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     Hebrews  11 - 13


Hebrews 11

By Faith

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph,   ( When the writer of Hebrews came to describe an incident from the life of Jacob that was representative of his faith, what did he choose? Not Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, or his journey to Egypt, but his blessing of Joseph’s sons. The significance of what we might be tempted to regard as a minor detail is found in the fact that Jacob was revealing to his posterity the fact that God had plans and purposes for them. He was declaring anew his faith in the certainty of God’s promises. For you see, the promises were only good if God’s word proved to be true. Jacob was convinced that God was true to His word and that the land promised to him would be given to him and his descendants. )  The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances   bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. 32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.


Hebrews 12

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Hebrews 12 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.


Hebrews 13

Sacrifices Pleasing to God

Hebrews 13 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

The Reformation Study Bible



What I'm Reading

A great sexual reckoning

By Mindy Belz 12/18/2017

     Apparently sex isn’t for kicks anymore. From the halls of East Coast academic institutions to the malls of mid-America and the West Coast backlots, for decades now sex for sport has been taught, modeled, and marketed. Serial sex partners; sex outside of marriage; sex as an initiation rite onscreen, on campus, and to get ahead seemed a norm we could live with. The sexually pure became oddballs and losers. When comedian Louis C.K.’s show Louie featured the character Ellen Farber, a Christian virgin, it was all for laughs. And audiences did.

     Then the tables turned abruptly this year, and sex became sobering front-page business as accounts of office intimidation, sexual assignations, sodomy, and even rape felled in swift succession titans of entertainment, politics, journalism, and business.

     By one count accusations of sexual misconduct hit 36 men in high-powered positions during the six weeks following the October downfall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Like Weinstein, many of them took swift leaves of absence or faced suspension or outright firing. In Los Angeles, New York, Scotland Yard, and elsewhere, authorities launched criminal investigations into the most egregious cases.

     Sexual harassment or assault claims extend beyond elite circles. Within 24 hours of a #metoo post by a young mom on Twitter, 53,000 people made Facebook and Twitter entries under that hashtag noting their own experiences of harassment or worse. Hiding behind the glamour of sexual freedom, it appears, lurks a pathological bent toward using it to intimidate—often with steady blows to the conscience, sometimes with outright violence.

     Also quickly apparent: Sexual misconduct behind closed doors has a steep public price. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., agreed to resign his seat under pressure, while three Republican members of the House and longtime Democratic lawmaker John Conyers resigned over allegations, depriving constituents of representation.

Click here to go to source

     Mindy is senior editor of WORLD Magazine and the author of They Say We Are Infidels. She is on Twitter.

Surprising Evidence for God: Near Death-Experiences

By Sean McDowell 8/23/2016

     I am a skeptic. Sure, I am a Christian. But I am naturally skeptical about extraordinary claims. While my worldview makes room for near-death experiences, I have never found the evidence that compelling. There is just too much abuse[i], overstatement of the evidence, and exaggerated stories.

     Recently, however, I decided to probe more deeply into the evidence for near-death experiences (NDEs) for the class I teach on the resurrection. To put it simply, I was stunned at both the quantity and quality of cases that pose a challenge for naturalism. My experience is not unique. In Near-Death Experiences, J. Steve Miller observes:

     It’s important to note that most of these [NDE] researchers don’t come across as heralding their pet theological or philosophical positions. Most that I read began their research doubting that NDE’s involved anything spiritual but became convinced by the weight of the evidence.”[ii]

     I am not talking about the many popular cases found in books or movies. These cases are certainly interesting, but the mere fact that someone reports having an NDE isn’t proof alone for the supernatural. The evidentially significant cases are when people report information they could not have received naturally in their clinically dead state. And these cases are not rare. Here are a few interesting ones, all of which are all carefully documented:

     A chemist, who had been blind for almost an entire year from an accident, correctly reported visual details surrounding the scene at his NDE.[iii]

Click here to go to source

     Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell Books:

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter

‘We’re teaching university students lies’ – An interview with Dr Jordan Peterson

By Jason Tucker and Jason VandenBeukel 12/01/16

     Can you give us a brief background of your academic career and your interests?

     For the first two years of my undergraduate degree I studied Political Science and English Literature. I was very interested in politics, but what I was learning in economics and political science was just not correct. There was too much emphasis placed on the idea that economic interests were the prime motivators for human beings, and that was not obvious to me at all. I was spending a lot of time thinking about the Cold War, and the Cold War was not primarily an economic issue. So I started taking psychology, and I was interested in clinical psychology. I did my PhD under Dr. Robert Pihl, and I worked on drug abuse, alcoholism, and aggression – there was a heavy biological emphasis. I did my post-doc with Dr. Pihl, and Maurice Dongier. Then I taught at Harvard for six years, and I’ve been at the University of Toronto ever since then.

     My primary interest has always been the psychology of belief. Partly religious belief, and ideology as a sub-category of religious belief. One of Jung’s propositions was that whatever a person values most highly is their god. If people think they are atheistic, it means is they are unconscious of their gods. In a sophisticated religious system, there is a positive and negative polarity. Ideologies simplify that polarity and, in doing so, demonize and oversimplify. I got interested in ideology, in a large part, because I got interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, and equivalent occurrences in other places in the world. Mostly I concentrated on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in what led people to commit atrocities in service of their belief. The motto of the Holocaust Museum in Washington is “we must never forget.” I’ve learned that you cannot remember what you don’t understand. People don’t understand the Holocaust, and they don’t understand what happened in Russia. I have this course called “Maps of Meaning,” which is based on a book I wrote by the same name, and it outlines these ideas. One of the things that I’m trying to convince my students of is that if they had been in Germany in the 1930s, they would have been Nazis. Everyone thinks “Not me,” and that’s not right. It was mostly ordinary people who committed the atrocities that characterized Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

     Part of the reason I got embroiled in this [gender identity] controversy was because of what I know about how things went wrong in the Soviet Union. Many of the doctrines that underlie the legislation that I’ve been objecting to share structural similarities with the Marxist ideas that drove Soviet Communism. The thing I object to the most was the insistence that people use these made up words like ‘xe’ and ‘xer’ that are the construction of authoritarians. There isn’t a hope in hell that I’m going to use their language, because I know where that leads.

     There have been lots of cases where free speech has come under attack, why did you choose this particular issue?

Click here to go to source

     For more on this subject, see Jason VandenBeukel's article about Jordan Peterson, which also in this edition of C2C Journal: Jordan Peterson: The man who reingnited Canada's culture war

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 143

My Soul Thirsts for You
143 A Psalm Of David.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

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

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 18.

     THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE WICKED EMPLOYED BY GOD, WHILE HE CONTINUES FREE FROM EVERY TAINT. [138]

     This last chapter of the First Book consists of three parts: I. It having been said above that God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will, three objections are started. First, that this happens by the permission, not by the will of God. To this objection there is a twofold reply, the one, that angels and men, good and bad, do nothing but what is appointed by God; the second, that all movements are secretly directed to their end by the hidden inspiration of God, sec. 1, 2. II. A second objection is, that there are two contrary wills in God, if by a secret counsel he decrees what he openly prohibits by his law. This objection refuted, sec. 3. III. The third objection is, that God is made the author of all wickedness, when he is said not only to use the agency of the wicked, but also to govern their counsels and affections, and that therefore the wicked are unjustly punished. This objection refuted in the last section.

     Sections.

     1. The carnal mind the source of the objections which are raised against the Providence of God. A primary objection, making a distinction between the permission and the will of God, refuted. Angels and men, good and bad, do nought but what has been decreed by God. This proved by examples.

     2. All hidden movements directed to their end by the unseen but righteous instigation of God. Examples, with answers to objections.

     3. These objections originate in a spirit of pride and blasphemy. Objection, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted. Why the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold.

     4. Objection, that God is the author of sin, refuted by examples. Augustine's answer and admonition.

     1. From other passages, in which God is said to draw or bend Satan himself, and all the reprobate, to his will, a more difficult question arises. For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how, when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments. The modesty of those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth. It seems absurd that man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and yet be forthwith punished for his blindness. Hence, recourse is had to the evasion that this is done only by the permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he does this, repudiates the evasion. That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture. What we formerly quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all the actions of men. If God is the arbiter of peace and war, as is there said, and that without any exception, who will venture to say that men are borne along at random with a blind impulse, while He is unconscious or quiescent? But the matter will be made clearer by special examples. From the first chapter of Job we learn that Satan appears in the presence of God to receive his orders, just as do the angels who obey spontaneously. The manner and the end are different, but still the fact is, that he cannot attempt anything without the will of God. But though afterwards his power to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission, yet as the sentiment is true, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it has been done," we infer that God was the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments. Satan's aim is to drive the saint to madness by despair. The Sabeans cruelly and wickedly make a sudden incursion to rob another of his goods. Job acknowledges that he was deprived of all his property, and brought to poverty, because such was the pleasure of God. Therefore, whatever men or Satan himself devise, God holds the helm, and makes all their efforts contribute to the execution of his Judgments. God wills that the perfidious Ahab should be deceived; the devil offers his agency for that purpose, and is sent with a definite command to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets (2 Kings 22:20). If the blinding and infatuation of Ahab is a Judgment from God, the fiction of bare permission is at an end; for it would be ridiculous for a judge only to permit, and not also to decree, what he wishes to be done at the very time that he commits the execution of it to his ministers. The Jews purposed to destroy Christ. Pilate and the soldiers indulged them in their fury; yet the disciples confess in solemn prayer that all the wicked did nothing but what the hand and counsel of God had decreed (Acts 4:28), just as Peter had previously said in his discourse, that Christ was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23); in other words, that God, to whom all things are known from the beginning, had determined what the Jews had executed. He repeats the same thing elsewhere, "Those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled," (Acts 4:18). Absalom incestuously defiling his father's bed, perpetrates a detestable crime. God, however, declares that it was his work; for the words are, "Thou midst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." [139] The cruelties of the Chaldeans in Judea are declared by Jeremiah to be the work of God. For which reason, Nebuchadnezzar is called the servant of God. God frequently exclaims, that by his hiss, by the clang of his trumpet, by his authority and command, the wicked are excited to war. He calls the Assyrian the rod of his anger, and the axe which he wields in his hand. The overthrow of the city and downfall of the temple, he calls his own work. David, not murmuring against God, but acknowledging him to be a just judge, confesses that the curses of Shimei are uttered by his orders. "The Lord," says he, "has bidden him curse." Often in sacred history whatever happens is said to proceed from the Lord, as the revolt of the ten tribes, the death of Eli's sons, and very many others of a similar description. Those who have a tolerable acquaintance with the Scriptures see that, with a view to brevity, I am only producing a few out of many passages, from which it is perfectly clear that it is the merest trifling to substitute a bare permission for the providence of God, as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his Judgments meanwhile depending on the will of man.

