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12/16/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     2 Timothy   1 - 4


2 Timothy 1

Greeting

2 Timothy 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,

2 To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Guard the Deposit Entrusted to You

3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.


2 Timothy 2

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

2 Timothy 2 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12  if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13  if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

A Worker Approved by God

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.


2 Timothy 3

Godlessness in the Last Days

2 Timothy 3 1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


2 Timothy 4

Preach the Word

2 Timothy 4 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Personal Instructions

9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Students Love Answers More Than the Church Loves Answers

By J. Warner Wallace 08/26/13

     I had the opportunity to train approximately 150 high school students last week at Summit Worldview Academy in Manitou Springs, Colorado (it was my second trip to Summit this summer). They hold seven 2-week conferences for young people each year, designed specifically to “teach students how to analyze the various ideas that are currently competing for their hearts and minds.” The curriculum is incredibly rigorous and students spend long hours in class each day, listening to Christian case makers, professors, teachers and speakers from all over the country. Some students even take written exams at the end to qualify for college credit (offered through Bryan College as part of a “Contemporary Worldviews” course, Philosophy 111). This is not your typical high school “camp”; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn why Christianity is true and how to develop a Christian worldview rooted in this truth. While there are certainly fun activities scheduled for the students, that’s not why they come. Students come to Summit to be trained.

     I spent part of my pastoral life as a youth pastor and I witnessed firsthand the challenge young people face in high school (and especially in college). When I first began as a youth pastor, I expressed my creative inclinations robustly (I have a degree in design and a master’s degree in Architecture). My weekend services were a visual and audible extravaganza. I was focused entirely on experience. About a year into my pastorate I realized the incredible deficiencies of this approach. The seniors graduated from my ministry and eventually graduated from Christianity altogether. They were simply not prepared to respond to the challenges they faced from skeptics in the university setting. They needed answers, and I wasn’t providing them; I changed my approach to youth ministry completely.

     I began to share the evidence I found so compelling when I was a skeptic, and I started responding to the objections and questions my students already had (but were sometimes afraid to express). Many of my youth pastor colleagues thought I was crazy to make “apologetics” the sole focus of my weekend meetings, but the students we prepared in this way were ready for life in the “real world”. I discovered something important: Students want the truth. Don’t let the pundits or cultural observers fool you into thinking students are more concerned about experience, entertainment or storytelling. Students want answers. In fact, I think young people want answers more than the Church knows or understands.

     When I first planted a church, I formed the core congregation from the young people I was training as a youth pastor. It wasn’t long before their parents began to join us to see what was happening at the church where their sons and daughters were excited to train and serve. After a few years, the younger members of my congregation grew up, moved off to college or got married and moved to new job opportunities. The parents of these young people stayed behind, and my congregation “aged” considerably. I noticed a palpable difference. The urgency and need for answers waned. These older members were much more comfortable in their daily settings and, as Christians, they were not being challenged nearly as vigorously as their students had been. As a result, they were less interested in “case making”.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

How Should You Talk to a Friend Who’s Gay?

By Alan Shlemon 12/09/16

     I was asked on an #STRask podcast, “How should you talk to a friend who’s gay?” I would answer the question in two different ways, depending on who that particular person is.

     If they are a non-believer who identifies as a gay man or woman, then the way I would talk to them is the way I would talk to any other non-believer—whether they’re a Muslim, whether they identify as gay, whether they’re Mormon, or whether they’re just an atheist or a skeptic. I would simply present to them the Gospel in the clearest possible way I can because that’s what ultimately matters. That’s their main problem.

     Even if the gay man abandoned homosexual activity and adopted heterosexuality, that still wouldn’t reconcile Him with God, which is his biggest problem. His eternal destiny would still be in jeopardy because whether you’re a heterosexual or homosexual is irrelevant to the question of whether you have been pardoned for the crimes you’ve committed against God. All of us have committed crimes against God that we need forgiveness for. That’s why I say, if it’s a non-Christian, the way you should talk to them would be to present the Gospel to them. If they’re a friend of yours, be a friend just like you would to your heterosexual friends. Befriend them and let them know about the Gospel.

     Now if they claim to be a Christian and they’re identifying as a gay man, lesbian, or bisexual, meaning that they are engaging in ongoing homosexual behavior or ongoing homosexual lusting, then I would say, once you claim to be a Christian, you now fall under the authority of Scripture and the commands the Bible has for how you should live. That, by the way, applies to all Christians, gay or straight. Anyone claiming to be a Christian is required to submit to the authority of Scripture. If you’re talking to a person like that, my suggestion would be to try to encourage them to do what they can to obey the commands of Christ and to follow the Scriptures. That’s what I would do with any Christian friend who is leading a life in contradiction to Scripture.

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     Alan Shlemon is an author and speaker for Stand to Reason and trains Christians to share their convictions in a persuasive, yet gracious manner. Known for teaching on some of the most controversial issues of our time, he tackles topics such as abortion, evolution, homosexuality, bioethics, and Islam. Alan has been a guest on both radio and television, and has spoken to thousands of adults and students across the country at churches, conferences, and college campuses.

Leo XIII and Kuyper on the social question

By Jordon J. Bailor 12/09/16

     This year marks the 125th anniversary of two key documents in the development of modern Christian social thought: the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII and the speech “The Social Question and the Christian Religion” by Abraham Kuyper. To mark this anniversary and to commend these works to readers today, Acton Institute has recently released Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought: Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper on the Social Question.

     This volume consists of the texts of these two key sources, along with an introduction that provides some background on the social question in the nineteenth century as well as the thematic similarities and convergences between the two works. There is also some additional bibliography for further reading and research, making this volume an ideal resource for students and others interested exploring the foundations of modern Christian social thought in Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions.

     One of the essential features of this edition is its inclusion of the full text of Kuyper’s published speech, complete with its extensive reference apparatus. Earlier editions have appeared in English and have served well to make Kuyper’s insights accessible and readable. These earlier versions sometimes omitted or elided Kuyper’s notes, however, which can obscure the depth and detail of Kuyper’s insights and his engagement with the literature of his time.

     As an example of the difference, we can compare the text of a note as it appeared in an earlier version of the speech, published as The Problem of Poverty, and the full text of the note as it appears in the new edition. The very first note included in The Problem of Poverty reads thus:

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Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

Jesus and Logical Fallacies: The False Dilemma

By Lenny Esposito 01/14/15

     There have been many times where I've been speaking to a non-believer who tells me that he would rather place his trust in science and reason than in faith. Versions of this include "facts rather than religion" or "knowledge over ancient belief."

     Such objections are certainly not uncommon today, even though they are completely illogical. Each one exercises a logical fallacy known as a false dilemma. A false dilemma tries to limit one's choice between only two options when there may be more options available. To use a popular example, imagine a man on trial. As he sits in the witness stand, the prosecutor comes to him and asks, "Is this the first time you've beaten your wife, yes or no?" Of course, either answer to such a question immediately incriminated the man. The third choice of "I have never beaten my wife" is never offered by the prosecutor, which sets the defendant up with only two options, each of which places him in a bad light.

     Why Faith Versus Reason is a False Dilemma

     In the objections above, the ideas of faith, religion, and belief are all positioned as incompatible with science, facts, and knowledge. But the assumption that these are incompatible is itself not true. For example, the multiverse theory is based on certain mathematical beliefs and assumptions. There exists no observational data for other universes, nor will there be given that our universe is a closed system. Therefore, scientists who hold to the multiverse theory are doing so based on certain beliefs and a faith in the models they have constructed. Does that disqualify the multiverse theory from being classified as science? Will those skeptics disavow it because they would rather place their trust in reason? Of course not.

     Similarly, Christianity is based on certain facts, such as Jesus' resurrection from the dead, based on the historical accounts. Christians use arguments to show that the existence of God is a reasonable position to hold. Reason and evidence are the foundation of Christianity, which just like the multiverse model shows that faith and reason are not exclusive but work in concert.

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     Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
     Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
     Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Why Is Encouragement So Important?

By Mike Mobley

     We live in a day where discouragement is all around us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go a single day without running into someone who is complaining, being negative, or is very discouraged. Oftentimes I find myself being that person too.

     What is the deal?

     How can everything be so discouraging?

     Is the world doomed?

     What is the Christian’s response in this scenario?

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     Saved by Grace through Faith. In love with Jesus, His Glory, and obviously my beautiful wife Joelle, daughter Peyton, and son Matthew! Seeking Him in everything to glorify Him and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Online & Communications Minister at 121 Community Church.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 141

Give Ear to My Voice
141 A Psalm Of David.

5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

The Holy Bible: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (2017) - Black, Genuine Leather. (2016). (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

5 Good Reasons to Use the RMM Bible Reading Plan in 2018

By Paul Carter 12/01/2017

     December is often the time when people begin thinking about their devotional ambitions and plans for the following year. As in the field of weight loss, it isn’t really about “finding the right plan” as much as it is about having a plan and sticking to it. Any devotional approach that has you breathing in Scripture and breathing out prayer is a good one. That being said, here are 5 good reasons to consider using the RMM Bible Reading Plan in 2018.

     You Get To Read The New Testament Twice

     The standard 1 year version of the RMM Bible Reading Plan takes you through the Old Testament once and the Psalms and New Testament twice over the course of a year. That allows you to “see the big picture” while also soaking in the parts of the Bible that seem to minister most directly to the soul.

     The Apostle Paul said that the church is being built: “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 ESV).

