Revelation 20 - 22
The Thousand YearsRevelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The Defeat of Satan7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Judgment Before the Great White Throne11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The New Heaven and the New EarthRevelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The New Jerusalem9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The River of LifeRevelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Jesus Is Coming6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
What I'm Reading
5 Insights on Generation Z, Garnered this Year
By Andrew McPeak
Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a writer, curriculum designer, and speaker who has served with a number of non-profit organizations (and has spoken to thousands of Millennials) over the last 5 years. He now serves on our team at Growing Leaders.
This has been a year of change for our county and our world. In the midst of this change, there is one shift that is perhaps more important than any other: a new generation is rising to prominence. Generation Z (those born since 2001) will soon be in your classrooms, lecture halls, and board rooms, and if we aren’t ready, they may take us by surprise.
This year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with over a hundred members of Generation Z in focus groups across the country. Through these conversations and our ongoing research, we’ve uncovered many fascinating trends about the next generation that will shape 2017.
As you consider how your work with them will change in the new year, think too about these realities. If we aren’t preparing for this new generation, we may be lost when they arrive. Here are five insights we gained about Generation Z this year.
1. Generation Z is anxious and depressed. | One theme that keeps showing up in research about Gen Z is the amount of diagnosed anxiety and depression they deal with at a very young age. This year, I personally met middle schoolers who are on medication for depression and anxiety. Leaders of this generation will have to always keep emotional health in mind when they are working with Gen Z students.
Andrew is a millennial speaker and content developer with Growing Leaders. His experiences as both presenter and curriculum designer have led him to become well versed in communicating to and about the next generations.
By Erica Boutwell
Let’s talk for a minute about disappointment. We all experience it. It may look different in frequency and intensity for each of us, but it’s certainly a universal experience nonetheless. It’s a very personal thing too, so trying to compare circumstances as some kind of gauge for how disappointed one should feel about a given situation isn’t fair. At the end of the day, there was an expectation that didn’t get met and oftentimes it creates a series of inconveniences, frustrations, and extra work – hence the disappointment. 1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
The journey my family has been on for the last 3½ months has been nothing short of chalk full when it comes to disappointing moments. And each time I’m met with a choice – to wallow or not to wallow. I would love to be able to say that as each moment came, I received it with grace and patience. But it was quite the contrary. Sometimes it was as simple as a hefty grunt of irritation. Other times it took a good venting session with a friend or family member to be able to move on. And then there has been a time or two where I went full throttle into pout-mode and had to dig my way out to see reason.
So how does this God-given emotion fit into the Christian walk and testimony? One of the best pouters in the Bible has got to be David. He did not hold back in his feelings of disappointment, fear, anger, and hurt. Yet he did it in a way that challenges us today to feel what we’re feeling, but keep our eyes fixed on the Lord whilst doing so (don’t you love a good “whilst”?). That second component is so important because it is what dictates the outcome of our disappointment. Let’s look at a few examples of how David handled himself in disappointing situations.
In Psalm 6, David cries out . . .
O LORD, Deliver My Life
6 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS; ACCORDING TO THE SHEMINITH. A PSALM OF DAVID.
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?
4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. ESV
In Psalm 13 he says . . .
1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
Erica Boutwell. I'm a Jesus-follower who also have the privilege of being the wife to a guy named Stephen and the mom to 3 wild boys. My passion is leading other Jesus-followers in worship, pouring into the next generation, and discipling women.
Absolute and Relative Regarding God
By Fred Sanders 12/29/2016
This post is just me preemptively sorting out some terminological confusion in academic trinitarian theology, so if you read it and then find yourself asking, “who cares?” you can’t say I didn’t warn you. The answer is, “seven people care.” So if you’re one of those seven, lean in here and looky, because this is kind of cool.
In his essay “Christology, Theology, Economy” (which I wrote about last week for the Sapientia blog), John Webster says of Christian teaching that its “one complex matter may therefore be divided into (1) God absolutely considered, that is, considered in himself in his inner life as Father, Son and Spirit (theology), and (2) God relatively considered, that is, considered in his outer works and in relation to his creatures (economy).”
In this passage, Webster is marking the distinction between God and everything else, and using the terms “absolute” and “relative” to do so. He is of course riffing on Aquinas’ description of the task of sacred doctrine (Summa Theologiae Ia 1.7 resp.), “All things are dealt with in holy teaching in terms of God, either because they are God himself or because they are relative to him as their origin and end.”¹ It’s one of Webster’s favorite lines from Thomas on the nature of doctrine, and in this essay he exploits it for the purpose of distinguishing the domains of theology and economy.
But for my own usage, I have a little trouble following Webster’s lead and using the terms “absolute” and “relative” to mark this distinction. I’ve found a more helpful way of talking in the works of the post-Reformation Protestant Orthodox theologians. In particular, I’ve benefited from the way they use the terms “absolute” and “relative” to refer to two different things in the doctrine of God proper, before even turning to God’s outer works (creation or salvation).
Lutheran theologian Quenstedt says it very clearly:
Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series).
Fred Sanders Books:
- 1 Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series)
- 2 The Triune God (New Studies in Dogmatics)
- 3 The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
- 4 Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Intermediate Christology
- 5 The Voice of God in the Text of Scripture: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series)
- 6 Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (LA Theology Conference Series)
- 7 Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love
- 8 Theology and California: Theological Refractions on California's Culture
- 9 Embracing the Trinity: Life with God in the Gospel
Next Year in Jerusalem
By Jon Bloom 12/30/16
Every year the Jewish diaspora end their Passover Seder with this wistful prayer: “Next year in Jerusalem.” It expresses the deep longing for the promised Messiah’s long-awaited arrival, which will finally bring lasting peace and restored worship to Jerusalem. It is a profound yearning that perhaps next year those who have been strangers and exiles on the earth for so long will finally see an end to their sojourning and return to their promised forever home.
It seems to me that “Next year in Jerusalem!” is what we Christians ought to wish each other as we mark the closing of another year. It voices far more clearly the sort of happiness we long for than the generic and rather hollow “Happy New Year.”
A Nation Without a Country | Distinctly Christian happiness is meant to be fueled by a profound belief in the return of Jesus and the full inheritance we will receive. This kind of happiness declares our love for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8) and our hope in the grace we will receive when he is finally revealed (1 Peter 1:13).
(2 Ti 4:8) 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ESV
(1 Pe 1:13) 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ESV
(Heb 13:13–14) 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. ESV
(Re 21:2–5) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ESV
In this city, we will at long last know the peace each of us longs for deep, deep in our souls:
(Re 21:4) 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ESV
(Re 22:3) 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. ESV
The Joy of Every Longing Heart | And in this city, we will finally realize the fullness of the joy we seek incessantly here and yet find so elusive: the end of the longing that makes us so restless now, the healing of the homesickness for that place we’ve not yet seen, and the coming true of the dreams we’ve never quite been able to fully describe. We will finally experience adoration of the triune God with our entire being, in unfiltered glory and in dimensions of spirit and truth that are unimaginable to us now. And we will wonder that we ever used the phrase “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8) during our years of dimmed, muted, sin-impoverishing, defective worship when at last our faith gives way to the sight of this:
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Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
Jon Bloom Books:
Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith
Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises
Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 150Let Everything Praise the LORD
150 Praise the LORD!
150:1 Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
Truth Alone Won’t Set You Free the Necessity of Pursuing Joy in God
By John Piper 12/29/2017
“Why, then,” somebody should ask me, “Why, then, do you insist over and over again in everything you write that we should pursue joy in God? Why don’t you just say, ‘Pursue God’?” And there are three reasons.
God’s Own Idea | Number one: It isn’t my idea to talk like this. It’s God’s idea. Deuteronomy 28:47–48 is one of the scariest warnings in the Bible. It goes like this: “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, . . . you shall serve your enemies.” God is so bent on having people pursue joy in him that if they try to serve him without that joy, they will serve their enemies. That’s how blood-earnest God gets in this issue of pursuing joy. So it’s not me who made up all the commandments — delight yourself in the Lord; rejoice in the Lord — that’s Bible talk, not my talk.