     2. With regard to secret movements, what Solomon says of the heart of a king, that it is turned hither and thither, as God sees meet, certainly applies to the whole human race, and has the same force as if he had said, that whatever we conceive in our minds is directed to its end by the secret inspiration of God. And certainly, did he not work internally in the minds of men, it could not have been properly said, that he takes away the lip from the true, and prudence from the aged--takes away the heart from the princes of the earth, that they wander through devious paths. To the same effect, we often read that men are intimidated when He fills their hearts with terror. Thus David left the camp of Saul while none knew of its because a sleep from God had fallen upon all. But nothing can be clearer than the many passages which declare, that he blinds the minds of men, and smites them with giddiness, intoxicates them with a spirit of stupor, renders them infatuated, and hardens their hearts. Even these expressions many would confine to permissions as if, by deserting the reprobate, he allowed them to be blinded by Satan. But since the Holy Spirit distinctly says, that the blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the just Judgment of God, the solution is altogether inadmissible. He is said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, to have hardened it yet more, and confirmed it. Some evade these forms of expression by a silly cavil, because Pharaoh is elsewhere said to have hardened his own heart, thus making his will the cause of hardening it; as if the two things did not perfectly agree with each other, though in different senses--viz. that man, though acted upon by God, at the same time also acts. But I retort the objection on those who make it. If to harden means only bare permission, the contumacy will not properly belong to Pharaoh. Now, could any thing be more feeble and insipid than to interpret as if Pharaoh had only allowed himself to be hardened? We may add, that Scripture cuts off all handle for such cavils: "I," saith the Lord, "will harden his heart," (Exod. 4:21). So also, Moses says of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, that they went forth to battle because the Lord had hardened their hearts (Josh. 11:20). The same thing is repeated by another prophet, "He turned their hearts to hate his people," (Psalm 105:25). In like manner, in Isaiah, he says of the Assyrian, "I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey," (Isaiah 10:6); not that he intends to teach wicked and obstinate man to obey spontaneously, but because he bends them to execute his Judgments, just as if they carried their orders engraven on their minds. And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God. I admit, indeed, that God often acts in the reprobate by interposing the agency of Satan; but in such a manner, that Satan himself performs his part, just as he is impelled, and succeeds only in so far as he is permitted. The evil spirit that troubled Saul is said to be from the Lord (1 Sam. 16:14), to intimate that Saul's madness was a just punishment from God. Satan is also said to blind the minds of those who believe not (2 Cor. 4:4). But how so, unless that a spirit of error is sent from God himself, making those who refuse to obey the truth to believe a lie? According to the former view, it is said, "If the prophet be deceived when he has spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet," (Ezek. 14:9). According to the latter view, he is said to have given men over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28), because he is the special author of his own just vengeance; whereas Satan is only his minister (see Calv. in Ps. 141:4). But as in the Second Book (Chap. 4 sec. 3, 4), in discussing the question of man's freedom, this subject will again be considered, the little that has now been said seems to be all that the occasion requires. The sum of the whole is this,--since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Why Can’t Christians Just Join the Revolution?

By Albert Mohler 12/01/2016

     Why not just join the revolution? This question seems obvious to many people who look at conservative Christians and honestly wonder why we cannot just change our views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the entire constellation of LGBT issues. We are constantly told that we must abandon the clear teachings of the Bible in order to get “on the right side of history.”

     But, it’s not that we don’t understand the argument — we just cannot accept it.

     Of course, many liberal denominations and churches have indeed capitulated to the sexual revolution. As the legitimization of homosexuality moves forward, some churches and denominations have joined the movement — even becoming advocates — while others steadfastly refuse to compromise. In the middle — for now — are churches and denominations that are unable or unwilling to declare a clear conviction on homosexuality. Issues of homosexual ordination and marriage are regularly discussed in the assemblies of several denominations and in many congregations.

     Clearly, many of the more liberal churches and denominations are not only accepting that argument, they are running away with it. Each of these churches once defined marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, and every one of them once defined human sexuality and gender in agreement with the Bible and with historic Christian teachings. Now, at least some people seem genuinely perplexed that conservative Christians will not just go along with the program to redefine Christian morality, marriage, and doctrine.

     We will not because we cannot. Unlike those who embrace liberal theology, we do not see Christianity as a system of beliefs that we can just change as we see fit. We do not see the Bible as a mere collection of ancient religious writings that can be disregarded or reinterpreted to mean something other than what it says.

     Instead, we understand the Bible to be what it claims to be, nothing less than the inspired and inerrant Word of God. We understand Christianity to be grounded in specific truths as revealed by Christ and the prophets and Apostles and given to us in the Holy Scriptures. We believe that Christianity is defined by what the Bible calls “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

     These days, we find ourselves opposed, dismissed, and ridiculed for holding to truths that the Christian church has taught for two thousand years.

     The reality is that Christians who define Christianity in terms of historic Christian doctrine and moral teachings do not believe merely that these teachings are true, but that they point to the only way that will produce real and lasting human happiness. We are not merely opposed to same-sex marriage because we believe it to be contrary to Scripture;  we believe that anything opposed to Scripture cannot lead to human flourishing.

     The gospel promises salvation to anyone who repents of sin and believes in Christ as the crucified and resurrected Lord. If we misunderstand or misrepresent what sin is, we under-cut the work of Christ and our knowledge of the fact that we need a Savior. Furthermore, if we abandon the teachings of the Bible on sexual morality, we confuse the world — and ourselves — about repentance.

     The Bible is not merely an inspired book of doctrinal truths. It tells a story of God’s act of creation and of the reality of human sin, of the depth of God’s saving love for His people in Christ, and the story of where history is headed. The Bible also warns us against any effort to change that story or to tell it wrongly. Yes, it warns us against the sin of teaching what the Bible calls “another gospel” than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

     The current American landscape includes the more liberal churches that are doing their best to join the sexual revolution and the more conservative churches that cannot follow. Simple honesty requires acknowledgment that it is the conservative churches that are teaching what Christianity has taught for two millennia.

     We are told that holding to biblical authority and the historic Christian faith will lead to our marginalization. Perhaps so, but it is the more liberal churches that have been hemorrhaging members by the millions for the last four decades and, even in a secularizing age, it is the most secularized denominations that have suffered the greatest membership losses.

     We do understand what is at stake in terms of the human judgment of history, but we are far more concerned about the divine verdict of eternity. We must speak the truth in love and seek to be good neighbors to all, but we cannot abandon the faith just because we are told that we are now on the wrong side of history.

     Our response to those who are involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those who contort and subvert the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. Lying is never compassionate — and it leads ultimately to death.

     In the end, the church will either declare the truth of God’s Word or it will find a way to run away from it. It ultimately comes down to trust. Do we trust the Bible to tell us truthfully what God desires and commands about our sexuality? If so, we know where we stand and we know what to say. If not, it is time we admit to the world that we do not have the slightest clue.

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

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The Revolution That Enslaves

By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2017

     What’s the most significant revolution we’ve ever experienced in the United States? I imagine most Americans would say it was the American Revolution, which marked the beginning of our existence as a country. Some might make the case that it was the Industrial Revolution, which transformed our nation into a world power. Yet both answers, I think, are wrong.

      The most far-reaching, epochal revolution in American history began about fifty years ago and is now reaching its zenith. No war has been fought in terms of military conflict, but this revolution has killed millions of unborn people. Approximately three thousand lives, in fact, will be lost to this revolution before midnight tonight. And this number does not include the revolution’s other casualties. Bodies will be mutilated in the name of “changing” one’s gender. Sexually transmitted diseases will sterilize, leave lasting physical and emotional scars, and even pronounce death sentences on men and women. Young women will get pregnant and be abandoned, leaving them to raise children in fatherless homes. Pornography will warp people’s views of sex and relationships.

     I’m talking about the sexual revolution, which has wrought far more changes to the cultural behavior of America than the War of Independence fought against England in the eighteenth century. This sexual revolution is a war that’s been fought not against any earthly king but against the King of the cosmos, the Lord Himself. It’s a war with roots that stretch much further back than the sixties—to Eden, when Adam and Eve joined Satan’s cosmic revolt.

     As we inaugurate a new president this month, the revolution continues, draped in the flag of free speech, free sex, and freedom from oppression. However, the freedom being sought isn’t freedom from unjust civil laws but from natural law and the eternal moral law of God. The freedom embraced is the ungodly “freedom” of moral autonomy, of our trying to be a law unto ourselves, of our raising our fists to heaven and declaring that God will not be Lord over us.

