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2 Corinthians 1 - 4

2 Corinthians 1


2 Corinthians 1:1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God of All Comfort

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,  We are blessed that we might be a blessing to others. We are supposed to be a conduit from God to others, an extension cord if you will. We are supposed to be an extension of God's life and an expression of God's love. Then we can be an exhibition of God's power. Jesus said our purpose for being here is to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself. He made it clear the Torah, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, everything rests on these two precepts. What better evangelism is there?

with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Paul’s Change of Plans

12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  Referring to 1:21 above, "But it is God who has established us with you [together] in Christ, and has anointed us; and he has sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit." See (Hengel, M. (2004). Studies in Early Christology (Academic Paperback)

23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

2 Corinthians 2

2 Corinthians 2:1     For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Forgive the Sinner

5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Triumph in Christ

12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

2 Corinthians 3

Ministers of the New Covenant

2 Corinthians 3:1     Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Yet even if we do all the particular things God wants and explicitly commands us to do, we might still not be the person God would have us be. It is always true that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). An obsession merely with doing all God commands may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person that he calls us to be.

Jesus told a parable to make clear what God treasures in those who intend to serve him:

Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” (Lk 17:7-10; cf. Mt 5:20)

The watchword of the worthy servant is not mere obedience but love, from which appropriate obedience naturally flows.
   Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4

The Light of the Gospel

2 Corinthians 4:1     Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Treasure in Jars of Clay

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Is God Real? The Bible Affirms the Standard Cosmological Model

By J.W. Wallace 11/29/2018

     The vast majority of scientists affirm the Standard Cosmological Model as an accurate and reliable description of the universe’s origin. After examining the evidence, cosmologists and physicists have largely embraced the fact our universe began to exist at a point in the distant past. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the expansion of the universe, the presence of the Radiation Echo, and the problem of Infinite Regress serve as sufficient evidence supporting the Standard Model (there are also a number of supplementary evidences affirming this conclusion). In addition, the alternative explanations offered by cosmologists fail to account for the evidence we see in the universe. As a result, “…a clear majority of the cosmological community… accept it (the Standard Model) as a good account of how the universe works.” Is God real? The cosmological evidence certainly supports this reasonable inference.

     The authors of the Bible also affirm the Standard Cosmological Model. The Bible is replete with descriptions of a Universe that came into being from nothing at a fixed point in the distant past as the result of an uncaused, first cause. The nature and characteristics of this material universe are accurately described by the Biblical authors:

     The Universe Has a First, Uncaused Cause | Cosmologists and scientists, regardless of worldview, are searching for the first, uncaused cause of the universe. Alexander Valenkin, for example, describes this uncaused cause as an infinitely old primordial vacuum. Others have offered similarly eternal uncaused, first causes. The authors of the Bible also describe an uncaused, first cause of the universe:

Col 1:16–17 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.   ESV

2 Ti 1:9 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,   ESV

     The Universe Was Created from Nothing | The Standard Cosmological Model describes a universe that came into existence from nothing. All space, time and matter began with its creation. The Bible affirms this notion. The Hebrew word “bara’” is used seven times by a variety of authors describing God’s creation of the universe. It is typically translated as “create” and means “to bring into existence something new, something that did not exist before.” Unlike other ancient creation stories, the God of the Bible creates everything in the universe from nothing: (This is only half of the article)

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

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 13.


     This chapter consists of two parts. The former delivers the orthodox doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity. This occupies from sec. 1-21, and may be divided into four heads; the first, treating of the meaning of Person, including both the term and the thing meant by it, sec. 2-6; the second, proving the deity of the Son, sec. 7-13; the third, the deity of the Holy Spirit, sec. 14 and 15; and the fourth, explaining what is to be held concerning the Holy Trinity. The second part of the chapter refutes certain heresies which have arisen, particularly in our age, in opposition to this orthodox doctrine. This occupies from sec. 21 to the end.


     1. Scripture, in teaching that the essence of God is immense and spiritual, refutes not only idolaters and the foolish wisdom of the world, but also the Manichees and Anthropomorphites. These latter briefly refuted.

     2. In this one essence are three persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the simple essence of God divided. Meaning of the word Person in this discussion. Three hypostases in God, or the essence of God.

     3. Objection of those who, in this discussion, reject the use of the word Person. Answer 1. That it is not a foreign term, but is employed for the explanation of sacred mysteries.

     4. Answer continued, 2. The orthodox compelled to use the terms, Trinity, Subsistence, and Person. Examples from the case of the Arians and Sabellians.

     5. Answer continued, 3. The ancient Church, though differing somewhat in the explanation of these terms, agree in substance. Proofs from Hilary, Jerome, Augustine, in their use of the words Essence, Substance, Hypostasis. 4. Provided the orthodox meaning is retained, there should be no dispute about mere terms. But those who object to the terms usually favour the Arian and Sabellian heresy.

     6. After the definition of the term follows a definition and explanation of the thing meant by it. The distinction of Persons.

     7. Proofs of the eternal Deity of the Son. The Son the lo'gos of the Eternal Father, and, therefore, the Son Eternal God. Objection. Reply.

     8. Objection, that the Lo'gos began to be when the creating God spoke. Answer confirmed by Scripture and argument.

     9. The Son called God and Jehovah. Other names of the Eternal Father applied to him in the Old Testament. He is, therefore, the Eternal God. Another objection refuted. Case of the Jews explained.

     10. The angel who appeared to the fathers under the Law asserts that he is Jehovah. That angel was the Lo'gos of the Eternal Father. The Son being that Lo'gos is Eternal God. Impiety of Servetus refuted. Why the Son appeared in the form of an angel.

     11. Passages from the New Testament in which the Son is acknowledged to be the Lord of Hosts, the Judge of the world, the God of glory, the Creator of the world, the Lord of angels, the King of the Church, the eternal Lo'gos, God blessed for ever, God manifest in the flesh, the equal of God, the true God and eternal life, the Lord and God of all believers. Therefore, the Eternal God.

     12. Christ the Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Searcher of hearts. Therefore, the Eternal God.

     13. Christ, by his own inherent power, wrought miracles, and bestowed the power of working them on others. Out of the Eternal God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life. All these are in Christ. Christ, consequently, is the Eternal God. He in whom we believe and hope, to whom we pray, whom the Church acknowledges as the Saviour of the faithful, whom to know is life eternal, in whom the pious glory, and through whom eternal blessings are communicated, is the Eternal God. All these Christ is, and, therefore, he is God.

     14. The Divinity of the Spirit proved. I. He is the Creator and Preserver of the world. II. He sent the Prophets. III. He quickeneth all things. IV. He is everywhere present. V. He renews the saints, and fits them for eternal life. VI. All the offices of Deity belong to him.

     15. The Divinity of the Spirit continued. VII. He is called God. VIII. Blasphemy against him is not forgiven.

     16. What view to be taken of the Trinity. The form of Christian baptism proves that there are in one essence. The Arian and Macedonian heresies.

     17. Of the distinction of Persons. They are distinct, but not divided. This proved.

     18. Analogies taken from human affairs to be cautiously used. Due regard to be paid to those mentioned by Scripture.

     19. How the Three Persons not only do not destroy, but constitute the most perfect unity

     20. Conclusion of this part of the chapter, and summary of the true doctrine concerning the unity of Essence and the Three Persons.

     21. Refutation of Arian, Macedonian, and Anti Trinitarian heresies. Caution to be observed.

     22. The more modern Anti Trinitarians, and especially Servetus, refuted.

     23. Other Anti Trinitarians refuted. No good objection that Christ is called the Son of God, since he is also called God. Impious absurdities of some heretics.

     24. The name of God sometimes given to the Son absolutely as to the Father. Same as to other attributes. Objections refuted.

     25. Objections further refuted. Caution to be used.

     26. Previous refutations further explained.

     27. Reply to certain passages produced from Irenaeus. The meaning of Irenaeus.

     28. Reply to certain passages produced from Tertullian. The meaning of Tertullian.

     29. Anti Trinitarians refuted by ancient Christian writers; e.g., Justin, Hilary. Objections drawn from writings improperly attributed to Ignatius. Conclusion of the whole discussion concerning the Trinity.

     1. The doctrine of Scripture concerning the immensity and the spirituality of the essence of God, should have the effect not only of dissipating the wild dreams of the vulgar, but also of refuting the subtleties of a profane philosophy. One of the ancients thought he spake shrewdly when he said that everything we see and everything we do not see is God (Senec. Praef. lib. 1 Quaest. Nat.) In this way he fancied that the Divinity was transfused into every separate portion of the world. But although God, in order to keep us within the bounds of soberness, treats sparingly of his essence, still, by the two attributes which I have mentioned, he at once suppresses all gross imaginations, and checks the audacity of the human mind. His immensity surely ought to deter us from measuring him by our sense, while his spiritual nature forbids us to indulge in carnal or earthly speculation concerning him. With the same view he frequently represents heaven as his dwelling-place. It is true, indeed, that as he is incomprehensible, he fills the earth also, but knowing that our minds are heavy and grovel on the earth, he raises us above the worlds that he may shake off our sluggishness and inactivity. And here we have a refutation of the error of the Manichees, who, by adopting two first principles, made the devil almost the equal of God. This, assuredly, was both to destroy his unity and restrict his immensity. Their attempt to pervert certain passages of Scripture proved their shameful ignorance, as the very nature of the error did their monstrous infatuation. The Anthropomorphites also, who dreamed of a corporeal God, because mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

By Gerard Moultrie 1864

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow’rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”

     Gerard Moultrie according to Wikipedia

What about the ‘Lost’ Books of the Bible?

By Michael J. Kruger 3/25/2019

     In modern studies of the NT canon, there is a lot of discussion (maybe even obsession!) with so-called ‘lost’ books of the Bible. So, we have recent book titles like Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament, Forgotten Scriptures: The Selection and Rejection of Early Religious Writings, and The Lost Bible: Forgotten Scriptures Revealed.

     In fact, scholar Philip Jenkins even wrote a whole book documenting (and critiquing) the academic community’s fascination with this theme: Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way.

     So what do we with these other books of the New Testament? A few quick thoughts.

     First, most of these books weren’t really ‘lost.’ The early church fathers were very much aware of these other books. Indeed, they knew them well enough to recognize they were not authentic apostolic writings.

     So, no one hid or suppressed these books. On the contrary, early Christians were quite open about the problems with these books and overtly stated why they should be rejected as part of the biblical canon.

     Second, most of these ‘lost’ books weren’t really that popular. Unfortunately, many modern studies of canon give the impression that early Christians read these lost books in droves. It was only when later church authorities decided to clamp down, we are told, that the popularity of these books waned.