     The prophets look forward to Christ, the apostles look back on Christ and all together their collective witness forms the essence and foundation of our faith. The RMM Plan does a great job of covering the length and breadth of that foundation with a particular focus on the heart and centre.

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     Paul Carter attended Moody Bible Institute and is a graduate of York University (B.A.) and McMaster Divinity College (MDiv). He has been in pastoral ministry since 1994, serving in both Fellowship and Canadian Baptist churches in Oakville, Mississauga and Orillia, Ontario Canada. He presently serves as the Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church, Orillia, a large multi-staff church with a passion for biblical preaching and local mission. Along with his friend Marc Bertrand he is the co-founder of the Covenant Life Renewal Association (CLRA) seeking Biblical and Spiritual revival within Canadian Baptist Churches. He also serves on the TGC Canada board. Paul has written two books and is a frequent blogger on issues of Christian faith and living. You can find his devotional podcast at www.intotheword.ca. Paul is the happy husband of Shauna Lee and the proud papa of 5 beautiful children, Madison, Max, Mikayla, Peyton and Noa. You can find him at :www.intotheword.cawww.adfontes.ca, and www.firstbaptistorillia.org.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     Chapter 17.

     Use To Bb Made Of The Doctrine Of Providence.

     This chapter may be conveniently divided into two parts:--I. A general explanation is given of the doctrine of Divine Providence, in so far as conducive to the solid instruction and consolation of the godly, sect. 1, and specially sect. 2-12. First, however, those are refuted who deny that the world is governed by the secret and incomprehensible counsel of God; those also who throw the blame of all wickedness upon God, and absurdly pretend that exercises of piety are useless, sect. 2-5. Thereafter is added a holy meditation on Divine Providence, which, in the case of prosperity, is painted to the life, sect. 6-11.

     II. A solution of two objections from passages of Scripture, which attribute repentance to God, and speak of something like an abrogation of his decrees.

     Sections.

     1. Summary of the doctrine of Divine Providence. 1. It embraces the future and the past. 2. It works by means, without means, and against means. 3. Mankind, and particularly the Church, the object of special care. 4. The mode of administration usually secret, but always just. This last point more fully considered.

     2. The profane denial that the world is governed by the secret counsel of God, refuted by passages of Scripture. Salutary counsel.

     3. This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no countenance either to the impiety of those who throw the blame of their wickedness upon God, the petulance of those who reject means, or the error of those who neglect the duties of religion.

     4. As regards future events, the doctrine of Divine Providence not inconsistent with deliberation on the part of man.

     5. In regard to past events, it is absurd to argue that crimes ought not to be punished, because they are in accordance with the divine decrees. 1. The wicked resist the declared will of God. 2. They are condemned by conscience. 3. The essence and guilt of the crime is in themselves, though God uses them as instruments.

     6. A holy meditation on Divine Providence. 1. All events happen by the ordination of God. 2. All things contribute to the advantage of the godly. 3. The hearts of men and all their endeavours are in the hand of God. 4. Providence watches for the safety of the righteous. 5. God has a special care of his elect.

     7. Meditation on Providence continued. 6. God in various ways curbs and defeats the enemies of the Church. 7. He overrules all creatures, even Satan himself, for the good of his people.

     8. Meditation on Providence continued. 8. He trains the godly to patience and moderation. Examples. Joseph, Job, and David. 9. He shakes off their lethargy, and urges them to repentance.

     9. Meditation continued. 10. The right use of inferior causes explained. 11. When the godly become negligent or imprudent in the discharge of duty, Providence reminds them of their fault. 12. It condemns the iniquities of the wicked. 13. It produces a right consideration of the future, rendering the servants of God prudent, diligent, and active. 14. It causes them to resign themselves to the wisdom and omnipotence of God, and, at the same time, makes them diligent in their calling.

     10. Meditation continued. 15. Though human life is beset with innumerable evils, the righteous, trusting to Divine Providence, feel perfectly secure.

     11. The use of the foregoing meditation.

     12. The second part of the chapter, disposing of two objections. 1. That Scripture represents God as changing his purpose, or repenting, and that, therefore, his Providence is not fixed. Answer to this first objection. Proof from Scripture that God cannot repent.

     13. Why repentance attributed to God.

     14. Second objection, that Scripture speaks of an annulment of the divine decrees. Objection answered. Answer confirmed by an example.

     1. Moreover, such is the proneness of the human mind to indulge in vain subtleties, that it becomes almost impossible for those who do not see the sound and proper use of this doctrine, to avoid entangling themselves in perplexing difficulties. It will, therefore, be proper here to advert to the end which Scripture has in view in teaching that all things are divinely ordained. And it is to be observed, first, that the Providence of God is to be considered with reference both to the past and the future; and, secondly, that in overruling all things, it works at one time with means, at another without means, and at another against means. Lastly, the design of God is to show that He takes care of the whole human race, but is especially vigilant in governing the Church, which he favours with a closer inspection. Moreover, we must add, that although the paternal favour and beneficence, as well as the judicial severity of God, is often conspicuous in the whole course of his Providence, yet occasionally as the causes of events are concealed, the thought is apt to rise, that human affairs are whirled about by the blind impulse of Fortune, or our carnal nature inclines us to speak as if God were amusing himself by tossing men up and down like balls. It is true, indeed, that if with sedate and quiet minds we were disposed to learn, the issue would at length make it manifest, that the counsel of God was in accordance with the highest reason, that his purpose was either to train his people to patience, correct their depraved affections, tame their wantonness, inure them to self-denial, and arouse them from torpor; or, on the other hand, to cast down the proud, defeat the craftiness of the ungodly, and frustrate all their schemes. How much soever causes may escape our notice, we must feel assured that they are deposited with him, and accordingly exclaim with David, "Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered," (Ps. 40:5). For while our adversities ought always to remind us of our sins, that the punishment may incline us to repentance, we see, moreover, how Christ declares there is something more in the secret counsel of his Father than to chastise every one as he deserves. For he says of the man who was born blind, "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him," (John 9:3). Here, where calamity takes precedence even of birth, our carnal sense murmurs as if God were unmerciful in thus afflicting those who have not offended. But Christ declares that, provided we had eyes clear enough, we should perceive that in this spectacle the glory of his Father is brightly displayed. We must use modesty, not as it were compelling God to render an account, but so revering his hidden Judgments as to account his will the best of all reasons. [134] When the sky is overcast with dense clouds, and a violent tempest arises, the darkness which is presented to our eye, and the thunder which strikes our ears, and stupefies all our senses with terror, make us imagine that every thing is thrown into confusion, though in the firmament itself all continues quiet and serene. In the same way, when the tumultuous aspect of human affairs unfits us for judging, we should still hold, that God, in the pure light of his justice and wisdom, keeps all these commotions in due subordination, and conducts them to their proper end. And certainly in this matter many display monstrous infatuation, presuming to subject the works of God to their calculation, and discuss his secret counsels, as well as to pass a precipitate Judgment on things unknown, and that with greater license than on the doings of mortal men. What can be more preposterous than to show modesty toward our equals, and choose rather to suspend our Judgment than incur the blame of rashness, while we petulantly insult the hidden Judgments of God, Judgments which it becomes us to look up to and revere.

     2. No man, therefore, will duly and usefully ponder on the providence of God save he who recollects that he has to do with his own Maker, and the Maker of the world, and in the exercise of the humility which becomes him, manifests both fear and reverence. Hence it is, that in the present day so many dogs tear this doctrine with envenomed teeth, or, at least, assail it with their bark, refusing to give more license to God than their own reason dictates to themselves. With what petulance, too, are we assailed for not being contented with the precepts of the Law, in which the will of God is comprehended, and for maintaining that the world is governed by his secret counsels? As if our doctrine were the figment of our own brain, and were not distinctly declared by the Spirit, and repeated in innumerable forms of expression! Since some feeling of shame restrains them from daring to belch forth their blasphemies against heaven, that they may give the freer vent to their rage, they pretend to pick a quarrel with us. But if they refuse to admit that every event which happens in the world is governed by the incomprehensible counsel of God, let them explain to what effect Scripture declares, that "his Judgments are a great deep," (Ps. 36:7). For when Moses exclaims that the will of God "is not in heaven that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us? Neither is it beyond the sea that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea and bring it unto us?" (Deut. 30:12, 13), because it was familiarly expounded in the law, it follows that there must be another hidden will which is compared to " a great deep." It is of this will Paul exclaims, "O! the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his Judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?" (Rom. 11:33, 34). It is true, indeed, that in the law and the gospel are comprehended mysteries which far transcend the measure of our sense; but since God, to enable his people to understand those mysteries which he has deigned to reveal in his word, enlightens their minds with a spirit of understanding, they are now no longer a deep, but a path in which they can walk safely--a lamp to guide their feet--a light of life--a school of clear and certain truth. But the admirable method of governing the world is justly called a deep, because, while it lies hid from us, it is to be reverently adored. Both views Moses has beautifully expressed in a few words. "Secret things," saith he, "belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever," (Deut. 29:29). We see how he enjoins us not only studiously to meditate on the law, but to look up with reverence to the secret Providence of God. The Book of Job also, in order to keep our minds humble, contains a description of this lofty theme. The author of the Book, after taking an ample survey of the universe, and discoursing magnificently on the works of God, at length adds, "Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him?" (Job 26:14). For which reason he, in another passage, distinguishes between the wisdom which dwells in God, and the measure of wisdom which he has assigned to man (Job 28:21, 28). After discoursing of the secrets of nature, he says that wisdom "is hid from the eyes of all living;" that "God understandeth the way thereof." Shortly after he adds, that it has been divulged that it might be investigated; for "unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." To this the words of Augustine refer, "As we do not know all the things which God does respecting us in the best order, we ought, with good intention, to act according to the Law, and in some things be acted upon according to the Law, his Providence being a Law immutable," (August. Quest. lib. 83 c. 27). Therefore, since God claims to himself the right of governing the world, a right unknown to us, let it be our law of modesty and soberness to acquiesce in his supreme authority regarding his will as our only rule of justice, and the most perfect cause of all things,--not that absolute will, indeed, of which sophists prate, when by a profane and impious divorce, they separate his justice from his power, but that universal overruling Providence from which nothing flows that is not right, though the reasons thereof may be concealed. [135]

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Perfect Gift – A Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

By Msgr. Charles Pope 12/10/2016

     What is the perfect gift? We tend to answer this question more in terms of what we want, but today’s Gospel teaches us that the perfect gift is what God is offering. One of the goals of the spiritual journey is to come to value, more than our latest desire, more than our perceived need—more than all else—what God offers.

