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12/18/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Hebrews 1 - 6

Hebrews 1

The Supremacy of God’s Son

Hebrews 1:1     Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,  and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7 Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;

11  they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12  like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Hebrews 2

Warning Against Neglecting Salvation

Hebrews 2:1     Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The Founder of Salvation

5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7  You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8  putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 For it was fitting  that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 3

Jesus Greater Than Moses

Hebrews 3:1     Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses — as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

A Rest for the People of God

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
8  do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9  where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10  Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11  As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:1     Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

But the Bible itself teaches that we are to understand it in terms of our own experience when it says that Paul, Barnabas and Elijah were human beings like us and that Jesus knows how we feel in our weaknesses because he himself “in every respect has been tested as we are” (Heb 4:15). It means that their experience was substantially like our own.
     If we are to hear God’s voice ourselves and on an individual basis, we must, above all else, observe how his word came to those people described in the Scriptures. How did they experience God’s communication? What was it like for them to hear God? We must prayerfully but boldly use our God-given imaginations as we read the stories of people who encountered God. We must ask ourselves what it would be like if we were Moses standing by the bush (Ex 3:2), little Samuel lying in his darkened room (1 Sam 3:3-7), Elisha under inspiration from the minstrel (2 Kings 3:15), Ananias receiving his vision about Paul (Acts 9:11) or Peter on his rooftop (Acts 10:10). We must pray for the faith and for the experiences that would enable us to believe that such things could happen to us. Only then will we be able to recognize, accept and dwell in them when they come.    Dallas Willard - Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5:1     For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

6 as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Warning Against Apostasy

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6:1     Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

... the New Testament believed in the centrality of the cross of Christ, and believed that their conviction was derived from the mind of the Master himself. The early post-apostolic church, therefore, had a firm double base – in the teaching of Christ and his apostles – for making a cross the sign and symbol of Christianity. Church tradition proved in this to be a faithful reflection of Scripture.
     Moreover, we must not overlook their remarkable tenacity. They knew that those who had crucified the Son of God had subjected him to ‘public disgrace’ and that in order to endure the cross Jesus had had to humble himself to it and to ‘scorn its shame’. Heb. 6:6; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 12:2 Nevertheless, what was shameful, even odious, to the critics of Christ, was in the eyes of his followers most glorious. They had learnt that the servant was not greater than the master, and that for them as for him suffering was the means to glory. More than that, suffering was glory, and whenever they were ‘insulted because of the name of Christ’, then ‘the Spirit of glory’ rested upon them. Luke 24:26; John 12:23–24; 1 Pet. 1:11; 4:13; 5:1, 10; 4:14
     Yet the enemies of the gospel neither did nor do share this perspective. There is no greater cleavage between faith and unbelief than in their respective attitudes to the cross. Where faith sees glory, unbelief sees only disgrace. What was foolishness to Greeks, and continues to be to modern intellectuals who trust in their own wisdom, is nevertheless the wisdom of God. And what remains a stumbling-block to those who trust in their own righteousness, like the Jews of the first century, proves to be the saving power of God (1 Cor. 1:18–25).
The Cross of Christ
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things — things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

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Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Pistis Sophia”?

By J. Warner Wallace 12/15/2017

     There are a number of ancient, non-canonical texts used by sect leaders or heretical groups in the early history of Christianity. One of these is called The Sophia of Jesus Christ. Is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it written by an eyewitness who accurately captured the actions and statements of Jesus? There are four attributes of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first requirement is simply that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reports. The Sophia of Jesus Christ was written too late in history to have been written by anyone who could have actually seen the ministry of Jesus, and like other late non-canonical texts, this errant document was rejected by the Church. In spite of this, The Sophia of Jesus Christ may have contained small nuggets of truth related to Jesus.  Although it is a legendary fabrication altered by an author who wanted to craft a version of the Jesus story that suited the purposes of his religious community, it likely reflected many truths about Jesus:

     The Pistis Sophia (200-425AD) | This important Gnostic work has been known to scholars for over two hundred years. It was originally purchased by a private citizen from a bookseller in London and then purchased by the British Museum in 1785. It is an expansive document of Upper Egyptian origin that appears to be a collection (at least two scribes seem to be involved) of Gnostic Coptic manuscripts. The exact meaning of “Pistis Sophia” has been argued by scholars but generally means something akin to “Faith Wisdom” or “Wisdom of Faith”. The Pistis Sophia includes passages in which a transfigured Jesus is described teaching His followers about the mysteries of Heaven and various spiritual matters. This teaching reportedly occurred over an eleven-year period following the resurrection of Jesus.

     Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable? | The majority of scholars date The Pistis Sophia very late in history, from the 3rd to the 5th Centuries. While arguments have been made for a 2nd century authorship, this would still not be early enough to establish the work as a reliable eyewitness account. In addition, those who date the work early usually believe that The Pistis Sophia was written by Valentinus (the Gnostic theologian who lived from 100-160AD) or one of his followers. If this was the case, Irenaeus (along with other Church Fathers closest to the time of the writing) would have considered the text pure heresy, as he wholeheartedly condemned Valentinian Gnosticism. Other scholars have suggested The Pistis Sophia is actually an “Ophitic” text used by a sect of Gnostics known as “Ophites”. If this was the case, Church Fathers such as Epiphanius would have considered the text heretical, as he listed (writing at approximately 375AD) the Ophites in his list of heretical Gnostics who possessed a number of Gnostic texts. In either case, The Pistis Sophia is clearly a late, Gnostic, heretical work.

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

Love Is The Truth

By Jordon J. Bailor 10/03/16

     This ad perhaps captures Deirdre McCloskey’s observation that “love runs consumption” better than anything I have yet seen.

     And embedded in Jack White’s song are some rich theological insights. For more on the backstory for the song and the ad, check out this piece at the Consequence of Sound.

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

The Dangerous Vocations: Church, Media and Public Life in a Post-Rational World I

By N.T. Wright 10/20/16

     I have two brief preliminary points, three somewhat fuller comments about the developments that have taken place in my adult lifetime, and then – my main contribution today I think – four points that attempt to retrieve a biblical and Christian view of public life and of the tasks of church and media within that. Our time is brief and I will have to cut plenty of corners, but I hope we can follow up key points in questions at the end.

     First preliminary point: I have been out of public life now for six years, and no doubt that will show. I have kept my eye on things but I am not being briefed every day as once I was. I have plunged back into the world of the first century in the firm belief that the better we understand the New Testament in its context the more we shall at least raise the right questions about how to live by it in tomorrow’s world. For this reason it wouldn’t surprise me if I appear somewhat behind the game in some practical and contemporary issues. We shall see.

     Second preliminary point: in a short presentation it will sometimes be necessary to talk about ‘the media’. As we all know, however, that phrase covers not only a good many disparate fields, from glossy magazines to blogsites and plenty besides, but also includes people who not only differ radically in their views about everything but differ also in their view of what role the media – any media, theirs in particular – ought to have in our lives. I have had various bit-parts in ‘the media’ over the years, from bits and pieces of broadcasting to occasional op-ed pieces in newspapers. So if ‘the media’ constitute a problem, I am part of that problem, and though brevity requires generalization I will try at least to hint at nuance.

     So to my three more substantial comments about where we have got to and how we’ve got there.

     First, we have witnessed in my lifetime the subtle but powerful shift from high modernism to what some call late modernity and others postmodernity. Hard to define, of course, but quite easy to recognise: the hermeneutic of suspicion; the death of the metanarrative whether political, social or religious; the deconstruction of the ‘self’. Perhaps the best example was the Diana tragedy where the fairy-tale turned into a nightmare steered if not driven by the media. A post-rationalist world which sometimes retains the form of reasoned argument but actually works on rhetoric, on spin and smear. Classic examples there would include Tony Blair’s speech to the Commons the day before the bombing began: full of holes as an argument, but surfing the waves of popular feeling which itself had been whipped up by elements in the media, on both sides of the Atlantic, to assume that whatever had caused 9/11, itself a classic postmodern moment, if we went and beat up Saddam Hussein that would somehow make it better. Some of us said at the time that every bomb we dropped would be another recruiting agent for Al-Qaeda: the only mistake there was not to see that behind that horrible movement would be another, far worse again. And this is where postmodernity eats its own tail: because, having destroyed the larger metanarratives that might have explained how and why such movements exist and what they are aiming at, all we have left, reporting on the current chaos, is that there are very unpleasant people out there and our only choice seems to be either to bomb them or to try to ignore them. Other features of the modern-to-postmodern shift include the confusion over Europe, which began as a classic modernist construct, a secular parody of an older European holy empire, and is now under threat of deconstruction as the smaller identities reassert themselves. It has been depressing to find nobody explaining our confusions in these terms, but instead lapsing back into easy rhetoric revolving around hot issues such as immigration without realising the deep-level cultural drivers that make them hot in the first place. (In other words: yes, there is such a thing as racism; but there are also major narratives about complex identity which are not addressed by the threadbare neo-moralism in which racism is one of the few remaining sins.) Postmodernity, then, seems to be here to stay, not least because the media first thrive on shifting cultural signifiers and then instantiate that way of seeing the world in the popular mind. And, as I’ve often said, postmodernity seems to have the vocation of preaching the doctrine of the fall to arrogant modernity, but having done that it has no gospel to announce. There is no redemption; only play; and the play turns out to be a witches’ dance on the edge of a volcano, as the unaddressed global problems erupt once more in new and terrible ways.

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According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright.[3] Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification,[4] women's ordination,[5] and popular Christian views about life after death.[6] He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture.[7] Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.[8]The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus,[9][10] while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[

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Why Some People Reject Jesus

By Scott Redd 9/2017

     As an anthology, the four Gospels reveal two complementary responses to the person of Jesus Christ. Some people are inexplicably drawn to Jesus while others are just as inexplicably repelled by Him.

     Philip is an example of the former. He leaves behind his livelihood to follow this itinerant preacher who beckons him to “follow me” (John 1:43). No questions. He just follows.

     The crowds and disciples described in John 6:60–66 represent the latter.

(Jn 6:60–66) 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ESV

     Having left their homes to follow Jesus and His teaching, the crowds already know that He preaches like no other rabbi and that He can handle adversity with insight and authority. They have seen Him perform miracles that defy explanation and point to deeper truths about His identity and purpose.

     Some people are inexplicably drawn to Jesus while others are just as inexplicably repelled by Him.

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Dr. Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Time to (Re)Discover Hebrews

By Sinclair Ferguson 1/1/2011

     Of all the New Testament letters, Hebrews seems to be one many Christians find strange and alien. Here we enter the world of Melchizedek and Aaron, angels and Moses, sacrifices and priests. It all seems so Old Testament, so intricate, and even confusing.

     If so, it is time to (re)discover Hebrews. But how?

Seeing the Big Picture

     One of the first things to do when studying a book of the Bible is to try to get “the big picture.” The second easiest (but usually the best) way to do this is to skim through the book, note the natural divisions, isolate the main themes, and write out a brief outline of the argument or plotline.

     The easiest (but actually second best!) way for readers of Tabletalk is (of course) simply to consult their Reformation Study Bible (2015) ESV, Genuine Leather Black. There we find an effort-free outline.

     But a compromise method may be a good place to begin: attempt our own outline, consult our study Bible, and then compare notes.