     But the historical evidence says otherwise. Yes, church fathers occasionally used apocryphal gospels. However, when we consider the frequency of citation of apocryphal gospels vs. the canonical ones, it’s not even close.

     As John Barton observes, “Citations of apocryphal gospels and of other books that were later excluded from the canon do not begin to compete with the frequency of citation of the basic core” (The Spirit and the Letter: Studies in the Biblical Canon.

     Clement of Alexandria is a good example of Barton’s point. Clement cites apocryphal gospels 16 times. That may seem like a lot until you compare it with how often he cites the canonical gospels: Matthew 757 times, Luke 402 times, John 331 times, and Mark 182 times.

     And this leads to a third point. Christians didn’t have to wait till some fourth century church council to tell them what books they should read. From what we can see, there was a “core” of NT books (about 22 out of 27) functioning as Scripture from the early to middle second century.

     Sure, there were some discussions about a few smaller books, but, for the most part, the canon was largely in place as early as the middle of the second century.

     This means that apocryphal books were not “kicked out” of the canon by later Christians. Instead, most were never really “in” to begin with.

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     Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

What Judges Teaches the Church

By W. Robert Godfrey 6/01/2016

Jdg 2:10 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.   ESV

     It seems incredible that it could happen. Only a generation after Joshua, Israel no longer knew the Lord. How is such a development possible?

     This is a very important question, not just for the ancient Israelites, but for us. Churches, too, have seen sudden decline from one generation to another. How can we understand and prevent this kind of calamity?

     The book of Judges provides a very clear answer to our questions. Its answer does not say everything that might be said in general, but it does say specific, crucial things that we must ponder to understand both Israel’s situation and our vulnerability.

     To begin with, Judges shows us that Israel descended into calamity when it moved away from living by faith in the Word of God to living by sight in the wisdom and values of the world. As we see in Judges 2–3, Israel rapidly descended into gross sin and disobedience, serving the statues and altars of the Baals and intermarrying with those who did not worship the Lord. Idolatry and intermarriage are the great sins against which Joshua warned Israel again and again (Josh. 23:6–13). And with good reason, for these two great sins are interconnected. The one leads to and reinforces the other.

     This descent into idolatry and intermarriage did not just happen, however. These gross sins were the end results of various compromises that Israel had made earlier. Israel had served the Lord faithfully in the opening of the book of Judges, but that begins to change at Judges 1:19, where we read, “And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.” It does not appear that the Israelites actually fought against the chariots of iron and were defeated; rather, it seems that they saw the chariots of iron and decided not to fight. That decision seems very reasonable and proper—to a people living by sight. Chariots of iron were the most powerful military weapon of that time.

     Israel, however, was called to live by faith in the Word of God. The Word of God had come to her through Joshua, who said, “For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong” (Josh. 17:18). Later in the book of Judges, we are shown how God kept His promise because Deborah and Barak were able to defeat Jabin, a king of the Canaanites, even though he had nine hundred chariots of iron (Judg. 4:3). The Word of God reminds God’s people that God’s “delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:10–11).

     We can see what went wrong — living by sight and not by faith — but that does not show us why things went wrong. For that, we must turn again to the words of Joshua:

     But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Josh. 24:19–20)

     Now wait a moment, you may be saying. If Israel was not able, how were they accountable? In what sense were they not able? What did Joshua mean when he said those words? He did not mean that the people were individually unregenerate and so were unable. He did not mean that they would not be perfect in keeping the law and so would be unable. He seems to have said that they would be leaderless—having neither Moses, nor Joshua, nor the elders who knew them—and so would not be led and guarded in faithfulness to the Word of God.

     Joshua was recognizing that God would not give them another Moses or Joshua. He would give them judges who would be for them saviors (Judg. 2:16). But these judges would be only regional and temporary leaders. The lesson that God was teaching Israel — and us—in a variety of ways in the book of Judges is that the people needed a good and faithful king. Israel’s problem was clear: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6).

     Israel had to learn its need for a king and in turn to yearn for a king—not a king like the nations as they would have in Saul, but a man after God’s own heart, namely, David. Yet even David could not protect and lead God’s people ultimately. He sinned, his house was divided, and he died. Who, then, is the leader — perfect, faithful, and undying — for God’s people? Obviously, only Jesus is such a king.

     What is the antidote, then, for the church and its problems? What will preserve a saving knowledge of God from generation to generation? It is following King Jesus according to His Word. Where the church fails to do so, it will find itself, like Israel, unable to live by faith rather than sight. But where the church turns to Jesus and follows ministers who faithfully preach His Word, it will live before Him. The book of Judges is a mirror held up to the church that forces us to ask ourselves, “Is Jesus our king and do we live by faith in His Word?” If the answer is yes, the church from generation to generation will know the Lord.

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     Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is president emeritus of Westminster Seminary California, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, and author of many books.

     W. Robert Godfrey Books |  Go to Books Page

Our Hope amid Suffering

By Mez McConnell 6/01/2016

     I have buried too many children in my ministry. I have watched helpless parents weep in torment. I have seen hopelessness face-to-face. I have seen cancer leave its calling card on ravaged bodies. I have seen dementia claim the lives of tortured souls. I have felt the destructive force of mental and physical abuse. I have seen and experienced suffering. It is a pitiless force of nature, sweeping aside all in its inexorable path. We can’t escape its grasp. We can never run fast enough. We can never shut our eyes tight enough. We know, if we live long enough, that one day it will come knock at our door.

     Thankfully, the Bible is no stranger to these things. The Apostle Peter wrote a letter of encouragement thirty years after Christ’s death to the beleaguered Christians of Asia Minor. They were being abused by overbearing bosses (2:18), threatened by unbelieving spouses (3:1, 6), and ridiculed by skeptical neighbors and associates (4:14). On the horizon loomed the possibility of a much more violent form of persecution—a fiery ordeal (4:12–18). They were suffering, and they would suffer yet more. What were they to do?

     Peter’s response in 1 Peter 1:3 sounds glib to the modern ear. “Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How helpful is that to Jane battling cancer? Or what about John whose father was killed in an accident at work? Why should they, and we, be blessing God? What have we got to bless God for?

     According to Peter, we ought to bless God because of His great mercy to us in rescuing us through Jesus. He has given us new birth. We may not feel it, but our salvation is an act of God’s great mercy. We deserve death, yet He gives us life. We deserve punishment, yet He has achieved a great reward for us. We should bless God that our souls are safe in His hands. That is something that far outweighs all of our slight and momentary troubles. We have a God who has rescued us, even when we don’t feel rescued.

     But there’s more. Peter writes,

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

     Some people fill in their lottery tickets, lie back on their sofa, and hope their numbers will finally come in. But such a hope is uncertain, and it is temporary even if it comes to pass. Our hope is so certain that it actually lives. Our joy and certain hope for the future are tied up in the fact that He rose again (1:20–21). Don’t forget, Peter was a guy whose whole life was crushed when Jesus was killed. All of Peter’s greatest hopes died with Jesus. But then he heard the news of the resurrection and went running to the tomb to see for himself. Despite Peter’s denial of Christ, our Lord came to Peter in the upper room and once again his hope rose with Him. Like Peter, we have a living hope that is:

     Can never be defiled
     Will never fade
     Kept in heaven for us

     Compare that to our earthly experiences. We live for an age and then we die. Not so our inheritance from God. It never decays. It is completely indestructible. That’s why the Lord encourages us in Matthew 6:19–20:

     Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

     Several years ago, a Scotsman won about six million British pounds from the lottery. Within ten years, it was gone, squandered on bad deals. As a result, he was left penniless. Our inheritance, on the other hand, can never be used up. It is an inexhaustible, eternal treasure trove. How so? Because what has been secured for us is stored in the safest and most secure place imaginable. It is impregnable. Even though we will only fully receive it on the last day, it is ready for us even now. It is finished, perfect, and unchangeable. And it is reserved for each of us who have been chosen according to His great foreknowledge and love.

     Whatever else we lose in this life, we cannot lose our salvation. It is cancer proof. It is abuse proof. It is even death proof. These are the truths we run to when life kicks us in the teeth. When a relationship is shattered, when the dreams of what we wanted to be in life have been eaten away and eroded by the sands of time; when our health fails, when we feel like nobody cares anymore, when all seems lost — the Christian still has reasons to hope. We hang fast to Jesus. Keep our eyes fixed on Him. We have a wonderful Savior. He will never let us down. He’s done all the hard work and one day we will cash in — even if for a little while we have troubles.

1 Pe 5:9–11 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.   ESV

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     Mez McConnell is senior pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland; founder of 20schemes; and author of Is Anybody Out There?

Citizens of Heaven

By Keith Mathison 6/01/2016

     You may have heard that there is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” While likely apocryphal, this “curse” does say something about human nature and desires. The kinds of things that make front-page news, the kinds of things that are “interesting,” are often quite unpleasant or downright horrible. Wars are “interesting.” Natural disasters are “interesting.” Ebola outbreaks are “interesting.” ISIS is “interesting.” Given the nature of that which is interesting, I think it is safe to say that most of us would prefer to live in boring times.

     The 2016 U.S. presidential election season has certainly been “interesting” as well. The anger of many American citizens has propelled nontraditional candidates to the forefront of the debates and discussions in both major parties. All of this is forcing Christians in America, once again, to think through some important questions. And these questions are relevant not only to Christians in America, but also to Christians in every nation. How are we as followers of the King of kings to relate to the kingdoms of this world? How do we respond if the nation in which we live is or becomes tyrannical and oppressive toward Christians?

     In order to answer such questions, one of the first things we must do is have a realistic grasp of our actual situation. We must understand, for example, that Christians in 2016 are not the first to live in “interesting times.” The invasion of Rome by barbarians was interesting. The Black Plague was interesting. World War I and World War II were interesting. Every generation has lived in “interesting times.”

     Furthermore, the people of God both before and after the incarnation have repeatedly suffered under tyrannical and oppressive governments. If we are at all familiar with Scripture, this should never come as a surprise. Jesus clearly informed His followers: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). When the people of God faithfully follow Him, walking in holiness, the enemies of God will hate them.

     In the Old Testament, the people of God suffered in Egypt under Pharaoh. This should not have been a surprise because God had told Abraham that this was exactly what would happen: “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be a afflicted for four hundred years” (Gen. 15:13).

     Note the word “sojourners.” Several times throughout the Torah, Moses commands Israel to treat strangers justly because they too were once “sojourners” in the land of Egypt (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19). The same word is also used to describe Israel in her own land (Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:10–15). Even for Israel, that piece of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean was never her ultimate home. The faithful were always looking for a better country, a heavenly country (cf. Heb. 11:13–16).