(Dt 28:47–48) 47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. ESV
Doctrine and Delight | Second response: God is glorified by our experience of him joyfully, not merely by the way we think about him. The devil has had more theologically accurate thoughts about God in the last 24 hours than you will have in a lifetime. You believe that? I do. I think he’s brilliant, and he knows God inside out and hates what he knows. Satan’s problem is not doctrine. It’s delight. Therefore, getting our heads straight won’t save us, and it won’t glorify God by itself. And I hope you know I’m really big on doctrine, but I’m, at this point, saying the reason I push joy in God is because all the right thinking about God in the world is not as good as Satan’s thinking about God. He just hates it.
Desires Can Damn Us | The third response is people don’t awaken to how desperate their condition is before God, usually, I think, until they begin to measure their hearts by the demand for joy in God. A lot of preaching of the law — and I think that’s a good thing — deals with the law just at a do level, a deed level. Don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, don’t steal.
And that doesn’t probe the depths of commandment number ten, which is the root of all the others. “Thou shalt not desire things in ways you shouldn’t.” Covet (Exodus 20:17). Desire is the root problem of the law, and so when we preach, not enough people probe people’s consciences and hearts as to “What do you delight in? What are you going to watch on television when you go home tonight? What is your default activity when there’s no pressure on you? What is your heart reflexively drawn to?” Those are the things that damn us. It isn’t adultery. Good grief, it does not take a lot of willpower to stay out of bed with another woman, but not to have a desire to look at a picture — desire — that’s damning.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 25 and the New Year
By Justin Huffman 12/30/2017
The old British divine Matthew Henry refers to the practice of praying God’s Word back to God as “wrestling with God in his own strength.” For this reason, I love to peruse the Bible for prayers to make my own. And one of my favorite passages to pray is Psalm 25.
As we look forward to a new year, I don’t know what changes, purposes, or opportunities await each of us, but I am confident that “good and upright is the LORD” and that, “therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:8, 9).
What a comfort to enter into this year with a prayer for God’s good direction, knowing, not only that he will guide us, but also that “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 25:10).
God will lead us in his good ways, if we meekly seek his counsel. My prayer, therefore, for each of us in this new year, is that we will make David’s prayer in Psalm 25 our own.
Notice that he prays the prayer of a meek man in the first part of the psalm and then—and only then—lays hold on the promises of God to those who are humble. May we meekly seek the Lord’s favor and direction, opening ourselves completely and trustingly to his wise and good path for our lives.
Psalm 25Teach Me Your Paths
25 Of David.
1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
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Justin Huffman is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and has pastored in the States for over fifteen years. Justin authored the “Daily Devotion” app which now has over half a million downloads, and recently published Grow: The Command to Ever-Expanding Joy (Following Jesus) (Following Jesis). He blogs at justinhuffman.org.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
21. What the Apostle here denies to man, he, in another place, ascribes to God alone, when he prays, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation," (Ephesians 1:17 (ESV) — 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,). You now hear that all wisdom and revelation is the gift of God. What follows? "The eyes of your
understanding being enlightened." Surely, if they require a new enlightening, they must in themselves be blind. The next words are, "that ye may know what is the hope of his calling," (Ephesians 1:18 (ESV) — 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,). In other words, the minds of men have not capacity enough to know their calling. Let no prating Pelagian here allege that God obviates this rudeness or stupidity, when, by the doctrine of his word, he directs us to a path which we could not have found without a guide. David had the law, comprehending in it all the wisdom that could be desired, and yet not contented with this, he prays, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," (Psalm 119:18 (ESV) — 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous thin s out of your law.). By this expression, he certainly intimates, that it is like sunrise to the earth when the word of God shines forth; but that men do not derive much benefit from it until he himself, who is for this reason called the Father of lights (James 1:17 (ESV) — 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.), either gives eyes or opens them; because, whatever is not illuminated by his Spirit is wholly darkness. The Apostles had been duly and amply instructed by the best of teachers. Still, as they wanted the Spirit of truth to complete their education in the very doctrine which they had previously heard, they were ordered to wait for him (John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.). If we confess that what we ask of God is lacking to us, and He by the very thing promised intimates our want, no man can hesitate to acknowledge that he is able to understand the mysteries of God, only in so far as illuminated by his grace. He who ascribes to himself more understanding than this, is the blinder for not acknowledging his blindness.
22. It remains to consider the third branch of the knowledge of spiritual things--viz. the method of properly regulating the conduct. This is correctly termed the knowledge of the works of righteousness, a branch in which the human mind seems to have somewhat more discernment than in the former two, since an Apostle declares, "When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meantime accusing or else excusing one another" (Romans 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them ). If the Gentiles have the righteousness of the law naturally engraven on their minds, we certainly cannot say that they are altogether blind as to the rule of life. Nothing, indeed is more common, than for man to be sufficiently instructed in a right course of conduct by natural law, of which the Apostle here speaks. Let us consider, however for what end this knowledge of the law was given to men. For from this it will forthwith appear how far it can conduct them in the way of reason and truth. This is even plain from the words of Paul, if we attend to their arrangement. He had said a little before, that those who had sinned in the law will be judged by the law; and those who have sinned without the law will perish without the law. As it might seem unaccountable that the Gentiles should perish without any previous judgment, he immediately subjoins, that conscience served them instead of the law, and was therefore sufficient for their righteous condemnation. The end of the natural law, therefore, is to render man inexcusable, and may be not improperly defined--the judgment of conscience distinguishing sufficiently between just and unjust, and by convicting men on their own testimony depriving them of all pretext for ignorance. So indulgent is man towards himself, that, while doing evil, he always endeavours as much as he can to suppress the idea of sin. It was this, apparently, which induced Plato (in his Protagoras) to suppose that sins were committed only through ignorance. There might be some ground for this, if hypocrisy were so successful in hiding vice as to keep the conscience clear in the sight of God. But since the sinner, when trying to evade the judgment of good and evil implanted in him, is ever and anon dragged forward, and not permitted to wink so effectually as not to be compelled at times, whether he will or not, to open his eyes, it is false to say that he sins only through ignorance.
23. Themistius is more accurate in teaching (Paraphr. in Lib. 3 de Anima, cap. 46), that the intellect is very seldom mistaken in the general definition or essence of the matter; but that deception begins as it advances farther, namely, when it descends to particulars. That homicide, putting the case in the abstract, is an evil, no man will deny; and yet one who is conspiring the death of his enemy deliberates on it as if the thing was good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in the abstract, and yet flatter himself while privately committing it. The ignorance lies here: that man, when he comes to the particular, forgets the rule which he had laid down in the general case. Augustine treats most admirably on this subject in his exposition of the first verse of the fifty-seventh Psalm. The doctrine of Themistius, however, does not always hold true: for the turpitude of the crime sometimes presses so on the conscience, that the sinner does not impose upon himself by a false semblance of good, but rushes into sin knowingly and willingly. Hence the expression,--I see the better course, and approve it: I follow the worse (Medea of Ovid). For this reason, Aristotle seems to me to have made a very shrewd distinction between incontinence and intemperance (Ethic. lib. 7 cap. 3) Where incontinence (ajkrasiva) reigns, he says, that through the passion (pavtho") particular knowledge is suppressed: so that the individual sees not in his own misdeed the evil which he sees generally in similar cases; but when the passion is over, repentance immediately succeeds. Intemperance (ajkolasiva), again, is not extinguished or diminished by a sense of sin, but, on the contrary, persists in the evil choice which it has once made.
