Jeremiah Cast into the CisternJeremiah 38 1 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people: 2 “Thus says the LORD: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. 3 Thus says the LORD: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” 4 Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” 5 King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.” 6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.
Jeremiah Rescued from the Cistern7 When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— 8 Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king, 9 “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” 10 Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. 12 Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. 13 Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.
Jeremiah Warns Zedekiah Again14 King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the LORD. The king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.” 16 Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the LORD lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the LORD in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is the vision which the LORD has shown to me: 22 Behold, all the women left in the house of the king of Judah were being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and were saying,
“ ‘Your trusted friends have deceived you
and prevailed against you;
now that your feet are sunk in the mud,
they turn away from you.’
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die. 25 If the officials hear that I have spoken with you and come to you and say to you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; hide nothing from us and we will not put you to death,’ 26 then you shall say to them, ‘I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.’ ” 27 Then all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him, and he answered them as the king had instructed him. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been overheard. 28 And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.
The Fall of JerusalemJeremiah 39 1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sar-ezer of Samgar, Nebu-sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. 6 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. 8 The Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. 10 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.
The LORD Delivers Jeremiah11 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 12 “Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he lived among the people.
15 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: 16 “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. 17 But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.’ ”
Jeremiah Remains in JudahJeremiah 40 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in chains along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The LORD your God pronounced this disaster against this place. 3 The LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you. 4 Now, behold, I release you today from the chains on your hands. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well, but if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, do not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5 If you remain, then return to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah, and lived with him among the people who were left in the land.
7 When all the captains of the forces in the open country and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan the son of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. 9 Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to represent you before the Chaldeans who will come to us. But as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.
13 Now Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and said to him, “Do you know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah at Mizpah, “Please let me go and strike down Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he take your life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered about you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” 16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, “You shall not do this thing, for you are speaking falsely of Ishmael.”
Gedaliah MurderedJeremiah 41 1 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.
4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.
9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king's daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.
11 But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
What I'm Reading
How (and Where) Did Judas Really Die?
By J. Warner Wallace 2/9/2015
I’ve been writing intermittently about some of the alleged Gospel contradictions skeptics cite when arguing against the reliability of the New Testament. When two or more eyewitness accounts appear to disagree, we’ve either encountered an error on the part of one of the witnesses, are somehow misreading (or misinterpreting) the accounts, or have insufficient information to reconcile the descriptions. The death of Judas, as recorded in two places in the New Testament, appears to present us with a contradiction:
Matthew 27:3-10 | Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”
Acts 1:15-20 | At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’”
These accounts seem to differ in two important ways. How was the “blood money” spent? Did Judas use it to purchase a piece of property or did the chief priests use it to purchase the Potter’s Field? This first alleged contradiction seems rather simple to reconcile if we are willing to layer the two accounts (this is often necessary when examining two descriptions in my cold-case investigations, especially when I no longer have access to the original witnesses). Judas threw the money into the temple and departed. The chief priests retrieved the coins and decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. Luke’s description of the purchase does not appear to be a direct quote from Peter linking Judas to the purchase, but is instead a tangential description intended for those who were not familiar with the details of the field or Judas’ death. Luke simply wanted us to know the acquisition of the field was made possible by the money Judas provided.
But what about the manner of Judas’ death? Did he stumble to his death on that field or go off somewhere and hang himself? This aspect of the accounts can be reconciled if you know something about human anatomy and post-mortem bloating. Let me explain. The descriptions from Matthew and Luke are consistent with one another if Judas later “went away and hanged himself” in the very field purchased with the “blood money” he received from betraying Jesus. This location makes sense, given it was a permanent, public reminder of Judas’ action against Jesus. If he felt remorseful enough about his betrayal to kill himself, it is likely he might commit suicide in the one place demarking his betrayal. The “Potter’s Field” is exactly where I would expect Judas to hang himself.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
How I Started Reading the Bible Every Day: Encouragement for Parents & Children
By Don Whitney 6/8/2017
I literally don’t remember not reading the Bible every day. Here’s how it happened.
I’m told I started reading fairly early, reading Dick and Jane books sometime before my fifth birthday. But while I remember reading the books, I have no recollection of starting to read them.
I do remember learning words and phrases by watching TV commercials that consisted of nothing more than an announcer reading exactly what was on the black-and-white screen. In particular I recall a long-running commercial for a Memphis-area car dealer. It was just black words on a white background, like broadcasting a 60-second video of a poster, advertising a Volkswagen Beetle. Eventually I realized that the voice-over corresponded exactly to what I was seeing, and I learned to read along. On small-market stations—such as the four channels we could receive from Memphis television in the late 1950s—local advertising was a very low-budget enterprise.
So by sometime early in elementary school—though I don’t remember exactly when—I was able to start reading the narrative passages of Scripture.
The Influence of the Home | I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the greatest blessings in my life was not just learning to read at an early age, but being trained at that age to read the Bible every day. My dad modeled daily Bible reading, and lovingly encouraged me in the practice. My mother made sure I had adequate lighting above my bed, the place where I did most of my childhood reading.
Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.
Don grew up in Osceola, Arkansas where he came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was active in sports throughout high school and college, and worked in the radio station his dad managed.
After graduating from Arkansas State University, Don planned to finish law school and pursue a career in sportscasting. While at the University of Arkansas School of Law, he sensed God’s call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1979. In 1987, Don completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and later a Ph.D. in theology at the University of the Free State in South Africa.
Prior to his ministry as a seminary professor, Don was pastor of Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), for almost fifteen years. Altogether, he has served local churches in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years.
He is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 1991; 2014), which has a companion discussion guide. He has also written How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)? (NavPress, 1994), Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ (Moody Press, 1996), Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (NavPress, 2001), Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed (NavPress, 2003), Praying the Bible (Crossway 2015), and Family Worship (2006; and Crossway 2016). His hobby is restoring and using old fountain pens.
Don lives with his wife Caffy in their home near Louisville. She regularly teaches a class for seminary wives, and works from their home as an artist, muralist, and illustrator. The Whitneys have a married daughter, Laurelen, and a grandson.
Don’s website address is www.BiblicalSpirituality.org.
He is on Twitter @DonWhitney and on Facebook as Don Whitney (look for the “Public Figure” page).
How Evolutionary Virologist & Molecular Biologist, Karma Carrier, Converted to Christianity
By James Bishop 6/8/2017
By James Bishop| Karma James Carrier, a former atheist, has a PhD in molecular biology and currently works in the biotech industry at Meso Scale Discovery that specializes in Biomarker detection and translational research. Some few years ago he studied and graduated in genetics and molecular virology at the University of British Columbia.
Karma also runs GC Science (GC stands for Grace Chapel) on Facebook and regularly dialogues about how science points towards God’s existence rather than from it. What’s even more Karma has his black belt in karate. More information can be accessed on the Grace Chapel website, and although Karma kindly provided me with his personal written testimony readers can also engage his video testimonial on YouTube.
People have asked Karma where he got his name. Comically he recalls that he received it after being “born to hippy parents.” Karma was an “honest to goodness hippy love child” whose mother was a Christian though in a“New Age-hippy sort of way.” She loved doing creative work in painting and making soap. On the other hand, however, his “father was not very spiritual and was closer to being agnostic.”
Karma’s passion for science and especially evolutionary science began when he was just a child and in this way he certainly differed from most other children his age, “when I was in grade four all the kids in my class had to write about a place that they would like to visit. Most kids, chose places like Disneyworld, or Hawaii.
I wrote that I wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands, which was the place where Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution… it was clear that I had a strong interest in science. Science in general and evolution in particular was very exciting to me. I tried to learn as much about science as I could.”
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Eerily Accurate 1968 Prophecy From A 90-Year-Old Woman In Norway Is Being Fulfilled Right Before Our Eyes
By Michael Snyder 5/1/2017
In 1968, a 90-year-old woman in Norway was given an incredible glimpse into the future. She was shown what life would be like just before World War 3 and the return of Jesus Christ, and what she saw is eerily similar to current conditions in our world today. When evangelist Emanuel Minos held meetings in the town of Valdres, Norway where she lived, this precious elderly lady shared what the Lord had shown to her with him. Minos wrote down what he was told, and it got put away in a drawer for 30 years. But after many of the things that she saw started to come to pass, Minos remembered the vision and decided to share it with the world.