     Faithful Israelites also suffered in the Babylonian exile. As a result of gross apostasy and idolatry, the ultimate covenant curse fell upon Israel (cf. Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:64). We can learn much from faithful Israelites such as Daniel, who lived under the rule of the Babylonians. He and other God-fearing Jews submitted to the rulers with respect, and obeyed them as long as what was commanded of them did not require them to sin (Dan. 3; 6).

     When we turn to the New Testament, we see the same basic principles applied to the situation of Christians. Jesus and the first-century Christians lived under an idolatrous and oppressive Roman government. Its laws did not correspond fully with God’s laws. Worship of the emperor was expected. Corrupt and wicked men were found at every level of leadership. Because of this, many Jews at the time called for armed rebellion against Rome, but every attempt at insurrection led to brutal repression and massacres.

     What about Jesus? How did He instruct His followers in regard to their relationship to the Roman civil magistrates? Did he call for insurrection? For tax revolt? No, when the Pharisees and Herodians attempted to trap Him, asking, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” He confounded them by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:15–23). Paul instructs believers in exactly the same way, saying, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7).

     Paul and the other New Testament authors provide us with several basic principles that help us answer that question and that help us understand our relationship as believers to earthly civil magistrates. First, we are clearly told who we are. As believers in Christ, we are citizens of heaven. As Paul puts it: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Peter uses the language we encountered in the Old Testament and calls us “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:13). Jesus Christ is our King. We are, first and foremost, citizens of His kingdom. Our relationship to the lands in which we were born, then, is somewhat comparable to that of an ambassador who lives in a foreign land. We may have a love for the land in which we temporarily reside, but there is always a homesickness. We long to see our true King.

     Second, Scripture clearly tells us who the earthly civil magistrates are. According to Paul, they are God’s servants (Rom. 13:4). They are “ministers of God” (v. 6). Their authority has been given to them by our sovereign God, so we must understand that they have been “instituted by God” (v. 1). From the most benevolent kings to the most wicked emperors, from the wisest of senators to the most foolish of presidents, all of them have been placed in their positions of authority by our sovereign God.

     This means, third, that as Christians we are to submit to these earthly authorities. Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1, cf. v. 5). We are to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13). Furthermore, because we know that God has placed us under these authorities, we are to be subject to them, not in a begrudging way, but in a way that demonstrates respect (Rom. 13:7; 1 Peter 2:18). Peter told the Christians to whom he wrote, for example, to “Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

     Fourth, Christians are repeatedly instructed to do what is good (Rom. 13:3; 1 Peter 2:15; 3:8–17). Peter writes, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1 Peter 2:12). Of course, doing good means that if the civil magistrate commands us to sin, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:27–32).

     What does all of this mean for Christians today? Recognizing who we are and where our true citizenship rests should help us view the various nations in which we now live from a truly biblical perspective. Resting in the sovereignty of God means that we do not allow ourselves to be swayed by the politics of anxiety and fear. We do not give in to hysteria because we know our Lord reigns even when the nations rage (Ps. 2). Because our citizenship is in heaven, our hopes do not ride on earthly election results. We do not hope in candidates with “Messiah complexes.” We already have a Messiah. We work for truth, and we vote for candidates who we believe will make an effort to support truth, but our world does not end if the candidates for whom we vote do not win the day. Our Father in heaven is sovereign and wise and is in control. Our ultimate hope is not in any election. Our hope is in our Father in heaven.

     Furthermore, understanding the biblical teaching means that we do not let an appropriate love of our homeland (patriotism) devolve into idolatry. We do not say, “My country right or wrong,” because sin is sin no matter who commits it. However, we also do not let disappointment with the faults and follies of our nation lead us to despair or cynicism. We do not drop out and cease to speak the truth when a Supreme Court ruling does not go our way. But we also do not call evil good or good evil in order to win the love of the world. Our goal must not be to get the world to love us but to proclaim the gospel in order that God might call more of His enemies out of the darkness of the world (Rom. 5:8–10).

     Knowing that earthly authorities are ministers of God also means that Christians do not engage in disrespectful mockery and dishonoring of those whom God has placed in positions of authority. Our sovereign God placed George W. Bush over the United States for eight years, and He more recently placed Barack Obama over the United States. In both cases, He did so for His own good and wise reasons.

     Ultimately, if we understand what Scripture teaches on these subjects, we know that our God is sovereign, and we trust Him fully. We are to live, therefore, with a hope that rests in our sovereign King Jesus. To Him be all glory and honor.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

God is the God of all comfort?? (2 Corinthians 1:3)

     “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

     The idea of “comfort” implies at least two parties: one who gives the comfort and one who receives it. It also implies a need—one that Scripture speaks of exclusively for humans. Animals have no capacity to receive spiritual comfort. The holy angels have no need for comfort. Satan and his demons are eternally beyond it (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9, 12; 20:10). Only humans—higher than the animals, lower than the angels, and composed of body, soul, and spirit — were created with the capacity to receive and give comfort, and we live in a world where we need it.

Matthew 25:41 (ESV) 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Revelation 12:9
(ESV) 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Revelation 12:12
(ESV) 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 20:10
(ESV) 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.

     Bound in time like animals, yet with a sense of our own eternity like angels (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we humans suffer distress in a unique “three-dimensional” way — past, present and future. We remember previous distresses and are filled with grief or regrets (Genesis 37:35; Matthew 26:75). We face each day’s troubles and worry (Matthew 6:25–32). We reflect on these things and dread what may come next (verse 34). And beyond these worldly matters is that most distressing sensation of all, the guilt for having deeply, inexcusably offended our good and righteous Creator and Judge (James 2:10–11; Revelation 6:16).

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV) 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Genesis 37:35
(ESV) 35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.

Matthew 26:75
(ESV) 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Matthew 6:25–32
(ESV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

James 2:10–11 (ESV) 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

Revelation 6:16
(ESV) 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,

     Believers in Christ have a comfort from God that includes a true freedom from guilt. For Christians, our righteous Judge is also our loving Savior (John 3:16–17) —a sharp contrast with the terrifying assortment of distant, cruel, or unappeasable deities of the ancient world into which Paul brought the good news of free, complete and irrevocable forgiveness, reconciliation, and adoption (Romans 3:23–25; 2 Corinthians 5:11–21; 1 John 3:1–2).

John 3:16–17 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Romans 3:23–25 (ESV) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

2 Corinthians 5:11–21
(ESV) 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 John 3:1–2
(ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

     In 2 Corinthians 1:3, God is called the “Father of compassion” and the “God of all comfort.” In His mercy and love, God is eager to provide comfort to His children in any and all circumstances. Whatever the trial we face, our Heavenly Father knows the situation and offers comfort as needed. The fact that He is the God of all comfort teaches that all comfort ultimately comes from Him. He is our source of peace and happiness and blessing.

2 Corinthians 1:3 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

     The comfort we Christians receive flows through us to others “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Like grace, comfort is an active, powerful gift to be not merely received but actively shared with others, supernaturally multiplied to advance God’s kingdom (Matthew 25:14–30). And so the Bible commends those who are simply with people in trouble, such as those who are sick or in prison, whether or not we can change their circumstances (Matthew 25:36–40). In bringing comfort to those in trouble, we glorify God by giving a glimpse of how He comforts those who are in distress.

2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Matthew 25:14–30 (ESV) 14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Matthew 25:36–40 (ESV) 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

     All three Persons of the Trinity participate in comforting us just by being with us. That is enough. The Father is always with us, as He was with Moses (Exodus 3:12) and the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:6–8). So, too, are the Son (Matthew 28:20; John 14:18) and the Spirit (John 14:16–17). Hence, Paul confidently ends his letter to the Corinthians with the beautiful blessing: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Exodus 3:12 (ESV) 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Deuteronomy 31:6–8
(ESV) 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Matthew 28:20
(ESV) 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 14:18 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:16–17
(ESV) 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

2 Corinthians 13:14
(ESV) 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

     The Spirit—the Parakletos, rendered “Comforter,” “Counselor,” or “Helper” in different translations—is how Jesus keeps His promise to always be with us as the God of all comfort. One meaning of the Greek root word para is “close beside.” All three Persons of the Trinity live with and in believers (John 14:17, 22) —very close indeed! As a result, no past, present, or future distress can separate us from God and His love for us in Christ (Romans 8:35). We are not only comforted in our troubles, but we are “more than conquerors” in them (verses 30–39). When we turn our worries into prayers, “the God of peace will be with [us]” (Philippians 4:6–9).

John 14:17 (ESV) 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:22
(ESV) 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

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

     In the end, when we finally leave the temporary troubles of this life and enter the permanent joy of the next, our Heavenly Father will forever comfort each one of us, wiping away every tear (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4), welcoming us into a world where comfort is no longer needed because there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). We will enjoy the God of all comfort forever.

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 136

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
136 Give Thanks To The LORD

136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the LORD of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

ESV Study Bible

Living Hope

By Ben Dunson 7/01/2016

     In the time of Noah, God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Humanity has a heart problem. The heart is the center of human longing. It is the center of human existence. And it is, according to Jesus, “out of the heart” that “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Nothing good can come from the hidden depths of our rotting, wicked hearts. As Paul says in Romans 8:6, “the mind” set “on the flesh is death.” Humanity in its lostness and depravity participates in a living death, a life lived teetering on the precipice of eternal death and damnation. This is a life that cannot even be called life, even though blood is coursing through one’s veins and one’s heart is still beating.

     The desperate disease of the sin-infected human heart requires radical surgery. What sinners need, in fact, is a transplant. A new heart is the only solution. The Apostle Peter begins his first letter with a glorious picture of the way in which God has met sinful humanity in its most fundamental need: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Peter packs an enormous amount of theology and doxology into this verse. God is to be praised because He has given believers the heart transplant they so desperately needed, although He was under no compulsion to do anything good for rebellious sinners. He works in their hearts solely because of His “great mercy.” While we were once dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), God has caused us to be reborn spiritually. Help from God is not enough; our old selves must die and undergo a spiritual resurrection. Only then will our hearts be truly alive.

