The Great Prostitute and the BeastRevelation 17 1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
When I saw her, I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”
The Fall of BabylonRevelation 18 1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
3 For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
14 “The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your delicacies and your splendors
are lost to you,
never to be found again!”
16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
“What city was like the great city?”19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!”
“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
and will be found no more;
22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft
will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill
will be heard in you no more,
23 and the light of a lamp
will shine in you no more,
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
will be heard in you no more,
for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Rejoicing in HeavenRevelation 19 1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The Rider on a White Horse11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
What I'm Reading
Can We Trust the Gospels, Even If They Were Transmitted Orally?
By J. Warner Wallace 6/22/2016
One common challenge leveled at the gospels is related to the manner in which they were first recorded. How early were the texts written, and how was the material transmitted prior to being documented by the gospel eyewitnesses? I’ve assembled a cumulative circumstantial case for the early dating of the gospels, but even if the gospels were written early enough to have been authored by eyewitnesses, wouldn’t 15-20 years be enough time for the authors to forget something important or add something errant, especially if they were only retelling the story orally?
When we offer this kind of objection, we start (of course) by denying the supernatural power of God to guide the Biblical authors and protect their memory. But as an atheist, I had no problem beginning with this denial; I was already denying the existence of God, let alone God’s power to protect the eyewitness account. My distrust in the ability of eyewitnesses to recall and transmit the account orally seemed very reasonable back when I was a non-believer. I simply could not fathom the writers being able to transmit the necessary and important details from one person to another without corruption or loss of information. After investigating this more thoroughly, however, I do think we have good reason to trust the accurate transmission of the gospels.
The content of the gospel message was of critical importance to both those who communicated it and those who accepted it (and later re-communicated it to the next generation). These folks weren’t passing along mom’s meatloaf recipe; hey were testifying as eyewitnesses to the greatest life ever lived, and they understood their role as eyewitnesses from the start (read through the Book of Acts to see what I mean).
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.
Why have international adoptions become so agonizing?
By Naomi Schaefer Riley 12/24/16
“Baby Girls in China Need Loving Home.”
That was the headline in a church bulletin that suburban New Yorker Lisa remembers reading around 2006. She went to an informational meeting, met some families who had adopted children from China and decided with her husband to go ahead. It was a two-year-long, $40,000 process to bring 10-month-old Abby to the United States, but nothing compared to the process she went through in 2014 to adopt 9-year-old Gabriel.
That three-year experience she describes as “harrowing.”
“Just thinking about the paperwork makes my head spin . . . the piles of documents, the medical clearance, the reference letters and everything had to be authenticated by the county and the state,” she says.
Between Lisa’s first and second adoptions, the United States began to enforce the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
New York Post columnist. Author.
- 1 The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians
- 2 Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems (Virtues: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems)
- 3 'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America
Christmas And A World Upside-Down
By George Weigel 12/23/15
Biblical scholars generally agree that Luke’s Gospel was written at least a generation later than Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth. Yet whatever the dating, and irrespective of scholarly disputes about whether “Luke,” the author of the eponymous Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and “Luke,” the companion of Paul mentioned in Acts and several Pauline letters, are the same person, First Corinthians and Luke-Acts are built on the same, deep theological insight: the incarnation of the Son of God, and his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, turned the world upside-down.
So even if the Christmas story of the angelic announcement of the Nativity to the shepherds of Bethlehem (Luke 2.1-20) was written decades later than First Corinthians, Paul’s letter to those fractious Greeks gives us a crucial interpretive key to Christmas.
Here is Paul, bringing some serious heat at the very beginning of letter full of challenge to his converts in one of antiquity’s rowdiest towns:
(1 Co 1:20–31) 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ESV
Preachers at Christmas often, and rightly, emphasize the lowliness of the Christ Child’s birth and its first annunciation to a gaggle of herders not highly esteemed by their countrymen. What St. Paul reminds us, in First Corinthians, is that this pattern of inversion—turning everything upside-down—continues throughout the public ministry of the Lord Jesus and reaches its dramatic climax in his death and resurrection.
Jesus doesn’t evangelize the principalities and powers (although they, too, are welcome to listen and learn): he goes to the outcasts, including lepers and prostitutes, to announce and embody a Kingdom in which Israel’s God is king, not just of the people of Israel, but of the whole world. The child “wrapped . . . in swaddling clothes and laid . . . in a manger” (Luke 2.7) will not establish God’s rule and kingdom by political cunning, or by a display of worldly wisdom, or by knocking emperors and procurators off their thrones or judgment-seats: he will reign from a different throne, an instrument of torture—the Cross. He will not be celebrated, like victorious Roman generals, with a “triumph,” a vast spectacle conducted in the capital of world empire: the signs of his “triumph” will be an empty tomb; the pierced hands and feet of a transfigured, glorified body that defies time and space; burning memories of a walk to Emmaus; a breakfast of grilled fish on the lakeshore; a commission to go and convert the world, issued to a group of nobodies.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
George Weigel Books:
- 1 Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II
- 2 Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II
- 3 Letters to a Young Catholic
- 4 The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
- 5 Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches
- 6 The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings and Controversies of the Church Today
- 7 The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism
- 8 The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God
- 9 Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action
- 10 Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church
- 11 By George Weigel - Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999-10-16) [Hardcover]
- 12 Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace
- 13 The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
- 14 Building the Free Society: Democracy, Capitalism, and Catholic Social Teaching
- 15 The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism
- 16 Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II
- 17 The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform And The Future Of The Church
- 18 God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church
- 19 Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace
- 20 Freedom and its Discontents: Catholicism Confronts Modernity
- 21 Soul of the World: Notes on the Future of Public Catholicism
- 22 Practicing Catholic: Essays Historical, Literary, Sporting, and Elegiac
- 23 Just War and the Gulf War
- 24 Idealism Without Illusions/U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990s
- 25 A New Worldly Order: John Paul II and Human Freedom
- 26 Being Christian Today
- 27 Catholicism and the Renewal of American Democracy
- 28 Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism
- 29 Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church
- 30 American Interests, American Purpose: Moral Reasoning and U.S. Foreign Policy
- 31 A New Worldly Order: John Paul II and Human Freedom
- 32 The American Search for Peace: Moral Reasoning, Religious Hope, and National Security (Endowment for the Arts; 24)
Creation Accounts and Ancient Near Eastern Religions
By John A. Bloom and C. John Collins
This article first appeared in CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, volume 35, number 01 (2012). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. For further information or to subscribe to the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/
Over the past two hundred years, the science of archaeology has developed and given us direct access to documents and artifacts from the lands of the Bible.
While often fragmentary and difficult to interpret, these ancient writings flesh out the cultures that surrounded and influenced ancient Israel. Of particular interest are ancient near eastern religious texts, because they allow us to compare the gods of Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Egypt with the God of the Bible.
Since their discovery, many scholars have claimed that the religious views found in these ancient documents are hardly different from those in the Bible; in fact, the ancient Israelites simply borrowed the beliefs of their neighbors. Nowhere are these scholars more assured that Israel parroted others than in the creation account and early history found in Genesis 1–11.
While years of study are necessary to read these creation accounts in the original languages, good English translations are now available, so that I [JB] can pass along some good advice that I received some years ago. In a class discussing the canon of Scripture—which books should be included in the Bible, and which ones should not be—the instructor made this comment: “It’s actually very easy to tell: just read them.” When investigating claims that the biblical creation account is just borrowed from elsewhere, my advice is the same: read the other accounts, noting not only the slight similarities but also the significant differences between them, and the Genesis account will clearly stand out as superior.1 In fact, many scholars today recognize that these creation stories, from which earlier scholars thought Israel had borrowed, actually have very little in common with the Bible.
John Bloom, Ph.D., is a professor of physics, chair of the chemistry, physics, and engineering departments, and academic director of the science and religion master’s degree program at Biola University in La Mirada, California.
C. John Collins, Ph.D., is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the author of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? and several other important books on the early chapters of Genesis.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 149Sing to the LORD a New Song
149 Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the LORD!
The Holy Bible: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (2017) - Black, Genuine Leather. (2016). (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
US-Israel Treaty a Constitutional Solution to UN Debacle
By Ira Stoll 12/27/2016
One of the great paradoxes of Zionism is that a movement for Jewish national self-determination has found itself so often at the mercy of gentiles.
Precedent for this goes all the way back at least to Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who roughly 2,600 years ago allowed the Jews to return to the promised land and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. In modern times, Lord Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, issued the landmark Balfour Declaration on Nov. 2, 1917, "His majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
In 1947, the U.N. voted at Lake Success in favor of Israel’s creation.
President Truman formally recognized the modern state of Israel at its founding in 1948.
In the 1950s, France supplied Israel with weapons and nuclear equipment.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of "JFK, Conservative."
Losing a Child without Losing Faith
By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 12/27/16
Last month, Frazer and Dana Gieselmann buried their 6-year-old daughter.
