The Throne in HeavenRevelation 4 1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
The Scroll and the LambRevelation 5 1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
The Seven SealsRevelation 6 1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
The 144,000 of Israel SealedRevelation 7 1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
A Great Multitude from Every Nation9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The Seventh Seal and the Golden CenserRevelation 8 1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
The Seven Trumpets6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.
12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.
13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
What I'm Reading
Was Jesus Born On Christmas Day?
By J. Warner Wallace 12/25/2017
Jesus was not born on December 25th. When was He born and why do we celebrate His birth during the December Christmas Season? While the Bible is silent about the precise month or day on which Jesus was born, a careful investigation of the indirect (circumstantial) evidence of Scripture provides us with a reasonable time frame. Here’s what we do know:
Jesus’ Birthday Based on the Pattern of Shepherds | It was the Jewish custom for shepherds to send their sheep into the fields in early Spring (at about the time of the Passover). They didn’t bring these sheep home until the first rains started in early to mid-fall. Shepherds would stay with the sheep to insure their safety, both day and night, until they drove their flock back early in the month of “Marh-esvan” (sometime in October). The New Testament associates the birth of Jesus with this season of shepherding:
(Lk 2:8) 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. ESV
It is clear the shepherds were living in the fields with their sheep. The Greek word used here for “staying out” is agraulountes. It means that they were staying overnight; the shepherds were camping out, so to speak. They were actually living with their flock. Jesus was born within the range of time when shepherds drove their sheep into the open fields and stayed with them from May to October.
Jesus’ Birthday Based on the Pattern of Priests | According to Luke, John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias was a priest of the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5). After the return from captivity in Babylon and the restoration of the Temple, the priestly divisions once again began to serve. They attended the Temple in a particular order, and Josephus reported the first division (Jehoiarib) was on duty when Jerusalem was attacked during the first week of April, AD 70. Scholars have worked backward from this point to pinpoint the months in which Zacharias served. Many conclude Zacharias was serving in the Temple in June or December. It was during this time he was visited by an angel:
(Lk 1:8–11) 8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. ESV
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Obama Administration Joins with the Jackals at the UN to Betray Israel
By Harry G. Hutchison 12/23/16
In an astonishing display of craven petulance, the Obama Administration sent one (final) parting shot to Israel & Prime Minister Netanyahu by refusing to veto a United Nations (U.N.) resolution, which absurdly insists that Jewish settlements, including the Jewish Quarter (in Jerusalem), are occupied territory and accordingly, are barriers to peace.
By joining with what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “the jackals”—the permanent, global, virulently anti-Israel caucus at the United Nations—to pass U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 2334 to condemn Israel, the Obama Administration enlarges the “problem from hell.”
This problem increases because the Administration provides diplomatic cover for genocidal aggression incited by anti-Israel groups such as Hamas and Fatah. This move also leaves our strongest ally in the region vulnerable to the forces of evil that include groups preparing to bring false criminal charges at the International Criminal Court. President Obama’s decision ignores the fact that the settlement question exists because peace between Israel and the Palestinians has proven to be elusive largely because Palestinian leaders prefer to propagate grievances rather than engage in serious direct negotiations.
Beyond this resolution’s adverse legal consequences, it also creates a pathway for additional diplomatic aggression during the last days of the Obama Administration. This pathway includes the possibility that President Obama will push for another U.N. resolution to set the parameters for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian accord, one that likely also violates international law.
Just as tanks and missiles are instruments of military aggression, improvised explosive devices, pressure cooker bombs, and 18-wheelers are means of terror. Add to this list those U.N. resolutions like this one that abandon U.S. policy and expose the Middle East’s only democracy to diplomatic and legal terrorism. Representing a dramatic shift in U.S. policy, UNSC resolution 2334 is designed to shrink Israel’s sovereignty, eviscerate its borders and reduce its ability to defend itself against terror attacks. These attacks are launched with the blessings of the Palestinian Authority, which promotes terror by paying bounties to terrorists and members of their families.
Harry G. Hutchison is Senior Counsel and Director of Policy for the ACLJ. He has served as a Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, a Visiting Fellow at Harris Manchester College, the University of Oxford, and a Founding Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Law & Public Policy at Oxford. His research interests include international affairs, corporate governance, labor and employment law, religious liberty and the application of economics to a variety of topics. He has produced more than fifty law review articles, review essays, public policy studies, and Civil Rights opinions. Most of his articles apply economics and history to a wide variety of topics. His last article, Hobby Lobby, Corporate Law and Unsustainable Liberalism: A Reply to Chief Justice Strine, was published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.
Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller?
By Nicholas Kristof
What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century? Can one be a Christian and yet doubt the virgin birth or the Resurrection? I put these questions to the Rev. Timothy Keller, an evangelical Christian pastor and best-selling author who is among the most prominent evangelical thinkers today. Our conversation has been edited for space and clarity.
KRISTOF Tim, I deeply admire Jesus and his message, but am also skeptical of themes that have been integral to Christianity — the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and so on. Since this is the Christmas season, let’s start with the virgin birth. Is that an essential belief, or can I mix and match?
KELLER If something is truly integral to a body of thought, you can’t remove it without destabilizing the whole thing. A religion can’t be whatever we desire it to be. If I’m a member of the board of Greenpeace and I come out and say climate change is a hoax, they will ask me to resign. I could call them narrow-minded, but they would rightly say that there have to be some boundaries for dissent or you couldn’t have a cohesive, integrated organization. And they’d be right. It’s the same with any religious faith.
But the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life, like the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, don’t even mention the virgin birth. And the reference in Luke to the virgin birth was written in a different kind of Greek and was probably added later. So isn’t there room for skepticism?
If it were simply a legend that could be dismissed, it would damage the fabric of the Christian message. Luc Ferry, looking at the Gospel of John’s account of Jesus’ birth into the world, said this taught that the power behind the whole universe was not just an impersonal cosmic principle but a real person who could be known and loved. That scandalized Greek and Roman philosophers but was revolutionary in the history of human thought. It led to a new emphasis on the importance of the individual person and on love as the supreme virtue, because Jesus was not just a great human being, but the pre-existing Creator God, miraculously come to earth as a human being.
Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001. He grew up on a farm in Oregon, graduated from Harvard, studied law at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and then studied Arabic in Cairo. He was a longtime foreign correspondent for The New York Times and speaks Chinese, Japanese and other languages.
Mr. Kristof has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of Tiananmen Square and the genocide in Darfur, along with many humanitarian awards such as the Anne Frank Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he has written several books, most recently “A Path Appears” (September 2014) about how to make a difference. Their last book, “Half the Sky,” was a No. 1 best seller.
Mr. Kristof, who has lived on four continents and traveled to more than 150 countries, was The New York Times’s first blogger and has millions of followers across social media platforms.
Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn are the parents of Gregory, Geoffrey and Caroline. Mr. Kristof enjoys running, backpacking and having his Chinese corrected by his children. Read his blog, On the Ground. Follow him on Google+, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. His column appears every Sunday and Thursday.
God Came Down
By David Mathis 12/22/16
The allure of Christmas has a strange power over us, even the unbelieving and seemingly secularized. The season has a kind a draw, a type of “spirit” or “magic,” that makes the winter solstice festival every bit as big today, in an increasingly post-Christian society, as it was in the 1950s. (Ps 96:11–13) 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Why does Christmas have this magnetism, even in a society that has tried to empty it of its origin in Christ? The real magic of Christmas is not gifts and goodies, new toys and familiar traditions, indoor warmth and outdoor snow. What lies at the very heart of Christmas, and whispers even to souls seeking to “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18), is the most stunning and significant fact in the history of the world: that God himself became one of us. The God who created our world, and us humans at the apex of his creation, came into our world as human not just for show, but for our salvation.
Christmas is supernatural. And our naturalistic society is starving deep down for something beyond the natural, rarely admitting it, and not really knowing why. Christmas taps into something arcane in the human soul and woos us, even when it’s inconsistent with a mind that professes unbelief.
He Came from Heaven | For those of us who do gladly confess the Christ of Christmas — as our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure — we know why Christmas is indeed enchanted. Because at the very heart is the essence of the supernatural: God himself entering into our realm. At Christmas God “came down” (Genesis 11:5), not just to see the Babel built of human sin, and inflict righteous judgment from the outside, but to be human and work his mercy from within.
The glory of Christmas is not that it marks the birth of some great religious leader, but that it celebrates the long-anticipated coming of God himself — the arrival for which God wired our souls from the beginning to ache. “Bethlehem . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
(Ps 96:11–13) 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 147He Heals the Brokenhearted
147 Praise the LORD!
147:1 For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
The Nativity Of Our Lord
By Russell E. Saltzman 12/25/2014
He was born into the silence of this world. Because there was no room for him in a proper house the night he was born, the Gospel of Luke reports, he was born of his mother with Joseph nearby out there in the stable with the animals. Probably there was no one interested. That was the silence of that night. Who would care, anyway? Just one more peasant child, and who celebrates or notices or marks the birth of yet another peasant arriving in this world? Have you ever heard a prayer of thanks for the children born in a United Nations refugee camp? The children of peasants are always born into silence.
It remained so silent that God in heaven decided to break that silence himself and let a few people know about it. So he sent an angel to the people who were nearest to the birth. He sent first one angel, and then a whole slew of angels, to the shepherds. That wasn’t the most obvious choice God could have made.
We have beautiful songs about those shepherds abiding in their fields by night, and the angels who visited them, songs filled with sentiment and warmth. We’ve even invented a legendary mythology about them. Shepherds are humble and kind; real sweethearts, gentle guys tending sheep as they do; and that littlest shepherd plays a fine drum, doesn’t he?
Reality is often different. Shepherds, on the whole, were regarded as coarse men, more like the Teamsters Union in the 1970s than the alabaster figurines on the mantle. First century shepherds, says Jeremais citing Philo, were regarded as “unpleasant and inglorious.” They were untrustworthy loners, unsettled, essentially homeless. Along with pickpockets, shepherds were forbidden to give testimony in Jewish courts.
But the angels went to them. Angels got sent to a Teamsters convention, sent to shepherds who had no place in this world to call their home. How about that? God found people more inglorious than peasants and sent them angels to sing Christ’s birth. The silence of his birth was broken by the glory of God shining on homeless nobodies.
Russell E. Saltzman is dean of the Great Plains Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church, an online homilist for the Christian Leadership Center at the University of Mary, and author of The Pastor’s Page and Other Small Essays. His previous On the Square articles can be found here. He is author of Christian Sexuality: Normative and Pastoral Principles.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
1. Having seen that the dominion of sin, ever since the first man was
brought under it, not only extends to the whole race, but has complete
possession of every soul, it now remains to consider more closely,
whether from the period of being thus enslaved, we have been deprived
of all liberty; and if any portion still remains, how far its power
extends. In order to facilitate the answer to this question it may be
proper in passing to point out the course which our inquiry ought to
take. The best method of avoiding error is to consider the dangers
which beset us on either side. Man being devoid of all uprightness,
immediately takes occasion from the fact to indulge in sloth, and
having no ability in himself for the study of righteousness, treats the
whole subject as if he had no concern in it. On the other hand, man
cannot arrogate any thing, however minute, to himself, without robbing
God of his honour, and through rash confidence subjecting himself to a
fall. To keep free of both these rocks,  our proper course will
be, first, to show that man has no remaining good in himself, and is
beset on every side by the most miserable destitution; and then teach
him to aspire to the goodness of which he is devoid, and the liberty of
which he has been deprived: thus giving him a stronger stimulus to
exertion than he could have if he imagined himself possessed of the
highest virtue. How necessary the latter point is, everybody sees. As
to the former, several seem to entertain more doubt than they ought.
For it being admitted as incontrovertible that man is not to be denied
any thing that is truly his own, it ought also to be admitted, that he
is to be deprived of every thing like false boasting. If man had no
title to glory in himself, when, by the kindness of his Maker, he was
distinguished by the noblest ornaments, how much ought he to be humbled
now, when his ingratitude has thrust him down from the highest glory to
extreme ignominy? At the time when he was raised to the highest
pinnacle of honour, all which Scripture attributes to him is, that he
was created in the image of God, thereby intimating that the blessings
in which his happiness consisted were not his own, but derived by
divine communication. What remains, therefore, now that man is stript
of all his glory, than to acknowledge the God for whose kindness he
failed to be grateful, when he was loaded with the riches of his grace?
Not having glorified him by the acknowledgment of his blessings, now,
at least, he ought to glorify him by the confession of his poverty. In
truth, it is no less useful for us to renounce all the praise of wisdom
and virtue, than to aim at the glory of God. Those who invest us with
more than we possess only add sacrilege to our ruin. For when we are
taught to contend in our own strength, what more is done than to lift
us up, and then leave us to lean on a reed which immediately gives way?
Indeed, our strength is exaggerated when it is compared to a reed. All
that foolish men invent and prattle on this subject is mere smoke.
Wherefore, it is not without reason that Augustine so often repeats the
well-known saying, that free will is more destroyed than established by
its defenders (August. in Evang. Joann. Tract. 81). It was necessary to
premise this much for the sake of some who, when they hear that human
virtue is totally overthrown, in order that the power of God in man may
be exalted, conceive an utter dislike to the whole subject, as if it
were perilous, not to say superfluous, whereas it is manifestly both
most necessary and most useful. 