     The new life, the “living hope,” that we have entered into is said by Peter to have come to us “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). This is true in two ways. First, believers are said in the New Testament to have died with Christ and to have been raised up to newness of life with Him (Rom. 6:3–4). This means that the very power that was at work to raise Jesus from the dead is at work in the heart of the believer, and it has been since the very moment of the believer’s miraculous rebirth. This is the foundation for all spiritual growth in the Christian life. Second, in His death, Jesus entered into the new creation as the “firstfruits” of all believers (1 Cor. 15:23). In the Old Testament, the festival of the firstfruits occurred when the crops first started to yield produce. At that time, the Israelites would gather a small amount of this initial fruit to offer to God in anticipation of the full harvest to come later. In the same way, Jesus Christ as raised from the dead is the first-fruits of believers: because He has already entered into the new creation, we know for certain that we will also join Him there, and that in a very important sense, we are already living in the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). There is an unbreakable connection between what is already true of Jesus and what is true of us now and at His return. This should give great confidence to God’s people, who have the Holy Spirit living within them as the guarantee of their future, full possession of the riches of heaven (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

     The new life of the resurrected Jesus flows into the hearts of believers, so “living hope” is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. The nightmare of living death, with eternal death looming over the horizon, is but a distant, fading memory. A living hope is a hope that gives life, a hope that blooms and blossoms within our hearts. Hope, for the believer, is certain knowledge of the destiny that awaits us after death. It is not the weak substitute for hope that we hear all around us: “I hope it doesn’t rain today.” “I hope I get a promotion at work.” It is hope founded on the “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). The riches of full and final salvation in heaven are secure for all of God’s children. We haven’t yet received the fullness of this inheritance, but even now “by God’s power” we “are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5). Christian “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Hope is living because it gives life to weary sinners in the midst of their struggles.

     Because of this unshakable confidence in the salvation God has worked for us in Christ and will continue to work for us until the last day, the Christian life should be characterized by rejoicing, even in the midst of intense difficulties and trials (1 Peter 1:5–7). How can our hearts not overflow with joy and thankfulness to our great God? And with joy in our hearts, we must prepare our “minds for action” and be “sober-minded.” That is to say, we must think rightly about who we are in Christ and as a consequence “set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be brought” to us when Jesus returns. Our hope is secure: no matter what tragedies and hardships we face in this life,  Jesus will come back to rescue us in the end.

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     Dr. Ben C. Dunson is professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla.

Fox's Book Of Martyrs

By John Foxe 1563

God's Punishment upon Some of the Persecutors of His People in Mary's Reign

     After that arch-persecutor, Gardiner, was dead, others followed, of whom Dr. Morgan, bishop of St. David's, who succeeded Bishop Farrar, is to be noticed. Not long after he was installed in his bishoipric, he was stricken by the visitation of God; his food passed through the throat, but rose again with great violence. In this manner, almost literally starved to death, he terminated his existence.

     Bishop Thornton, suffragan of Dover, was an indefatigable persecutor of the true Church. One day after he had exercised his cruel tyranny upon a number of pious persons at Canterbury, he came from the chapter-house to Borne, where as he stood on a Sunday looking at his men playing at bowls, he fell down in a fit of the palsy, and did not long survive.

     After the latter, succeeded another bishop or suffragen, ordained by Gardiner, who not long after he had been raised to the see of Dover, fell down a pair of stairs in the cardinal's chamber at Greenwich, and broke his neck. He had just received the cardinal's blessing-he could receive nothing worse.

     John Cooper, of Watsam, Suffolk, suffered by perjury; he was from private pique persecuted by one Fenning, who suborned two others to swear that they heard Cooper say, 'If God did not take away Queen Mary, the devil would.' Cooper denied all such words, but Cooper was a Proestant and a heretic, and therefore he was hung, drawn and quartered, his property confiscated, and his wife and nine children reduced to beggary. The following harvest, however, Grimwood of Hitcham, one of the witnesses before mentioned, was visited for his villainy: while at work, stacking up corn, his bowels suddenly burst out, and before relief could be obtained, her died. Thus was deliberate perjury rewarded by sudden death!

     In the case of the martyr Mr. Bradford, the severity of Mr. Sheriff Woodroffe has been noticed-he rejoiced at the death of the saints, and at Mr. Rogers' execution, he broke the carman's head, because he stopped the cart to let the martyr's children take a last farewell of him. Scarcely had Mr. Woodroffe's sheriffalty expired a week, when he was struck with a paralytic affection, and languished a few days in the most pitable and helpless condition, presenting a striking contrast to his former activity in the cause of blood.

     Ralph Lardyn, who betrayed the martyr George Eagles, is believed to have been afterward arraigned and hanged in consequence of accusing himself. At the bar, he denounced himself in these words: "This has most justly fallen upon me, for betraying the innocent blood of that just and good man George Eagles, who was here condemned in the time of Queen Mary by my procurement, when I sold his blood for a little money."

     As James Abbes was going to execution, and exhorting the pitying bystanders to adhere steadfastly to the truth, and like him to seal the cause of Christ with their blood, a servant of the sheriff's interrupted him, and blasphemously called his religion heresy, and the good man a lunatic. Scarcely however had the flames reached the martyr, before the fearful stroke of God fell upn the hardened wretch, in the presence of him he had so cruelly ridiculed. The man was suddenly seized with lunacy, cast off his clothes and shoes before the people, (as Abbes had done just before, to distribute among some poor persons,) at the same time exclaiming, "Thus did James Abbes, the true servant of God, who is saved by I am damned." Repeating this often, the sheriff had him secured, and made him put his clothes on, but no sooner was he alone, than he tore them off, and exclaimed as before. Being tied in a cart, he was conveyed to his master's house, and in about half a year he died; just before which a priest came to attend him, with the crucifix, etc., but the wretched man bade him take away such trumpery, and said that he and other priests had been the cause of his damnation, but that Abbes was saved.

     One Clark, an avowed enemy of the Protestants in King Edward's reign, hung himself in the Tower of London.

     Froling, a priest of much celebrity, fell down in the street and died on the spot.

     Dale, an indefatigable informer, was consumed by vermin, and died a miserable spectacle.

     Alexander, the severe keeper of Newgate, died miserably, swelling to a prodigious size, and became so inwardly putrid, that none could come near him. This cruel minister of the law would go to Bonner, Story, and others, requesting them to rid his prison, he was so much pestered with heretics! The son of this keeper, in three years after his father's death, dissipated his great property, and died suddenly in Newgate market. "The sins of the father," says the decalogue, "shall be visited on the children." John Peter, son-in-law of Alexander, a horrid blasphemer and persecutor, died wretchedly. When he affirmed anything, he would say, "If it be not true, I pray I may rot ere I die." This awful state visited him in all its loathsomeness.

     Sir Ralph Ellerker was eagerly desirous to see the heart taken out of Adam Damlip, who was wrongfully put to death. Shortly after Sir Ralph was slain by the French, who mangled him dreadfully, cut off his limbs, and tore his heart out.

     When Gardiner heard of the miserable end of Judge Hales, he called the profession of the Gospel a doctrine of desperation; but he forgot that the judge's despondency arose after he had consented to the papistry. But with more reason may this be said of the Catholic tenets, if we consider the miserable end of Dr. Pendleton, Gardiner, and most of the leading persecutors. Gardiner, upon his death bed, was reminded by a bishop of Peter denying his master, "Ah," said Gardiner, "I have denied with Peter, but never repented with Peter."

     After the accession of Elizabeth, most of the Catholic prelates were imprisoned in the Tower or the Fleet; Bonner was put into the Marshalsea.

     Of the revilers of God's Word, we detail, among many others, the following occurrence. One William Maldon, living at Greenwich in servitude, was instructing himself profitably in reading an English primer one winter's evening. A serving man, named John Powell, sat by, and ridiculed all that Maldon said, who cautioned him not to make a jest of the Word of God. Powell nevertheless continued, until Maldon came to certain English Prayers, and read aloud, "Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us," etc. Suddenly the reviler started, and exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" He was struck with the utmost terror of mind, said the evil spirit could not abide that Christ should have any mercy upon him, and sunk into madness. He was remitted to Bedlam, and became an awful warning that God will not always be insulted with impunity.

     Henry Smith, a student in the law, had a pious Protesant father, of Camben, in Gloucestershire, by whom he was virtuously educated. While studying law in the middle temple, he was induced to profess Catholicism, and, going to Louvain, in France, he returned with pardons, crucifixes, and a great freight of popish toys. Not content with these things, he openly reviled the Gospel religion he had been brought up in; but conscience one night reproached him so dreadfully, that in a fit of despair he hung himself in his garters. He was buried in a lane, without the Christian service being read over him.

     Dr. Story, whose name has been so often mtnioned in the preceding pages, was reserved to be cut off by public execution, a practice in which he had taken great delight when in power. He is supposed to have had a hand in most of the conflagrations in Mary's time, and was even ingenious in his invention of new modes of inflicting torture. When Elizabeth came to the throne, he was committed to prison, but unaccountably effected his escape to the continent, to carry fire and sword there among the Protestant brethren. From the duke of Alva, at Antwerp, he received a special commission to search all ships for contraband goods, and particularly for English heretical books.

     Dr. Story gloried in a commission that was ordered by Providence to be his ruin, and to preserve the faithful from his sanguinary cruelty. It was contrived that one Parker, a merchant, should sail to Antwerp and information should be given to Dr. Story that he had a quantity of heretical books on board. The latter no sooner heard this, than he hastened to the vessel, sought everywhere above, and then went under the hatches, which were fastened down upon him. A prosperous gale brought the ship to England, and this traitorous, persecuting rebel was committed to prison, where he remained a considerable time, obstinately objecting to recant his Anti-christian spirit, or admit of Queen Elizabeth's supremacy. He alleged, though by birth and education an Englishman, that he was a sworn subject of the king of Spain, in whose service the famous duke of Alva was. The doctor being condemned, was laid upon a hurdle, and drawn from the Tower to Tyburn, where after being suspended about half an hour, he was cut down, stripped, and the executioner displayed the heart of a traitor.

     Thus ended the existence of this Nimrod of England.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Continual Burnt Offering (Hebrews 12:22)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

December 4
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.    ESV

     In the latter part of this twelfth chapter of Hebrews we have law and grace set before us in vivid contrast as two distinct circles. One is centered in Sinai, the mount “that burned with fire,” and the other in Mount Zion, which speaks of God’s sovereign grace. Linked with this is the heavenly instead of the earthly Jerusalem, the city of the living God where dwell an innumerable company, a full gathering of angel hosts. Their delight is to serve those who belong to the assembly of firstborn ones—all heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. There God Himself dwells, and there too Old Testament saints now perfected through the work of Jesus, the Mediator of the covenant of grace whose blood speaks not of vengeance but of mercy. This is the circle of God’s favor to which all believers have come.