Milla, short for Louise Mildred, had her first seizure at 2 years old. She was diagnosed with Batten disease, a rare and fatal disorder of the nervous system. A few weeks later, her younger sister, Elle, received the same diagnosis. (An older sister, Ann Carlyle, doesn’t have the genetic disorder.)
For the past three years, Frazer and Dana have hauled their two girls to doctors’ appointments, held them through seizures, and watched them lose dexterity. Elle was able to start an experimental medication regimen in September; for Milla, it was already too late.
She turned 6 on November 2. Twenty-four days later, her mother posted, “Milla is with Jesus. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
While living out every parent’s worst nightmare, the Gieselmanns’ belief in God’s goodness was tested and stretched. Through countless nights waking up with the girls to one bad medical report after another, the couple leaned heavily on the faith passed down from their parents.
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer for The Gospel Coalition and contributing editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
15. Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth
displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much
fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and
invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the
Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we
would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth
wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How,
then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient
lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity?
Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and
skilful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession
of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to
speak in accordance with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the
cultivation of the medical art, expended their industry in our behalf
were only raving? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall
we deem them to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the
writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest
admiration; an admiration which their excellence will not allow us to
withhold. But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy,
without tracing it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude;
an ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged
that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of
the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures
term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of
inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord
has left in possession of human nature, notwithstanding of its having
been despoiled of the true good.
16. Moreover, let us not forget that there are most excellent blessings which the Divine Spirit dispenses to whom he will for the common benefit of mankind. For if the skill and knowledge required for the construction of the Tabernacle behaved to be imparted to Bezaleel and Aholiab, by the Spirit of God (Exod. 31:2; 35:30), it is not strange that the knowledge of those things which are of the highest excellence in human life is said to be communicated to us by the Spirit. Nor is there any ground for asking what concourse the Spirit can have with the ungodly, who are altogether alienated from God? For what is said as to the Spirit dwelling in believers only, is to be understood of the Spirit of holiness by which we are consecrated to God as temples. Notwithstanding of this, He fills, moves, and invigorates all things by the virtue of the Spirit, and that according to the peculiar nature which each class of beings has received by the Law of Creation. But if the Lord has been pleased to assist us by the work and ministry of the ungodly in physics, dialectics, mathematics, and other similar sciences, let us avail ourselves of it, lest, by neglecting the gifts of God spontaneously offered to us, we be justly punished for our sloth. Lest any one, however, should imagine a man to be very happy merely because, with reference to the elements of this world, he has been endued with great talents for the investigation of truth, we ought to add, that the whole power of intellect thus bestowed is, in the sight of God, fleeting and vain whenever it is not based on a solid foundation of truth. Augustine (supra, sec. 4 and 12), to whom, as we have observed, the Master of Sentences (lib. 2 Dist. 25), and the Schoolmen, are forced to subscribe, says most correctly that as the gratuitous gifts bestowed on man were withdrawn, so the natural gifts which remained were corrupted after the fall. Not that they can be polluted in themselves in so far as they proceed from God, but that they have ceased to be pure to polluted man, lest he should by their means obtain any praise.
17. The sum of the whole is this: From a general survey of the human race, it appears that one of the essential properties of our nature is reason, which distinguishes us from the lower animals, just as these by means of sense are distinguished from inanimate objects. For although some individuals are born without reason, that defect does not impair the general kindness of God, but rather serves to remind us, that whatever we retain ought justly to be ascribed to the Divine indulgence. Had God not so spared us, our revolt would have carried along with it the entire destruction of nature. In that some excel in acuteness, and some in judgment, while others have greater readiness in learning some peculiar art, God, by this variety commends his favour toward us, lest any one should presume to arrogate to himself that which flows from His mere liberality. For whence is it that one is more excellent than another, but that in a common nature the grace of God is specially displayed in passing by many and thus proclaiming that it is under obligation to none. We may add, that each individual is brought under particular influences according to his calling. Many examples of this occur in the Book of Judges, in which the Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon those whom he called to govern his people (Judges 6:34). In short, in every distinguished act there is a special inspiration. Thus it is said of Saul, that "there went with him a band of men whose hearts the Lord had touched," (1 Sam. 10:26). And when his inauguration to the kingdom is foretold, Samuel thus addresses him, "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man," (1 Sam. 10:6). This extends to the whole course of government, as it is afterwards said of David, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward," (1 Sam. 16:13). The same thing is elsewhere said with reference to particular movements. Nay, even in Homer, men are said to excel in genius, not only according as Jupiter has distributed to each, but according as he leads them day by day, oJion ejp e\ma" a[geisi. And certainly experience shows when those who were most skilful and ingenious stand stupefied, that the minds of men are entirely under the control of God, who rules them every moment. Hence it is said, that "He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way," (Ps. 107:40). Still, in this diversity we can trace some remains of the divine image distinguishing the whole human race from other creatures.
18. We must now explain what the power of human reason is, in regard to the kingdom of God, and spiritual discernments which consists chiefly of three things--the knowledge of God, the knowledge of his paternal favour towards us, which constitutes our salvation, and the method of regulating of our conduct in accordance with the Divine Law. With regard to the former two, but more properly the second, men otherwise the most ingenious are blinder than moles. I deny not, indeed, that in the writings of philosophers we meet occasionally with shrewd and apposite remarks on the nature of God, though they invariably savour somewhat of giddy imagination. As observed above, the Lord has bestowed on them some slight perception of his Godhead that they might not plead ignorance as an excuse for their impiety, and has, at times, instigated them to deliver some truths, the confession of which should be their own condemnation. Still, though seeing, they saw not. Their discernment was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller, who sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their writings as if by chance. In short, not one of them even made the least approach to that assurance of the divine favour, without which the mind of man must ever remain a mere chaos of confusion. To the great truths, What God is in himself, and what he is in relation to us, human reason makes not the least approach. (See Book 3 c. 2 sec. 14, 15, 16).
19. But since we are intoxicated with a false opinion of our own discernment, and can scarcely be persuaded that in divine things it is altogether stupid and blind, I believe the best course will be to establish the fact, not by argument, but by Scripture. Most admirable to this effect is the passage which I lately quoted from John, when he says, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not," (John 1:4, 5). He intimates that the human soul is indeed irradiated with a beam of divine light, so that it is never left utterly devoid of some small flame, or rather spark, though not such as to enable it to comprehend God. And why so? Because its acuteness is, in reference to the knowledge of God, mere blindness. When the Spirit describes men under the term darkness, he declares them void of all power of spiritual intelligence. For this reason, it is said that believers, in embracing Christ, are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1:13); in other words, that the flesh has no capacity for such sublime wisdom as to apprehend God, and the things of God, unless illumined by His Spirit. In like manner our Saviour, when he was acknowledged by Peter, declared that it was by special revelation from the Father (Mt. 16:17).
20. If we were persuaded of a truth which ought to be beyond dispute--viz. that human nature possesses none of the gifts which the elect receive from their heavenly Father through the Spirit of regeneration, there would be no room here for hesitation. For thus speaks the congregation of the faithful, by the mouth of the prophet: "With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light," (Ps. 36:9). To the same effect is the testimony of the Apostle Paul, when he declares, that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," (1 Cor. 12:3). And John Baptist, on seeing the dullness of his disciples, exclaims, "A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven," (John 3:27). That the gift to which he here refers must be understood not of ordinary natural gifts, but of special illumination, appears from this--that he was complaining how little his disciples had profited by all that he had said to them in commendation of Christ. "I see," says he, "that my words are of no effect in imbuing the minds of men with divine things, unless the Lord enlighten their understandings by His Spirit." Nay, Moses also, while upbraiding the people for their forgetfulness, at the same time observes, that they could not become wise in the mysteries of God without his assistance. "Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and these great miracles: yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this, day," (Deut. 29:2, 3, 4). Would the expression have been stronger had he called us mere blocks in regard to the contemplation of divine things? Hence the Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet, promises to the Israelites as a singular favour, "I will give them an heart to know me," (Jer. 24:7); intimating, that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only in so far as he enlightens it. This was also clearly confirmed by our Saviour when he said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him," (John 6:44). Nay, is not he himself the living image of his Father, in which the full brightness of his glory is manifested to us? Therefore, how far our faculty of knowing God extends could not be better shown than when it is declared, that though his image is so plainly exhibited, we have not eyes to perceive it. What? Did not Christ descend into the world that he might make the will of his Father manifest to men, and did he not faithfully perform the office? True! He did; but nothing is accomplished by his preaching unless the inner teacher, the Spirit, open the way into our minds. Only those, therefore, come to him who have heard and learned of the Father. And in what is the method of this hearing and learning? It is when the Spirit, with a wondrous and special energy, forms the ear to hear and the mind to understand. Lest this should seem new, our Saviour refers to the prophecy of Isaiah, which contains a promise of the renovation of the Church. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee," (Is. 54:7). If the Lord here predicts some special blessing to his elect, it is plain that the teaching to which he refers is not that which is common to them with the ungodly and profane.
