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Titus 1 - 3 | Philemon

Titus 1


Titus 1:1     Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life,  which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Qualifications for Elders

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Titus 2

Teach Sound Doctrine

Titus 2:1     But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Titus 3

Be Ready for Every Good Work

Titus 3:1     Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Final Instructions and Greetings

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.


 Around 61 A.D. Paul is in prison in Rome. This letter is not to a church, but to an individual. Yet, the Holy Spirit intended it for all.


Philemon 1:1     I Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you— I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother — especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it — to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Final Greetings

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

What Does the Bible Teach About the Nature of the Soul?

By J. Warner Wallace 5/27/2014

     The Biblical authors used two words currently translated as “soul”: “nephesh” (neh’-fesh) in the Old Testament and “psuche” (psoo-khay’) in the New Testament. These Hebrew and Greek words are used to describe many characteristics of animals and humans other than their soulish nature, so for the most part, they typically don’t tell us much about the nature of the soul. There are, however, two places in the New Testament where the word “psuche” does seem to be describing our dual nature as soulish creatures:

     Matthew 10:28 | “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

     2 Corinthians 5:1-8 | For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

     In these two passages, a clear distinction is drawn between the body and the soul. In the Matthew passage, although the word for “soul” (psuche) can be translated in a number of ways, the most reasonable inference here is Paul’s use of the word to describe our dual nature as physical beings with immaterial, everlasting, “souls”. These souls cannot be destroyed by the death of the body. Paul calls the soul our “house” made by God; as soon as we are away from the body we are at home with the Lord. We can learn a lot from these (and other) passages describing the clear disembodied life of the soul (I’ve posted an entire section on the nature of the soul at the ColdCaseChristianity.com website). Here is a quick summary of what the Bible teaches about the nature of our souls:

     We Are Immortal Living Souls | There are two realities in the universe: the unseen, immaterial, spiritual realm and the visible, physical, material world. The soul does exist and we, in fact, are living souls. We live, even when our bodies die. (Refer to the passages cited in “What the Bible Does (and Doesn’t) Say About the Life (or Death) of the Soul”)

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

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.

A New ‘New Testament’ is an Old, Old Idea

By Michael J. Kruger 03/13/2013

     My email inbox has been flooded over the last day or so with queries about the recent book by Hal Taussig called A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-first Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. I have to admit, I love the title. When it comes to sensationalistic claims about the New Testament canon, modern publishers know what sells. This volume has bypassed the normal catchwords found in the titles of such books — words like “lost”, “forgotten”, “secret”, or “banned” — and has set a new standard for marketing apocryphal writings.

     This volume also sets itself apart by the grandiosity of its claims. Here is the promo for the book:

     To create this New New Testament, Hal Taussig called together a council of scholars and spiritual leaders to discuss and reconsider which books belong in the New Testament. They talked about these recently found documents, the lessons therein, and how they inform the previously bound books. They voted on which should be added, choosing ten new books to include in a New New Testament.

     It’s one thing to suggest apocryphal books are early, or that they contain some true historical nuggets, but it is quite another to pick an entirely new canon on the basis of some arbitrarily chosen council of modern “scholars and spiritual leaders.” Do we really think these 19 people are in a position to decide such things? Is that the way we know which books are Scripture and which are not?

     But while such grandiose claims about the New Testament canon may seem entirely new, it is in fact a very, very old idea. For one, there are other modern examples of such activity. The book The Five Gospels (Harper One, 1996), effectively rewrote the 4-Gospel canon by adding a fifth gospel, The Gospel of Thomas. Moreover, the book included the results of the votes of members of the “Jesus Seminar” about which sayings/stories of Jesus were authentic and which were not.

     In the end, we were left not with a New Testament, but with the Jesus Seminar’s personal, private New Testament. And that is something entirely different.

     But, the idea of rewriting the canon according to one’s personal preferences goes back even further. In fact, this was a challenge faced by the very earliest Christians. In the 140’s, a wealthy ship-owner named Marcion decided that the canon of the church was not the one he preferred and proceeded to offer his own — a truncated canon composed of only Luke and 10 epistles of Paul. But, Marcion went even further. In addition to selecting his own books, he took out the scalpel and edited these books, attempting to take out as much of the “Jewish” aspects as he could.

     Marcion’s actions were widely condemned by the early church. He was condemned not only for his heretical views, but for his willingness to reshape and rewrite the New Testament canon according to his own personal preferences. The canon is just not something that one person (or 19!) can create.

     Thus, despite the claims of this modern book to be doing something new and original, it is nothing of the sort. The idea of a New New Testament, is an old, old idea. One that has already been tried, and already been rejected.

     Over the next few months, I will offer an extended review of Taussig’s new book, spread over a number of different blog posts. And I want to assure my friend Michael Bird that I will take a “nice deep breath” before I do so!

Click here to go to source

     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

The Formation of the Biblical Canon: My Review of Lee McDonald’s Latest Book

By Michael J. Kruger 04/30/2013

     I have enjoyed reading Lee McDonald’s many works on the NT canon. He has established himself as one of the leading voices in this area through his numerous books and articles. So I was pleased to see this latest volume, Formation of the Bible: The Story of the Church's Canon, which is intended to be a lay-level introduction to the origins of the Bible. There are very few introductory works on this subject matter (a point McDonald makes in the preface), so it is good to see something written for the person in the pew.

     After an introductory chapter on “What is the Bible?”, McDonald divides the volume into approximately two halves with three chapters covering the story of the OT and three the NT. Throughout these chapters, he lays out all the standard historical facts about the development of these books, along with many charts, maps, and pictures. And he is quite thorough. Despite the fact that this volume is intended for a lay audience, it is thick with the relevant historical data.

     As McDonald discusses the historical details, he is quite willing to lay (aspects of) his theological views on the table. He openly acknowledges the Bible as “word of God” (p. xi) and that it is “sacred and authoritative Scripture” (p. 17). He also offers a bit of an apologetic motive for his book when he says, “Given the current skepticism of many contemporary scholars about the origin of the Bible and its faith claims, it is important to answer recent challenges to the Bible and to aid those who recognize the Bible as a sacred book, but who do not regularly deal with its origins” (p. xi). So, on the one hand, it seems that McDonald is out to defend the authority of the Bible to the layman who may not be aware of the complex scholarly issues. I appreciate this dimension of his book and find it commendable.

     However, on the other hand, it seems that the book runs into a number of problems when McDonald actually starts sifting through the historical evidence. Although most of the evidence McDonald reviews is fairly routine, there are a number of areas where the historical analysis proves to be problematic. Most of these issues arise in two main areas:

     1. The Significance of Biblical Citations for Establishing the Canon. One of the main ways that we know whether an ancient author considered a book to be canonical is the manner in which he cited the book. If an ancient author explicitly referred to a writing as “Scripture” or used a standard introductory formula (e.g., “it is written”), then we have good grounds for thinking that the author regarded the book as having divine authority. However, it is important to recognize that ancient authors frequently used, cited, and appealed to books that were not necessarily part of their scriptural collection. In other words, mere use does not establish a book’s canonicity.

     McDonald rightly recognizes this principle and goes out of his way to make it plain (p. 27). The problem, however, is that this principle does not seem to be consistently followed throughout the volume. For instance, in the discussion of the canon of the Qumran community, McDonald observes that many non-biblical texts were also found in the caves by the Dead Sea. Then, he argues, “The presence of many non-biblical books at Qumran, some of which may date from the late fourth century BC, suggests that the matter of the scope of the Jewish Scriptures was not settled in the time of Jesus” (p. 43). But how does the mere “presence” of other books in the Qumran library prove this? Sure, the presence of these books shows that they were used by the Qumran community. But as just discussed, mere use does not demonstrate that they possessed scriptural authority. Indeed, if one were to find a modern theological library buried in the sand a thousand years from now, it would contain more than just biblical books, but many other kinds of books as well. But this cannot be used as evidence that these books were all considered canonical.

     This same issue comes up again when McDonald examines which books Jesus and his disciples considered scriptural (as witnessed in the NT writings). In an effort to show that there was no fixed canon during this time, he mentions, “Some of Jesus’ teachings have parallels in certain non-biblical books” (p. 56). McDonald makes the same argument when it comes to Jesus’ disciples. He argues there was no fixed canon because Jesus’ disciples “often cite other religious texts not in the Hebrew Bible” (p. 56). But again, how do these instances prove that there was no fixed canon? McDonald passes over the fact that Jesus and his disciples never refer to any of these non-biblical books as Scripture (Jude notwithstanding). Mere use of a book does not demonstrate that it has canonical status.

     2. The Nature of Early Christian Book Production. I appreciate that McDonald spends a significant amount of time on the NT manuscripts themselves and what they can tell us about the origins of the canon - an area often overlooked in prior studies. However, there are also a number of concerns about the presentation of the data in this section.

     First, McDonald regularly presents the earliest manuscripts as “poor in quality with many mistakes in them” (p. 122) and presents the scribes as “amateur copiers and not professional” (pp. 122-23). However, this is not quite an accurate presentation of the literary culture of early Christianity. While we would certainly agree that some Christian scribes were amateurs who produced a low-quality product, there are no reasons to think all Christian scribes were this way. In fact, when we look at the earliest NT manuscripts, a significant number of them have a high quality scribal hand, typical of those who have been trained to write and copy books. In fact, in Graham Stanton’s recent study on this question, he has shown that we have numerous early papyri written with professional book hands and “made with great skill and at some expense” (Jesus and Gospel). Thus, it would be more accurate to characterize the quality of early Christian scribes as mixed - some were low quality, some average quality, and some high quality.