     The sexual revolution has the same philosophical roots that fueled Friedrich Nietzsche’s goal of casting off what he saw as the weakness of Judeo-Christian morality. In Nietzsche’s eyes, the morality rooted in the Scriptures kept the authentic individual in chains. In the name of authenticity, of embracing the most basic human drive of the “will to power,” Nietzsche looked for humanity to set itself free from outside moral constraints. Nietzsche was eventually driven to insanity, but the moral insanity he argued for has gained ascendancy in our day. In one sense, the West has accomplished what Nietzsche desired—a “liberation” from God, and evidence for this is the sexual anarchy of our culture. However, such liberation cannot ultimately be accomplished. We’re still accountable to the Lord and will face judgment. Moreover, the freedom found is proving to be no freedom at all, but rather enslavement to the unforgiving demands of the false gods of unrestrained eros and libido.

     The sexual revolution is a war that is fought on many fronts. It includes the abuse of “free speech” to legalize the vilest and most explicit forms of pornography. It includes attacking all notions of traditional gender norms and labeling as “hateful bigots” those who want bathrooms segregated by biological sex differences. It involves abortion on demand and the elimination of every restriction on the procedure. It includes making promiscuity the norm and chastity the aberration. It includes elevating homosexuality as a positive good. The human sex drive is now liberated from all forms of oppression that would deny us our inalienable right to pleasure, and sexual pleasure—however we define it for ourselves—is seen as necessary to human happiness and fulfillment.

     The fruit and fuel of the sexual revolution is widespread moral relativism. Our society has rejected wholesale the very notion of vice—with one exception. The only vice our culture now recognizes is the refusal to join the revolutionaries in their quest for sexual “liberation.” Stay on God’s side, and the revolution will demand that you pay a high price economically and socially.

     Saddest of all, many churches fall over themselves to accommodate the changes wrought by the sexual revolution. Entire denominations are rushing to catch up to the culture. If there’s any sin of which we must repent, it’s the sin of affirming what God has always said about sexual morality. But if we go along with this trend, we’ll have no good news to preach, for we’ll have no sin from which we need the gospel to rescue us. We know that God will still mark the sin, but if the church won’t call sin sin, it cannot call anyone to repent of it and escape divine condemnation by turning to Christ. Sexual immorality and the kingdom of God are incompatible. No person who impenitently violates God’s sexual ethic has any part in His kingdom. If we don’t proclaim this to lost people, they will remain lost.

     The New Testament gospel is about forgiveness — forgiveness for all types of sin. Forgiveness is not needed if sin does not exist (1 John 1:8–10). But Jesus — as well as Paul, Moses, and the other prophets and Apostles — recognized adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual immorality as sin (Lev. 18:5; Matt. 5:27–30; John 7:53–8:11; 1 Cor. 6:9–11). The good news of the gospel is that every sexual sin is forgivable; all that’s required is repentance and faith in Christ alone. But it is one thing to forgive sin; it is quite another to sanction it. To give license to sin is not to free people, but to enslave them.

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

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

When I Don’t Feel Successful

By J.R. Vassar 1/01/2017

     Since Adam and Eve bit on the first temptation, failure has been a part of our human experience. As God’s image bearers, we are capable of remarkable things. But as fallen image bearers, we are simultaneously capable of terrible things. From small mistakes to colossal meltdowns, we are all too familiar with the pain and shame of failure. But, in His grace, God redeems the failures of His people, and He will use them to shape and form our lives.

The Beauty of the Gospel

     The human heart craves justification. This is why we make excuses, shift blame, or look for a scapegoat when we have failed. Our natural tendency is to seek personal validation in our successes, securing legitimacy by our accomplishments. So every failed venture — whether a poor grade, a bankruptcy filing, a broken marriage, or simply an embarrassing moment — points out our weakness, foolishness, and imperfection — our lack of righteousness. This ache for justification, for approval in the eyes of others, is the surface rumbling of a deeper ache we have to be approved in the eyes of God. What we really need is the approval, validation, and acceptance of the One who ultimately matters. We need to be justified before God. This is a gift that is ours in the gospel.

     “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). The good news of the gospel is that we can be declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus, apart from our accomplishments and in the face of our ongoing failures. The gospel is a great exchange: Jesus bears all our failures and is condemned so that by faith we might bear His righteousness and be accepted by God. Through faith in Jesus, we are pardoned and adopted as God’s dear children, loved by the Father as much as Jesus is loved by the Father. No success could bestow this status upon us. So when we fail, we need not be shaken at the core. The gospel says more about us than our failures do. The verdict God speaks over us trumps every other verdict spoken over us by our voices or the voices of others. God uses our failures to wean us off self-righteousness and point us to Jesus, in whom we find a righteousness that is sufficient for our confidence, value, and unshakable joy. In Christ, the power of God’s saving and justifying love can wash away the shame and self-loathing of our sin and failure.


The Idols of Our Hearts

     In a 2016 article in The Atlantic titled “The Dark Side of Going for Gold,” authors John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro detail the depression that many athletes experience after competing in the Olympics. Many Olympians wrap up their identity in the pursuit of the gold medal. The authors cite an interview with swimmer Mark Spitz during the 1972 Games as he was going for seven gold medals. Spitz said, “If I swim six and win six, I’ll be a hero. If I swim seven and win six, I’ll be a failure.” His meaning and significance were dependent upon attaining a perfect record. He was in bondage to his performance. How we define failure, and the failures we most fear, reveal what we are building our identity on. They show that we are looking to something other than God’s love and acceptance in Christ to give legitimacy and purpose to our lives.

     Our fears also reveal what we prize in our hearts. The Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 3:8, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” The Lord Jesus was Paul’s ultimate prize. Jesus was the one thing worth losing all things to have. This is why Paul could lose everything and still rejoice. Paul had ordered his loves rightly, valuing supremely what was supremely valuable. His great aim was to know, love, serve, and become like Jesus. This is the greatest endeavor of the human heart. In this way, the ultimate success is to know, love, serve and become like Him; not doing so is the ultimate failure. So when the business folds, the relationship falls apart, or your parenting blueprints don’t work, you can grieve the failure but not be undone by it. Loss is painful, but the things we lose are not our ultimate prize and aim. We have Christ, the surpassing value, the pearl of great price, and He is enough.


The Hunger for Final Redemption

     If we are in Christ, a glorious future awaits us. Our sins, suffering, and ultimately death are glaring reminders of the reality of our failure. But in the end, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be raised to indestructible life and be rid of shame forever (1 Cor. 15:42–56). One day, we will be glorified, finally free from sin, suffering, failure, and frailty (Rom. 8:18–23). We will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matt. 13:43), and we will rule and reign with Christ in the new heavens and new earth (Rom. 8:17). Unending joy, beauty, and perfection await us. But this is not that day. We still fail and fall and do ugly things, all of which remind us that we are not what we one day will become. If we steward the pain of our failure, a holy longing for glory will be awakened in our hearts that will fuel greater faithfulness and passion for the kingdom of God to come. In the end, failure will fail, and we will reign. So, we say with the Apostle John, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

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     Rev. J.R. Vassar is lead pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Tex. He is author of Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel, and Our Quest for Something More.

Why You Probably Don’t Need a Quiet Time

By Donald Whitney 1/01/2017

     You’ve always believed you should have what evangelicals commonly call a “quiet time.” Sometimes called “daily devotions,” a quiet time typically consists of Bible reading and prayer. Beyond these, the event can be highly individualized in terms of timing, duration, location, and content. Many add meditation on Scripture to their reading of it. Others will include some form of journaling. Some will append a brief devotional reading from another book. Generally, the goal is to feed the soul and commune with God.

     Lately, however, your devotional habits have languished. In light of the struggle, privately you’ve been doing a little spiritual cost/benefit analysis about the whole enterprise.

     Relax. Why stress about it? Who wants their spiritual life to be a struggle? Let me help you see why you probably don’t need a quiet time anyway.

     For starters, you’re incredibly busy. In fact, you’ve never been busier. God has given you many responsibilities, and you try to be faithful with them. If you take time for Bible intake and prayer every day, you’ll lose valuable time you could devote to other important God-given tasks.

     Second, you can’t be in two places at once. With so many needs to meet and people to help, isn’t it a bit selfish to get alone with God and sacrifice time you could use in ministering to others? True, even Jesus frequently withdrew from teaching and ministering to the crowds who sought Him in order to strengthen His soul in prayer. But does that mean He’s an example to us in this?

     Third, you’re already spiritually mature. Think of all the Christian books and blogs you’ve read in your life. Didn’t they draw a lot from Scripture? Think of how many sermons and Bible lessons you’ve heard. By now, haven’t you reached a level of spiritual maturity where daily devotions simply repeat material you already know? Do you think God expects you to meditate on His Word day and night?

     Fourth, you don’t want to be a copycat. Just because the great Christian heroes of the past had a regular commitment to prayer and meditation on Scripture doesn’t mean you should. After all, you’re helped by resources they never had. You have a smartphone and the Internet.

     Fifth, you don’t want to become legalistic. To think that your soul needs to feed on God’s Word and seek communion with Him every day would almost be tantamount to saying that your body should have food virtually every day. And who would want to fall into the legalistic trap of feeding one’s body daily? Moderation is so important when it comes to the things of God, isn’t it? As Ecclesiastes 7:16 warns, “Do not be overly righteous.”

     Still feeling remorse about an inconsistent devotional life? Don’t worry; you can always start again someday when life slows down.

     Convinced? Well, before you completely forsake your daily devotional time, you might consider a few things.

     First, making a priority of time with God is a mark of grace. It’s hard to argue with Jonathan Edwards here:

     A true Christian. . . delights at times to retire from all mankind, to converse with God in solitary places. . . . True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places, for holy meditation and prayer. . . . It is the nature of true grace, that however it loves Christian society in its place, yet it in a peculiar manner delights in retirement, and secret converse with God.