24. Moreover, when you hear of a universal judgment in man distinguishing between good and evil, you must not suppose that this judgment is, in every respect, sound and entire. For if the hearts of men are imbued with a sense of justice and injustice, in order that they may have no pretext to allege ignorance, it is by no means necessary for this purpose that they should discern the truth in particular cases. It is even more than sufficient if they understand so far as to be unable to practice evasion without being convicted by their own conscience, and beginning even now to tremble at the judgment-seat of God. Indeed, if we would test our reason by the Divine Law, which is a perfect standard of righteousness, we should find how blind it is in many respects. It certainly attains not to the principal heads in the First Table, such as, trust in God, the ascription to him of all praise in virtue and righteousness, the invocation of his name, and the true observance of his day of rest. Did ever any soul, under the guidance of natural sense, imagine that these and the like constitute the legitimate worship of God? When profane men would worship God, how often soever they may be drawn off from their vain trifling, they constantly relapse into it. They admit, indeed, that sacrifices are not pleasing, to God, unless accompanied with sincerity of mind; and by this they testify that they have some conception of spiritual worship, though they immediately pervert it by false devices: for it is impossible to persuade them that every thing which the law enjoins on the subject is true. Shall I then extol the discernment of a mind which can neither acquire wisdom by itself, nor listen to advice?  As to the precepts of the Second Table, there is considerably more knowledge of them, inasmuch as they are more closely connected with the preservation of civil society. Even here, however, there is something defective. Every man of understanding deems it most absurd to submit to unjust and tyrannical domination, provided it can by any means be thrown off, and there is but one opinion among men, that it is the part of an abject and servile mind to bear it patiently, the part of an honourable and high-spirited mind to rise up against it. Indeed, the revenge of injuries is not regarded by philosophers as a vice. But the Lord condemning this too lofty spirit, prescribes to his people that patience which mankind deem infamous. In regard to the general observance of the law, concupiscence altogether escapes our animadversion. For the natural man cannot bear to recognise diseases in his lusts. The light of nature is stifled sooner than take the first step into this profound abyss. For, when philosophers class immoderate movements of the mind among vices, they mean those which break forth and manifest themselves in grosser forms. Depraved desires, in which the mind can quietly indulge, they regard as nothing (see infra, chap. 8 sect. 49).
25. As we have above animadverted on Plato's error, in ascribing all sins to ignorance, so we must repudiate the opinion of those who hold that all sins proceed from preconceived gravity and malice. We know too well from experience how often we fall, even when our intention is good. Our reason is exposed to so many forms of delusion, is liable to so many errors, stumbles on so many obstacles, is entangled by so many snares, that it is ever wandering from the right direction. Of how little value it is in the sight of God, in regard to all the parts of life, Paul shows, when he says, that we are not "sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves," (2 Cor. 3:5). He is not speaking of the will or affection; he denies us the power of thinking aright how any thing can be duly performed. Is it, indeed, true, that all thought, intelligence, discernment, and industry, are so defective, that, in the sight of the Lord, we cannot think or aim at any thing that is right? To us, who can scarcely bear to part with acuteness of intellect (in our estimation a most precious endowment), it seems hard to admit this, whereas it is regarded as most just by the Holy Spirit, who "knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity," (Ps. 94:11), and distinctly declares, that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are acceptable? It is thus plain, that our mind, in what direction soever it turns, is miserably exposed to vanity. David was conscious of its weakness when he prayed, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law," (Ps. 119:34). By desiring to obtain a new understanding, he intimates that his own was by no means sufficient. This he does not once only, but in one psalm repeats the same prayer almost ten times, the repetition intimating how strong the necessity which urged him to pray. What he thus asked for himself alone, Paul prays for the churches in general. "For this cause," says he, "we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you might walk worthy of the Lord," &c. (Col. 1:9, 10). Whenever he represents this as a blessing from God, we should remember that he at the same time testifies that it is not in the power of man. Accordingly, Augustine, in speaking of this inability of human reason to understand the things of God, says, that he deems the grace of illumination not less necessary to the mind than the light of the sun to the eye (August. de Peccat. Merit. et Remiss. lib. 2 cap. 5). And, not content with this, he modifies his expression, adding, that we open our eyes to behold the light, whereas the mental eye remains shut, until it is opened by the Lord. Nor does Scripture say that our minds are illuminated in a single day, so as afterwards to see of themselves. The passage, which I lately quoted from the Apostle Paul, refers to continual progress and increase. David, too, expresses this distinctly in these words: "With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments," (Ps. 119:10). Though he had been regenerated, and so had made no ordinary progress in true piety, he confesses that he stood in need of direction every moment, in order that he might not decline from the knowledge with which he had been endued. Hence, he elsewhere prays for a renewal of a right spirit, which he had lost by his sin,  (Ps. 51:12). For that which God gave at first, while temporarily withdrawn, it is equally his province to restore.
26. We must now examine the will, on which the question of freedom principally turns, the power of choice belonging to it rather than the intellect, as we have already seen (supra, sect. 4). And at the outset, to guard against its being thought that the doctrine taught by philosophers, and generally received--viz. that all things by natural instinct have a desire of good, is any proof of the rectitude of the human will,--let us observe, that the power of free will is not to be considered in any of those desires which proceed more from instinct than mental deliberation. Even the schoolmen admit (Thomas, Part 1, Quæst. 83, art. 3), that there is no act of free will, unless when reason looks at opposites. By this they mean, that the things desired must be such as may be made the object of choice, and that to pave the way for choice, deliberation must precede. And, undoubtedly, if you attend to what this natural desire of good in man is, you will find that it is common to him with the brutes. They, too, desire what is good; and when any semblance of good capable of moving the sense appears, they follow after it. Here, however, man does not, in accordance with the excellence of his immortal nature, rationally choose, and studiously pursue, what is truly for his good. He does not admit reason to his counsel, nor exert his intellect; but without reason, without counsel, follows the bent of his nature like the lower animals. The question of freedom, therefore, has nothing to do with the fact of man's being led by natural instinct to desire good. The question is, Does man, after determining by right reason what is good, choose what he thus knows, and pursue what he thus chooses? Lest any doubt should be entertained as to this, we must attend to the double misnomer. For this appetite is not properly a movement of the will, but natural inclination; and this good is not one of virtue or righteousness, but of condition--viz. that the individual may feel comfortable. In fine, how much soever man may desire to obtain what is good, he does not follow it. There is no man who would not be pleased with eternal blessedness; and yet, without the impulse of the Spirit, no man aspires to it. Since, then, the natural desire of happiness in man no more proves the freedom of the will, than the tendency in metals and stones to attain the perfection of their nature, let us consider, in other respects, whether the will is so utterly vitiated and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil, or whether it retains some portion uninjured, and productive of good desires.
27. Those who ascribe our willing effectually, to the primary grace of Gods (supra, sect. 6), seem conversely to insinuate that the soul has in itself a power of aspiring to good, though a power too feeble to rise to solid affection or active endeavour. There is no doubt that this opinion, adopted from Origin and certain of the ancient Fathers, has been generally embraced by the schoolmen, who are wont to apply to man in his natural state (in puris naturalibus, as they express it) the following description of the apostle:--"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not," (Rom. 7:15, 18). But, in this way, the whole scope of Paul's discourse is inverted. He is speaking of the Christian struggle (touched on more briefly in the Epistle to the Galatians), which believers constantly experience from the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. But the Spirit is not from nature, but from regeneration. That the apostle is speaking of the regenerate is apparent from this, that after saying, "in me dwells no good thing," he immediately adds the explanation, "in my flesh." Accordingly, he declares, "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." What is the meaning of the correction, "in me (that is, in my flesh?)" It is just as if he had spoken in this way, No good thing dwells in me, of myself, for in my flesh nothing good can be found. Hence follows the species of excuse, It is not I myself that do evil, but sin that dwelleth in me. This applies to none but the regenerate, who, with the leading powers of the soul, tend towards what is good. The whole is made plain by the conclusion, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind," (Rom. 7:22, 23). Who has this struggle in himself, save those who, regenerated by the Spirit of God, bear about with them the remains of the flesh? Accordingly, Augustine, who had at one time thought that the discourse related to the natural man (August. ad Bonifac. lib. 1 c. 10), afterwards retracted his exposition as unsound and inconsistent. And, indeed if we admit that men, without grace, have any motions to good, however feeble, what answer shall we give to the apostles who declares that "we are incapable of thinking a good thought?" (2 Cor. 3:6). What answer shall we give to the Lord, who declares, by Moses, that "every imagination of man's heart is only evil continually?" (Gen. 8:21). Since the blunder has thus arisen from an erroneous view of a single passage, it seems unnecessary to dwell upon it. Let us rather give due weight to our Saviour's words, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin," (John 8:34). We are all sinners by nature, therefore we are held under the yoke of sin. But if the whole man is subject to the dominion of sin, surely the will, which is its principal seat, must be bound with the closest chains. And, indeed, if divine grace were preceded by any will of ours, Paul could not have said that "it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do" (Phil. 2:13). Away, then, with all the absurd trifling which many have indulged in with regard to preparation. Although believers sometimes ask to have their heart trained to the obedience of the divine law, as David does in several passages (Ps. 51:12), it is to be observed, that even this longing in prayer is from God. This is apparent from the language used. When he prays, "Create in me a clean heart," he certainly does not attribute the beginning of the creation to himself. Let us therefore rather adopt the sentiment of Augustine, "God will prevent you in all things, but do you sometimes prevent his anger. How? Confess that you have all these things from God, that all the good you have is from him, all the evil from yourself," (August. De Verbis Apost. Serm. 10). Shortly after he says "Of our own we have nothing but sin."