2. Having lately observed, that the faculties of the soul are seated in the mind and the heart, let us now consider how far the power of each extends. Philosophers generally maintain, that reason dwells in the mind like a lamp, throwing light on all its counsels, and like a queen, governing the will--that it is so pervaded with divine light as to be able to consult for the best, and so endued with vigour as to be able perfectly to command; that, on the contrary, sense is dull and short-sighted, always creeping on the ground, grovelling among inferior objects, and never rising to true vision; that the appetite, when it obeys reason, and does not allow itself to be subjugated by sense, is borne to the study of virtue, holds a straight course, and becomes transformed into will; but that when enslaved by sense, it is corrupted and depraved so as to degenerate into lust. In a word, since, according to their opinion, the faculties which I have mentioned above, namely, intellect, sense, and appetite, or will (the latter being the term in ordinary use), are seated in the soul, they maintain that the intellect is endued with reason, the best guide to a virtuous and happy life, provided it duly avails itself of its excellence, and exerts the power with which it is naturally endued; that, at the same time, the inferior movement, which is termed sense, and by which the mind is led away to error and delusion, is of such a nature, that it can be tamed and gradually subdued by the power of reason. To the will, moreover, they give an intermediate place between reason and sense, regarding it as possessed of full power and freedom, whether to obey the former, or yield itself up to be hurried away by the latter.
3. Sometimes, indeed, convinced by their own experience, they do not deny how difficult it is for man to establish the supremacy of reason in himself, inasmuch as he is at one time enticed by the allurements of pleasure; at another, deluded by a false semblance of good; and, at another, impelled by unruly passions, and pulled away (to use Plato's expression) as by ropes or sinews (Plato, De Legibus, lib. 1). For this reason, Cicero says, that the sparks given forth by nature are immediately extinguished by false opinions and depraved manners (Cicero, Tusc, Quæst. lib. 3). They confess that when once diseases of this description have seized upon the mind, their course is too impetuous to be easily checked, and they hesitate not to compare them to fiery steeds, which, having thrown off the charioteer, scamper away without restraint. At the same time, they set it down as beyond dispute, that virtue and vice are in our own power. For (say they), If it is in our choice to do this thing or that, it must also be in our choice not to do it: Again, If it is in our choice not to act, it must also be in our choice to act: But both in doing and abstaining we seem to act from free choice; and, therefore, if we do good when we please, we can also refrain from doing it; if we commit evil, we can also shun the commission of it (Aristot. Ethic. lib. 3 c. 5). Nay, some have gone the length of boasting (Seneca, passim), that it is the gift of the gods that we live, but our own that we live well and purely. Hence Cicero says, in the person of Cotta, that as every one acquires virtue for himself, no wise man ever thanked the gods for it. "We are praised," says he, "for virtue, and glory in virtue, but this could not be, if virtue were the gift of God, and not from ourselves," (Cicero, De Nat. Deorum). A little after, he adds, "The opinion of all mankind is, that fortune must be sought from God, wisdom from ourselves." Thus, in short, all philosophers maintain, that human reason is sufficient for right government; that the will, which is inferior to it, may indeed be solicited to evil by sense, but having a free choice, there is nothing to prevent it from following reason as its guide in all things.
4. Among ecclesiastical writers, although there is none who did not acknowledge that sound reason in man was seriously injured by sin, and the will greatly entangled by vicious desires, yet many of them made too near an approach to the philosophers. Some of the most ancient writers appear to me to have exalted human strengths from a fear that a distinct acknowledgment of its impotence might expose them to the jeers of the philosophers with whom they were disputing, and also furnish the flesh, already too much disinclined to good, with a new pretext for sloth. Therefore, to avoid teaching anything which the majority of mankind might deem absurd, they made it their study, in some measure, to reconcile the doctrine of Scripture with the dogmas of philosophy, at the same time making it their special care not to furnish any occasion to sloth. This is obvious from their words. Chrysostom says, "God having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice; he does not keep back the unwilling, but embraces the willing," (Homil. de Prodit. Judae). Again, "He who is wicked is often, when he so chooses, changed into good, and he who is good falls through sluggishness, and becomes wicked. For the Lord has made our nature free. He does not lay us under necessity, but furnishing apposite remedies, allows the whole to depend on the views of the patient," (Homily. 18, in Genesis). Again, "As we can do nothing rightly until aided by the grace of God, so, until we bring forward what is our own, we cannot obtain favour from above," (Homily. 52). He had previously said, "As the whole is not done by divine assistance, we ourselves must of necessity bring somewhat." Accordingly, one of his common expressions is, "Let us bring what is our own, God will supply the rest." In unison with this, Jerome says, "It is ours to begin, God's to finish: it is ours to offer what we can, his to supply what we cannot," (Dialog. 3 Cont. Pelag).
From these sentences, you see that they have bestowed on man more than he possesses for the study of virtue, because they thought that they could not shake off our innate sluggishness unless they argued that we sin by ourselves alone. With what skill they have thus argued we shall afterwards see. Assuredly we shall soon be able to show that the sentiments just quoted are most inaccurate.  Moreover although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the powers of the human will, yet all ancient theologians, with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings. It is needless, therefore, to be more particular in enumerating every separate opinion. It will be sufficient to extract from each as much as the exposition of the subject seems to require. Succeeding writers (every one courting applause for his acuteness in the defence of human nature) have uniformly, one after the other, gone more widely astray, until the common dogma came to be, that man was corrupted only in the sensual part of his nature, that reason remained entire, and will was scarcely impaired. Still the expression was often on their lips, that man's natural gifts were corrupted, and his supernatural  taken away. Of the thing implied by these words, however, scarcely one in a hundred had any distinct idea. Certainly, were I desirous clearly to express what the corruption of nature is, I would not seek for any other expression. But it is of great importance attentively to consider what the power of man now is when vitiated in all the parts of his nature, and deprived of supernatural gifts. Persons professing to be the disciples of Christ have spoken too much like the philosophers on this subject. As if human nature were still in its integrity, the term free will has always been in use among the Latins, while the Greeks were not ashamed to use a still more presumptuous term--viz. aujtexouvsion, as if man had still full power in himself.
