     There have been different approaches to this. In the twentieth century, we witnessed the rise of relativistic pluralism, a philosophy that allows for a wide diversity of theological viewpoints and doctrines within a single body. In the face of numerous doctrinal disputes, some churches have tried to maintain unity by accommodating many differing views. Such pluralism has frequently succeeded in maintaining unity — at least organizational and structural unity.

     However, there’s always a price tag for pluralism, and historically, the price tag has been the confessional purity of the church. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Protestant movement began, various ecclesiastical groups created confessions, creedal statements that set forth the doctrines these groups embraced. In the main, these documents reiterated that body of doctrine that had been passed down through the centuries, having been defined in the so-called ecumenical councils of the first several centuries. These confessions also spelled out the particular beliefs of these various groups. For centuries, Protestantism was defined confessionally. But in our day, the older confessions have been largely relativized as churches try to broaden their confessional stances in order to achieve a visible unity.

     There has always been a certain level of pluralism within historic Christianity. The church has always made a distinction between heresy and error. It is a distinction not of kind but of degree. The church is always plagued with errors, or at least members who are in error in their thinking and beliefs. But when an error becomes so serious that it threatens the very life of the church, when it begins to approach a doctrinal mistake that affects the essentials of the Christian faith, the church has had to stand up and say: “This is not what we believe. This false belief is heresy and cannot be tolerated within this church.” Simply put, the church has recognized that it can live with differences that are not of the essence of the church, matters that are not essentials of the faith. But other matters are far more serious, striking at the very basics of the faith. So, we make a distinction between those errors that impact the being of the church — major heresies — and lesser errors that impact the well-being of the church.

     Today, however, the church, in order to achieve unity, increasingly negotiates central truths, such as the deity of Christ and the substitutionary atonement. This must not be allowed to happen, for the Bible calls us to “the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13), a unity based on the truth of God’s Word. Believers who are trying to be faithful to the Scriptures know that the New Testament writers stress the need for us to guard the truth of the faith once delivered (Jude 3; 1 Tim. 6:20a) as well as the need for us to beware those who would undermine the truth of the Apostolic faith by means of false doctrine (Matt. 7:15).

     The Christian faith is lived on the razor’s edge. The Apostle Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). We need to bend over backward to keep peace and maintain unity. Yet, at the same time, we are called to be faithful to the truth of the gospel and to maintain the purity of the church. That purity must never be sacrificed to safeguard unity, for such unity is no unity at all.

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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 Motivation for Love

By Conrad Mbewe 6/01/2012

     In his twentieth century classic, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines the demon Screwtape writing to his nephew Wormwood about the need to discover the secret as to why God loves humans. He writes, “The truth is, I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility… . All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else — He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to find out that real motive. What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question… . And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot really love: nobody can; it doesn’t make sense. If we could only find out what He is really up to!”

     We wish the devils well in their quest to find the answer. For we who are God’s people, there is no need for such a search. We believe that God really loves us. God is love (1 John 4:16). Therefore, it is His very nature to love. He loved us in the period of our innocence before the fall, and He continues to love us in our fallen state. Hence, Jesus could say, “Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

     God’s love for us reached its acme in His redemptive work on the cross: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is love indescribable, and it totally bowls us over. As Charles Wesley puts it:

     Whence to me this waste of love? Ask my Advocate above! See the cause in Jesus’ face, Now before the throne of grace.

     There for me the Savior stands; Shows His wounds and spreads His hands, God is love; I know, I feel; Jesus lives, and loves me still.

     The Bible’s display of the love of God for us is what has ignited our own love for Him. I mean, in the light of such stupendous facts, how could we not love Him back? The sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross is the fireplace where we warm our cold hearts toward God. For those of us who are preachers, no sacrifice in ministry is too big to make in the light of the sacrifice that God made for us. The Holy Spirit uses this truth to keep the combustion chambers of our souls ablaze. Our zeal becomes unquenchable. Isaac Watts’ famous hymn captures this truth very well in the closing stanza:

     Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

     Yet, we do not simply love God back, but we also turn our affections toward those whom God has loved and continues to love. We want to become the vehicles through which the love of God can reach its intended subjects. We will cross lands and seas not only to warn lost souls about the wrath of God but also to plead earnestly with them to respond to God’s love for them in Christ Jesus. Indeed, if we know this love, we ought to do so.

     This is what Paul meant when he said: “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died… . We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:14, 20). If this love is not propelling you in your evangelistic labors, then you are most likely operating way below your full potential.

     As we love God in the light of His love for us, we also find ourselves loving His bride — the church. The people of God, who have been purchased by His own blood, become very precious to us. With Paul, we say to them:

     [May Christ] dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17–19)

     To this end, we labor and strive with all the power and might that God gives us.

     While Lewis’ devils in hell are busy trying to figure out the real motive behind God’s claim to love us, we find this love propelling us not only to love God but also to love the people He has made and redeemed. We say to ourselves (in the words of John Kent):

     On such love, my soul, still ponder, Love so great, so rich and free; Say, while lost in holy wonder, Why, O Lord, such love to me? Hallelujah! Grace shall reign eternally.

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     Rev. Conrad Mbewe has pastored Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia for nearly three decades. He has a PhD in Missions from the University of Pretoria, South Africa and is Chancellor of African Christian University, Zambia. He is also a prolific itinerant preacher who has ministered globally with a passion for writing be it his books, blog or as a national weekly columnist.

Conrad Mbewe Books:

Black and White Theology

By John Perkins 11/24/2017

     Sometimes I look at the Bible and think all God is about is justice: “For the Lord loves justice” (Psalm 37:28); “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12); “For the Lord is a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18); “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Clearly, justice matters to God. But what does it look like? When we talk about justice, what do we really mean?