     Next, Jesus is indeed the great example of personal piety. Yes, you could serve others more if you abandoned your devotional life. But the same could be said for the time you spend eating and sleeping. Would you discard them to meet people’s needs? While there are times to minister to others instead of replenishing your soul or body, as a long-term practice this is neither wise nor fruitful. Jesus could have met literally every need presented to Him. But even He sometimes walked away from needy crowds to pray. Jesus is our example of all things good, including the priority of meeting with the Father.

     Third, even until death, the Apostle Paul wanted to saturate his soul in Scripture. In the last inspired letter he wrote, Paul pleaded with Timothy, “When you come, bring . . . the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). These writings almost certainly included a copy of the Old Testament. If a Christian as spiritually mature as the Apostle Paul required the regular intake of Scripture until death, dare we ever think we’ve “outgrown” the need for it?

     Fourth, we are called to imitate spiritual heroes. In Hebrews 13:7,   ( See above )  God commands us to remember, consider, and imitate Christian leaders of the past. We’re told, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” The consensus of the spiritual giants of Christian history that testifies to the indispensability of a believer’s devotional life should not be forgotten nor their example forsaken.

     Fifth, rightly motivated devotional habits are never legalistic. Neither the strictest obedience to the Word of God nor the most zealous pursuit of holiness is ever legalistic if one’s motives are right. The measurement of legalism is not the consistency of one’s devotional practices but the heart’s reason for doing them.      Finally, you’ll likely never be less busy. If you can’t make time to meet God through the Bible and prayer now, it’s very unlikely you will when—if—life does slow down.

     Significant changes in your life may indeed be needed. But think: How can less time with God be the answer?

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     Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Biography

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The Gospel’s Compelling Uniqueness

By Jared Wilson 1/01/2017

     It is impossible to be ambivalent about Jesus. He said so Himself (Matt. 12:30). It should come as no surprise, then, to see that as Jesus traveled around preaching, teaching, and doing ministry, He had an immensely polarizing effect on those He encountered. Some responded in loving awe and others in seething hatred. And this would not have been true if Jesus had simply been what many modern thinkers assume He was—a good moral teacher. No, Jesus is not quite so safe as all that. Jesus Christ is a spiritual disruption of the space-time continuum.

     Just as in the days of his earthly ministry, the truth claims of Christ and His church continue to both resonate and repel. Of course, it’s the repulsion that many evangelicals today are concerned about. Some of them are concerned enough about it that they seek to soften some of the harder edges of the Christian faith to make it more appealing. And what we discover in adulterating the message of Jesus is that we may soften people’s objections to Him, but we also temper their enthusiasm. The safe Jesus of modern evangelicalism is not offensive, but neither is He very compelling.

     No, we must embrace the real Jesus—Jesus as He was and is, with all His cross-taking demands and soul-baring truths. And when we do so, we will discover that for all the animosity the real Jesus stirs up, there are also a good many affections for Him stirred up, as well. This is how Jesus Himself described this phenomenon:

     So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24–30)

     There is something fascinating here, something that plays out on the spiritual plane. Jesus is basically saying that the Jews’ lack of devotion to Him is not due to a lack of data. He’s told them the truth. But some have “the ears to hear” and others do not. There is no middle ground. You either belong to Him or you don’t.

     This is the first way in which the message of Christ’s gospel is so compelling: you have to respond to it. And you will notice if you read a little further into the passage that after Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” they take up stones to kill Him.

     When you draw a line in the sand, you’re going to get a reaction, and not always a positive one. Some people are going to reject it, sometimes with hostility. But others will lean in. The thing people can’t do with an exclusive Christianity is truly be ambivalent about it. The gospel forces the issue.

     I think this may be what is contributing to the quiet revival in New England, which is now the least-churched region of the nation and is chock-full of people who claim to love inclusion and tolerance. Since 1970, the population of Boston has declined, but the number of churches in the city has almost doubled, and the number of people attending church has more than tripled in that same period.

     Across New England, conservative churches are on a slow increase, while all others are in a continuing decline. You would think this should not be the case, given that the “safe Jesus” is found in the more liberal mainline and heterodox congregationalist churches. But the compelling Jesus, it turns out, is found in the evangelical communities.

     How are evangelical churches with conservative theology preaching this old story bringing people to the faith in the hard soil of the Northeast? Well, it seems counterintuitive, but when you draw a line in the sand, you tend to move people.

     But the gospel of Jesus is singularly compelling for another reason: it provides security. Unlike other religions or philosophies, Christianity doesn’t offer certainty of human will or human intellect. It offers instead certainty of divine will and atonement. The security that Christianity’s exclusive gospel offers is different from the security offered by other religions, which say, “If you can jump through these hoops, you can be saved.”

     That sort of religion sounds secure on the surface, but there are too many variables involved. Every other religion is a treadmill of hoop-jumping. You can never be sure you’ll go far enough or get good enough at it to “make it.” Christianity, however, because of what Christ has done, offers the security that says, “There’s nothing you could do to make God love you less.”

     I remember sharing the gospel with a Muslim cab driver in Washington, D.C., and one thing the driver said really stuck with me. He was a nominal Muslim by his own admission; he was Islam’s version of “spiritual, but not religious.” I asked him what he believed about forgiveness, and he said there were things you could do that would be so bad that God couldn’t forgive you. He said that was one of the problems with Islamic terrorism — Allah won’t forgive that. It’s too terrible. I appreciated that he got the gravity of sin. Murder is indeed a terrible, wrath-deserving sin—mass murder even more so. But I wanted him to also somehow grasp the great gravity of grace.

     He could not imagine a God who would turn a blind eye to murder. But we don’t have a God who turns a blind eye to murder. He punishes every murder; He punishes every sin. It’s just that, for those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the punishment is borne by Christ on the cross.

     This kind of exclusivity — saving grace is exclusive to Christianity and exclusive to those who trust in Christ — provides the best kind of security because it posits that refuge from God’s wrath is only found in God Himself. And there is no place more secure than God Himself.

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     Rev. Jared C. Wilson is director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and managing editor of For the Church. He blogs at The Gospel Coalition. He is on Twitter @JaredCWilson.

Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 22)

By John Foxe 1563

     "My fever raged violently and without any intermission. I began to think of settling my worldly affairs, and of committing my dear little Maria to the care of the Portuguese woman, when I lost my reason, and was insensible to all around me. At this dreadful period Dr. Price was released from prison; and hearing of my illness, obtained permission to come and see me. He has since told me that my situation was the most distressing he had ever witnessed, and that he did not then think I should survive many hours. My hair was shaved, my head and feet covered with blisters, and Dr. Price ordered the Bengalee servant who took care of me to endeavor to persuade me to take a little nourishment, which I had obstinately refused for several days. One of the first things I recollect was, seeing this faithful servant standing by me, trying to induce me to take a little wine and water. I was in fact so far gone that the Burmese neighbors who had come in to see me expire said, 'She is dead; and if the king of angels should come in, he could not recover her.'

     "The fever, I afterwards understood, had run seventeen days when the blisters were applied. I now began to recover slowly; but it was more than a month after this before I had strength to stand. While in this weak, debilitated state, the servant who had followed your brother to the Burmese camp came in and informed me that his master had arrived, and was conducted to the courthouse in town. I sent off a Burman to watch the movements of government, and to ascertain, if possible, in what way Mr. Judson was to be disposed of. He soon returned with the sad intelligence that he saw Mr. Judson go out of the palace yard, accompanied by two or three Burmans, who conducted him to one of the prisons; and that it was reported in town, that he was to be sent back to the Oung-pen-la prison. I was too weak to bear ill tidings of any kind; but a shock as dreadful as this almost annihilated me. For some time, I could hardly breathe; but at last gained sufficient composure to dispatch Moung Ing to our friend, the governor of the north gate, and begged him to make one more effort for the release of Mr. Judson, and prevent his being sent back to the country prison, where I knew he must suffer much, as I could not follow. Moung Ing then went in search of Mr. Judson; and it was nearly dark when he found him in the interior of an obscure prison. I had sent food early in the afternoon, but being unable to find him, the bearer had returned with it, which added another pang to my distresses, as I feared he was already sent to Oung-pen-la.

     "If I ever felt the value and efficacy of prayer, I did at this time. I could not rise from my couch; I could make no efforts to secure my husband; I could only plead with that great and powerful Being who has said, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will hear, and thou shalt glorify Me;' and who made me at this time feel so powerfully this promise that I became quite composed, feeling assured that my prayers would be answered.

     "When Mr. Judson was sent from Maloun to Ava, it was within five minutes' notice, and without his knowledge of the cause. On his way up the river he accidentally saw the communication made to government respecting him, which was simply this: 'We have no further use for Yoodathan, we therefore return him to the golden city.' On arriving at the courthouse, there happened to be no one present who was acquainted with Mr. J. The presiding officer inquired from what place he had been sent to Maloun. He was answered from Oung-pen-la. 'Let him then,' said the officer, 'be returned thither'-when he was delivered to a guard and conducted to the place above-mentioned, there to remain until he could be conveyed to Oung-pen-la. In the meantime the governor of the north gate presented a petition to the high court of the empire, offered himself as Mr. Judson's security, obtained his release, and took him to his house, where he treated him with every possible kindness, and to which I was removed as soon as returning health would allow.

     "It was on a cool, moonlight evening, in the month of March, that with hearts filled with gratitude to God, and overflowing with joy at our prospects, we passed down the Irrawaddy, surrounded by six or eight golden boats, and accompanied by all we had on earth.