The gates of heaven are opened wide,
At His name all the angels bow;
The Son of Man who was crucified
Is the King of Glory now.
We love to look up and behold Him there,
The Lamb for His chosen slain;
And soon shall His saints all His glories share,
With their Head and their Lord shall reign.
And now we draw near to the throne of grace,
For His blood and the Priest are there;
And we joyfully seek God’s holy face,
With our censer of praise and prayer.
The burning mount and the mystic veil,
With our terrors and guilt, are gone;
Our conscience has peace that can never fail,
‘Tis the Lamb on high on the throne.
--- J. G. Deck

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

  • The Foundations
    Of Seminary
  • Jesus Lord Of
    All -Marriage
  • Introduction to
    Spiritual Formation

#1 John Coe | Biola University


#2 Rick Langer | Biola University


#3 John Coe | Biola University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     ‘Lord, what should I do?’ (2)
     12/4/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘God is working in you.’

(Php 2:13) 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ESV

     Another way in which God will lead you is: Through the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. As a parent, you wouldn’t allow your children to get into trouble if you could stop them – and neither would God. ‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.’ God will give you a desire to do His will, plus the power to carry it out. You ask, ‘But how can I know God’s voice?’ Through time, through testing, through experience, and most of all through intimacy with Him. When a loved one calls you on the phone, they don’t have to say, ‘Hello, this is your husband or your wife calling.’ You know their voice! And learning to recognise the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit is crucial, because much of the time you won’t be able to figure it out. ‘The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?’ (Proverbs 20:24 NLT). When all is said and done, you will say, ‘Honestly, I didn’t figure this thing out. It must have been God.’ The longer you walk with God the less you’ll know about why He leads as He does, but you’ll know with assurance that He does lead you. Knowing that is what will draw you back to Him time and time again to seek His guidance. The apostle Jude said, ‘I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith’ (Jude v.3 NIV 1984 Edition). Those words – ‘I felt I had to’ – are nothing less than the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Hosea 9-10
3 John

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Father Jacques Marquette left France and arrived in Quebec to be a missionary among the Indians. After several years, Governor Frontenac commissioned him to explore the Mississippi River. Traveling by canoe from Lake Michigan, through Wisconsin, Father Marquette descended the unknown Mississippi down to the Arkansas River. The following year, he set out to found a mission among the Illinois Indians. Caught by the winter on this day, December 4, 1674, Father Marquette and two companions had to erect a rough log cabin near the shore of Lake Michigan. This became the first building of a settlement that would afterwards grow into the city of Chicago.

American Minute

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

     Chapter 13

     I’ve just found in an old note-book a poem, with no author's name attached, which is rather relevant to something we were talking about a few weeks ago-I mean, the haunting fear that there is no-one listening, and that what we call prayer is soliloquy: someone talking to himself. This writer takes the bull by the horns and says in effect: "Very well, suppose it is," and gets a surprising result. Here is the poem.

  They tell me, Lord, that when I seem
  To be in speech with you,
  Since but one voice is heard, it's all a dream,
  One talker aping two.

  Sometimes it is, yet not as they
  Conceive it. Rather, I
  Seek in myself the things I hoped to say,
  But Io!, my wells are dry.

  Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
  The listener's role and through
  My dumb lips breathe and into utterance wake
  The thoughts I never knew.

  And thus you neither need reply
  Nor can; thus, while we seem
  Two talkers, thou art One forever, and I
  No dreamer, but thy dream.

     Dream makes it too like Pantheism and was perhaps dragged in for the rhyme. But is he not right in thinking that prayer in its most perfect state is a soliloquy? If the Holy Spirit speaks in the man, then in prayer God speaks to God. But the human petitioner does not therefore become a "dream." As you said the other day, God and man cannot exclude one another, as man excludes man, at the point of junction, so to call it, between Creator and creature; the point where the mystery of creation-timeless for God, and incessant in time for us-is actually taking place. "God did (or said) it" and "I did (or said) it" can both be true.

     You remember the two maxims Owen [Barfield] lays down in Saving the Appearances? On the one hand, the man who does not regard God as other than himself cannot be said to have a religion at all. On the other hand, if I think God other than myself in the same way in which my fellow­ men, and objects in general, are other than myself, I am beginning to make Him an idol. I am daring to treat His existence as somehow parallel to my own. But He is the ground of our being. He is always both within us and over against us. Our reality is so much from His reality as He, moment by moment, projects into us. The deeper the level within our­ selves from which our prayer, or any other act, wells up, the more it is His, but not at all the less ours. Rather, most ours when most His. Arnold speaks of us as "enisled" from one another in "the sea of life." But we can't be similarly "enisled" from God. To be discontinuous from God as I am discontinuous from you would be annihilation.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

If you don't have a teacher
you can't have a disciple.
--- Dallas Willard
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence)

This old world's dying for the want of love. There are more people die for the want of a bit of it than with overmuch of it. Don't stifle it--let it out.
--- --- Gipsy Smith (1860-1947, British evangelist)
Your boys

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it.
--- Blaise Pascal
Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
--- Dr. Johnson
English Literature in the Age of Disguise

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 29:26
     by D.H. Stern

26     Many seek the ruler’s favor,
but it is from ADONAI that each gets justice.

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

                The law of antagonism

     To him that overcometh.… ---
Rev. 2:7.

     Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.

     Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside. Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead. If I have enough fighting power, I produce the balance of health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a vigorous mental life, I have to fight, and in that way the mental balance called thought is produced.

     Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and it depends on what moral calibre I have whether I overcome and produce virtue. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.

     And spiritually it is the same. Jesus said—“In the world ye shall have tribulation,” i.e., everything that is not spiritual makes for my undoing, but—“be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I have to learn to score off the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness; then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.

     Holiness is the balance between my disposition and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.

My Utmost for His Highest

The Moon In Lleyn
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                The Moon In Lleyn

The last quarter of the moon
  of Jesus gives way
  to the dark; the serpent
  digests the egg. Here
  on my knees in this stone
  church, that is full only
  of the silent congregation
  of shadows and the sea's
  sound, it is easy to believe
  Yeats was right. Just as though
  choirs had not sung, shells
  have swallowed them; the tide laps
  at the Bible; the bell fetches
  no people to the brittle miracle
  of the bread. The sand is waiting
  for the running back of the grains
  in the wall into its blond
  glass. Religion is over, and
  what will emerge from the body
  of the new moon, no one
  can say.
  But a voice sounds
  in my ear: Why so fast,
  mortal? These very seas
  are baptized. The parish
  has a saint's name time cannot
  unfrock. In cities that
  have outgrown their promise people
  are becoming pilgrims
  again, if not to this place,
  then to the recreation of it
  in their own spirits. You must remain
  kneeling. Even as this moon
  making its way through the earth's
  cumbersome shadow, prayer, too,
  has its phases.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

     Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest

     A positive Scriptural commandment prescribes prayer and the sounding of an alarm with trumpets whenever trouble befalls the community. For when Scripture says, “against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets” (Num. 10:9), the meaning is: Cry out in prayer and sound an alarm against whatsoever is oppressing you, be it famine, pestilence, locusts, or the like.

     This procedure is one of the roads to repentance, for as the community cries out in prayer and sounds an alarm when overtaken by trouble, everyone is bound to realize that evil has come upon him as a consequence of his own evil deeds, as it is written, “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withheld good from you” (Jer. 5:25), and that his repentance will cause the trouble to be removed.

     If, on the other hand, the people do not cry out in prayer and do not sound an alarm, but merely say that it is the way of the world for such a thing to happen to them, and that their trouble is a matter of pure chance, they have chosen a cruel path which will cause them to persevere in their evil deeds and thus bring additional troubles upon them. For when Scripture says, “if you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility” (Lev. 26:27–28), the meaning is: If, when I bring trouble upon you in order to cause you to repent, you say that the trouble is purely accidental, then I will add to your trouble the fury appropriate to such an “accident.”

     No suffering is perceived as accidental; God’s will addresses man through what is normally perceived as being accidental. According to Maimonides, this understanding of the relationship of suffering to teshuvah is implied by the convenantal election of Israel. The philosophic Jew brings this covenantal consciousness into his quest for intellectual communion with the God of being.

     In the end of the Guide, Maimonides suggests that the philosophic-halakhic Jew should understand his suffering as resulting from his failure to fulfill the mitzvah of intellectual love of God:

Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest


     Ministry of Mercy as Savior and a Ministry of Judgment as the Coming King

     Since Christ, at His first advent, came to suffer for the sins of the people, we now know (although the Jews of Jesus’day found it hard to realize) that His role as Judge and King will be fulfilled at His second advent. Concerning this subject, W. G. Moorehead wrote: Isaiah, who describes with eloquence worthy of a prophet the glories of the Messiah’s coming kingdom, also characterizes with the accuracy of the historian the humiliation, the trials, the agony which were to precede the triumph of the Redeemer of the world, presenting on the one hand a glorious King, Himself deity, “God with us,” who has all power; yet, on the other hand, One whose visage was more marred than any man, His bones out of joint and dying of thirst (
Ps. 22). How can He be both the great Davidic Monarch, restoring again the glory of Solomon’s house, and also be a sacrifice bearing the sins of the people? Clearly, destinies so strongly contrasted could not be accomplished simultaneously. There is only one possible answer; … in the divine purpose the mighty drama is to be in two acts (His first advent and His second advent).

The Prophets Still Speak : Messiah In Both Testaments

Take Heart
     December 4

     Diligently study the Scriptures. --- John 5:39.

     I will lay down some directions for you to study the Scriptures with benefit.    The Sermons of George Whitefield (Two-Volume Set)

     First, have always in view the purpose for which the Scriptures were written—to show us the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. “These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” says our Lord. Look, therefore, always for Christ in the Scripture. He is the treasure hidden in the field, both of the Old and New Testaments. In the Old, you will find him under prophesies, types, sacrifices, and shadows; in the New, revealed in a body to become a propitiation for our sins as a priest, and as a prophet to reveal the whole will of his heavenly Father.

     Have Christ, then, always in view when you are reading the Word of God, and this, like the star in the east, will guide you to the Messiah, will serve as a key to everything that is obscure, and will unlock to you the wisdom and riches of all the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

     Second, search the Scriptures humbly—childlike. God hides the sense of them from those who are wise in their own eyes and reveals them only to babes in Christ, who hunger and thirst for righteousness and crave pure spiritual milk, so that they may grow by it.

     Imagine yourselves, therefore, when you are searching the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, to be with Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. And be as willing to learn what God will teach you as Samuel was, when he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”

     Third, search the Scriptures with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read. A desire to do the will of God is the only way to know it. To those who desire to know from his Word who he is, that they may believe on and live by and to him, he will reveal himself as clearly as he did to the woman of Samaria, when he said, “I who speak to you am he.”