     Justice is an economic and stewardship issue. When Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” that’s a justice statement. The way we utilize the resources we’ve been given determines whether we are being just.

     In many ways, black theology and white theology in churches in America have been like two sides of a coin when it comes to thinking about justice and redemption. To put it in very general terms, white theology (especially white evangelical theology) has tended to focus on the personal side of redemption. Emphasis has been placed on evangelism, salvation, and individual spiritual growth and holiness—with the Bible being regarded as a devotional book that inspires believers individually. This focus is terribly important, of course, because it highlights the relationships between people and God. It also recognizes a crucial and painful truth about justice: apart from the blood of Christ, justice is bad news for sinful human beings. At least it’s bad news if we’re talking about the type of justice that demands that a penalty be paid when a wrong is done.

     Black theology has a very different take on both redemption and justice, in part because much of it has been developed in response to white oppression. In terms of redemption—or liberation—black theology builds on the “Let my people go!” model of Moses. It celebrates God’s history of delivering His people from slavery and oppression and regards redemption as communal as well as individual. As black Christians, we almost always see religion as something that uplifts people, and the Bible is considered a textbook for living. Black theology doesn’t specify that blacks and whites should be separate, but sadly it has turned out that way.

     We never should have needed or wanted black theology. If the church in America more generally had arrived at a theology that included an increased understanding of God’s redemptive work, we all would be better off. White theology, however, has a serious problem: because the church added “racial” to reconciliation as part of the gospel in an effort to accommodate racism, the stream was poisoned. Even today, many church leaders maintain that it is inappropriate or even evil to organize their congregations to get them to protest injustice. Thus, the struggle to understand biblical truth about justice and redemption continues.

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     John Perkins is one of the leading evangelical voices to come out of the American civil rights movement. He is the cofounder of the Christian Community Development Association and director of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation, Justice, and Christian Community Development in Jackson, Mississippi.  Called “a prophet to the white church in America” by Christianity Today Magazine, he is also an internationally known speaker and teacher. He is the author of many books, including Let Justice Roll Down, named by Christianity Today as one of the top fifty books that have shaped evangelicals. He has been the recipient of thirteen honorary doctorates, and in 2004 Seattle Pacific University founded the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development to shape next-generation leaders. Recent books by John include Do All Lives Matter?: The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For, co-authored with Wayne Gordon; and Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, from which the excerpt above was taken.

John Perkins Books:

How I Got 100 Average Church Goers to Attend An Apologetics Conference

By Tim Arndt 11/19/2017

     The Hardest Question For Apologists

     I often attend apologetics events and my favorite part is always the Q&A. The apologists usually tackle the Ehrman references with ease and variations of the Problem of Evil with carefully thought out responses. But I have noticed one question that seems to stump them over and over again—a question the best apologists have wrestled with for years and often still don’t have a good answer to. “How do I get the people at my church to see the importance of apologetics?”

     Whenever this question is asked, the crowd nods their head in sober agreement and understanding. It seems inevitable that anyone with a newfound love of apologetics soon finds that most of their brothers and sisters in Christ are neither excited nor impressed. “I just have faith.” “I just stick with the Bible.” “Just Jesus.” “Just.”

     Well, I think I’ve finally found the key, solved the mystery, cracked the code… at least part of it.

     Step One: Don’t Call It Apologetics | There are two main camps of people who will avoid apologetics. The first are people who think apologetics are useless or harmful. The second are people who have no interest in things that use big words they aren’t familiar with (which is most of us). I’m as lost as anyone on how to reach the first group, but I’ve come to a better understanding of the second.

Click here to go to source

     Hello, my name is Tim Arndt. Let me ask you a question. What are you doing when you love who you are? The first time I heard this question, I was stumped. But I found my answer.
     I love who I am when I'm learning and sharing what I've learned.
     My hope is that as I'm learning and sharing, you might learn something too. Better yet, I would love to learn from you as well.
     "ApoloThink" is a play on the word "Apologetics." Essentially, this is an apologetics blog, but the topic matter extends far more broadly than the study of apologetics proper.
     In Study Smarts you will see some of what I'm learning from from a wide variety of books, lectures, etc.
     Christian Ministry covers lessons I'm learning while engaging in church and campus ministries.
     Fun Stuff is where I don my Christian worldview gear and interact with film, fiction, and any of the fun stuff in life.
     The Obligatory Bio | My wife Alex and kids, MaryKate and Oliver, are the joys of my life. MK and Ollie have expanded my understanding of life. Without them, I would have never learned how many different things can be a slide.
     I have a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. I am a chapter director for Ratio Christi, a college campus apologetics ministry. I work at my church as an admin assistant. And I am easily recognizable as the tallest Filipino you will ever meet.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 90

Book Four

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

8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

ESV Study Bible

  • Men For God Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3

Men For God Part 1 | David Pawson


Men For God Part 2 | David Pawson


Men For God Part 3 | David Pawson


#3 Robert Wilson   
Yale University Divinity School


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2017    We Are Reformed

     This month marks Tabletalk’s fortieth year of publication. In 1977, Dr. R.C. Sproul launched Tabletalk as a monthly newsletter featuring news about the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which was established in 1971. The newsletter also included articles covering a wide range of subjects for Ligonier students and supporters. Dr. Sproul and his fellowship of teachers from the study center and abroad contributed articles on biblical, theological, cultural, and philosophical matters with a focus on helping Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. In 1989, the format of Tabletalk changed, and a monthly theme, columns, and daily Bible studies were introduced. Since 1977, Tabletalk has witnessed tremendous growth in readership, with now more than one hundred thousand copies of Tabletalk going out the door every month and an estimated audience of 250,000 readers in more than fifty countries. We are grateful for our Lord’s continued blessing these past forty years, and, if the Lord tarries, we hope He will continue to bless the ministry and readers of Tabletalk for the next forty years as we strive to make disciples of all nations for God’s glory, not ours.