     "We now, for the first time, for more than a year and a half, felt that we were free, and no longer subject to the oppressive yoke of the Burmese. And with what sensations of delight, on the next morning, did I behold the masts of the steamboat, the sure presage of being within the bounds of civilized life. As soon as our boat reached the shore, Brigadier A. and another officer came on board, congreatulated us on our arrival, and invited us on board the steamboat, where I passed the remainder of the day; while your brother went on to meet the general, who, with a detachment of the army, had encamped at Yandaboo, a few miles farther down the river. Mr. Judson returned in the evening, with an invitation from Sir Archibald, to come immediately to his quarters, where I was the next morning introduced, and received with the greatest kindness by the general, who had a tent pitched for us near his own-took us to his own table, and treated us with the kindness of a father, rather than as strangers of another country.

     "For several days, this single idea wholly occupied my mind, that we were out of the power of the Burmese government, and once more under the protection of the English. Our feelings continually dictated expressions like these: What shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits toward us.

     "The treaty of peace was soon concluded, signed by both parties, and a termination of hostilities publicly declared. We left Yandaboo, after a fortnight's residence, and safely reached the mission house in Rangoon, after an absence of two years and three months."

     Through all this suffering the precious manuscript of the Burmese New Testament was guarded. It was put into a bag and made into a hard pillow for Dr. Judson's prison. Yet he was forced to be apparently careless about it, lest the Burmans should think it contained something valuable and take it away. But with the assistance of a faithful Burmese convert, the manuscript, representing so many long days of labor, was kept in safety.

     At the close of this long and melancholy narrative, we may appropriately introduce the following tribute to the benevolence and talents of Mrs. Judson, written by one of the English prisoners, who were confined at Ava with Mr. Judson. It was published in a Calcutta paper after the conclusion of the war:

     "Mrs. Judson was the author of those eloquent and forceful appeals to the government which prepared them by degrees for submission to terms of peace, never expected by any, who knew the hauteur and inflexible pride of the Burman court.

     "And while on this subject, the overflowings of grateful feelings, on behalf of myself and fellow prisoners, compel me to add a tribute of public thanks to that amiable and humane female, who, though living at a distance of two miles from our prison, without any means of conveyance, and very feeble in health, forgot her own comfort and infirmity, and almost every day visited us, sought out and administered to our wants, and contributed in every way to alleviate our misery.

     "While we were left by the government destitute of food, she, with unwearied perseverance, by some means or3 another, obtained for us a constant supply.

     "When the tattered state of our clothes evinced the extremity of our distress, she was ever ready to replenish our scanty wardrobe.

     "When the unfeeling avarice of our keepers confined us inside, or made our feet fast in the stocks, she, like a ministering angel, never ceased her applications to the government, until she was authorized to communicate to us the grateful news of our enlargement, or of a respite from our galling oppressions.

     "Besides all this, it was unquestionably owing, in a chief degree, to the repeated eloquence, and forcible appeals of Mrs. Judson, that the untutored Burman was finally made willing to secure the welfare and happiness of his country, by a sincere peace."

Foxe's Book of Martyrs


  • God's Story
  • Suffering in the Already
  • Prayer & Meditation

#1 Rick Langer   Biola University

 

#2 Elizabeth Hall   Biola University

 

#3 Eric Johnson   Biola University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Find a prayer partner; pray in agreement
     12/20/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘When two of you get together…heaven goes into action.’

(Mt 18:19) 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. ESV

     The Bible says, ‘When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.’ Becky Smith was eighty-four years old and her sister Christine was eighty-two. The years had taken sight from the first and bent the body of the second, so they couldn’t attend church. Yet their church needed them. They lived on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland, and a spiritual darkness had settled on their village of Barvas. The congregation was losing people, and the youth were mocking the faith, speaking of conversion as a plague. In October 1949, the Presbytery of the Free Church of Scotland called upon their members to pray. But what could two elderly, housebound sisters do? Quite a lot, they determined. They turned their cottage into an all-night house of prayer. From 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. two nights each week, they asked God to have mercy on their city. After several months, Becky told Christine that God had spoken these words to her: ‘I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground’ (Isaiah 44:3 NKJV). She urged her pastor to conduct a revival and invite the well-known evangelist Duncan Campbell to speak. When Campbell refused to come, she insisted: ‘God says he’s coming and he’ll be here in a fortnight.’ And it happened! For five weeks Campbell preached every night to overflowing crowds at 7:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., midnight, and 3:00 a.m. Sinners were converted, pubs closed for lack of patrons, and the Isle of Lewis tasted the presence of God – all because two women prayed in agreement.

Zeph 1-3
Rev 13

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     December 20, 1998, William Jefferson Clinton became the second President in United States history to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. The two counts passed acknowledged that he had provided “perjurious, false and misleading testimony to a grand jury” and committed “obstruction of justice” in an effort to cover-up an immoral sexual relationship with a twenty-one year old intern. In his book, The Death of Outrage, best-selling author William Bennet wrote: “The last year and a half was vivid proof that Bill Clinton is willing to commit criminal acts to maintain… his political viability.”

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


     Chapter 19  December 20

     Some people seem able to discuss different theories of this act as if they understood them all and needed only evidence as to which was best. This light has been withheld from me. I do not know and can't imagine what the disciples understood Our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood. I can find within the forms of my human understanding no connection between eating a man-and it is as Man that the Lord has flesh-and entering into any spiritual oneness or community or … with him. And I find "substance" (in Aristotle's sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think. My effort to do so produces mere nursery-thinking-a picture of something like very rarefied plasticine. On the other hand, I get on no better with those who tell me that the elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ. They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol of that. But it would be profane to suppose that they are as arbitrary as they seem to me. I well believe there is in reality an appropriateness, even a necessity, in their selection. But it remains, for me, hidden. Again, if they are, if the whole act is, simply memorial, it would seem to follow that its value must be purely psychological, and dependent on the recipient's sensibility at the moment of reception. And I cannot see why this particular reminder-a hundred other things may, psychologically, remind me of Christ's death, equally, or perhaps more-should be so uniquely important as all Christendom (and my own heart) unhesitatingly declare.

     However, then, it may be for others, for me the something which holds together and "informs" all the objects, words, and actions of this rite is unknown and unimaginable. I am not saying to anyone in the world, "Your explanation is wrong." I am saying, "Your explanation leaves the mystery for me still a mystery."

     Yet I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) so opaque to the intellect, is nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation. Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body. Here the prig, the don, the modern in me have no privilege over the savage or the child. Here is big medicine and strong magic. Favete Unguis.

     When I say "magic" I am not thinking of the paltry and pathetic techniques by which fools attempt and quacks pretend to control nature. I mean rather what is suggested by fairy-tale sentences like "This is a magic flower, and if you carry it the seven gates will open to you of their own accord," or "This is a magic cave and those who enter it will renew their youth." I should define magic in this sense as "objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed."

     Magic, in this sense, will always win a response from a normal imagination because it is in principle so "true to nature." Mix these two powders and there will be an explosion. Eat a grain of this and you will die. Admittedly, the "magical" element in such truths can be got rid of by explanation; that is, by seeing them to be instances or consequences of larger truths. Which larger truths remain "magical" till they also are, in the same way, explained. In that fashion, the sciences are always pushing further back the realm of mere "brute fact." But no scientist, I suppose, believes that the process could ever reach completion. At the very least, there must always remain the utterly "brute" fact, the completely opaque datum, that a universe--or, rather, this universe with its determinate character-exists; as "magical" as the magic flower in the fairy-tale.


Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


If the next century does not find us a great nation …
it will be because those who represent the …
morality of the nation
do not aid in controlling the political forces.
--- President James Garfield


I wonder also how many Christians in our day have truly and completely abandoned themselves to Jesus Christ as their Lord. We are very busy telling people to “accept Christ”—and that seems to be the only word we are using. We arrange a painless acceptance.
--- A. W. Tozer

It should always be remembered, that this law, natural or revealed… flows from the same divine source; it is the law of God…. Human law must rest… ultimately, upon the authority of that law, which is divine.
--- James Wilson, Justice on the Supreme Court and one of only six founding fathers to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.
--- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 30:32-33
     by D.H. Stern

32     If you have been boorish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been scheming,
lay your hand on your mouth.
33     For as pressing milk produces butter
and pressing the nose produces blood,
so pressing out anger produces strife.


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 Right Lines of Work

If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me. --- John 12:32.

     Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, there was no need for it. What the world needs is not ‘a little bit of love,’ but a surgical operation.

     When you are face to face with a soul in difficulty spiritually, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the Cross. If that soul can get to God on any other line, then the Cross of Jesus Christ is unnecessary. If you can help others by your sympathy or understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You have to keep your soul rightly related to God and pour out for others on His line, not pour out on the human line and ignore God. The great note to-day is amiable religiosity.

     The one thing we have to do is to exhibit Jesus Christ crucified, to lift Him up all the time. Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is banking on the Reality of Redemption, the people he talks to must be concerned. The thing that remains and deepens is the worker’s simple relationship to Jesus Christ; his usefulness to God depends on that and that alone.

     The calling of a New Testament worker is to uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Saviour, consequently he cannot be poetical, he must be sternly surgical. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses. We have to probe straight down as deeply as God has probed us, to be keen in sensing the Scriptures which bring the truth straight home and to apply them fearlessly.

My Utmost for His Highest

Waiting For It
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                Waiting For It

Yeats said that. Young
  I delighted in it:
  there was time enough.

  Fingers burned, heart
  seared, a bad taste
  in the mouth, I read him

  again, but without trust
  any more. What counsel
  has the pen's rhetoric

  to impart? Break mirrors, stare
  ghosts in the face, try
  walking without crutches

  at the grave's edge? Now
  in the small hours
  of belief the one eloquence

  to master is that
  of the bowed head, the bent
  knee, waiting, as at the end

  of a hard winter
  for one flower to open
  on the mind's tree of thorns.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Take Heart
     December 20



     God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. --- Acts 17:27.