     Second, McDonald addresses the special scribal abbreviations called the nomina sacra. While most scholars have considered these abbreviations as indicative of impressive scribal cooperation and organization, McDonald, surprisingly, sees them as indicative of the opposite, namely, that the scribes were unprofessional and “not conscious of copying literary, sacred texts” (p. 123). On what basis does McDonald make this claim? He does so on the basis that “abbreviations were not generally made in standard books or scrolls of a literary quality” (p. 123). But to compare the nomina sacra to standard scribal abbreviations is to seriously miss what the nomina sacra are. They were not created to save space but to show honor to the name of God and Christ. In other words, the nomina sacra were more about religious devotion than about punctuation. In this way, they were quite similar to the Tetragrammaton - the special writing of the divine name in the OT books. Surely, McDonald would not suggest that the existence of the Tetragrammaton is an indication of low scribal quality and a belief that those books were not Scripture. For these reasons, John Barton has made the opposite point of McDonald and has argued, “the existence of the nomina sacra indicates that for Christians as for Jews there were features of the text as a physical object that were used to express its sacredness” (The Spirit and the Letter: Studies in the Biblical Canon).

     Third, when McDonald addresses the state of the earliest Christian papyri, there are additional problems in the presentation of the evidence. He indicates, “there are only two known manuscripts of the New Testament from the second century” (p. 137). But again, this is not the whole story. Manuscripts are often given dates in a range (usually about fifty years), and McDonald has chosen only the upper portion of that range. If one considers the whole range, then numerous manuscripts could fall into the second century (e.g., P104, P4-64-67, P77, P103, P75, P66, P46, P52, P90). In addition, when talking about the NT papyri, McDonald argues, “some contain New Testament books alongside the non-biblical books” (pp. 125-26). It seems that he raises this point to show that there was canonical diversity amongst early Christians. As an example, he mentions P72 where 1 and 2 Peter occur alongside some extrabiblical books. But he never mentions that this is the only example of this phenomenon amongst the papyri! There are not “some” papyri that do this, but only one. P72 is not the norm, but the exception.

     In sum, this volume has a number of positive features as it covers a variety of complex historical topics for the layman, but it also runs into some difficulties as it evaluates some of the historical evidence. The repeated theme of the book, to which McDonald regularly returns, is that of canonical diversity. He seems intent to show that there was no fixed canon at an early point and that there was significant disagreement over these books. While this is partially true, the arguments of the book could be more nuanced and rounded out in the ways that I indicate above.

     Nevertheless, McDonald has provided a positive contribution to the field of canonical studies and a helpful introduction for a lay audience. And I particularly appreciate the way he ends the book. Regardless of all the complexities of the canonical process, argues McDonald, we still must ask the most important question of whether we are willing to follow the canon: “We do not have a biblical canon unless we are willing to follow its guidelines for ordering our lives” (p. 161). Thus, McDonald rightly reminds us that the most important issue regarding the canon is not academic, but practical. The canon is not just something to investigate but something to obey.

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     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

The Narrow (Minded) Way of Biblical Christianity

By Laurel J. Davis

Christianity is accused of being a very narrow-minded way of thinking. The complaint is that the Bible presents a tightly closed little box of self-righteous "truth" that shuns anything and everything else as all false.

     And how do we respond to that complaint? Is the Bible and the Christianity it presents really narrow-minded?

     Um, yes, it is.

     Any so-called "Christianity" that is not biblical Christianity is not true Christianity. And among the essential truths that true, biblical Christianity clearly proclaims, Jesus stated this way:

     "Enter in at the NARROW gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in that way; Because strait is the gate, and NARROW is the way which leads unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

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     Laurel is a pastor's wife from New Beginnings Believers Bible Fellowship ("Where Truth Really Matters") in Los Angeles. She is also an experienced Christian writer, editor and speaker, and is director of her church's women's ministry which focuses on the "Titus 2 Principles" of verses 3-5. Her blog, The Reluctant First Lady, is based on the warnings of 2 Timothy 3:1 - 4:4 and takes a bold, non-sugar-coated stance for God's truth on a variety of topics from a pastor's wife's perspective. Her goal is to lead people to their Bibles, to see if what they are being told is really true — including by her. For Blogos.org, Laurel's hope is that fellow believers will be encouraged and strengthened in their thinking, outlook, walk and growth in the things of the Lord. Laurel and her husband have been married for more than 27 years and have four children (two of whom are in the U.S. Military) and a grandchild. By God's grace, all of them received the Lord Jesus as Savior at an early age. 

Did Justin Martyr Know the Gospel of John?

By Michael J. Kruger 11/12/2013

     There has been a long-standing scholarly discussion about how far back we can trace the roots of the fourfold gospel. We certainly see it in Irenaeus, who is quite plain about his view, “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer than the number they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live and four principle winds… [and] the cherubim, too, were four-faced” (Haer. 3.11.8).

     But, can we trace the fourfold gospel back even further? Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist writing c.150-160, is a key player in this debate. He clearly knows the Synoptic Gospels —  Matthew, Mark and  Luke. But did he know  John? Scholars disagree about this. But, I think there are good reasons to think that he did. Here are a few:

     1. We should remember that Justin was the teacher and mentor of Tatian who was famous for producing a harmony of all four gospels known as the Diatesseron. It is noteworthy not only that  John was included in Tatian’s harmony, but that  John provided the central chronological backbone for his work. If Tatian valued  John so highly, then it is difficult to believe that his mentor, Justin, would have been unaware of this gospel.

     2. At one point, Justin indicates how many gospels he knows when he describes these gospels as “drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them” (Dial 103). Since such language indicates (at least) two gospels written by apostles, and (at least) two written by apostolic companions. Thus, Justin appears to receive (at least) four core gospels. Given that we know three of these gospels are  Matthew, Mark and  Luke, it seems only natural to think the last one would be  John. And if it is not  John, then which one is it?

     3. Justin clearly knew other Johannine literature, such as the book of  Revelation which he regarded as written by the apostle John (Dial 81.4). No doubt his familiarity with Johannine tradition is connected to the fact that he lived in John’s former residence of Ephesus during his dialogue with Trypho. His knowledge of other Johannine works is at least suggestive that he knew  John’s gospel.

     4. Justin is quite familiar with Johannine terminology like “logos,” as well as a number of themes distinctive to  John’s gospel, and even seems to cite the gospel of  John directly, “For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (cf.  John 3:3 ; 1 Apol. 61.4).

     Of course, these considerations cannot prove that Justin knew  John’s gospel (but historical studies rarely are able to prove such things). Regardless, they give us very good reasons to think it is historically likely that Justin knew  John’s gospel.

     If so, then Justin provides good evidence that (at least) by the middle of the second century the fourfold gospel was received as authoritative in some parts of the early Christian movement. Indeed, Justin tells us the way the gospels (“memoirs of the apostles”) were valued in his day:

     And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things (1 Apol 67.3).

     Such a worship practice was not invented by Justin, but seems to be a practice with a lengthy historical pedigree. Thus, there are good reasons to think that the origins of the fourfold gospel May go back even further.

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     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

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.

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.

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

Are you Ready to Argue Like Jesus?

By Lenny Esposito 1/12/2015

     Are you ready? Do you have what it takes? Are you prepared to argue? Christians today face more opposition to their beliefs than in the past. Those people are going to assert them to us. Therefore, we need heed the charge of the Apostle Peter who commanded that we always be ready to make a defense for our hope in the gospel (1 Pet. 3:15). One way to do this is to learn to argue well.

     For many people, that last sentence sounds counter-intuitive. "Didn't your mother tell you it isn't nice to argue?" they may ask. Others think it's downright anti-Christian to argue. But, neither of these responses are true; and that's because when I use the word argument, I mean something different from what they're hearing. When I say the word "argument," I don't mean two people yelling at one another or hurting each other's feelings. I mean something completely different; and it has more to do with growing your understanding than raising your voice.

     Why It's Impossible to Avoid an Argument

     All people have beliefs. You can't be a functioning human being and not hold to at least some beliefs. Some of them are easily identified, such as "I'm alive right now" or "I'm reading this blog post." Others are a bit more complex, such as one's belief in the existence of God or which political party has better answers for his or her country, yet all these beliefs have some kind of reasoning behind them. It may be that you investigated the data or it may be that you were taught a belief from a young age. The authority figure or your study helped form your beliefs. There are a few beliefs that are self-presenting, like the belief that I am not in pain right now. I know I'm not feeling pain because pain experience is direct and immediate. However, most of our beliefs are formed through other means.

     Because each one of us has beliefs, each one of us holds to certain things we believe are true about the world. A belief is simply that, something we take as true about the world. Those beliefs will also shape my actions and reactions to situations around me. If I believe in the power of prayer, that belief is going to play itself out in the action of my praying. If I believe that an unborn baby is made in the image of God, then that will shape my political views on abortion. Your beliefs will always spill out into your actions and touch the people and institutions you come in contact with.