But since the principle entertained by all, even the vulgar, is, that man is endued with free will, while some, who would be thought more skilful, know not how far its power extends; it will be necessary, first to consider the meaning of the term, and afterwards ascertain, by a simple appeal to Scripture, what man's natural power for good or evil is. The thing meant by free will, though constantly occurring in all writers, few have defined. Origen,  however, seems to have stated the common opinion when he said, It is a power of reason to discern between good and evil; of will, to choose the one or other. Nor does Augustine differ from him when he says, It is a power of reason and will to choose the good, grace assisting,--to choose the bad, grace desisting. Bernard, while aiming at greater acuteness, speaks more obscurely, when he describes it as consent, in regard to the indestructible liberty of the wills and the inalienable judgment of reason. Anselm's definition is not very intelligible to ordinary understandings. He calls it a power of preserving rectitude on its own account. Peter Lombard, and the Schoolmen, preferred the definition of Augustine, both because it was clearer, and did not exclude divine grace, without which they saw that the will was not sufficient of itself. They however add something of their own, because they deemed it either better or necessary for clearer explanation. First, they agree that the term will (arbitrium) has reference to reason, whose office it is to distinguish between good and evil, and that the epithet free properly belongs to the will, which may incline either way. Wherefore, since liberty properly belongs to the will, Thomas Aquinas says (Part 1 Quast. 83, Art. 3), that the most congruous definition is to call free will an elective power, combining intelligence and appetite, but inclining more to appetite. We now perceive in what it is they suppose the faculty of free will to consist--viz. in reason and will. It remains to see how much they attribute to each.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Say yes to God
12/27/2017 Bob Gass
‘‘Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”’
(Is 6:8) 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” ESV
William Carey is referred to as ‘the father of modern missions’. But the number of his accomplishments in India was almost equalled by the number of obstacles he overcame just to get there. He was told by a group of ministers, ‘If God wants to save the heathen, young man, He will do it without your help or ours.’ Carey was not a career missionary. He was a young Englishman in poor health with a pregnant wife and small children. He was just like the rest of us – trying to make ends meet and keep life together. But he had something else, a burning question he could not escape: ‘Who will reach the lost in India, if I don’t go?’ Looking back later, Carey realised that the challenges he overcame at home were what qualified him to succeed in his God-given assignment abroad. The same thing happened to Isaiah the prophet: ‘I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people”’ (vv. 8-9 NKJV). But before Isaiah was qualified to go, he needed a life-changing encounter with God. ‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged”’ (vv. 6-7 NKJV). Do you sense God preparing you and getting ready to send you? If so, say yes.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
He suffered an attack of smallpox when he was four-years-old which left him with crippled hands and poor eyesight. Overcoming those handicaps, he studied Copernicus’ works and at age twenty-three became a professor of astronomy. His name was Johannes Kepler, born this day, December 27, 1571. His laws of planetary motion, known as Kepler’s Laws, helped Newton formulate the theory of gravity. Regarding his book on astronomy, Kepler stated: “O, Almighty God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee!…The book is written… It may… well… wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 21 December 27
But the school-days, please God, are numbered. There is no morality in Heaven. The angels never knew (from within) the meaning of the word ought, and the blessed dead have long since gladly forgotten it. This is why Dante's Heaven is so right, and Milton's, with its military discipline, so silly. This also explains-to pick up an earlier point why we have to picture that world in terms which seem almost frivolous. In this world our most momentous actions are impeded. We can picture unimpeded, and therefore delighted, action only by the analogy of our present play and leisure. Thus we get the notion that what is as free as they would have to matter as little.
I said, mind you, that "most" of the behavior which is now duty would be spontaneous and delightful if we were, so to speak, good rose-trees. Most, not all. There is, or might be, martyrdom. We are not called upon to like it. Our Master didn't. But the principle holds, that duty is always conditioned by evil. Martyrdom, by the evil in the persecutor; other duties, by lack of love in myself or by the general diffused evil of the world. In the perfect and eternal world the Law will vanish. But the results of having lived faithfully under it will not.
I am therefore not really deeply worried by the fact that prayer is at present a duty, and even an irksome one. This is humiliating. It is frustrating. It is terribly time-wasting-the worse one is praying, the longer one's prayers take. But we are still only at school. Or, like Donne, "I tune my instrument here at the door." And even now-how can I weaken the words enough, how speak at all without exaggeration?-we have what seem rich moments. Most frequently, perhaps, in our momentary, only just voluntary, ejaculations; refreshments "unimplored, unsought, Happy for man so coming."
But I don't rest much on that; nor would I if it were ten times as much as it is. I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling and contend with the greatest disinclination. For these, perhaps, being nearly all will, come from a deeper level than feeling. In feeling there is so much that is really not ours-so much that comes from weather and health or from the last book read. One thing seems certain. It is no good angling, for the rich moments. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when He catches us, as it were, off our guard. Our preparations to receive Him sometimes have the opposite effect. Doesn't Charles Williams say somewhere that "the altar must often be built in one place in order that the fire from heaven may descend somewhere else"?
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Don’t fast on food if you aren’t feasting on Heaven.
--- John Crowder
Christians desire the preparation of their hearts
as well as the answer of their prayers.
Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. --- James Madison
Skillful listening is the best remedy for loneliness, loquaciousness, and laryngitis.
--- William Arthur Ward
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
since all of them are doubly clothed.
ם 22 She makes her own quilts;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Where the battle’s lost and won
If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord...
--- Jeremiah 4:1.
The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. The Spirit of God apprehends me and I am obliged to get alone with God and fight the battle out before Him. Until this is done, I lose every time. The battle may take one minute or a year, that will depend on me, not on God; but it must be wrestled out alone before God, and I must resolutely go through the hell of a renunciation before Him. Nothing has any power over the man who has fought out the battle before God and won there. If I say—‘I will wait till I get into the circumstances and then put God to the test,’ I shall find I cannot. I must get the thing settled between myself and God in the secret places of my soul where no stranger intermeddles, and then I can go forth with the certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity and disaster and upset are as sure as God’s decree. The reason the battle is not won is because I try to win it in the external world first. Get alone with God, fight it out before Him, settle the matter there once and for all.
In dealing with other people, the line to take is to push them to an issue of will. That is the way abandonment begins. Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God—
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
There was a frontier
I crossed whose passport
was human speech. Looking back
was to silence, to that
wood of hands fumbling
for the unseen thing. I
named it and it was
here. I held out words
to them and they smelled
them. Space gave, time was
eroded. There was one being
would not reply. God,
I whispered, refining
my technique, signalling
to him on the frequencies
I commanded. But always
amid the air's garrulousness
there was one station
that remained closed.
there an alternative
medium? There were some claimed
to be able to call him
down to drink insatiably
at the dark sumps of blood.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
--- 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Regard for the glory of God is as salt that must be served up with every dish. The Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston, of Ettrick: Now First Collected and Reprinted Without Abridgement; Including His Memoirs, Written By Himself (Classic Reprint) The great work of our lives is to glorify him.
This must be the purpose of our natural actions (1 Cor. 10:31), eating, sleeping, walking, and the like. We are under a law as to these things. We may not eat and drink as we please, any more than pray as we please. All must be done in subordination to God, that we may live and, living, may glorify God.
This must be the purpose of our civil actions, our work, buying and selling, and so on (Eph. 6:7). One of the sins of the old world was that they were eating (Matt. 24:38); the word is properly used of beasts eating their food—they had no higher purpose in it than beasts; and in marrying, no eye to God.
This must be the purpose of our moral and religious actions (Zech. 7:5). We must pray, fast, and the like, for God’s glory. This is such a necessary ingredient in our actions that none of them are truly good and acceptable to God without it. Do what we will, it cannot be pleasing service to God if we do not make him our purpose. We should always design to glorify God. And that is done
• when the course of our lives is directed to the glory of God;
• when we live according to God’s Word, taking heed that we swerve not in anything from it;
• when God’s will is the reason as well as the rule of our actions—when we believe a truth because God has said it and do a duty because God has commanded it.