     Tabletalk is Reformed, and we mean it. We are not ashamed of being distinctively Reformed in all that we do. We are Reformed because we believe that to be Reformed is to be biblical. To be Reformed is not only to stand firmly on the same doctrine as our faithful Reformation forefathers, it is to stand firmly on the Word of God. To be Reformed is not only to believe that God is sovereign over salvation, but to believe that He is sovereign over everything. To be Reformed isn’t simply to accept the doctrines of grace, but to take great comfort in them, to teach them graciously, and to defend them courageously. To be Reformed is to believe that God has one glorious covenantal plan of redemption, and that He is carrying out that plan. To be Reformed is not to give mere lip service to the historic Reformed confessional standards, but to affirm them heartily and study them diligently. To be Reformed means not only that we are professing members of a local Reformed church but that we are regular, active worshipers and participants in the life, community, and mission of our local churches as we take the gospel to the ends of the earth. To be Reformed is not to be a complacent, smug, arrogant, or apathetic people, but to be a gracious, dependent, humble, prayerful, evangelistic, joyful, loving people who believe that God not only ordains the end of all things but that He ordains the means of all ends in us and through us by the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit for His glory alone.

     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

     He served in Vietnam and commanded the U.S. invasion of Grenada. A four star general, he was commander in Desert Storm. After the war, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and knighted by the Queen of England. His name: General Norman Schwarzkopf, born this day, August 22, 1934. In an interview, he described an extreme flanking maneuver to cut off the Iraqi retreat: “When my forward commander radioed that they had reached the Euphrates River… I waited… ‘General,’ he said, ‘I’ve got to tell you about the casualties.’ I braced myself. ‘One man was slightly wounded.’ That’s when I knew God was with us.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

How fast we learn in a day of sorrow!
Scripture shines out in a new effulgence;
every verse seems to contain a sunbeam,
every promise stands out in illuminated splendor;
things hard to be understood
become in a moment plain.
--- Horatius Bonar

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen

In the home Christ-likeness is kindness;
In business it is honesty;
Toward the weak it is burden bearing;
Toward the sinner it is evangelism;
Toward ourselves it is self-control;
Toward God it is reverence, love and worship.
--- Unknown

Of all the disputations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- These finest props of duties of men and citizens …. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
--- George Washington

Speeches and Addresses: Political, Literary and Religious

... from here, there and everywhere
What About The Sign
     Of The Cross?

     Hippolytus, the scholar-presbyter of Rome, is a particularly interesting witness, because he is known to have been ‘an avowed reactionary who in his own generation stood for the past rather than the future’. His famous treatise The Apostolic Tradition (c. AD 215) ‘claims explicitly to be recording only the forms and models of rites already traditional and customs already long-established, and to be written in deliberate protest against innovations’.  The Creed: The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology  When he describes certain ‘church observances’, therefore, we may be sure that they were already being practised a generation or more previously. He mentions that the sign of the cross was used by the bishop when anointing the candidate’s forehead at Confirmation, and he recommends it in private prayer: ‘imitate him (Christ) always, by signing thy forehead sincerely: for this is the sign of his passion.’ It is also, he adds, a protection against evil: ‘When tempted, always reverently seal thy forehead with the sign of the cross. For this sign of the passion is displayed and made manifest against the devil if thou makest it in faith, not in order that thou mayest be seen of men, but by thy knowledge putting it forth as a shield.’

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

     CHAPTER 9.

     How Joppa Was Taken, And Tiberias Delivered Up.

     1. Now Vespasian returned to Ptolemais on the fourth day of the month Panemus, [Tamus] and from thence he came to Cesarea, which lay by the sea-side. This was a very great city of Judea, and for the greatest part inhabited by Greeks: the citizens here received both the Roman army and its general, with all sorts of acclamations and rejoicings, and this partly out of the good-will they bore to the Romans, but principally out of the hatred they bore to those that were conquered by them; on which account they came clamoring against Josephus in crowds, and desired he might be put to death. But Vespasian passed over this petition concerning him, as offered by the injudicious multitude, with a bare silence. Two of the legions also he placed at Cesarea, that they might there take their winter-quarters, as perceiving the city very fit for such a purpose; but he placed the tenth and the fifth at Scythopolis, that he might not distress Cesarea with the entire army. This place was warm even in winter, as it was suffocating hot in the summer time, by reason of its situation in a plain, and near to the sea [of Galilee].

     2. In the mean time, there were gathered together as well such as had seditiously got out from among their enemies, as those that had escaped out of the demolished cities, which were in all a great number, and repaired Joppa, which had been left desolate by Cestius, that it might serve them for a place of refuge; and because the adjoining region had been laid waste in the war, and was not capable of supporting them, they determined to go off to sea. They also built themselves a great many piratical ships, and turned pirates upon the seas near to Syria, and Phoenicia, and Egypt, and made those seas unnavigable to all men. Now as soon as Vespasian knew of their conspiracy, he sent both footmen and horsemen to Joppa, which was unguarded in the night time; however, those that were in it perceived that they should be attacked, and were afraid of it; yet did they not endeavor to keep the Romans out, but fled to their ships, and lay at sea all night, out of the reach of their darts.