     In reviewing today’s Gospel, I am going to take a stance regarding St. John the Baptist that I realize is not without controversy. The Gospel opens with John (who is in prison) sending his disciples to Jesus with a strange question: “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” This is a strange question coming from the one who pointed Jesus out and spoke so powerfully of Him!

     Many of the Fathers of the Church (e.g., John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Theodore of Mopsuestia) interpreted John’s question as a rhetorical one, designed to teach his reluctant disciples to follow Jesus.

     I, however, would like to present a different interpretation: that John’s question is a sincere one, and manifests some puzzlement—even discouragement.

     While some will take offense no matter how many disclaimers I provide, I still insist that I mean no impiety in my interpretation. It is a common biblical stance that even the greatest scriptural heroes are presented in very human terms. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, the judges and prophets, on down to the Apostles are all depicted as humans who are imperfect from the start, who struggle to understand and have perfect faith. Some of them committed great sins—even including murder. One of the most powerful themes of the Bible is that God is able to work with imperfect, struggling human beings and draw them to great sanctity and great accomplishments.

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     Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.

Relativity, Relativism, and the Modern Age

By Albert Mohler 11/01/2016

     The intellectual revolution that is shaping American culture began in some sense with four lectures presented to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in late 1915. The lectures were given by Albert Einstein, who before the end of the year would publish his argument for a general theory of relativity. Those lectures launched an intellectual revolution, and Einstein’s theory of relativity is essential to our understanding of the modern age.

     The one-hundredth anniversary of a scientific theory is not necessarily a matter of great cultural importance. Einstein had developed his special theory of relativity a decade earlier, but his general theory — his special theory extended to the entire cosmos — was breathtaking in its revolutionary power. Einstein replaced the world of Newtonian physics with a new world marked by four dimensions instead of only three. Time, added as a fourth dimension, changed everything.

     Einstein summarized his own theory in these words:

     The “Principle of Relativity” in its widest sense is contained in the statement: The totality of physical phenomena is of such a character that it gives no basis for the introduction of the concept of “absolute motion;” or, shorter but less precise: There is no “absolute motion.”

     Thus, time, matter, and energy are relative, and not absolute. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Thomas Levenson recently called Einstein’s theory “the greatest intellectual accomplishment of the twentieth century.” The Economist, marking the centennial of Einstein’s lectures, called the general theory of relativity “one of the highest intellectual achievements of humanity.” It is no exaggeration to claim Einstein’s theory as the very foundation of modern cosmology.

     And yet, most modern people — even well-educated moderns — have little idea of the actual theory or of its scientific significance. In everyday life, Newtonian physics serves us very well. Cosmologists may depend on Einstein’s theory in their daily work, but few others do.

     Nevertheless, the cultural impact of Einstein’s theory extends far beyond the laboratory or the science classroom. As the twentieth century unfolded, Einstein’s theory of relativity quickly became a symbol and catalyst for something very different — the development of moral relativism.

     Einstein was not a moral relativist, nor did he believe that his theories had any essential moral or cultural meaning. He recoiled when his theory of relativity was blamed or credited for the birth of modern art (Cubism, in particular) or any other cultural development.

     The philosopher Isaiah Berlin defended Einstein against any such charge: “The word relativity has been widely misinterpreted as relativism, the denial, or doubt about, the objectivity of truth or moral values.” He continued, “This was the opposite of what Einstein believed. He was a man of simple and absolute moral convictions, which were expressed in all he was and did.”

     Fair enough. Albert Einstein was not a moral relativist, and his theory of relativity has nothing to do with morality. The problem, however, is simple — Einstein’s theory of relativity entered the popular consciousness as a generalized relativism. Of course, Einstein is not responsible for the misuse, misapplication, and misappropriation of his theory. But in any event, millions of modern people understood relativity as relativism. And that misunderstanding is one of the toxic developments of the modern age.

     As Walter Isaacson, Einstein’s most important biographer, explains:

     In both his science and his moral philosophy, Einstein was driven by a quest for certainty and deterministic laws. If his theory of relativity produced ripples that unsettled the realms of morality and culture, this was not caused by what Einstein believed but by how he was popularly interpreted.

     That is exactly the issue. Einstein, Isaacson reveals, was an influence on the emergence of relativism as a major theme in modern art, philosophy, and morality, even if that was not his intention at all. In Isaacson’s words, “There was a more complex relationship between Einstein’s theories and the whole witch’s brew of ideas and emotions in the early twentieth century that bubbled up from the highly charged cauldron of modernism.” Historian Paul Johnson gets it exactly right as he describes the cultural impact of Einstein’s theories:

     It was as though the spinning globe had been taken off its axis and cast adrift in a universe which no longer conformed to accustomed standards of measurement. At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.

     By the middle of the twentieth century, moral relativism was a major influence in the cultural revolutions that reshaped entire societies. Artists, filmmakers, authors, and playwrights were joined by an army of psychotherapists, academics, liberal theologians, and academic revolutionaries — all seeking to reject absolute moral norms and absolute truth and to establish relativism as the new worldview. They were stunningly successful.

     Moral relativism and the rejection of absolute truth now shape the modern post-Christian mind. Indeed, relativism is virtually taken for granted, at least as an excuse for overthrowing theistic truth claims and any restrictive morality.

     And so, Einstein is variously blamed or thanked for a moral revolution he never intended or wanted. The lesson for the rest of us is clear. Not only do ideas have consequences, they often have consequences that are neither foreseen or predicted.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

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Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 22)

By John Foxe 1563

The Beginnings of American Foreign Missions

     Samuel J. Mills, when a student in Williams College, gathered about him a group of fellow students, all feeling the burden of the great heathen world. One day in 1806 four of them, overtaken by a thunderstorm, took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. They passed the time in prayer for the salvation of the world, and resolved, if opportunity offered, to go themselves as missionaries. This "haystack prayer meeting" has become historic.

     These young men went later to Andover Theological Seminary, where Adoniram Judson joined them. Four of these sent a petition to the Massachusetts Congregational Association at Bradford, June 29, 1810, offering themselves as missionaries and asking whether they might expect support from a society in this country, or whether they must apply to a British society. In response to this appeal the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed.

     When a charter for the Board was applied for, an unbelieving soul objected upon the floor of the legislature, alleging in opposition to the petition that the country contained so limited a supply of Christianity that none could be spared for export, but was aptly reminded by another, who was blessed with a more optimistic make, that this was a commodity such that the more of it was sent abroad the more remained at home. There was much perplexity concerning plans and finances, so Judson was dispatched to England to confer with the London Society as to the feasibility of the two organizations cooperating in sending and sustaining the candidates, but this scheme came to nothing. At last sufficient money was raised, and in February, 1812, the first missionaries of the American Board sailed for the Orient. Mr. Judson was accompanied by his wife, having married Ann Hasseltine shortly before sailing.

     On the long voyage out, in some way Mr. and Mrs. Judson and Mr. Rice were led to revise their convictions with reference to the proper mode of baptism, reached the conclusion that only immersion was valid, and were reabptized by Carey soon after their arrival in Calcutta. This step necessarily sundered their connection with the body which had sent them forth, and left them wholly destitute of support. Mr. Rice returned to America to report this condition of affairs to the Baptist brethren. They looked upon the situation as the result of an act of Providence, and eagerly planned to accept the responsibility thrust upon them. Accordingly the Baptist Missionary Union was formed. So Mr. Judson was the occasion of the organization of two great missionary societies.

The Persecution of Doctor Judson

     After laboring for some time in Hindustan Dr. and Mrs. Judson finally established themselves at Rangoon in the Burman Empire, in 1813. In 1824 war broke out between the British East India Company and the emperor of Burma. Dr. and Mrs. Judson and Dr. Price, who were at Ava, the capital of the Burman Empire, when the war commenced, were immediately arrested and confined for several months. The account of the sufferings of the missionaries was written by Mrs. Judson, and is given in her own words.

     "Rangoon, May 26, 1826.

     "My beloved Brother,

     "I commence this letter with the intention of giving you the particulars of our captivity and sufferings at Ava. How long my patience will allow my reviewing scenes of disgust and horror, the conclusion of this letter will determine. I had kept a journal of everything that had transpired from our arrival at Ava, but destroyed it at the commencement of our difficulties.