If we do not so, God loses his glory, and we lose our labor.
God is the fountain of our being, and seeing we are of him, we should be to him (Rom. 11:36). God is our creator, preserver, and benefactor. Your being or mine is only a borrowed being from him. Whatever perfection we have is from him, and it is at his cost that we live. As when the waters come from the sea to the earth and go back again by brooks and rivers, so all that we receive and enjoy comes from God and ought to go back to him by being used for his glory. To make ourselves our chief purpose is to make ourselves a god to ourselves; for a creature to be a center to itself and God a means to that end is to blaspheme.
--- Thomas Boston
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Robert and Mary
Robert Moffat was a strong, healthy, young man who loved working outdoors. He was hired by James Smith, owner of Dukinfield Nurseries; but Smith had misgivings, for he knew two things: first, that Robert’s good looks would appeal to his only daughter Mary; second, that Robert wanted to be a missionary.
It happened just as Smith feared. As Robert worked in the gardens, he met Mary and discovered that she, too, was a Christian with an interest in missions (having been educated in a Moravian school). Unknown to her parents, she had secretly prayed two years before that God would send her to Africa.
An intense attachment formed quickly, but when the young couple announced to family members their plans to marry and leave England as missionaries to South Africa, the reaction was violent. Robert’s parents seemed resigned, but the Smiths refused to give their consent. All pleading and imploring failed. At last, with his heart breaking, Robert decided to abandon hope of marriage and leave for the field alone. “From the clearest indications of his providence,” he wrote his parents, “he bids me go out alone. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” So on October 18, 1816, Robert Moffat sailed for South Africa, leaving his heart behind.
He arrived in the field suffering deep loneliness. “I have many difficulties to encounter, being alone,” he wrote his parents. Meanwhile in England, Mary, too, was miserable. Three long years passed, and she finally told Robert in a letter that she had given up all prospect of joining him.
But her next letter a month later contained different news: “They both yesterday calmly resigned me into the hands of the Lord,” she wrote, “declaring they durst no longer withhold me.” Mary quickly packed her trunks, told her anguished parents goodbye with no expectation of ever seeing them again, and left for South Africa. There she and Robert were married before a handful of friends on December 27, 1819. And there they labored side by side for 53 years, becoming one of the greatest husband-wife teams in missionary history.
Do what the LORD wants, And he will give you your heart’s desire. Let the LORD lead you and trust him to help. Then it will be as clear as the noonday sun That you were right. Be patient and trust the LORD. --- Psalm 37:4-7a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
A short synopsis
These two chapters describe in detail the destruction of Babylon which was mentioned earlier in 14:8 and 16:18–21. This approach is typical of John’s style in this book. He introduces things, but does not elaborate on them until later.
The Old Testament background of these two chapters is found in the funeral dirges written to applaud the fall of ancient godless cities: (1) Babylon (cf. Isa. 13, 14, 21 and Jer. 50–51); (2) Tyre (cf. Isa. 23 and Ezek. 26–28); (3) Nineveh (cf. Nahum); and (4) wicked Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 1:1–26; Ezek. 16:51–52).
This concept of a fallen world system that is antagonistic to God is presented in Ps. 2, Dan. 2, and I John 2:15–20.
Revelation uses OT funeral dirges to describe the fall of Rome, the anti-God world empire of Johns’ day. However, this same independent, arrogant, materialistic, anti-God world system is present in every age. It will also ultimately manifest itself as an end-time ruler and world empire. The details that helped John’s reader identify Rome may reappear in the last days. The problem has been that every generation of believers has tried to force Revelation into its day!
This book has first-century relevance, every-century relevance, and last-century relevance. It is best not to push the details. They had meaning; they will have meaning again. But for the great majority of the generations of believers, they are mysteries. It is much better to assert the central truths of the literary units. These are eternally relevant! If the details become strictly literal for the last generations of persecuted believers they will not need a commentator to tell them!
Hope in hard times, the final curtain: Revelation (Study guide commentary series)
of the city of the antichrist
This section expands the vision of the judgment of the seventh cup, briefly described in 16:17–21. It is important to observe that it does not describe what takes place after that judgment, for in it the end comes (16:17). Rather, the passage tells how ‘Babylon’ is made to drain the cup appointed for her (16:19).
The imagery in ch. 17 fluctuates in a complicated fashion. In ch. 12 the dragon with seven heads and ten horns is said to represent the devil (v 9), and in ch. 13 he is an incarnation of the spirit of evil, the antichrist. In ch. 17 the beast supports a woman, seated on it; she is declared to be the city of antichrist (18), and the beast is clearly the empire that maintains her. This use of the symbolism is comprehensible, for in the Akkadian form of the battle of the monster of the sea and the gods of heaven the monster is feminine. The woman and the beast are alternative ways of representing a single power of evil. But further, in v 11 the beast is a king, in whom the nature of the empire is embodied. This accords with the frequent manner of identifying kings and their kingdoms in apocalyptic writings (see especially Dn. 2:38–44; 7:2–8, 15–26). The portrayal of the woman who represents the city of the Antichrist in this chapter is contrasted in extremist fashion with the description of the woman who represents the city of God in chs. 19 and 21–22. For example, the former is described as THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES (5); the latter as the pure ‘bride’, ‘the wife of the Lamb’ (19:7; 21:9). Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints and by her wine brings death to the world (6; 19:2); the bride offers water of life to the world (22:17) and witnesses to the redemption of the eternal kingdom of God (21:6–22:5). Babylon ends in eternal destruction (19:3); the bride-city is the heart of the new creation (21:1–5). Revelation is well characterized as ‘The tale of two cities’!
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
1–2 The angel’s words to John could form a fitting title to the whole of 17:1–19:10: The punishment (or ‘judgment’) of the great prostitute. The city of Tyre was called a harlot by Isaiah (Is. 23:15–17), and so was Jerusalem (Is. 1:21; Je. 3) and Nineveh (Na. 3:4–5). The latter part of v 2 alludes to Jeremiah’s address to Babylon, ‘You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures’ (Je. 51:13). The River Euphrates flowed through the city, which also had many canals, and maintained an irrigation system that brought wealth. From v 9 it is clear that the city of Rome is in mind—it has become the new ‘Babylon’, repressing the people of God and corrupting the whole earth. 3 In v 1 the ‘prostitute’ sits on many waters, but here she is seated on a beast in a desert; the contrary imagery is explained by the association of the desert with demonic beings (cf. Lk. 11:24). The beast is scarlet, sharing the likeness of the dragon, i.e. the devil (12:3). It was covered with blasphemous names, referring primarily to the claims of the Roman emperors to divinity. 4 The luxury and moral filth of the city are here vividly set forth, again with the aid of Jeremiah’s characterization of Babylon (Je. 51:7). 5 The statement of the name on the prostitute’s forehead alludes to the custom of Roman harlots having their names written on the headband which Roman women used to wear. The prefix mystery signifies that the name is symbolic (cf. 11:8). The title characterizes the tyrant city as of the same nature as that against which the prophets of old vehemently protested. 6 The woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, especially through the inexpressibly cruel persecution of Nero, but also in anticipation of the war of the antichrist against the church.