     3. Now Joppa is not naturally a haven, for it ends in a rough shore, where all the rest of it is straight, but the two ends bend towards each other, where there are deep precipices, and great stones that jut out into the sea, and where the chains wherewith Andromeda was bound have left their footsteps, which attest to the antiquity of that fable. But the north wind opposes and beats upon the shore, and dashes mighty waves against the rocks which receive them, and renders the haven more dangerous than the country they had deserted. Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the Morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there "the black north wind," and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks, and carried many of them by force, while they strove against the opposite waves, into the main sea; for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it, that they were afraid to come to land; nay, the waves rose so very high, that they drowned them; nor was there any place whither they could fly, nor any way to save themselves; while they were thrust out of the sea, by the violence of the wind, if they staid where they were, and out of the city by the violence of the Romans. And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred. The Romans also took the city without opposition, and utterly demolished it.

     4. And thus was Joppa taken twice by the Romans in a little time; but Vespasian, in order to prevent these pirates from coming thither any more, erected a camp there, where the citadel of Joppa had been, and left a body of horse in it, with a few footmen, that these last might stay there and guard the camp, and the horsemen might spoil the country that lay round it, and might destroy the neighboring villages and smaller cities. So these troops overran the country, as they were ordered to do, and every day cut to pieces and laid desolate the whole region.

     5. But now, when the fate of Jotapata was related at Jerusalem, a great many at the first disbelieved it, on account of the vastness of the calamity, and because they had no eye-witness to attest the truth of what was related about it; for not one person was saved to be a messenger of that news, but a fame was spread abroad at random that the city was taken, as such fame usually spreads bad news about. However, the truth was known by degrees, from the places near Jotapata, and appeared to all to be too true. Yet were there fictitious stories added to what was really done; for it was reported that Josephus was slain at the taking of the city, which piece of news filled Jerusalem full of sorrow. In every house also, and among all to whom any of the slain were allied, there was a lamentation for them; but the mourning for the commander was a public one; and some mourned for those that had lived with them, others for their kindred, others for their friends, and others for their brethren, but all mourned for Josephus; insomuch that the lamentation did not cease in the city before the thirtieth day; and a great many hired mourners, with their pipes, who should begin the melancholy ditties for them.

     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 23:13-14
     by D.H. Stern

13     Don’t withhold discipline from a child—
     if you beat him with a stick, he won’t die!
14     If you beat him with a stick,
     you will save him from Sh’ol.

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

                “I indeed … but He”

     I indeed baptize you with water … but He … shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire. --- Matthew 3:11.

     Have I ever come to a place in my experience where I can say—“I indeed … but He”? Until that moment does come, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Ghost means. “I indeed” am at an end, I cannot do a thing: “but He” begins just there—He does the things no one else can ever do. Am I prepared for His coming? Jesus cannot come as long as there is anything in the way either of goodness or badness. When He comes am I prepared for Him to drag into the light every wrong thing I have done? It is just there that He comes. Wherever I know I am unclean, He will put His feet; wherever I think I am clean, He will withdraw them. Repentance does not bring a sense of sin, but a sense of unutterable unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am utterly helpless; I know all through me that I am not worthy even to bear His shoes. Have I repented like that? Or is there a lingering suggestion of standing up for myself? The reason God cannot come into my life is because I am not through into repentance.

     “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” John does not speak of the baptism of the Holy Ghost as an experience, but as a work performed by Jesus Christ, “He shall baptize you.” The only conscious experience those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost ever have is a sense of absolute unworthiness.

      “I indeed” was this and that;”but He” came, and a marvellous thing happened. Get to the margin where He does everything.

My Utmost for His Highest
Nocturne By Ben Shahn
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Nocturne By Ben Shahn

'Why look at me like that?'
  'Well -- it's your hand on the guitar.'
  'Don't touch it; there is fire in it.'
  'But why doesn't it burn you?'
  'It does, it does; but inside me.'
  'I see no smoke at your nostrils.'
  'But I see green leaves at your lips.'
  'They are the thoughts I would conceal.'
  'You are the music that I compose.'
  'Play me, then, back to myself.'
  'It is too late; your face forbids it.'
  'The arteries of the tall trees--'
  'Are electric, charged with your blood.'
  'But my hand now sleeps in my lap.'
  "Let it remain so, clawed like my own.'

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     The thing about “hanging” (a euphemism for the Roman punishment of crucifixion) is that it was very public. The purpose was not only to kill but also to send a message: “This same fate awaits anyone who crosses us” (pun intended). The victim was left hanging for some time so that no one would miss the point.

     To Rabbi Ammi, in times of religious persecution, there were only two options for the Jew: Defy the oppressors and continue to live publicly and proudly as a Jew, or die, giving one’s life publicly and proudly for “the Sanctification of the Name of God.” There were no other choices.

     The most famous case of Jewish martyrdom is the legend of Rabbi Akiva, who lived about a century before Rabbi Ammi. According to Rabbinic tradition, Akiva defied the Roman decree to cease and desist from publicly teaching Torah; he was also a proud supporter of Shimon bar Kokhba, who led an uprising against Roman rule in 132 C.E. When asked why he continued to live openly as a Jew when it could cost him his life, Akiva responded with a parable:

     Fishermen were out casting their nets for a catch. A fox saw a school of fish frantically swim by. “Why not come here with me on dry land and escape the nets?” the fox asked. The fish replied: “Water is our element. If we leave it, we die. We’ll take our chances with the nets here in the water; the fishermen might catch us, but they might not. Out there, with you, we will surely die.” (Berakhot 61b)

     For Akiva, living by Torah was the Jew’s element; living outside of it was not thinkable. Thus, “either a Jew or hanged” encapsulates Rabbi Akiva’s life—and his death. Akiva’s execution was not by crucifixion, but it is reported that the skin of his body was seen hanging in a public square. He went to his death reciting the Sh’ma, both as a proud declaration of his faith and a public defiance of his killers. Since his time, many have followed his example, dying with the Sh’ma on their lips.