     In fact, the big picture in Hebrews is fairly straightforward. Put simply, it is “Jesus is the greatest.”

     Jesus is: greater than angels (chaps. 1–2); greater than Moses (3:1–4:12); greater than the priests and high priests (4:13–7:28); and greater than the Old Testament sacrifices (chaps. 8–10).

     Since this is so, like those heroes of the faith who looked forward to the Messiah’s coming, we need to: keep our eyes glued to Him as we persevere in faith (chaps. 11–12) and live together as the new covenant community (chap. 13).

     If we get lost in the details, Hebrews will appear to be a long, maze-like book. But if we grasp the big picture, we will see why the author thought he had “written … only a short letter” (13:22, NIV).

Sparkling Diamonds

     Within this framework there are priceless treasures to be found. Here are five of the jewels:

     First, Hebrews is a Jesus-filled letter and shows us His glory. The more we read the letter, the more we realize that it is not about angels, Moses, Melchizedek, Aaron, or old covenant worship. The truth is that God has so ordered the course of redemptive history that they are all about Jesus.

     Second, Hebrews helps us to see how the relationship between the old and the new covenants is one of unity and diversity. The author tells us this right at the beginning: “Long ago,” at many times and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers, but He did so by the prophets. “In these last days,” God spoke to us, and did so by His Son. In these two statements, the whole of the Bible’s message is summed up: The Old Testament revelation is fragmentary and multiplex; Jesus is full and final. He reveals God perfectly, because He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (1:3).

     The Old Testament is full of copies and shadows (9:23; 10:1). Jesus is the original and the reality.

     Third, Hebrews movingly describes the reality of Jesus’ humanity. At first — if we get bogged down in the unfamiliarity of the Levitical system — we may not notice this. But read again, and it will become clear.

     The Son of God became like us, shared our human origin, was tempted, experienced suffering, and tasted death (2:10, 11, 14, 18). He became a brother to us (v. 17). That is why He is able to help the tempted (v. 18).

     The Son of God shared our weakness and has taken into heaven the very humanity in which He tasted it. Through Him we can come with confidence to God’s throne, knowing that there is mercy to be found there for our weakness and grace for our sinfulness (4:14–15).

     The Son of God became a man of prayers and tears. His obedience was exercised in suffering. We can trust Him as the source of our salvation (5:7–9).

     Fourth, Hebrews wonderfully expounds Jesus’ glory. Every chapter points to this. It is worth taking the time simply to read the big texts. These include Hebrews 1:3; 2:9; 3:3; 4:14; 5:9; 6:20; 7:22; 8:1; 9:15; 10:12; 11:40–12:2; and 13:8. Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” that is, He is the One who was fragmentarily and preliminarily revealed in the old covenant, has been fully revealed in the new, and will finally be revealed in the eschaton (at the end of days).

     Fifth, Hebrews speaks to us with great pastoral sensitivity. It is, after all, a “word of exhortation” or encouragement. It is realistic about suffering, the fear of persecution, the danger of discouragement, the struggles we have against sin, the possibility of backsliding, the spiritual paralysis produced by the condemning voice of conscience, and the possibility that we may lack assurance. Its remedy for every spiritual disease is stated in a theology marked by great simplicity married to rich complexity:

     Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our calling, the Founder and Perfecter of our Faith (3:1; 12:2). See everything in the light of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He continues to do today. You cannot go wrong there.

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

     Steven Lawson  |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 142

You Are My Refuge
142 A Maskil Of David, When He Was In The Cave. A Prayer.

142:1 With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
2 I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.

3 When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.

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

Hate What God Hates

By Tim Challies 12/17/2016

     God is love. We love that God is love, that he is the never-ending source of love, that he is the one who always acts in loving ways. Even those who reject the Christian faith still like to imagine and believe in a God who is love.

     But God is not only love. The God who loves must also hate. The God who loves all that is good and pure and holy must hate all that is evil and defiled and perverse. And, not surprisingly, the Bible tells us of many things that ignite the wrath of God. Sometimes he tells us plainly as in Proverbs 6:16: “There are six things the LORD hates…” Sometimes he tells us of things that are an abomination to him or things that are detestable in his sight. As we compile them we arrive at a list of more than 40 things that God expressly hates. They range from abhorrent sexual practices to pagan forms of worship to acts of grave injustice.

     Today I am kicking off a series that will examine the things God hates, for what God hates we must hate as well. I have distilled the list of 40 into 8 categories. We begin today with God’s hatred of idolatry.

     God Hates Idolatry | God created human beings to be worshippers. The question is not “will we worship?” but “what will we worship?” We will all pursue something as the antidote to our emptiness, our insufficiency. We will all look for meaning, for fulfillment, for satisfaction. J.I. Packer says it like this: “It is impossible to worship nothing: we humans are worshipping creatures, and if we do not worship the God who made us, we shall inevitably worship someone or something else.” Of course “the truth is that our supreme fulfillment, as moral beings made in God’s image, is found and expressed in actively worshipping our holy Creator.” No wonder, then, that the first 3 of the 10 commandments deal with proper worship of God.

     God tells us in no uncertain terms that he hates idolatry. He despises the worship of anything or anyone other than himself. In Deuteronomy 7:25 he tells his people what to do when they find foreign idols in the land they are entering: They are not only to destroy the idols but even to rid themselves of the defiled raw material. “The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.” If God hates idols, then of course he hates idolatry, the worship of false gods. In Jeremiah 44:3 he explains that punishment has come upon his people “because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers.” They stubbornly ignored his prophets who repeatedly spoke this divine warning: “Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!”

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     Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.

     I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

     Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.

     Tim Challies Books |  Go to Books Page

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     7. The servant of God being confirmed by these promises and examples, will add the passages which teach that all men are under his power, whether to conciliate their minds, or to curb their wickedness, and prevent it from doing harm. For it is the Lord who gives us favour, not only with those who wish us well, but also in the eyes of the Egyptians (Exod. 3:21), in various ways defeating the malice of our enemies. Sometimes he deprives them of all presence of mind, so that they cannot undertake anything soundly or soberly. In this ways he sends Satan to be a lie in the mouths of all the prophets in order to deceive Ahab (1 Kings 22:22), by the counsel of the young men he so infatuates Rehoboam, that his folly deprives him of his kingdom (1 Kings 12:10, 15). Sometimes when he leaves them in possession of intellect, he so fills them with terror and dismays that they can neither will nor plan the execution of what they had designed. Sometimes, too, after permitting them to attempt what lust and rage suggested, he opportunely interrupts them in their career, and allows them not to conclude what they had begun. Thus the counsel of Ahithophel, which would have been fatal to David, was defeated before its time (2 Sam. 17:7, 14). Thus, for the good and safety of his people, he overrules all the creatures, even the devil himself who, we see, durst not attempt any thing against Job without his permission and command. This knowledge is necessarily followed by gratitude in prosperity, patience in adversity, and incredible security for the time to come. Every thing, therefore, which turns out prosperous and according to his wish, the Christian will ascribe entirely to God, whether he has experienced his beneficence through the instrumentality of men, or been aided by inanimate creatures. For he will thus consider with himself: Certainly it was the Lord that disposed the minds of these people in my favour, attaching them to me so as to make them the instruments of his kindness. In an abundant harvest he will think that it is the Lord who listens to the heaven, that the heaven may listen to the earth, and the earth herself to her own offspring; in other cases, he will have no doubt that he owes all his prosperity to the divine blessing, and, admonished by so many circumstances, will feel it impossible to be ungrateful.

8. If any thing adverse befalls him, he will forthwith raise his mind to God, whose hand is most effectual in impressing us with patience and placid moderation of mind. Had Joseph kept his thoughts fixed on the treachery of his brethren, he never could have resumed fraternal affection for them. But turning toward the Lord, he forgot the injury, and was so inclined to mildness and mercy, that he even voluntarily comforts his brethren, telling them, "Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life." "As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good," (Gen. 45:5; 50:20). Had Job turned to the Chaldees, by whom he was plundered, he should instantly have been fired with revenge, but recognising the work of the Lord, he solaces himself with this most beautiful sentiment: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord," (Job 1:21). So when David was assailed by Shimei with stones and curses, had he immediately fixed his eyes on the man, he would have urged his people to retaliate the injury; but perceiving that he acts not without an impulse from the Lord, he rather calms them. "So let him curse," says he, "because the Lord has said unto him, Curse David." With the same bridle he elsewhere curbs the excess of his grief, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it," (Ps. 39:9). If there is no more effectual remedy for anger and impatience, he assuredly has not made little progress who has learned so to meditate on Divine Providence, as to be able always to bring his mind to this, The Lord willed it, it must therefore be borne; not only because it is unlawful to strive with him, but because he wills nothing that is not just and befitting. The whole comes to this. When unjustly assailed by men, overlooking their malice (which could only aggravate our grief, and whet our minds for vengeance), let us remember to ascend to God, and learn to hold it for certain, that whatever an enemy wickedly committed against us was permitted, and sent by his righteous dispensation. Paul, in order to suppress our desire to retaliate injuries, wisely reminds us that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with our spiritual enemy the devil, that we may prepare for the contest (Eph. 6:12). But to calm all the impulses of passion, the most useful consideration is, that God arms the devil, as well as all the wicked, for conflict, and sits as umpire, that he may exercise our patience. But if the disasters and miseries which press us happen without the agency of men, let us call to mind the doctrine of the Law (Deut. 28:1), that all prosperity has its source in the blessing of God, that all adversity is his curse. And let us tremble at the dreadful denunciation, "And if ye will not be reformed by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you," (Lev. 26:23, 24). These words condemn our torpor, when, according to our carnal sense, deeming that whatever happens in any way is fortuitous, we are neither animated by the kindness of God to worship him, nor by his scourge stimulated to repentance. And it is for this reason that Jeremiah (Lament. 3:38), and Amos (Amos 3:6), expostulated bitterly with the Jews, for not believing that good as well as evil was produced by the command of God. To the same effect are the words in Isaiah, "I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things," (Is. 45:7).

9. At the same time, the Christian will not overlook inferior causes. For, while he regards those by whom he is benefited as ministers of the divine goodness, he will not, therefore, pass them by, as if their kindness deserved no gratitude, but feeling sincerely obliged to them, will willingly confess the obligation, and endeavour, according to his ability, to return it. In fine, in the blessings which he receives, he will revere and extol God as the principal author, but will also honour men as his ministers, and perceive, as is the truth, that by the will of God he is under obligation to those, by whose hand God has been pleased to show him kindness. If he sustains any loss through negligence or imprudence, he will, indeed, believe that it was the Lord's will it should so be, but, at the same time, he will impute it to himself. If one for whom it was his duty to care, but whom he has treated with neglect, is carried off by disease, although aware that the person had reached a limit beyond which it was impossible to pass, he will not, therefore, extenuate his fault, but, as he had neglected to do his duty faithfully towards him, will feel as if he had perished by his guilty negligence. Far less where, in the case of theft or murder, fraud and preconceived malice have existed, will he palliate it under the pretext of Divine Providence, but in the same crime will distinctly recognise the justice of God, and the iniquity of man, as each is separately manifested. But in future events, especially, will he take account of such inferior causes. If he is not left destitute of human aid, which he can employ for his safety, he will set it down as a divine blessing; but he will not, therefore, be remiss in taking measures, or slow in employing the help of those whom he sees possessed of the means of assisting him. Regarding all the aids which the creatures can lend him, as hands offered him by the Lord, he will avail himself of them as the legitimate instruments of Divine Providence. And as he is uncertain what the result of any business in which he engages is to be (save that he knows, that in all things the Lord will provide for his good), he will zealously aim at what he deems for the best, so far as his abilities enable him. In adopting his measures, he will not be carried away by his own impressions, but will commit and resign himself to the wisdom of God, that under his guidance he may be led into the right path. However, his confidence in external aid will not be such that the presence of it will make him feel secure, the absence of it fill him with dismay, as if he were destitute. His mind will always be fixed on the Providence of God alone, and no consideration of present circumstances will be allowed to withdraw him from the steady contemplation of it. Thus Joab, while he acknowledges that the issue of the battle is entirely in the hand of God, does not therefore become inactive, but strenuously proceeds with what belongs to his proper calling, "Be of good courage," says he, "and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God; and the Lord do that which seemeth him good," (2 Sam. 10:12). The same conviction keeping us free from rashness and false confidence, will stimulate us to constant prayer, while at the same time filling our minds with good hope, it will enable us to feel secure, and bid defiance to all the dangers by which we are surrounded.