It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. On this subject the clearest exposition is given by Paul, who, when expressly handling it, after condemning the whole wisdom of the world as foolishness and vanity, and thereby declaring man's utter destitution, thus concludes, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned," (1 Cor. 2:14). Whom does he mean by the "natural man"? The man who trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail; they are "spiritually discerned." And what does this mean? That altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. The Apostle had previously declared, that "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him;" nay, that the wisdom of the world is a kind of veil by which the mind is prevented from beholding God (1 Cor. 2:9). What would we more? The Apostle declares that God has "made foolish the wisdom of this world," (1 Cor. 1:20); and shall we attribute to it an acuteness capable of penetrating to God, and the hidden mysteries of his kingdom? Far from us be such presumption!
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
A Detail-Oriented Church
By Kevin Struyk 6/01/2017
Growing up in the home of an entrepreneur gave me some unique experiences. I can remember learning from a young age the importance of working hard, treating people with respect, and paying attention to details. Early mornings were common, helping my dad with a work project, delivering newspapers on the weekend, or doing yard work. My parents taught me to respect those in authority and to be courteous to those whom you serve — remembering names and significant details of their lives if possible. While these things may not seem unique on the surface, I believe they are lessons that fewer and fewer young people are learning today. As a result, I believe future leaders in the church may have a more difficult time effectively connecting with and ministering to those in their communities.
In order for a church to reach a community with the gospel of Jesus Christ and serve their particular needs for generations to come, the leadership team must understand the importance of being detail oriented. There are three specific areas where this is crucial. First, we must be detail oriented in our preaching and teaching. Second, we must be detail oriented in day-to-day ministering to the flock. Third, we must be detail oriented in our outreach to the local community. When this is done, the church will be properly positioned to effectively make disciples and meet the spiritual and physical needs of a community.
First, a church must be detail oriented in its preaching and teaching. The Bible is full of details concerning God, the worship of God, man’s salvation, and what God requires of man. A faithful pastor understands that the Word of God is living and active, and that it never returns void but accomplishes exactly what the Lord intends (Isa. 55:11; Heb. 4:12). As such, the preacher and teacher must properly prepare through prayer, study, and meditation to explain the text, to apply the text, and then to get out of the way of the text, serving as a mouthpiece for the Lord.
A detail-oriented preacher and teacher understands that correct doctrine matters. Using precise biblical and confessional language is fundamental if we are to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The world needs to know that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that there is only one way to the Father — through Jesus His Son. In tumultuous times, when political, societal, and religious differences seem more pronounced, we must not shrink back from doctrinal preaching but rather heed Paul’s advice to Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13).
Second, a church concerned with faithfully preaching the full counsel of the Word of God will naturally be inclined to know and meet the specific needs of its own people in detail. This starts with knowing your congregation. I recently had a meeting with one of our new members who said one of the main reasons she came to our church was because she was “noticed” here. People value being noticed. They desire to be loved and valued, to have their name spoken and their story known. It does seem harder and harder in our busy world to find places and communities where people genuinely care for one another. The church should be that place where the needs and cares of the flock are shared and met by one another.
The early church as described in Acts 2:44–46 gives us a picture of the family of God caring for each other’s needs. Whether your congregation is young or old, large or small, one of the primary challenges in ministering to the flock is not only knowing the needs, but organizing and communicating those needs to others in such a way that they are met in a timely manner by the appropriate person. It’s tempting in some churches to think the pastors should be the ones doing all the ministry in the church. This is neither wise nor biblical. Pastors and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to encourage the body of Christ to use their gifts so that the body grows and builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:11–12, 16).
Third, a detail-oriented church wherein people love one another well will also seek to reach the local community with the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. A light is not to be put under a basket but is to be put on a lampstand for all to see. Jesus’ disciples are the light of the world and cannot help but shine so that others may see their good works and give glory to God (Matt. 5:14–16). Outreach efforts to a community should begin and be maintained with great attention to detail. Before an outreach effort is started, it is important to know (1) what the true needs of the community are; (2) who, if anyone, is currently meeting those needs; and (3) how volunteers can in a purposeful and meaningful way use their gifts and talents for the glory of God. Lack of planning and preparation can really hurt a church’s effort to reach the needy. Just as a messy church facility in disrepair will likely turn away visitors and inquirers, so a church that is disorganized in its outreach efforts may fail to leave a lasting impact in the local community.
Our chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, cares for the specific needs of His flock. He knows the details of your life, including the struggles and joys of those in your family and in your community. By the Holy Spirit, He comforts, cares, and gives us peace. As we minister in His name, may we imitate Christ as we care about the details of other people’s lives, rightly handling the Word of truth and serving those from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Loving God with Our Minds
By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2017
The human mind is one of the most incredible aspects of creation. It is more powerful than the largest supercomputer and can solve great problems and make great discoveries. That makes the noetic effects of sin especially tragic.
The noetic effects of sin describe the impact of sin upon the nous — the mind — of fallen humanity. The faculty of thinking, with which we reason, has been seriously disturbed and corrupted by the fall. In our natural, unregenerate state, there is something dramatically wrong with our minds. As a consequence of our suppressing the knowledge of God in our sin, we have been given over to a debased mind (Rom. 1:28).
It’s terrible to have a reprobate mind, a mind that now in its fallen condition doesn’t have a scintilla of desire to love God. But that is the kind of mind we chose for ourselves in Adam, so in our natural fallen condition, there is nothing more repugnant to our minds than the love of God. While we remain unregenerate, we have such an antipathy to loving God by nature that we choke at the very thought of Christ’s command to love God with our minds (Matt. 22:37).
Our minds have been corrupted by sin, but that does not mean our ability to think has been annihilated. The best pagan thinkers can still spot errors of logic without being born again. You don’t have to be regenerate in order to get a Ph.D. in mathematics. The fallen mind retains the ability to follow formal argumentation to a degree, but that ends when discussion about the character of God begins because that is where bias is so severe and hostility so great that many of the most brilliant people stumble. In fact, if a person begins their thinking by refusing to acknowledge what they know to be true — that there is a God — then the more brilliant they are, the further away from God their reasoning will lead them.
Any consideration of the human mind, therefore, must begin with the understanding that by nature the mind does not love God at all, and it will not love God at all unless and until God the Holy Spirit changes its disposition immediately and sovereignly to set the affections on Him. Regeneration is the necessary condition for loving God with our minds.
Without it, there is no love of God. So, we must get rid of this idea that’s pervasive in the evangelical world that unbelieving people are seekers of God. The natural man does not seek after God. Unregenerate people who look like they are seeking after God, as Thomas Aquinas said, are seeking the benefits only God can give, not God Himself.
Note, however, that all of the mind’s antipathy toward God is not eliminated the minute we’re born again. After regeneration, for the first time in our lives, we are disposed to the things of God rather than against them. We are given a desire to have God in our thinking rather than despising the idea of having God in our thinking. But the residual effects and the power of our fallen human condition remain and are not eliminated entirely until we’re glorified in heaven. The whole pilgrimage of the Christian life in our sanctification, then, is one in which we are seeking to love God more and more with our minds.
Jonathan Edwards once said that seeking after God is the main business of the Christian. And how do we seek after God? By pursuing the renewal of our minds. We don’t get the love of God from a hip replacement, a knee replacement, or even a heart transplant. The only way we can be transformed is with a renewed mind (Rom. 12:1–2). A renewed mind results from diligently pursuing the knowledge of God. If we despise doctrine, if we despise knowledge, that probably indicates that we’re still in that fallen condition where we don’t want God in our thinking. True Christians want God to dominate their thinking and to fill their minds with ideas of Himself.
Isn’t it strange that our Lord says that we are called to love God with our minds? We don’t usually speak of love in terms of an intellectual activity. In fact, most of our understanding of love in our secular culture is described in passive categories. We speak not of jumping in love but falling in love, like it was an accident.
But real love is not an involuntary thing. It is something we do purposefully based on our knowledge of the person we love. Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. And if we want to have an experience of God directly where we bypass the mind, we’re on a fool’s errand. It can’t happen. We might increase emotion, entertainment, or excitement, but we’re not going to increase the love of God because we can’t love what we don’t know. A mindless Christianity is no Christianity at all.
If we want to love God more, we have to know Him more deeply. And the more we search the Scriptures, and the more we focus our minds’ attention on who God is and what He does, the more we understand just a tiny little bit more about Him and the more our souls break out in flame. We have a greater ardor to honor Him. The more we understand God with our minds, the more we love Him with our minds.
To love God with our minds is to hold Him in high esteem, to think about Him with reverence and with adoration. The more we love God with our minds, the more we’ll be driven to do that other thing that is alien to us in our fallen condition, namely, to worship Him. To pursue God with our minds simply for intellectual enjoyment and without the ultimate purpose of loving and worshiping Him is to miss what it means to love Him with our minds. True knowledge of God always bears fruit in greater love for God and a greater desire to praise Him. The more we know Him, the more glorious He will appear to us. And the more glorious He appears to us, the more inclined we will be to praise Him, to honor Him, to worship Him, and to obey Him.