     Over all the history of our race’s acquaintance with God, all the religions, all the theologies, it seems so plain.  Phillips Brooks, “The Nearness of God,” downloaded from the Web site The Unofficial Episcopal Preaching Resource Page, at www.edola.org/clergy/episcopalpreaching.html, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.  God has been forever desiring, forever trying to give knowledge of himself to human beings. Always God has been trying to make us understand him. Never has he turned and gone away in anger and left us in our ignorance. He has hovered about the human mind with an unbroken presence. Thus people in every age, in every condition, even in their own despite, have learned that God is just, that God is merciful, that he governs the world in obedience to his own perfect nature, that he therefore must punish, and that he must reward. These are not guesses about God. They are not beliefs about him that people have reasoned out from their own natures. They are the truths about him that God has been able to press into the human understanding, even through every veil that humanity drew between itself and God.

     There is no one so ignorant, so careless, so indifferent about what God is and what God is doing that God is not all the time pressing on that individual life and crowding into it all the knowledge of himself that it will take. As the air crowds on everything, on the solidest and hardest stone and on the softest and most porous earth, and into each presses what measure of itself each will receive, so God limits the revelation of himself by nothing but the capacity of every person to take and hold his revelation.

     God is teaching you always just as much truth as you can learn. If you are in sorrow at your ignorance, still you must not despair. Be capable of more knowledge and it will be given to you. What hinders you from knowing God perfectly is not God’s unwillingness but your imperfection. Grow better and purer, and diviner wisdom will come to you—not given as wages, as reward, but simply admitted into a nature grown more capable of receiving it. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God” (
John 7:17). Here is Christ’s old promise again: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him”
(
Rev. 3:20).
--- Phillips Brooks


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

On This Day   December 20
     Bear with Me, Madam!

     Edmund Grindal’s love for books saved his life. One day while romping through the fields with a book stuffed into his coat, a hunter’s stray arrow flew into him, lodging in the book. Later another book saved him: The Bible brought him to Christ. Grindal grew in faith and entered the ministry; but when “Bloody” Mary rose to the throne, he fled to Germany until Mary was replaced by Protestant-leaning Elizabeth I. Grindal returned to England and was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1575.

     Elizabeth soon complained to the new archbishop that too much preaching was causing seedbeds of sedition. “Three or four sermons a year” are quite enough, the queen said, and she ordered Grindal to curtail preaching throughout the kingdom.

     On December 20, 1576 Grindal responded in a long letter, saying in part: The speeches it hath pleased you to deliver me concerning abridging the number of preachers and the utter suppression of conferences among ministers have exceedingly dismayed and discomforted me. Alas, Madam, is the Scripture more plain in any one thing than that the Gospel of Christ should be plentifully preached? To the building of Solomon’s material temple there were appointed 150,000 labourers and 300 overseers, and shall we think a few preachers may suffice to edify the spiritual temple of Christ. St. Paul said, “Preach the Word.” Public and continual preaching of God’s word is the ordinary instrument of salvation. I cannot with safe conscience and without the offense of the Majesty of God consent to their suppressing. Bear with me, I beseech you, Madam, if I choose rather to offend your earthly Majesty than to offend the heavenly Majesty of God. I beseech you, Madam, let the Majesty of God be before your eyes and say, “Not mine but Thy will be done.”

     Elizabeth, furious, placed Grindal under house arrest. But the Gospel was not shut up, and despite the queen’s misgivings Gospel preaching spread to every corner of the British Isles.

     Keep your mind on Jesus Christ! He … was raised from death, just as my good news says. … I am locked up in jail and treated like a criminal. But God’s good news isn’t locked in jail.
--- 2 Timothy 2:8,9.


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 3)

     Human Beings Become Human
     Because God Became Human

     The figure of Jesus Christ takes shape in human beings. Human beings do not take on an independent form of their own. Rather, what gives them form and maintains them in their new form is always and only the figure of Jesus Christ himself. It is therefore not an imitation, not a repetition of his form, but their own form that takes shape in human beings. Human beings are not transformed into a form that is foreign to them, not into the form of God, but into their own form, a form that belongs to them, not into the form of God, but into their own form, a form that belongs to them and is essential to them. Human beings become human because God became human, but human beings do not become God. They could not and cannot bring about that change in their form, but God himself changes his form into human form, so that human beings -- though not becoming God -- can become human.

     In Christ the form of human beings before God was created anew. It was not a matter of place, of time, of climate, of race, of the individual, of society, of religion, or of taste, but rather a question of the life of humanity itself that it recognized in Christ its image and its hope. What happened to Christ happened to humanity.

     The whole Christian story is strange. Frederick Buechner describes the Incarnation as "a kind of vast joke whereby the creator of the ends of the earthcomes among us in diapers." He concludes, "Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.

     But we have taken the idea as seriously as a child can. America is far from spiritually monolithic, but the vast backdrop of our culture is Christian, and for most of us it is the earliest faith we know. The "idea of the God-man" is not strange or scandalous, because it first swam in milk and butter on the top of our oatmeal decades ago. At that age, many things were strange, though most were more immediately palpable. A God-filled baby in a pile of straw was a plesant image, but somewhat theoretical compared with the heart-stopping exhilaration of a visit from Santa Claus. The way a thunderstorm ripped the night sky, the hurtling power of the automobile Daddy drove so bravely, the rapture of ice cream -- how could the distant Incarnation compare with those?

     We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it. The last day we walked out of Sunday School may be the last day we seriously engaged this faith.


At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy

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

(1 Co 1:11–12) 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” ESV

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Discovering John
     anti-Jewish ??

     We now consider the two other areas where John’s Gospel has been criticized as ‘anti-Jewish’, namely his ‘replacement theology’ and his depiction of Jesus as God. Ancient Judaism was not monochrome in its beliefs and practices; some authors prefer to speak of ‘Judaisms’ in the plural (e.g. Neusner, 1987). Nevertheless Jews were, and are, united, in a common ‘ethnicity’ and sense of election by God as a covenant community. They share common Scriptures understood as inspired revelation, monotheistic faith, and respect for Torah, embracing both oral tradition and written Law. ‘Torah’ includes moral injunctions and ritual (ceremonial) prescriptions, as well as liturgical materials and history written from a theological viewpoint. First-century Jews did not drive a wedge between moral and ritual prescriptions, as do many Christians. Among the latter are circumcision, Sabbath, dietary and ‘purity’ laws, observance of fasts and festivals, and a complex system of sacrifices based on the Temple cult with its priestly hierarchy (ended by the Roman destruction of the Temple). Prayer and Torah-study are taken for granted. How far does John depict Jesus as ‘replacing’ these beliefs and way of life?

     We begin with Scripture. For John, there is no idea that this might include Christian texts: ‘Scripture’ (Greek, graphē) for him is the Hebrew Bible (including the Septuagint), for which he displays the utmost respect, regarding it as fully authoritative. In words attributed to Jesus or the disciples, he assumes verbal inspiration (
10:35); he presents Moses and the prophets as writing of Jesus and witnessing to him (e.g. 1:45; 5:39b). Jesus always speaks respectfully of Moses, reproaching ‘the Jews’ for not believing him and not keeping the Law which he gave them (5:46; 7:19). Jesus also refers positively to Isaiah, who ‘spoke of him’ (12:41), and Abraham, who ‘rejoiced to see his day’ (8:56), though John clearly presents Jesus as greater than Jacob, Abraham, and Moses.

     John’s scriptural interpretation is basically typological. This was a Jewish method of exegesis whereby events or sayings from the past are interpreted as fulfilled in present experience. Luke uses it when Jesus reads from Isaiah and then says,
‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears’ (4:21), and when Peter says in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:16–21): ‘This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel’. No fewer than twelve of John’s Scripture quotations are introduced by phrases like ‘as Scripture says’ or ‘as it is written’ (e.g. 2:17; 6:31, 45; 12:14f.) and seven use the word ‘fulfil’. Other passages directly quote biblical texts on the lips of individuals or groups (e.g. 1:23; 12:13) or cite them imprecisely (e.g. 7:38; 19:28). Scripture is ‘fulfilled’ in the Baptist’s ministry (1:23), Judas’ betrayal (13:18), the ‘triumphal entry’ (12:14f.), Jesus’ passion (19:24b, 28, 36f.; cf. 2:17), and in his resurrection (2:22; 20:9). Thus John, like Matthew (5:17), shows that Jesus came not to nullify Scripture, but to ‘fulfil’ it.

     Apart from direct quotations, there are numerous scriptural allusions. Jesus’ ‘lifting up’ on the cross is like Moses’ raising of the bronze serpent (
3:14; cf. Num. 21:9), the point of the comparison being not just the physical lifting up, but also the healing of the Israelites, and Jesus’ bringing of life through the cross. Jesus’ feeding of the multitude echoes God’s provision of manna through Moses, just as his gift of ‘living water’ may echo the water from the rock. ‘Moses’ was one of the bonds that held Jews together, especially in the Diaspora, and John makes many subtle allusions to him. But Jesus’ gifts are superior to those of Moses: his water ‘wells up for eternal life’ (4:14); the food that he provides is ‘living bread’ that will enable people to live for ever (6:50f.). ‘The Jews’ search the Scriptures to find eternal life, but it is Jesus who brings it (5:39f.). Jesus alone has seen God (1:18).

     On the moral side Torah includes the Decalogue (‘Ten Commandments’), teaching on loving God and neighbour, and many instructions on generosity and kindness. For Casey, John’s Jesus replaces ‘the Old Testament commandments to love God and do the Law’ with his new love command. But Jesus in John assumes that God must be honoured (e.g.
5:23). His ‘love command’ affirms Torah’s teaching on human relationships by summing up its essence (cf. Mk 12:28–34 par, quoting Lev. 19:18), just as the rabbis Akiba and Hillel are reported to have done. He gives it a new grounding in his own love (13:34; 15:12, 17), but it is still the ‘old’ commandment (cf. 1 Jn 2:7). John takes Torah’s moral prescriptions for granted, including its teaching on lying, murder, and theft (8:41, 44; 12:6) and, presumably, faithfulness within marriage (4:16–19). He also assumes its doctrines of God as life-giver and judge (5:26f.), holy and righteous (17:11, 25), loving and caring for humanity (3:16; cf. his use of ‘father’ for God), and as having sovereign authority that he can delegate (e.g. 17:2).