10. Here we are forcibly reminded of the inestimable felicity of a pious mind. Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death. For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger? Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death. Go on board a ship, you are but a plank's breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest. All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine. I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad. Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck? It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us. What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.

11. But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer's soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God. This, I say, is his comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power--so governs them at will by his nod--so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and entrusted to the care of his angels neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to permit. For thus sings the Psalm, "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday" &c. (Ps. 91:2-6). Hence the exulting confidence of the saints, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me." "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear." "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." (Ps. 118:6; 27:3; 23:4).

How comes it, I ask, that their confidence never fails, but just that while the world apparently revolves at random, they know that God is every where at work, and feel assured that his work will be their safety? When assailed by the devil and wicked men, were they not confirmed by remembering and meditating on Providence, they should, of necessity, forthwith despond. But when they call to mind that the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are, in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how much soever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay, unless in so far as he commands; that they are not only bound by his fetters, but are even forced to do him service,--when the godly think of all these things they have ample sources of consolation. For, as it belongs to the lord to arm the fury of such foes and turn and destine it at pleasure, so it is his also to determine the measure and the end, so as to prevent them from breaking loose and wantoning as they list. Supported by this conviction, Paul, who had said in one place that his journey was hindered by Satan (1 Thess. 2:18), in another resolves, with the permission of God, to undertake it (1 Cor. 16:7). If he had only said that Satan was the obstacle, he might have seemed to give him too much power, as if he were able even to overturn the counsels of God; but now, when he makes God the disposer, on whose permission all journies depend, he shows, that however Satan may contrive, he can accomplish nothing except in so far as He pleases to give the word. For the same reason, David, considering the various turns which human life undergoes as it rolls, and in a manner whirls around, retakes himself to this asylum, "My times are in thy hand," (Ps. 31:15). He might have said the course of life or time in the singular number, but by times he meant to express, that how unstable soever the condition of man may be, the vicissitudes which are ever and anon taking place are under divine regulation. Hence Rezin and the king of Israel, after they had joined their forces for the destruction of Israel, and seemed torches which had been kindled to destroy and consume the land, are termed by the prophet "smoking fire brands." They could only emit a little smoke (Is. 7:4). So Pharaoh, when he was an object of dread to all by his wealth and strength, and the multitude of his troops, is compared to the largest of beasts, while his troops are compared to fishes; and God declares that he will take both leader and army with his hooks, and drag them whither he pleases (Ezek. 29:4). In one word, not to dwell longer on this, give heed, and you will at once perceive that ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Practice Makes Perfect

By Brian Tallman 11/01/2016

     Anyone who has ever achieved at a really high level knows that there is no substitute for practice. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of exceptionally gifted people who are able to master a subject or discipline on their first introduction to it. But those kinds of people are the exceptions and not the norm. For most, mastery takes hard work. The best writers and thinkers and players and workers and musicians are often referred to as those who put the most time in. “He was the first one in and the last one to leave,” they say. “Nobody worked harder than she did.” After he examined what makes successful people successful, Malcolm Gladwell suggested that it takes roughly ten thousand hours to become an expert in your field. Ten thousand hours! Basically five years of full-time work according to the American workweek. In other words, practice. Doing the same thing over and over and over again. That’s how you get good. That’s how you grow.

     I love the story that golf great Gary Player tells. There he is, down in Texas, in a bunker hitting practice shots. An old cowboy walks up and watches as the first shot Player hits goes into the hole. The cowboy says to him, “You got fifty bucks if you knock the next one in.” And he does. In fact, he goes on to make three more in a row. As the old man is peeling back hundred-dollar bills, he says to Player, “Boy, I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my life.” Player’s response says it all. “Well,” he said, “the harder I practice, the luckier I get.” Although probably not original to Player, his response gets at something everyone knows: behind people who are really good at what they do is a road paved with hours and hours of practice.

     The question here is this: Does this translate to Christian discipleship and to the Christian life? Is it possible to get better at showing mercy? To grow in generosity? To become more loving? To be a better neighbor? And, if yes, is growth in these areas related to practice? Put another way, is the Christian life like everything else in life? Is it a matter of putting in the hours or giving ourselves over and over and over again to the discipline of cultivating a virtuous life? Is it possible for us to say to someone who manifests an astonishing amount of generosity, “That’s the most generous thing I’ve ever seen,” only to hear from them, “You know, the more generous I am the more generous I become”?

     I think the answer to these questions is yes. The Apostle Peter certainly was very comfortable speaking about practice as tending toward growth in Christian discipleship. He writes: “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith. . . . For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful. . . . Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fail” (2 Peter 1:5–10). Likewise, the Apostle Paul often used metaphors of growth and fruit bearing to describe the Christian life:

     And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:9–10)

     The more we give ourselves over to those things that are good and right and true and beautiful and lovely, the more they take root in us and shape us. In a strange way, we become them by doing them. Philosophers and theologians alike have recognized this. The psalmist presents this principle when he speaks of those who worship idols: “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 115:8; see 135:18). This is just the way we as humans were made to learn. More than we realize, our lives our molded by the rituals, the liturgies, and the things that we frequently give ourselves over to. It’s in this light that the wisdom of Proverbs makes good sense: “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Prov. 22:24–25). This is certainly what is behind the old axiom that bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

     In a strange way, then, those things we give ourselves over to shape us and make us, usually into their own image. One theologian gets at this when he notes the way worship transforms humans and how we become what we worship:

     God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation. . . . What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

     The more we give ourselves over to the virtues of the Christian life and the more we practice the ethics of the kingdom of God, the more those virtues and ethics will take root in us, the more they will shape us, and the more they make us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who was perfect in every way.

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     Rev. Brian Tallman is senior minister of New Life Presbyterian Church in La Mesa, California.

No Shortcuts to Growth

By R.C. Sproul 12/01/2016

     I’m still amazed whenever I see the bumper sticker that reads, “Visualize world peace.” The idea is that if I, and enough other people, create the right mental picture of peace, it will soon come to pass. It’s astounding that some people actually believe that silly technique will bring about such a desirable goal.

     Then, there’s the popular “Coexist” bumper sticker. You may have seen it, the one spelled out with the symbols of different religions—the Islamic crescent forming the C, the Christian cross forming the T, and so on. The idea seems to be that if we religious people would just stop focusing on our differences, we could achieve world harmony. If we understood that our beliefs are all ultimately the same, all of the problems of war and strife would go away.

     The funny thing is, we’ll reject such sentiments when they appear on a bumper sticker, but we’ll accept them elsewhere. How many business seminars promise increased profit if we only focus on the positive or visualize a goal? Eastern mysticism, where much of the bumper-sticker theology we’re talking about finds its ultimate origin, dresses it up with more acceptable religious practices. Meditate regularly, repeating a mantra as you visualize the oneness of all things, and the human race will move toward unity. But there’s also a version sold to us as the Christian key for victorious living. Speak your desire, claim it’s yours in Jesus’ name, visualize it will happen, and then it will be yours. Your healing, wealth, relationship success, happy family, improved marriage will come as soon as you name it and claim it or practice the power of positive thinking.

     We’re looking for the right technique, the secret that will turn our wishes into reality. We laugh at the world’s spiritual magic, only to baptize it and practice it ourselves. We’ll read Scripture hoping to find the shortcut to spiritual growth while missing the true but non-shortcut answer—the key is not in the Bible; it is the Bible.

     One reason we look for spiritual shortcuts is related to our modern age where shortcuts and rapid results abound. We can quickly relieve pain with medicine, find our way to restaurants with our smartphones, and get immediate answers to our questions online. These aren’t inherently bad things, but they tend to foster false expectations. If technology can relieve our illnesses and make our jobs easier, it surely can give rest to our souls, right?

     We assume the answer is yes, and there are all too many “experts” out there who’ll encourage that assumption. Just look at the self-help section at your local bookstore, even at your local Christian bookstore. Book after book promises to hold the key to our happiness in twelve steps or less. The fact that none of the promises pan out doesn’t deter people from buying those books or new authors from repackaging old, ineffective answers in fancier dress.

     But we can’t ultimately blame our search for shortcuts on modern technology. Our innate desire since the fall for autonomy, to be masters of our own fates, drives us to search out soul-building techniques that will improve us. We see our faith not as an end in itself but as a means to greater fulfillment. Evangelists routinely implore people to come to Christ, saying that He will make them happier, more confident in themselves, and more spiritual. Jesus becomes a means to improve our marriages and finances while releasing us from all manner of compulsions and negative character traits.

     Can Christ do all those things? Of course He can. But Jesus is not a means to other ends — He is the end, the goal of our lives. He doesn’t come into our lives to give us special techniques to make our lives better; He works in and through us, changing us for the sake of His glory. He provides believers no mystic secrets to take them to a higher plane of spirituality. There’s no hidden truth available to only a few, no method that guarantees quick maturity in Him as long as we master it.

     We’re saved by grace alone and justified by faith alone, but having been saved, we don’t just wait around to die. Christianity is about spiritual growth as well, and spiritual growth involves effort — the hard work of sanctification. We manifestly don’t work for our regeneration or our justification. Both acts are monergistic, accomplished by God alone. Only the Holy Spirit can change our hearts. Only the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of the Son of God secured by His perfect obedience to the Father, can secure our right standing before God. Sanctification, however, includes our efforts. We say it is synergistic because both God and we are doing something. Yet, we aren’t equal partners. God wills and works in us according to His good pleasure so that we progress in holiness (Phil. 2:12–13). But as God works in us, we work as well, pursuing Him in prayer, relying on the means of grace—the preached Word and the sacraments—seeking to be reconciled to those we have offended. There’s no shortcut for sanctification. It’s a process, and one that all too often seems overly plodding, with progress taking years to discern.

     God’s work is easy for Him. He doesn’t look for shortcuts because He never grows weary. We get tired and frustrated, however. We’re tempted to look for the simple path, the quick answer, the effortless way forward. But there is none. Sanctification requires diligently attending to the means God has given us. The growth may be slow, almost imperceptible at times, but it is sure.

     No technique of the devil’s can stop the process of Christ making us into His image. Those whom He calls He sanctifies.