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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.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     3. Those who have learned this modesty will neither murmur against God for adversity in time past, nor charge him with the blame of their own wickedness, as Homer's Agamemnon does.-- Ego d' ou'k ai'tio's eimi, alla` Zeu`s kai moira. "Blame not me, but Jupiter and fate." On the other hand, they will note like the youth in Plautus, destroy themselves in despairs as if hurried away by the Fates. "Unstable is the condition of affairs; instead of doing as they list, men only fulfil their fate: I will hie me to a rock, and there end my fortune with my life." Nor will they, after the example of another, use the name of God as a cloak for their crimes. For in another comedy Lyconides thus expresses himself:--"God was the impeller: I believe the gods wished it. Did they not wish it, it would not be done, I know." They will rather inquire and learn from Scripture what is pleasing to God, and then, under the guidance of the Spirit, endeavour to attain it. Prepared to follow whithersoever God may call, they will show by their example that nothing is more useful than the knowledge of this doctrine, which perverse men undeservedly assail, because it is sometimes wickedly abused. The profane make such a bluster with their foolish puerilities, that they almost, according to the expression, confound heaven and earth. If the Lord has marked the moment of our death, it cannot be escaped,--it is vain to toil and use precaution. Therefore, when one ventures not to travel on a road which he hears is infested by robbers; when another calls in the physician, and annoys himself with drugs, for the sake of his health; a third abstains from coarser food, that he may not injure a sickly constitution; and a fourth fears to dwell in a ruinous house; when all, in short, devise, and, with great eagerness of mind, strike out paths by which they may attain the objects of their desire; either these are all vain remedies, laid hold of to correct the will of God, or his certain decree does not fix the limits of life and death, health and sickness, peace and war, and other matters which men, according as they desire and hate, study by their own industry to secure or avoid. Nay, these trifles even infer, that the prayers of the faithful must be perverse, not to say superfluous, since they entreat the Lord to make a provision for things which he has decreed from eternity. And then, imputing whatever happens to the providence of God, they connive at the man who is known to have expressly designed it. Has an assassin slain an honest citizen? He has, say they, executed the counsel of God. Has some one committed theft or adultery? The deed having been provided and ordained by the Lord, he is the minister of his providence. Has a son waited with indifference for the death of his parent, without trying any remedy? He could not oppose God, who had so predetermined from eternity. Thus all crimes receive the name of virtues, as being in accordance with divine ordination.

4. As regards future events, Solomon easily reconciles human deliberation with divine providence. For while he derides the stupidity of those who presume to undertake anything without God, as if they were not ruled by his hand, he elsewhere thus expresses himself: "A man's heart deviseth his ways but the Lord directeth his steps," (Prov. 16:9); intimating, that the eternal decrees of God by no means prevent us from proceeding, under his will, to provide for ourselves, and arrange all our affairs. And the reason for this is clear. For he who has fixed the boundaries of our life, has at the same time entrusted us with the care of it, provided us with the means of preserving it, forewarned us of the dangers to which we are exposed, and supplied cautions and remedies, that we may not be overwhelmed unawares. Now, our duty is clear, namely, since the Lord has committed to us the defence of our life,--to defend it; since he offers assistance,--to use it; since he forewarns us of danger,--not to rush on heedless; since he supplies remedies,--not to neglect them. But it is said, a danger that is not fatal will not hurt us, and one that is fatal cannot be resisted by any precaution. But what if dangers are not fatal, merely because the Lord has furnished you with the means of warding them off, and surmounting them? See how far your reasoning accords with the order of divine procedure: You infer that danger is not to be guarded against, because, if it is not fatal, you shall escape without precaution; whereas the Lord enjoins you to guard against its just because he wills it not to be fatal. [136] These insane cavillers overlook what is plainly before their eyes--viz. that the Lord has furnished men with the artful of deliberation and caution, that they may employ them in subservience to his providence, in the preservation of their life; while, on the contrary, by neglect and sloth, they bring upon themselves the evils which he has annexed to them. How comes it that a provident man, while he consults for his safety, disentangles himself from impending evils; while a foolish man, through unadvised temerity, perishes, unless it be that prudence and folly are, in either case, instruments of divine dispensation? God has been pleased to conceal from us all future events that we may prepare for them as doubtful, and cease not to apply the provided remedies until they have either been overcome, or have proved too much for all our care. Hence, I formerly observed, that the Providence of God does not interpose simply; but, by employing means, assumes, as it were, a visible form.

5. By the same class of persons, past events are referred improperly and inconsiderately to simple providence. As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will. Why, then, they ask, should the thief be punished for robbing him whom the Lord chose to chastise with poverty? Why should the murderer be punished for slaying him whose life the Lord had terminated? If all such persons serve the will of God, why should they be punished? I deny that they serve the will of God. For we cannot say that he who is carried away by a wicked mind performs service on the order of God, when he is only following his own malignant desires. He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him. But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word is, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting, God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins. If we design anything contrary to his precept, it is not obedience, but contumacy and transgression. But if he did not will it, we could not do it. I admit this. But do we act wickedly for the purpose of yielding obedience to him? This, assuredly, he does not command. Nay, rather we rush on, not thinking of what he wishes, but so inflamed by our own passionate lust, that, with destined purpose, we strive against him. And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes. And see how absurd this mode of arguing is. They will have it that crimes ought not to be punished in their authors, because they are not committed without the dispensation of God. I concede more--that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of Divine Providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the Judgments which he has resolved to inflict. But I deny that this forms any excuse for their misdeeds. For how? Will they implicate God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their depravity by his righteousness? They cannot exculpate themselves, for their own conscience condemns them: they cannot charge God, since they perceive the whole wickedness in themselves, and nothing in Him save the legitimate use of their wickedness. But it is said he works by their means. And whence, I pray, the foetid odour of a dead body, which has been unconfined and putrefied by the sun's heat? All see that it is excited by the rays of the sun, but no man therefore says that the fetid odour is in them. In the same way, while the matter and guilt of wickedness belongs to the wicked man, why should it be thought that God contracts any impurity in using it at pleasure as his instrument? Have done, then, with that dog-like petulance which may, indeed, bay from a distance at the justice of God, but cannot reach it!

6. These calumnies, or rather frenzied dreams, will easily be dispelled by a pure and holy meditation on Divine Providence, meditation such as piety enjoins, that we may thence derive the best and sweetest fruit. The Christian, then, being most fully persuaded, that all things come to pass by the dispensation of God, and that nothing happens fortuitously, will always direct his eye to him as the principal cause of events, at the same time paying due regard to inferior causes in their own place. Next, he will have no doubt that a special providence is awake for his preservation, and will not suffer anything to happen that will not turn to his good and safety. But as its business is first with men and then with the other creatures, he will feel assured that the providence of God reigns over both. In regard to men, good as well as bad, he will acknowledge that their counsels, wishes, aims and faculties are so under his hand, that he has full power to turn them in whatever direction, and constrain them as often as he pleases. The fact that a special providence watches over the safety of believers, is attested by a vast number of the clearest promises. [137] "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." "Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you." "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." "We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Nay, the chief aim of the historical books of Scripture is to show that the ways of his saints are so carefully guarded by the Lord, as to prevent them even from dashing their foot against a stone. Therefore, as we a little ago justly exploded the opinion of those who feign a universal providence, which does not condescend to take special care of every creature, so it is of the highest moment that we should specially recognise this care towards ourselves. Hence, our Saviour, after declaring that even a sparrow falls not to the ground without the will of his Father, immediately makes the application, that being more valuable than many sparrows, we ought to consider that God provides more carefully for us. He even extends this so far, as to assure us that the hairs of our head are all numbered. What more can we wish, if not even a hair of our head can fall, save in accordance with his will? I speak not merely of the human race in general. God having chosen the Church for his abode, there cannot be a doubt, that in governing it, he gives singular manifestations of his paternal care.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Is the Church over the Bible or is the Bible over the Church?

By Michael J. Kruger 10/06/2014

     It is well known that misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the origins of the NT (and OT) canon abound on the internet. Da Vinci Code style claims are in plenteous supply – ranging from the claim that the Council of Nicea established the NT canon to the claim that apocryphal gospels were as popular (if not more so) than the canonical gospels.

     Of course, if one were to respond to each and every erroneous claim on the internet there would be time for little else. But every now and then, an article combines so many misconceptions about the canon in a single place, that a response is warranted. This is the case with the recent article, “There is No ‘Bible’ in the Bible,” by Fr. Stephen Freeman.

     Freeman, part of the Orthodox Church in America, has made what is essentially a Roman Catholic argument for the canon (but missing some key portions, as we shall see). His basic claim is that the Bible – as something that is an authority over the church – is a modern, post-Reformation invention. In reality, he claims, the church is the highest authority and the Bible is merely one of many tools used by the church. ( It is surprising to me that so many Catholics I know, family and friends are clueless what their religion tteaches. They say they believe the Bible, but they don't know what it says compared to what they have been told to believe. )

     Perhaps the best way to respond to Freeman’s article is just to quote it line by line (in italics below), offering a response to each statement as we go. For space reasons, we will not be able to cover every one of his claims, but we will cover the major ones.

     1. The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a rather late invention.

     Freeman makes the claim here that the “Bible” must be late, because books are a late invention. This is stunning to say the least given that Israel had been using books as Scripture for more than a thousand years before Christ was even born. Moreover, early Christianity was a very “bookish” culture right from the start, with a keen interest in reading, producing, and copying books. For more on this point click here. Thus, books were not at all a foreign idea to the early Christian faith.

     2. There are examples of bound folios of the New Testament dating to around the 4th century, but they may very well have been some of the earliest examples of such productions.

     By the term “bound folios” I assume Freeman is referring to early Christian codices that contained multiple books in the same volume. If so, then the “earliest examples” do not derive from the fourth century, but much earlier. At the end of the second century/early third century we have all four gospels in a single volume (P4-64-67, P45), and most, if not all, of Paul’s epistles in a single volume (P46). These codices demonstrate a book consciousness very early in the life of the church.

     But, perhaps Freeman mentions the fourth century because he is referring to codices that contain all 27 NT books. He is correct that the fourth century is the first instance of all 27 books bound together (e.g. Codex Sinaiticus;) But, one does not need all 27 books in a single volume in order to establish that the early church had a canon of Scripture. Books don’t need to be physically bound together in order to viewed as part of a scriptural collection. Indeed, this was precisely the case with the OT books. Individual OT books were often kept in separate rolls, even though they were clearly viewed as part of a larger biblical corpus.

     3. The “Bible,” a single book with the whole of the Scriptures included, is indeed modern. It is a by-product of the printing press, fostered by the doctrines of Protestantism.

     The discussion above has already refuted the notion that a complete NT canon does not come around until the printing press. In addition, Freeman does not mention the fact that we can determine the extent of the church’s canon in other ways besides the physical book. Early Christians drew up lists of their books from quite an early time. For instance, Origen lists all 27 books in a single list in the third century (see article here). Would Freeman suggest that Origen’s NT canon is simply the “by-product of the printing press fostered by the doctrines of Protestantism”?