     Rabbi Ammi’s words aside, there was, of course, a third possibility in times of persecution: renouncing one’s religion and embracing the faith of the oppressor. The most famous case of apostasy in Jewish history occurred in the seventeenth century. It was a period of great messianic speculation. After the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, word swept the Jewish world that the long-awaited Messiah had finally appeared to bring about the final redemption. A Turkish Jew named Shabbetai Zevi was hailed as and proclaimed the “Anointed One.” Jews throughout the world prepared for the “end of days.” Shabbetai Zevi traveled to the sultan to make his demand that the land of Israel be turned over to the Jewish people. Instead, the Turkish ruler offered a choice: Convert or die. Shabbetai Zevi donned a turban, took the name Mehemet Effendi, and became a Muslim.

     We have to admire those Jews who, when faced with terrible choices, opted proudly and publicly to be Jewish. We have to be thankful that we don’t have to make such choices. And we have to ask ourselves if we are as proudly and publicly devoted to Judaism today, when “hanging” is not the only other option.

     ANOTHER D’RASH / In the context of the story in Exodus, “stiffnecked” is a negative characteristic. When God tells Moses “I see that this is a stiffnecked people,” there is certainly no compliment intended. Yet, Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa takes a negative and turns it into a positive. The Jews are “stiffnecked,” and this is now praise! Rabbi Yitzḥak reframes a criticism as a compliment.

     Perhaps we too can do that with the people we meet:

•     The young woman whom everyone criticizes as “timid” can actually be seen as deliberate and pensive. In a world where talk is cheap and where people often speak before they think, her reticence may work to her advantage. When she finally speaks, though her words are few, they are well thought out and measured.

•     The man who is “aggressive” can be seen as passionate for his cause. That he advocates on behalf of what he believes in and pushes his agenda is a reminder of just how seriously he takes his cause.

•     The couple that is called “spendthrift,” hoarding their wealth, may actually be quite generous if we see the broad picture. Rather than squandering their fortune, they mete it out slowly and thoughtfully. In this way, their altruism will last longer, and the impact of their generosity will be even greater.

     Not every cloud has a silver lining. Still, we would get along better with people, and would find this world a much brighter and uplifting place, if we reframed negatives as positives. By seeing “stiffnecked” as a compliment, Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa has shown us a way of bettering both the world around us and ourselves.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     August 22

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

     If Christ can satisfy all the desires, suit all the conditions, and answer all the objections of sinners, then he must have everything, [and] so it is.
The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9)

     He can satisfy all desires of sinners, for everything desirable is in him. Is wisdom desirable? In him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”
Col. 2:3). “Wisdom has built her house” (Prov. 9:1); it is in the plural, wisdoms. Christ is a compound of wisdom.

     There is no condition you can be in but he has a promise suited to it, so that in Christ there is what suits all cases, for the promises are the veins where the blood and fullness of Christ run.

     Are you wandering? Christ says, I am the way. Are you in darkness? Christ says, I am the light of the world. Are you guilty? Christ is the Lord our righteousness. Are you polluted? Christ says he is the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. Are you dejected? Christ will send the Comforter. Do you need direction? Christ is the wonderful Counselor, and he says, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known” (
Isa. 42:16).

     Christ can answer all objections. If anyone says, “Alas! I am lost,” then Christ says, “I came to seek and to save what was lost.” Says another, “I am a great sinner.” Well, Christ says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”
Matt. 9:13). Cries another, “I cannot turn from sin.” It is Christ’s work to turn you “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

     “But I have no might or ability to go to Christ.” It is answered, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isa. 40:29). He is the author of faith. “Oh! but I have sinned to the uttermost.” Why, then, he tells you he is able to save to the uttermost. “Alas! I am wayward.” It is answered, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely” (Hos. 14:4).

     Whatever the objection is, he can answer it; whatever the case is, he can remedy it; whatever the desire is, he can satisfy it. Why, then, everything must be in his hands, and no wonder, for all the treasures of divine plenty and fullness are in his hands.
--- Ralph Erskine

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Twenty-Three Days  August 22

     He was a has-been, a fossil, a relic, an old fogey … but as a child, George Frideric Handel had accompanied his father to the court of Duke Johann Adolf. Idly wandering into the chapel, the boy found the organ and started improvising, causing Duke Adolf to exclaim, “Who is this remarkable child?”

     This “remarkable child” soon began composing operas, first in Italy, then in London. By his 20s he was the talk of England and the best paid composer on earth. He opened the Royal Academy of Music. Londoners fought for seats at his every performance, and his fame soared around the world.

     But the glory passed. Audiences dwindled. His music became outdated. The academy went bankrupt, and newer artists eclipsed the aging composer. One project after another failed, and Handel grew depressed. The stress brought on a case of palsy that crippled some of his fingers. “Handel’s great days are over,” wrote Frederick the Great, “his inspiration is exhausted.”

     Yet his troubles also matured him, softening his sharp tongue. His temper mellowed, and his music became more heartfelt. One Morning Handel received by post a script from Charles Jennens. It was a word-for-word collection of various biblical texts about Christ. The opening words from Isaiah 40 moved Handel: Comfort ye my people. …

     On August 22, 1741 he shut the door of his London home and started composing music for the words. Twenty-three days later, the world had Messiah. “Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not,” Handel later said, trying to describe the experience. Messiah opened in London to enormous crowds on March 23, 1743. Handel led from his harpsichord, and King George II, who was present that night, surprised everyone by leaping to his feet during the Hallelujah Chorus. No one knows why. Some believe the king, being hard of hearing, thought it the national anthem. No matter—from that day audiences everywhere have stood in reverence during the stirring words: Hallelujah! For He shall reign forever and ever.

     Then I heard what seemed to be a large crowd. … They were saying, “Praise the Lord! Our Lord God All-Powerful now rules as king. So we will be glad and happy and give him praise.”
--- Revelation 19:6,7a.