     Casually attending to the things of the Lord will not result in our nurture. Visualizing or seeking a secret formula won’t help. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that Christ, by His Spirit, is working in us.

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

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Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 22)

By John Foxe 1563

Removal of the Prisoners to Oung-pen-la-Mrs. Judson Follows Them

     "Notwithstanding the order the governor had given for my admittance into prison, it was with the greatest difficulty that I could persuade the under jailer to open the gate. I used to carry Mr. J's food myself, for the sake of getting in, and would then remain an hour or two, unless driven out. We had been in this comfortable situation but two or three days, when one morning, having carried in Mr. Judson's breakfast, which, in consequence of fever, he was unable to take, I remained longer than usual, when the governor in great haste sent for me. I promised him to return as soon as I had ascertained the governor's will, he being much alarmed at this unusual message. I was very agreeably disappointed, when the governor informed, that he only wished to consult me about his watch, and seemed unusually pleasant and conversable. I found afterwards, that his only object was, to detain me until the dreadful scene, about to take place in the prison, was over. For when I left him to go to my room, one of the servants came running, and with a ghastly countenance informed me, that all the white prisoners were carried away.

     "I would not believe the report, but instantly went back to the governor, who said he had just heard of it, but did not wish to tell me. I hastily ran into the street, hoping to get a glimpse of them before they were out of sight, but in this was disappointed. I ran first into one street, then another, inquiring of all I met, but none would answer me. At length an old woman told me the white prisoners had gone towards the little river; for they were to be carried to Amarapora. I then ran to the banks of the little river, about half a mile, but saw them not, and concluded the old woman had deceived me. Some of the friends of the foreigners went to the place of execution, but found them not. I then returned to the governor to try to discover the cause of their removal, and the probability of their future fate. The old man assured me that he was ignorant of the intention of government to remove the foreigners until that morning. That since I went out, he had learned that the prisoners had been sent to Amarapora; but for what purpose, he knew not. 'I will send off a man immediately,' said he, 'to see what is to be done with them. You can do nothing more for your husband,' continued he, Take care of yourself.

     "Never before had I suffered so much from fear in traversing the streets of Ava. The last words of the governor, 'Take care of yourself,' made me suspect there was some design with which I was unacquainted. I saw, also, he was afraid to have me go into the streets, and advised me to wait until dark, when he would send me in a cart, and a man to open the gates. I took two or three trunks of the most valuable articles, together with the medicine chest, to deposit in the house of the governor; and after committing the house and premises to our faithful Moung Ing and a Bengalee servant, who continued with us, (though we were unable to pay his wages,) I took leave, as I then thought probable, of our house in Ava forever.

     "The day was dreadfully hot; but we obtained a covered boat, in which we were tolerably comfortable, until within two miles of the government house. I then procured a cart; but the violent motion, together with the dreadful heat and dust, made me almost distracted. But what was my disappointment on my arriving at the courthouse, to find that the prisoners had been sent on two hours before, and that I must go in that uncomfortable mode four miles further with little Maria in my arms, whom I held all the way from Ava. The cart man refused to go any further; and after waiting an hour in the burning sun, I procured another, and set off for that never to be forgotten place, Oung-pen-la. I obtained a guide from the governor and was conducted directly to the prison-yard.

     "But what a scene of wretchedness was presented to my view!

     The prison was an old shattered building, without a roof; the fence was entirely destroyed; eight or ten Burmese were on the top of the building, trying to make something like a shelter with the leaves; while under a little low protection outside of the prison sat the foreigners, chained together two and two, almost dead with suffering and fatigue. The first words of your brother were: 'Why have you come? I hoped you would not follow, for you cannot live here.'

     "It was now dark. I had no refreshment for the suffering prisoners, or for myself, as I had expected to procure all that was necessary at the market in Amarapora, and I had no shelter for the night. I asked one of the jailers if I might put up a little bamboo house near the prisoners; he said 'No, it was not customary.' I then begged he would procure me a shelter for the night, when on the morrow I could find some place to live in. He took me to his house, in which there were only two small rooms-one in which he and his family lived-the other, which was then half full of grain, he offered to me; and in that little filthy place, I spent the next six months of wretchedness. I procured some half boiled water, instead of my tea, and, worn out with fatigue, laid myself down on a mat spread over the paddy, and endeavored to obtain a little refreshment from sleep. The next morning your brother gave me the following account of the brutal treatment he had received on being taken out of prison.

     "As soon as I had gone out at the call of the governor, one of the jailers rushed into Mr. J's little room-roughly seized him by the arm-pulled him out-stripped of all his clothes, excepting shirt and pantaloons-took his shoes, hat, and all his bedding-tore off his chains-tied a rope round his waist, dragged him to the courthouse, where the other prisoners had previously been taken. They were then tied two and two, and delivered into the hands of the Lamine Woon, who went on before them on horseback, while his slaves drove the prisoners, one of the slaves holding the rope which connected two of them together. It was in May, one of the hottest months in the year, and eleven o'clock in the day, so that the sun was intolerable indeed.

     "They had proceeded only half a mile, when your brother's feet became blistered, and so great was his agony, even at this early period, that as they were crossing the little river, he longed to throw himself into the water to be free from misery. But the sin attached to such an act alone prevented. They had then eight miles to walk. The sand and gravel were like burning coals to the feet of the prisoners, which soon became perfectly destitute of skin; and in this wretched state they were goaded on by their unfeeling drivers. Mr. J's debilitated state, in consequence of the fever, and having taken no food that morning, rendered him less capable of bearing such hardships than the other prisoners.

     "When about halfway on their journey, as they stopped for water, your brother begged the Lamine Woon to allow him to ride his horse a mile or two, as he could proceed no farther in that dreadful state. But a scornful, malignant look was all the reply that was made. He then requested Captain Laird, who was tied with him, and who was a strong, healthy man, to allow him to take hold of his shoulder, as he was fast sinking. This the kind-hearted man granted for a mile or two, but then found the additional burden insupportable. Just at that period, Mr. Gouger's Bengalee servant came up to them, and seeing the distresses of your brother, took off his headdress, which was made of cloth, tore it in two, gave half to his master, and half to Mr. Judson, which he instantly wrapped round his wounded feet, as they were not allowed to rest even for a moment. The servant then offered his shoulder to Mr. J. and was almost carried by him the remainder of the way.

     "The Lamine Woon, seeing the distressing state of the prisoners, and that one of their number was dead, concluded they should go no farther that night, otherwise they would have been driven on until they reached Oung-pen-la the same day. An old shed was appointed for their abode during the night, but without even a mat or pillow, or anything to cover them. The curiosity of the Lamine Woon's wife, induced her to make a visit to the prisoners, whose wretchedness considerably excited her compassion, and she ordered some fruit, sugar, and tamarinds, for their refreshment; and the next morning rice was prepared for them, and as poor as it was, it was refreshing to the prisoners, who had been almost destitute of food the day before. Carts were also provided for their conveyance, as none of them were able to walk. All this time the foreigners were entirely ignorant of what was to become of them; and when they arrived at Oung-pen-la, and saw the dilapidated state of the prison, they immediately, all as one, concluded that they were there to be burned, agreeably to the report which had previously been in circulation at Ava. They all endeavored to prepare themselves for the awful scene anticipated, and it was not until they saw preparations making for repairing the prison that they had the least doubt that a cruel lingering death awaited them. My arrival was an hour or two after this.

     "The next morning I arose and endeavored to find something like food. But there was no market, and nothing to be procured. One of Dr. Price's friends, however, brought some cold rice and vegetable curry, from Amarapora, which, together with a cup of tea from Mr. Lansago, answered for the breakfast of the prisoners; and for dinner, we made a curry of dried salt fish, which a servant of Mr. Gouger had brought. All the money I could command in the world I had brought with me, secreted about my person; so you may judge what our prospects were, in case the war should continue long. But our heavenly Father was better to us than our fears; for notwithstanding the constant extortions of the jailers, during the whole six months we were at Oung-pen-la, and the frequent straits to which we were brought, we never really suffered for the want of money, though frequently for want of provisions, which were not procurable.

     "Here at this place my personal bodily sufferings commenced. While your brother was confined in the city prison, I had been allowed to remain in our house, in which I had many conveniences left, and my health continued good beyond all expectations. But now I had not a single article of convenience-not even a chair or seat of any kind, excepting a bamboo floor. The very morning after my arrival, Mary Hasseltine was taken with the smallpox, the natural way. She, though very young, was the only assistant I had in taking care of little Maria. But she now required all the time I could spare from Mr. Judson whose fever still continued in prison, and whose feet were so dreadfully mangled that for several days he was unable to move.

     "I knew not what to do, for I could procure no assistance from the neighborhood, or medicine for the sufferers, but was all day long going backwards and forwards from the house to the prison, with little Maria in my arms. Sometimes I was greatly relieved by leaving her, for an hour, when asleep, by the side of her father, while I returned to the house to look after Mary, whose fever ran so high as to produce delirium. She was so completely covered with the smallpox that there was no distinction in the pustules. As she was in the same little room with myself, I knew Maria would take it; I therefore inoculated her from another child, before Mary's had arrived at such a state to be infectious. At the same time, I inoculated Abby, and the jailer's children, who all had it so lightly as hardly to interrupt their play. But the inoculation in the arm of my poor little Maria did not take-she caught it of Mary, and had it the natural way. She was then only three months and a half old, and had been a most healthy child; but it was above three months before she perfectly recovered from the effects of this dreadful disorder.

     "You will recollect I never had the smallpox, but was vaccinated previously to leaving America. In consequence of being for so long a time constantly exposed, I had nearly a hundred pustules formed, though no previous symptoms of fever, etc. The jailer's children having had the smallpox so lightly, in consequence of inoculation, my fame was spread all over the village, and every child, young and old, who had not previously had it, was brought for inoculation. And although I knew nothing about the disorder, or the mode of treating it, I inoculated them all with a needle, and told them to take care of their diet-all the instructions I could give them. Mr. Judson's health was gradually restored, and he found himself much more comfortably situated than when in the city prison.

     "The prisoners were at first chained two and two; but as soon as the jailers could obtain chains sufficient, they were separated, and each prisoner had but one pair. The prison was repaired, a new fence made, and a large airy shed erected in front of the prison, where the prisoners were allowed to remain during the day, though locked up in the little close prison at night. All the children recovered from the smallpox; but my watchings and fatigue, together with my miserable food, and more miserable lodgings, brought on one of the diseases of the country, which is almost always fatal to foreigners.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Continual Burnt Offering (1 John 2:8)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

December 18
1 John 2:8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.    ESV

     The new commandment tests man as nothing else could. It reveals the latent evil hidden in every heart. Christ’s standard and ideals are too high for men of this world, who have their portion in this life. Only he who has received eternal life, through faith in the Lord Jesus (John 5:24) will be able to exemplify the love here instilled. He who gave the command to love one another proved His own love for mankind by dying for our sins. When He dwells in the heart by faith, His love is reproduced in others. It is not something that has to be pumped up as from an almost dry well. It is an ever-rising, overflowing stream coming from the renewed hearts of those who have been born of God and whose very nature it is to love as He loved us (1 John 4:7).

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Love of God, so pure and changeless;
Blood of Christ, so rich and free;
Grace of God, so strong and boundless,—
Magnify it all to me,
Even me.