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Continual Burnt Offering (Revelation 22:20–21)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
December 31Revelation 22:20–21 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. ESV
The last word ever heard from Heaven, the last that shall be heard until the Lord’s return, was the promise of His coming again, and that quickly, God does not count time as we do. According to His reckoning not even two days have elapsed since Jesus went away (2 Peter 3:8). Soon He will fulfill His promise. The heart that loves Him looks for Him, and responds, “Even so, come”! Till then there is grace for every moment of the way. The Old Testament closed with “a curse” because of man’s failure to keep God’s holy law. The New Testament closes with “grace,” because of Calvary. On the basis of the work accomplished there grace flows out in abundant fullness.
2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. ESV
Grace is flowing like a river,
Millions there have been supplied;
Still it flows as fresh as ever,
From the Saviour’s wounded side;
None need perish,
All may live since Christ has died.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Age is a funny thing. When you're young, you can't imagine being old. When you're old, you can't believe you can't do the old things anymore. Being unable to do the many things you used to take for granted when they were part of your normal, automatic life, is a stiff pill to take with all the other pills we're now supposed to take. Seventy-two has found me. I did not know where to hide. Honestly, I never thought we'd meet.
Simple things elude me now. My short time memory is a joke. I think one thing and say another. I think of Dutch Brothers coffee but call it Sherwin Williams. To remember that evil Jewish King Manasseh I have to create word games like "man ass". It was funny in the beginning, but now it is troubling and humbling.
Memorizing scripture is all but hopeless. How often do old people go to the restroom? Frequently, at least this one does. I have scriptures on the wall that I read more than daily, but do I remember them? No. Oh, I know Psalm 119 and Jeremiah 17 are on the bathroom wall. I know Jeremiah 17 is about the tree planted by the stream of living water and Psalm 119 is about the Word of God, my Lord and my Savior, but can I recite them? No.
If I want to remember something, I tell my bride of 37 years. How often have I asked her, "How do you know that?" She tells me I told her.
Quite frequently friends will email me jokes about the elderly. Unfortunately, they are often true, and so easy to relate too.
Growing old is not a joke. After driving down a sidewalk Lily and I agreed I should not drive at night anymore. I used to make fun of my friend Arch, because he drove so slow, now, I can tell my driving frustrates Lily and navigation … why even go there. Who could imagine I used to race cars at Irwindale Raceway, Riverside Raceway and Fontana! I doubt they even exist anymore, that young guy has certainly gone the way of the flesh.
I remember bench pressing reps of 450 pounds at a resort in Lake Pend Oreille in front of my three little boys. I remember their oohs and ahhs, but now I struggle to help Lily move furniture, get in bed, get up off the couch, get out of the car …
It is strange the things I do remember and the things I don't. I remember many of my sins and many of the stupid wicked things I did. Why don't I forget these? I remember many of the people I hurt; an unkind or boastful word, doing things for selfish reasons, putting me first, my way, my desires, my, my, my, etc.
I don't remember when God became more important than me, when Lily became more important than me, when my sons became more important than me, when my family became more important than me, but thank the Lord that somewhere in my distant past God began to rearrange my priorities; God first, my spouse second, my family third and then whatever; career, hobby, etc.
I remember when our local Christian University sent a Psychology Ph.D. candidate to me for counseling. He sat across from me at Starbucks with perfect posture, stiff and upright. His eyes bored into mine and he asked why he had to see me for counseling. He told me he already had one Ph.D. and he would shortly have a second one in Psychology. He told me he had other counselors and mentors and as he understood it, I only had a master's degree. He felt he should be counseling me.
I remember being thoroughly intimidated. I did not know what to say. Then I heard myself tell him the following. I said, you see this alley between Starbucks and Famous Dave's? Imagine it is littered with piles of cow manure. I have probably stepped into most of them. In my mind the smell of manure is probably still with me. Now, young man, you have to cross that street. Would you like me to share with you where those piles of manure are or do you want to cross the street on your own? He softened, smiled and we began our first of ten meetings.
Our local seminary and university used me for counseling for just under ten years. It was a very good time for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking back I do not remember the faces or ninety-five percent of the conversations, but I remember the manure conversation.
I like to make family videos. This has become a real blessing for me. They help me remember times and places and events that otherwise would slip away.
Lily remembers things when she was a little girl; a very little girl. I don't even remember high school, junior college, college and now I remember very little of seminary, or last year's Christmas, so videos have become very important.
I wonder about the few things I do remember. Why do I remember these things? I remember looking down on Ryan when he was in the hospital and we thought we were going to lose him. I remember I could not stop crying. I remember Tom's nightmares of the rock that was going to fall on him and how I prayed God would reassure him. I remember when I took Chris for a long drive so Lily could prepare things for his surprise party. I remember when Spence broke his arm and the doctor could not do anything unless I held Spence in my lap. Then he was OK. I remember my Mom dying, my Dad dying, Lily's Dad dying, her Mom dying. I remember the first time I saw Lily. It was like coming out of a dark winter to springtime. Everything felt clean and good. I remember Betty Weems, Bible studies in our home, Tom Moser, Bob and Diane Gifford, Randy and Patty Stephens … I remember crying uncontrollably when we had to put Yukon down, and yet, so many things Lily talks about are lost to me.
I remember some of the miracles God has performed in our family; the boys praying for a cat, Lily falling down the stairs and Tom and his brothers praying for her (as Lily told me later that day), God saving Ryan, God sending Petey to comfort Lily after her Dad passed, many of Lily's dreams that came true, God speaking to me through her and God speaking to me. God has always been faithful to me despite my being faithful to God infrequently.
Since 2005, a summer I can't forget, I have prayed that God would provide us with a home of our own, again. I still want us to grow old in a home that God provides. At seventy-two I continue to pray for the same, but I understand that home may be in heaven. If that is God's will we are fine with it.
I always, even when I was young, pictured myself sitting in a large wooden rocker rocking on the front porch and reflecting on the people and events in my life. I think that started when I watched my grandfather sit in a swing on their front porch. He'd swing back and forth slowly, not saying anything as he stared into space. Now, even if God provided that home and rocker would I be able to remember the things I want to remember? Maybe not, except for the videos.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.
December 31, 2018
We are looking forward to this evening as Athey Creek is having their New Year's Prophecy Update. We are so grateful to the Lord for guiding us to Athey Creek, even though my Seminary stopped asking me to do counseling ( which I loved ) once they discovered Lily and I were going to Athey Creek. God has used the teaching ministry here to bless us beyond words.
The entire Bible is taught here. It takes about fourteen years for Pastor Brett to go through the entire Bible. He has been doing it here since 1996. Starting with a few people meeting to study the Bible it has grown into a church in the thousands. Apparently, despite Portland's reputation as a God hating city, (#1 in sex trafficking, strip clubs, etc. etc.) there are people here who want to know what the Bible says, ... all of it. Pastor Brett is fearless in teaching what the Bible says.
Lily and I are greatly encouraged as we listen or watch Pastor Brett every day since all of his messages are available on the Church website.
New Year resolutions
12/31/2017 Bob Gass
‘Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.’
(Php 3:13) 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, ESV
Be honest: how many of last year’s resolutions did you keep? They say, ‘Procrastination is the thief of time.’ We keep promising ourselves we’ll do better. But ‘resolutions’ only happen when you’re ‘resolute’. That means having a mind that’s made up. So here are four resolutions you need to make up your mind to keep this year: 1) Take time for what really matters. Get up earlier in order to read your Bible and pray before entering the day. Make more time for your family. Start exercising and eating right. Take better care of your body; it’s God’s temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). 2) Tackle one thing at a time. Taking on too many things at once dilutes your focus and makes it harder to stick with things. When you start too much, you finish too little. So start where you are and build on your successes by mastering and maintaining one thing at a time. 3) Start small. Don’t try to swallow the whole enchilada in one bite; baby steps are the name of the game. Talk in terms of what you will do instead of what you won’t. For example, instead of saying, ‘I’m not going to be so critical,’ try saying, ‘Today I’m going to look for something good in everyone I meet’ (see Philippians 4:8). 4) Record your progress or lack of it. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. By facing the truth you’ll see how far you’ve come, and what you still need to work on. The Bible says, ‘Throw yourself into your tasks so…everyone will see your progress’ (1 Timothy 4:15 NLT).