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 27
“Can the rush grow up without mire?" Job 8:11.
The rush is spongy and hollow, and even so is a hypocrite; there is no substance or stability in him. It is shaken to and fro in every wind just as formalists yield to every influence; for this reason the rush is not broken by the tempest, neither are hypocrites troubled with persecution. I would not willingly be a deceiver or be deceived; perhaps the text for this day may help me to try myself whether I be a hypocrite or no. The rush by nature lives in water, and owes its very existence to the mire and moisture wherein it has taken root; let the mire become dry, and the rush withers very quickly. Its greenness is absolutely dependent upon circumstances, a present abundance of water makes it flourish, and a drought destroys it at once. Is this my case? Do I only serve God when I am in good company, or when religion is profitable and respectable? Do I love the Lord only when temporal comforts are received from his hands? If so I am a base hypocrite, and like the withering rush, I shall perish when death deprives me of outward joys. But can I honestly assert that when bodily comforts have been few, and my surroundings have been rather adverse to grace than at all helpful to it, I have still held fast my integrity? then have I hope that there is genuine vital godliness in me. The rush cannot grow without mire, but plants of the Lord’s right hand planting can and do flourish even in the year of drought. A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay. He who follows Christ for his bag is a Judas; they who follow for loaves and fishes are children of the devil; but they who attend him out of love to himself are his own beloved ones. Lord, let me find my life in thee, and not in the mire of this world’s favour or gain.
Evening - December 27
“And the LORD shall guide thee continually.” --- Isaiah 58:11.
“The Lord shall guide thee.” Not an angel, but JEHOVAH shall guide thee. He said he would not go through the wilderness before his people, an angel should go before them to lead them in the way; but Moses said, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” Christian, God has not left you in your earthly pilgrimage to an angel’s guidance: he himself leads the van. You may not see the cloudy, fiery pillar, but Jehovah will never forsake you. Notice the word shall—“The Lord shall guide thee.” How certain this makes it! How sure it is that God will not forsake us! His precious “shalls” and “wills” are better than men’s oaths. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Then observe the adverb continually. We are not merely to be guided sometimes, but we are to have a perpetual monitor; not occasionally to be left to our own understanding, and so to wander, but we are continually to hear the guiding voice of the Great Shepherd; and if we follow close at his heels, we shall not err, but be led by a right way to a city to dwell in. If you have to change your position in life; if you have to emigrate to distant shores; if it should happen that you are cast into poverty, or uplifted suddenly into a more responsible position than the one you now occupy; if you are thrown among strangers, or cast among foes, yet tremble not, for “the Lord shall guide thee continually.” There are no dilemmas out of which you shall not be delivered if you live near to God, and your heart be kept warm with holy love. He goes not amiss who goes in the company of God. Like Enoch, walk with God, and you cannot mistake your road. You have infallible wisdom to direct you, immutable love to comfort you, and eternal power to defend you. “Jehovah”—mark the word—“Jehovah shall guide thee continually.”
Morning and Evening
LO! HE COMES, WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
When Jesus made His first entrance to earth, He was seen by only a small group of people—a few lowly shepherds and later by some wandering wise men. Bethlehem’s stable birth attracted little attention and had limited immediate effect upon the rest of the world. It was nearly 30 years before Christ’s earthly ministry gained much notice.
What a contrast it will be when He returns for His second advent—every eye “shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Even those who crucified God’s Son will see and mourn, as will people from every tribe and nation because of their rejection of Him. But for those who have trusted in His redemptive work, the days of mourning will be over, not just beginning. For the Christian, the anticipation of Christ’s return is a joyous prospect—“O come quickly, Alleluia! come, Lord, come!”
In 1758 Charles Wesley published in his Hymns of Intercession for all Mankind a four stanza text, “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending.” Eight years earlier an associate of the Wesleys, John Cennick, had written a hymn with a similar text. This present version first appeared in 1760 and is really a combination of both Cennick’s and Wesley’s texts.
This is an excellent scriptural hymn and one that should be used much more frequently when believers contemplate and anticipate their Lord’s return.
Lo! He comes, with clouds descending, once for our salvation slain; thousand thousand saints attending, swell the triumph of His train: Alleluia! alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.
Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at naught and sold Him, pierced and nailed Him to the tree, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee high on Thine eternal throne; Savior, take the pow’r and glory, claim the kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly, O come quickly, Alleluia! come, Lord come!
For Today: Matthew 16:27, 28; Mark 13:26, 27; Luke 21:27, 28; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 2 Peter 3:13, 14
Although you have enjoyed celebrating our Lord’s birth, reflect on what a dramatic event His second advent will be. Rejoice in the truth that you will have an important place in His eternal glory. Raise your alleluias even now ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Their measure was filling then, but not so full as to put a stop to any further patience till four hundred years after. The usual time in succeeding generations, from the denouncing of judgments to the execution, is forty years; this some ground upon Ezek. 4:6, “Thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days,” taking each day for a year. Though Hosea lived seventy years, yet from the beginning of his prophesying judgments against Israel to the pouring them out upon that idolatrous people, it was forty years. Hosea, as was mentioned before, prophesied against them in the days of Jeroboam the Second, in whose time God did wonderfully deliver Israel (2 Kings 14:26, 27). From that time, till the total destruction of the ten tribes, it was forty years, as may easily be computed from the story (2 Kings 1–16), by the reign of the succeeding kings. So forty years after the most horrid villany that ever was committed in the face of the sun, viz., the crucifying the Son of God, was Jerusalem destroyed, and the inhabitants captived; so long did God delay a visible punishment for such an outrage. Sometimes he prolongs sending a threatened judgment upon a mere shadow of humiliation; so he did that denounced against Ahab. He turned it over to his posterity, and adjourned it to another season (1 Kings 21:29). He doth not issue out an arrest upon one transgression; you often find him not commencing a suit against men till “three and four transgressions.” The first of Amos, all along that chapter and the second chapter, for “three and four,” i. e. “seven;” a certain number for an uncertain. He gives not orders to his judgments to march till men be obstinate, and refuse any commerce with him; he stops them till “there be no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16). It must be a great wickedness that gives vent to them (Hos. 10:15); Heb. “Your wickedness of wickedness.” He is so “slow to anger,” and stays the punishment his enemies deserve, that he may seem to have forgot his “kindness to his friends” (Psalm 44:24): “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and oppression?” He lets his people groan under the yoke of their enemies, as if he were made up of kindness to his enemies, and anger against his friends. This delaying of punishment to evil men is visible in his suspending the terrifying acts of conscience, and supporting it only in its checking, admonishing, and controlling acts. The patience of a governor is seen in the patient mildness of his deputy: David’s conscience did not terrify him till nine months after his sin of murder. Should God set open the mouth of this power within us, not only the earth, but our own bodies and spirits, would be a burden to us: it is long before God puts scorpions into the hands of men’s consciences to scourge them: he holds back the rod, waiting for the hour of our return, as if that would be a recompense for our offences and his forbearance.