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

  • God's Knowledge
  • Neuroscience, Soul?
  • Is God in Time?

#1 Dean Zimmerman and Tom Crisp   University of Nottingham


#2 Dean Zimmerman and Tom Crisp   University of Nottingham


#3 Dean Zimmerman and Tom Crisp   University of Nottingham


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Nothing can separate you from God’s love
     12/18/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’

(Ro 8:35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ESV

     Paul asked the great question: ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ When you don’t know why God loves you in the first place, it’s easy to doubt His love at times. You want to know how He feels about you when you act like a jerk, when you snap at anything that moves, when your thoughts are gutter-level, and when your tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock. You ask, ‘How does He feel about me then?’ And what about when bad things happen – does God care then? Does He love you in the midst of fear? Is He with you when danger lurks? In other words, ‘Will He ever stop loving me?’ That’s the great question, isn’t it? Perhaps you crossed the line this week. Or you started drinking and kept at it until you couldn’t walk. Or your business took you where you’d no business being. Or you cursed God for making you stand at the grave of a loved one you weren’t ready to give up. Did you drift too far? Did you wait too long? Did you slip too much? Were you too uncertain? ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ No, absolutely not. Paul reassures us: ‘I am convinced that…Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power…above or…below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God…in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (vv. 38, 39 NLT).

(Ro 8:38–39) 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV

Nahum 1-3
Rev 11

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The same year twenty-one-year-old George Washington was fighting in the French Indian War, a Christmas carol became popular. It was written by Charles Wesley, born this day, December 18, 1707. He was the brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and together they served as missionaries among the Indians and settlers in Georgia. Charles Wesley’s Christmas carol begins: “Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’ angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

American Minute

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

     Chapter 18  December 18

     The question is before my mind at present because I've been reading Alexander Whyte. Morris lent him to me. He was a Presbyterian divine of the last century, whom I'd never heard of. Very well worth reading, and strangely broad-minded-Dante, Pascal, and even Newman, are among his heroes. But I mention him at the moment for a different reason. He brought me violently face to face with a characteristic of Puritanism which I had almost forgotten. For him, one essential symptom of the regenerate life is a permanent, and permanently horrified, perception of one's natural and (it seems) unalterable corruption. The true Christian's nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool. I knew that the experience was a regular feature of the old conversion stories. As in Grace Abounding: "But my inward and original corruption … that I had the guilt of to amazement • • • I was more loathsom in mine own eyes than was a toad … sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble out of a fountain." Another author, quoted in Haller's Rise of Puritanism, says that when he looked into his heart, it was "as if I had in the heat of summer looked down into the Filth of a Dungeon, where I discerned Millions of crawling living things in the midst of that Sink and liquid Corruption.,.

     I won't listen to those who describe that vision as merely pathological. I have seen the "slimy things that crawled with legs" in my own dungeon. I thought the glimpse taught me sense. But Whyte seems to think it should be not a glimpse but a daily, lifelong scrutiny. Can he be right? It sounds so very unlike the New Testament fruits of the spirit-love, joy, peace. And very unlike the Pauline program; "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things that are before." And very unlike St. Francois de Sales’ green, dewy chapter on la douceur towards one’s self. Anyway, what's the use of laying , down a program of permanent emotions? They can be permanent only by being factitious.

     What do you think? I know that a spiritual emetic at the right moment may be needed. But not a regular diet of emetics! If one survived, one would develop a "tolerance" of them. This poring over the "sink" might breed its own perverse pride

  over-just and self-displeased
  For self-offence more than for God offended.

     Anyway, in solitude, and also in confession, I have found (to my regret) that the degrees of shame and disgust which I actually feel at my own sins do not at all correspond to what my reason tells me about their comparative gravity. Just as the degree to which, in daily life, I feel the emotion of fear has very little to do with my rational judgement of the danger. I'd sooner have really nasty seas when I'm in an open boat than look down in perfect (actual) safety from the edge of a cliff. Similarly, I have confessed ghastly uncharities with less reluctance than small unmentionables-or those sins which happen to be ungentlemanly as well as un-Christian. Our emotional reactions to our own behavior are of limited ethical significance.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

We have this day restored the Sovereign
to whom all men ought to be obedient.
He reigns in heaven
and from the rising to the setting of the sun,
let His kingdom come.
--- Samuel Adams, as he signed the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts.
--- John Chrysostom

God cannot give us a happiness and peace
apart from Himself,
because it is not there.
There is no such thing.
--- C.S. Lewis

Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
--- Edward Abbey
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal (Vox Clamantis in Deserto)

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 30:24-28
     by D.H. Stern

24     Four things on the earth are small;
nevertheless, they are very wise—
25     the ants, a species not strong,
yet they store up their food in the summer;
26     the coneys, a species with little power,
yet they make their home in the rocks;
27     the locusts, who have no king,
yet they all march out in ranks;
28     and the spiders, which you can catch in your hand,
yet they are in the king’s palace.

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

                The Test of Loyality

     And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.
--- Romans 8:28.

     It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord. Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realization comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognizing that He had organized them. We never saw what He was after, and that particular thing will never be repeated all the days of our life. The test of loyalty always comes just there. If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.

     Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we ‘stick at’ to-day. We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers.

     The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us—‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.’ God wants to use us as He used His own Son.

My Utmost for His Highest

Barn Owl
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Barn Owl


Mostly it is a pale
  face hovering in the afterdraught
  of the spirit, making both ends meet
  on a scream. It is the breath
  of the churchyard, the forming
  of white frost in a believer,
  when he would pray; it is soft
  feathers camouflaging a machine.

  It repeats itself year
  after year in its offspring,
  the staring pupils it teaches
  its music to, that is the voice
  of God in the darkness
     cursing himself
  fiercely for his lack of love.


  and there the owl happens
  like white frost as
  cruel and as silent
  and the time on its
  blank face is not
  now so the dead
  have nothing to go
  by and are fast
  or slow but never punctual
  as the alarm is
  over their bleached bones
  of its night-strangled cry.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Take Heart
     December 18

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

     The Lamb of God is not only set before us this day in the preached Gospel, he is about to be set before us also in sacramental symbol.  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.  God is saying at his table, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Oh, of what use is the Gospel when we only hear the words—human words—and of what use are sacraments when we see only the bread and wine? God clothes eternal realities in human words, formed by human breath and written by human hands, and he connects them also with outward and visible signs in the sacraments. The Word is nothing without the Spirit, the symbols nothing unless we see Jesus. Oh, what need, then, we have of the Spirit of God, that we may see Christ in the Word, in the sacraments!

     We are by nature, all of us, of the world; we are all in the world’s sin. We have been speaking about the world’s sin, but oh, friends, it’s my sin. I am one of this world, and I am in its sin. You and I, then, being sinners and in the world’s sin, need to be looking at the Lamb of God; to feel our own sin, that we may find what has to be taken away and look to him who takes sin away—not so sin may be slight in our esteem but the Lamb of God more precious. Oh, in prospect of the table of the Lord, be trying to get hold of this text! And if you ask me how, it is not by adding anything about myself to the Gospel held forth to me as an individual sinner but by taking hold of the whole Gospel in that word which touches me, that word sin. I cannot get near the Lamb of God, it may be—but sin, I am near it—and I will just go and confess my sin before God, with my finger on that word sin, keeping it there before the eyes of God and of the Lamb. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Sinners—that’s it; that’s the point in the text that God is holding out to me, that I may get hold of the whole text. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Lost—that is the word. Take it individually, and if you cannot put your finger on Christ, put it on sin in a text where God has put sin and Christ together. Let me exhort you to take possession of faith.
--- John Duncan

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

On This Day   December 18
     “The Whole Pack of You Heretics”

     John Foxe researched and recorded the sufferings of many obscure evangelicals who died during the reign of England’s Queen Mary. Here is his story, condensed, of John Philpot who was burned on December 18, 1555:

     The bishop, seeing his unmovable steadfastness in the truth, did pronounce sentence of condemnation against him. “I thank God,” said Philpot, “that I am a heretic out of your cursed church; I am no heretic before God. But God bless you, and give you grace to repent your wicked doings, and let all men beware of your bloody church.” So the officers delivered him to Newgate (Prison). “Well,” said Philpot, “I must be content, for it is God’s appointment. I pray you show me what you would have me do.”

     He said, “If you would recant, I will show you any pleasure I can.”

     “Nay,” said Master Philpot, “I shall never recant whilst I have my life, that which I have spoken is certain truth; in witness hereof I will seal it with my blood.”

     Then Alexander said, “This is the saying of the whole pack of you heretics.” Whereupon he commanded him to be set upon the block, and as many irons as he could bear.

     Upon Tuesday at supper, being the 17th day of December, 1555, there came a messenger from the sheriffs and bade Philpot make ready, for the next day he should suffer. Master Philpot answered, “I am ready; God grant me strength and a joyful resurrection.” He went into his chamber and poured out his spirit unto the Lord God, giving him most hearty thanks, that he of his mercy had made him worthy to suffer for his truth.

     In the Morning the sheriffs came, about eight of the clock, and he most joyfully came down unto them. When he was come to the place of suffering, he said, “Shall I disdain to suffer at this stake, seeing my Redeemer did not refuse to suffer a most vile death upon the cross for me?” Then in the midst of the fiery flames he yielded his soul into the hands of Almighty God.*

     When Christ died, he died for sin once for all. But now he is alive, and he lives only for God. In the same way, you must think of yourselves as dead to the power of sin. But Christ Jesus has given life to you, and you live for God.
--- Romans 6:10,11.

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

Advent Week Four Redemption - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     God Is In The Manger (Day 1)

     God Becomes Human

     God becomes human, really human. While we endeavor to grow out of our humanity, to leave our human nature behind us, God becomes human, and we must recognize that God wants us also to become human - really human. Whereas we distinguish between the godly and the godless, the good and the evil, the noble and the common, God loves real human beings without distinction.... God takes the side of real human beings and the real world against all their accusers. . . . But it's not enough to say that God takes care of human beings. This sentence rests on something infinitely deeper and more impenetrable, namely, that in the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, God took on humanity in bodily fashion. God raised his love for human beings above every reproach of falsehood and doubt and uncertainty by himself entering into the life of human beings as a human being, by bodily taking upon himself and bearing the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings. Out of love for human beings, God becomes a human being. He does not seek out the most perfect human being in order to unite with that person. Rather, he takes on human nature as it is.

      This is about the birth of a child, not of the astonishing work of a strong man, not of the bold discovery of a wise man, not of the pious work of a saint. It really is beyond all our understanding: the birth of a child shall bring about the great change, shall bring to all mankind salvation and deliverance.