(1 Co 6:19) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, ESV
(Php 4:8) 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ESV
(1 Ti 4:15) 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. ESV
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, who had been pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He led a nonviolent protest by boycotting the city buses of Montgomery, Alabama. On December 31, 1955, Rev. King stated: “If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, ‘There lived a great people - a black people - who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Have we taken Christ?
Faith is the bond of the union.
Christ is joined to us by his Spirit,
and we are joined to him by faith.
Faith ties the marriage knot.
--- Thomas Watson
Discourses On Important And Interesting Subjects: Being The Select Works Of Thomas Watson, Volume 1
What is it all going to amount to?
It should work out into rest in God
which means oneness with God,
a oneness which will make us
not only blameless in His sight
… but a deep joy to Him.
… Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell.
--- John Wesley – his last words
Graham 2in1 (Angels/Peace With God)
The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone.
--- Henrik Ibsen
A Toolbox for Humanity: More than 9000 Years of Thought
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but a woman who fears ADONAI should be praised.
ת 31 Give her a share in what she produces;
let her works speak her praises at the city gates.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The God of Israel will be your rereward. --- Isaiah 52:12.
Security from Yesterday. “God requireth that which is past.” At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future. God reminds us of the past lest we get into a shallow security in the present.
Security for To-morrow. “For the Lord will go before you.” This is a gracious revelation, that God will garrison where we have failed to. He will watch lest things trip us up again into like failure, as they assuredly would do if He were not our rereward. God’s hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience.
Security for To-day. “For ye shall not go out with haste.” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.
Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Whose address was the corridors
of Europe, waiting for the summons
to be interrogated on their lack of guilt.
Their flesh was dough for the hot
ovens. Some of them rose
to the occasion. The nerves of some
were instruments on which the guards fingered
obscene music. Were there prayers
said? Did a god hear? Time heard
them, anticipating their requital.
Their wrong is an echo defying
acoustical law, increasing not fading.
Evil's crumbling anonymity
is at an end now. We recognize
it by the eternal phosphorous
of their bones, and make our way on
by that same light to the birth
of an innocence that is curled up in the will.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
--- 2 Peter 3:18.
By grace we must understand the principle of new life, implanted in regeneration. Archibald Alexander, “The Nature and Means of Growth in Grace,” in National Preacher 3, no. 8 (January 1829), downloaded from the Web site Gems in the Attic, www.iserv.net/~bettysul/attic.htm. It is as if the apostle had said, Increase in holiness or advance in piety.
But grace is not a plant. It is of heavenly origin. By nature we are all “objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), conceived in sin, and totally destitute of holiness. None, therefore, but the truly regenerated soul is capable of growth in grace. We have, it is true, a rational nature and a moral constitution and are accountable, free agents, but in relation to spiritual exercises, we are dead: “dead in… transgressions and sins” (v. 1).
A seed that possesses life, although it has lain dormant for a thousand years, yet when placed in a congenial soil and subjected to heat, air, and moisture, will readily sprout and grow until it arrives at maturity. But if the vital principle is lost, it will never give any indications of life, and all human skill and power can never cause it to vegetate. Yet, this seed may appear to have no defect in its internal structure. It may possess the perfect organization of seeds of the same species, but its life has fled, and no power on earth can restore it.
Analogous to this is the condition of the human soul. Possessed of all the faculties with which it was created, it has lost the image of God. The principle of spiritual life with which it was animated has become extinct. And as the communication of life is the prerogative of God, so is the regeneration of the soul, and as this work requires the exertion of the same power that first caused light to shine out of darkness, it is denominated “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), and, as there is in it some analogy to raising a dead body from the grave, it is called a resurrection (see Eph. 2:6). But as this divine power is exerted without any consideration of merit in the creature, it is called grace.
Although grace does not exist in anyone by nature, yet it may be received at any period of our existence in this world, from infancy to old age, and we read of some who were sanctified from the womb. But the number of such is very small. Piety is seldom observed to exist with the first dawning of reason and moral feeling. Most persons, therefore, who become the subjects of grace, can remember the time when they were alienated from God and have some knowledge of the change that took place in their views and affections.
--- Archibald Alexander
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Ashes of Wycliffe
The darkest times are ripest for revival. John Foxe observed: “What time there seemed to be no spark of pure doctrine remaining, Wycliffe, by God’s providence, sprang up, through whom the Lord would waken the world.” John Wycliffe was a brilliant professor at Oxford whose logic and popularity made him England’s leading theologian. But to the horror of the church—and long before Luther—Wycliffe denounced the arrogance, power, and wealth of the Catholic clergy, rejecting the infallibility of pope and council. Taking the Bible as the only source of truth, he proclaimed the Gospel of justification by grace through faith. Wycliffe wasn’t the first to criticize the papacy, but he was among the first to attack the doctrines that undergirded papal theology. For that reason, he’s called “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”
Church authorities counterattacked: It hath been intimated that one John Wycliffe, professor of divinity, hath gone to such a pitch of detestable folly, that he feareth not to teach and preach, or rather to vomit out of the filthy dungeon of his breast, certain erroneous and false propositions and conclusions. … But Wycliffe enjoyed support from the people. When the archbishop of London prohibited his preaching, Wycliffe spent his time preparing the first English translation of the Bible.
The strain of his public battles aged Wycliffe, and in his sixtieth year, on the last Sunday of 1384, presiding over the Lord’s Supper, he was struck with paralysis and fell to the ground. His friends carried him to bed where he died on December 31, 1384. Forty-one years later, still hated by his enemies, his bones were exhumed, burned, and thrown into the river. As an ancient biographer wrote, “They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into the Swift, a neighboring brook running hard by. Thus the brook conveyed his ashes into the Avon, the Avon into the Severn, the Severn into the narrow seas and they into the main ocean. And so the ashes of Wycliffe are symbolic of his doctrine, which is now spread throughout the world.”
God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won’t follow sinners or join in sneering at God. … Those people succeed in everything they do.
--- Psalm 1:1,3.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
David M. Romano – 1993
When tomorrow starts without me
When tomorrow starts without me
And I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today;
While thinking of the many things
We didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you;
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand.
She said my place was ready
In heaven far above;
And that I'd have to leave behind,
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye;
For all my life, I'd always thought
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much yet to do;
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad;
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday
Just even for awhile,
I'd say goodbye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized
That this could never be;
For emptiness and memories
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things
I might miss come tomorrow;
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven's gates
I felt so much at home;
When God looked down and smiled at me
From His great golden throne.
He said, "This is eternity
And all I've promised you;
Today your life on earth is past,
But here it all starts anew."
"I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last;
And since each day's the same day,
There's no longing for the past."
"But you have been so faithful,
So trusting and so true;
Though at times you did do things,
You knew you shouldn't do."
"But you have been forgiven
And now at last you're free;
So won't you take my hand
And share my life with me?"
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart
For every time you think of me,
I'm right here in your heart.
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 31
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." John 7:37.
Patience had her perfect work in the Lord Jesus, and until the last day of the feast he pleaded with the Jews, even as on this last day of the year he pleads with us, and waits to be gracious to us. Admirable indeed is the longsuffering of the Saviour in bearing with some of us year after year, notwithstanding our provocations, rebellions, and resistance of his Holy Spirit. Wonder of wonders that we are still in the land of mercy!
Pity expressed herself most plainly, for Jesus cried, which implies not only the loudness of his voice, but the tenderness of his tones. He entreats us to be reconciled. “We pray you,” says the Apostle, “as though God did beseech you by us.” What earnest, pathetic terms are these! How deep must be the love which makes the Lord weep over sinners, and like a mother woo his children to his bosom! Surely at the call of such a cry our willing hearts will come.