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

          Morning - August 22

     “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.”
--- Song of Solomon 5:8.

     Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigour, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveller in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us; and, therefore, if we are not consciously one with him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.” This earnest longing after Jesus has a blessing attending it: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness”; and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One. Blessed is that hunger, since it comes from God: if I may not have the full-blown blessedness of being filled, I would seek the same blessedness in its sweet bud-pining in emptiness and eagerness till I am filled with Christ. If I may not feed on Jesus, it shall be next door to heaven to hunger and thirst after him. There is a hallowedness about that hunger, since it sparkles among the beatitudes of our Lord. But the blessing involves a promise. Such hungry ones “shall be filled” with what they are desiring. If Christ thus causes us to long after himself, he will certainly satisfy those longings; and when he does come to us, as come he will, oh, how sweet it will be!

          Evening - August 22

     “The unsearchable riches of Christ.” --- Ephesians 3:8.

     My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are unsearchable! You may look, and study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Saviour than you think him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you to sin, more able to forgive than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on his head, you will only crown him with silver when he deserves gold. My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now. He can make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside still waters. There is no music like the music of his pipe, when he is the Shepherd and you are the sheep, and you lie down at his feet. There is no love like his, neither earth nor heaven can match it. To know Christ and to be found in him—oh! this is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees well refined. My Master does not treat his servants churlishly; he gives to them as a king giveth to a king; he gives them two heavens—a heaven below in serving him here, and a heaven above in delighting in him for ever. His unsearchable riches will be best known in eternity. He will give you on the way to heaven all you need; your place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks, your bread shall be given you, and your waters shall be sure; but it is there, THERE, where you shall hear the song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast, and shall have a face-to-face view of the glorious and beloved One. The unsearchable riches of Christ! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven. Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell out the good news to others.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 22


     James Nicholson, c. 1828–1876

     Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

     God’s people have been placed in their particular circle of influence so they can demonstrate purity and a concern for righteousness. If we do not fulfill this role, who will? It is easy, however, to become so accustomed and hardened to the lust and sin all about us that we lose that fine edge of our Christian witness. In fact, without God’s daily cleansing and renewal, we are easily infiltrated with and influenced by the very lifestyle that we reject in others.

     Unconfessed sin becomes a destructive poison in our lives, not only spiritually but also emotionally and physically. Repentance and confession are always the starting points for a restored fellowship with God. Like the psalmist David did in his prayer in Psalm 51, we all need to experience God’s cleansing and forgiveness. Only then will we be effective for God in helping others and directing sinners to Him
(Psalm 51:13).

     This is another fine hymn text written by a Christian layman. James Nicholson spent his entire life as a clerk in the post office in Philadelphia, yet he was always active in the work of the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The hymn was first published in a pamphlet titled “Joyful Songs” in 1872. The hymn’s popularity greatly increased with its inclusion in the well-known Gospel Hymns series published by Sankey and Bliss. It has since provided a musical prayer that needs to be expressed by every Christian on a daily basis:

     Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole; I want thee forever to live in my soul, break down ev’ry idol, cast out ev’ry foe—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies and help me to make a complete sacrifice. I give up myself and whatever I know—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat; I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet. By faith, for my cleansing I see Thy blood flow—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait; come now and within me a new heart create. To those who have sought Thee Thou never saidst “No”—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Refrain: Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

     For Today: Psalm 32:3; Isaiah 1:18; Romans 3:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 6:11

     Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of sin. Confess it to God and claim His forgiving grace. Pray this prayer with the hymnwriter ---

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


     Thirdly, Man would make himself the end of all creatures. Man would sit in the seat of God, and set his heart as the heart of God, as the Lord saith of Tyrus (Ezek. 28:2). What is the consequence of this, but to be esteemed the chief good and end of other creatures? a thing that the heart of God cannot but be set upon, it being an inseparable right of the Deity, who must deny himself if he deny this affection of the heart. Since it is the nature of man, derived from his root, to desire to be equal with God, it follows that he desires no creature should be equal with him, but subservient to his ends and his glory. He that would make himself God, would have the honor proper to God. He that thinks himself worthy of his own supreme affection, thinks himself worthy to be the object of the supreme affection of others. Whosoever counts himself the chiefest good and last end, would have the same place in the thoughts of others.

     Nothing is more natural to man than a desire to have his own judgment the rule and measure of the judgments and opinions of the rest of mankind.   ... and such it is today, over 300 years later. He that sets himself in the place of the prince, doth, by that act, challenge all the prerogatives and dues belonging to the prince; and apprehending himself fit to be a king, apprehends himself also worthy of the homage and fealty of the subjects. He that loves himself chiefly, and all other things and persons for himself, would make himself the end of all creatures. It hath not been once or twice only in the world that some vain princes have assumed to themselves the title of gods, and caused divine adorations to be given to them, and altars to smoke with sacrifices for their honor. What hath been practised by one, is by nature seminally in all; we would have all pay an obedience to us, and give to us the esteem that is due to God. This is evident,

     1. In pride. When we entertain a high opinion of ourselves, and act for our own reputes, we dispossess God from our own hearts; and while we would have our fame to be in every man’s mouth, and be admired in the hearts of men, we would chase God out of the hearts of others, and deny his glory a residence anywhere else, that our glory should reside more in their minds than the glory of God; that their thoughts should be filled with our achievements, more than the works and excellency of God, with our image, and not with the divine. Pride would paramount God in the affections of others, and justle God out of their souls; and by the same reason that man doth thus in the place where he lives, he would do so in the whole world, and press the whole creation from the service of their true Lord, to his own service. Every proud man would be counted by others as he counts himself, the highest, chiefest piece of goodness, and be adored by others, as much as he adores and admires himself. No proud man, in his self-love, and self admiration, thinks himself in an error; and if he be worthy of his own admiration, he thinks himself worthy of the highest esteem of others, that they should value him above themselves, and value themselves only for him. What did Nebuchadnezzar intend by setting up a golden image, and commanding all his subjects to worship it, upon the highest penalty he could inflict, but that all should aim only at the pleasing his humor?