     4. There was no authoritative notion of a canon of the Old Testament. There were the Books of Moses and the Prophets (cf.  Luke 24:27 ) and there were other writings (the  Psalms, Proverbs, etc.). But writers of the New Testament seem to have had no clear guide for what is authoritative and what is not. The book of  Jude makes use of the Assumption of Moses as well as the Book of Enoch, without so much as a blush. There are other examples of so - called “non - canonical” works in the New Testament.

     This statement may be one of the most misleading in Freeman’s entire article. To suggest that first century Jews had no idea of what books are Scripture is patently false. For one, the frequent debates between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over various OT texts becomes unintelligible on Freeman’s view. How could they disagree over the meaning of Scripture, if they had no idea of what books were Scripture? Moreover, Jesus regularly holds his audience accountable for the teachings of the Scriptures – how could he do this if there was no understanding what was in the Scriptures? Even more than this, when Jesus and the Jewish leaders debate over the meaning of a scriptural text, it is always of a text from books in our current Old Testament (and not from books like 1 Maccabees or Tobit).

      Jesus and the Jewish leaders debated many, many things. But one thing they never debated was which books were Scripture. This is certainly unexpected if the canon was as unclear as Freeman maintains.

     Freeman’s observation that  Jude refers to the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch is also not as a decisive as he makes it seem. He leaves out a critical fact, namely that  Jude never refers to these books as Scripture. Indeed, nowhere in the entire NT is a book referred to as Scripture that is not in our current Old Testaments. That fact needs to be given its due weight. Using a book, and using a book as Scripture are not the same thing. So, Freeman’s reference to examples of other “non-canonical” works mentioned in the NT is irrelevant.

     For a lengthier account of the development of the OT canon, see The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism.

     5. The Scriptures as a place for creating and proving formal doctrine is something of a fiction.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the primary verse trotted out in defense of Scriptural authority:

     All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJ )

     But this is a very troublesome and questionable translation. In Protestant usage, the key phrase is “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” But, in fact, the phrase “given by inspiration of God” is a single word (θεόπνευστος), just as accurately translated, “all Scripture that is inspired of God,” thus being a limiting phrase and not one that serves as an authoritative licensing of something later described as “the Bible.”

     Freeman’s analysis of  2 Tim 3:16 is confusing to say the least. He rightly acknowledges the single Greek word (θεόπνευστος), but fails to address its implications. The term literally means “breathed out by God” or “God-breathed.” It is a way of saying that Scripture is the very breath of God himself. This suggests the absolute highest authority for Scripture, the authority of the divine voice. How can he conclude, therefore, that the Scripture lacks “authoritative licensing”?

     In addition, it is actually Freeman who mistranslates this verse. Notice that he adds a relative pronoun to the construction: “all Scripture that is inspired of God.” He uses this to limit the extent of inspiration (implying that some Scripture may not be inspired). However, that relative pronoun is not in the text. And virtually all major English translations acknowledge this fact, using the verb “is” instead: “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Thus, it is clear that inspiration is not limited after all.

     6. What we actually have in  2 Timothy is a very homely, parenetic expression in which the author suggests that reading the Scriptures is a good thing. It is not, despite its use as such, a foundational proclamation of the Bible as sole authority. For it is the Church that is described as the “Pillar and Ground of Truth.” ( 1 Tim. 3:15 ). . . The only “thing” approaching a “Bible” in the sense that has commonly been used in modern parlance, is the Church.

     Here is where we come to the real issue with Freeman. One might wonder: Why is Freeman so intent on lowering the authority of Scripture? Every argument in his article, whether historical or theological, has one simple end in mind, namely to convince the reader that the Bible is a problematic construction with less authority than people think. So, why would Freeman, an Orthodox priest, do this?

     The answer is simple. He wants to lower the authority of the Bible so that he can replace it with the authority of the church. He wants to convince Christians the Bible has problems, so that they will rely on the church instead.

     But is the church a better option? If the Bible is problematic, then is the church problem - free? Freeman has jumped out of the biblical frying pan and into the ecclesiastical fire. Unless he wants to advocate for an inspired / infallible church as Roman Catholics do (something he is unprepared to do, I assume, since he is Orthodox), then he is asking Christians to trust a very fallible authority. He is asking Christians to put their trust in men, rather than in the word of God.

     Yes, the church is the “pillar and ground of truth” (  1 Tim 3:15 , and has real authority. Freeman caricatures the protestant position by describing it as a belief in the Bible as the sole authority. But that is not (nor ever has been) the protestant position. Since the time of the Reformation, protestants have argued simply that the Bible is the highest authority (not the sole authority). And the church is one of the other authorities that we should follow. But that is not a declaration that the church is an authority over the Bible. On the contrary, the proper posture of God’s people (the church) is always one of submission to God’s word. There is no higher authority than God himself.

     In the end, Freeman has lifted up the authority of the church at the expense of the authority of the Scriptures. And there is a sad irony in this. For one, such a position is vulnerable to the very critique that Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees: “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” Mark 7:8 ). Second, in order for Freeman to make his case, he is forced to make arguments against the authority of the Bible that are not all that different from the kind of arguments made by liberal critical scholars such as Bart Ehrman. Even though Freeman reaches very different conclusions than Ehrman, their methodology is the same: downgrade the authority of the Bible and replace it with something else. Ehrman has replaced it with agnosticism. Freeman has replaced it with the church. But, both have replaced it.

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     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

Growing Younger

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2016

     I suspect it is a nearly universal phenomenon — we look in the mirror and wonder what happened. We are no longer what we once were. Worse still, we don’t recognize ourselves in what we have become. When we are young, we look upon adults with wonder. They seem to us, as children, like a different order of being. They go to bed when they wish. They need not ask permission before eating a cookie, or three. They are utterly uninterested in the important things — baseball cards, breakfast cereal, and Saturday-morning cartoons.

     I just assumed that the transformation would not just be sudden, but unmistakable, that there was some switch that at some point would be flipped and I would turn into one of these strange creatures. Before I knew it, I was looking at an old man in the mirror, but somehow the switch never got flipped.

     It’s true enough that I went through sundry rites of passage. I wed a wife, took a mortgage, got an education, and worked a job. But inside, I’m still the same kid. I want to make wise decisions. I desire to handle my responsibilities. I seek to be mature in the faith. I have faced adult-sized challenges along the way and have been changed by His grace, but I am what I am.

     What I have come to understand, however, is that the process of maturation not only has no switch, but it runs both ways. I need not only to grow older in the faith, but to grow younger as well. Indeed, the best sign that I am in fact growing older is that I am growing younger.

     Jesus said that unless I become like a child, I will not enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3). The spiritually mature thing to do is to believe my elder Brother. My dear wife, during her battle with leukemia, came to understand this well. While the illness and its treatment ravaged her body, she did not so much wither away as begin to blossom. She was leaving the Shadowlands, on the road to the mountain of the brightness of life. Her life was not a long journey toward death — her death was a long journey toward life. When she crossed through the veil, even as she awaits the resurrection, she became what she is now — young and carefree. No more surgeries. No more chemo. No more radiation. No more tubes and masks and hospital gowns. Young as she had never been before, young like Eve on her first day.

     And we, if we are in Christ, will one day be the same. When I was a child, I did not worry about what I would eat. I went to bed every night quite confident that my parents would be able to provide for my meals. I did not worry about what I would wear (though, given that I grew up in the ‘70s, perhaps I should have) but woke every morning confident that my parents would be able to provide clothes. When I took on adult responsibilities, when I established my own home and was blessed with my own children to feed and clothe, I did not cease to be a child. By His grace, I have a heavenly Father. And He is fabulously wealthy, owning not just the cattle on a thousand hills but the hills themselves.

     The message, however, isn’t merely, “Don’t worry about that stuff. Your Father in heaven has it covered.” Instead, the command is to seek first the kingdom of God. In one sense, our anxiety ought to increase. Food and clothes, for most of us anyway, are rather easy things to-come-by. It is for most of us a small job to secure them. But the kingdom of God? That’s important, big, and not so easy to come by. From this perspective, Jesus is telling us to put down our toys and grow up, to leave the petty and the ephemeral for the weighty and the eternal. That’s all true.

     But the same Jesus who told us to put away our childish things that we might pursue His kingdom also tells us that the only way to find it is to have the eyes of a child. We find our way to the kingdom less by the adult work of mapping and climbing and carrying and struggling and more by resting. The kingdom is found, maturity is reached, when we realize our utter dependence on His grace, not when we manfully make our way but when we ask Him, again by His grace, if He would carry us.

     As He carries us, He washes us. He scrapes away the barnacles of our cynicism, scrubs away the stains of our self-sufficiency. And like the strange case of Benjamin Button, with each day we grow older we grow younger, cleaner, purer. This is the path He has laid before us. We traverse it less like heroic explorers and more like a child frolicking in the Hundred Acre Wood.

     I remembered this the day my wife went on to her reward. While I looked down upon Denise’s lifeless body that morning, she was not looking down on me. She was instead dancing to Him and for Him. When I was praying for strength, she was singing from her strength. As I was bent and broken, she twirled and pirouetted.  As I became so much less, she became so much more.  This is His plan and His promise. In her wisdom, Denise is now my older sister. In her innocence, she is now Jesus’ little sister.