One of the reasons why I wanted to share this vision now is because it has so many parallels to other visions that I have been sharing recently. You can read her entire vision here, but in this article, I just wanted to highlight a few portions of it. One of the things that this 90-year-old woman was shown was that there would be a "lukewarmness without parallel" before Jesus comes back and that "Christians will not be open for penetrating preaching":
A lukewarmness without parallel will take hold of the Christians, a falling away from true, living Christianity. Christians will not be open for penetrating preaching. They will not, like in earlier times, want to hear of sin and grace, law and gospel, repentance and restoration. There will come a substitute instead: prosperity (happiness) Christianity. The important thing will be to have success, to be something; to have material things, things that God never promised us in this way. Churches and prayer houses will be emptier and emptier. Instead of the preaching we have been used to for generations —like, to take your cross up and follow Jesus—entertainment, art and culture will invade the churches where there should have been gatherings for repentance and revival. This will increase markedly just before the return of Jesus.
This prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes.
There is a reason why you very rarely hear words such as "sin" and "repentance" in the Christian world today. In fact, for many ministries those have become extremely dirty words. It seems like everyone wants to have "happy church", and so the conviction of the Holy Spirit is suppressed as much as possible.
Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho's First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled "Living A Life That Really Matters" is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.
What John Really Meant: The Gospel of the New Temple
By N.T. Wright
John’s opening line must be one of the most famous initial sentences in all literature, ranking with Shakespeare’s ‘If music be the food of love, play on’, or even Melville’s dark and haunting ‘Call me Ishmael.’ And it is obvious, even at first glance, why John’s simple opening is so profound:
It echoes the first line of Genesis.
John’s opening move is, of course, bold. It borders (one might think) on blasphemy. Are you really sitting down to write a new Genesis?
‘Yes!’ replies John, ‘because that is the truth to which I am bearing witness. I am telling a story about something that has happened in which heaven and earth have come together in a whole new way, about the long and dark fulfillment of the creator’s purposes for his creation.’
‘And,’ John might continue, ‘since I am writing in the tradition of the Hebrew Bible, it won’t surprise you that I am telling this story of creation and new creation in terms of the fulfillment of the divine purpose in, for, and through Israel.’
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According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright. Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[N.T. Wright Books:
How Do We Cultivate The Art Of Listening Well
By Sean McDowell 8/14/2017
Along with asking good questions, cultivating the art of listening well is one of the most important skills for Christians to develop today. And it is especially important for those who want to be effective apologists in our “argumentative” culture. Here are three brief reasons why:
First, the Bible consistently mentions the wisdom in listening. For instance, James 1:19 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” As a culture, we are easily angered and quick to speak. How many of us are truly quick to listen?
Second, many in our culture increasingly consider Christians bigoted, hateful, and intolerant. One way to counter this, and also to develop a compassionate heart for others, is to genuinely listen to other people and their perspectives.
Third, Americans are spending an enormous amount of time on screens, which can contribute to loneliness and fragmented relationships. There is a genuine hunger to know and be known that cannot be filled by technology alone. Truly listening to people can help bring healing into many people’s lives.
So, how does one develop the art of listening well? Here are four tips I have learned from personal experience as well as through my undergrad Communication Studies program at Biola University:
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Is America Worth Saving?
By Larry Alex Taunton 8/14/2017
As President, Barack Obama had what Politico called "an apology complex," viewing America, it seems, as a nation with a criminal history and himself as the instrument of retribution. During his two terms in office, America-bashing — which had gone out of style with the end of the Vietnam War and hinted of treason after 9/11 (ask the Dixie Chicks) — was suddenly fashionable again. Of course, it never really ceased to exist, it just went underground.
But no longer.
America-bashing is now all the rage. Making its first bold modern-day appearance under President Obama, it has become a cause célèbre with the election of President Trump. Indeed, a hatred for Donald Trump and the "deplorables" he represents is what fuels it. Trump's White House has become the flashpoint in a winner-take-all contest featuring two very different visions for America.
One group sees America's wealth, power, and influence as an accident of history. For them, the idea of "American Exceptionalism" is not only dead, it is offensive. These people never tire of lecturing us about how out-of-step America is with the rest of the world and how she needs to get with it. America, they say, is bad for the world. Moreover, where America is exceptional — a deep suspicion of socialism and environmentalism; strongly Christian in a post-Christian world; and alone patriotic among Western nations swept up in a globalist dream — is where America is at her worst and must change.
Others want to preserve America's uniqueness, her exceptionalism, which is anchored in a Judeo-Christian heritage that has given rise to her laws, art, literature, culture and place in the world as a refuge from just the types of governments the Left idealizes. Proponents of this vision would readily acknowledge that America's global influence has, at times, been evil, but this is, they would argue, the result of an agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with the principles upon which America was founded. On the contrary, that agenda — championed by the Left and epitomized by America's bullying of Third World countries to adopt permissive abortion and LGBT policies — is at odds with those principles. Trump's rallying cry — "Make America Great Again" — embodies this group's fear that America is rapidly becoming something not-so-great and that it must be saved.
Who is Larry Alex Taunton?
Herod And His Servants
By Lydia McGrew
When Herod heard of Jesus and his miracles, the Gospels report that he was rather disconcerted and even worried that John the Baptist might have returned from death. Herod had had John the Baptist executed and may have had a guilty conscience about it.
(Mt 14:1–2) 14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” ESV
Matthew’s account of Herod’s perplexity contains a unique detail— that Herod was musing about Jesus’ identity to his servants. In other respects, these verses resemble Mark 6.16, but that verse does not state that Herod was speaking to his servants. 7 Why does Matthew specify that Herod spoke about this to his servants? Even more to the point, how could Matthew know, in the usual course of events, what Herod was saying to his servants?
(Mk 6:16) 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” ESV
The answer is found in an otherwise unrelated passage in the Gospel of Luke.
(Lk 8:1–3) 8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. ESV
This passage is not in any way about Herod or about his comments concerning Jesus. Luke is merely listing those who accompanied Jesus at this point in his ministry. Among these he mentions Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager.
In other words, Luke says that a follower of Jesus (or at any rate the husband of a devout follower of Jesus) was found among the important servants of Herod’s household. It was therefore quite natural that information about Herod’s doings and about his reaction to the stories of Jesus should come back to the community of Jesus’ followers and make it into Matthew’s Gospel. If Herod knew that one of his servants was connected to Jesus through his wife, it would also make sense that he would be discussing this matter with his servants and giving his own superstitious conclusions about Jesus’ true identity.
The indirectness of this coincidence is particularly lovely. Only one part of the puzzle is found in each Gospel, and the connection cannot possibly be the result of design. It is beyond belief that Luke would have inserted this casual reference to Chuza in a list unconnected in any other way with Herod or with the beheading of John, in order to provide a convenient explanation for the detail about Herod’s servants mentioned only in Matthew. This coincidence provides clear evidence of the independence of Matthew and Luke and confirms them both.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
The Biblical Mind
By Dr. David Wells ( No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? )
... What I have in view as singularly important if we are to begin the recovery of theology in the Church — its sine qua non — is not a particular belief. Nor is it initially any particular method for displaying these biblical materials around certain themes. It is something far more basic than that. It is our capacity to wrench ourselves free from the subjective preoccupation of our modernized culture (the same sort of liberation that converted pagans had to find in the early centuries of Christian life) and to occupy ourselves instead with the objective interests of the biblical. Without such a transformation, particular ways of thinking, or the methods by which they proceed, either fall to the ground and die for want of some receptive soil or they are reduced to being little more than illustrations of our own inner life. I intend, therefore, to sketch out in only the briefest, most elementary way what it is that we have in Scripture — and this only with an eye to seeing what kind of mental habits need to be cultivated if we are to enter into it and make its truth our own.
It goes without saying that the Bible has a narrative with a beginning and an end, a narrative that unfolds within history, the meaning of which God himself supplies. ( God who acts: Biblical theology as recital (Studies in Biblical theology) ) Yet even a description so sparse and basic as this features a number of important elements: (1) the biblical narrative works itself out in history; (2) the meaning of the narrative resides in its events and yet must be supplied by God; and (3) the meaning of the biblical narrative cannot be fully known until it is completed, which is to say that eschatology is indispensable to its meaning. Each of these points has been vigorously disputed, and beneath each lies a nest of controverted issues and problems. It is not possible for me to follow the many lines of discussion they have provoked; I simply want to trace the implications of each out a bit.
Unlike Israel's pagan neighbors, the biblical authors did not view history as terrifying, and unlike modernized Americans, they did not view it as worthless. To the contrary, they viewed it as the very arena of redemption. Their identity as a people rested on three great events in their past that revealed the intent of God for them: the call of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. ( The Acts of God: A Study of the Basis of Typology in the Old Testament ) These events also provided the framework within which Paul made his justification for believing that Christ was God's final, culminating act in redemptive history (Acts 13:16-48).