Provision is made most plenteously; all is provided that man can need to quench his soul’s thirst. To his conscience the atonement brings peace; to his understanding the Gospel brings the richest instruction; to his heart the person of Jesus is the noblest object of affection; to the whole man the truth as it is in Jesus supplies the purest nutriment. Thirst is terrible, but Jesus can remove it. Though the soul were utterly famished, Jesus could restore it.
Proclamation is made most freely, that every thirsty one is welcome. No other distinction is made but that of thirst. Whether it be the thirst of avarice, ambition, pleasure, knowledge, or rest, he who suffers from it is invited. The thirst may be bad in itself, and be no sign of grace, but rather a mark of inordinate sin longing to be gratified with deeper draughts of lust; but it is not goodness in the creature which brings him the invitation, the Lord Jesus sends it freely, and without respect of persons.
Personality is declared most fully. The sinner must come to Jesus, not to works, ordinances, or doctrines, but to a personal Redeemer, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. The bleeding, dying, rising Saviour, is the only star of hope to a sinner. Oh for grace to come now and drink, ere the sun sets upon the year’s last day!
No waiting or preparation is so much as hinted at. Drinking represents a reception for which no fitness is required. A fool, a thief, a harlot can drink; and so sinfulness of character is no bar to the invitation to believe in Jesus. We want no golden cup, no bejewelled chalice, in which to convey the water to the thirsty; the mouth of poverty is welcome to stoop down and quaff the flowing flood. Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. Jesus is the fount of hope. Dear reader, hear the dear Redeemer’s loving voice as he cries to each of us,
“IF ANY MAN THIRST,
COME UNTO ME
Evening - December 31
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” --- Jeremiah 8:20.
Not saved! Dear reader, is this your mournful plight? Warned of the judgment to come, bidden to escape for your life, and yet at this moment not saved! You know the way of salvation, you read it in the Bible, you hear it from the pulpit, it is explained to you by friends, and yet you neglect it, and therefore you are not saved. You will be without excuse when the Lord shall judge the quick and dead. The Holy Spirit has given more or less of blessing upon the word which has been preached in your hearing, and times of refreshing have come from the divine presence, and yet you are without Christ. All these hopeful seasons have come and gone—your summer and your harvest have past—and yet you are not saved. Years have followed one another into eternity, and your last year will soon be here: youth has gone, manhood is going, and yet you are not saved. Let me ask you—will you ever be saved? Is there any likelihood of it? Already the most propitious seasons have left you unsaved; will other occasions alter your condition? Means have failed with you—the best of means, used perseveringly and with the utmost affection—what more can be done for you? Affliction and prosperity have alike failed to impress you; tears and prayers and sermons have been wasted on your barren heart. Are not the probabilities dead against your ever being saved? Is it not more than likely that you will abide as you are till death for ever bars the door of hope? Do you recoil from the supposition? Yet it is a most reasonable one: he who is not washed in so many waters will in all probability go filthy to his end. The convenient time never has come, why should it ever come? It is logical to fear that it never will arrive, and that Felix like, you will find no convenient season till you are in hell. O bethink you of what that hell is, and of the dread probability that you will soon be cast into it!
Reader, suppose you should die unsaved, your doom no words can picture. Write out your dread estate in tears and blood, talk of it with groans and gnashing of teeth: you will be punished with everlasting destruction from the glory of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. A brother’s voice would fain startle you into earnestness. O be wise, be wise in time, and ere another year begins, believe in Jesus, who is able to save to the uttermost. Consecrate these last hours to lonely thought, and if deep repentance be bred in you, it will be well; and if it lead to a humble faith in Jesus, it will be best of all. O see to it that this year pass not away, and you an unforgiven spirit. Let not the new year’s midnight peals sound upon a joyless spirit! Now, NOW, NOW believe, and live.
“ESCAPE FOR THY LIFE;
LOOK NOT BEHIND THEE,
NEITHER STAY THOU IN ALL THE PLAIN;
ESCAPE TO THE MOUNTAIN,
LEST THOU BE CONSUMED.”
Morning and Evening
THE LORD IS KING!
Freely adapted from Josiah Condor, 1789–1855
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)
As we reflect on the joys, failures, and blessings of the past year, we can rejoice in the truth that we are personally related to the Lord Jehovah, who is king of heaven and earth and will reign forever. Some day we shall see Him and begin to enjoy His eternal presence.
This vibrant hymn stirs us to praise and gratefulness for all of God’s leading in the past year. We will never “murmur at His wise decrees” if we remember His promises and reflect on how good and great He is. We are also reminded by this triumphant text that we must submit ourselves in humility to God’s will in our lives, trusting “His tender care” for us. Then we are to sing and shout His praise throughout each day! What a victorious life this suggests for us as believers as we approach another new year.
The text of this fine hymn is an adaptation of one written earlier by Josiah Condor, a respected non-conformist lay preacher in the Congregational church of England. The music for this text was arranged from a tune found in The Sacred Harp, a collection of early American sacred music.
The Lord is King! Let all His worth declare—great is He, great is He! Bow to His will and trust His tender care—great is He, great is He! Nor murmur at His wise decrees, nor doubt His steadfast promises; in humble faith fall on thy knees—great is He!
The Lord is King! And bow to Him ye must—God is great, God is good! The judge of all to all is ever just—God is great, God is good! Holy and true are all His ways: Let ev’ry creature shout His praise; the Lord of Hosts, Ancient of Days—God is great, God is good!
The Lord is King! Throughout His vast domain He is all, all in all! The Lord Jehovah evermore shall reign—He is all, all in all! Through earth and heav’n one song shall ring, from grateful hearts this anthem spring: Arise, ye saints, salute thy King—all thy days, sing His praise!
For Today: Psalm 10:16; 145:11–13; Luke 1:33; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 11:15
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Use 3. For exhortation.
1. Meditate often on the patience of God. The devil labors for nothing more than to deface in us the consideration and memory of this perfection. He is an envious creature; and since it hath reached out itself to us and not to him, he envies God the glory of it, and man the advantage of it: but God loves to have the volumes of it studied, and daily turned over by us. We cannot without an inexcusable wilfulness miss the thoughts of it, since it is visible in every bit of bread, and breath of air in ourselves, and all about us.
(1.) The frequent consideration of his patience would render God highly amiable to us. It is a more endearing argument than his mere goodness; his goodness to us as creatures, endowing us with such excellent faculties, furnishing us with such a commodious world, and bestowing upon us so many attendants for our pleasure and service, and giving us a lordship over his other works, deserves our affection but his patience to us as sinners, after we have merited the greatest wrath, shows him to be of a sweeter disposition than creating goodness to unoffending creatures; and, consequently, speaks a greater love in him, and bespeaks a greater affection from us. His creating goodness discovered the majesty of his Being, and the greatness of his mind, but this the sweetness and tenderness of his nature. In this patience he exceeds the mildness of all creatures to us; and therefore should be enthroned in our affections above all other creatures. The consideration of this would make us affect him for his nature as well as for his benefits.
(2.) The consideration of his patience would make us frequent and serious in the exercise of repentance. In its nature it leads to it, and the consideration of it would engage us to it, and melt us in the exercise of it. Could we deeply think of it without being touched with a sense of the kindness of our forbearing Creditor and Governor? Could we gaze upon it, nay, could we glance upon it, without relenting at our offending one of so mild a nature, without being sensibly affected, that he hath preserved us so long from being loaded with those chains of darkness, under which the devils groan? This forbearance hath good reason to make sin and sinners ashamed. That you are in being, is not for want of advantages enough in his hand against you; many a forfeiture you have made, and many an engagement you have broke; he hath scarce met with any other dealing from us, than what had treachery in it. Whatsoever our sincerity is, we have no reason to boast of it, when we consider what mixtures there are in it, and what swarms of base motions taint it. Hath he not lain pressed and groaning under our sins, as a “cart is pressed with sheaves” (Amos 2:13), when one shake of himself, as Sampson, might have rid him of the burden, and dismissed us in his fury into hell? If we should often ask our consciences why have we done thus and thus against so mild a God, would not the reflection on it put us to the blush? If men would consider, that such a time they provoked God to his face, and yet not have felt his sword; such a time they blasphemed him, and made a reproach of his name, and his thunder did not stop their motion; such a time they fell into an abominable brutishness, yet he kept the punishment of devils, the unclean spirits, from reaching them; such a time he bore an open affront from them, when they scoffed at his word, and he did not send a destruction, and laugh at it: would not such a meditation work some strange kind of relentings in men? What if we should consider, that we cannot do a sinful act without the support of his concurring Providence? We cannot see, hear, move, without his concourse. All creatures we use for our necessity or pleasure, are supported by him in the very act of assisting to pleasure us; and when we abuse those creatures against him, which he supports for our use, how great is his patience to bear with us, that he doth not annihilate those creatures, or at least embitter their use! What issue could reasonably be expected from this consideration, but, “O wretched man that I am, to serve myself of God’s power to affront him, and of his long-suffering to abuse him?” O infinite patience to employ that power to preserve me, that might have been used to punish me! He is my Creator, I could not have a being without him, and yet I offend him! He is my Preserver, I cannot maintain my being without him, and yet I affront him! Is this a worthy requital of God (Deut. 32:6), “Do you thus requite the Lord?” would be the heart-breaking reflection. How would it give men a fuller prospect of the depravation of their nature than anything else; that their corruption should be so deep and strong, that so much patience could not overcome it! It would certainly make a man ashamed of his nature as well as his actions.