     A day will come when I will do the same, when I will be the same. I, too, will be young like I have never been before, young like Adam on his first day.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 22)

By John Foxe 1563

     "On the third day, I sent a message to the governor of the city, who has the entire direction of prison affairs, to allow me to visit him with a present. This had the desired effect; and he immediately sent orders to the guards, to permit my going into town. The governor received me pleasantly, and asked me what I wanted. I stated to him the situation of the foreigners, and particularly that of the teachers, who were Americans, and had nothing to do with the war. He told me it was not in his power to release them from prison or irons, but that he could make their situation more comfortable; there was his head officer, with whom I must consult, relative to the means. The officer, who proved to be one of the city writers, and whose countenance at the first glance presented the most perfect assemblage of all the evil passions attached to human nature, took me aside, and endeavored to convince me, that myself, as well as the prisoners, was entirely at his disposal-that our future comfort must depend on my liberality in regard to presents-and that these must be made in a private way and unknown to any officer in the government! 'What must I do,' said I, 'to obtain a mitigation of the present sufferings of the two teachers?' 'Pay to me,' said he, 'two hundred tickals, (about a hundred dollars,) two pieces of fine cloth, and two pieces of handkerchiefs.' I had taken money with me in the morning, our house being two miles from the prison-I could not easily return. This I offered to the writer, and begged he would not insist on the other articles, as they were not in my possession. He hesitated for some time, but fearing to lose the sight of so much money, he concluded to take it, promising to relieve the teachers from their most painful situation.

     "I then procured an order from the governor, for my admittance into prison; but the sensations, produced by meeting your brother in that wretched, horrid situation-and the affecting scene which ensued, I will not attempt to describe. Mr. Judson crawled to the door of the prison-for I was never allowed to enter-gave me some directions relative to his release; but before we could make any arrangement, I was ordered to depart, by those iron-hearted jailers, who could not endure to see us enjoy the poor consolation of meeting in that miserable place. In vain I pleaded the order of the governor for my admittance; they again, harshly repeated, 'Depart, or we will pull you out.' The same evening, the missionaries, together with the other foreigners, who had paid an equal sum, were taken out of the common prison, and confined in an open shed in the prison inclosure. Here I was allowed to send them food, and mats to sleep on; but was not permitted to enter again for several days.

     "My next object was to get a petition presented to the queen; but no person being admitted into the palace, who was in disgrace with his majesty, I sought to present it through the medium of her brother's wife. I had visited her in better days, and received particular marks of her favor. But now times were altered: Mr. Judson was in prison, and I in distress, which was a sufficient reason for giving me a cold reception. I took a present of considerable value. She was lolling on her carpet as I entered, with her attendants around her. I waited not for the usual question to a suppliant, 'What do you want?' but in a bold, earnest, yet respectful manner, stated our distresses and our wrongs, and begged her assistance. She partly raised her head, opened the present I had brought, and coolly replied, 'Your case is not singular; all the foreigners are treated alike.' 'But it is singular,' said I, 'the teachers are Americans; they are ministers of religion, have nothing to do with war or politics, and came to Ava in obedience to the king's command. They have never done any thing to deserve such treatment; and is it right they should be treated thus?' 'The king does as he pleases,' said she; 'I am not the king, what can I do?' 'You can state their case to the queen, and obtain their release,' replied I. 'Place yourself in my situation-were you in America, your husband, innocent of crime, thrown into prison, in irons, and you a solitary, unprotected female-what would you do?' With a slight degree of feeling, she said, 'I will present your petition, come again to-morrow.' I returned to the house, with considerable hope, that the speedy release of the missionaries was at hand. But the next day Mr. Gouger's property, to the amount of fifty thousand dollars, was taken and carried to the palace. The officers, on their return, politely informed me, they should visit our house on the morrow. I felt obliged for this information, and accordingly made preparations to receive them, by secreting as many little articles as possible; together with considerable silver, as I knew, if the war should be protracted, we should be in a state of starvation without it. But my mind in a dreadful state of agitation, lest it should be discovered, and cause my being thrown into prison. And had it been possible to procure money from any other quarter, I should not have ventured on such a step.

     "The following morning, the royal treasurer, Prince Tharyawadees, Chief Woon, and Koung-tone Myoo-tsa, who was in future our steady friend, attended by forty or fifty followers, came to take possession of all we had. I treated them civilly, gave them chairs to sit on, tea and sweetmeats for their refreshment; and justice obliges me to say that they conducted the business of confiscation with more regard to my feelings than I should have thought it possible for Burmese officers to exhibit. The three officers, with one of the royal secretaries, alone entered the house; their attendants were ordered to remain outside. They saw I was deeply affected, and apologized for what they were about to do, by saying that it was painful for them to take possession of property not their own, but they were compelled thus to do by order of the king.

     "'Where is your silver, gold, and jewels?' said the royal treasurer. 'I have no gold or jewels; but here is the key of a trunk which contains the silver-do with it as you please.' The trunk was produced, and the silver weighed. 'This money,' said I, 'was collected in America, by the disciples of Christ, and sent here for the purpose of building a kyoung, (the name of a priest's dwelling) and for our support while teaching the religion of Christ. Is it suitable that you should take it? (The Burmans are averse to taking what is offered in a religious point of view, which was the cause of my making the inquiry.) 'We will state this circumstance to the king,' said one of them, 'and perhaps he will restore it. But this is all the silver you have?' I could not tell a falsehood: 'The house is in your possession,' I replied, 'search for yourselves.' 'Have you not deposited silver with some person of your acquaintaince?' 'My acquaintances are all in prison, with whom should I deposit silver?'

     "They next ordered my trunk and drawers to be examined. The secretary only was allowed to accompany me in this search. Everything nice or curious, which met hjis view, was presented to the officers, for their decision, whether it should be taken or retained. I begged they would not take our wearing apparel, as it would be disgraceful to take clothes partly worn into the possession of his majesty, and to us they were of unspeakable value. They assented, and took a list only, and did the same with the books, medicines, etc. My little work table and rocking chair, presents from my beloved brother, I rescued from their grasp, partly by artifice, and partly through their ignorance. They left also many articles, which were of inestimable value, during our long imprisonment.

     "As soon as they had finished their search and departed, I hastened to the queen's brother, to hear what had been the fate of my petition; when, alas! all my hopes were dashed, by his wife's coolly saying, 'I stated your case to the queen; but her majesty replied, The teachers will not die: let them remain as they are.' My expectations had been so much excited that this sentence was like a thunderbolt to my feelings. For the truth at one glance assured me that if the queen refused assistance, who would dare to intercede for me? With a heavy heart I departed, and on my way home, attempted to enter the prison gate, to communicate the sad tidings to your brother, but was harshly refused admittance; and for the ten days following notwithstanding my daily efforts, I was not allowed to enter. We attempted to communicate by writing, and after being successful for a few days, it was discovered; the poor fellow who carried the communications was beaten and put in the stocks; and the circumstance cost me about ten dollars, besides two or three days of agony, for fear of the consequences.

     "The officers who had taken possession of our property, presented it to his majesty, saying, 'Judson is a true teacher; we found nothing in his house, but what belongs to priests. In addition to this money, there are an immense number of books, medicines, trunks of wearing apparel, of which we have only taken a list. Shall we take them, or let them remain?' 'Let them remain,' said the king, 'and put this property by itself, for it shall be restored to him again, if he is found innocent.' This was an allusion to the idea of his being a spy.

     "For two or three months following, I was subject to continual harassments, partly through my ignorance of police management and partly through the insatiable desire of every petty officer to enrich himself through our misfortunes.

     "You, my dear brother, who know my strong attachment to my friends, and how much pleasure I have hitherto experienced from retrospect, can judge from the above circumstances, how intense were my sufferings. But the point, the acme of my distresses, consisted in the awful uncertainty of our final fate. My prevailing opinion was that my husband would suffer violent death; and that I should, of course, become a slave, and languish out a miserable though short existence, in the tyrannic hands of some unfeeling monster. But the consolations of religion, in these trying circumstances, were neither 'few nor small.' It taught me to look beyond this world, to that rest, that peaceful, happy rest, where Jesus reigns, and oppression never enters.

     "Some months after your brother's imprisonment, I was permitted to make a little bamboo room in the prison inclosures, where he could be much by himself, and where I was sometimes allowed to spend two or three hours. It so happened that the two months he occupied this place, was the coldest part of the year, when he would have suffered much in the open shed he had previously occupied. After the birth of your little niece, I was unable to visit the prison and the governor as before, and found I had lost ocnsiderable influence, previously gained; for he was not so forward to hear my petitions when any difficulty occurred, as he formerly had been. When Maria was nearly two months old, her father one morning sent me word that he and all the white prisoners were put into the inner prison, in five pairs of fetters each, that his little room had been torn down, and his mat, pillow, etc., been taken by the jailers. This was to me a dreadful shock, as I thought at once it was only a prelude to greater evils.

     "The situation of the prisoners was now distressing beyond description. It was at the commencement of the hot season. There were above a hundred prisoners shut up in one room, without a breath of air excepting from the cracks in the boards. I sometimes obtained permission to go to the door for five minutes, when my heart sickened at the wretchedness exhibited. The white prisoners, from incessant perspiration and loss of appetite, looked more like the dead than the living. I made daily applications to the governor, offering him money, which he refused; but all that I gained was permission for the foreigners to eat their food outside, and this continued but a short time.

     "After continuing in the inner prison for more than a month, your brother was taken with a fever. I felt assured he would not live long, unless removed from that noisome place. To effect this, and in order to be near the prison, I removed from our house and put up a small bamboo room in the governor's inclosure, which was nearly opposite the prison gate. Here I incessantly begged the governor to give me an order to take Mr. J. out of the large prison, and place him in a more comfortable situation; and the old man, being worn out with my entreaties at length gave me the order in an official form; and also gave orders to the head jailer, to allow me to go in and out, all times of the day, to administer medicines. I now felt happy, indeed, and had Mr. J. instantly removed into a little bamboo hovel, so low, that neither of us could stand upright-but a palace in comparison with the place he had left.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Continual Burnt Offering (1 John 1:9)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

December 17
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.    ESV

     God will never refuse the plea of a seeking soul who comes to Him in the name of Jesus, confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness. The sin question has been settled to the divine satisfaction in the work of the cross. Now God can be just and the Justifier of all who believe in Jesus (Romans 3:26). To look for something worthy in ourselves, to endeavor to satisfy God by imagined works of righteousness, is to fail to recognize our completely lost condition. To acknowledge our sins and to trust His grace gives the happy consciousness of iniquity purged and guilt removed. God’s word to Israel of old was. “Only acknowledge your iniquity” (Jeremiah 3:13). This is ever the gateway to blessing (Hosea 5:15) because “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Hosea 5:15 I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
and in their distress earnestly seek me.