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
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
The open-door policy
12/30/2017 Bob Gass
‘We could only conclude that God was [calling] us.’
(Ac 16:10) 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. ESV
The Bible says, ‘Next Paul and Silas travelled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there’ (vv. 6-10 NLT). God has an ‘open-door policy’. When He opens a door, you’re supposed to walk through it. Note, however, that when God kept Paul from going into Asia, he didn’t hang around asking, ‘Why, Lord?’ He kept moving. For Paul, trying something and having it not work out was no big deal. He believed that his gift to God was his willing heart and his mobility, and God’s gift to him was that He’d always guide him to where he needed to be. What God prevents is as much divine guidance as what He permits. Every door that didn’t open, every opportunity you didn’t get, and every call that didn’t come were as much God’s leadings as those that did. So knowing you can’t stay where you are right now may be the starting point for God’s leadings in your life. And such leadings often begin with a stirring and restlessness in your soul.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Jungle Book was written by Rudyard Kipling, who was born this day, December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. Educated in England, he returned to India as a journalist. His notoriety as a writer grew tremendously and in 1907, he received the Nobel Prize for literature. He popular works include: Kim, Wee Willie Winkie, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Gunga Din. In his Ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling wrote: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, And never the twain shall meet, Till earth and sky stand presently, At God’s great judgement seat.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 22 December 30
At present we tend to think of the soul as somehow "inside" the body. But the glorified body of the resurrection as I conceive it-the sensuous life raised from its death-will be inside the soul. As God is not in space but space is in God.
I have slipped in "glorified" almost unawares. But this glorification is not only promised, it is already foreshadowed. The dullest of us knows how memory can transfigure; how often some momentary glimpse of beauty in boyhood is
Which memory will warehouse as a shout.
Don't talk to me of the "illusions" of memory. Why should what we see at the moment be more "real" than what we see from ten years' distance? It is indeed an illusion to believe that the blue hills on the horizon would still look blue if you went to them. But the fact that they are blue five miles away, and the fact that they are green when you are on them, are equally good facts. Traherne's "'orient and immortal wheat" or Wordsworth's landscape "apparelled in celestial light" may not have been so radiant in the past when it was present as in the remembered past. That is the beginning of the glorification. One day they will be more radiant still. Thus in the sense-bodies of the redeemed the whole New Earth will arise. The same, yet not the same, as this. It was sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
I dare not omit, though it may be mocked and misunderstood, the extreme example. The strangest discovery of a widower's life is the possibility, sometimes, of recalling with detailed and uninhibited imagination, with tenderness and gratitude, a passage of carnal love, yet with no re-awakening of concupiscence. And when it occurs (it must not be sought) awe comes upon us. It is like seeing nature itself rising from its grave. What was sown in momentariness is raised in still permanence. What was sown as a becoming, rises as being. Sown in subjectivity, it rises in objectivity. The transitory secret of two is now a chord in the ultimate music."
But this," you protest, "is no resurrection of the body. You give the dead a sort of dream world and dream bodies. They are not real." Surely neither less nor more real than those you have always known? You know better than I that the "real world" of our present experience (coloured, resonant, soft or hard, cool or warm, all corseted by perspective) bas no place in the world described by physics or even by physiology. Matter enters our experience only by becoming sensation (when we perceive it) or conception (when we understand it). That is, by becoming soul. That element in the soul which it becomes will, in my view, be raised and glorified; the hills and valleys of Heaven will be to those you now experience not as a copy is to an original, nor as a sub stitute is to the genuine article, but as the flower to the root, or the diamond to the coal. It will be eternally true that they originated with matter; let us therefore bless matter. But in entering our soul as alone it can enter-that is, by being perceived and known-matter has turned into soul (like the Undines who acquired a soul by marriage with a mortal).
I don't say the resurrection of this body will happen at once. It may well be that this part of us sleeps in death, and the intellectual soul is sent to Lenten lands where she fasts in naked spirituality-a ghost-like and imperfectly human condition. I don't imply that an angel is a ghost. But naked spirituality is in accordance with his nature; not, I think, with ours. (A two-legged horse is maimed, but not a two-legged man.) Yet from that fast my hope is that we shall return and reassume the wealth we have laid down.
Then the new earth and sky, the same yet not the same as these, will rise in us as we have risen in Christ. And once again, after who knows what aeons of the silence and the dark, the birds will sing and the waters flow, and lights and shadows move across the hills, and the faces of our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition.
Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be. For "we know that we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Thank Betty for her note. I'll come by the later train, the 3:40. And tell her not to bother about a bed on the ground floor. I can manage stairs again now, provided I take them "in bottom." Till Saturday.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers.
And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.
--- Gerald Rudolph Ford, 38th President of the United States of America
The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One--How to Deliver It
The greatest issue facing the world today,
with all its heartbreaking needs,
is whether those who,
by profession or culture,
are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples –
students, apprentices, practitioners –
of Jesus Christ,
steadily learning from him how to live
the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens
into every corner of human existence.
--- Dallas Willard
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship
My life is Thine, Lord Jesus,
Bought with Thy blood divine,
And giv’n to Thee with gladness,
No longer mine, but Thine.
My heart is Thine, my Savior,
Not part, but all Thine own;
Oh, it is sweet to know that there
Thou hast Thy royal throne!
My body I have yielded,
A sacrifice to be,
Oh, keep me pure and holy, Lord!
A temple meet for Thee.
My members, too, are Thine, Lord;
To Thee I all resign;
Then use them for Thy glory now,
And live Thy life through mine.
My house is Thine, Lord Jesus,
And all that I possess;
Use it for whatsoe’er Thou wilt,
Thou comest but to bless.
The gold that came from Thee, Lord,
To Thee belongeth still;
Oh, may I always faithfully
My stewardship fulfill!
Yea, everything is Thine, Lord,
Let this my portion be—
That I have nothing of my own,
And yet have all in Thee.
And make my life, Lord Jesus,
Brightly for Thee to shine:
That word and deed, that look and tone,
May witness I am Thine.
--- Jane Woodfall
Hymns of Consecration and Faith
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
--- Richard B. Gunderman, not Winston Churchill
We Make a Life by What We Give (Philanthropic and Nonprofit Studies)
Meditating, contemplating, and praying from Scripture are often helpful in spiritual growth,
especially when we discard the notion that more is better.
--- Mark R. McMinn
Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling (AACC Library)
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
her husband too, as he praises her:
ר 29 “Many women have done wonderful things,
but you surpass them all!”
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
“And every virtue we possess”
All my fresh springs shall be in Thee. --- Psalm 87:7.
Our Lord never patches up our natural virtues, He remakes the whole man on the inside. “Put on the new man”—see that your natural human life puts on the garb that is in keeping with the new life. The life God plants in us develops its own virtues, not the virtues of Adam but of Jesus Christ. Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus. Thank God if you are going through a drying-up experience!
The sign that God is at work in us is that He corrupts confidence in the natural virtues, because they are not promises of what we are going to be, but remnants of what God created man to be. We will cling to the natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us into contact with the life of Jesus Christ which can never be described in terms of the natural virtues. It is the saddest thing to see people in the service of God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them, depending on what they have by the accident of heredity. God does not build up our natural virtues and transfigure them, because our natural virtues can never come anywhere near what Jesus Christ wants. No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every bit of our bodily life into harmony with the new life which God has put in us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that are characteristic of the Lord Jesus.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
At sixty there are still fables
to outgrow, the possessiveness
of language. There is no book
of life with the pen ready
to delete one's name. Judgment
days are the trials we attend
here, whose verdict the future
has no interest in. Is there
a sentence without words?
God is a mode of prayer; cease
speaking and there is only
the silence. Has he his own
media of communication?
What is a galaxy's meaning?
The stars relay to the waste
places of the earth, as they do
to the towns, but it is
a cold message. There is randomness
at the centre, agitation subsisting
at the heart of what would be
A man's shadow falls upon rocks that are
millions of years old, and
thought comes to drink at that dark
pool, but goes away thirsty.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Robbing God’s Storehouse
W. W. Wiersbe
If “like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9) applied to the spiritual leaders of the nation, then “like father, like son” (or “like mother, like daughter”) applied to everybody else. From the days of the patriarchs until Malachi’s time, the nation frequently disobeyed God’s Word, and God had to send prophets to call them to repent and return.
When the people heard Malachi call them to return to the Lord, instead of obeying that call, they began to argue with God’s servant. They remind me of those people who evade the issue by saying, “Define your terms! What do you mean by ‘return’?” But Malachi didn’t hesitate to tell them how to start returning to God: “Bring God the tithes and offerings that are rightfully His!” Theirs was the sin of robbery in at least three different areas.
They were robbing God (Mal. 3:7–8). The needs of the priests and Levites were met from the sacrifices and also from the tithes and offerings brought to the temple by the people. The word “tithe” comes from a Hebrew word that means “ten.” A tithe is 10 percent of one’s grain, fruit, animals, or money (Lev. 27:30–34; Neh. 13:5). There were special storage rooms in the temple for keeping the grain, produce, and money that the people brought to the Lord in obedience to His Law. If people didn’t want to carry heavy produce all the way to the temple, they could convert it into cash, but they had to add 20 percent to it just to make sure they weren’t making a profit and robbing God (Lev. 27:31).