     "The first certain intelligence we received of the declaration of war by the Burmese, was on our arrival at Tsenpyoo-kywon, about a hundred miles this side of Ava, where part of the troops, under the command of the celebrated Bandoola, had encamped. As we proceeded on our journey, we met Bandoola himself, with the remainder of his troops, gaily equipped, seated on his golden barge, and surrounded by a fleet of gold war boats, one of which was instantly despatched the other side of the river to hail us, and make all necessary inquiries. We were allowed to proceed quietly on, when he had informed the messenger that we were Americans, not English, and were going to Ava in obedience to the command of his Majesty.

     "On our arrival at the capital, we found that Dr. Price was out of favor at court, and that suspicion rested on most of the foreigners then at Ava. Your brother visited at the palace two or three times, but found the king's manner toward him very different from what it formerly had been; and the queen, who had hitherto expressed wishes for my speedy arrival, now made no inquiries after me, nor intimated a wish to see me. Consequently, I made no effort to visit at the palace, though almost daily invited to visit some of the branches of the royal family, who were living in their own houses, out of the palace enclosure. Under these circumstances, we thought our most prudent course lay in prosecuting our original intention of building a house, and commencing missionary operations as occasion offered, thus endeavoring to convince the government that we had really nothing to do with the present war.

     "In two or three weeks after our arrival, the king, queen, all the members of the royal family, and most of the officers of government, returned to Amarapora, in order to come and take possession of the new palace in the customary style.

     "I dare not attempt a description of that splendid day, when majesty with all its attendant glory entered the gates of the golden city, and amid the acclamations of millions, I may say, took possession of the palace. The saupwars of the provinces bordering on China, all the viceroys and high officers of the kingdom were assembled on the occasion, dressed in their robes of state, and ornamented with the insignia of their office. The white elephant, richly adorned with gold and jewels, was one of the most beautiful objects in the procession. The king and queen alone were unadorned, dressed in the simple garb of the country; they, hand in hand, entered the garden in which we had taken our seats, and where a banquet was prepared for their refreshment. All the riches and glory of the empire were on this day exhibited to view. The number and immense size of the elephants, the numerous horses, and great variety of vehicles of all descriptions, far surpassed anything I have ever seen or imagined. Soon after his majesty had taken possession of the new palace, an order was issued that no foreigner should be allowed to enter, excepting Lansago. We were a little alarmed at this, but concluded it was from political motives, and would not, perhaps, essentially affect us.

     "For several weeks nothing took place to alarm us, and we wnt on with our school. Mr. J. preached every Sabbath, all the materials for building a brick house were procured, and the masons had made considerable progress in raising the building.

     "On the twenty-third of May, 1824, just as we had concluded worship at the Doctor's house, the other side of the river, a messenger came to inform us that Rangoon was taken by the English. The intelligence produced a shock, in which was a mixture of fear and joy. Mr. Gouger, a young merchant residing at Ava, was then with us, and had much more reason to fear than the rest of us. We all, however, immediately returned to our house, and began to consider what was to be done. Mr. G. went to Prince Thar-yar-wadee, the king's most influential brother, who informed him he need not give himself any uneasiness, as he had mentioned the subject to his majesty, who had replied, that 'the few foreigners residing at Ava had nothing to do with the war, and should not be molested.'

     "The government were now all in motion. An army of ten or twelve thousand men, under the command of the Kyee-woon-gyee, were sent off in three or four days, and were to be joined by the Sakyer-woon-gyee, who had previously been appointed viceroy of Rangoon, and who was on his way thither, when the news of its attack reached him. No doubt was entertained of the defeat of the English; the only fear of the king was that the foreigners hearing of the advance of the Burmese troops, would be so alarmed as to flee on board their ships and depart, before there would be time to secure them as slaves. 'Bring for me,' said a wild young buck of the palace, 'six kala pyoo, (white strangers,) to row my boat;' and 'to me,' said the lady of Woon-gyee, 'send four white strangers to manage the affairs of my house, as I understand they are trusty servants.' The war boats, in high glee, passed our house, the soldiers singing and dancing, and exhibiting gestures of the most joyful kind. Poor fellows! said we, you will probably never dance again. And so it proved, for few if any ever saw again their native home.

     "At length Mr. Judson and Dr. Price were summoned to a court of examination, where strict inquiry was made relative to all they knew. The great point seemed to be whether they had been in the habit of making communications to foreigners, of the state of the country, etc. They answered that they had always written to their friends in America, but had no correspondence with English officers, or the Bengal government. After their examination, they were not put in confinement as the Englishmen had been, but were allowed to return to their houses. In examining the accounts of Mr. G it was found that Mr. J. and Dr. Price had taken money of him to a considerable amount. Ignorant, as were the Burmese, of our mode of receiving money, by orders on Bengal, this circumstance, to their suspicious minds, was a sufficient evidence that the missionaries were in the pay of the English, and very probably spies. It was thus represented to the king, who, in an angry tone, ordered the immediate arrest of the 'two teachers.'

     "On the eighth of June, just as we were prearing for dinner, in rushed an officer, holding a black book, with a dozen Burmans, accompanied by one, whom, from his spotted face, we knew to be an executioner, and a 'son of the prison.' 'Where is the teacher?' was the first inquiry. Mr. Judson presented himself. 'You are called by the king,' said the officer; a form of speech always used when about to arrest a criminal. The spotted man instantly seized Mr. Judson, threw him on the floor, and produced the small cord, the instrument of torture. I caught hold of his arm; 'Stay, (said I,) I will give you money.' 'Take her too,' said the officer; 'she also is a foreigner.' Mr. Judson, with an imploring look, begged they would let me remain until further orders. The scene was now shocking beyond description.

     "The whole neighborhood had collected-the masons at work on the brick house threw down their tools, and ran-the little Burman children were screaming and crying-the Bengalee servants stood in amazement at the indignities offered their master-and the hardened executioner, with a hellish joy, drew tight the cords, bound Mr. Judson fast, and dragged him off, I knew not whither. In vain I begged and entreated the spotted face to take the silver, and loosen the ropes, but he spurned my offers, and immediately departed. I gave the money, however, to Moung Ing to follow after, to make some further attempt to mitigate the torture of Mr. Judson; but instead of succeeding, when a few rods from the house, the unfeeling wretches again threw their prisoner on the ground, and drew the cords still tighter, so as almost to prevent respiration.

     "The officer and his gang proceeded on to the courthouse, where the governor of the city and the officers were collected, one of whom read the order of the king, to commit Mr. Judson to the death prison, into which he was soon hurled, the door closed-and Moung Ing saw no more. What a night was now before me! I retired into my room, and endeavored to obtain consolation from committing my case to God, and imploring fortitude and strength to suffer whatever awaited me. But the consolation of retirement was not long allowed me, for the magistrate of the place had come into the veranda, and continually called me to come out, and submit to his examination. But previously to going out, I destroyed all my letters, journals, and writings of every kind, lest they should disclose the fact that we had correspondents in England, and had minuted down every occurrence since our arrival in the country. When this work of destruction was finished, I went out and submitted to the examination of the magistrate, who inquired very minutely of everything I knew; then ordered the gates of the compound to be shut, no person be allowed to go in or out, placed a guard of ten ruffians, to whom he gave a strict charge to keep me safe, and departed.

     "It was now dark. I retired to an inner room with my four little Burman girls, and barred the doors. The guard instantly ordered me to unbar the doors and come out, or they would break the house down. I obstinately refused to obey, and endeavored to intimidate them by threatening to complain of their conduct to higher authorities on the morrow. Finding me resolved in disregarding their orders, they took the two Bengalee servants, and confined them in the stocks in a very painful position. I could not endure this; but called the head man to the window, and promised to make them all a present in the morning, if they would release the servants. After much debate, and many severe threatenings, they consented, but seemed resolved to annoy me as much as possible. My unprotected, desolate state, my entire uncertainty of the fate of Mr. Judson, and the dreadful carousings and almost diabolical language of the guard, all conspired to make it by far the most distressing night I had ever passed. You may well imagine, my dear brother, that sleep was a stranger to my eyes, and peace and composure to my mind.

     "The next morning, I sent Moung Ing to ascertain the situation of your brother, and give him food, if still living. He soon returned, with the intelligence that Mr. Judson, and all the white foreigners, were confined in the death prison, with three pairs of iron fetters each, and fastened to a long pole, to prevent their moving! The point of my anguish now was that I was a prisoner myself, and could make no efforts for the release of the missionaries. I begged and entreated the magistrate to allow me to go to some member of government to state my case; but he said he did not dare to consent, for fear I should make my escape. I next wrote a note to one of the king's sisters, with whom I had been intimate, requesting her to use her influence for the release of the teachers. The note was returned with this message-She 'did not understand it'-which was a polite refusal to interfere; though I afterwards ascertained that she had an anxious desire to assist us, but dared not on account of the queen. The day dragged heavily away, and another dreadful night was before me. I endeavored to soften the feelings of the guard by giving them tea and cigars for the night; so that they allowed me to remain inside of my room, without threatening as they did the night before. But the idea of your brother being stretched on the bare floor in irons and confinement, haunted my mind like a spectre, and prevented my obtaining any quiet sleep, though nature was almost exhausted.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs


  • He Shall Reign Forever
  • Jesus in 3-D 1
  • Jesus in 3-D 2


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Do what God has told you (6)
     12/16/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘You Need To Persevere.’