It is clear that these events were viewed in this way throughout the Testaments. With reference to the first of them, we can begin by noting, for example, that God identifies himself as the God of "Abraham" or "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Gen. 26:24; Exod. 3:6, 15-16; 4:5), thus linking the disclosure of his character and purposes to the history that was inaugurated with the patriarchs. Nor was this linkage a matter of merely passing importance; it was a matter of enduring truth. In his debate with the Sadducees, Jesus pointed to this relationship as evidence of the reality of resurrection. Resurrection was presupposed by the fact that God spoke of himself as still being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37).
God's act of delivering his people at the Exodus was another event lodged forever in Jewish consciousness that exhibited the nature of God's saving purpose in the world. Repeatedly, after this time, the Hebrews are described as those who came up "out of Egypt" (Exod. 3:11; 13:9, 16; Num. 11:20; 22:11; 32:11; Deut. 16:6; Josh. 2:10; 5:6; Judg. 2:1; 1 Sam. 15:6; 1 Chron. 17:21; Hos. 11:1; cf. Matt. 2:15), and it was God's intent in confronting Pharaoh prior to the Exodus to reveal to him his purposes and power (Exod. 7:17; 8:16; 9:14). Only in their darkest moments did those who had been delivered forget to whom they belonged, sometimes even ascribing their freedom to the work of the pagan gods (Exod. 32:4; cf.Judg. 2:1-5; 6:8-10; 10:10-16; Ps. 78:11; Neh. 9:17). Indeed, it would be impossible to understand the later prophetic ministries of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Malachi had the Exodus not occurred, because each saw it as the moment when the nation was born and the time when it had to assume the moral and spiritual responsibilities of being a delivered people. Each of their ministries might be summed up as calling the people of God to be Exodus people. We have here, then, not only the calling into being of Israel as God's people but also the disclosure of God's character and power in the very warp and woof of history. The Exodus was no religious symbol, no product of the religious imagination, and God's deliverance of his people was objectively wrought and not at all dependent for its realization on internal discernment.
It goes without saying that each of the acts of God, while being indisputably historical, also had to have its meaning divinely revealed. No doubt, from an Egyptian point of view, the Exodus, to take one example, was an awesome display of power — power that was not simply natural but also supernatural. The waters through which the Israelites passed had religious significance to the Egyptians, as did the frogs that had plagued the land, and hence the release of the Israelites had no small religious significance. Their God had asserted himself against the gods of the Egyptians. The Egyptians could not know, however, what meaning God attached to this most important of Old Testament events, nor how its significance would be played out prophetically in the life of his people, nor how it prefigured an even greater deliverance to come, nor how it was an exhibition of his greatness, grace, and mercy. That was something only God himself could reveal, and he revealed it over time to the prophets and then later to some of the New Testament authors. What lodged in Israel's mind was both the historical event and its meaning, which had been divinely given. And so when we come to the Psalms, for example, the Exodus inspires praise (Pss. 66; 106; 135), offers comfort in distress (77), teaches about the need for trust (78), gives encouragement to prayer (80), warns about disobedience (81), inspires thanksgiving (105; 136), and is the ground for awe (114). No Egyptian who witnessed the emancipation of the Jews would have stumbled upon such meanings naturally, no matter how sagacious that person was. The saving purposes of God are entirely hidden from all human scrutiny until he chooses to make them known as he did in this event through the Scripture.
It was Barth's desire to protect this truth, especially from the mischief that Liberal biblical scholarship had visited upon it, that led him to disengage God's saving history from the warp and woof of the events in which it was given. This did indeed secure these events from the intrusion of Liberal scholarship, but at some considerable cost, for in the end this robs truth of its objective grounding by removing the defining connections with the history in which it was given. More recently, Wolfhart Pannenberg has attempted to correct this imbalance by asserting the opposite extreme. He contends that God's revelation in history is "open to anyone with eyes to see" and that it can be read with the same "natural knowledge" with which all history is read. He is right enough in asserting that the events of God's salvation history are indeed as discernible as any other events, but he is wrong in asserting that their meaning relative to the unfolding of God's purposes is evident in the events themselves. On that point, Barth was correct: the meaning must be given by God himself.
So it was that the Israelites were called to remember the stream of divine activity by which God called, shaped, owned, and protected his people. Each generation, "your children and to their children after them," was to be taught what God had done (Deut. 4:9; cf. Deut. 3:24; 1 Sam. 12:7; Ps. 103:7; 105:27; 145:4, 6, 12). Each generation was to be taught the meaning of the feasts, the memorials, and the law which drew out the moral significance of God's redemptive work. They were repeatedly counseled to know this history (e.g., Deut. 5:15; 7:18; 15:3; 25:17-19), because it was in this history that they would learn about the God who called them (Ps. 9:11; 66:5; 74:12; 77:11-12; 86:10; 96:3; 103:6; 105:1; 106:2). It was this history out of which the first creeds were distilled (Deut. 6:20-24; 26:5-9; Josh. 24:2-13), and it was never, therefore, simply a bare rendering of the facts. It was a rendering of their meaning, and it was in the conjunction of event and meaning that Israel's theology was forged, a theology that was to be laid to heart.
The Exodus was followed in time by the establishment of the monarchy. This was not a novel idea even within Israel, for shortly after the establishment in Palestine, Gideon was asked to rule over the tribes because of the threat posed by the Midianites (Judg. 8:22), and later, under threat from the Ammonites. Jephthah asked for such a position if he were to assume responsibility for defense. Indeed, the book of Judges ends by offering as an explanation for the persistent social chaos the fact that "in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judg. 21:25). The Hebrews were to learn from bitter experience that kings provided no panaceas. And yet, when they viewed David as God taught them to view him (2 Sam. 15:1-37), they saw a king who came close to the ideal, despite his evident and serious sins. His dynasty, based on the covenant into which he had entered (Ps. 132:11-18). lasted as long as the southern kingdom and provided the historical framework through which God extended his rule beyond Israel's borders — in the end, into the far reaches of the world through Christ, who was seen as sitting upon David's throne. It was thus that the history upon which God's people built their understanding, the meaning of which was given to them by God himself, was projected into the future. Even yet, the full meaning of this history lies beyond the present moment.
Jesus began his ministry by announcing the arrival of this kingdom of God (Mark 1:15), yet it is clear that his understanding opens a new chapter in the history of this idea. Language about God's kingdom is scarce in the Apocrypha, in rabbinic literature, and even in the Dead Sea scrolls, but Jesus used the language in his discourses frequently. And in his teaching it takes on fresh meaning. No longer does it signify a geographical identity; rather, it signifies God's rule. The transition was made from place to people, and with that transition a new missionary mandate was given to the new people of God.
This is why, in Gospel references to the establishment of the kingdom, the initiative is always seen to lie with God: this is no ordinary political realm to be carved out by guile or force of arms. The kingdom is God's to give away. It is his, and in his gift of it. his majesty, grace, and glory are manifested (Luke 12:31; 23:51; Matt. 6:10). It is ours not to create but simply to accept by faith and with gratitude (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32). God builds it; we can never destroy it (Matt. 25:34; Luke 10:11). We can seek it, ask for it, and enter it, but it is his to give, for he has made it.
By the time we reach the Gospels, the reign of God narrows from its broader reaches in the Old Testament, where it is typically described as extending to the whole of creation. In the Gospels, God's kingdom has two foci — salvation and judgment. And the fact that it is Jesus who inaugurates it, thus doing the work that only God can do (God alone saves and judges), is an implicit argument for his divinity that should not be underestimated. It is by God alone that we can be saved from sin, death, and the devil; it is by God alone that we are judged. And the Gospels indicate that Christ undertakes both of these activities by way of establishing his kingdom. He saves and he judges. The first theme, salvation, is more commonly associated with his incarnation, and the second theme, judgment, with his return. It is thus that the promise to David is finally realized, thus that his greater Son comes to sit upon his throne forever. And so, as the gospel of his grace is spread, we immediately find Luke reporting that Cretans and Arabs spoke of "the wonders of God" (Acts 2:11).
In the Old Testament, Israel, by the acts and Word of God, was wrenched free of the pagan habit of thinking of life as endless cyclical repetition rather than movement toward a specific destination. Israel was taught to understand itself as having been caught up in the redemptive and revelational purposes of God, purposes that kept bursting through the seams of its collective national life in unexpected and sometimes unmanageable ways. While, from one angle, God regularized the life of his people, from another he regularly disconcerted them, for a number of his promises could be fulfilled only in a context larger than that of the nation to which he made them. Israel was always called to expand its perspective, to look beyond itself and its present to a future in which Christ would mount David's throne and enact a new Exodus, this time from sin and judgment. The New Testament epistles amply work out the ways in which Christ brought to its final realization the promises made long ago to Abraham.