The annual tithe was given to the Levites (Num. 18:21–24), who in turn gave a tithe of that income to the priests (vv. 25–32). When a worshiper brought his tithe to the temple, he could use part of it to enjoy a special meal with his family and the Levites (Deut. 12:6–7, 17–19). Every third year a tithe was to be brought to the leaders locally to be used for the poor (14:28–29).
Tithing as an act of worship is as old as Abraham, who gave tithes to Melchizedek, acknowledging that Melchizedek was the representative of the Most High God (Gen. 14:20; Heb. 7). Jacob vowed to God that he would tithe
(Gen. 28:22), so tithing antedates the Law of Moses. However, tithing was officially incorporated into the Law of Moses as a part of Israel’s worship. In bringing the tithes and offerings, the people were not only supporting the ministry of the temple, but they were also giving thanks to God for His bountiful provision for their own needs.
Over the centuries, many of the Jews committed two errors with regard to the tithe: (1) the legalists obeyed the Law so scrupulously that, like the Pharisees, they even tithed the minute garden herbs (Matt. 23:23–24), all the while thinking that their obedience would earn them righteousness before God; (2) the irreligious neglected the tithe and by disobeying God deprived the temple ministry of what it needed to keep going. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, the temple storerooms were empty of produce and many of the priests and Levites had abandoned their service to go back home and work their fields in order to care for their families (Neh. 13:10). The people had vowed to bring their tithes (10:34–39), but they hadn’t kept their vow.
Since God made and owns everything, He doesn’t need anything that we can bring Him (Acts 17:25). But when we obey His Word and bring our gifts as an act of worship with grateful hearts, it pleases him. While 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 suggests proportionate giving (“as God has prospered him”), (The offering mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:1–3 was not a regular weekly offering received at a meeting of God’s people. It was a special “relief offering” Paul was receiving from the Gentile believers to give aid to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. ) there is no express command to tithe given to the church in the New Testament. Paul teaches “grace giving” in 2 Corinthians 8–9, which is certainly beyond 10 percent. Many Christians feel that if believers under the Old Covenant brought their tithes, how could Christians under the New Covenant begin with anything less?
They were robbing themselves (Mal. 3:9–11). In robbing God, the people were not fulfilling the covenant they had made with the Lord; therefore, God couldn’t fulfill His promise and bless them (Lev. 26:3ff). “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land” (Deut. 28:8). Insects had invaded the land (“the devourer,” Mal. 3:11) and the grain and fruit were not maturing.
Whenever we rob God, we always rob ourselves. To begin with, we rob ourselves of the spiritual blessings that always accompany obedience and faithful giving
(2 Cor. 9:6–15). But even more, the money that rightfully belongs to God that we keep for ourselves never stays with us. It ends up going to the doctor, the auto body shop, or the tax collector. “You have sown much, and bring in little … and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Hag. 1:6, NKJV). If we don’t trust God to care for us, whatever we do trust will prove futile. People who lovingly give tithes and offerings to God find that whatever is left over goes much farther and brings much greater blessing.
Yes, giving is an act of faith, but God rewards that faith in every way. That isn’t the reason we give, because that kind of motivation would be selfish. “If you give because it pays, it won’t pay!” said industrialist R.G. LeTourneau, and he was right. We give because we love God and want to obey Him, and because He’s very generous to us. When we lay up treasures in heaven, they pay rich dividends for all eternity.
The promise in Malachi 3:10 was linked to the covenant the Israelites had made with the Lord (Deut. 28:1–14), so if they faithfully obeyed Him, He would faithfully keep His promises. But the spiritual principle behind this promise is echoed in Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6–8, so believers today can lay hold of it. For some Christians in America, a tithe would be much too small an amount, but each believer must be fully persuaded in his or her heart what the Lord wants him or her to do. (Multitudes of people have testified to the blessing of regular systematic proportionate giving. However, we must remember that even after we’ve given generously to the Lord, what remains is still His, for we are stewards of everything He gives us. Giving a tithe doesn’t mean we have the right to use the remaining 90 percent for ourselves.)
They were robbing others (Mal. 3:12). The remnant that returned to Judah after the exile had a great opportunity to trust God and bear witness to the other nations that their God was the true and living God. Had the Jews trusted the Lord, He would have done great things for them and they would have been a testimony to others. As it was, they floundered in their faith and nobody could look at them and call them blessed.
God’s promise was, “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. Then all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deut. 28:9–10). The Gentiles would have come to Jerusalem to learn about this great and wonderful God who could take a group of refugees and turn them into a blessed nation.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Despising God’s Service
W. W. Wiersbe
This is the sixth and last of Malachi’s accusations: “’You have said harsh things against Me,’ says the Lord” (3:13, NIV). As he closes his book, he points out four different groups of people and what they said and did.
The complainers (Mal. 3:13–15). These people were guilty of saying “harsh things” against the Lord. For one thing, they felt that serving the Lord was drudgery; it was “futile” to be His servants. The priests may have been the leaders in this complaining, but the common people were just as guilty. “We’re not getting anything out of it!” was their grievance. “Things just keep getting worse.”
I hear this complaint from some believers about their churches. “We’re not getting anything out of it!” But a church is like a bank or a home: you don’t get anything out of it unless you put something into it. We serve God because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’re rewarded for our service. (We shall be rewarded, but that’s not our main motive.)
But they had a second complaint: the pagan peoples around them who didn’t know the Lord were in better shape than the people of Judah! The wicked were prospering while the godly were suffering. Of course, it would have been difficult for the Jews to prove that they were “godly,” because they were guilty of disobeying the Lord. God would have blessed them if they had yielded themselves to Him, but they preferred to have their own way and then complain about what didn’t happen.
It’s a serious thing to serve the Lord, and we’re commanded to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2). It’s a sad thing when a servant of God is a drudge, merely doing a job because that’s what he or she has to do or for what they get out of it. Philippians 2:1–12 is God’s portrait of Christ, God’s ideal Servant, and His example is the one that we should follow.
Imitating Christ’s Humility
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that wasa in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Shining as Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
NRSV Standard Bible (black) (Php 2:1–13).
The believers (Mal. 3:16–18). There was a group of true believers in this remnant, and they remained faithful to the Lord. They feared the Lord, which means they held Him in awe and worshiped Him as the Lord Almighty. They met together, not to complain but to encourage and edify each other. They spoke about the Lord and they weren’t afraid for Him to hear what they were saying!
Their assembly probably wasn’t a large one, and they may have thought that very little was happening because they met and worshiped, but God was paying attention and keeping a record of their words. Their neighbors may have laughed at them, but God was pleased with them. They weren’t wasting their time because they were investing in eternity.
God claimed them as His own, and God promised to spare them in the future judgment when everybody would see that there is a difference between the righteous and the wicked and that this difference is important.
One of the sins of the priests was that they failed to make the distinction between the way of holiness and the way of sin. To them, one sacrifice was just as good as another, yet they were supposed to teach the people “the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek. 44:23).
Many of God’s faithful servants become discouraged because the times are difficult, the crowds are small, and their work seems to be unappreciated. People who aren’t really walking with the Lord seem to be getting more attention than are the faithful servants. But the day will come when God will reveal “His jewels” (“treasured possession,” NIV; see Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6), and then the faithful will receive their reward. Every discouraged servant of God needs to read and ponder. 1 Corinthians 4:1–5.
4 Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
NRSV Standard Bible (black) (1 Co 4:1–5).
The evildoers (Mal. 4:1–3). Once again, Malachi returns to the theme of the coming Day of the Lord when God will punish all evildoers. Sinners will be burned up the way fire eats up the stubble; they will become like ashes under the feet of the saints! But the true believers will see the dawning of a new day as the “Sun of righteousness” rises (Luke 1:78–79). Then Jesus will reign as King of Kings and His people will frolic like calves let out of their stalls!
The preachers (Mal. 4:4–6). Malachi has been faithful as God’s messenger, and he closes his book by reminding the people of two other faithful prophets, Moses and Elijah. The Law of Moses was still God’s rule of life for the Jews, and if they obeyed, God would bless them. Of course, believers today aren’t under the Law (Rom. 6:15; Gal. 5:1–4), but they still practice the righteousness of the Law through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God (Rom. 8:1–4).
The promise in Malachi 4:5 was often discussed and debated by the Jewish rabbis who asked, “Who is the Elijah whom the Lord will send?” The Jewish leaders interrogated John the Baptist about it (John 1:19–21) and Peter, James, and John asked Jesus about it (Matt. 17:10).