3d. His patience is manifest in his unwillingness to execute his judgments when he can delay no longer. “He doth not aflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:33): Heb. “He doth not afflict from his heart:” he takes no pleasure in it, as he is Creator. The height of men’s provocations, and the necessity of the preserving his rights, and vindicating his laws, obligeth him to it, as he is the Governor of the world; as a judge may willingly condemn a malefactor to death out of affection to the laws, and desire to preserve the order of government, but unwillingly, out of compassion to the offender himself. When he resolved upon the destruction of the old world, he spake it as a God grieved with an occasion of punishment (Gen. 6:6, 7, compared together). When he came to reckon with Adam, “he walked,” he did not run with his sword in his hand upon him, as a mighty man with an eagerness to destroy him (Gen. 3:8), and that “in the cool of the day,” a time when men, tired in the day, are unwilling to engage in a hard employment. His exercising judgment is a “coming out of his place” (Isa. 26:21; Mic. 1:3): he comes out of his station to exercise judgment; a throne is more his place than a tribunal. Every prophecy, loaded with threatenings, is called the “burden of the Lord;” a burden to him to execute it, as well as to men to suffer it. Though three angels came to Abraham about the punishment of Sodom, whereof one Abraham speaks to as to God, yet but two appeared at the destruction of Sodom, as if the Governor of the world were unwilling to be present at such dreadful work (Gen. 19:1): and when the man, that had the ink-horn by his side, that was appointed to mark those that were to be preserved in the common destruction, returned to give an account of the performing his commission (Ezek. 9:10), we read not of the return of those that were to kill, as if God delighted only to hear again of his works of mercy, and had no mind to hear again of his severe proceedings. The Jews, to show God’s unwillingness to punish, imagine that hell was created the second day, because that day’s work is not pronounced good by God as all the other days’ works are (Gen. 1:8).
(1.) When God doth punish he doth it with some regret. When he hurls down his thunders, he seems to do it with a backward hand, because with an unwilling heart. He created, saith Chrysostom, the world in six days, but was seven days in destroying one city, Jericho, which he had before devoted to be razed to the ground. What is the reason, saith he, that God is so quick to build up, but slow to pull down? His goodness excites his power to the one, but is not earnest to persuade him to the other: when he comes to strike, he doth it with a sigh or groan (Isa. 1:24): “Ah! I will ease me of my adversaries, and avenge me on my enemies,” הוי, Ah! a note of grief. So Hos. 6:4, “O Ephraim! what shall I do unto thee? O Judah! what shall I do unto thee?” It is an addubitatio, a figure in rhetoric, as if God were troubled that he must deal so sharply with them, and give them up to their enemies:—I have tried all means to reclaim you; I have used all ways of kindness, and nothing prevails; what shall I do? my mercy invites me to spare them, and their ingratitude provokes me to ruin them. God had borne with that people of Israel almost three hundred years, from the setting ap of the calves at Dan and Bethel; sent many a prophet to warn them, and spent many a rod to reform them: and when he comes to execute his threatenings, he doth with a conflict in himself (Hos. 11:8): “How shall I give thee up, O Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?” as if there were a pull-back in his own bowels. He solemnizeth their approaching funeral with a hearty groan, and takes his farewell of the dying malefactor with a pang in himself. How often, in former times, when he had signed a warrant for their execution, did he call it back? (Psalm 78:38): “Many a time turned he his anger away.” Many a time he recalled or ordered his anger to return again, as the word signifies, as if he were irresolute what to do: he recalled it, as a man doth his servant, several times, when he is sending him upon an unwelcome message; or as a tender-hearted prince wavers and trembles when he is to sign a writ for the death of a rebel that hath been before his favorite, as if, when he had signed the writ, he blotted out his name again, and flung away the pen. And his method is remarkable when he came to punish Sodom; though the cry of their sin had been fierce in his ears, yet when he comes to make inquisition, he declares his intention to Abraham, as if he were desirous that Abraham should have helped him to some arguments to stop the outgoings of his judgment. He gave liberty to the best person in the world to stand in the gap, and enter into a treaty with him, to show, saith one, how willingly his mercy would have compounded with his justice for their redemption; and Abraham interceded so long, till he was ashamed for pleading the cause of patience and mercy to the wrong of the rights of Divine justice. Perhaps, had Abraham had the courage to ask, God would have had the compassion to grant a reprieve just at the time of execution.
(2.) His patience is manifest in that when he begins to send out his judgments, he doth it by degrees. His judgments are “as the morning light,” which goes forth by degrees in the hemisphere (Hos. 6:5). He doth not shoot all his thunders at once, and bring his sharpest judgments in array at one time, but gradually, that a people may have time to turn to him (Joel 1:4). First the palmer-worm, then the locust, then the canker-worm, then the caterpillar; what one left, the other was to eat, if there were not a timely return. A Jewish writer saith, these judgments came not all in one year, but one year after another. The palmer-worm and locust might have eaten all, but Divine patience set bounds to the devouring creatures. God had been first as a moth to Israel (Hos. 5:12): “Therefore will I be to the house of Ephraim as a moth;” Rivet translates it, “I have been;” in the Hebrew it is “I,” without adding “I have been,” or “I will be,” and more probably “I have been;” I was as a moth, which makes little holes in a garment, and consumes it not all at once; and as “rottenness to the house of Judah,” or a worm that eats into wood by degrees. Indeed, this people had consumed insensibly, partly by civil combustions, change of governors, foreign invasions, yet they were as obstinate in their idolatry as ever; at last God would be no longer to them as a moth, but as a lion, tear and go away (ver. 14): so Hos. 2, God had disowned Israel for his spouse (ver. 2), “She is not my wife, neither am I her husband;” yet he had not taken away her ornaments, which by the right of divorce he might have done, but still expected her reformation, for that the threatening intimates (ver. 3); let her put away her whoredom, “lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day when she was born.” If she returned, she might recover what she had lost; if not, she might be stripped of what remained: thus God dealt with Judah (Ezek. 9:3. The glory of God goes first from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and stays there, as if he had a mind to be invited back again; then it goes from the threshold of the house, and stands over the cherubims, as if upon a penitent call it would drop down again to its ancient station and seat, over which it hovered (Ezek. 10:18); and when he was not solicited to return, he departs out of the city, and stood upon the mountain, which is on the east part of the city (Ezek. 11:23), looking still towards, and hovering about the temple, which was on the east of Jerusalem, as if loth to depart, and abandon the place and people. He walks so leisurely, with his rod in his hand, as if he had a mind rather to fling it away than use it; his patience in not pouring out all his vials, is more remarkable than his wrath in pouring out one or two. Thus hath God made his slowness to anger visible to us in the gradual punishment of us; first, the pestilence on this city, then firing our houses, consumption of trade; these have not been answered with such a carriage as God expects, therefore a greater is reserved. I dare prognosticate, upon reasons you may gather from what hath been spoke before, if I be not much mistaken, the forty years of his usual patience are very near expired; he hath inflicted some, that he might be met with in a way of repentance, and omit with honor the inflicting the remainder.