     John’s statement that ‘the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (
1:17) is sometimes read as depicting an opposition between Torah and Jesus. But 1:17 contains no adversative; rather it explicates 1:16, ‘from his fulness we have all received one gracious gift instead of another’. John acknowledges Torah as God’s gracious gift; but he sees the revelation provided by Jesus as even greater. God’s revelation through Moses is still valuable, as Christians recognize in using Jewish Scripture as their ‘Old Testament’.

Discovering John
Replacement Theology
     My Take

     Many folks dismiss the Bible as nonsense. They see the modern Jewish State as purely an accident of history. Would they still consider it a coincidence if they actually knew Israel's history? Let's face it; there are lots of things in the Bible that remain a mystery. Scot McKnight calls theses mysteries blue parakeets. (The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible) If anyone, including scholars had been asked in the 19th century about the prophecies of a new Israel they would have dismissed it outright or spiritualized it.

     Replacement Theology says that when most, not all, of Israel rejected Jesus Christ as the prophesied Messiah they rejected God and God's plan. Therefore God was through with them. This means there are no unfulfilled prophecies for the Jewish people. In other words, they have no Biblical future and no spiritual prospects without Jesus Christ.

     If the Jewish people can no longer be seen in a Biblical context it both adds and removes problems for the Jewish-Islam conflict. To build a confidant theology around
Acts 16:31 demands you dismiss much of scripture. According to what he wrote, even Paul would not subscribe to Martin Luther's anti-Semitism or the idea that all of the covenant promises given to Abraham have somehow been transferred to the church. That is Replacement Theology.

     Is it not ironical that much of what God does is not spiritual or allegorical, but literal? It remains for us to spiritualize or allegorize the fact that Israel came to life in a day, just as the Bible says it would.


     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary 2009 - 2018.

Articles
Josiah's Death
     The mourning of Hadad-rimmon

          The mourning of Hadad-rimmon is therefore the mourning for the calamity which befel Israel at Hadad-rimmon in the death of the good king Josiah, who was mortally wounded in the valley Megiddo, according to 2 Chron. 35:22ff., so that he very soon gave up the ghost. The death of this most pious of all the kings of Judah was bewailed by the people, especially the righteous members of the nation, so bitterly, that not only did the prophet Jeremiah compose an elegy on his death, but other singers, both male and female, bewailed him in dirges, which were placed in a collection of elegiac songs, and preserved in Israel till long after the captivity (2 Chron. 35:25). Zechariah compares the lamentation for the putting of the Messiah to death to this great national mourning.

     
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 20

     “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Jeremiah 31:3.

     Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells his Church his love thoughts. “He does not think it enough behind her back to tell it, but in her very presence he says, ‘Thou art all fair, my love.’ It is true, this is not his ordinary method; he is a wise lover, and knows when to keep back the intimation of love and when to let it out; but there are times when he will make no secret of it; times when he will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of his people” (R. Erskine’s Sermons). The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits of the love of Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more sure than either of these. If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the saint personally of the Saviour’s love to him, the evidence would not be one whit more satisfactory than that which is borne in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Ask those of the Lord’s people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ towards them has been a fact so clear and sure, that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence. Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master’s affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, “Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.


          Evening - December 20

     “Call thy labourers, and give them their hire.” --- Matthew 20:8.

     God is a good paymaster; he pays his servants while at work as well as when they have done it; and one of his payments is this: an easy conscience. If you have spoken faithfully of Jesus to one person, when you go to bed at night you feel happy in thinking, “I have this day discharged my conscience of that man’s blood.” There is a great comfort in doing something for Jesus. Oh, what a happiness to place jewels in his crown, and give him to see of the travail of his soul! There is also very great reward in watching the first buddings of conviction in a soul! To say of that girl in the class, “She is tender of heart, I do hope that there is the Lord’s work within.” To go home and pray over that boy, who said something in the afternoon which made you think he must know more of divine truth than you had feared! Oh, the joy of hope! But as for the joy of success! it is unspeakable. This joy, overwhelming as it is, is a hungry thing—you pine for more of it. To be a soul-winner is the happiest thing in the world. With every soul you bring to Christ, you get a new heaven upon earth. But who can conceive the bliss which awaits us above! Oh, how sweet is that sentence, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” Do you know what the joy of Christ is over a saved sinner? This is the very joy which we are to possess in heaven. Yes, when he mounts the throne, you shall mount with him. When the heavens ring with “Well done, well done,” you shall partake in the reward; you have toiled with him, you have suffered with him, you shall now reign with him; you have sown with him, you shall reap with him; your face was covered with sweat like his, and your soul was grieved for the sins of men as his soul was, now shall your face be bright with heaven’s splendour as is his countenance, and now shall your soul be filled with beatific joys even as his soul is.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     December 20

          WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS

     Nahum Tate, 1652–1715

     Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

     In the spring of the year, the lambing season, shepherds in ancient times would sit all night beside their flocks, watching for wolves or other dangers and even feeding orphan lambs with milk on a soaked rag. No doubt this is why these shepherds were seated on the ground the night Jesus was born, for biblical scholars believe the event was actually some time in April. It would be natural for these humble men to be fearful, not only for themselves but also for their flock, when the brilliant light and the voices of the angels pierced the silent night. But with what wonder and exultation they must have heard the astounding news! Are we surprised that they forgot their duty to their flocks and hastened joyfully, though perhaps doubtfully, to see the Holy Babe in the manger with their own eyes?

     This clearly written, colorful narrative of the angels’ announcement to the shepherds was written by Nahum Tate, the son of an Irish clergyman. After education at Trinity College, Dublin, he was appointed Poet Laureate of England during the reign of William and Mary. His life as a drunkard and a spendthrift resulted in degradation, however, and he died at the age of 63 in a debtor’s refuge in London, England.

     No doubt the popularity of this carol has been enhanced by the tuneful melody, which has been adapted from a work by master composer George Frederick Handel.

     While shepherds watch’ed their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around, and glory shone around.
     “Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind; “glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind.”
     “To you in David’s town this day is born, of David’s line, the Savior who is Christ the Lord, and this shall be the sign;
     “The heav’nly Babe you there shall find to human view displayed, all meanly wrapt in swathing bands and in a manger laid.”
     “All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace: Good will henceforth from heav’n to men begin and never cease!”


     For Today: Luke 2:8–14; Romans 1:3

     Out of gratefulness to God for the precious gift of His Son, we should be anxious to spread His peace and good will to others whenever we can.

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

     2. Praise and thankfulness result from this doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

     (1). He is to be praised for his royalty. (Psalm 145:1), “I will extoll thee, my God, O King.” The Psalmist calls upon men five times to sing praise to him as King of all the earth. (Psalm 47:6, 7), “Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises to our king, sing praises: for God is the King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding.” All creatures, even the inanimate ones, are called upon to praise him because of the excellency of his name and the supremacy of his glory, in the 148th Psalm throughout, and ver. 13. That Sovereign Power that gave us hearts and tongues, deserves to have them employed in his praises, especially since he hath by the same hand given us so great matter for it. As he is a Sovereign we owe him thankfulness; he doth not deal with us in a way of absolute dominion; he might then have annihilated us, since he hath as full a dominion to reduce us to nothing. Consider the absoluteness of his sovereignty in itself, and you must needs acknowledge that he might have multiplied precepts, enjoined us the observance of more than he hath done; he might have made our tether much shorter; he might exact obedience, and promise no reward for it; he might dash us against the walls, as a potter doth his vessel, and no man have any just reason to say, What dost thou? or, Why dost thou use me so? A greater right is in him to use us in such a manner as we do sensible as well as insensible things. And if you consider his dominion as it is capable to be exercised in a way of unquestionable justice, and submitted to the reason and judgments of creatures, he might have dealt with us in a smarter way than he hath hitherto done; instead of one affliction, we might have had a thousand: he might have shut his own hands from pouring out any good upon us, and ordered innumerable scourges to be prepared for us; but he deals not with us according to the rights of his dominion. He doth not oppress us by the greatness of his majesty; he enters into covenant with us, and allures us by the chords of a man, and shows himself as much a merciful as an absolute Sovereign.

     (2.) As he is a Proprietor, we owe him thankfulness. He is at his own choice whether he will bestow upon us any blessings or no; the more value, therefore, his benefits deserve from us, and the Donor the more sincere returns. If we have anything from the creature to serve our turn, it is by the order of the chief Proprietor. He is the spring of honor, and the fountain of supplies: all creatures are but as the conduit pipes in a great city, which serve several houses with water, but from the great spring. All things are conveyed originally from his own hand, and are dispensed from his exchequer. If this great Sovereign did not order them, you would have no more supplies from a creature than you could have nourishment from a chip: it is the Divine will in everything that doth us good; every favor from creatures is but a smile from God, an evidence of his royalty to move us to pay a respect to him as the great Lord. Some heathens had so much respect for God, as to conclude that his will, and not their prudence, was the chief conductor of their affairs. His goodness to us calls for our thankfulness, but his sovereignty calls for a higher elevation of it: a smile from a prince is more valued, and thought worthy of more gratitude, than a present from a peasant; a small gift from a great person is more gratefully to be received than a larger from an inferior person: the condescension of royalty magnifies the gift. What is man, that thou, so great a Majesty, art mindful of him, to bestow this or that favor upon him? — is but a due reflection upon every blessing we receive. Upon every fresh blessing we should acknowledge the Donor and true Proprietor, and give him the honor of his dominion: his property ought to be thankfully owned in everything we are capable of consecrating to him; as David, after the liberal collection he had made for the building of the temple, owns in his dedication of it to that use the propriety of God: “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14): it was but a return of God’s own to him, as the waters of the river are no other than the return to the sea of what was taken from it. Praise and thankfulness is a rent due from all mankind, and from every creature, to the great Landlord, since all are tenants, and hold by him at his will. “Every creature in heaven and earth, and under the earth, and in the sea,” were heard, by John, to ascribe “blessing, honor, glory, and power, to Him that sits on the throne” (Rev. 5:13). We are as much bound to the sovereignty of God for his preservation of us, as for his creation of us; we are no less obliged to him that preserves our beings when exposed to dangers, than we are for bestowing a being upon us when we were not capable of danger. Thankfulness is due to this Sovereign for public concerns. Hath he not preserved the ship of his church in the midst of whistling winds and roaring waves; in the midst of the combats of men and devils; and rescued it often when it hath been near shipwrecked?