The prophet Elijah is mentioned at least thirty times in the New Testament, and ten of those references relate him to John the Baptist. But John the Baptist said plainly that he was no Elijah (John 1:21, 25). He did come in the “spirit and power” of Elijah and turn the hearts of fathers and children (Luke 1:16–17). Like Elijah, John was a courageous man, a man of prayer empowered by the Spirit, a man who lived alone in the wilderness, and a servant who turned many people back to the Lord, but he was not Elijah returned to earth.
However, for those who believed on Christ during His earthly ministry, John the Baptist performed the work of Elijah in their lives: he prepared them to meet the Lord. “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come” (Matt. 11:14, NIV). “Elijah is come already,” said Jesus, “and they know him not.” The disciples understood Jesus to mean John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (17:10–13).
But Malachi 4:5 promises that Elijah himself will come, and that his coming is related to the “Day of the Lord” that will burn the wicked like stubble (v. 1). That’s why Jesus said, “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matt. 17:11). Many students believe that Elijah is one of the two witnesses whose ministries are described in Revelation 11:3–12. (They believe the other is Moses.) It’s worth noting that both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3), which explains why the three apostles asked about Elijah.
Inasmuch as “the great and terrible Day of the Lord” did not occur in New Testament times, we have to believe that John the Baptist was not the promised Elijah, even though he ministered like Elijah. Therefore, this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. It may well be that Elijah will return to earth as one of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:3–12), for the signs that these two men will perform remind us of the miracles of Elijah. After the ministry of the witnesses, the Lord will pour out His wrath upon the earth (v. 18; 16:1ff) and the Day of the Lord will burst upon the world in its fury.
It seems odd that the Old Testament Scriptures should end with the word “curse.” When we get near the end of the New Testament, we read, “And there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:3). All of creation is eagerly awaiting the return of the Savior, expecting Him to deliver creation from the bondage of sin (Rom. 8:18–23). We too should be expecting Him and, while we’re waiting, witness of Him to others. For when the Sun of righteousness arises, it will mean either burning or blessing (Mal. 4:1–2): blessing to those who have trusted Him, burning to those who have rejected Him.
Nobody can afford to argue with God the way the Israelites did when they heard Malachi, because God will always have the last word.
For you, will that last word be salvation or judgment?
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.
--- John 2:10.
Wherever God in Christ is working, the best wine is kept until the end. Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) Think how true this is of sin. It is indeed the masterpiece of evil. It is the token and the triumph of all sin that it always gives the best wine at the start. That is why people of open and generous natures are often those most bitterly assailed. They do not calculate nor look ahead nor reckon seriously with the morrow. And sin is so fair and pleasant at the outset and hides its afterward with such consummate mastery that the reckless heart becomes an easy prey. Don’t you think that, now, if all the miseries of drunkenness were to meet one who is on the verge of drinking—don’t you think that person would cry out for help and turn from the accursed vice and flee? But drunkenness does not begin like that. It begins in the social hour and happy comradeship; only afterward there are the blighted prospects and the shattered body and the ruined home. But sin is cunning and conceals all that; it sets on the table a delicious vintage and only afterward—but always afterward—that which is worse. If sin conceals the worse behind tomorrow, may it not conceal the worst behind the grave?
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Among those mourning the deaths of Philip Bliss and the other victims of the Pacific Express was the President-elect of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, who would soon be officially proclaimed winner of the 1876 election by only one electoral vote. The nation was reeling at the time from Reconstruction, economic depression, and the political scandals of Ulysses S. Grant. Hayes brought to the presidency a keen mind, a love for literature, and courage (in the Civil War, he was wounded four times and had four horses shot from under him). He also had a secret weapon—his wife Lucy, whom he had married on December 30, 1852. Lucy brought to Washington a college degree (she was the first President’s wife to have one), a gift for hospitality, and an open commitment to Jesus Christ.
But she didn’t bring any alcohol.
Official Washington was shocked by her banning of alcoholic beverages from the Executive Mansion, and the First Lady was dubbed “Lemonade Lucy.” She was unapologetic. “It is true I violate a precedent,” she said, “but I shall not violate the Constitution, which is all that, through my husband, I have taken an oath to obey.” She later told a friend, “I had three sons coming to manhood and did not feel I could be the first to put the wine cup to their lips.”
Among those displeased was Hayes’s secretary of state who grumbled after one state dinner, “It was a brilliant affair. The water flowed like champagne.”
President and Mrs. Hayes began each day with Morning prayers, making no secret of their lifelong custom of family devotions. They ended most days with music and singing. They were devout Methodists. During their years in Washington, they attended the Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church; and when the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, Lucy became its first president. Sunday Evenings at the White House were times of worship. Hymnbooks were distributed, and Lucy sang vigorously the hymns of Philip Bliss and others.
Kings and leaders should not get drunk
Or even want to drink.
Drinking makes you forget your responsibilities,
And you mistreat the poor.
Beer and wine are only for the dying
Or for those who have lost all hope.
--- Proverbs 31:4-6.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
The certainty of the Messiah’s coming
The Lord here assures his people that he has not forgotten his promise to send the Messiah. The one whom they were seeking would be preceded by a special messenger from God (John the Baptist). John Benton writes: ‘John the Baptist was like a herald going before the royal procession to indicate the route that the king would take and to make preparations for his coming.’
Furthermore, the Messiah would ‘suddenly come to his temple.’ The Lord probably chose to emphasize this because of the attitude that the people had towards the temple that had been rebuilt after the captivity. Because it could not compare with their first temple, built by Solomon, many were disappointed. Here the Lord tells them that their temple would have a glory all its own, a glory which could not be matched even by Solomon’s. Their temple would be visited by the Messiah himself!
We should note that the Messiah is identified as ‘the Messenger of the covenant’. He would come proclaiming a new covenant (Jer. 31:31; Ezek. 37:26).
We must not think that the Lord Jesus came to offer a new or different plan of salvation from that which had been previously known. This is, in fact, the view some hold. They see God trying one plan of salvation and then another, only finally to ‘hit on’ the idea of sending his Son.
The truth is that God has only had one plan of salvation in all of human history, and that plan is the Lord Jesus. The people of the Old Testament era were saved by looking forward in faith to his coming, and those since are saved by looking backward in faith to the Christ who has come. But all are saved by faith in Christ.
The newness of the covenant Jesus proclaimed is not due to it bringing in blessings that people had never experienced before. It is rather to be found in the degree to which these blessings were understood and enjoyed and the way in which those blessings were to be administered. With regard to the administration, the plan of salvation is the same under the old covenant and the new, that is, faith in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. But under the old, that salvation had to be continually anticipated through the sacrifice of animals. It is enjoyed under the new as a permanently purchased possession.
Verse 1, then, brings together three messengers. Malachi was proclaiming God’s message of a messenger (John the Baptist), who would precede the greatest of all messengers (the Lord Jesus).
Opening up Malachi (Opening up the Bible)
verses 2 - 5
The hearts of the people may very well have leaped within them as they heard Malachi assure them that the Messiah would come to their temple. They could not have been elated for long. The reason? Malachi proceeded to deliver a stinging message. Yes, the Messiah was coming, but he would not do what they were expecting. He would come to deal with the sins of Israel!
Malachi makes this point by saying that the Messiah would come ‘like a refiner’s fire’ and ‘like fullers’ soap’ (v. 2). As the refiner removes impurities from silver and the fuller (launderer) removes filth from clothes, so the Messiah would come to cleanse. And this cleansing work would apply to all. Even the religious leaders (‘the sons of Levi’—v. 3) would not be exempt from it. The Messiah would purify them so they would give ‘an offering in righteousness’ (v. 3).
Furthermore, the Messiah would come in the capacity of ‘a swift witness’ against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers and oppressors of the helpless (v. 5). In other words, the Messiah would not delay in confronting such people with their sins.
To state it another way, the coming of the Lord would only bring trouble to those who were in the grip of cynical unbelief, for the Lord would come only to judge and purify them. Malachi’s generation did not understand that the coming of the Lord would only be a comfort to those who were ready for it, that is, to those with hearts of faith. They thought when the Lord came, he would straighten out everyone except his own people. They did not realize that he would start obliterating evil by taking dead aim on the hearts of his own cold, unbelieving people!
Was Malachi on target in this prophecy? We only have to look at the Gospels to see that he was. When Jesus came, he made no move to overthrow the Roman government and to restore Israel to the position she had enjoyed under David and Solomon. Rather, he came calling his own people and the religious leaders to repent (Matt. 4:17; 23:1–39), and insisting that his kingdom was not of this world (Luke 17:21; John 18:36).
What does all this mean for us? It warns us about getting cynical towards God. Such cynicism tires God and troubles us. Malachi’s message also warns us about dictating to God. Many are doing with Christ’s second coming what Malachi’s people were doing with his first coming. People are setting dates and detailing all the specifics of Christ’s return, but the real question is this: Are we ready for his return? To put it another way: Are our hearts filled with faith? That’s what he will look for when he comes.
Opening up Malachi (Opening up the Bible)
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 30
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof." Ecclesiastes 7:8.