The Jews had traditionally divided time into two ages — the age before the coming of Messiah, in which sin and death reigned, and the age that would follow his coming, when these scourges would cease. The early Christians were led to see that something far more complex was afoot, and it is one of the genuine gains of New Testament scholarship in the twentieth century that we have built this into the way we understand the apostolic mind at work. ( The Old Testament and the Christian Faith ) Especially in the letters of Paul, but evident throughout the other epistles as well, there appears the understanding that these two ages are running concurrently with each other, the "age to come" now inaugurated and penetrating this "present age." The domain of the Messiah, Christ's kingdom, is thus not an earthly realm, for the beginning of his rule has already begun, but its completion is yet to come. Only with its completion, at the return of Christ, will the biblical promises made to God's people be fully realized. The culmination of Israel's life in the Old Testament is not an earthly future, therefore, but an eternal future — something that is already suggested by the later prophets, who saw the coming of a new Exodus from bondage not to the Egyptians but to sin, death, and the devil.
We have, then, a salvation history, an interpreted narrative of God's acts and redemptive purposes that is as unique as the God in whom it is centered. It was unique in the ancient world, as we have seen, and it is unique in ours. It begins with three main events — the call of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, and the establishment of David's throne. These events form the most important parts of the public framework within which God and his work are understood in the Old Testament; in the New Testament, the incarnation, death, resurrection, and return of Christ bring each of these events to final fruition. It is in Christ that we become Abraham's children, in Christ that we become God's children, in Christ that we become God's subjects. It is because of Christ that Abraham's children become as numerous as the stars above and these children are finally able to enter the Promised Land, which is now cleansed forever of all sin, suffering, and tears, and in which God's rule is so established that it will never again be contested.
The resurrection of Christ, in which this redemptive history from the Old Testament is completed and declared, also challenged every other ancient religious worldview. For, as Pannenberg notes, after the resurrection, the prevailing Greek habit of looking for "religion - in general" was directly challenged by the particularity of the truth claims about Christ." The early Christians did not preach their experience of Christ; that would have been to promote a form of religion like any other form of religion. Rather, they preached the Christ of that experience. They preached not what was internally interesting but what was externally true. God had raised him from the dead, and this was a matter of history, not simply of internal perception. The bells that rang in celebration of God's conquest over sin, death, and the devil also summoned every competing religious view into judgment. This event invalidated every pretension to absoluteness in the ancient world — as it does in the modern world.
The fact that God's truth was transmitted through events external to the individual meant that it was objective, and the fact that it was objective meant, further, that his truth was actual. It was truth for the open market, truth for the nation, truth for other nations. The content of this truth could not be privatized, reduced within private consciousness. Those who were trained by biblical revelation could not follow the path of the pagans, who established faith on their experience of nature and their intuitions regarding human nature. Their faith was grounded solely in the objective and public nature of God's Word. They stood alone among these ancient cultures, their faith distinctive and unique.
Furthermore, inasmuch as the meaning of God's redemptive acts was not discovered by human insight and sagacity but was rather given by God himself, that revelation was authoritative. The Church through the ages has always assumed and respected the authority of Scripture. It was never questioned until the modern period, and it has only become a problem because some have suggested that God did not interpret — perhaps could not interpret — the meaning of his acts or that the record of the acts themselves is awry. Both of these assertions, however, are typically made not on historical grounds but on philosophical grounds. It is not the narrative of God's acts that makes it hard for us to believe in the authority of their meaning; it is the modern world.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 91My Refuge and My Fortress
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2017 To Be Blessed
The blessing of God is not to be taken lightly. But in our day, blessings are thrown around so flippantly and indiscriminately that the word blessing has all but lost its meaning. People speak about feeling blessed and having a blessed day or a blessed life when everything is going well and nothing too severe is bothering them in the moment. We hear blessings after sneezes, at the end of voicemail messages, as hashtags in social media posts, and on bumper stickers.
In these United States, the statement “God bless America” used to be a prayer of humble dependence, but now it is often treated as an arrogant, presumptuous declaration that God will bless us no matter what we do as a nation. God has blessed, and God does bless, and we pray that God will bless, but we must remember that His blessings are serious things, and we are not to treat them frivolously. God takes His blessing seriously, and so should we. God doesn’t bless people flippantly and He doesn’t bless indiscriminately—He blesses His people according to His steadfast covenant love for us. Not everyone is blessed, and God’s blessing shouldn’t simply be assumed. Only those who are in covenant with God are blessed, and only those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ are blessed, for He met the condition by His perfect life and substitutionary atoning death. Only those united to Christ by faith are blessed. As believers, we are blessed in Christ because Christ took the curse of sin for us and suffered the wrath of God for us. If someone is not in Christ, and never trusts Christ, he will prove that he is condemned already. His apparent blessings will ultimately redound to his condemnation.
If we are truly in Christ, we will strive to bear the fruit of Christ. If we believe the gospel, we will strive to walk worthy of the gospel. If we have the Spirit, we will strive to walk in the Spirit. If we love Christ, we will strive to follow and obey Christ. If we love God, we will strive to keep God’s commandments. If we are blessed, we will strive to possess and pursue the characteristics Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes, and as we demonstrate them in this world, we will be persecuted. But if we are self-absorbed, self-centered, hard-hearted, unmerciful, divisive, and arrogant, then we not only aren’t blessed, we aren’t saved. But if the conditions and characteristics of the Beatitudes are true of us, we are blessed. We can have assurance that Jesus is ours and we are His, and that nothing can separate us from the present or eternal condition of being blessed as we live coram Deo, before our Lord’s shining face with the light of His glorious countenance lifted up upon us
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
“We have met the enemy and they are ours,” wrote Navy Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, who died this day, August 23, 1819. Captain Perry encountered six powerful British warships in the Battle of Lake Eire during the War of 1812. With no long range firepower, the winds prevented him from getting in a safe position and the British cannons crippled his flagship. In a courageous move, he switched to the ship “Niagra,” sailed directly into the British line, firing broadside, and won the battle in fifteen minutes. To the sailors on deck he remarked: “The prayers of my wife are answered.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Feasts, and business, and pleasures, and enjoyments,
seem great things to us, whilst we think of nothing else;
but as soon as we add death to them
they all sink into an equal littleness.
--- William Law
The immediate purpose of prayer is the accomplishing of God’s will on earth; the ultimate purpose of prayer is the eternal glory of God.
--- Warren Wiersbe
On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord's Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively
God doesn’t need me for Him To be Him, but I need Him to be Him for me to be me.
--- R.C. Sproul
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side, With each choice God speaking to us, offers each the bloom or blight, Then the man or nation chooses for the darkness or the light.
--- James Russell Lowell
Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. But as the truth came out in time, it appeared how the affairs of Jotapata really stood; yet was it found that the death of Josephus was a fiction; and when they understood that he was alive, and was among the Romans, and that the commanders treated him at another rate than they treated captives, they were as vehemently angry at him now as they had showed their good-will before, when he appeared to have been dead. He was also abused by some as having been a coward, and by others as a deserter; and the city was full of indignation at him, and of reproaches cast upon him; their rage was also aggravated by their afflictions, and more inflamed by their ill success; and what usually becomes an occasion of caution to wise men, I mean affliction, became a spur to them to venture on further calamities, and the end of one misery became still the beginning of another; they therefore resolved to fall on the Romans the more vehemently, as resolving to be revenged on him in revenging themselves on the Romans. And this was the state of Jerusalem as to the troubles which now came upon it.