(Heb 10:36) 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; ESV

     Try to imagine what life on the ark must have been like for Noah. He probably didn’t get much sleep. He was feeding, cleaning, and caring for thousands of animals around the clock. And it must have smelled to high heaven. Did you know that African elephants produce eighty pounds of waste per day? It was smelly and messy. And that’s a pretty accurate picture of what obedience sometimes looks like. It’s hard work, and it gets harder. The blessings of God can complicate your life. But unlike sin, they bring a level of joy and fulfilment you have never known (see Proverbs 10:22). No matter what vision God has given you, it will take longer and be harder than you ever imagined. Noah offers a little reality check, doesn’t he? If a decade sounds like a long time to patiently pursue a God-ordained passion, try twelve decades! It’s amazing what God can do if you just keep hammering away year after year! We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade. The key is to be a planner and a plodder. Planners see into the future and cast a vision; plodders put one foot in front of the other and keep going one day at a time. Success is not just about getting where God wants you to go, it’s about who you become in the process. It’s crossing the finish line the way the apostle Paul did: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful’ (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT). So, do what God has told you.

(Pr 10:22) 22 The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. ESV

Micah 6-7
Rev 10

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Boston Tea Party took place this day, December 16, 1773, just three years after the Boston Massacre, where the British fired into a crowd killing many. The unbearable taxes of the British resulted in a band of citizens, disguised as Indians, throwing 342 chests of tea from a British East India Company ship into the Boston Harbor. The men of Marlborough, Massachusetts, declared: “Death is more eligible than slavery. A free-born people are not required by the religion of Christ to submit to tyranny, but may make use of such power as God has given them to recover and support their… liberties.”

American Minute

Letters To Malcolm, Chiefly On Prayer
     by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God


     Chapter 18  December 16

     I plead guilty. When I was writing about pleasures last week I had quite forgotten about the mala mentis gaudia­ the pleasures of the mind which are intrinsically evil. The pleasure, say, of having a grievance. What a disappointment it is-for one self-revealing moment-to discover that the other party was not really to blame? And how a resentment, while it lasts, draws one back and back to nurse and fondle and encourage it! It behaves just like a lust. But I don't think this leaves my theory (and experience) of ordinary pleasures in ruins. Aren't these intrinsically vicious pleasures, as Plato said, "mixed"? To use his own image, given the itch, one wants to scratch it. And if you abstain, the temptation is very severe, and if you scratch there is a sort of pleasure in the momentary and deceptive relief. But one didn't want to itch. The scratch is not a pleasure simply, but only by comparison with the context. In the same way, resentment is pleasant only as a relief from, or alternative to, humiliation. I •still think that those experiences which are pleasures in their own right can all be regarded as I suggest.

     The mere mention of the horrible pleasures-the dainties of Hell-very naturally led you away from the subject of adoration to that of repentance. I'm going to follow you into your digression, for you said something I disagreed with.

     I admit of course that penitential prayers-"acts'' of penitence, as I believe they are called-can be on very different levels. At the lowest, what you call "Pagan penitence," there is simply the attempt to placate a supposedly angry power­ "I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Let me off this time." At the highest level, you say, the attempt is, rather, to restore an infinitely valued and vulnerable personal relation which has been shattered by an action of one's own, and if forgiveness, in the "crude" sense of remission of penalty, comes in, this is valued chiefly as a symptom or seal or even by-product of the reconciliation. I expect you are right about that. I say "expect" because I can't claim to know much by experience about the highest level either of penitence or of anything else. The ceiling, if there is one, is a long way off.

     All the same, there is a difference between us. I can't agree to call your lowest level "Pagan penitence." Doesn't your description cover a great deal of Old Testament penitence? Look at the Psalms. Doesn't it cover a good deal of Christian penitence-a good deal that is embodied in Christian liturgies? "Neither take thou vengeance for our sins … be not angry with us forever … neque secundum iniquitates nostras retribuas nobis."

     Here, as nearly always, what we regard as "crude" and "low," and what presumably is in fact lowest, spreads far further up the Christian life than we like to admit. And do we find anywhere in Scripture or in the Fathers that explicit and resounding rejection of it which would be so welcome?

     I fully grant you that "wrath" can be attributed to God only by an analogy. The situation of the penitent before God isn't, but is somehow like, that of one appearing before a justly angered sovereign, lover, father, master, or teacher. But what more can we know about it than just this likeness? Trying to get in behind the analogy, you go further and fare worse. You suggest that what is traditionally regarded as our experience of God's anger would be more helpfully regarded as what inevitably happens to us if we behave inappropriately towards a reality of immense power. As you say, "The live wire doesn't feel angry with us, but if we blunder against it we get a shock."

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


All are presumed to be blind
until the Holy One,
praised is He,
enlightens their eyes.
--- Rabbi Binyamin


What difference does it make to the dead,
the orphans, and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction
is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
--- Mohandas Gandhi


The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
--- Hemingway


Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
--- Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy


... from here, there and everywhere


Proverbs 30:20
     by D.H. Stern

20     This is how an unfaithful wife behaves:
she eats, wipes her mouth, and says, “I did nothing wrong.”


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Reliability Of Ezra
     Apologetics Study Bible

     Prominent in Ezra are texts of official proclamations of the Persian government (e.g., Ezr 1:1–5; 4:8–10, 11–16, 17–22; 5:6–17; 6:6–12; 7:11–26). Until recently many scholars doubted the authenticity of these texts. They claimed that the language sounded too theological or that they didn’t follow standard Persian form. However, recent studies have silenced these criticisms. Study of the letters from the Jewish community at Elephantine, Egypt, reveals that the theological sound of the royal edicts is probably the result of the interaction of the Jewish people with the king prior to the issue of his edicts. In other words, the king (or his scribe) used language that would be familiar to the recipients. The official letters in the book are now known to be comparable in style to typical letters of the day, varying partly in whether they were written from inferiors to superiors or vice versa.
     Another question that has occupied scholars is the chronological order of Ezra and Nehemiah. Some scholars have concluded that Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem before Ezra. This has significant bearing on the historical reliability of the works since they clearly contend that Ezra preceded Nehemiah. Those who make this claim use two principal arguments.
     First, there is the supposed evidence from archaeology. Some scholars argue that the archaeological data suggest that the geopolitical climate during the reign of Artaxerxes II (404–359 B.C.) was more suited to the kinds of activity in which Ezra engaged. It is certainly true that the situation with Egypt had declined considerably by the time of Artaxerxes II and that it would have been in Persia’s best interest to strengthen its relationship with this buffer region as a result. But Egypt had also revolted around 459 B.C., and that rebellion was not put down until 454 B.C. So it is equally plausible that Persia could have seen the value in a stronger relationship with this outlying region at an earlier time.
     Furthermore, the adherents to a late date for Ezra must remove from the biblical text the two instances in which Ezra appeared in Jerusalem with Nehemiah (Neh 8:1–10:39; 12:27–47) since Nehemiah was governor from 445–433 B.C. While some scholars differ about the date of Nehemiah’s mission, most agree that he arrived in Jerusalem in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes I (445 B.C.; Neh 1:1; 2:1). The first time Ezra and Nehemiah appeared together occurred less than two months after Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem. Nehemiah recorded that he was in Jerusalem three days before he challenged the people to rebuild the wall (
Neh 2:11). It took 52 days to complete the wall (Neh 6:15). The dedication, at which Ezra was present, would most likely have occurred shortly afterward (Neh 12:27–36). In any event, Nehemiah recorded that he returned to Babylon in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes’s reign (433 B.C.), and the dedication most certainly would have been conducted before he left. Ezra’s significance in these events is totally unexplained if he had not already been active in Jerusalem.
     The second line of argument is based on supposed discrepancies in the two texts. Critics argue the following points: (1) Jerusalem was better populated during Ezra’s time than during Nehemiah’s time (cp.
Ezr 10:1; Neh 11:1). (2) The high priest during Ezra’s activity was Jehohanan, who appears to have been the grandson of Eliashib, who was high priest during Nehemiah’s activity (Neh 3:1, 20). (3) Nehemiah had to appoint temple treasurers (Neh 13:13), whereas they were already present in Ezra’s time (Ezr 8:33). (4) Ezra thanked God for giving them a wall in Judah and Jerusalem, whereas Nehemiah is credited with building Jerusalem’s wall (Neh 6:15).
     For many reasons, these arguments do not hold up. For example,
Ezra 10:1 refers to a large gathering of Israelite men. It does not say they all were inhabitants of Jerusalem. It is probable that the Eliashib mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and 20 was Eliashib II, a later priest. Nehemiah 13:13 does not say there were no treasurers. Verse 10 says only that the Levites and singers had not received their allocation from the temple storehouse. Nehemiah said that he appointed trustworthy men to assure this didn’t happen again. It is possible that the previous treasurers were simply not trustworthy and had to be replaced. The wall Ezra referred to was probably a figurative wall, that is, God’s hedge of protection, since it refers to Judah as well as Jerusalem. Obviously, Nehemiah’s wall pertained only to Jerusalem. The arguments for reversing the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah are not adequate to overrule the biblical chronology.
     1:1 Shortly after Cyrus the Great assumed rule over the former Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C., Cyrus gave an account of his conquest of Babylon on a clay cylinder. The Cyrus Cylinder, inscribed in 538 B.C. in Babylonian cuneiform, claims that he began a campaign of restoration. This included allowing displaced people to return to their homelands and returning statues of deities taken from their homelands in Babylonian victories. Skeptics note that the magnanimity shown by Cyrus toward the Jewish exiles was not due to divine intervention. It was a typical policy toward displaced people under his rule. This is undeniable, but this fact of history does not diminish the significance of the return of the Jews from exile. After all, the return was a fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah prophesied the rise of Cyrus and his benevolence toward Israel 150 years earlier (see
Is 44:28–45:7). Furthermore, the timing was impeccable. Cyrus’s decree coincided with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (see Jr 25:11).      1:2–4 Some scholars claim that Cyrus’s edict is not genuine. They believe that Cyrus would never have spoken in these terms. However, the Cyrus Cylinder (see note on v. 1), as well as inscriptions from the cities of Uruk and Ur contain language by Cyrus that reads very much like parts of this edict. Furthermore, the biblical character of the language is very likely the result of Cyrus’s interaction with Jews with whom he conversed as he prepared to authorize the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the temple. This kind of interaction may have been fairly common. For example, a papyrus from the Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt, dated around 407 B.C., asks Bagoas, governor of Judah, to authorize the rebuilding of their temple in Elephantine.