(3.) The consideration of his patience would make us resent more the injuries done by others to God. A patient sufferer, though a deserving sufferer, attracts the pity of men, that have a value for any virtue, though clouded with a heap of vice. How much more should we have a concern of God, who suffers so many abuses from others! and be grieved, that so admirable a patience should be slighted by men, who solely live by and under the daily influence of it! The impression of this would make us take God’s part, as it is usual with men to take the part of good dispositions that lie under oppression.
(4.) It would make us patient under God’s hand. His slowness to anger and his forbearance is visible, in the very strokes we feel in this life. We have no reason to murmur against him, who gives us so little cause, and in the greatest afflictions gives us more occasion of thankfulness than of repining. Did not slowness to the extremest anger moderate every affliction, it had been a scorpion instead of a rod. We have reason to bless Him, who, from his long-suffering, sends temporal sufferings, where eternal are justly due. (Ezra 9:13), “Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities do deserve.” His indulgences towards us have been more than our corrections, and the length of his patience hath exceeded the sharpness of his rod. Upon the account of his long-suffering, our mutinies against God have as little to excuse them, as our sins against him have to deserve his forbearance. The consideration of this would show us more reason to repine at our own repinings, than at any of his smarter dealings; and the consideration of this would make us submissive under the judgments we expect. His undeserved patience hath been more than our merited judgments can possibly be thought to be. If we fear the removal of the gospel for a season, as we have reason to do, we should rather bless him, that by his waiting patience, he hath continued it so long, than murmur, that he threatens to take it away so late. He hath borne with us many a year, since the light of it was rekindled, when our ancestors had but six years’ of patience between the rise of Edward the Sixth, and the ascent of Queen Mary, to the crown.
2. Exhortation is to admire and stand astonished at his patience, “and bless him for it.” If you should have defiled your neighbor’s bed, or sullied his reputation, or rifled his goods, would he have withheld his vengeance, unless he had been too weak to execute it? We have done worse to God than we can do to man, and yet he draws not that sword of wrath out of the scabbard of his patience, to sheath it in our hearts. It is not so much a wonder that any judgments are sent, as that there are no more, and sharper. That the world shall be fired at last, is not a thing so strange, as that fire doth not come down every day upon some part of it. Had the disciples, that saw such excellent patterns of mildness from their Master, and were so often urged to learn of him that was lowly and meek, the government of the world, it had been long since turned into ashes, since they were too forward to desire him to open his magazine of judgments, and kindle a fire to consume a Samaritan village, for a slight affront in comparison of what he received from others, and afterwards from themselves in their forsaking of him (Luke 9:52–54). We should admire and praise that here which shall be praised in heaven; though patience shall cease as to its exercise after the consummation of the world, it shall not cease from receiving the acknowledgments of what it did, when it traversed the stage of this earth. If the name of God be glorified, and acknowledged in heaven, no question but this will also; since long-suffering is one of his Divine titles, a letter in his name, as well as “merciful, and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth.” And there is good reason to think that the patience exercised towards some, before converting grace was ordered to seize upon them, will bear a great part in the anthems of heaven. The greater his long-suffering hath been to men, that lay covered with their own dung, a long time before they were freed by grace from their filth; the more admiringly and loudly they will cry up his mercy to them, after they have passed the gulf, and see a deserved hell at a distance from them, and many in that place of torment who never had the tastes of so much forbearance. If mercy will be praised there, that which began the alphabet of it, cannot be forgot. If Paul speak so highly of it in a damping world, and under the pull-backs of a “body of death,” as he doth (1 Tim. 1:16, 17: “For this cause I obtained mercy; that Christ might show forth all long-suffering. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” No doubt, but he will have a higher note for it, when he is surrounded with a heavenly flame, and freed from all remains of dulness. Shall it be praised above, and have we no notes for it here below? Admire Christ, too, who sued out your reprieve upon the account of his merit. As mercy acts not upon any but in Christ, so neither had patience borne with any but in Christ. The pronouncing the arrest of judgment (Gen. 8:21) was when “God smelled a sweet savor from Noah’s sacrifice,” not from the beasts offered, but the antitypical sacrifice represented. That we may be raised to bless God for it, let us consider,
(1.) The multitude of our provocations. Though some have blacker guilt than others, and deeper stains, yet let none wipe his mouth, but rather imagine himself to have but little reason to bless it. Are not all our offences as many as there have been minutes in our lives? All the moments of our continuance in the world have been moments of his patience and our ingratitude. Adam was punished for one sin, Moses excluded Canaan for a passionate unbelieving word. Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives for one sin against the Holy Ghost. One sin sullied the beauty of the world, defaced the works of God, and cracked heaven and earth in pieces, had not infinite satisfaction been proposed to the provoked Justice by the Redeemer; and not one sin committed, but is of the same venomous nature. How many of those contradictions against himself hath he borne with! Had we been only unprofitable to him, his forbearance of us had been miraculous; but how much doth it exceed a miracle, and lift itself above the meanness of a conjunction with such an apithet, since we have been provoking! Had there been no more than our impudent or careless rushings into his presence in worship; had they been only sins of omission, and sins of ignorance, it had been enough to have put a stand to any further operations of this perfection towards us. But add to those, sins of commission, sins against knowledge, sins against spiritual motions, sins against repeated resolutions, and pressing admonitions, the neglects of all the opportunities of repentance; put them all together, and we can as little recount them, as the sands on the sea-shore. But what, do I only speak of particular men? View the whole world, and if our own iniquities render it an amazing patience, what a mighty supply will be made to it in all the numerous and weighty provocations, under which he hath continued the world for so many revolutions of years and ages! Have not all those pressed into his presence with a loud cry, and demanded a sentence from justice? yet hath not the Judge been overcome by the importunity of our sins? Were the devils punished for one sin, a proud thought, and that not committed against the blood of Christ, as we have done numberless times; yet hath not God made us partakers in their punishment, though we have exceeded them in the quality of their sin. O admirable patience! that would bear with me under so many, while he would not bear with the sinning angels for one.
(2.) Consider how mean things we are, who have provoked him. What is man but a vile thing, that a God, abounding with all riches, should take care of so abject a thing, much more to bear so many affronts from such a drop of matter, such a nothing creature! That he that hath anger at his command, as well as pity should endure such a detestable, deformed creature by sin, to fly in his face! “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8.) אנושׁ, miserable, incurable man, derived from a word, that signifies to be incurably sick. Man is “Adam,” earth from his earthly original, and “Enoch,” incurable from his corruption. Is it not worthy to be admired, that a God of infinite glory should wait on such Adams, worms of earth, and be, as it were, a servant, and attendant to such Enochs, sickly and peevish creatures?
(3.) Consider who it is that is thus patient. He it is that, with one breath, could turn heaven and earth, and all the inhabitants of both, into nothing; that could, by one thunderbolt, have razed up the foundations of a cursed world. He that wants not instruments without to ruin us, that can arm our own consciences against us, and can drown us in our own phlegm; and, by taking out one pin from our bodies, cause the whole frame to fall asunder. Besides, it is a God that, while he suffers the sinner, hates the sin more than all the holy men upon earth, or angels in heaven, can do; so that his patience for a minute transcends the patience of all creatures, from the creation to the dissolution of the world: because it is the patience of a God, infinitely more sensible to the cursed quality of sin, and infinitely more detesting it.