7. But Vespasian, in order to see the kingdom of Agrippa, while the king persuaded himself so to do, [partly in order to his treating the general and his army in the best and most splendid manner his private affairs would enable him to do, and partly that he might, by their means, correct such things as were amiss in his government,] he removed from that Cesarea which was by the sea-side, and went to that which is called Cesarea Philippi 6 and there he refreshed his army for twenty days, and was himself feasted by king Agrippa, where he also returned public thanks to God for the good success he had had in his undertakings. But as soon as he was informed that Tiberias was fond of innovations, and that Taricheae had revolted, both which cities were parts of the kingdom of Agrippa, and was satisfied within himself that the Jews were every where perverted [from their obedience to their governors], he thought it seasonable to make an expedition against these cities, and that for the sake of Agrippa, and in order to bring his cities to reason. So he sent away his son Titus to [the other] Cesarea, that he might bring the army that lay there to Seythopous, which is the largest city of Decapolis, and in the neighborhood of Tiberias, whither he came, and where he waited for his son. He then came with three legions, and pitched his camp thirty furlongs off Tiberias, at a certain station easily seen by the innovators; it is named Sennabris. He also sent Valerian, a decurion, with fifty horsemen, to speak peaceably to those that were in the city, and to exhort them to give him assurances of their fidelity; for he had heard that the people were desirous of peace, but were obliged by some of the seditious part to join with them, and so were forced to fight for them. When Valerian had marched up to the place, and was near the wall, he alighted off his horse, and made those that were with him to do the same, that they might not be thought to come to skirmish with them; but before they could come to a discourse one with another, the most potent men among the seditious made a sally upon them armed; their leader was one whose name was Jesus, the son of Shaphat, the principal head of a band of robbers. Now Valerian, neither thinking it safe to fight contrary to the commands of the general, though he were secure of a victory, and knowing that it was a very hazardous undertaking for a few to fight with many, for those that were unprovided to fight those that were ready, and being on other accounts surprised at this unexpected onset of the Jews, he ran away on foot, as did five of the rest in like manner, and left their horses behind them; which horses Jesus led away into the city, and rejoiced as if they had taken them in battle, and not by treachery.
8. Now the seniors of the people, and such as were of principal authority among them, fearing what would be the issue of this matter, fled to the camp of the Romans; they then took their king along with them, and fell down before Vespasian, to supplicate his favor, and besought him not to overlook them, nor to impute the madness of a few to the whole city, to spare a people that have been ever civil and obliging to the Romans; but to bring the authors of this revolt to due punishment, who had hitherto so watched them, that though they were zealous to give them the security of their right hands of a long time, yet could they not accomplish the same. With these supplications the general complied, although he were very angry at the whole city about the carrying off his horses, and this because he saw that Agrippa was under a great concern for them. So when Vespasian and Agrippa had accepted of their right hands by way of security, Jesus and his party thought it not safe for them to continue at Tiberias, so they ran away to Taricheae. The next day Vespasian sent Trajan before with some horsemen to the citadel, to make trial of the multitude, whether they were all disposed for peace; and as soon as he knew that the people were of the same mind with the petitioner, he took his army, and went to the city; upon which the citizens opened to him their gates, and met him with acclamations of joy, and called him their savior and benefactor. But as the army was a great while in getting in at the gates, they were so narrow, Vespasian commanded the south wall to be broken down, and so made a broad passage for their entrance. However, he charged them to abstain from rapine and injustice, in order to gratify the king; and on his account spared the rest of the wall, while the king undertook for them that they should continue [faithful to the Romans] for the time to come. And thus did he restore this city to a quiet state, after it had been grievously afflicted by the sedition.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
then my own heart too is glad;
16 my inmost being rejoices
when your lips say what is right.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Prayer choice and prayer conflict
When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and pray to thy Father which is in secret. --- Matthew 6:6.
Jesus did not say—‘Dream about thy Father in secret,’ but ‘pray to thy Father in secret.’ Prayer is an effort of will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray. We cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is the overcoming of mental wool-gathering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on wilful prayer.
We must have a selected place for prayer and when we get there the plague of flies begins—This must be done, and that. “Shut thy door.” A secret silence means to shut the door deliberately on emotions and remember God. God is in secret, and He sees us from the secret place; He does not see us as other people see us, or as we see ourselves. When we live in the secret place it becomes impossible for us to doubt God, we become more sure of Him than of anything else. Your Father, Jesus says, is in secret and nowhere else. Enter the secret place, and right in the centre of the common round you find God there all the time. Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Poems of R.S. Thomas
Job Davies , eighty-five
Winters old, and still alive
After the slow poison
And treachery of the seasons.
Miserable? Kick my arse!
It needs more than the rain's hearse,
Wind-drawn, to pull me off
The great perch of my laugh.
What's living but my courage?
Paunch full of hot porridge,
Nerves strengthened with tea,
Peat-black, dawn found me
Mowing where the grass grew,
Bearded with golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe
Kept this tall frame lithe.
What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls.
Live large, man, and dream small.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 33:17–23 / And the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name.” He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” And He answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My presence passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”
MIDRASH TEXT/ Exodus Rabbah 45, 5 / He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba opened, “For it is better to be told, ‘Step up here,’ than to be degraded [in the presence of the great]” (Proverbs 25:7). Hillel says, “When I lower myself, I am raised, and when I raise myself, I am lowered. It is better for a person to be told, ‘Go up!’ than to be told, ‘Go down!’ David said, ‘[Who is like the Lord our God, who] enthroned on high …’ (Psalm 113:5). When I raise myself, they lower my place, thus, ‘Enthroned on high.’ And when I lower myself, they raise me, as it says, ‘[Who] sees what is below [in heaven and on earth?]’ (Psalm 113:6). What caused me to see all the lands, as it is written, ‘David became famous throughout the lands’ (1 Chronicles 14:17)? Because I lowered myself.”
CONTEXT / In the Book of Exodus, soon after the incident of the Golden Calf, Moses asks God, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Moses wants to be more intimate with the Holy One. Because Moses has gained God’s favor, God accedes to his request. The Rabbis understand this as God raising Moses. Thus, Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba opened his interpretation with a verse from Proverbs, “For it is better to be told, ‘Step up here,’ than to be degraded [in the presence of the great].” Rabbi Tanḥuma quotes only half of the verse; the knowledgeable student would know the entire verse and its context in Proverbs. The previous verse states, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence; do not stand in the place of nobles” (Proverbs 25:6). And the following verse, the one quoted in the Midrash text, continues the theme of “Know your place.” It’s better to be in a low position and be raised than to be in a high position and lowered. Moses knew his place and was humble in God’s presence. Therefore, God responded positively, raised him, and showed him a glimpse of the Divine Presence.
Hillel continues this thought and says, “When I lower myself, I am raised, and when I raise myself I am lowered”. Therefore, it is better for a person to be told, “Go higher!” than to be told, “Go lower.” Hillel counsels us to be humble and then raised rather than to be conceited and then put down.
The Midrash next quotes a verse from the Psalms, ascribed to David and describing God:
Who is like the Lord our God,
who, enthroned on high,
sees what is below,
in heaven and on earth?
This verse is well known from Hallel, the Psalms of praise recited on holidays. The phrase הַמַּגְבִּיהִי/hamagbihi, “on high,” could also be translated “raised,” and the Hebrew is from the same root as the word Hillel uses in the phrase when I raise myself. This verse reiterates the idea that those who raise themselves are lowered, and those who lower themselves are raised. Apparently, the Rabbis understood David to be referring to himself in this verse, though in its context, it refers to God, the One who is “enthroned on high.” David then asks, What caused me, as ruler, to see all the lands around Israel under my control, as it is written, “David became famous throughout the lands”? Hillel finds proof for David’s fame from his humility. He became famous—that is, was seen by others as “high and mighty”—because he acted in a lowly, humble manner: Because I, David, lowered myself. Though we might not think of David as being so humble in saying “I was rewarded for my modesty,” Hillel thought this of David.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.
The next thing proposed was, in order to enlarge our faith, to speak of the extent of this store and treasure that Christ has, the Father having placed everything in his hands.
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9)
If everything is in his hands, then all the attributes of God are in him. There is nothing that the Father has, except his personality, but the Son has, as Mediator; “All that belongs to the Father is mine” (John 16:15). Here then is an ocean where you and I may dive forever and never get to the bottom.
Having everything, he has all the wisdom of God: “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Poor, foolish sinner, who has no wisdom, knowledge, nor understanding, here is a treasure for you—Christ, “who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Having everything, he has all the power of God: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (vv. 23–24).
Poor feeble soul, who can do nothing, here is a good bargain for you to take hold of; it is he who can work in you both to will and do. You are not called to come to Christ except by the power of Christ, which is the power of God. You are to receive him who can give you power to receive him. Having everything, he has all the holiness of God; he is said to be made by God our sanctification, and surely here is an immense fountain of sanctity, the infinite holiness of God. O poor, vile polluted sinner, who has lost the image of God by the fall of the first Adam and the deficiency of his holiness, here is a better head and husband for you, in whom is all the fullness of the deity, that you may be given fullness in him.
--- Ralph Erskine
Bartholomew’s Day August 23
When 10-year-old Charles IX became king of France in 1560, his mother, Catherine de Medici, seized power as queen regent then tried to stabilize her religiously divided country. She tilted first toward Protestants then toward Catholics. Skirmishes broke out; and between 1561 and 1572 there were 18 massacres of Protestants, 5 of Catholics, and 30 assassinations. Civil war loomed.