The Apologetics Study Bible, Hardcover, Indexed: Understand Why You Believe (Apologetics Bible)

Ezra 4:3
     Declining help

     Ezra 4:3 Whether or not Zerubbabel and his colleagues considered the possibility that there was more to the request than met the eye, they were firm in declining the offer. The reason they gave was, strictly speaking, quite correct: it was they, and they alone, whom Cyrus had authorized to build the temple; cf 1:2–4. The self-confessed foreign origin of those asking to help was sufficient, on political grounds, to bar them from participation. As the form of Tattenai’s subsequent inquiry shows, they might have jeopardized the whole undertaking if they had not kept to the letter of the authorization granted them. (This was why they insisted, somewhat misleadingly, that their work was a direct and uninterrupted continuation of what had been started in Sheshbazzar’s time; cf 5:16.) We cannot tell at this distance whether an inherently religious exclusivism also lay behind this politically understandable response. It may have, though we should note that at least they were willing to absorb individuals into their community as opposed to groups who maintained a distinct identity; cf 6:21. But the inquirers can hardly be expected to have appreciated so fine a distinction, and by their subsequent actions, no doubt goaded by this rebuff, they showed themselves ultimately to be “the enemies of Judah and Benjamin.”

Revelation (The College Press Niv Commentary)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                Wrestling Before God

     Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, … praying always …
--- Eph. 6:13, 18.

     You have to wrestle against the things that prevent you from getting to God, and you wrestle in prayer for other souls; but never say that you wrestle with God in prayer, it is scripturally untrue. If you do wrestle with God, you will be crippled all the rest of your life. If, when God comes in some way you do not want, you take hold of Him as Jacob did and wrestle with Him, you compel Him to put you out of joint. Don’t be a hirpler in God’s ways, but be one who wrestles before God with things, becoming more than conqueror through Him. Wrestling before God tells in His Kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you and I am not complete in Christ, I may pray but it avails nothing; but if I am complete in Christ, my prayer prevails all the time. Prayer is only effective when there is completeness— “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God.”

     Always distinguish between God’s order and His permissive will, i.e., His providential purpose towards us. God’s order is unchangeable; His permissive will is that with which we must wrestle before Him. It is our reaction to the passive will of God that enables us to get at His order. “All things work together for good to them that love God”—to those who remain true to God’s order, to His calling in Christ Jesus. God’s permissive will is the means whereby His sons and daughters are to be manifested. We are not to be like jelly-fish saying—‘It’s the Lord’s will.’ We have not to put up a fight before God, not to wrestle with God, but to wrestle before God with things. Beware of squatting lazily before God instead of putting up a glorious fight so that you may lay hold of His strength.

My Utmost for His Highest

Sea Watching
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


                Sea Watching

Grey waters, vast
     as an area of prayer
that one enters. Daily
     over a period of years
I have let the eye rest on them.
Was I waiting for something?
     Nothing
but that continuous waving
     that is without meaning
occurred.
     Ah, but a rare bird is
rare. It is when one is not looking,
at times one is not there
     That it comes.
You must wear your eyes out,
as others their knees.
     I became the hermit
of the rocks, habited with the wind
and the mist. There were days,
so beautiful the emptiness
it might have filled,
     its absence
was as its presence; not to be told
any more, so single my mind
after its long fast,
     my watching from praying.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Take Heart
     December 16



     Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! --- John 1:29.

     There is a reference here to the purity of the Lord Jesus Christ—holy, separate from sinners.  John Duncan, “Behold the Lamb of God,” preached on October 25, 1840, at Milton Church, Glasgow, Scotland; downloaded from The Westminster Presbyterian, a Web site of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Metropolitan Washington, at members.aol.com/rsich/grace.html, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.  But there is special reference to sacrifice, a reference exhibited in two cases. First, when God commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac, the ram caught in the thicket was sacrificed; Isaac was spared, a type of our salvation by the substitution of the Lord Jesus. The other reference is to the lamb of the Passover. What did God teach there? That the destroying angel will not find Israel better than the Egyptians, but God would spare his people whom he had set apart for himself. And so the destroying angel did not destroy the firstborn of Israel.

     Now here is God’s lamb—the Lamb he has provided for a burnt offering—not typically but actually, not the shadow but the reality. The world did not have a lamb to make amends for its sin—not to speak of the necessity of a divine Person to atone for sin, for—infinite evil of it—the world had no innocent person. But God provided a lamb. ’Twas Jehovah’s own finding—and what was his provision? We read that he who is called the Lamb of God is the Word of God, who in the beginning was with God and was God, the Creator of all things, by whom all things were made—God’s own Son, the only begotten of the Father, the kindred and equal of the Lord of Hosts, and the exact representation of his being.

     When we consider the Lamb of God, we consider him as God and human—Immanuel—which he was from all eternity but, when the time had come, by actual unveiling. We are sent to Bethlehem to see this great thing, to see the child born, the Son given, whose name is the Mighty God! “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity” (
Heb. 2:14), that he might be a kinsman-redeemer, that satisfaction might be given to divine justice in the same nature that had offended. His deity gave infinite value and effectiveness to his obedience and atonement. He is the Lamb of God, pure and spotless—for such alone could bear away sin.

     The Lord has accepted his offering—the Lamb whom God, having provided and accepted, now exhibits to us sinners. He says of him—for we have greater testimony than that of John—“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
--- John Duncan

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day   December 16
     The Earthquake


     On December 16, 1811 a massive earthquake rocked the southern United States, its tremors and aftershocks spreading so far as to make church bells ring in Philadelphia. Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake was formed by the upheaval. Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright, one of America’s most colorful itinerant evangelists, recorded several earthquake experiences in his autobiography. Cartwright, who had been converted through the Cane Ridge revival and subsequently traveled throughout the South and Midwest for almost 70 years preaching, spreading revival, and starting churches, wrote:

     It seemed to stop the current of the Mississippi, broke flat-boats loose from their moorings, and opened large cracks or fissures in the earth. This earthquake struck terror to thousands of people, and under the mighty panic hundreds and thousands crowded to and joined the different churches. There were many interesting incidents connected with the shaking of the earth at this time. I had preached in Nashville the night before the second dreadful shock came, to a large congregation. Early the next Morning I arose and walked out on a hill near the house where I had preached, when I saw a Negro woman coming down the hill to the spring, with an empty pail on her head. When she got within a few rods of where I stood the earth began to tremble and jar; chimneys were thrown down, scaffolding around many new buildings fell with a loud crash, hundreds of citizens suddenly awoke, sprang into the streets; loud screaming followed, for many thought the day of judgment was come. The young mistresses of the above-named Negro woman came running after her, and begging her to pray for them. She raised the shout and said to them, “My Jesus is coming in the clouds of heaven, and I can’t wait to pray for you now; I must go and meet him. I told you so, that he would come, and you would not believe me. Farewell. Hallelujah! Jesus is coming, and I am ready. Hallelujah! Amen.” And on she went, shouting and clapping her hands, with the empty pail on her head.

     When you hear about wars and threats of wars, don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end. Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. There will be earthquakes in many places, and people will starve to death. … No one knows the day or the time. … So watch out and be ready!
--- Mark 13:7,8,32,33a.


On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Advent Week Three Redemption - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     God Is In The Manger (Day 6)


     Overcoming Fear

     Human beings are dehumanized by fear. . . . But they should not be afraid. We should not be afraid! That is the difference between human beings and the rest of creation, that in all hopelessness, uncertainty, and guilt, they know a hope, and this hope is: Thy will be done. Yes. Thy will be done.... We call the name of the One before whom the evil in us cringes, before whom fear and anxiety must themselves be afraid, before whom they shake and take flight; the name of the One who alone conquered fear, captured it and led it away in a victory parade, nailed it to the cross and banished it to nothingness; the name of the One who is the victory cry of the humanity that is redeemed from the fear of death - Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified and lives. He alone is the Lord of fear; it knows him as its Lord and yields to him alone. Therefore, look to him in your fear. Think about him, place him before your eyes, and call him. Pray to him and believe that he is now with you and helps you. The fear will yield and fade, and you will become free through faith in the strong and living Savior Jesus Christ (
Matt. 8:23-27).

     Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.... God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be - in our sin, suffering, and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us."

     "The Coming of Jesus in Our Midst"

(Mt 8:23–27) 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” ESV

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 16

     “Come unto me." Matthew 11:28.