4th. His patience is manifest, in moderating his judgments, when he sends them. Doth he empty his quiver of his arrows, or exhaust his magazines of thunder? No; he could roll one thunderbolt successively upon all mankind; it is as easy with him to create a perpetual motion of lightning and thunder, as of the sun and stars, and make the world as terrible by the one, as it is delightful by the other. He opens not all his store, he sends out a light party to skirmish with men, and puts not in array his whole army; “He stirs not up all his wrath” (Psalm 78:38); he doth but pinch, where he might have torn asunder; when he takes away much, he leaves enough to support us; if he had stirred up all his anger, he had taken away all, and our lives to boot. He rakes up but a few sparks, takes but one firebrand to fling upon men, when he might discharge the whole furnace upon them; he sends but a few drops out of the cloud, which he might make to break in the gross, and fall down upon our heads to overwhelm us; he abates much of what he might do. When he might sweep away a whole nation by deluges of water, corruption of the air, or convulsions of the earth, or by other ways that are not wanting at his order; he picks out only some persons, some families, some cities; sends a plague into one house, and not into another; here is patience to the stock of a nation, while he inflicts punishment upon some of the most notorious sinners in it. Herod is suddenly snatched away, being willingly flattered into the thoughts of his being a god; God singled out the chief in the herd for whose sake he had been affronted by the rabble (Acts 12:22, 23). Some find him sparing them, while others feel him destroying them; he arrests some, when he might seize all, all being his debtors; and often in great desolations brought upon a people for their sin, he hath left a stump in the earth, as Daniel speaks (Dan. 4:15), for a nation to grow upon it again, and arise to a stronger constitution. He doth punish “less than our iniquities deserve” (Ezra 9:13), and rewards us “not according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). The greatness of any punishment in this life, answers not the greatness of the crime. Though there be an equity in whatsoever he doth, yet there is not an equality to what we deserve; our iniquities would justify a severer treating of us; his justice goes not here to the end of its line, it is stopped in its progress, and the blows of it weakened by his patience; he did not curse the earth after Adam’s fall, that it should bring forth no fruit, but that it should not bring forth fruit without the wearisome toil of man, and subjected him to distempers presently, but inflicted not death immediately; while he punished him, he supported him; and while he expelled him from paradise, he did not order him not to cast his eye towards it, and conceive some hopes of regaining that happy place.
5th. His patience is seen in giving great mercies after provocations. He is so slow to anger, that he heaps many kindnesses upon a rebel, instead of punishment. There is a prosperous wickedness, wherein the provoker’s strength continues firm; the troubles, which like clouds drop upon others, are blown away from them, and they are “not plagued like other men,” that have a more worthy demeanor towards God (Psalm 73:3–5). He doth not only continue their lives, but sends out fresh beams of his goodness upon them, and calls them by his blessings, that they may acknowledge their own fault and his bounty, which he is not obliged to by any gratitude he meets with from them, but by the richness of his own patient nature: for he finds the unthankfulness of men as great as his benefits to them. He doth not only continue his outward mercies, while we continue our sins, but sometimes gives fresh benefits after new provocations, that if possible he might excite an ingenuity in men. When Israel at the Red Sea flung dirt in the face of God, by quarrelling with his servant Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, and misjudging God in his design of deliverance, and were ready to submit themselves to their former oppressors (Exod. 14:11, 12), which might justly have urged God to say to them, Take your own course; yet he is not only patient under their unjust charge, but “makes bare his arm in a deliverance at the Red Sea,” that was to be an amazing monument to the world in all ages; and afterwards, when they repiningly quarrelled with him in their wants in the wilderness, he did not only not revenge himself upon them, or cast off the conduct of them, but bore with them by a miraculous long-suffering, and supplied them with miraculous provision,—manna from heaven, and water from a rock. Food is given to support us, and clothes to cover us, and Divine patience makes the creature which we turn to another use than what they were at first intended for, serve us contrary to their own genius: for had they reason, no question but they would complain to be subjected to the service of man, who hath been so ungrateful to their Creator, and groan at the abuse of God’s patience, in the abuse they themselves suffer from the hands of man.
6th. All this is more manifest, if we consider the provocations he hath. Wherein his slowness to anger infinitely transcends the patience of any creature; nay, the spirits of all the angels and glorified saints in heaven, would be too narrow to bear the sins of the world for one day, nay, not so much as the sins of churches, which is a little spot in the whole world; it is because he is the Lord, one of an infinite power over himself, that not only the whole mass of the rebellious world, but of the sons of Jacob (either considered as a church and nation springing from the loins of Jacob, or considered as the regenerate part of the world, sometimes called the seed of Jacob), “are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). A Jonah was angry with God, for recalling his anger from a sinful people; had God committed the government of the world to the glorified saints, who are perfect in love and holiness, the world would have had an end long ago; they would have acted that which they sue for at the hands of God, and is not granted them. “How long, Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). God hath designs of patience above the world, above the unsinning angels, and perfectly renewed spirits in glory. The greatest created long-suffering is infinitely disproportioned to the Divine: fire from heaven would have been showered down before the greatest part of a day were spent, if a created patience had the conduct of the world, though that creature were possessed with the spirit of patience, extracted from all the creatures which are in heaven, or are, or ever were upon the earth. Methinks Moses intimates this; for as soon as God had passed by, proclaiming his name gracious and long suffering, as soon as ever Moses had paid his adoration, he falls to praying that God would go with the Israelites; “For it is a stiff-necked people” (Exod. 34:8, 9). What an argument is here for God to go along with them! he might rather, since he had heard him but just before say “he would by no means clear the guilty,” desire God to stand further off from them, for fear the fire of his wrath should burst out from him, to burn them as he did the Sodomites. But he considers, that as none but God had such anger to destroy them, so none but God had such a patience to bear with them; it is as much as if he should have said, Lord! if thou shouldest send the most tender-hearted angel in heaven to have the guidance of this people, they would be a lost people; a period will quickly be set to their lives, no created strength can restrain its power from crushing such a stiff-necked people; flesh and blood cannot bear them, nor any created spirit of a greater might.
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