In a bid for peace, Catherine, a Catholic, offered her daughter in marriage to Protestant Henry of Navarre. Henry came to Paris for the wedding, accompanied by thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants). The city trembled, and rumors spread that Huguenots were planning to kidnap the royal family. Clanging anvils across Paris betrayed the making of weapons. On August 23, 1572 Catherine and Charles were sequestered in the palace. About 10 P.M. Catherine warned Charles of imminent insurrection, working him into a fever, telling him Huguenots were planning to seize him. Charles suggested the rebels be arrested. It was too late for that, Catherine retorted. She roared and raged and threatened to flee France. Charles, nerves wracked, ran from the room about midnight screaming, “By the death of God, since you choose to kill … I consent! But then you must kill all the Huguenots in France. … Kill them all! Kill them all!”
The gates of the city were closed. Word spread among the troops, “Kill! The king commands it.” As church bells pealed 3 A.M., swords were drawn. Protestant leader Gaspard de Coligny was seized, strung by the heels, and his hands and genitals were lobbed off and sold. Huguenots and their children were dragged into the streets and slain. Embryos torn from dead mothers were smashed against the pavement. The sun, rising over Paris on St. Bartholomew’s Day, revealed thousands of Protestant corpses.
The cries of butchered Huguenots rang in the king’s head, day and night. “Who but you is the cause of all this?” he shouted to his mother. “God’s blood, you are the cause of it all!” His constitution failed and he began seeing visions of his victims. He ranted and raved and died at age 23. “What evil counsel have I followed!” he cried. “O my God, forgive me! I am lost!”
The wicked are a restless sea tossing up mud.
But I, the LORD,
have promised that none who are evil
Will live in peace.
--- Isaiah 57:20,21.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 23
“The voice of weeping shall be no more heard.”
--- Isaiah 65:19.
The glorified weep no more, for all outward causes of grief are gone. There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in heaven. Poverty, famine, peril, persecution, and slander, are unknown there. No pain distresses, no thought of death or bereavement saddens. They weep no more, for they are perfectly sanctified. No “evil heart of unbelief” prompts them to depart from the living God; they are without fault before his throne, and are fully conformed to his image. Well may they cease to mourn who have ceased to sin. They weep no more, because all fear of change is past. They know that they are eternally secure. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed; they bask in a sun which shall never set; they drink of a river which shall never dry; they pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither. Countless cycles may revolve, but eternity shall not be exhausted, and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are for ever with the Lord. They weep no more, because every desire is fulfilled. They cannot wish for anything which they have not in possession. Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire, will, all the faculties, are completely satisfied; and imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, yet we know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, that the saints above are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fulness of delight, is in them. They bathe themselves in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite beatitude. That same joyful rest remains for us. It may not be far distant. Ere long the weeping willow shall be exchanged for the palm-branch of victory, and sorrow’s dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Evening - August 23
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” --- Ephesians 3:17.
Beyond measure it is desirable that we, as believers, should have the person of Jesus constantly before us, to inflame our love towards him, and to increase our knowledge of him. I would to God that my readers were all entered as diligent scholars in Jesus’ college, students of Corpus Christi, or the body of Christ, resolved to attain unto a good degree in the learning of the cross. But to have Jesus ever near, the heart must be full of him, welling up with his love, even to overrunning; hence the apostle prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” See how near he would have Jesus to be! You cannot get a subject closer to you than to have it in the heart itself. “That he may dwell”; not that he may call upon you sometimes, as a casual visitor enters into a house and tarries for a night, but that he may dwell; that Jesus may become the Lord and Tenant of your inmost being, never more to go out.
Observe the words—that he may dwell in your heart, that best room of the house of manhood; not in your thoughts alone, but in your affections; not merely in the mind’s meditations, but in the heart’s emotions. We should pant after love to Christ of a most abiding character, not a love that flames up and then dies out into the darkness of a few embers, but a constant flame, fed by sacred fuel, like the fire upon the altar which never went out. This cannot be accomplished except by faith. Faith must be strong, or love will not be fervent; the root of the flower must be healthy, or we cannot expect the bloom to be sweet. Faith is the lily’s root, and love is the lily’s bloom. Now, reader, Jesus cannot be in your heart’s love except you have a firm hold of him by your heart’s faith; and, therefore, pray that you may always trust Christ in order that you may always love him. If love be cold, be sure that faith is drooping.
SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS
Source of words and music unknown
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)
The story of Martha the worker and Mary the worshiper (Luke 10:38–42) illustrates an important spiritual principle: We please our Lord most when we learn to sit at His feet in adoration and worship before trying to serve Him in our own strength. Sitting implies our humble dependence upon Him and a sense of quietness of soul that indicates our willingness to hear. We can become so busy with life’s pursuits, even worthy Christian activities, that we do not hear the still small voice of God. Or sometimes we pursue God in spiritual spectaculars. But like the story of Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11, 12), the Lord does not always reveal Himself in the wind, fire, or earthquake, but sometimes in the stillness of the small voice.
Speak, Lord, in the stillness while I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen in expectancy.
Speak, Thy servant heareth! Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee for the quick’ning word!
--- E. May Grimes
Learning to listen to God’s voice is one of the important factors in our spiritual growth. When we are silent before Him in the enjoyment of His presence and His Word, we gain His wisdom, insights, and the renewal of our strength for daily living. May the people who see and know us say of us even as it was said of the early disciples—“they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Sitting at the feet of Jesus, O what words I hear Him say! Happy place—so near, so precious! May it find me there each day! Sitting at the feet of Jesus, I would look upon the past, for His love has been so gracious—It has won my heart at last.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus, where can mortal be more blest? There I lay my sins and sorrows, and, when weary, find sweet rest. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, there I love to weep and pray, while I from His fullness gather grace and comfort ev’ry day.
Bless me, O my Savior, bless me, as I sit low at Thy feet! O look down in love upon me, let me see Thy face so sweet! Give me, Lord, the mind of Jesus; make me holy as He is; may I prove I’ve been with Jesus, who is all my righteousness.
For Today: 2 Kings 22:19; Psalm 130:5; Isaiah 30:15; 57:15; Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 4:16
Be especially sensitive to God’s still small voice in your life. Let this awareness of His presence and concern encourage and empower you. Use this hymn to help ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
(1.) In unwieldiness to religious duties where self is not concerned. With what lively thoughts will many approach to God, when a revenue may be brought in to support their own ends! But when the concerns of God only are in it, the duty is not the delight, but the clog; such feeble devotions, that warm not the soul, unless there be something of self to give strength and heat to them. Jonah was sick of his work, and run from God, because he thought he should get no honor by his message: God’s mercy would discredit his prophecy. Thoughts of disadvantage cut the very sinews of service. You may as well persuade a merchant to venture all his estate upon the inconstant waves without hopes of gain, as prevail with a natural man to be serious in duty, without expectation of some warm advantage. “What profit should we have if we pray to him?” is the natural question (Job 21:15). “What profit shall I have if I be cleansed from my sin?” (Job 35:3). I shall have more good by my sin than by my service. It is for God that I dance before the ark, saith David, therefore I will be more vile (2 Sam. 6:22). It is for self that I pray, saith a natural man, therefore I will be more warm and quick. Ordinances of God are observed only as a point of interest, and prayer is often most fervent, when it is least godly, and most selfish; carnal ends and affections will pour out lively expressions. If there be no delight in the means that lead to God, there is no delight in God himself; because love is appetitus unionis, a desire of union; and where the object is desirable, the means that brings us to it would be delightful too.
(2.) In calling upon God only in a time of necessity. How officious will men be in affliction, to that God whom they neglect in their prosperity! “When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired after God, and they remembered that God was their rock” (Psalm 78:34). They remembered him under the scourge, and forgot him under his smiles: they visit the throne of grace, knock loud at heaven’s gates, and give God no rest for their early and importunate devotions when under distress: but when their desires are answered, and the rod removed, they stand aloof from him, and rest upon their own bottom, as Jer. 2:31: “We are lords; we will come no more unto thee.” When we have need of him, he shall find us clients at his gate; and when we have served our turn, he hears no more of us: like Noah’s dove sent out of the ark, that returned to him when she found no rest on the earth, but came not back when she found a footing elsewhere. How often do men apply themselves to God, when they have some business for him to do for them! And then too, they are loth to put it solely into his hand to manage it for his own honor; but they presume to be his directors, that he may manage it for their glory. Self spurs men onto the throne of grace; they desire to be furnished with some mercy they want, or to have the clouds of some judgments which they fear blown over: this is not affection to God, but to ourselves: as the Romans worshipped a quartan ague as a goddess, and Timorem and Pallorem, fear and paleness, as gods; not out of any affection they had to the disease or the passion, but for fear to receive any hurt by them. Again, when we have gained the mercy we need, how little do we warm our souls with the consideration of that God that gave it, or lay out the mercy in his service! We are importunate to have him our friend in our necessities, and are ungratefully careless of him, and his injuries he sufers by us or others. When he hath discharged us from the rock where we stuck, we leave him, as having no more need of him, and able to do well enough without him; as if we were petty gods ourselves, and only wanted a lift from him at first.