     Fourth, in order to search the Scriptures still more effectively, make an application of everything you read to your own hearts. For whatever was written in the book of God was written for our learning. And what Christ said to those before, we must look on as spoken to us also, for since the Holy Scriptures are nothing but a revelation from God how fallen humanity is to be restored by Jesus Christ, all the precepts, threats, and promises belong to us and to our children, as well as to those to whom they were immediately made known.

--- George Whitefield

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

On This Day   December 4
     Last of the Greek Fathers

     About 600 years after the apostle Paul was converted in Damascus, a boy was born there named John Mansour. Damascus was by then ruled by the Muslims, but John’s father, the treasurer of Caliph Abdulmeled, was a Christian who represented church interests before the court. John became a Christian himself and was educated by an Italian monk whom his father had ransomed from slavery. He excelled in academics, and upon the death of his father, he was appointed by the caliph to high position.

     In time, however, John felt the Lord calling him to the ministry. He left Damascus and settled in the Convent of St. Sabas between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. There he became a priest and spent out his days in study, writing, and humble tasks. His feast day is December 4.

     John vigorously defended the eastern church’s practice of worshiping icons and images. But he is most famous for his encyclopedic summary of theology. He systematized Greek theology much as Thomas Aquinas summarized and systematized Latin doctrine 500 years later. “Like a bee,” he wrote, “I gather all that conforms to the truth. … I am not offering my own conclusions, but those which were laboriously arrived at by the most eminent theologians. I have merely collected them and summarized them, as far as was possible in one treatise.”

     John also wrote hymns, and those who take time to thumb through old hymnals find his great resurrection hymn, Come, Ye Faithful, now 1,400 years old. Its words still paint beautiful pictures in our minds:

  'Tis the spring of souls today, Christ hath burst his prison,
  And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen.
  All the winter of our sins, long and dark is flying
  From his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.

  Alleluia! now we cry to our King Immortal
  Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
  Alleluia! with the Son, God the Father praising,
  Alleluia! yet again to the Spirit raising.

     Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ.
--- 1 Corinthians 15:20,21.

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

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

     Respect the Mystery

     The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are sur¬rounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don't know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that's just what we cannot do with the mystery.... Liv¬ing without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and ecploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploita¬tion. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.

     Ascension joy-inwardly we must become very quiet to hear the soft sound of this phrase at all. Joy lives in its qui¬etness and incomprehensibility. This joy is in fact incom¬prehensible, for the comprehensible never makes for joy.

  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go to   Colossians 2:2-3     Click Here

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 4

     “I have much people in this city.” --- Acts 18:10.

     This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them he will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which his Son has paid. He will not suffer his substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.

     Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on his breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have his own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when he cometh forth with fulness of power—they must become the willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of his soul.” “I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”

          Evening - December 4

     “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” --- Romans 8:23.

     This groaning is universal among the saints: to a greater or less extent we all feel it. It is not the groan of murmuring or complaint: it is rather the note of desire than of distress. Having received an earnest, we desire the whole of our portion; we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last vestige of the fall; we long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonour, and to wrap ourselves in incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the spiritual body which the Lord Jesus will bestow upon his people. We long for the manifestation of our adoption as the children of God. “We groan,” but it is “within ourselves.” It is not the hypocrite’s groan, by which he would make men believe that he is a saint because he is wretched. Our sighs are sacred things, too hallowed for us to tell abroad. We keep our longings to our Lord alone. Then the apostle says we are “waiting,” by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah, when they said, “Let me die”; nor are we to whimper and sigh for the end of life because we are tired of work, nor wish to escape from our present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to himself. This “groaning” is a test. You may judge of a man by what he groans after. Some men groan after wealth—they worship Mammon; some groan continually under the troubles of life—they are merely impatient; but the man who sighs after God, who is uneasy till he is made like Christ, that is the blessed man. May God help us to groan for the coming of the Lord, and the resurrection which he will bring to us.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     December 4


     W. H. Clark, 19th century, Refrain by Ralph E. Hudson, 1843–1901

     I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever … for you have exalted above all things Your name and Your Word. (Psalm 145:1 and Psalm 138:2

     The Bible teaches that there are two things our Lord honors above all else: His Name and His Word. These two priorities should also be the most sacred trusts in our spiritual lives. A name is an individual’s main identification, as well as the carrier of his reputation. In the Bible, God renamed individuals—Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:22–32) and Saul to Paul (Acts l3:9)—to reflect more accurately their changed lifestyles. It is only normal, then, to defend one’s name at all costs.

     To many people today, the names “Jesus” and “God” are merely words to use in blasphemy. To those of us who associate these names with divine love, such talk cannot be dismissed lightly. Christ Himself spoke out against becoming sacrilegious in our speaking when He cautioned His disciples never even to swear either by heaven or earth (Matthew 5:34–37). And it should be remembered that one tenth of the moral law deals with profaning God’s name, with this serious warning—“The Lord will not hold him guiltless …” (Deuteronomy 5:11). Even our approach to the heavenly Father in prayer must always be done with reverence—in the name of Jesus (John 16:23).

     Let us determine to use this Christmas season to truly magnify His name and to proclaim His worth together:

     “Jesus”—O how sweet the name, “Jesus” —every day the same;
     “Jesus” —let all saints proclaim its worthy praise forever.

--- W. C. Martin

     The stanzas of “Blessed Be the Name” first appeared in 1891 in Hymns of the Christian Life. The melody was likely one of the early folk hymn tunes used in the 19th century camp meetings.

     All praise to Him who reigns above in majesty supreme, who gave His Son for man to die, that He might man redeem!
     His name above all names shall stand, exalted more and more, at God the Father’s own right hand, where angel-hosts adore.
     Redeemer, Savior, Friend of man, once ruined by the fall, Thou hast devised salvation’s plan, for Thou hast died for all.
     His name shall be the Counselor, the mighty Prince of Peace, of all earth’s kingdoms Conqueror, whose reign shall never cease.
     Refrain: Blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.

     For Today: Job 1:20, 21; Psalm 8:1; 34:3; Isaiah 42:8; John 10:3

     Reflect on this truth: We are bearers of the divine name—CHRISTians. Worship your Lord with this musical expression ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock



PSALM 103:19. — The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens: and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Psalm 103:19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.   ESV

     THE Psalm begins with the praise of God, wherein the penman excites his soul to a right and elevated management of so great a duty (ver. 1): “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name:” and because himself and all men were insufficient to offer up a praise to God answerable to the greatness of his benefits, he summons in the end of the psalm the angels, and all creatures, to join in concert with him. Observe,

     1. As man is too shallow a creature to comprehend the excellency of God, so he is too dull and scanty a creature to offer up a due praise to God, both in regard of the excellency of his nature, and the multitude and greatness of his benefits.

     2. We are apt to forget Divine benefits: our souls must therefore be often jogged, and roused up. “All that is within me,” every power of my rational, and every affection of my sensitive part: all his faculties, all his thoughts. Our souls will hang back from God in every duty, much more in this, if we lay not a strict charge upon them. We are so void of a pure and entire love to God, that we have no mind to those duties. Wants will spur us on to prayer, but a pure love to God can only spirit us to praise. We are more ready, to reach out a hand to receive his mercies, than to lift up our hearts to recognize them after the receipt. After the Psalmist had summoned his own soul to this task, he enumerates the Divine blessings received by him, to awaken his soul by a sense of them to so noble a work. He begins at the first and foundation mercy to himself, the pardon of his sin and justification of his person, the renewing of his sickly and languishing nature (ver. 3): “Who forgives all thy iniquities, and heals all thy diseases.” His redemption from death, or eternal destruction; his expected glorification thereupon, which he speaks of with that certainty, as if it were present (ver. 4): “Who redeems thy life from destruction, who crowns thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” He makes his progress to the mercy manifested to the church in the protection of it against, or delivery of it from, oppressions (ver. 6): “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” In the discovery of his will and law, and the glory of his merciful name to it (ver. 7, 8): “He made known his ways unto Moses, and his acts unto the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy:” which latter words may refer also to the free and unmerited spring of the benefits he had reckoned up: viz., the mercy of God, which he mentions also (ver. 10): “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities;” and then extols the perfection of Divine mercy, in the pardoning of sin (ver. 11, ver. 12); the paternal tenderness of God (ver. 13); the eternity of his mercy (ver. 17); but restrains it to the proper object (ver. 11, 17), “to them that fear him;” i. e. to them that believe in him. Fear being the word commonly used for faith in the Old Testament, under the legal dispensation, wherein the spirit of bondage was more eminent than the spirit of adoption, and their fear more than their confidence. Observe,

     1. All true blessings grow up from the pardon of sin (ver. 3): “Who forgives all thine iniquities.” That is the first blessing, the top and crown of all other favors, which draws all other blessings after it, and sweetens all other blessings with it. The principal intent of Christ was expiation of sin, redemption from iniquity; the purchase of other blessings was consequent upon it. Pardon of sin is every blessing virtually, and in the root and spring it flows from the favor of God, and is such a gift as cannot be tainted with a curse, as outward things may.

     2. Where sin is pardoned, the soul is renewed (ver. 3): “Who heals all thy diseases.” Where guilt is remitted, the deformity and sickness of the soul is cured. Forgiveness is a teeming mercy; it never goes single; when we have an interest in Christ, as bearing the chastisement of our peace, we receive also a balsam from his blood, to heal the wounds we feel in our nature. (Isa. 3:5): “The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” As there is a guilt in sin, which binds us over to punishment, so there is a contagion in sin, which fills us with pestilent diseases; when the one is removed, the other is cured. We should not know how to love the one without the other. The renewing the soul is necessary for a delightful relish of the other blessings of God. A condemned malefactor, infected with a leprosy, or any other loathsome distemper, if pardoned, could take little comfort in his freedom from the gibbet without a cure of his plague.

     3. God is the sole and sovereign Author of all spiritual blessings: “Who forgives all thy iniquities, and heals all thy diseases.” He refers all to God, nothing to himself in his own merit and strength. All, not the pardon of one sin merited by me, not the cure of one disease can I owe to my own power, and the strength of my freewill, and the operations of nature. He, and he alone is the Prince of pardon, the Physician that restores me, the Redeemer that delivers me; it is a sacrilege to divide the praise between God and ourselves. God only can knock off our fetters, expel our distempers, and restore a deformed soul to its decayed beauty.