     "The Government upon the Shoulders of a Child," Christmas 1940

(Jn 1:1–5) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ESV

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

A.H. Strong
     Systematic Theology

     From indications that soon after the exile, and so early as the times of Ezra and Nehemiah (500–450 B.C.), the Pentateuch together with the book of Joshua was not only in existence but was regarded as authoritative.
     2 Mac. 2:13–15 intimates that Nehemiah founded a library, and there is a tradition that a “Great Synagogue” was gathered in his time to determine the Canon. But Hastings’ Dictionary, 4:644, asserts that “the Great Synagogue was originally a meeting, and not an institution. It met once for all, and all that is told about it, except what we read in Nehemiah, is pure fable of the later Jews.” In like manner no dependence is to be placed upon the tradition that Ezra miraculously restored the ancient Scriptures that had been lost during the exile. Clement of Alexandria says: “Since the Scriptures perished in the Captivity of Nebuchadnezzar, Esdras (the Greek form of Ezra) the Levite, the priest, in the time of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians, having become inspired in the exercise of prophecy, restored again the whole of the ancient Scriptures.” But the work now divided into
1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, mentions Darius Codomannus (Neh. 12:22), whose date is 336 B.C. The utmost the tradition proves is that about 300 B.C. the Pentateuch was in some sense attributed to Moses; see Bacon, Genesis of Genesis, 35; Bib. Sac, 1863:381, 660, 799; Smith, Bible Dict., art.: Pentateuch; Theological Eclectic, 6:215; Bissell, Hist. Origin of the Bible, 398–403. On the Men of the Great Synagogue, see Wright, Ecclesiastes, 5–12, 475–477.

Systematic Theology (Three Volumes in One)

Vision One:The Man Riding The Red Horse
     And The Myrtle Trees

          The Man Riding The Red Horse

     First, we must note the timing of the visions. “Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet” (
1:7). Comparing verses 1 and 7 shows that these visions came on a night two to three months after Zechariah was given God’s command to challenge the people to forsake the ways of their fathers and turn wholly to the Lord.
     “I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, sorrel, and white” (
1:8). Although the rider is not identified at this point in the passage, there seems to be something unique about him. The words behold a man in the original Hebrew dramatically focus attention on the rider of the red horse; there is something very unusual about him. At the end of verse 8 horses of other colors are mentioned, but their riders are not, thus magnifying the prominence of this one rider. Is there something superhuman about this person? We shall have an answer to this question as we further explore the passage.
     To determine what is unfolding, we need only compare this passage with
Revelation 6, where four horsemen are pictured riding horses of colors similar to the horses in Zechariah, each representing something different. Revelation 6:4 describes a red horse and its rider: “And there went out another horse that was red; and power was given to him that sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.”
     The red horse is a prophetic symbol of war. When this horse and rider enter the scene, peace will be removed from the earth and fighting will break out in diverse places. War will be the order of the day and will result in wholesale slaughter. The passage in
Revelation 6 amplifies the meaning of this first vision given to Zechariah. He had just encouraged the Jews to get on with the task of building the Temple. Then, by prophetic imagery, he showed Israel an angelic host standing by, led by the rider on the red horse. This man, along with his host, was watching over the nation of Israel and was ready to fight on behalf of the remnant of Jewish refugees who had returned to Jerusalem. That fact in itself was a tremendous source of encouragement for this Jewish remnant.

          The Myrtle Trees

     The rider of the red horse was standing among the myrtle trees. These trees, rarely more than eight to ten feet tall, are quite common in Israel. They flourish best in low-lying, well-watered areas and are often found along a riverbank. Myrtle trees have glossy leaves and produce star-shaped white flowers. When myrtle leaves are crushed, they emit a heavy, sweet fragrance.
     The word in the Hebrew from which the word myrtle derives is fascinating. The name Esther comes from the same root. “And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter” (
Est. 2:7). We know that the Book of Esther deals with God’s watch care over His dispersed people. Although they were crushed, as it were, they were still precious in God’s sight. Downtrodden, defeated, and dispersed, they did and still do emit a sweet fragrance that is beautiful to God. The myrtle tree and Esther both provide a picture of a persecuted people who nevertheless give forth a rich fragrance, like someone who walks by, leaving behind a fragrance that lingers in the air for a while. Our lives should be the same to God as well as to those we meet—a fragrance that lingers, pleasing the Lord we love. The myrtle trees were usually found in a low place, a bottom or glen.
     East, west, and south of the ancient city of Jerusalem are three valleys. To the east and running north and south is the Kidron Valley, and to the west running in the same direction is the Tyropoeon Valley. Both empty into the Valley of Hinnom, a portion of which is sometimes called Gehenna. The point at which the Valleys of Kidron and Hinnom meet was in ancient times called “the bottom.” It was often referred to as “the hollow” or “the king’s garden” (
2 Ki. 25:4). The valley may represent the condition of Israel at that time, for they were certainly in a spiritual and emotional valley.
     Let us review what we have learned thus far from the vision. The little body of discouraged Jews was living huddled in “the bottom” below Jerusalem. Daily they looked up at sacred Moriah and wondered what would come to pass. Their once-fervent desire to rebuild their Temple had been squelched. Work on the mount was still suspended, and disappointment was their daily companion. Through the Prophet Zechariah, the Lord gave them their first word of encouragement in 18 years. They were not alone in that valley. The rider on the red horse was guarding them and was ready to do battle on their behalf.
     We who know the Lord should always remember that, just like Israel, believers have someone to lift them from discouragement and the uncertainties of the future. Jesus Christ said,
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Believers have “a friend who sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).

Zechariah: Israel's messenger of the Messiah's triumph

Babylonian Talmud
     Zechariah 1:8

     Sanhedrin 93a. … R. Johanan said: What is meant by, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom, etc.? What means, ‘I saw by night?’—The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to turn the whole world into night, ‘but behold, A man riding’.—‘Man’ can refer to none but the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written, The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name; ‘upon a red horse’—the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to turn the whole world to blood: but as soon as he looked upon Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah his anger was appeased, for it is written, and he stood among [hadaism] the myrtle trees that were in the deep. Now ‘hadaism’ refers but to the righteous, as it is written, And he brought up Hadassah; and ‘deep’ refers to Babylon, as it is said, that sayeth to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers.

     Zechariah 2:3

     Sukkah 52b. … And the Lord showed me four craftsmen. Who are these ‘four craftsmen?’—R. Hana b. Bizna citing R. Simeon Hasida replied: The Messiah the son of David, the Messiah the son of Joseph, Elijah and the Righteous Priest.

     Zechariah 2:3

     Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs II, 13, § 4. Another explanation: My beloved spoke and said to me. He spoke through Elijah and said through the Messiah. What did he say to me? Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. R. ’Azariah said: For lo, the winter (Ha-Sethaw) is past: this refers to the kingdom of the Cutheans which seduces (mesithah) the world and leads it astray by its falsehoods, as we read, If thy brother, the son of thy mother, … entice thee—yesitheka (Deut. XIII, 7). The rain is over and gone: this refers to the subjection of Israel. The flowers appear on the earth: the conquerors have appeared on the earth. Who are they? R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Isaac: As it is written, And the Lord showed me four craftsmen (Zech. II, 3), namely, Elijah, the Messiah, Melchizedek, and the War Messiah.

     A footnote after ‘the War Messiah’ reads: ‘Lit. ‘the priest anointed for war’, an expression originally applied to the priest who accompanied the troops. Cf. Suk. 52a, where instead of ‘War Messiah’ we have ‘Messiah son of Joseph’. The two are probably identical, Messiah the son of Joseph being regarded as the forerunner of the Messiah during the wars that will precede his advent.’

     Zechariah 2:3

     Pəsiqtâ də-Raḇ Kahănâ, Piska 5. … Another comment: My Beloved spoke (’anah) and said unto me (Song 2:10). R. Azariah asked: But do not the words spoke and said mean the same thing? No, here the word ’anah means not “spoke” but “answered,” that is, [on Mount Carmel], He answered me at Elijah’s bidding, and then through the Messiah He will say [encouraging things] to me. What will He say to me? Rise up, My love, My fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past. —that is, said R. Azariah, the wicked kingdom which enticed mortals into a wintry way has passed on, the wicked kingdom alluded to in the verse “If thy brother [Esau, from whom came Edom and Rome], the son of thy mother [Rebekah] … entice thee. . .saying: ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ ” (Deut. 13:7). The rain is over and gone (Song 2:11) refers to the enslavement [under Edom] that is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth (Song 2:12), the flowers standing metaphorically, as R. Isaac said, for the craftsmen in the verse “And the Lord showed me four craftsmen [who wreak deliverance for Israel]” (Zech. 2:3). These craftsmen are Elijah, the king Messiah, Melchizedek. and the priest who was anointed in time of war [to exhort the armies of Israel].

Huckel, T. (1998). The Rabbinic Messiah. Philadelphia: Hananeel House.

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 18

     “Rend your heart, and not your garments." Joel 2:13.

     GARMENT-RENDING and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations—for such things are pleasing to the flesh—but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

     HEART-RENDING is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

     The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

          Evening - December 18

     “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” --- Proverbs 27:23.

     Every wise merchant will occasionally hold a stock-taking, when he will cast up his accounts, examine what he has on hand, and ascertain decisively whether his trade is prosperous or declining. Every man who is wise in the kingdom of heaven, will cry, “Search me, O God, and try me”; and he will frequently set apart special seasons for self-examination, to discover whether things are right between God and his soul. The God whom we worship is a great heart-searcher; and of old his servants knew him as “the Lord which searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men.” Let me stir you up in his name to make diligent search and solemn trial of your state, lest you come short of the promised rest. That which every wise man does, that which God himself does with us all, I exhort you to do with yourself this Evening. Let the oldest saint look well to the fundamentals of his piety, for grey heads may cover black hearts: and let not the young professor despise the word of warning, for the greenness of youth may be joined to the rottenness of hypocrisy. Every now and then a cedar falls into our midst. The enemy still continues to sow tares among the wheat. It is not my aim to introduce doubts and fears into your mind; nay, verily, but I shall hope the rather that the rough wind of self-examination may help to drive them away. It is not security, but carnal security, which we would kill; not confidence, but fleshly confidence, which we would overthrow; not peace, but false peace, which we would destroy. By the precious blood of Christ, which was not shed to make you a hypocrite, but that sincere souls might show forth his praise, I beseech you, search and look, lest at the last it be said of you, “Mene, Mene, Tekel: thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

Morning and Evening

What Is Sin?
     Do You Know?

     “What is sin?
     It is the glory of God not honored.
     The holiness of God not reverenced.
     The greatness of God not admired.
     The power of God not praised.
     The truth of God not sought.
     The wisdom of God not esteemed.
     The beauty of God not treasured.
     The goodness of God not savored.
     The faithfulness of God not trusted.
     The commandments of God not obeyed.
     The justice of God not respected.
     The wrath of God not feared.
     The grace of God not cherished.
     The presence of God not prized.
     The person of God not loved.
     That is sin.”
          John Piper

Watch the first "excellent" teaching under Jon Courson tab
Amazing Grace
     December 18


     Josiah G. Holland, 1819–1881

     Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God … (Luke 2:13)

     What a beautiful scene is drawn for us in this joyful Christmas hymn! As we visualize once more the glorious chorus of angels, the brilliant star, and Mary watching over her babe in the lowly manger, we feel like joining the “heavenly throng” in their “tumult of joy” to greet our Savior and King!

     Josiah G. Holland created one of the most thoughtful and thrilling of all the carols that we sing during this season. It is no wonder that the angels’ song rang out so jubilantly: They knew it was the King of heaven and earth they serenaded. How little did those who followed the brilliant light of the star realize that through the ages the whole earth would be illumined by Christ the Lord (Revelation 22:16). Like those who saw the star, we “rejoice in the light, and we echo the song …”

     Born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, Josiah Gilbert Holland began his professional career as a medical doctor. But soon he became involved in writing and editorial work and eventually helped establish Scribner’s Magazine. “There’s a Song in the Air” first appeared in a Sunday school collection in 1874 and five years later in Holland’s Complete Poetical Writings. The present tune, “Christmas Song,” was composed for these words by Karl P. Harrington approximately 25 years later. The composer was a recognized church musician, serving in various Methodist churches as organist and choir director. He was also one of the musical editors for the Methodist Hymnal of 1905, when the present version of the carol first appeared.