This is not to glorify God as God, but as our servant; not an honoring of God, but a self-seeking: he would hardly beg at God’s door, if he could pleasure himself without him.
(3.) In begging his assistance to our own projects. When we lay the plot of our own affairs, and then come to God, not for counsel but blessing, self only shall give us counsel how to act; but because we believe there is a God that governs the world, we will desire him to contribute success. God is not consulted with till the counsel of self be fixed; then God must be the executor of our will. Self must be the principal, and God the instrument to hatch what we have contrived. It is worse when we beg of God to favor some sinful aim; the Psalmist implies this (Psalm 66:18): “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Iniquity regarded as the aim in prayer, renders the prayer successless, and the suppliant an atheist, in debasing God to back his lust by his holy providence. The disciples had determined revenge; and because they could not act it without their Master, they would have him be their second in their vindictive passion (Luke 9:55): “Call for fire from heaven.” We scarce seek God till we have modelled the whole contrivance in our own brains, and resolved upon the methods of performance; as though there were not a fulness of wisdom in God to guide us in our resolves, as well as power to breathe success upon them.
(4.) In impatience upon the refusal of our desires. How often do men’s spirits rise against God, when he steps not in with the assistance they want! If the glory of God swayed more with them than their private interest, they would let God be judge of his own glory, and rather magnify his wisdom than complain of his want of goodness. Selfish hearts wild charge God with neglect of them, if he be not as quick in their supplies as they are in their desires; like those in Isa. 58:3, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?” When we aim at God’s glory in our importunities, we shall fall down in humble submissions when he denies us; whereas self riseth up in bold expostulations, as if God were our servant, and had neglected the service he owed us, not to come at our call. We over-value the satisfactions of self above the honor of God. Besides, if what we desire be a sin, our impatience at a refusal is more intolerable: it is an anger, that God will not lay aside his holiness to serve our corruption.
(5.) In the actual aims men have in their duties. In prayer for temporal things, when we desire health for our own ease, wealth for our own sensuality, strength for our revenge, children for the increase of our family, gifts for our applause; as Simon Magus did the Holy Ghost: or, when some of those ends are aimed at, this is to desire God not to serve himself of us, but to be a servant to our worldly interest, our vain glory, the greatening of our names, In spiritual mercies begged for; when pardon of sin is desired only for our own security from eternal vengeance; sanctification desired only to make us fit for everlasting blessedness; peace of conscience, only that we may lead our lives more comfortably in the world; when we have not actual intentions for the glory of God, or when our thoughts of God’s honor are overtopped by the aims of self-advantage: not but that as God hath pressed us to those things by motives drawn from the blessedness derived to ourselves by them, so we may desire them with a respect to ourselves; but this respect must be contained within the due banks, in subordination to the glory of God, not above it, nor in an equal balance with it. That which is nourishing or medicinal in the first or second degree, is in the fourth or fifth degree mere destructive poison. Let us consider it seriously; though a duty be heavenly, doth not some base end smut us in it?
[1.] How is it with our confessions of sin? Are they not more to procure our pardon, than to shame ourselves before God, or to be freed from the chains that hinder us from bringing him the glory for which we were created; or more to partake of his benefits, than to honor him in acknowledging the rights of his justice? Do we not bewail sin as it hath ruined us, not as it opposed the holiness of God? Do we not shuffle with God, and confess one sin, while we reserve another; as if we would allure God by declaring our dislike of one, to give us liberty to commit wantonness with another; not to abhor ourselves, but to daub with God.
[2.] Is it any better in our private and family worship? Are not such assemblies frequented by some, where some upon whom they have a dependence may eye them, and have a better opinion of them, and affection to them? If God were the sole end of our hearts, would they not be as glowing under the sole eye of God, as our tongues or carriages are seemingly serious under the eye of man? Are not family duties performed by some that their voices may be heard, and their reputation supported among godly neighbors?
[3.] Is not the charity of many men tainted with this end—self, as the Pharisees were, while they set the miserable object before them, but not the Lord; bestowing alms not so much upon the necessities of the people, as the friendship we owe them for some particular respects; or casting our bread upon those waters which stream down in the sight of the world, that our doles may be visible to them, and commended by them; or when we think to oblige God to pardon our transgressions, as if we merited it and heaven too at his hands, by bestowing a few pence upon indigent persons? And
[4.] Is it not the same with the reproofs of men? Is not heat and anger carried out with full sail when our worldly interest is prejudiced and becalmed in the concerns of God? Do not many masters reprove their servants with more vehemency for the neglect of their trade and business, than the neglect of divine duties; and that upon religious arguments, pretending the honor of God that they may mind their own interest? But when they are negligent in what they owe to God, no noise is made, they pass without rebuke; is not this to make God and religion a stale to their own ends? It is a part of atheism not to regard the injuries done to God, as Tiberius, “Let God’s wrongs be looked to or cared for by himself.”
[5.] Is it not thus in our seeming zeal for religion? as Demetrius and the craftsmen at Ephesus cried up aloud the greatness of Diana of the Ephesians, not out of any true zeal they had for her, but their gain, which was increased by the confluence of her worshippers, and the sale of her own shrines (Acts 19:24, 28).
4. In making use of the name of God to countenance our sin. When we set up an opinion that is a friend to our lusts, and then dig deep into the Scripture to find crutches to support it, and authorize our practices; when men will thank God for what they have got by unlawful means, fathering the fruit of their cheating craft, and the simplicity of their chapmen upon God; crediting their cozenage by his name, as men do brass money, with a thin plate of silver, and the stamp and image of the prince. The Jews urge the law of God for the crucifying his Son (John 19:7): “We have a law, and by that law he is to die,” and would make him a party in their private revenge. Thus often when we have faltered in some actions, we wipe our mouths, as if we sought God more than our own interest, prostituting the sacred name and honor of God, either to hatch or defend some unworthy lust against his word. Is not all this a high degree of atheism?
1. It is a vilifying God, an abuse of the highest good. Other sins subject the creature and outward things to them, but acting in religious services for self, subjects not only the highest concernments of men’s souls, but the Creator himself to the creature, nay, to make God contribute to that which is the pleasure of the devil, a greater slight than to cast the gifts of a prince to a herd of nasty swine. It were more excusable to serve ourselves of God upon the higher accounts, such that materially conduce to his glory; but it is an intolerable wrong to make him and his ordinances caterers for our own bellies, as they did: they sacrificed the נדכות of which the offerer might eat, not out of any reference to God, but love to their gluttony; not to please him, but feast themselves. The belly was truly made the god, when God was served only in order to the belly; as though the blessed God had his being, and his ordinances were enjoined to pleasure their foolish and wanton appetites; as though the work of God were only to patronize unrighteous ends, and be as bad as themselves, and become a pander to their corrupt affections.
2. Because it is a vilifying of God, it is an undeifying or dethroning God. It is an acting as if we were the lords, and God our vassal; a setting up those secular ends in the place of God, who ought to be our ultimate end in every action; to whom a glory is as due, as his mercy to us is utterly unmerited by us. He that thinks to cheat and put the fool upon God by his pretences, doth not heartily believe there is such a being. He could not have the notion of a God, without that of omniscience and justice; an eye to see the cheat, and an arm to punish it. The notion of the one would direct him in the manner of his services, and the sense of the other would scare him from the cherishing his unworthy ends. He that serves God with a sole respect to himself, is prepared for any idolatry; his religion shall warp with the times and his interest; he shall deny the true God for an idol, when his worldly interest shall advise him to it, and pay the same reverence to the basest image, which he pretends now to pay to God; as the Israelites were as real for idolatry under their basest princes, as they were pretenders to the true religion under those that were pious. Before I come to the use of this, give me leave to evince this practical atheism by two other considerations.