Look at David’s Lord and Master; see his beginning. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Would you see the end? He sits at his Father’s right hand, expecting until his enemies be made his footstool. “As he is, so are we also in this world.” You must bear the cross, or you shall never wear the crown; you must wade through the mire, or you shall never walk the golden pavement. Cheer up, then, poor Christian. “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” See that creeping worm, how contemptible its appearance! It is the beginning of a thing. Mark that insect with gorgeous wings, playing in the sunbeams, sipping at the flower bells, full of happiness and life; that is the end thereof. That caterpillar is yourself, until you are wrapped up in the chrysalis of death; but when Christ shall appear you shall be like him, for you shall see him as he is. Be content to be like him, a worm and no man, that like him you may be satisfied when you wake up in his likeness. That rough-looking diamond is put upon the wheel of the lapidary. He cuts it on all sides. It loses much—much that seemed costly to itself. The king is crowned; the diadem is put upon the monarch’s head with trumpet’s joyful sound. A glittering ray flashes from that coronet, and it beams from that very diamond which was just now so sorely vexed by the lapidary. You may venture to compare yourself to such a diamond, for you are one of God’s people; and this is the time of the cutting process. Let faith and patience have their perfect work, for in the day when the crown shall be set upon the head of the King, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, one ray of glory shall stream from you. “They shall be mine,” saith the Lord, “in the day when I make up my jewels.” “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
Evening - December 30
“Knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?” --- 2 Samuel 2:26.
If, O my reader! thou art merely a professor, and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true ketch of thine end.
You are a respectable attendant at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to go on as you do now, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter. Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of such a one as yourself. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, “O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my minister?” “Yes, he is coming.” The minister comes. “Sir, I fear that I am dying!” “Have you any hope?” “I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God; oh! pray for me.” The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink. I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again. But where is the man, and where are the man’s true eyes? It is written, “In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.” Ah! why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hear the Gospel that his soul slept under it. Alas! if you should lift up your eyes there, how bitter will be your wailings. Let the Saviour’s own words reveal the woe: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of Jehovah’s wrath!
Morning and Evening
JESUS SHALL REIGN
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. (Psalm 50:1)
The spread of Christianity has been phenomenal. In spite of cruel persecution of Christ’s followers in the first three centuries A.D. and from time to time through the years since, His kingdom has continued to spread to “realms and people of every tongue.” Periods of attack on believers have served only to increase their fervor and growth. Then in recent years, with the rapid development of technology—radio, television, Gospel films, Bible translations and distributions—the preaching of the Gospel has been heard by more people than ever before in the history of mankind.
When this stirring hymn was written in 1719, however, the evangelical missionary movement that we know in our time had scarcely begun. In 1779 William Carey was one of the first to try to persuade Christians to carry the Gospel message to heathen countries of the world. Isaac Watts was certainly quite prophetic when he paraphrased this text from Psalm 72. It is still considered one of the finest missionary hymns ever written and has been sung in countless native tongues. In the South Sea Islands in 1862, 5,000 primitive people sang this hymn as the king abolished their native laws and established a Christian constitution.
It is thrilling for us to realize that the praise of Jesus, Bethlehem’s humble Babe, is continuing to spread and that some day soon His kingdom will “spread from shore to shore” and every tribe, language, people, and nation will bow down and exalt His name together.
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does his successive journeys run, His kingdom spread from shore to shore till moons shall wax and wane no more.
From north to south the princes meet to pay their homage at His feet, while western empires own their Lord and savage tribes attend His word.
To Him shall endless prayer be made and endless praises crown His head: His name like sweet perfume shall rise with ev’ry Morning sacrifice.
People and realms of ev’ry tongue dwell on His love with sweetest song, and infant voices shall proclaim their early blessings on His name.
For Today: Psalm 10:16; 72; Isaiah 33:17; Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 11:15
Rejoice in the many endeavors in our day that work to spread the Gospel around the world. Resolve to do more personally to assist through prayer and financial support. Reflect on the truth of this hymn ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
[2.] God hath wrath to punish, as well as patience to bear. He hath a fury to revenge the outrages done to his meekness: when his messages of peace, sent to reclaim men, are slighted, his sword shall be whetted, and his instruments of war prepared (Hos. 5:3): “Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah.” As he deals gently, like a father, so he can punish capitally as a judge: though he holds his peace for a long time, yet at last he will go forth like a mighty man, and stir up jealousy, as a man of war, to cut in pieces his enemies. It is not said he hath no anger, but that he is “slow to anger,” but sharp in it: he hath a sword to cut, and a bow to shoot, and arrows to pierce (Psalm 12:3): though he be long drawing the one out of its scabbard, and long fitting the other to his bow, yet, when they are ready, he strikes home, and hits the mark: though he hath a time of patience, yet he hath also a “day of rebuke” (Hos. 5:9); though patience overrules justice, by suspending it, yet justice will at last overrule patience, by an utter silencing it. God is Judge of the whole earth to right men, yet he is no less Judge of the injuries he receives to right himself. Though God awhile was pressed with the murmurings of the Israelites, after their coming out of Egypt, and seemed desirous to give them all satisfaction upon their unworthy complaints, yet, when they came to open hostility, in setting a golden calf in his throne, he commissions the “Levites to kill every man his brother and companion in the camp” (Exod. 32:27): and how desirous soever he was to content them before, they never murmured afterwards but they severely smarted for it. When once he hath begun to use his sword, he sticks it up naked, that it might be ready for use upon every occasion. Though he hath feet of lead, yet he hath hands of iron. It was long that he supported the peevishness of the Jews, but at last he captived them by the arms of the Babylonians, and laid them waste by the power of the Romans. He planted, by the apostles, churches in the cast; and when his goodness and long-suffering prevailed not with them, he tore them up by the roots. What Christians are to be found in those once famous parts of Asia but what are overgrown with much error and ignorance?
[3.] The more his patience is abused, the sharper will be the wrath he inflicts. As his wrath restrained makes his patience long, so his compassions restrained will make his wrath severe; as he doth transcend all creatures in the measures of the one, so he doth transcend all creatures in the sharpness of the other. Christ is described with “feet of brass,” as if they burned in a furnace (Rev. 1:15), slow to move, but heavy to crush, and hot to burn. His wrath loseth nothing by delay; it grows the fresher by sleeping, and strikes with greater strength when it awakes: all the time men are abusing his patience, God is whetting his sword, and the longer it is whetting the sharper will be the edge; the longer he is fetching his blow, the smarter it will be. The heavier the cannons are, the more difficultly are they drawn to the besieged town; but, when arrived, they recompense the slowness of their march by the fierceness of their battery. “Because I have purged thee,” i. e. used means for thy reformation, and waited for it, “and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee: I will not go back, neither will I spare; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee” (Ezek. 24:13, 14). God will spare as little then as he spared much before; his wrath shall be as raging upon them as the sea of their wickedness was within them. When there is a bank to forbid the irruption of the streams, the waters swell; but when the bank is broke, or the lock taken away, they rush with the greater violence, and ravage more than they would have done had they not met with a stop: the longer a stone is in falling, the more it bruiseth and grinds to powder. There is a greater treasure of wrath laid up by the abuses of patience: every sin must have a just recompense of reward; and therefore every sin, in regard of its aggravations, must be more punished than a sin in the singleness and simplicity of its own nature. As treasures of mercy are kept by God for us, “he keeps mercy for thousands;” so are treasures of wrath kept by him to be expended, and a time of expense there must be: patience will account to justice all the good offices it hath done the sinner, and demand to be righted by justice; justice will take the account from the hands of patience, and exact a recompense for every disingenuous injury offered to it. When justice comes to arrest men for their debts, patience, mercy, and goodness, will step in as creditors, and clap their actions upon them, which will make the condition so much more deplorable.
[4.] When he puts an end to his abused patience, his wrath will make quick and sure work. He that is “slow to anger” will be swift in the execution of it. The departure of God from Jerusalem is described with “wings and wheels” (Ezek. 11:23). One stroke of his hand is irresistible; he that hath spent so much time in waiting needs but one minute to ruin; though it be long ere he draws his sword out of his scabbard, yet, when once he doth it, he despatcheth men at a blow. Ephraim, or the ten tribes, had a long time of patience and prosperity, but now shall a “month devour him with his portion” (Hos. 5:7). One fatal month puts a period to the many years’ peace and security of a sinful nation; his arrows wound suddenly (Psalm 64:7); and while men are about to fill their bellies, he casts the fruits of his wrath upon them (Job 20:23), like thunder out of a cloud, or a bullet out of a cannon, that strikes dead before it is heard. God deals with sinners as enemies do with a town, batter it not by planted guns, but secretly undermines and blows up the walls, whereby they involve the garrison in a sudden ruin, and carry the town. God spared the Amalekites a long time after the injury committed against the Israelites, in their passage out of Egypt to Canaan; but when he came to reckon with them, he would waste them in a trice, and make an utter consumption of them (1 Sam. 15:2, 3). He describes himself by a “travailing woman” (Isa. 24:14), that hath borne long in her womb, and at last sends forth her birth with strong cries. Though he hath held his peace, been still, and refrained himself, yet, at last, he will destroy and devour at once: the Ninevites, spared in the time of Jonah for their repentance, are, in nature, threatened with a certain and total ruin, when God should come to bring them to an account for his length and patience, so much abused by them. Though God endured the murmuring Israelites so long in the wilderness, yet he paid them off at last, and took away the rebels in his wrath: he uttered their sentence with an irreversible oath, that “none of them should enter into his rest;” and he did as surely execute it as he had solemnly sworn it.