     There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky! There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry! And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
     There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth, for the Virgin’s sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth. Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
     In the light of that star lie the ages impearled, and that song from afar has swept over the world. Ev’ry hearth is aflame—and the beautiful sing in the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!
     We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song that comes down thru the night from the heavenly throng. Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring, and we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

     For Today: Matthew 2:10; Luke 1:3, 68, 69; Luke 2:9–20, 29–32

     Sing the words of this hymn with exuberance as though you were actually joining with the angels in their song that continues to ring ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     Use III. Of comfort. The throne of God drops honey and sweetness, as well as dread and terror; all his other attributes afford little relief without this of his dominion and universal command. When, therefore, he speaks of his being the God of his people, he doth often preface it with “the Lord thy God;” his sovereignty, as a Lord, being the ground of all the comfort we can take in his federal relation as our God; thy God, but superior to thee; thy God, not as thy cattle and goods are thine, in a way of sole propriety, but a Lord too, in a way of sovereignty, not only over thee, but over all things else for thee. As the end of God’s settling earthly governments was for the good of the communities over which the governors preside, so God exerciseth his government for the good of the world, and more particularly for the good of the church, over which he is a peculiar Governor.

     1. His love to his people is as great as his sovereignty over them. He stands not upon his dominion with his people so much as upon his affection to them; he would not be called “Baali, my Lord,” i. e. he would not be known only by the name of sovereignty, but “Ishi, my husband,” a name of authority and sweetness together (Hos. 2:16, 19): he signifies that he is not only the Lord of our spirits and bodies, but a husband by a marriage knot, admitting us to a nearness to him, and communion of goods with him. Though he majestically sits upon a high throne, yet it is a throne “encircled with a rainbow” (Ezek. 1:28), to show that his government of his people is not only in a way of absolute dominion, but also in a way of federal relation; he seems to own himself their subject rather than their Sovereign, when he gives them a charter to command him in the affairs of his church (Isa. 45:11); “Ask of me things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command you me.” Some read it by way of question, as a corrective of a sauciness: Do you ask me of things to come, and seem to command me concerning the works of my hands, as if you were more careful of my interest among my people than I am, who have formed them? But if this were the sense, it would seem to discourage an importunity of prayer for public deliverance; and therefore, to take it according to our translation, it is an exhortation to prayer, and a mighty encouragement in the management and exercise of it. Urge me with my promise, in a way of humble importunity, and you shall find me as willing to perform my word, and gratify your desires, as if I were rather under your authority, than you under mine: as much as to say, If I be not as good as my word, to satisfy those desires that are according to my promise, implead me at my own throne, and, if I be failing in it, will give judgment against myself: almost like princes’ charters, and gracious grants, “We grant such a thing against us and our heirs,” giving the subject power to implead them if they be not punctually observed by them. How is the love of God seen in his condescension below the majesty of earthy governors! He that might command, by the absoluteness of his authority, doth not only do that, but entreats, in the quality of a subject, as if he had not a fulness to supply us, but needed something from us for a supply of himself (2 Cor. 5:20): “As though God did beseech you by us.” And when he may challenge, as a due by the right of his propriety, what we bestow upon his poor, which are his subjects as well as ours, he reckons it as a loan to him, as if what we had were more our own than his (Prov. 19:17). He stands not upon his dominion so much with us, when he finds us conscientious in paying the duty we owe to him; he rules as a Father, by love as well as by authority; he enters into a peculiar communion with poor earthly worms, plants his gracious tabernacle among the troops of sinners, instructs us by his word, invites us by his benefits, admits us into his presence, is more desirous to bestow his smiles than we to receive them, and acts in such a manner as if he were willing to resign his sceptre into the hands of any that were possessed with more love and kindness to us than himself: this is the comfort of believers.

     2. In his being Sovereign, his pardons carry in them a full security. He that hath the keys of hell and death, pardons the crime, and wipes off the guilt. Who can repeal the act of the chief Governor? what tribunal can null the decrees of an absolute throne? (Isa. 43:25), “I, even I, am he that blots out thy transgressions, for my name’s sake.” His sovereign dominion renders his mercy comfortable. The clemency of a subject, though never so great, cannot pardon; people may pity a criminal, while the executioner tortures him, and strips him of his life; but the clemency of the Supreme Prince establisheth a pardon. Since we are under the dominion of God, if he pardons, who can reverse it? if he doth not, what will the pardons of men profit us in regard of an eternal state? If God be a King forever, then he whom God forgives, he in whom God reigns, shall live forever; else he would want subjects on earth, and have none of his lower creatures, which he formed upon the earth, to reign over after the dissolution of the world; if his pardons did not stand secure, he would, after this life, have no voluntary subjects that had formerly a being upon the earth; he would be a King only over the damned creatures.

     3. Corruptions will certainly be subdued in his voluntary subjects. The covenant, “I will be your God,” implies protection, government, and relief, which are all grounded upon sovereignty; that, therefore, which is our greatest burden, will be removed by his sovereign power (Mic. 7:19): “He will subdue our iniquities.” If the outward enemies of the church shall not bear up against his dominion, and perpetuate their rebellions unpunished, those within, his people, shall as little bear up against his throne, without being destroyed by him; the billows of our own hearts, and the raging waves within us, are as much at his beck as those without us; and his sovereignty is more eminent in quelling the corruptions of the heart, than the commotions of the world in reigning over men’s spirit, by changing them, or curbing them, more than over men’s bodies, by pinching and punishing them. The remainders of Satan’s empire will moulder away before him, since He that is in us is a greater Sovereign “than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). His enemies will be laid at his feet, and so never shall prevail against him, when his kingdom shall come. He could not be Lord of any man, as a happy creature, if he did not, by his power, make them happy; and he could not make them happy, unless, by his grace, he made them holy: he could not be praised, as a Lord of glory, if he did not make some creatures glorious to praise him; and an earthly creature could not praise him perfectly, unless he had every grain of enmity to his glory taken out of his heart. Since God is the only Sovereign, he only can still the commotions in our spirits, and pull down all the ensigns of the devil’s royalty; he can waste him by the powerful word of his lips.

     4. Hence is a strong encouragement for prayer. “My King,” was the strong compellation David used in prayer, as an argument of comfort and confidence, as well as that of “my God” (Psalm 5:2): “Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God.” To be a king is to have an office of government and protection: he gives us liberty to approach to him as the “Judge of all” (Heb. 12:23), i. e. as the Governor of the world; we pray to one that hath the whole globe of heaven and earth in his hand, and can do whatsoever he will: though he be higher than the cherubims, and transcendently above all in majesty, yet we may soar up to him with the wings of our soul, faith and love, and lay open our cause, and find him as gracious as if he were the meanest subject on earth, rather than the most sovereign God in heaven. He hath as much of tenderness as he hath of authority, and is pleased with prayer, which is an acknowledgment of his dominion, an honoring of that which he delights to honor; for prayer, in the notion of it, imports thus much — that God is the Rector of the world, that he takes notice of human affairs, that he is a careful, just, wise Governor, a storehouse of blessing, a fountain of goodness to the indigent, and a relief to the oppressed. What have we reason to fear when the Sovereign of the world gives us liberty to approach to him and lay open our case? that God, who is King of the whole earth, not only of a few villages or cities in the earth, but the whole earth; and not only King of this dreggy place of our dross, but of heaven, having prepared, or established, his throne in the most glorious place of the creation.

     5. Here is comfort in affliction. As a sovereign, he is the author of afflictions; as a sovereign, he can be the remover of them; he can command the waters of affliction to go so far and no farther. If he speaks the word, a disease shall depart as soon as a servant shall from your presence with a nod; if we are banished from one place, he can command a shelter for us in another; if he orders Moab, a nation that had no great kindness for his people, to let “his outcasts dwell with them,” they shall entertain them, and afford them sanctuary (Isa. 16:4). Again, God chasteneth as a “Sovereign,” but teacheth as a “Father” (Psalm 99:1); the exercise of his authority is not without an exercise of his goodness; he doth not correct for his own pleasure, or the creature’s torment, but for the creature’s instruction; though the rod be in the hand of a sovereign, yet it is tinctured with the kindness of Divine bowels: he can order them as a sovereign to mortify our flesh, and try our faith. In the severest tempest, the Lord that raised the wind against us, which shattered the ship, and tore its rigging, can change that contrary wind for a more happy one, to drive us into the port.

     6. It is a comfort against the projects of the church’s adversaries in times of public commotions. The consideration of the Divine sovereignty may arm us against the threatenings of mighty ones, and the menaces of persecutors. God hath authority above the crowns of men, and a wisdom superior to the cabals of men; none can have a step without him; he hath a negative voice upon their counsels, a negative hand upon their motions; their politic resolves must stop at the point he hath prescribed them; their formidable strength cannot exceed the limits he hath set them; their overreaching wisdom expires at the breath of God: “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30); not a bullet can be discharged, nor a sword drawn, a wall battered, nor a person despatched out of the world, without the leave of God, by the mightiest in the world. The instruments of Satan are no more free from his sovereign restraint than their inspirer; they cannot pull the hook out of their nostrils, nor cast the bridle out of their mouths; this Sovereign can shake the earth, rend the heavens, overthrow mountains, the most mountainous opposers of his interest. Though the nations rush in against his people like the rushing of many waters, “God shall rebuke them, they shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind” (Isa. 17:13); so doth he often burst in pieces the most mischievous designs, and conducts the oppressed to a happy port: he often turns the severest tempests into a calm, as well as the most peaceful calm into a horrible storm. How often hath a well-rigged ship, that seemed to spurn the sea under her feet, and beat the waves before her to a foam, been swallowed up into the bowels of that element, over whose back she rode a little before! God never comes to deliver his church as a governor, but in a wrathful posture (Ezek. 20:33): “Surely, saith the Lord, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you;” not with fury poured out upon the church, but fury poured out upon her enemies, as the words following evidence: the church he would bring out from the countries where she was scattered, and bring the people into the bond of the covenant. He sometimes “cuts off the spirits of princes” (Psalm 76:12), i. e. cuts off their designs as men do in the pipes of a water-course. The hearts of all are as open to him as the riches of heaven, where he resides; he can slip an inclination into the heart of the mighty, which they dreamed not of before; and if he doth not change their projects, he can make them abortive, and waylay them in their attempts. Laban marched with fury, but God put a padlock on his passion against Jacob (Gen. 31:24, 29); the devils, which ravage men’s minds, must be still when he gives out his sovereign orders. This Sovereign can make his people find favor in the eyes of the cruel Egyptians, which had so long oppressed them (Exod. 11:3); and speak a good word in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar for the prophet Jeremiah, that he should order his captain to take him into his special protection, when he took Zedekiah away prisoner in chains, and “put out his eyes” (Jer. 39:11). His people cannot want deliverance from Him who hath all the world at his command, when he is pleased to bestow it; he hath as many instruments of deliverance as he hath creatures at his beck in heaven or earth, from the meanest to the highest. As he is the Lord of hosts, the church hath not only an interest in the strength he himself is possessed with, but in the strength of all the creatures that are under is command, in the elements below, and angels above. In those armies of heaven, and in the inhabitants of the earth, he doth “what he will” (Dan. 4:35); they are all in order and array at his command. There are angels to employ in a fatal stroke, lice and frogs to quell the stubborn hearts of his enemies; he can range his thunders and lightnings, the cannon and granadoes of heaven, and the worms of the earth in his service; he can muzzle lions, calm the fury of the fire, turn his enemies’ swords into their own bowels, and their artillery on their own breasts; set the wind in their teeth, and make their chariot-wheels languish; make the sea enter a quarrel with them, and wrap them in its waves till it hath stifled them in its lap. The angels have storms, and tempests, and wars in their hands, but at the disposal of God; when they shall cast them out against the empire of antichrist (Rev. 7:1, 2), then shall Satan be discharged from his throne, and no more seduce the nations; the everlasting gospel shall be preached, and God shall reign gloriously in Sion. Let us, therefore, shelter ourselves in the Divine sovereignty, regard God as the most high in our dangers and in our petitions. This was David’s resolution (Psalm 57:1, 2): “I will cry unto God most high;” this dominion of God is the true “tower of David, wherein there are a thousand shields” for defence and encouragement (Cant. 4:4).