     2. In using the creatures contrary to the end God has appointed. God created the world and all things in it, as steps whereby men might ascend to a prospect of him, and the acknowledgment of his glory; and we would use them to dishonor God, and gratify ourselves: he appointed them to supply our necessities, and support our rational delights, and we use them to cherish our sinful lusts. We wring groans from the creature in diverting them from their true scope to one of our own fixing, when we use them not in his service, but purely for our own, and turn those things he created for himself, to be instruments of rebellion against him to serve our turns, and hereby endeavor to defeat the ends of God in them, to establish our own ends by them: this is a high dishonor to God, a sacrilegious undermining of his glory, to reduce what God hath made to serve our own glory and our own pleasure; it perverts the whole order of the world, and directs it to another end than what God hath constituted,. to another intention contrary to the intention of God; and thus man makes himself a God by his own authority. As all things were made by God, so they are for God; but while we aspire to the end of the creation, we deny and envy God the honor of being Creator; we cannot make ourselves the chief end of the creatures against God’s order, but we imply thereby that we were their first principle; for if we lived under a sense of the Creator of them while we enjoy there for our use, we should return the glory to the right owner. This is diabolical; though the devil, for his first affecting an authority in heaven, has been hurled down from the state of an angel of light into that of darkness, vileness, and misery, to be the most accursed creature living, yet he still aspires to mate God, contrary to the knowledge of the impossibility of success in it. Neither the terrors he feels, nor the future torments he doth expect, do a jot abate his ambition to be competitor with his Creator; how often hath he, since his first sin, arrogated to himself the honor of a God from the blind world, and attempted to make the Son of God, by a particular worship, count him as the “chiefest good and benefactor of the world!” Since all men by nature are the devil’s children, the serpent’s seed, they have something of this venom in their natures, as well as others of his qualities. We see that there may be, and is a prodigious atheism, lurking under the belief of a God; the devil knows there is a God, but acts like an atheist; and so do his children.

     Fourthly, Man would make himself the end of God. This necessarily follows upon the former; whosoever makes himself his own law and his own end in the place of God, would make God the subject in making himself the sovereign; he that steps into the throne of a prince, sets the prince at his footstool; and while he assumes the prince’s prerogative, demands a subjection from him. The order of the creation has been inverted by the entrance of sin. God implanted an affection in man with a double aspect, the one to pitch upon God, the other to respect ourselves; but with this proviso, that our affection to God should be infinite, in regard of the object, and centre in him as the chiefest happiness and highest end. Our affections to ourselves should be finite, and refer ultimately to God as the original of our being; but sin hath turned man’s affections wholly to himself, whereas he should love God first, and himself in order to God; he now loves himself first, and God in order to himself; love to God is lost, and love to self hath usurped the throne. As God by “creation put all things under the feet of man,” reserving the heart for himself, man by corruption hath dispossessed God of his heart, and put him under his own feet. We often intend ourselves when we pretend the honor of God, and make God and religion a stale to some designs we have in hand; our Creator a tool for our own ends. This is evident,

     1. In our loving God, because of some self-pleasing benefits distributed by him. There is in men a kind of natural love to God, but it is but a secondary one, because God gives them the good things of this world, spreads their table, fills their cup, stuffs their coffers, and doth them some good turns by unexpected providences; this is not an affection to God for the unbounded excellency of his own nature, but for his beneficence, as he opens his hand for them; an affection to themselves, and those creatures, their gold, their honor, which their hearts are most fixed upon, without a strong spiritual inclination that God should be glorified by them in the use of those mercies. It is rather a disowning of God, than any love to him, because it postpones God to those things they love him for; this would appear to be no love, if God should cease to be their benefactor, and deal with them as a judge; if he should change his outward smiles into afflicting frowns, and not only shut his hand, but strip them of what he sent them. The motive of their love being expired, the affection raised by it must cease for want of fuel to feed it; so that God is beholden to sordid creatures of no value (but as they are his creatures) for most of the love the sons of men pretend to him. The devil spake truth of most men, though not of Job, when he said (Job 1:9): “They love not God for naught;” but while he makes a hedge about them and their families, whilst he blesseth the works of their hands, and increaseth their honor in the land. It is like Peter’s sharp reproof of his Master, when he spake of the ill-usage, even to death, he was to meet with at Jerusalem: “This shall not be unto thee.” It was as much out of love to himself, as zeal for his Master’s interest, knowing his Master could not. be in such a storm without some drops lighting upon himself. All the apostasies of men in the world are witnesses to this; they fawn whilst they may have a prosperous profession, but will not bear one chip of the cross for the interest of God; they would partake of his blessings, but not endure the prick of a lance for him, as those, that admired the miracles of our Saviour, and shrunk at his sufferings. A time of trial discovers these mercenary souls to be more lovers of themselves than their Maker. This is a pretended love of friendship to God, but a real love to a lust, only to gain by God. A good man’s temper is contrary: “Quench hell, burn heaven,” said a holy man, “I will love and fear my God.”