Jeremiah 3:13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the LORD your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the LORD.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Wash’d in Thy blood, from all my guilt made clean
In Thee, my Righteousness, alone I’m seen:
Thy home my home—Thy God and Father mine!
Dead to the world—my life is hid with Thine:
Its highest honors fade before my view—
Its pleasures, I can trample on them too.

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

  • What to Make Today
  • Present Sacred Space
  • They All Left Him

#1 Mako Fujimura   Biola University


#2 Kurt Simonson   Biola University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     How to pray for others
     12/17/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘May God…give you grace, mercy, and peace.’

(1 Ti 1:2) 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV

     Let’s face it; much of the time we don’t know what problems people are dealing with or what they’re going through. So when you decide to pray for them, follow Paul’s example, in which he asked God to give Timothy these three things: 1) Grace. In the Bible, the word grace implies two things: first, God’s unmerited favour; second, ‘all of God’s ability you’ll ever need to handle whatever you are facing’, Here’s a great Bible promise you should stand on in times of difficulty: ‘God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong…support you and keep you from falling’ (1 Peter 5:10 NCV). 2) Mercy. A large publishing house had a machine that automatically mailed reminders to its readers when their subscriptions had expired. One day it malfunctioned and a rancher in a remote Colorado town received 9,734 notices. So he drove for miles to the nearest post office, posted his cheque, and wrote, ‘Send me the magazine. I give up!’ That’s how it is with God; He keeps sending us notices. ‘Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV). 3) Peace. The peace God gives can sustain us through the worst of circumstances. And it’s different from the peace the world offers. At best, the world offers temporary relief. But ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds’ (Philippians 4:7 NIV 2011 Edition). So when you’re not sure how to pray for someone, ask God to give them His grace, His mercy, and His peace.

(1 Pe 5:10) 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ESV

(La 3:22–23) 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ESV

(Php 4:7) 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ESV

Luke 23:26-56
Ps 126-128

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     A contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, he started losing his hearing at age 28, and eventually became totally deaf. Incredibly, though, he continued writing some of the most beautiful symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and quartets of all time. Today, he ranks as one of the greatest composers in history. His name was Ludwig van Beethoven, and he was born this day, December 17, 1770. Beethoven wrote: “No friend have I. I must live by myself alone; but I know well that God is nearer to me than others in my art, so I will walk fearlessly with Him.”

American Minute

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

     Chapter 18  December 17

     My dear Malcolm, what do you suppose you have gained by substituting the image of a live wire for that of angered majesty? You have shut us all up in despair; for the angry can forgive, and electricity can't.

     And you give as your reason that "even by analogy the sort of pardon which arises because a fit of temper is spent cannot worthily be attributed to God nor gratefully accepted by man." But the belittling words "fit of temper" are your own choice. Think of the fullest reconciliation between mortals. Is cool disapproval coolly assuaged? Is the culprit let down lightly in view of "extenuating circumstances"? Was peace restored by a moral lecture? Was the offence said not to "matter"? Was it hushed up or passed over? Blake knew better:

  I was angry with my friend:
  I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

  I was angry with my foe:
  I told it not, my wrath did grow.

     You too know better. Anger-no peevish fit of temper, but just, generous, scalding indignation-passes (not necessarily at once) into embracing, exultant, rewelcoming love. That is how friends and lovers are truly reconciled. Hot wrath, hot love. Such anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it. The angers, not the measured remonstrances, of lovers are love's renewal. Wrath and pardon are both, as applied to God, analogies; but they belong together to the same circle of analogy-the circle of life, and love, and deeply personal relationships. All the liberalizing and "civilizing" analogies only lead us astray. Turn God's wrath into mere enlightened disapproval, and you also turn His love into mere humanitarianism. The "consuming fire" and the "perfect beauty" both vanish. We have, instead, a judicious headmistress or a conscientious magistrate. It comes of being high-minded.

     I know that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." That is not because wrath is wrath but because man is (fallen) man.

     But perhaps I've already said too much. All that any imagery can do is to facilitate, or at least not to impede, man's act of penitence and reception of pardon. We cannot see the matter "from God's side."

     The crude picture of penitence as something like apology or even placation has, for me, the value of making penitence an act. The more high-minded views involve some danger of regarding it simply as a state of feeling. Do you agree that this would be unwholesome?

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

It were better to empty a church and preach the Cross
than to fill it by keeping silent like a coward.
It were better to fail as Paul failed with the Jews
than to succeed by being a traitor to the Cross.
--- George H. Morrison

But a lot of people have gone too far and have written books and poetry that gets everybody believing that God is so kind and loving and gentle. God is so kind that infinity won’t measure it. And God is so loving that He is immeasurably loving. But God is also holy and just.
--- A. W. Tozer

My will is not my own till Thou has made it Thine; if it would reach the monarch’s throne it must its crown resign. It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife, till on Thy bosom it has leant and found in Thee its life.
--- George Matheson

Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they find laughable.
--- Anonymous

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 30:21-23
     by D.H. Stern

21     Three things make the earth quake,
four things it can’t bear—
22     a slave who becomes king,
a boor gorged with food,
23     a hated [wife] when her husband takes her [back],
and a slave-girl who inherits from her mistress.

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

                Redemption Creates the need it satisfies

     But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.
1 Cor. 2:14.

     The Gospel of God creates a sense of need of the Gospel. Paul says—“If our Gospel be hid, it is hid”—to those who are blackguards? No, “to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” The majority of people have their morality well within their own grasp, they have no sense of need of the Gospel. It is God Who creates the need of which no human being is conscious until He manifests Himself. Jesus said—“Ask, and it shall be given unto you,” but God cannot give until a man asks. It is not that He withholds, but that is the way He has constituted things on the basis of Redemption. By means of our asking, God gets processes into work whereby He creates the thing that is not in existence until we do ask. The inner reality of Redemption is that it creates all the time. As the Redemption creates the life of God in us, so it creates the things belonging to that life. Nothing can satisfy the need but that which created the need. This is the meaning of Redemption—it creates and it satisfies.

     “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” We preach our own experiences and people are interested, but no sense of need is awakened. If Jesus Christ is lifted up, the Spirit of God will create a conscious need of Him. Behind the preaching of the Gospel is the creative Redemption of God at work in the souls of men. It is never personal testimony that saves men. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.”

My Utmost for His Highest

The Listener In The Corner
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                The Listener In The Corner

Last night the talk
  was of the relationship of the self
  to God, to-night of God
  to the self. The centuries
  yawn. Alone in the corner
  one sits whose silence persuades
  of the pointlessness
  of the discourse. He drinks
  at another fountain that builds
  itself equally from the dust of ruffians
  and saints. Outside the wind
  howls; the stars, that once
  were the illuminated city
  of the imagination, to him are fires
  extinguished before the eyes' lenses
  formed. The universe
  is a large place with more of
  darkness than light. But slowly
  a web is spun there as minds like
  his swing themselves to and fro.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Take Heart
     December 17

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

     O wondrous transaction this, that God’s lamb takes away the world’s sin!  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.  He takes away the world’s sin, first, by substitution. The first and original transference of our sin, if we could see it, is not either in the day of our pardon or in the day of atonement but in the day of the everlasting covenant, when Christ pledged to substitute himself for sinners given to him by the Father, when he put his soul in their souls’ stead and had their guilt transferred to him and laid on him. The Son of God, having become answerable for sin and having it thus on him in the way of obligation to bear it, it came on him in the way of actual demand; God came and laid the iniquities on him. What then does sin deserve? The whole amount of all sin that has been or will ever be forgiven, the whole sin of all who have been and will be saved—who would have borne them with the rest of the world down to everlasting destruction—that was inflicted on the Lamb of God. He was able to bear it. He was willing to bear it. “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isa. 53:10). Then, Christ by bearing sin thus bears sin away; like the one of the goats that was lead out to bear the sin of Israel away, the Lamb of God bears away the sin of the world. There is “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7). He “has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10). He bears sin away, actually takes it off the shoulders of individuals in the day of regeneration, conversion, and justification. And we must remark that he bears, or takes, away not only the guilt but actually the sin. The direct purpose of his atonement, indeed, is expiation of the guilt of sin, but the result of expiation is consecration and obedience, by his sprinkled blood—the blood that, shed makes atonement to God, the same applied to sinners purges them and consecrates them to be a royal priesthood and a people belonging to God. Christ washes us from our sin in his own blood.
--- John Duncan

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

On This Day   December 17
     No Regrets

     On December 17, 1912 Bill Borden boarded ship for China via Egypt. His missionary career would be among history’s briefest—and most effective.

     Borden was born into an upper-class family on Chicago’s Gold Coast, heir to a fortune in real estate and milk production. His mother became a Christian, and young Bill began attending Chicago’s Moody Church with her, soon becoming a Christian himself. Shortly afterward, when Pastor R. A. Torrey challenged worshipers to dedicate their lives to God’s service, William quietly rose—a little fellow in a blue sailor suit. He stood a long, long time while the service went on, but there was no wavering, and it was a consecration from which he never retreated.