     3. How should we be induced from hence to promote the honor of this Sovereign! We should advance him as supreme, and all our actions should concur in his honor: we should return to his glory what we have received from his sovereignty, and enjoy by his mercy he that is the superior of all, ought to be the end of all. This is the harmony of the creation; that which is of an inferior nature is ordered to the service of that which is of a more excellent nature; thus water and earth, that have a lower being, are employed for the honor and beauty of the plants of the earth, who are more excellent in having a principle of a growing life: these plants are again subservient to the beasts and birds, which exceed them in a principle of sense, which the others want: those beasts and birds are ordered for the good of man, who is superior to them in a principle of reason, and is invested with a dominion over them. Man having God for his superior, ought as much to serve the glory of God, as other things are designed to be useful to man. Other governments are intended for the good of the community, the chief end is not the good of the governors themselves: but God being every way sovereign, the sovereign Being, giving being to all things, the sovereign Ruler, giving order and preservation to all things, is also the end of all things, to whose glory and honor all things, all creatures, are to be subservient; “for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory for ever” (Rom. 11:36): of him, as the efficient cause; through him, as the preserving cause; to him, as the final cause. All our actions and thoughts ought to be addressed to his glory; our whole beings ought to be consecrated to his honor, though we should have no reward but the honor of having been subservient to the end of our creation: so much doth the excellency and majesty of God, infinitely elevated above us, challenge of us. Subjects use to value the safety, honor, and satisfaction of a good prince above their own: David is accounted worth ten thousand of the people; and some of his courtiers thought themselves obliged to venture their lives for his satisfaction in so mean a thing as a little water from the well of Bethlehem. Doth not so great, so good a Sovereign as God, deserve the same affection from us? “Do we swear,” saith a heathen, “to prefer none before Caesar, and have we not greater reason to prefer none before God?” It is a justice due from us to God to maintain his glory, as it is a justice to preserve the right and property of another. As God would lay aside his Deity if he did deny himself, so a creature acts irregularly, and out of the rank of a creature, if it doth not deny itself for God. He that makes himself his own end, makes himself his own sovereign.

     To napkin up a gift he hath bestowed upon us, or to employ what we possess solely to our own glory, to use anything barely for ourselves, without respect to God, is to apply it to a wrong use, and to injure God in his propriety, and the end of his donation. What we have ought to be used for the honor of God: he retains the dominion and lordship, though he grants us the use: we are but stewards, not proprietors, in regard to God, who expects an account from us, how we have employed his goods to his honor. The kingdom of God is to be advanced by us: we are to pray that his kingdom may come: we are to endeavor that his kingdom may come, that is, that God may be known to be the chief Sovereign; that his dominion, which was obscured by Adam’s fall, may be more manifested; that his subjects, which are suppressed in the world, may be supported; his laws, which are violated by the rebellions of men, may be more obeyed; and his enemies be fully subdued by his final judgment, the last evidence of his dominion in this state of the world; that the empire of sin and the devil may be abolished, and the kingdom of God perfected, that none may rule but the great and rightful Sovereign. Thus while we endeavor to advance the honor of his throne, we shall not want an honor to ourselves. He is too gracious a Sovereign to neglect them that are mindful of his glory; “those that honor him, he will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30).

     4. Fear and reverence of God in himself, and in his actions, is a duty incumbent on us from this doctrine (Jer. 10:7): “Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?” The ingratitude of the world is taxed in not reverencing God as a great king, who had given so many marks of his royal government among them. The prophet wonders there was no fear of so great a King in the world, since, “among all the wise men of the nations, and among all their kings, there is none like unto this;” no more reverence of him, since none ruled so wisely, nor any ruled so graciously. The dominion of God is one of the first sparks that gives fire to religion and worship, considered with the goodness of this Sovereign (Psalm 22:27, 28): “All the nations shall worship before thee, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is Governor among the nations.” Epicurus, who thought God careless of human affairs, leaving them at hap-hazard, to the conduct of men’s wisdom and mutability of fortune, yet acknowledged that God ought to be worshipped by man for the excellency of his nature, and the greatness of his majesty. How should we reverence that God, that hath a throne encompassed with such glorious creatures as angels, whose faces we are not able to behold, though shadowed in assumed bodies! how should we fear the Lord of Hosts, that hath so many armies at his command in the heavens above, and in the earth below, whom he can dispose to the exact obedience of his will! how should men be afraid to censure any of his actions, to sit judge of their Judge, and call him to an account at their bar! how should such an earth-worm, a mean animal as man, be afraid to speak irreverently of so great a King among his pots and strumpets! Not to fear him, not to reverence him, is to pull his throne from under him, and make him of a lower authority than ourselves, or any creature that we reverence more.

     5. Prayer to God, and trust in him, is inferred from his sovereignty. If he be the supreme Sovereign, holding heaven and earth in his hand, disposing all things here below, not committing everything to the influence of the stars or the humors of men, we ought, then, to apply ourselves to him in every case, implore the exercise of his authority; we hereby own his peculiar right over all things and persons. He only is the supreme Head in all causes, and over all-persons: “Thine is the kingdom” (Matt. 6:13), concludes the Lord’s prayer, both as a motive to pray, and a ground to expect what we want. He that believes not God’s government will think it needless to call upon him, will expect no refuge under him in a strait, but make some creature need his support. If we do not seek to him, but rely upon the dominion we have over our own possessions, or upon the authority of anything else, we disown his supremacy and dominion over all things; we have as good an opinion of ourselves, or of some creatures, as we ought to have of God; we think ourselves, or some natural cause we seek to or depend upon, as much sovereigns as he, and that all things which concern us are as much at the dispose of an inferior, as of the great Lord. It is, indeed, to make a god of ourselves, or of the creature; when we seek to him, upon all occasions, we own this Divine eminency, we acknowledge that it is by him men’s hearts are ordered, the world governed, all things disposed; and God, that is jealous of his glory, is best pleased with any duty in the creature that doth acknowledge and desire the glorification of it, which prayer and dependence on him doth in a special manner, desiring the exercise of his authority, and the preservation of it in ordering the affairs of the world.

     6. Obedience naturally results from this doctrine. As his justice requires fear, his goodness thankfulness, his faithfulness trust, his truth belief, so his sovereignty, in the nature of it, demands obedience: as it is most fit he should rule, in regard of his excellency, so it is most fit we should obey him in regard of his authority: he is our Lord, and we his subjects; he is our Master, and we his servants; it is righteous we should observe him, and conform to his will: he is everything that speaks an authority to command us, and that can challenge an humility in us to obey. As that is the truest doctrine that subjects us most to God, so he is the truest Christian that doth, in his practice, most acknowledge this subjection; and as sovereignty is the first notion a creature can have of God, so obedience is the first and chief thing conscience reflects upon the creature. Man holds all of God; and therefore owes all the operations capable to be produced by those faculties to that Sovereign Power that endowed him with them. Man had no being but from him; he hath no motion without him; he should, therefore, have no being but for him; and no motion but according to him: to call him Lord, and not to act in subjection to him, is to mock and put a scorn upon him (Luke 6:46): “Why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?” It is like the crucifying Christ under the title of a King. It is not by professions, but by observance of the laws of a prince, that we manifest a due respect to him: by that we reverence that authority that enacted them, and the prudence that framed them.

The Existence and Attributes of God

Preaching
     Various | Biola University


Preaching into the Wind






Preaching James





Cynical Preaching






Discipling with Preaching




Hebrews 11 - 13
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek


Hebrews 11:1-6
m1-615 | 9-26-2012






Moses:A Model Of Faith Hebrews 11:24-29
s1-597 | 9-30-2012





Hebrews 11:7-29
m1-616 | 10-03-2012






Even If Faith Hebrews 11:35-40
s1-598 | 10-07-2012





Hebrews 11:30-40
m1-617 | 10-16-2012






Correction From A Loving Father
Hebrews 12:5-11
s1-599 | 10-13-2012





Hebrews 12
m1-618 | 10-17-2012






Hung Up On Bitterness Hebrews 12:14-15
s1-600 | 10-21-2012





Hebrews 13
m1-619 | 10-24-2012






Prophecy Update Hebrews 12:5-15
g-190 | 12-31-2012




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Hebrews 11 - 13
Lean-into-GOD






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Todd Pickett | Biola University





The Judicial Branch
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Refuting Darwinian Evolution
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Expanding the Bandwidth of Discipleship
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When the Digital World Meets Reality
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A Theology of Media for Coders and Artists
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Living in a Visually-Oriented Culture
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Structuring the Scholarly Imagination
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A Theological Aesthetics of Collaborative Dissent
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The Light of Christmas
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Hearing God
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