1. Unworthy imaginations of God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God:” that is, he is not such a God as you report him to be; this is meant by their being “corrupt,” in the second verse, corrupt being taken for playing the idolaters (Exod. 32:7). We cannot comprehend God; if we could, we should cease to be finite; and because we cannot comprehend him, we erect strange images of him in our fancies and affections. And since guilt came upon us, because we cannot root out the notions of God, we would debase the majesty and nature of God, that we may have some ease in our consciences, and lie down with some comfort in the sparks of our own kindling. This is universal in men by nature. “God is not in all his thoughts;” not in any of his thoughts, according the excellency of his nature and greatness of his majesty. As the heathen did not glorify God as God, so neither do they conceive of God as God; they are all infected with some one or other ill opinion of him, thinking him not so holy, powerful, just, good, as he is, and as the natural force of the human understanding might arrive to. We join a new notion of God in our vain fancies, and represent him not as he is, but as we would have him to be, fit for our own use, and suited to our own pleasure. We set that active power of imagination on work, and there comes out a god (a calf) whom we own for a notion of God. Adam cast him into so narrow a mould, as to think that himself, who had newly sprouted up by his almighty power, was fit to be his corrival in knowledge, and had vain hopes to grasp as much as infiniteness; if he, in his first declining, begun to have such a conceit, it is no doubt but we have as bad under a mass of corruption. When holy Agur speaks of God, he cries out that he had not “the understanding of a man, nor the knowledge of the holy;” he did not think rationally of God, as man might by his strength at his first creation. There are as many carved images of God as there are minds of men, and as monstrous shapes as those corruptions into which they would transform him. Hence sprang,
1. Idolatry. Vain imaginations first set afloat and kept up this in the world. Vain imaginations of the God “whose glory they changed into the image of corruptible man.” They had set up vain images of him in their fancy, before they set up idolatrous representations of him in their temples; the likening him to those idols of wood and stone, and various metals, were the fruit of an idea erected in their own minds. This is a mighty debasing the Divine nature, and rendering him no better than that base and stupid matter they make the visible object of their adoration; equalling him with those base creatures they think worthy to be the representations of him. Yet how far did this crime spread itself in all corners of the world, not only among the more barbarous and ignorant, but the more polished and civilized nations! Judea only, where God had placed the ark of his presence, being free from it, in some intervals of time only after some sweeping judgment. And though they vomited up their idols under some sharp scourge, they licked them up again after the heavens were cleared over their heads: the whole book of Judges makes mention of it. And though an evangelical light hath chased that idolatry away from a great part of the world, yet the principle remaining coins more spiritual idols in the heart, which are brought before God in acts of worship.
2. Hence all superstition received its rise and growth. When we mint a god according to our own complexion, like to us in mutable and various passions, soon angry and soon appeased, it is no wonder that we invent ways of pleasing him after we have offended him, and think to expiate the sin of our souls by some melancholy devotions and self-chastisements. Superstition is nothing else but an unscriptural and unrevealed dread of God. When they imagined him a rigorous and severe master, they cast about for ways to mitigate him whom they thought so hard to be pleased: a very mean thought of him, as if a slight and pompous devotion could as easily bribe and flatter him out of his rigors, as a few good words or baubling rattles could please and quiet little children; and whatsoever pleased us, could please a God infinitel above us. Such narrow conceits had the Philistines, when they thought to still the anger of the God of Israel, whom they thought they possessed in the ark, with the present of a few golden mice. All the superstition this day living in the world is built upon this foundation: so natural it is to man to pull God down to his own imaginations, rather than raise his imaginations up to God. Hence doth arise also the diffidence of his mercy, though they repent; measuring God by the contracted models of their own spirits; as though his nature were as difficult to pardon their offences against him, as they are to remit wrongs done to themselves.
3. Hence springs all presumption, the common disease of the world. All the wickedness in the world, which is nothing else but presuming upon God, rises from the ill interpretations of the goodness of God, breaking out upon them in the works of creation and providence. The corruption of man’s nature engendered by those notions of goodness a monstrous birth of vain imaginations; not of themselves primarily, but of God; whence arose all that folly and darkness in their minds and conversations (Rom. 1:20, 21). They glorified him not as God, but, according to themselves, imagined him good that themselves might be bad; fancied him so indulgent, as to neglect his own honor for their sensuality. How doth the unclean person represent him to his own thoughts, but as a goat; the murderer as a tiger; the sensual person as a swine; while they fancy a God indulgent to their crimes without their repentance! As the image on the seal is stamped upon the wax, so the thoughts of the heart are printed upon the actions. God’s patience is apprehended to be an approbation of their vices, and from the consideration of his forbearance, they fashion a god that they believe will smile upon their crimes. They imagine a god that plays with them; and though he threatens doth it only to scare, but means not as he speaks. A god they fancy like themselves, that would do as they would do, not be angry for what they count a light offence (Psalm 50:21): “Thou thoughtest I was such a one as thyself;” that God and they were exactly alike as two tallies. “Our wilful misapprehensions of God are the cause of our misbehavior in all his worship. Our slovenly and lazy services tell him to his face what slight thoughts and apprehensions we have of him.” Compare these two together. Superstition ariseth from terrifying misapprehensions of God: presumption from self pleasing thoughts. One represents him only rigorous, and the other careless. One makes us over- officious in serving him by our own rules; and the other over-bold in offending him according to our humors. The want of a true notion of God’s justice makes some men slight him; and the want of a true apprehension of his goodness makes others too servile in their approaches to him. One makes us careless of duties, and the other makes us look on them rather as physic than food; an unsupportable penance, than a desirable privilege. In this case hell is the principle of duty performed to heaven. The superstitious man believes God hath scarce mercy to pardon; the presumptuous man believes he hath no such perfection as justice to punish. The one makes him insignificant to what he desires, kindness and goodness; the other renders him insignificant to what he fears, his vindictive justice. What between the idolater, the superstitious, the presumptuous person, God should look like no God in the world. These unworthy imaginations of God are likewise,
2. A vilifying of him. Debasing the Creator to be a creature of their own fancies; putting their own stamp upon him; and fashioning him not according to that beautiful image he impressed upon them by creation; but the defaced image they inherit by their fall, and which is worse, the image of the devil which spread itself over them at their revolt and apostasy. Were it possible to see a picture of God, according to the fancies of men, it would be the most monstrous being, such a God that never was, nor ever can be. We honor God when we have worthy opinions of him suitable to his nature; when we conceive of him as a being of unbounded loveliness and perfection. We detract from him when we ascribe to him such qualities as would be a horrible disgrace to a wise and good man as injustice and impurity. Thus men debase God when they invert his order, and would create him according to their image, as he first created them according to his own; and think him not worthy to be a God, unless he fully answer the mould they would cast him into, and be what is unworthy of his nature. Men do not conceive of God as he would have them; but he must be what they would have him, one of their own shaping.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXVI. — THE Diatribe after this, having said that many such testimonies, as Luther collects, may be collected out of the book of Proverbs; but which, by a convenient interpretation, may stand both for and against “Free-will”; adduces at last that Achillean and invincible weapon of Luther, “Without me ye can do nothing,” &c. (John xv. 5).
I too, must laud that notable champion-disputant for “Free-will,” who teaches us, to modify the testimonies of Scripture just as it serves our turn, by convenient interpretations, in order to make them appear to stand truly in confirmation of “Free-will”; that is, that they might be made to prove, not what they ought, but what we please; and who merely pretends a fear of one Achillean Scripture, that the silly reader, seeing this one overthrown, might hold all the rest in utter contempt. But I will just look on and see, by what force the full-mouthed and heroic Diatribe will conquer my Achilles; which hitherto, has never wounded a common soldier, nor even a Thersites, but has ever miserably dispatched itself with its own weapons.
Catching hold of this one word “nothing,” it stabs it with many words and many examples; and, by means of a convenient interpretation, brings it to this; that “nothing,” may signify that which is in degree and imperfect. That is, it means to say, in other words, that the Sophists have hitherto explained this passage thus. — “Without me ye can do nothing;” that is, perfectly. This gloss, which has been long worn out and obsolete, the Diatribe, by its power of rhetoric, renders new; and so presses it forward, as though it had first invented it, and it had never been heard of before, thus making it appear to be a sort of miracle. In the mean time, however, it is quite self-secure, thinking nothing about the text itself, nor what precedes or follows it, whence alone the knowledge of the passage is to be obtained.
But (to say no more about its having attempted to prove by so many words and examples, that the term “nothing” may, in this passage, be understood as meaning ‘that which is in a certain degree, or imperfect,’ as though we were disputing whether or not it may be, whereas, what was to be proved is whether or not it ought to be, so understood;) the whole of this grand interpretation effects nothing, if it affect any thing, but this: — the rendering of this passage of John uncertain and obscure. And no wonder, for all that the Diatribe aims at, is to make the Scriptures of God in every place obscure, to the intent that it might not be compelled to use them; and the authorities of the Ancients certain, to the intent that it might abuse them; — a wonderful kind of religion truly, making the words of God to be useless, and the words of man useful!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library