(4.) Consider how long he hath forborne his anger. A reprieve for a week or a month is accounted a great favor in civil states; the civil law enacts, “That if the emperor commanded a man to be condemned, the execution was to be deferred thirty days: because in that time the prince’s anger might be appeased.” But how great a favor is it to be reprieved thirty years for many offences, every one of which deserves death more at the hands of God than any offence can at the hands of man! Paul was, according to the common account, but about thirty years old at his conversion; and how much doth he elevate Divine long-suffering! Certainly there are many who have more reason, as having larger quantities of patience cut out to them, who have lived to see their own gray hairs in a rebellious posture against God, before grace brought them to a surrender. We were all condemned in the womb; our lives were forfeited the first moment of our breath, but patience hath stopped the arrest; the merciful Creditor deserves to have acknowledgment from us, who hath laid by his bond so many years without putting it in suit against us. Many of your companions in sin have perhaps been surprised long ago, and haled to an eternal prison; nothing is remaining of them but their dust, and the time is not yet come for your funeral. Let it be considered, that that God that would not wait upon the fallen angels one instant after their sin, nor give them a moments space of repentance, hath prolonged the life of many a sinner in the world to innumerable moments, to 420,000 minutes in the space of a year, to 8,400,000 minutes in the space of twenty years. The damned in hell would think it a great kindness to have but a year’s, month’s, nay, day’s respite, as a space to repent in.
(5.) Consider also, how many have been taken away under shorter measures of patience: some have been struck into a hell of misery, while thou remainest upon an earth of forbearance. In a plague, the destroying angel hath hewed down others, and passed by us; the arrows have flew about our heads, passed over us, and stuck in the heart of a neighbor. How many rich men, how many of our friends and familiars, have been seized by death since the beginning of the year, when they least thought of it, and imagined it far from them! Have you not known some of your acquaintance snatched away in the height of a crime? Was not the same wrath due to you as well as to them! And had it not been as dreadful for you to be so surprised by Him as it was for them? Why should he take a less sturdy sinner out of thy company, and let thee remain still upon the earth? If God had dealt so with you, how had you been cut off, not only from the enjoyment of this life, but the hopes of a better! And if God had made such a providence beneficial for reclaiming you, how much reason have you to acknowledge him! He that hath had least patience, hath cause to admire; but those that have more, ought to exceed others in blessing him for it. If God had put an end to your natural life before you had made provision for eternal, how deplorable would your condition have been! Consider also, whoever have been sinners formerly of a deeper note; might not God have struck a man in the embraces of his harlots, and choked him in the moment of his excessive and intemperate healths, or on the sudden have spurted fire and brimstone into a blasphemer’s mouth? What if God had snatched you away, when you had been sleeping in some great iniquity, or sent you while burning in lust to the fire it merited? Might he not have cracked the string that linked your souls to your bodies, in the last sickness you had? And what then had become of you? What could have been expected to succeed your impenitent state in this world, but howlings in another? but he reprieved you upon your petitions, or the solicitations of your friends; and have you not broke your word with him? Have your hearts been steadfast; hath he not yet waited, expecting when you would put your vows and resolutions into execution? What need had he to cry out to any so loud and so long, O you fools, “how long will you love foolishness?” (Prov. 1:22), when he might have ceased his crying to you, and have by your death prevented your many neglects of him? Did he do all this that any of us might add new sins to our old; or rather, that we should bless him for his forbearance, comply with the end of it in reforming our lives, and having recourse to his mercy?
3. Exhortion; therefore presume not upon his patience. The exercise of it is not eternal; you are at present under his patience; yet, while you are unconverted, you are also under his anger (Psalm 7:11), “God is angry with the wicked every day.” You know not how soon his anger may turn his patience aside, and step before it. It may be his sword is drawn out of his scabbard, his arrows may be settled in his bow; and perhaps there is but a little time before you may feel the edge of the one or the point of the other: and then there will be no more time for patience in God to us, or petition from us to him. If we repent here he will pardon us. If we defer repentance, and die without it, he will have no longer mercy to pardon, nor patience to bear. What is there in our power but the present? the future time we cannot command, the past time we cannot recall; squander not then the present away. The time will come when “time shall be no more,” and then long-suffering shall be no more. Will you neglect the time, wherein patience acts, and vainly hope for a time beyond the resolves of patience? Will you spend that in vain, which goodness hath allotted you for other purposes? What an estimate will you make of a little forbearance to respite death, when you are gasping under the stroke of its arrows? How much would you value some few days of those many years you now trifle away? Can any think God will be always at an expense with them in vain, that he will have such riches trampled under their feet, and so many editions of his patience be made waste paper? Do you know how few sands are yet to run in your glass? Are you sure that He that waits to-day, will wait as well to-morrow? How can you tell, but that God that is slow to anger to-day, may be swift to it the next? Jerusalem had but a day of peace, and the most careless sinner hath no more. When their day was done, they were destroyed by famine, pestilence, or sword, or led into a doleful captivity. Did God make our lives so uncertain, and the duration of his forbearance unknown to us, that we should live in a lazy neglect of his glory, and our own happiness? If you should have more patience in regard of your lives, do you know whether you shall have the effectual offers of grace? As your lives depend upon his will, so your conversion depends solely upon his grace. There have been many examples of those miserable wretches, that have been left to a reprobate sense, after they have a long time abused Divine forbearance. Though he waits, yet he “binds up sin.” (Hos. 13:12), “The sin of Ephraim is bound up,” as bonds are bound up by a creditor till a fit opportunity: when God comes to put the bond in suit, it will be too late to wish for that patience we have so scornfully despised. Consider therefore the end of patience. The patience of God considered in itself, without that which it tends to, affords very little comfort; it is but a step to pardoning mercy, and it may be without it, and often is. Many have been reprieved that were never forgiven; hell is full of those that had patience as well as we, but not one that accepted pardoning grace went within the gates of it. Patience leaves men, when their sins have ripened them for hell; but pardoning grace never leaves men till it hath conducted them to heaven. His patience speaks him placable, but doth not assure us that he is actually appeased. Men may hope that a long-suffering tends to a pardon, but cannot be assured of a pardon, but by something else above mere long-suffering. Rest not then upon bare patience, but consider the end of it; it is not that any should sin more freely, but repent more meltingly; it is not to spirit rebellion, but give a merciful stop to it. Why should any be so ambitious of their ruin, as to constrain God to ruin them against the inclinations of his sweet disposition?
4. The fourth exhortation is, Let us imitate God’s patience in our own to others. He is unlike God that is hurried, with an unruly impetus, to punish others for wronging him. The consideration of Divine patience should make us square ourselves according to that pattern. God hath exercised a long-suffering from the fall of Adam to this minute on innumerable subjects, and shall we be transported with desire of revenge upon a single injury? If God were not “slow to wrath,” a sinful world had been long ago torn up from the foundation. And if revenge should be exercised by all men against their enemies, what man should have been alive, since there is not a man without an enemy? If every man were like Saul, breathing out threatenings, the world would not only be an aceldema, but a desert. How distant are they from the nature of God, who are in a flame upon every slight provocation from a sense of some feeble and imaginary honor, that must bloody their sword for a trifle, and write their revenge in wounds and death! When God hath his glory every day bespattered, yet he keeps his sword in his sheath; what a woe would it be to the world, if he drew it upon every affront! This is to be like brutes, dogs, or tigers, that snarl, bite, and devour, upon every slight occasion: but to be patient is to be divine, and to show ourselves acquainted with the disposition of God. “Be you therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48): i. e. Be you perfect and good; for he had been exhorting them to bless them that cursed them, and to do good to them that hated them, and that from the example God had set them, in causing his sun to rise upon the evil as well as the good. “Be you therefore perfect.” To conclude: as patience is God’s perfection, so it is the accomplishment of the soul: and as his “slowness to anger” argues the greatness of his power over himself, so an unwillingness to revenge is a sign of a power over ourselves which is more noble than to be a monarch over others.
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