[5.] Though he doth defer his visible wrath, yet that very delay may be more dreadful than a quick punishment. He may forbear striking, and give the reins to the hardness and corruption of men’s hearts; he may suffer them to walk in their own counsels, without any more striving with them, whereby they make themselves fitter fuel for his vengeance. This was the fate of Israel when they would not hearken to his voice; he “gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels” (Psalm 81:12). Though his sparing them had the outward aspect of patience, it was a wrathful one, and attended with spiritual judgments; thus many abusers of patience may still have their line lengthened, and the candle of prosperity to shine upon their beads, that they may increase their sins, and be the fitter mark at last for his arrows; they swim down the stream of their own sensuality with a deplorable security, till they fall into an unavoidable gulf, where, at last, it will be a great part of their hell to reflect on the length of Divine patience on earth, and their inexcusable abuse of it.
2. It informs us of the reason why he lets the enemies of his church oppress it, and defers his promise of the deliverance of it. If he did punish them presently, his holiness and justice would be glorified, but his power over himself in his patience would be obscured. Well may the church be content to have a perfection of God glorified, that is not like to receive any honor in another world by any exercise of itself. If it were not for this patience, he were incapable to be the Governor of a sinful world; he might, without it, be the Governor of an innocent world, but not of a criminal one; he would be the destroyer of the world, but not the orderer and disposer of the extravagancies and sinfulness of the world. The interest of his wisdom, in drawing good out of evil, would not be served, if he were not clothed with this perfection as well as with others. If he did presently destroy the enemies of his church upon the first oppression, his wisdom in contriving, and his power in accomplishing deliverance against the united powers of hell and earth, would not be visible, no, nor that power in preserving his people unconsumed in the furnace of affliction. He had not got so great a name in the rescue of his Israel from Pharaoh, had he thundered the tyrant into destruction upon his first edicts against the innocent. If he were not patient to the most violent of men, he might seem to be cruel. But when he offers peace to them under their rebellions, waits that they may be members of his church, rather than enemies to it, he frees himself from any such imputation, even in the judgment of those that shall feel most of his wrath; it is this renders the equity of his justice unquestionable, and the deliverance of his people righteous in the judgment of those from whose fetters they are delivered. Christ reigns in the midst of his enemies, to show his power over himself, as well as over the heads of his enemies, to show his power over his rebels. And though he retards his promise, and suffers a great interval of time between the publication and performance, sometimes years, sometimes ages to pass away, and little appearance of any preparation, to show himself a God of truth; it is not that he hath forgotten his word, or repents that ever he passed it, or sleeps in a supine neglect of it: but that men might not perish, but bethink themselves, and come as friends into his bosom, rather than be crushed as enemies under his feet (2 Pet. 3:9): “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Hereby he shows, that he would be rather pleased with the conversion, than the destruction, of men.
3. We see the reason why sin is suffered to remain in the regenerate; to show his patience towards his own; for since this attribute hath no other place of appearance but in this world, God takes opportunity to manifest it; because, at the close of the world, it will remain closed up in the Deity, without any further operation. As God suffers a multitude of sins in the world, to evidence his patience to the wicked, so he suffers great remainders of sin in his people, to show his patience to the godly. His sparing mercy is adrnirable, before their conversion, but more admirable in bearing with them after so high an obligation as the conferring upon them special converting grace.
Use 2. Of comfort. It is a vast comfort to any when God is pacified towards them; but it is some comfort to all, that God is yet patient towards them, though but very little to a refractory sinner. His continued patience to all, speaks a possibility of the care of all, would they not stand against the way of their recovery. It is a terror that God hath anger, but it is a mitigation of that terror that God is slow to it; while his sword is in his sheath there is some hopes to prevent the drawing of it: alas! if he were all fire and sword upon sin, what would become of us? We should find nothing else but overflowing deluges, or sweeping pestilences, or perpetual flashes of Sodom’s fire and brimstone from heaven. He dooms us not presently to execution, but gives us a long breathing time after the crime, that by retiring from our iniquities, and having recourse to his mercy, he may be withheld forever from signing a warrant against us, and change his legal sentence into an evangelical pardon. It is a special comfort to his people, that he is a “sanctuary to them” (Ezek. 22:16); a place of refuge, a place of spiritual communications; but it is some refreshment to all in this life, that he is a defence to them: for so is his patience called (Num. 14:9): “Their defence is departed from them;” speaking to the Israelites, that they should not be afraid of the Canaanites, for their defence is departed from them. God is no longer patient to them, since their sins be full and ripe. Patience, as long as it lasts, is a temporary defence to those that are under the wing of it; but to the believer it is a singular comfort; and God is called the “God of patience and consolation” in one breath (Rom. 15:5): “The God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded;” all interpreters understand it effectively. The God that inspires you with patience, and cheers you with comfort, grant this to you. Why may it not be understood formally, of the patience belonging to the nature of God? and though it be expressed in the way of petition, yet it might also be proposed as a pattern for imitation, and so suits very well to the exhortation laid down (ver. 1), which was to “bear with the infirmities of the weak,” which he presseth them to (ver. 3) by the example of Christ; and (ver. 5) by the patience of God to them, and so they are very well linked together. “God of patience and consolation” may well be joined, since patience is the first step of comfort to the poor creature. If it did not administer some comfortable hopes to Adam, in the interval between his fall and God’s coming to examine him, I am sure it was the first discovery of any comfort to the creature, after the sweeping the destroying deluge out of the world (Gen. 9:21); after the “savor of Noah’s sacrifice,” representing the great Sacrifice which was to be in the world, had ascended up to God, the return from him is a publication of his forbearing to punish any more in such a manner: and though he found man no better than he was before, and the imaginations of men’s hearts as evil as before the deluge, that he would not again smite every living thing, as he had done. This was the first expression of comfort to Noah, after his exit from the ark; and declares nothing else but the continuance of patience to the new world above what he had shown to the old.
1. It is a comfort, in that it is an argument of his grace to his people. If he hath so rich a patience to exercise towards his enemies, he hath a greater treasure to bestow upon his friends. Patience is the first attribute which steps in for our salvation, and therefore called “salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15). Something else is therefore built upon it, and intended by it, to those that believe. Those two letters of his name, “a God keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquity, transgressions and sin,” follow the other letter of his long-suffering in the proclamation (Exod. 34:6, 7). He is “slow to anger,” that he may be merciful, that men may seek, and receive their pardon. If he be long-suffering, in order to be a pardoning God, he will not be wanting in pardoning those who answer the design of his forbearance of them. You would not have had sparing mercy to improve, if God would have denied you saving mercy upon the improvement of his sparing goodness. If he hath so much respect to his enemies that provoke him, as to endure them with much long-suffering, he will surely be very kind to those that obey him, and conform to his will. If he hath much long-suffering to those that are “fitted for destruction” (Rom. 9:22), he will have a muchness of mercy for those that are prepared for glory by faith and repentance. It is but a natural conclusion a gracious soul may make,—If God had not a mind to be appeased towards me, he would not have had a mind to forbear me; but since he hath forborne me, and given me a heart to see, and answer the true end of that forbearance, I need not question, but that sparing mercy will end in saving, since it finds that repentance springing up in me, which that patience conducted me to.
2. His patience is a ground to trust in his promise. If his slowness to anger be so great when his precept is slighted, his readiness to give what he hath promised will be as great when his promise is believed. If the provocations of them meet with such an unwillingness to punish them, faith in him will meet with the choicest embraces from him. He was more ready to make the promise of redemption after man’s apostasy, than to execute the threatening of the law. He doth still witness a greater willingness to give forth the fruits of the promise, than to pour out the vials of his curses. His slowness to anger is an evidence still, that he hath the same disposition, which is no slight cordial to faith in his word.
3. It is a comfort in infirmities. If he were not patient, he could not bear with so many peevishnesses and weaknesses in the hearts of his own. If he be patient to the grosser sins of his enemies, he will be no less to the lighter infirmities of his people. When the soul is a bruised reed, that can emit no sound at all, or one very harsh and ungrateful, he doth not break it in pieces, and fling it away in disdain, but waits to see whether it will fully answer his pains, and be brought to a better frame and sweeter note. He brings them not to account for every slip, but, “as a father, spares his son that serves him” (Mal. 3:17). It is a comfort to us in our distracted services; for were it not for this slowness to anger, he would stifle us in the midst of our prayers, wherein there are as many foolish thoughts to disgust him, as there are petitions to implore him. The patientest angels would hardly be able to bear with the follies of good men in acts of worship.
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