     Later at Yale University, Bill became well known as a star athlete, good-looking, worth $50 million, and committed to Christ. At a student missions conference in Nashville, he was deeply moved by Samuel Zwemer to reach the Muslims; and following graduation he announced he was giving his immense inheritance to the cause of world missions. He joined the China Inland Mission, planning to evangelize the Muslims in China. But first came language study in Egypt. On the eve of his departure, his widowed mother wondered if Bill had done the right thing, giving up fortune and homeland. “In the quiet of my room that night, worn and weary and sad, I fell asleep asking myself again and again, ‘Is it, after all, worthwhile?’ In the Morning as I awoke, a still small voice was speaking in my heart, answering: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son. … ’ ”

     A month after arriving in Egypt, Borden contracted spinal meningitis. He was dead in two weeks, but he left a final message on paper stuffed under his pillow: “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

     The story of his sacrifice was retold in newspapers across America and the publication of his biography resulted in a dramatic leap in numbers of young people offering themselves as living sacrifices for the Lord of the harvest.

     The LORD said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.
--- Genesis 12:1-3.

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 7)

     God Does Not Want To Frighten People

     The Bible never wants to make us fearful. God does not want people to be afraid-not even of the last judgment. Rather, he wants to let human beings know everything, so that they will know all about life and its meaning. He lets people know even today, so that they may already live their lives openly and in the light of the last judgment. He lets us know solely for one reason: so that we may find the way to Jesus Christ, so that we may turn away from our evil way and try to find him, Jesus Christ. God does not want to frighten people. He sends us the word of judgment only so that we will reach all the more passionately, all the more avidly, for the promise of grace, so that we will know that we cannot prevail before God on our own strength, that before him we would have to pass away, but that in spite of everything he does not want our death, but our life... . Christ judges, that is, grace is judge and forgiveness and love - whoever clings to it is already set free.

     Repentance means turning away from one's own work to the mercy of God. The whole Bible calls to us and cheers us: Turn back, turn back! Return - where to? To the ever lasting grace of God, who does not leave us.... God will be merciful - so come, judgment day! Lord Jesus, make us ready. We rejoice. Amen.'

     "Bonhoefier's sermon for Repentance Sunday, November 19, 1933"

Go to   Matthew 4:17     Click Here

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 17

     “I remember thee." Jeremiah 2:2.

     Let us note that Christ delights to think upon his Church, and to look upon her beauty. As the bird returneth often to its nest, and as the wayfarer hastens to his home, so doth the mind continually pursue the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity “His delights were with the sons of men”; his thoughts rolled onward to the time when his elect should be born into the world; he viewed them in the mirror of his foreknowledge. “In thy book,” he says, “all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16). When the world was set upon its pillars, he was there, and he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time before his incarnation, he descended to this lower earth in the similitude of a man; on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24-30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Jos. 5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19, 25), the Son of Man visited his people. Because his soul delighted in them, he could not rest away from them, for his heart longed after them. Never were they absent from his heart, for he had written their names upon his hands, and graven them upon his side. As the breastplate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ’s elect were his most precious jewels, and glittered on his heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but he never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace ever to bear him in fondest remembrance. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of thy Son.

          Evening - December 17

     “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” --- John 10:9.

     Jesus, the great I AM, is the entrance into the true church, and the way of access to God himself. He gives to the man who comes to God by him four choice privileges.

1.     He shall be saved. The fugitive manslayer passed the gate of the city of refuge, and was safe. Noah entered the door of the ark, and was secure. None can be lost who take Jesus as the door of faith to their souls. Entrance through Jesus into peace is the guarantee of entrance by the same door into heaven. Jesus is the only door, an open door, a wide door, a safe door; and blessed is he who rests all his hope of admission to glory upon the crucified Redeemer.

2.     He shall go in. He shall be privileged to go in among the divine family, sharing the children’s bread, and participating in all their honours and enjoyments. He shall go in to the chambers of communion, to the banquets of love, to the treasures of the covenant, to the storehouses of the promises. He shall go in unto the King of kings in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the secret of the Lord shall be with him.

3.     He shall go out. This blessing is much forgotten. We go out into the world to labour and suffer, but what a mercy to go in the name and power of Jesus! We are called to bear witness to the truth, to cheer the disconsolate, to warn the careless, to win souls, and to glorify God; and as the angel said to Gideon, “Go in this thy might,” even thus the Lord would have us proceed as his messengers in his name and strength.

4.     He shall find pasture. He who knows Jesus shall never want. Going in and out shall be alike helpful to him: in fellowship with God he shall grow, and in watering others he shall be watered. Having made Jesus his all, he shall find all in Jesus. His soul shall be as a watered garden, and as a well of water whose waters fail not.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     December 17


     Edmund H. Sears, 1810–1876

     Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:13)

     The peace of Christmas, proclaimed by the heavenly chorus, is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. “God was reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This message of reconciliation involves us on three different levels: Peace with God, peace with our fellowmen, and peace within ourselves. It is this blessed concept that Edmund Sears wanted to emphasize in his unusual carol.

     In the second stanza Sears stressed the social aspects of the angels’ message—the hope of Christians spreading peace and good will to others who are burdened and painfully toiling. The hymn was written in 1849, a time preceding the Civil War when there was much tension over the question of slavery, the industrial revolution in the North and the frantic gold rush in California. The final verse looks forward optimistically to a time when all people will enjoy the peace of which the angels sang.

     This carol is one of the finest ever written by an American. After graduation from Harvard Divinity School, Edmund Sears spent most of his life in small pastorates in the East.

     It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold: “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heav’n’s all gracious King!” The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.
     And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing: O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.
     For lo, the days are hast’ning on, by prophet bards foretold, when with the ever circling years comes round the age of gold when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.

     For Today: Luke 2:9–14; Ephesians 2:14; Hebrews 1:6

     Just as the angelic announcement of peace was given at a time of much turmoil caused by the heavy rule of the Roman Empire, so today does God’s message of peace comes despite life’s stormy circumstances.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     4. Information. If God have a sovereignty over the whole world., then merit is totally excluded. His right is so absolute over all creatures, that he neither is, nor can be, a debtor to any; not to the undefiled holiness of the blessed angels, much less to poor earthly worms; those blessed spirits enjoy their glory by the title of his sovereign pleasure, not by virtue of any obligation devolving from them upon God. Are not the faculties, whereby they and we perform any act of obedience, his grant to us? Is not the strength, whereby they and we are enabled to do anything pleasing to him, a gift from him? Can a vassal merit of his lord, or a slave of his master, by using his tools, and employing his strength in his service, though it was a strength he had naturally, not by donation from the man in whose service it is employed? God is Lord of all — all is due to him; how can we oblige him by giving him what is his own, more his to whom it is presented, than ours by whom it is offered? He becomes not a debtor by receiving anything from us, but by promising something to us.

     5. Information. If God hath a sovereign dominion over the whole world, then hence it follows, that all magistrates are but sovereigns under God. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords; all the potentates of the world are no other than his lieutenants, movable at his pleasure, and more at his disposal than their subjects are at theirs. Though they are dignified with the title of “gods,” yet still they are at an infinite distance from the supreme Lord; gods under God, not to be above him, not to be against him. The want of the due sense of their subordination to God hath made many in the world act as sovereigns above him more than sovereigns under him. Had they all bore a deep conviction of this upon their spirits, such audacious language had never dropped from the mouth of Pharaoh: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go?” (Exod. 5:2), presuming that there was no superior to control him, nor any in heaven able to be a match for him; Darius had never published such a doting edict, as to prohibit any petition to God; Nero had never fired Rome, and sung at the sight of the devouring flames; nor ever had he ripped up his mother’s belly, to see the womb where he first lodge and received a life so hateful to his country. Nor would Abner and Joab, the two generals, have accounted the death of men but a sport and interlude. “Let the young men arise and play before us” (2 Sam. 2:14); what play it was, the next verse acquaints you with; thrusting their swords into one another’s sides. They were no more troubled at the death of thousands, than a man is to kill a fly, or a flea. Had a sense of this but hovered over their souls, people in many countries had not been made their foot-balls, and used worse than their dogs! Nor had the lives of millions, worth more than a world, been exposed to fire and sword, to support some sordid lust, or breach of faith upon an idle quarrel, and for the depredation of their neighbors’ estates; the flames of cities had not been so bright, nor the streams of blood so deep, nor the cries of innocents so loud. In particular,

     (1). If God be Sovereign, all under-sovereigns are not to rule against him, but to be obedient to his orders. If they “rule by his authority” (Prov. 8:15), they are not to rule against his interest; they are not to imagine themselves as absolute as God, and that their laws must be of as sovereign authority against his honor, as the Divine are for it. If they are his lieutenants on earth, they ought to act according to his orders. No man but will account a governor of a province a rebel, if he disobeys the orders sent to him by the sovereign prince that commissioned him. Rebellion against God is a crime of princes, as well as rebellion against princes a crime of subjects. Saul is charged with it by Samuel in a high manner for an act of simple disobedience, though intended for the service of God, and the enriching his country with the spoils of the Amalekites. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam. 15:23); like witchcraft or covenanting with the devil, acting as if he had received his commission not from God, but from Satan. Magistrates, as commissioned by God, ought to act for him. Doth human authority ever give a commission to any to rebel against itself? did God ever depute any earthly sovereignty against his glory, and give them leave to outlaw his laws, to introduce their own? No; when he gave the vicarious dominion to Christ, he calls upon the kings of the earth to be instructed, and be wise, and “kiss the Son” (Psalm 2:10, 12), i. e. to observe his orders, and pay him homage as their Governor. What a silly doltish thing is it to resist that Supreme Authority, to which the archangels submit themselves, and regulate their employments punctually by their instructions! Those excellent creatures exactly obey him in all the acts of their subordinate government in the world; those in whose hand the greatest monarch is no more than a silly fly between the fingers of a giant. A contradiction to the interest of God hath been fatal to kings. The four monarchies have had their wings clipped, and most of them have been buried in their own ashes; they have all, like the imitators of Lucifer’s pride, fallen from the heaven of their glory to the depth of their shame and misery. All governors are bound to be as much obedient to God, as their subjects are bound to be submissive to them. Their authority over men is limited; God’s authority over them is absolute and unbounded. Though every soul ought to be subject to the higher powers, yet there is a higher Power of all, to which those higher powers are to subject themselves; they are to be keepers of both the tables of the law of God, and are then most sovereigns when they set in their own practice an example of obedience to God, for their subjects to write after.