     The cry of the Christian religion is the gentle word, “Come.” The Jewish law harshly said, “Go, take heed unto thy steps as to the path in which thou shalt walk. Break the commandments, and thou shalt perish; keep them, and thou shalt live.” The law was a dispensation of terror, which drove men before it as with a scourge; the Gospel draws with bands of love. Jesus is the good Shepherd going before his sheep, bidding them follow him, and ever leading them onwards with the sweet word, “Come.” The law repels, the Gospel attracts. The law shows the distance which there is between God and man; the Gospel bridges that awful chasm, and brings the sinner across it.

     From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the language of Christ to you will be, “Come, come unto me.” As a mother puts out her finger to her little child and woos it to walk by saying, “Come,” even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way, and clear your path, and you shall hear his animating voice calling you after him all through life; while in the solemn hour of death, his sweet words with which he shall usher you into the heavenly world shall be—“Come, ye blessed of my Father.”

     Nay, further, this is not only Christ’s cry to you, but, if you be a believer, this is your cry to Christ—“Come! come!” You will be longing for his second advent; you will be saying, “Come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus.” You will be panting for nearer and closer communion with him. As his voice to you is “Come,” your response to him will be, “Come, Lord, and abide with me. Come, and occupy alone the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to thy service.”


          Evening - December 16

     “Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened.” --- Isaiah 48:8.

     It is painful to remember that, in a certain degree, this accusation may be laid at the door of believers, who too often are in a measure spiritually insensible. We may well bewail ourselves that we do not hear the voice of God as we ought, “Yea, thou heardest not.” There are gentle motions of the Holy Spirit in the soul which are unheeded by us: there are whisperings of divine command and of heavenly love which are alike unobserved by our leaden intellects. Alas! we have been carelessly ignorant—“Yea, thou knewest not.” There are matters within which we ought to have seen, corruptions which have made headway unnoticed; sweet affections which are being blighted like flowers in the frost, untended by us; glimpses of the divine face which might be perceived if we did not wall up the windows of our soul. But we “have not known.” As we think of it we are humbled in the deepest self-abasement. How must we adore the grace of God as we learn from the context that all this folly and ignorance, on our part, was foreknown by God, and, notwithstanding that foreknowledge, he yet has been pleased to deal with us in a way of mercy! Admire the marvellous sovereign grace which could have chosen us in the sight of all this! Wonder at the price that was paid for us when Christ knew what we should be! He who hung upon the cross foresaw us as unbelieving, backsliding, cold of heart, indifferent, careless, lax in prayer, and yet he said, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour … Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life!” O redemption, how wondrously resplendent dost thou shine when we think how black we are! O Holy Spirit, give us henceforth the hearing ear, the understanding heart!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     December 16

          THE FIRST NOEL

     English carol, before 1823

     And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)

     Although no Christmas season would be complete without the melodious singing of this tuneful carol, very little is known about its origin. It is believed to have had its rise in France during the 15th century. Noel is a French word originating from Latin meaning “birthday.” The song is thought to have been brought across the channel to England by the wandering troubadours. The carol under the English form, “Nowell,” became a great favorite for Christmas Eve, especially in the west of England. This was when the entire village gathered for singing and celebrating the bringing in of the Yule log. At this time carols were thought of as popular religious songs meant to be sung outside the church rather than within.

     “The First Noel” portrays in vivid narrative style the story of the birth of Christ. All six verses are needed to complete the entire event when the hymn is sung. The sixth stanza urges us to join together to sing praises to God for the marvels of His creation and for the salvation provided through Christ’s shed blood. The repetition of the joyous “noel” in the refrain is equivalent to our singing out “happy birthday” to someone.

     It is interesting to observe that the “King of Israel” was first announced to “certain poor shepherds” only, but in the final stanza the phrases “let us all” and “mankind hath brought” remind us that Christ came to redeem the whole world.

     The first noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay—in fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
     They looked up and saw a star shining in the east, beyond them far; and to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.
     And by the light of that same star, three wise men came from country far; to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.
     This star drew nigh to the northwest; o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay.
     Then entered in those wise men three, full rev’rently upon their knee, and offered there, in His presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
     Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heav’nly Lord, that hath made heav’n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath bought.
     Refrain: Noel, noel! Noel, noel! Born is the King of Israel!


     For Today: Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 2:8–20

     Let’s allow the joy of Christ’s birth to be reflected on our faces and heard in our glad singing of praises to Him all through this Christmas season.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     [2.] Impatience is a contempt of God as a governor. When we meet with rubs in the way of any design, when our expectations are crossed, we will break through all obstacles to accomplish our projects, whether God will or no. When we are too much dejected at some unexpected providence, and murmur at the instruments of it, as if God divested himself of his prerogative of conducting human affairs; when a little cross blows us into a mutiny, and swells us into a sauciness to implead God, or make us fret against him (as the expression is, Isa. 8:21), wishing him out of his throne; no sin is so devilish as this; there is not any strikes more at all the attributes of God than this, against his goodness, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and doth as little spare his sovereignty as any of the rest: what can it be else, but an impious invasion of his dominion, to quarrel with him for what he doth, and to say, What reason hast thou to deal thus with me? This language is in the nature of all impatience, whereby we question his sovereignty, and parallel our dominion with his. When men have not that confluence of wealth or honor they greedily desired, they bark at God, and revile his government: they are angry God doth not more respectfully observe them, as though he had nothing to do in their matters, and were wanting in that becoming reverence which they think him bound to pay to such great ones as they are; they would have God obedient to their minds, and act nothing but what he receives a commission for from their wills. When we murmur, it is as if we would command his will, and wear his crown; a wresting the sceptre out of his hands to sway it ourselves; we deny him the right of government, disown his power over us, and would be our own sovereigns: you may find the character of it in the language of Jehoram (as many understand it), “Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kings 6:33). This is an evil of such a nature, that it could come from none but the hand of God; why should I attend upon him, as my Sovereign, that delights to do me so much mischief, that throws curses upon me when I expected blessings? I will no more observe his directions, but follow my own sentiments, and regard not his authority in the lips of his doting prophet. The same you find in the Jews, when they were under Gods lash; “And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (Jer. 18:12): we can expect no good from him, and therefore we will be our own sovereigns, and prefer the authority of our own imaginations before that of his precepts. Men would be their own carvers, and not suffer God to use his right; as if a stone should order the mason in what manner to hew it, and in what part of the building to place it. We are not ordinarily concerned so much at the calamities of our neighbors, but swell against heaven at a light drop upon ourselves. We are content God should be the sovereign of others, so that he will be a servant to us: let him deal as he will himself with others, so he will treat us, and what relates to us, as we will ourselves. We would have God resign his authority to our humors, and our humors should be in the place of a God to him, to direct him what was fit to do in our cause. When things go not according to our vote, our impatience is a wish that God was deposed from his throne, that he would surrender his seat to some that would deal more favorably, and be more punctual observers of our directions. Let us look to ourselves in regard of this sin, which is too common, and the root of much mischief. This seems to be the first bubbling of Adam’s will; he was not content with the condition wherein God had placed him, but affected another, which ended in the ruin of himself, and of mankind.

     [3.] Limiting God in his way of working to our methods, is another part of the contempt of his dominion. When we will prescribe him methods of acting, that he should deliver us in this or that way, we would not suffer him to be the Lord of his own favors, and have the privilege to be his own director. When we will limit him to such a time, wherein to work our deliverance, we would rob him of the power of times and seasons, which are solely in his hand. We would regulate his conduct according to our imaginations, and assume a power to give laws to our Sovereign. Thus the Israelites “limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41): they would control his absolute dominion, and, of a sovereign, make him their slave. Man, that is God’s vassal, would set bounds to his Lord, and cease to be a servant, and commence master, when he would give, not take, directions from him. When God had given them manna, and their fancies were weary of that delicious food, they would prescribe heaven to rain down some other sort of food for them. When they wanted no sufficient provision in the wilderness, they quarrelled with God for bringing them out of Egypt, and not presently giving them a place of seed, of figs, vines, and pomegranates (Num. 20:5), which is called a “striving with the Lord” (ver. 13), a contending with him for his Lordship. When we tempt God, and require a sign of him as a mark of his favor, we circumscribe his dominion; when we will not use the means he hath appointed, but father our laziness upon a trust in his providence, as if we expected he should work a miracle for our relief; when we censure him for what he hath done in the course of his providence; when we capitulate with him, and promise such a service, if he will do us such a good turn according to our platform, we would bring down his sovereign pleasure to our will, we invade his throne, and expect a submissive obedience from him. Man that hath not wit enough to govern himself, would be governing God, and those that cannot be their own sovereigns, affect a sovereignty over heaven.