     4. Gracious souls will bless God as much for sanctification as for justification. The initials of sanctification (and there are no more in this life) are worthy of solemn acknowledgment. It is a sign of growth in grace when our hymns are made up of acknowledgments of God’s sanctifying, as well as pardoning grace. In blessing God for the one, we rather show a love to ourselves; in blessing God for the other, we cast out a pure beam of love to God: because, by purifying grace, we are fitted to the service of our Maker, prepared to every good work which is delightful to him; by the other, we are eased in ourselves. Pardon fills us with inward peace, but sanctification fills us with an activity for God. Nothing is so capable of setting the soul in a heavenly tune, as the consideration of God as a pardoner and as a healer.

     5. Where sin is pardoned, the punishment is remitted (ver. 3, 4): “Who forgives all thy iniquities, and redeems thy life from destruction.” A malefactor’s pardon puts an end to his chains, frees him from the stench of the dungeon, and fear of the gibbet. Pardon is nothing else but the remitting of guilt, and guilt is nothing else but an obligation to punishment as a penal debt for sin. A creditor’s tearing a bond frees the debtor from payment and rigor.

     6. Growth in grace is always annexed to true sanctification. So that “thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (ver. 5). Interpreters trouble themselves much about the manner of the eagle’s renewing its youth, and regaining its vigor: he speaks best that saith, the Psalmist speaks only according to the opinion of the vulgar, and his design was not to write a natural history. Growth always accompanies grace, as well as it doth nature in the body; not that it is without its qualms and languishing fits, as children are not, but still their distempers make them grow. Grace is not an idle, but an active principle. It is not like the Psalmist means it of the strength of the body, or the prosperity and stability of his government, but the vigor of his grace and comfort, since they are spiritual blessings here that are the matter of his song. The healing the disease conduceth to the sprouting up and flourishing of the body. It is the nature of grace to go from strength to strength.

     7. When sin is pardoned, it is perfectly pardoned. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (ver. 11, 12). The east and west are the greatest distance in the world; the terms can never meet together. When sin is pardoned, it is never charged again; the guilt of it can no more return, than east can become west, or west become east.

     8. Obedience is necessary to an interest in the mercy of God. “The mercy of the Lord is to them that fear him, to them that remember his commandments, to do them” (ver. 17). Commands are to be remembered in order to practice; a vain speculation is not the intent of the publication of them.

     After the Psalmist had enumerated the benefits of God, he reflects upon the greatness of God, and considers him on his throne encompassed with the angels, the ministers of his providence. “The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all” (ver. 19). He brings in this of his dominion just after he had largely treated of his mercy. Either,

     1. To signify, That God is not only to be praised for his mercy, but for his majesty, both for the height and extent of his authority.

     2. To extol the greatness of his mercy and pity. What I have said now, O my soul, of the mercy of God, and his paternal pity, is commended by his majesty; his grandeur hinders not his clemency though his throne be high, his bowels are tender. He looks down upon his meanest servants from the height of his glory. Since his majesty is infinite, his mercy must be as great as his majesty. It must be a greater pity lodging in his breast, than what is in any creature, since it is not damped by the greatness of his sovereignty.

     3. To render his mercy more comfortable. The mercy I have spoken of, O my soul, is not the mercy of a subject, but of a sovereign. An executioner may torture a criminal, and strip him of his life, and a vulgar pity cannot relieve him, but the clemency of the prince can perfectly pardon him. It is that God who hath none above him to control him, none below him to resist him, that hath performed all the acts of grace to thee. If God by his supreme authority pardons us, who can reverse it? If all the subjects of God in the world should pardon us, and God withhold his grant, what will it profit us? Take comfort, O my soul, since God from his throne in the highest, and that God who rules over every particular of the creation, hath granted and sealed thy pardon to thee. What would his grace signify, if he were not a monarch, extending his royal empire over everything, and swaying all by his sceptre?

     4. To render the Psalmist’s confidence more firm in any pressures ver. 15, 16. He had considered the misery of man in the shortness of his life; his place should know him no more; he should never return to his authority, employments, opportunities, that death would take from him; but, howsoever, the mercy and majesty of God were the ground of his confidence. He draws himself from poring upon any calamities which may assault him, to heaven, the place where God orders all things that are done on the earth. He is able to protect us from our dangers, and to deliver us from our distresses; whatsoever miseries thou mayest lie under, O my soul, cast thy eye up to heaven, and see a pitying God in a majestic authority: a God who can perform what he hath promised to them that fear him, since he hath a throne above the heavens, and bears sway over all that envy thy happiness, and would stain thy felicity: a God whose authority cannot be curtailed and dismembered by any. When the prophet solicits the sounding of the Divine bowels, he urgeth him by his dwelling in heaven, the habitation of his holiness (Isa. 63:15). His kingdom ruleth over all: there is none therefore hath any authority to make him break his covenant, or violate his promise.

     5. As an incentive to obedience. The Lord is merciful, saith he, to them “that remember his commandments to do them” (ver. 17, 18): and then brings in the text as an encouragement to observe his precepts. He hath a majesty that deserves it from us, and an authority to protect us in it. If a king in a small spot of earth is to be obeyed by his subjects, how much more is God, who is more majestic than all the angels in heaven, and monarchs on earth; who hath a majesty to exact our obedience, and a mercy to allure it! We should not set upon the performance of any duty, without an eye lifted up to God as a great king. It would make us willing to serve him; the more noble the person, the more honorable and powerful the prince, the more glorious is his service. A view of God upon his throne will make us think his service our privilege, his precepts our ornaments, and obedience to him the greatest honor and nobility. It will make us weighty and serious in our performances: it would stake us down to any duty. The reason we are so loose and unmannerly in the carriage of our souls before God, is because we consider him not as a “great King” (Mal. 1:14). “Our Father, which art in heaven,” in regard of his majesty, is the preface to prayer.

     Let us now consider the words in themselves. “The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

     The Lord hath prepared.—The word signifies “established,” as well as “prepared,” and might so be rendered. Due preparation is a natural way to the establishment of a thing: hasty resolves break and moulder. This notes,

     1. The infiniteness of his authority. He prepares it, none else for him. It is a dominion that originally resides in his nature, not derived from any by birth or commission; he alone prepared it. He is the sole cause of his own kingdom; his authority therefore is unbounded, as infinite as his nature: none can set laws to him, because none but himself prepared his throne for him. As he will not impair his own happiness, so he will not abridge himself of his own authority.

     2. Readiness to exercise it upon due occasions. He hath prepared his throne: he is not at a loss; he needs not stay for a commission or instructions from any how to act. He hath all things ready for the assistance of his people; he hath rewards and punishments; his treasures and axes, the great marks of authority lying by him, the one for the good, the other for the wicked. His “mercy he keeps by him for thousands” (Exod. 34:7). His “arrows” he hath prepared by him for rebels (Psalm 7:13).

     3. Wise management of it. It is prepared; preparations imply prudence; the government of God is not a rash and heady authority. A prince upon his throne, a judge upon the bench, manages things with the greatest discretion, or should be supposed so to do.

     4. Successfulness and duration of it. He hath prepared or established. It is fixed, not tottering; it is an immovable dominion; all the strugglings of men and devils cannot overturn it, nor so much as shake it. It is established above the reach of obstinate rebels; he cannot be deposed from it, he cannot be mated in it. His dominion, as himself, abides forever. And as his counsel, so his authority, shall stand, and “he will do all his pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).

     His throne in the heavens. — This is an expression to signify the authority of God; for as God hath no member properly, though he be so represented to us, so he hath properly no throne. It signifies his power of reigning and judging. A throne is proper to royalty, the seat of majesty in its excellency, and the place where the deepest respect and homage of subjects is paid, and their petitions presented. That the throne of God is in the heavens, that there he sits as Sovereign, is the opinion of all that acknowledge a God; when they stand in need of his authority to assist them, their eyes are lifted up, and their heads stretched out to heaven; so his Son Christ prayed; he “lifted up his eyes to heaven,” as the place where his Father sat in majesty, as the most adorable object (John 17:1). Heaven hath the title of his “throne,” as the earth hath that of his “footstool” (Isa. 64:1.) And, therefore, heaven is sometimes put for the authority of God (Dan. 4:26). “After that thou shat have known that the heavens do rule,” i. e. that God, who hath his throne in the heavens, orders earthly princes and sceptres as he pleases, and rules over the kingdoms of the world. His throne in the heavens notes,

     1. The glory of his dominion. The heavens are the most stately and comely pieces of the creation. His majesty is there most visible, his glory most splendid (Psalm 19:1). The heavens speak out with a full mouth his glory. It is therefore called “the habitation” of his “holiness and of his glory” (Isa. 63:15). There is the greater glister and brightness of his glory. The whole earth, indeed, is full of his glory, full of the beams of it; the heaven is full of the body of it; as the rays of the sun reach the earth, but the full glory of it is in the firmament. In heaven his dominion is more acknowledged by the angels standing at his beck, and by their readiness and swiftness obeying his commands, going and returning as a flash of lightning (Ezek. 1:14). His throne may well be said to be in the heavens, since his dominion is not disputed there by the angels that attend him, as it is on earth by the rebels that arm themselves against him.

     2. The supremacy of his empire. The heavens are the loftiest part of the creation, and the only fit palace for him; it is in the heavens his majesty and dignity are so sublime, that they are elevated above all earthly empires.

     3. Peculiarity of this dominion. He rules in the heavens alone. There is some shadow of empire in the world. Royalty is communicated to men as his substitutes. He hath disposed a vicarious dominion to men in his footstool, the earth; he gives them some share in his authority; and, therefore, the title of his name (Psalm 82:6): “I have said, ye are gods;” but in heaven he reigns alone without any substitutes; his throne is there. He gives out his orders to the angels himself; the marks of his immediate sovereignty are there most visible. He hath no vicars-general of that empire. His authority is not delegated to any creature; he rules the blessed spirits by himself; but he rules men that are on his footstool by others of the same kind, men of their own nature.