     (2.) They ought to imitate God in the exercise of their sovereignty in ways of justice and righteousness. Though God be an absolute sovereign, yet his government is not tyrannical, but managed according to the rules of righteousness, wisdom, and goodness. If God, that created them as well as their subjects, doth so exercise his government, it is a duty incumbent upon them to do the same; since they are not the creators of their people, but the conductors. As God’s government tends to the good of the world, so ought theirs to the good of their countries. God committed not the government of the world to the Mediator in an unlimited way, but for the good of the church, in order to the eternal salvation of his people. “He gave him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). He had power over the devils to restrain them in their temptation and malice; power over the angels to order their ministry for the heirs of salvation. So power is given to magistrates for the civil preservation of the world and of human society; they ought therefore to consider for what ends they were placed over the rest of mankind, and not exercise their authority in a licentious way, but conformable to that justice and righteousness wherein God doth administer his government, and for the preservation of those who are committed to them.

     (3.) Magistrates must then be obeyed when they act according to God’s order, and within the bounds of the Divine commission. They are no friends to the sovereignty of God, that are enemies to magis tracy, his ordinance. Saul was a good governor, though none of the best men, and the despisers of his government after God’s choice, were the sons of Belial (1 Sam. 10:27). Christ was no enemy to Caesar. To pull down a faithful magistrate, such an one as Zerubbabel, is to pluck a signet from the hand of God; for in that capacity he accounts him (Hag. 2:23). God’s servants stand or fall to their own Master; how doth he check Aaron and Miriam for speaking against Moses, his servant? “Were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12:8); against Moses as related to you in the capacity of a governor; against Moses as related to you in the capacity of my servant? To speak anything against them, as they act by God’s order, is an invasion of God’s sovereign right, who gave them their commission. To act against just power, or the justice of an earthly power, is to act against God’s ordinance, who ordained them in the world, but not any abuse, or ill use of their power.

     Use II. How dreadful is the consideration of this doctrine to all rebels against God! Can any man that hath brains in his head, imagine it an inconsiderable thing to despise the Sovereign of the world? It was the sole crime of disobedience to that positive law, whereby God would have a visible memorial of his sovereignty preserved in the eye of man, that showered down that deluge of misery, under which the world groans to this day. God had given Adam a soul, whereby he might live as a rational creature; and then gives him a law, whereby he might live as a dutiful subject: for God forbidding him to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, declared his own supremacy over Adam, and his propriety in the pleasant world he had given him by his bounty; he let him know hereby, that man was not his own lord, nor was to live after his own sentiments, but the directions of a superior. As when a great lord builds a magnificent palace, and brings in another to inhabit it, he reserves a small duty to himself, not of an equal value with the house, but for an acknowledgment of his own right, that the tenant may know he is not the lord of it, but hath this grant by the liberality of another. God hereby gave Adam matter for a pure obedience, that had no foundation in his own nature by any implanted law; he was only in it to respect the will of his Sovereign, and to understand that he was to live under the power of a higher than himself. There was no more moral evil in the eating of this fruit, as considered distinct from the command, than in eating of any other fruit in the garden: had there been no prohibition, he might with as much safety have fed upon it as upon any other. No law of nature was transgressed in the act of eating of it, but the sovereignty of God over him was denied by him; and for this the death threatened was inflicted on his posterity: for though divines take notice of other sins in the fall of Adam, yet God, in his trial, chargeth him with none but this, and doth put upon his question an emphasis of his own authority: “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded ye that thou shouldst not eat?” (Gen. 3:11). This I am pleased with, that thou shouldest disown my dominion over thyself, and this garden. This was the inlet to all the other sins: as the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty is the first step to the practice of all the duties of a creature, so the disowning his sovereignty is the first spring of all the extravagances of a creature. Every sin against the sovereign Lawgiver is worthy of death: the transgression of this command deserved death, and procured it to spread itself over the face of the world. God’s dominion cannot be despised without meriting the greatest punishment.

     1. Punishment necessarily follows upon the doctrine of sovereignty. It is a faint and a feeble sovereignty that cannot preserve itself, and vindicate its own wrongs against rebellious subjects; the height of God’s dominion infers a vengeance on the contemners of it: if God be an eternal King, he is an eternal Judge. Since sin unlinks the dependence between God the Sovereign, and man the subject, if God did not vindicate the rights of his sovereignty, and the authority of his law, he would seem to despise his own dominion, be weary of it, and not act the part of a good governor. But God is tender of his prerogative, and doth most bestir himself when men exalt themselves proudly against him: “In the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he will be above them” (Exod. 18:11). When haraoh thought himself a mate for God, and proudly rejected his commands, as if they had been the messages of some petty Arabian lord, God rights his own authority upon the life of his enemy by the ministry of the Red Sea. He turned a great king into a beast, to make him know that the Most High ruled in the kingdoms of men: “The demand is by the word of the holy ones, to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men” (Dan. 4:16, 17); and that by the petitions of the angels, who cannot endure that the empire of God should be obscured and diminished by the pride of man. Besides the tender respect he hath to his own glory, he is constantly presented with the solicitations of the angels to punish the proud ones of the earth, that darken the glory of his majesty: it is necessary for the rescue of his honor, and necessary for the satisfaction of his illustrious attendants, who would think it a shame to them to serve a Lord that were always unconcerned in the rebellions of his creatures, and tamely, suffer their spurns at his throne; and therefore there is a day wherein the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, the cedars of Lebanon overthrown, and high mountains levelled, that “God may be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11, 12), &c. Pride is a sin that immediately swells against God’s authority; this shall be brought down that God may be exalted; not that he should have a real exaltation, as if he were actually deposed from his government, but that he shall be manifested to be the Sovereign of the whole world. It is necessary there should be a day to chase away those clouds that are upon his throne, that the lustre of his majesty may break forth to the confusion of all the children of pride that vaunt against him. God hath a dominion over us as a Lawgiver, as we are his creatures; and a dominion over us in a way of justice, as we are his criminals.

     2. This punishment is unavoidable.

     (L) None can escape him. He hath the sole authority over hell and eath, the keys of both are in his hand: the greatest Caesar can no more escape him than the meanest peasant: “Who art thou, O great mountain, before Zerubbabel?” (Zech. 4:7). The height of angels is no match for him, much less that of the mortal grandees of the world; they can no more resist him than the meanest person; but are rather, as the highest steeples, the fittest marks for his crushing thunder. If he speaks the word, the principalities of men come down, and “the crown of their glory” (Jer. 13:18). He can “take the mighty away in a moment,” and that “without hands,” i. e. without instruments (Job 34:20). The strongest are like the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, iron and clay; iron to man, but clay to God, to be crumbled to nothing.

     (2.) What comfort can be reaped from a creature, when the Sovereign of the world arms himself with terrors, and begins his visitation? “What will you do in the day of visitation, to whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your glory?” (Isa. 10:3). The torments from a subject may be relieved by the prince, but where can there be an appeal from the Sovereign of the world? Where is there any above him to control him, if he will overthrow us? Who is there to call him to account, and say to him, What dost thou? He works by an uncontrollable authority; he needs not ask leave of any; “he works, and none can let it” (Isa. 43:13): as when he will relieve, none can afflict; so when he will wound, none can relieve. If a king appoint the punishment of a rebel, the greatest favorite in the court cannot speak a comfortable word to him: the most beloved angel in heaven cannot sweeten and ease the spirit of a man that the Sovereign Power is set against to make the butt of his wrath. The devils he under his sentence, and wear their chains as marks of their condemnation, without hope of ever having them filed off, since they are laid upon them by the authority of an unaccountable Sovereign.

     (3.) By his sovereign authority God can make any creature the instrument of his vengeance. He hath all the creatures at his beck, and can commission any of them to be a dreadful scourge. Strong winds and tempests fulfil his word (Psalm 148:8); the lightnings answer him at his call, and cry aloud, “Here are we” (Job 38:35). By his sovereign authority he can render locusts as mischievous as lions, forge the meanest creatures into swords and arrows, and commission the most despicable to be his executioners. He can cut off joy from our spirits, and make our own hearts be our tormentors, our most confident friends our persecutors, our nearest relations to be his avengers; they are more his, who is their Sovereign, than ours, who place a vain confidence in them. Rather than Abraham shall want children, he can raise up stones, and adopt them into his family; and rather than not execute his vengeance, he can array the stones in the streets, and make them his armed subjects against us. If he speak the word, a hair shall drop from our heads to choke us, or a vapor, congealed into rheum in our heads, shall drop down and putrefy our vitals. He can never want weapons, who is Sovereign over the thunders of heaven and stones of the earth, over every creature; and can, by a sovereign word, turn our greatest comforts into curses.

     3. This punishment must be terrible. How loth David, a great king, sound in his body, prosperous in his crown, and successful in his conquests, settled in all his royal conveniences, groan under the wrathful touch of a greater King than himself (Psalm 6, 38, and his other penitential Psalms), not being able to give himself a writ of ease by all the delights of his palace and kingdom “If the wrath of a king be as the roaring of a lion” (Prov. 19:10) to a poor subject, how great is the wrath of the King of kings, that cannot be set forth by the terror of all the amazing volleys of thunder that have been since the creation, if the noise of all were gathered into one single crack! As there is an inconceivable ground of joy in the special favor of so might a King, so is there of terror in his severe displeasure: he is “terrible to the kings of the earth; with God is terrible majesty” (Psalm 86:12). What a folly is it, then, to rebel against so mighty a Sovereign!

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     ==============================      ==============================

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