     [4.] Pride and presumption is another invasion of his dominion. When men will resolve to go to-morrow to such a city, to such a fair and market, to traffic, and get gain, without thinking of the necessity of a Divine license, as if ourselves were the lords of our time and of our lives, and God were to lackey after us (James 4:13, 15): “Ye that say, To-day we will go into such a city, and buy and sell, whereas ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live;” as if they had a freehold, and were not tenants at will to the Lord of the manor. When we presume upon our own strength or wit to get the better of our adversaries; as the Germans (as Tacitus relates) assured themselves, by the numerousness of their army, of a victory against the Romans, and prepared chains to fetter the captives before the conquest, which were found in their camp after their defeat;—when we are peremptory in expectations of success according to our will; as Pharaoh (Exod. 15:9), “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my lust shall be satisfied upon them, I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them:” he speaks more like a god than a man, as if he were the sovereign power, and God only his vicar and lieutenant; how he struts, without thinking of a superior power to curb him!—when men ascribe to themselves what is the sole fruit of God’s sovereign pleasure; as the king of Assyria speaks a language fit only to be spoken by God (Isa. 10:13, 14). “I have removed the bounds of the people; my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; I have gathered all the earth;” which God declares to be a wrong to his sovereignty by the title wherewith he prefaceth his threatening against him (ver. 16): “Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness,” &c. It is indeed a rifling, if not of his crown, yet of the most glittering jewel of it, his glory. “He that mocks the poor reproacheth his Maker” (Prov. 17:5). He never thinks that God made them poor, and himself rich; he owns not his riches to be dropped upon him by the Divine hand. Self is the great invader of God’s sovereignty; doth not only spurn at it, but usurp it, and assume divine honors, payable only to the universal Sovereign. The Assyrian was not so modest as the Chaldean, who would impute his power and victories to his idol (Hab. 1:11), whom he thought to be God, though yet robbing the true God of his authority; and so much was signified by their names, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Belshazzar, Nebo, Merodach, Bel, being the Chaldean idols, and the names signifying, Lord of wealth, Giver of riches, and the like.—When we behave ourselves proudly towards others, and imagine ourselves greater than our Maker ever meant us;—when we would give laws to others, and expect the most submissive observances from them, as if God had resigned his authority to us, and made us, in his stead, the rightful monarchs of the world. To disdain that any creature should be above us, is to disdain God’s sovereign disposition of men, and consequently, his own superiority over us. A proud man would govern all, and would not have God his Sovereign, but his subject; to overvalue ourselves, is to undervalue God.

     [5.] Slight and careless worship of God is another contempt of his sovereignty. A prince is contemned, not only by a neglect of those reverential postures which are due to him, but in a reproachful and scornful way of paying them. To behave ourselves uncomely or immodestly before a prince, is a disesteem of majesty. Sovereignty requires awe in every address, where this is wanting there is a disrepect of authority. We contemn God’s dominion when we give him the service of the lip, the hand, the knee, and deny him that of the heart; as they in Ezekiel 33:31, as though he were the Sovereign only of the body, and not of the soul. To have devout figures of the face, and uncomely postures of the soul, is to exclude his dominion from our spirits, while we own it only over our outward man; we render him an insignificant Lord, not worthy of any higher adorations from us than a senseless statue; we demean not ourselves according to his majestical authority over us, when we present him not with the cream and quintessence of our souls. The greatness of God required a great house, and a costly palace (1 Chron. 29:11, 16); David speaks it in order to the building God a house and a temple; God being a great King expects a male the best of our flock (Mal. 1:14), a masculine and vigorous service. When we present him with a sleepy, sickly rheumatic service, we betray our conceptions of him to be as mean as if he were some petty lord, whose dominion were of no larger extent than a mole-hill, or some inconsiderable village.

     [6.] Omission of the service he hath appointed is another contempt of is sovereignty. This is a contempt of his dominion, whereby he hath a right to appoint what means and conditions he pleaseth, for the enjoyment of his proffered and promised benefits. It is an enmity to his sceptre not to accept of his terms after a long series of precepts and invitations made for the restoring us to that happiness we had lost, and providing all means necessary thereunto, nothing being wanting but our own concurrence with it, and acceptance of it, by rendering that easy homage he requires. By withholding from him the service he enjoins, we deny, that we hold anything of him; as he that pays not the quit rent, though it be never so small, disowns the sovereignty of the lord of the manor; it implies, that he is a miserable poor lord, having no right, or destitute of any power, to dispose of anything in the world to our advantage (Job 22:17): “They say unto God, Depart from us, what can the Almighty do for them?” They will have no commerce with him in a way of duty, because they imagine him to have no sovereign power to do anything for them in way of benefit, as if his dominion were an empty title, and as much destitute of any authority to command a favor for them as any idol. They think themselves to have as absolute a disposal of things, as God himself. What can he do for us? what can he confer upon us, that we cannot invest ourselves in? as though they were sovereigns in an equality with God. Thus men live “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), as if there were no Supreme Being to pay a respect to, or none fit to receive any homage at their hands; withholding from God the right of his time and the right of his service, which is the just claim of his sovereignty.

     [7.] Censuring others is a contempt of his sovereignty. When we censure men’s persons or actions by a rash judgment; when we will be judges of the good and evil of men’s actions, where the law of God is utterly silent, we usurp God’s place, and invade his right; we claim a superiority over the law, and judge God defective, as the Rector of the world, in his prescriptions of good and evil. (James 4:11, 12), “He that speaks evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judgeth the law; there is one Lawgiver who is able to save, and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” Do you know what you do in judging another? You take upon you the garb of a sovereign, as if he were more your servant than God’s, and more under your authority than the authority of God; it is a setting thyself in God’s tribunal, and assuming his rightful power of judging; thy brother is not to be governed by thy fancy, but by God’s law, and his own conscience.

     2. Information. Hence it follows, that God doth actually govern the world. He hath not only a right to rule, but “he rules over all,” so saith the text. He is “King of kings, and Lord of lords,”—what, to let them do what they please, and all that their lusts prompt them to? hath God an absolute dominion? Is it good, and is it wise? Is it then a useless prerogative of the Divine nature? Shall so excellent a power lie idle, as if God were a lifeless image? Shall we fancy God like some lazy monarch, that solaceth himself in the gardens of his palace, or steeps himself in some charming pleasures, and leaves his lieutenants to govern the several provinces, which are all members of his empire, according to their own humor? Not to exercise this dominion is all one as not to have it; to what purpose is he invested with this sovereignty, if he were careless of what were done in the world, and regarded not the oppressions of men? God keeps no useless excellency by him; he actually reigns over the heathen (Psalm 47:8), and those as bad, or worse than heathens. It had been a vanity in David to call upon the heavens to be glad, and the earth to rejoice, under the rule of a “sleepy Deity” (1 Chron. 16:31). No; his sceptre is full of eyes, as it was painted by the Egyptians; he is always waking, and always more than Ahasuerus, reading over the records of human actions. Not to exercise his authority, is all one as not to regard whether he keep the crown upon his head, or continue the sceptre in his hand. If his sovereignty were exempt from care, it would be destitute of justice; God is more righteous than to resign the ensigns of his authority to blind and oppressive man; to think that God hath a power, and doth not use it for just and righteous ends, is to imagine him an unrighteous as well as a careless Sovereign; such a thing in a man renders him a base man, and a worse governor; it is a vice that disturbs the world, and overthrows the ends of authority, as to have a power, and use it well, is the greatest virtue of an earthly sovereign. What an unworthy conception is it of God, to acknowledge him to be possessed of a greater authority than the greatest monarch, and yet to think that he useth it less than a petty lord; that his crown is of no more value with him than a feather? This represents God impotent, that he cannot, or unrighteous and base, that he will not administer the authority he hath for the noblest and justest end. But can we say, that he neglects the government of the world? How come things then to remain in their due order? How comes the law of nature yet to be preserved in every man’s soul? How comes conscience to check, and cite, and judge if God did not exercise his authority, what authority could conscience have to disturb man in unlawful practices, and to make his sports and sweetness so unpleasant and sour to him? Hath he not given frequent notices and memorials, that he holds a curb over corrupt inclinations, puts rubs in the way of malicious attempters, and often oversets the disturbers of the peace of the world?

     3. Information. God can do no wrong, since he is absolute Sovereign. Man may do wrong, princes may oppress and rifle, but it is a crime in them so to do: because their power is a power of government, and not of propriety, in the goods or lives of their subjects; but God cannot do any wrong, whatsoever the clamors of creatures are, because he can do nothing but what he hath a sovereign right to do. If he takes away your goods, he takes not away anything that is yours more than his own, since though he entrusted you with them, he divested not himself of the propriety. When he takes away our lives, he takes what he gave us by a temporary donation, to be surrendered at his call: we can claim no right in anything but by his will. He is no debtor to us: and since he owes us nothing, he can wrong us in nothing that he takes away. His own sovereignty excuseth him in all those acts which are most distasteful to the creature. If we crop a medicinal plant for our use, or a flower for our pleasure, or kill a lamb for our food, we do neither of them any wrong: because the original of them was for our use, and they had their life, and nourishment, and pleasing qualities for our delight and support. And are not we much more made for the pleasure and use of God, than any of those can be for us? “Of him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36): hath not God as much right over any one of us, as over the meanest worm? Though there be a vast difference in nature between the angels in heaven and the worms on earth, yet they are all one in regard of subjection to God; he is as much the Lord of the one as the other; as much the Proprietor of the one as the other; as much the Governor of one as the other; — not a cranny in the world is exempt from his jurisdiction; — not a mite or grain of a creature exempt from his propriety. He is not our Lord by election; he was a Lord before we were in being; he had no terms put upon him who capitulated with him, and set him in his throne by covenant. What oath did he take to any subject at his first investiture in his authority? His right is as natural, as eternal as himself: as natural as his existence, and as necessary as his Deity. Hath he any law but his own will? What wrong can he do that breaks no law, that fulfils his law in everything he doth, by fulfilling his own will, which as it is absolutely sovereign, so it is infinitely righteous? In whatsoever he takes from us, then, he cannot injure us; it is no crime in any man to seize upon his own goods to vindicate his own honor;—and shall it be thought a wrong in God to do such things, besides the occasion he hath from every man, and that every day provoking him to do it? He seems rather to wrong himself by forbearing such a seizure, than wrong us by executing it.

The Existence and Attributes of God

2 Timothy 1 - 4
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