     Use IV. If God hath an extensive dominion over the whole world, this ought to be often meditated on, and acknowledged by us. This is the universal duty of mankind. If he be the Sovereign of all, we should frequently think of our great Prince, and acknowledge ourselves his subjects, and him our Lord. God will be acknowledged the Lord of the whole earth; the neglect of this is the cause of the judgments which are sent upon the world. All the prodigies were to this end, that they might know, or acknowledge, that “God was the Lord” (Exod. 10:2); as God was proprietor, he demanded the first-born of every Jew, and the first-born of every beast; the one was to be redeemed, and the other sacrificed; this was the quit rent they were to pay to him for their fruitful land. The first-fruits of the earth were ordered to be paid to him, as a homage due to the landlord, and an acknowledgment they held all in chief of him. The practice of offering first-fruits for an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty, was among many of the heathens, and very ancient; hence they dedicated some of the chief of their spoils, owning thereby the dominion and goodness of God, whereby they had gained the victory; Cain owned this in offering the fruits of the earth, and it was his sin he owned no more, viz., his being a sinner, and meriting the justice of God, as his brother Abel did in his bloody sacrifice. God was a sovereign Proprietor and Governor while man was in a state of innocence; but when man proved a rebel, the sovereignty of God bore another relation towards him, that of a Judge, added to the other. The first-fruits might have been offered to God in a state of innocence, as a homage to him as Lord of the manor of the world; the design of them was to own God’s propriety in all things, and men’s dependence on him for the influences of heaven in producing the fruits of the earth, which he had ordered for their use. The design of sacrifices, and placing beasts instead of the criminal, was to acknowledge their own guilt, and God as a sovereign Judge; Cain owned the first, but not the second; he acknowledged his dependence on God as a Proprietor, but not his obnoxiousness to God as a Judge; which may be probably gathered from his own speech, when God came to examine him, and ask him for his brother (Gen. 4:9): “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Why do you ask me? though I own thee as the Lord of my land and goods, yet I do not think myself accountable to thee for all my actions. This sovereignty of God ought to be acknowledged in all the parts of it, in all the manifestattons of it to the creature; we should bear a sense of this always upon our spirits, and be often in the thoughts of it in our retirements; we should fancy that we saw God upon his throne in his royal garb, and great attendants about him, and take a view of it, to imprint an awe upon our spirits. The meditation of this would,

     1. Fix us on him as an object of trust. It is upon his sovereign dominion as much as upon anything, that safe and secure confidence is built; for if he had any superior above him to control him in his designs and promises, his veracity and power would be of little efficacy to form our souls to a close adherency to him. It were not fit to make him the object of our trust that can be gainsayed by a higher than himself, and had not a full authority to answer our expectations; if we were possessed with this notion fully and believingly, that God were high above all, that “his kingdom rules over all,” we should not catch at every broken reed, and stand gaping for comforts from a pebble stone. He that understands the authority of a king, would not waive a reliance on his promise to depend upon the breath of a changeling favorite. None but an ignorant man would change the security he may have upon the height of a rock, to expect it from the dwarfishness of a molehill. To put confidence in any inferior lord more than in the prince, is a folly in civil converse, but a rebellion in divine; God only being above all, can only rule all; can command things to help us, and check other things which we depend on, and make them fall short of our expectations. The due consideration of this doctrine would make us pierce through second causes to the first, and look further than to the smaller sort of sailors, that climb the ropes, and dress the sails, to the pilot that sits at the helm, the master, that, by an indisputable authority, orders all their notions. We should not depend upon second causes for our support, but look beyond them to the authority of the Deity, and the dominion he hath over all the works of his hands (Zech. 10:1): “Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain;” when the seasons of the year conspire for the producing such an effect, when the usual time of rain is wheeled about in the year, stop not your thoughts at the point of the heavens whence you expect it, but pierce the heavens, and solicit God, who must give order for it before it comes. The due meditation of all things depending on the Divine dominion would strike off our hands from all other holds, so that no creature would engross the dependence and trust which is due to the First Cause; as we do not thank the heavens when they pour out rain, so we are not to depend upon them when we want it; God is to be sought to when the womb of second causes is opened to relieve us, as well as when the womb of second causes is barren, and brings not forth its wonted progeny.

The Existence and Attributes of God

Hebrews 4
     The Danger Of Failing

The Danger Of Failing
To Enter God's Rest Pt. 1 | Hebrews 4:3-11

The Danger Of Failing
To Enter God's Rest Pt. 2 | Hebrews 4:2

The Danger Of Failing
To Enter God's Rest Pt. 3 | Hebrews 4:3-11

Dr. Dennis Rokser | Duluth Bible

Hebrews 1-6
     Gary Hamrick

Hebrews 1-2
The Danger Of Drifting
Gary Hamrick

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August 8, 2010

Hebrews 3-4
Entering God's Rest
Gary Hamrick

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August 22, 2010

Hebrews 5-10
A Savior Is Better Than A System
Gary Hamrick

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September 5, 2010

Hebrews 1
Gary Hamrick

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October 17, 2018

Hebrews 2
Gary Hamrick

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October 24, 2018

Hebrews 3
Gary Hamrick

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November 7, 2018

Hebrews 4:1-13
Gary Hamrick

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November 14, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-5:12
Gary Hamrick

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November 28, 2018

Hebrews 6:1-3
Gary Hamrick

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December 5, 2018

Hebrews 6:4-6
Gary Hamrick

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December 12, 2018

Hebrews 6:7-7
Gary Hamrick

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January 2, 2019

Gary Hamrick

Hebrews 1-6
     JD Farag

Hebrews 1:1-14
Calm Down and Look Up
05-23-2021 | J.D. Farag

Hebrews 2:1-18
Why We Backslide | 05-30-2021 | J.D. Farag

Hebrews 3:1-19
Is It All About Jesus? | 06-06-2021 | J.D. Farag

Hebrews 4:1-11
Why My Christian Life is so Dry
06-13-2021 | J.D. Farag

Hebrews 5:1-14
Warning Signs | 07-11-2021 | J.D. Farag

Hebrews 6:1-6
Keep Moving Forward
07-18-2021 | J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

Hebrews 1-6
     Jon Courson

Hebrews 1:1-2
The Language Of God
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 1-2
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 3-4
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 5:1-6, 10
Something New That's Always Been True
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 5
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 6
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 1:1-2
God Has Spoken
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 1:3
Holding Your World Together
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 1:3
Heaven Ain't That Far Away
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 1
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 2:1
The Danger Of Drifting
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 2-3
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 3:1-2
It's Not About You!
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 4-5
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 6:15
Waiting For His Working
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 6:1-15
Jon Courson

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Hebrews 6:15-7:28
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

Hebrews 1-6
     Skip Heitzig

Hebrews 1-13
The Bible from 30,000 Feet
Calvary Chapel NM

Hebrews 1
The Angels of God
Calvary Chapel NM

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

Hebrews 1-6
     Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 1:1-3 pt 1
Jesus, the Radiance of the Glory of God
10-18-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 1:4-14 pt 2
The Son Superior to the Angels pt 2
10-25-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 2:1-9 pt 1
But we see Jesus
11-08-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 2:10-18 pt 2
The Suffering of Jesus Christ
11-15-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 3:1-6 pt 1
Holding Fast Our Confidence
11-22-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 3:7-10 pt 2
The Sin of Unbelief
11-29-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 4:1-11 pt 1
Understanding the Sabbath
12-06-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 4:12-13 pt 2
The Character and Power of the Word
12-13-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 4:14-16 pt 3
The Throne of Grace
12-27-2020 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 5:1-10 pt 1
Obedience Through Suffering
01-03-2021 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 5:11-14 pt 2
Solid food is for the mature
01-10-2021 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 6:1-12 pt 1
A serious warning and greatly misunderstood passage
01-17-2021 | Paul LeBoutillier

Hebrews 6 pt 2 - Hebrews 7
Jesus like Melchizedek
01-24-2021 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Hebrews 1-6
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Hebrews 1
m1-608 | 8-01-2012

Don't Spring A Leak Hebrews 2:1
s1-589 | 8-05-2012

Hebrews 2
m1-609 | 8-08-2012

The Heart_I Can Fix That Hebrews 3:7-13
s1-590 | 8-12-2012

Our Great High Priest Hebrews 4:14-16
s1-591 | 8-19-2012

Hebrews 4
m1-610 | 8-22-2012

Don't Be A Baby .. Forever Hebrews 5:12-14
s1-592 | 8-26-2012

Hebrews 5
m1-611 | 8-29-2012

Do You Have An Anchor Hebrews 6:11-20
s1-593 | 9-02-2012

Hebrews 6-7
m1-612 | 9-05-2012

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

L27 | Hebrews
Dr. David Mathewson

L28 | Hebrews 2
Dr. David Mathewson

Hebrews 4:11-13 | Jack Hibbs
The Cure For Unbelief

5 Deadly Sins
Todd Pickett | Biola University

Universal Salvation In Medieval Islam
Jon Hoover | University of Nottingham

A Solution to Hebrews 6:4-6:
Kadesh Barnea by Andy Woods

Hebrews 1-3
Tuning Our Lives to God's Word
Darin McWatters

Hebrews 5 Order of Melchizedek
10-19-2020 | Bible Facts

Hebrews 6 Order of Melchizedek
10-26-2020 | Bible Facts

Dead Sea Scroll Cave 1 and Melchizedek
01-25-2021 | Bible Facts

Hebrews 1 Gen Letters
Dr. Herb Bateman

Hebrews 2 Gen Letters
Dr. Herb Bateman

Hebrews 3-4 Gen Letters
Dr. Herb Bateman

Hebrews 4-6 Gen Letters
Dr. Herb Bateman

Hebrews 6
Israel in the New Testament
David Pawson

Power-Sexual Violence
Tim Muehlhoff | Biola University

Ephesians 4 and Revelation
Ben Shin | Biola University