     2. It is evident, in abstinence from some sins, not because they offend God, but because they are against the interest of some other beloved corruption, or a bar to something men hunt after in the world. When temperance is cherished not to honor God, but preserve a crazy carcase; prodigality forsaken, out of a humor of avarice; uncleanness forsaken, not out of a hatred of lust, but love to their money; declining a denial of the interest and truth of God, not out of affection to them, but an ambitious zeal for their own reputation. There is a kind of conversion from sin, when God is not made the term of it (Jer. 4:1): “If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto me, saith the Lord.” When we forbear sin as dogs do the meat they love: they forbear not out of a hatred of the carrion, but fear of the cudgel; these are as wicked in their abstaining from sin, as others are in their furious committing it. Nothing of the honor of God and the end of his appointments is indeed in all this, but the conveniences self gathers from them. Again, many of the motives the generality of the world uses to their friends and relations to draw them from vices, are drawn from self, and used to prop up natural or sinful self in them. Come, reform yourself, take other courses, you will smut your reputation and be despicable; you will destroy your estate, and commence a beggar; your family will be undone, and you may rot in a prison: not laying close to them the duty they owe to God, the dishonor which accrues to him by their unworthy courses, and the ingratitude to the God of their mercies; not that the other motives are to be laid aside and slighted. Mint and cummin may be tithed, but the weightier concerns are not to be omitted; but this shows that self is the bias, not only of men in their own course, but in their dealings with others; what should be subordinate to the honor of God, and the duty we owe to him, is made superior.

     3. It is evident, in performing duties merely for a selfish interest: making ourselves the end of religious actions, paying a homage to that, while we pretend to render it to God (Zech. 7:5): “Did you at all fast unto me, even unto me?” Things ordained by God may fall in with carnal ends affected by ourselves; and then religion is not kept up by any interest of God in the conscience, but the interest of self in the heart: we then sanctify not the name of God in the duty, but gratify ourselves: God may be the object, self is the end; and a heavenly object is made subservient to a carnal design. Hypocrisy passes a compliment on God, and is called flattery (Psalm 78:36): They did flatter him with their lips,” They gave him a parcel of good words for their own preservation. Flattery, in the old notion among the heathens, is a vice more peculiar to serve our own turn and purvey for the belly: they knew they could not subsist without God, and therefore gave him a parcel of good words, that he might spare them, and make provision for them. Israel is an empty vine, a vine, say some, with large branches and few clusters, but bring forth fruit to himself: while they professed love to God with their lips, it was that God should promote their covetous designs, and preserve their wealth and grandeur; in which respect a hypocrite may be well termed a religious atheist, an atheist masked with religion. The chief arguments which prevail with many men to perform some duties and appear religious, are the same that Hamor and Shechem used to the people of their city to submit to circumcision, viz. the engrossing of more wealth (Gen. 34:21, 22): “If every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle and their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours?” This is seen, (continues tomorrow)

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect. CXXV. — BUT the Diatribe returns to harping upon its old string — ‘that in the book of Proverbs, many things are said in confirmation of “Free-will”: as this, “Commit thy works unto the Lord.” Do you hear this (says the Diatribe,) thy works?’ —

     Many things in confirmation! What because there are, in that book, many imperative and conditional verbs, and pronouns of the second person! For it is upon these foundations that you build your proof of the Freedom of the Will. Thus, “Commit” — therefore thou canst commit thy works: therefore thou doest them. So also this passage, “I am thy God,” (Isa. xli. 10), you will understand thus: — that is, Thou makest Me thy God. “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke vii. 50): do you hear this word “thy?” therefore, expound it thus: Thou makest thy faith: and then you have proved “Freewill.” Nor am I here merely game-making; but I am shewing the Diatribe, that there is nothing serious on its side of the subject.

     This passage also in the same chapter, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. xvi. 4), it modifies by its own words, and excuses God as having never created a creature evil.’ —

     As though I had spoken concerning the creation, and not rather concerning that continual operation of God upon the things created; in which operation, God acts upon the wicked; as we have before shewn in the case of Pharaoh. But He creates the wicked, not by creating wickedness or a wicked creature; (which is impossible) but, from the operation of God, a wicked man is made, or created, from a corrupt seed; not from the fault of the Maker, but from that of the material.

     Nor does that of “The heart of the king is in the Lord’s hand: He inclineth it whithersoever He will,” (Prov. xxi. 1), seem to the Diatribe to imply force. — “He who inclines (it observes) does not immediately compel.” —

     As though we were speaking of compulsion, and not rather concerning the necessity of Immutability. And that is implied in the inclining of God: which inclining, is not so snoring and lazy a thing, as the Diatribe imagines, but is that most active operation of God, which a man cannot avoid or alter, but under which he has, of necessity, such a will as God has given him, and such as he carries along by his motion: as I have before shewn.

     Moreover, where Solomon is speaking of “the king’s heart,” the Diatribe thinks — ‘that the passage cannot rightly be strained to apply in a general sense: but that the meaning is the same as that of Job, where he says, in another place, “He maketh the hypocrite to reign, because of the sins of the people.”’ At last, however, it concedes, that the king is inclined unto evil by God: but so, ‘that He permits the king to be carried away by his inclination, in order to chastise the people.’ —

     I answer: Whether God permit, or whether He incline, that permitting or inclining does not take place without the will and operation of God: because, the will of the king cannot avoid the action of the omnipotent God: seeing that, the will of all is carried along just as He wills and acts, whether that will be good or evil.

     And as to my having made out of the particular will of the king, a general application; I did it, I presume, neither vainly nor unskillfully. For if the heart of the king, which seems to be of all the most free, and to rule over others, cannot will good but where God inclines it, how much less can any other among men will good! And this conclusion will stand valid, drawn, not from the will of the king only, but from that of any other man. For if any one man, how private soever he be, cannot will before God but where God inclines, the same must be said of all men. Thus in the instance of Balaam, his not being able to speak what he wished, is an evident argument from the Scriptures, that man is not in his own power, nor a free chooser and doer of what he does: were it not so, no examples of it could subsist in the Scriptures.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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