     4. The vastness of his empire. The earth is but a spot to the heavens; what is England in a map to the whole earth, but a spot you may cover with your finger? much less must the whole earth be to the extended heavens; it is but a little point or atom to what is visible; the sun is vastly bigger than it, and several stars are supposed to be of a greater bulk than the earth; and how many, and what heavens are beyond, the ignorance of man cannot understand. If the “throne” of God be there, it is a larger circuit he rules in than can well be conceived. You cannot conceive the many millions of little particles there are in the earth; and if all put together be but as one point to that place where the throne of God is seated, how vast must his empire be! He rules there over the angels, which “excel in strength” those “hosts” of his “which do his pleasure,” in comparison of whom all the men in the world, and the power of the greatest potentates, is no more than the strength of an ant or fly; multitudes of them encircle his throne, and listen to his orders without roving, and execute them without disputing. And since his throne is in the heavens, it will follow, that all things under the heaven are parts of his dominion; his throne being in the highest place, the inferior things of earth cannot but be subject to him; and it necessarily includes his influence on all things below: because the heavens are the cause of all the motion in the world, the immediate thing the earth doth naturally address to for corn, wine, and oil, above which there is no superior but the Lord (Hos. 2:21, 22): “The earth hears the corn, wine, and oil; the heavens hear the earth, and the Lord hears the heavens.”

     5. The easiness of managing this government. His throne being placed on high, he cannot but behold all things that are done below; the height of a place gives advantage to a pure and clear eye to beholy things below it. Had the sun an eye, nothing could be done in the open air out of its ken. The “throne” of God being in heaven, he easily looks from thence upon all the children of men (Psalm 14:2): “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand.” He looks not down from heaven as if he were in regard of his presence confined there: but he looks down majestically, and by way of authority, not as the look of a bare spectator, but the look of a governor, to pass a sentence upon them as a judge. His being in the heavens renders him capable of doing “whatsoever he pleases” (Psalm 114:3). His “throne” being there, he can by a word, in stopping the motions of the heavens, turn the whole earth into confusion. In this respect, it is said, “He rides upon the heaven in thy help” (Deut. 33:26); discharges his thunders upon men, and makes the influences of it serve his people’s interest. By one turn of a cock, as you see in grottoes, he can cause streams from several parts of the heavens to refresh, or ruin the world. 6. Duration of it. The heavens are incorruptible; his throne is placed there in an incorruptible state. Earthly empires have their decays and dissolutions. The throne of God outlives the dissolution of the world.

     His kingdom rules over all.—He hath an absolute right over all things within the circuit of heaven and earth; though his throne be in heaven, as the place where his glory is most eminent and visible, his authority most exactly obeyed, yet his kingdom extends itself to the lower parts of the earth. He doth not muffle and cloud up himself in heaven, or confine his sovereignty to that place, his royal power extends to all visible, as well as invisible things: he is proprietor and possessor of all (Deut. 10:14): “The heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that is there.” He hath right to dispose of all as he pleases. He doth not say, his kingdom rules all that fear him, but, “over all;” so that it is not the kingdom of grace he here speaks of, but his natural and universal kingdom. Over angels and men; Jews and Gentiles; animate and inanimate things. The Psalmist considers God here as a great monarch and general, and all creatures as his hosts and regiments under him, and takes notice principally of two things. 1. The establishment of his throne together with the seat of it. He hath prepared his throne in the heavens. 2. The extent of his empire. — His kingdom rules over all. This text, in all the parts of it, is a fit basis for a discourse upon the dominion of God, and the observation will be this.

     Doctrine. — God is sovereign Lord and King, and exerciseth a dominion over the whole world, both heaven and earth. This is so clear, that nothing is more spoken of in Scripture. The very name, “Lord,” imports it; a name originally belonging to gods, and from them translated to others. And he is frequently called “the Lord of Hosts,” because all the troops and armies of spiritual and corporeal creatures are in his hands, and at his service: this is one of his principal titles. And the angels are called his “hosts” (ver. 21, following the text) his camp and militia: but more plainly (1 Kings 22:19), God is presented upon his throne, encompassed with all the “hosts of heaven” standing on his right hand and on his left, which can be understood of no other than the angels, that wait for the commands of their Sovereign, and stand about, not to counsel him, but to receive his orders. The sun, moon, and stars, are called his “hosts” (Deut. 4:19); appointed by him for the government of inferior things: he hath an absolute authority over the greatest and the least creatures; over those that are most dreadful, and those that are most beneficial; over the good angels that willingly obey him, over the evil angels that seem most incapable of government. And as he is thus “Lord of hosts,” he is the “King of glory,” or a glorious King (Psalm 24:10). You find him called a “great King,” the “Most High” (Psalm 92:1), the Supreme Monarch, there being no dignity in heaven or earth but what is dim before him, and infinitely inferior to him; yea, he hath the title of “Only King” (1 Tim. 6:15). The title of royalty truly and properly only belongs to him: you may see it described very magnificently by David, at the free-will offering for the building of the temple (1 Chron. 29:11, 12): “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; thine is the kingdom, O God, and thou art exalted as Head above all: both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength to all.” He hath an eminency of power or authority above all: all earthly princes received their diadems from him, yea, even those that will not acknowledge him, and he hath a more absolute power over them than they can challenge over their meanest vassals: as God hath a knowledge infinitely above our knowledge, so he hath a dominion incomprehensibly move any dominion of man; and, by all the shadows drawn from the authority of one man over another, we can have but weak glimmerings of the authority and dominion of God.

     There is a threefold dominion of God.

     1. Natural, which is absolute over all creatures, and is founded in the nature of God as Creator.
     2. Spiritual, or gracious, which is a dominion over his church as redeemed, and founded in the covenant of grace.
     3. A glorious kingdom, at the winding up of all, wherein he shall reign over all, either in the glory of his mercy, as over the glorified saints, or in the glory of his justice, in the condemned devils and men.

     The first dominion is founded in nature; the second in grace; the third in regard of the blessed in grace; in regard of the damned, in demerit in them, and justice in him. He is Lord of all things, and always in regard of propriety (Psalm 24:1): “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and all that dwell therein.” The earth, with the riches and treasures in the bowels of it; the habitable world, with everything that moves upon it, are his; he hath the sole right, and what right soever any others have is derived from him. In regard also of possession (Gen. 14:22): “The Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth:” in respect of whom, man is not the proprietary nor possessor, but usufructuary at the will of this grand Lord.

     In the prosecution of this, I. I shall lay down some general propositions for the clearing and confirming it. II. I shall show wherein this right of dominion is founded. III. What the nature of it is. IV. Wherein it consists; and how it is manifested.

     I. Some general propositions for the clearing and confirming of it.

     1. We must know the difference between the might or power of God and his authority. We commonly mean by the power of God the strength of God, whereby he is able to effect all his purposes; by the authority of God, we mean the right he hath to act what he pleases: omnipotence is his physical power, whereby he is able to do what he will; dominion is his moral power, whereby it is lawful for him to do what he will. Among men, strength and authority are two distinct things; a subject may be a giant, and be stronger than his prince, but he hath not the same authority as his prince: worldly dominion may be seated, not in a brawny arm, but a sickly and infirm body. As knowledge and wisdom are distinguished; knowledge respects the matter, being, and nature of a thing; wisdom respects the harmony, order, and actual usefulness of a thing; knowledge searcheth the nature of a thing, and wisdom employs that thing to its proper use: a man may have much knowledge, and little wisdom; so a man may have much strength, and little or no authority; a greater strength may be settled in the servant, but a greater authority resides in the master; strength is the natural vigor of a man: God hath an infinite strength, he hath a strength to bring to pass whatsover he decrees; he acts without fainting and weakness (Isa. 40:28), and impairs not his strength by the exercise of it: as God is Lord, he hath a right to enact; as he is almighty, he hath a power to execute; his strength is the executive power belonging to his dominion: in regard of his sovereignty, he hath a right to command all creatures; in regard of his almightiness, he hath power to make his commands be obeyed, or to punish men for the violation of them: his power is that whereby he subdues all creatures under him; his dominion is that whereby he hath a right to subdue all creatures under him. This dominion is a right of making what he pleases, of possessing what he made, of disposing of what he doth possess; whereas his power is an ability to make what he hath a right to create, to hold what he doth possess, and to execute the manner wherein he resolves to dispose of his creatures.

     2. All the other attributes of God refer to this perfection of dominion. They all bespeak him fit for it, and are discovered in the exercise of it (which hath been manifested in the discourses of those attributes we have passed through hitherto). His goodness fits him for it, because he can never use his authority but for the good of the creatures, and conducting them to their true end: his wisdom can never be mistaken in the exercise of it; his power can accomplish the decrees that flow from his absolute authority. What can be more rightful than the placing authority in such an infinite Goodness, that hath bowels to pity, as well as a sceptre to sway his subjects? that hath a mind to contrive, and a will to regulate his contrivances for his own glory and his creatures’ good, and an arm of power to bring to pass what he orders? Without this dominion, some perfections, as justice and mercy, would lie in obscurity, and much of his wisdom would be shrouded from our sight and knowledge.

     3. This of dominion, as well as that of power, hath been acknowledged by all. The high priest was to “waive the offering,” or shake it to and fro (Exod. 29:24), which the Jews say was customarily from east to west, and from north to south, the four quarters of the world, to signify God’s sovereignty over all the parts of the world; and some of the heathens, in their adorations, turned their bodies to all quarters, to signify the extensive dominion of God throughout the whole earth. That dominion did of right pertain to the Deity, was confessed by the heathen in the name “Baal,” given to their idols, which signifies Lord; and was not a name of one idol, adored for a god, but common to all the eastern idols. God hath interwoven the notion of his sovereignty in the nature and constitution of man, in the noblest and most inward acts of his soul,—in that faculty or act which is most necessary for him, in his converse in this world, either with God or man: it is stamped upon the conscience of man, and flashes in his face in every act of self judgment conscience passes upon a man: every reflection of conscience implies an obligation of man to some law “written in his heart” (Rom. 2:15). This law cannot be without a legislator, nor this legislator without a sovereign dominion; these are but natural and easy consequences in the mind of man from every act of conscience. The indelible authority of conscience in man, in the whole exercise of it, bears a respect to the sovereignty of God, clearly proclaims not only a supreme Being, but a supreme Governor, and points man directly to it, that a man may as soon deny his having such a reflecting principle within him, as deny God’s dominion over him, and consequently over the whole world of rational creatures.

     4. This notion of sovereignty is inseparable from the notion of a God. To acknowledge the existence of a God, and to acknowledge him a rewarder, are linked together (Heb. 11:6). To acknowledge him a rewarder, is to acknowledge him a governor; rewards being the marks of dominion. The very name of God includes in it a supremacy and an actual rule. He cannot be conceived as God, but he must be conceived as the highest authority in the world. It is as possible for him not to be God as not to be supreme. Wherein can the exercise of his excellencies be apparent, but in his soverign rule? To fancy an infinite power without a supreme dominion, is to fancy a mighty senseless statue, fit to be beheld, but not fit to be obeyed; as not being able or having no right to give out orders, or not caring for the exercise of it. God cannot be supposed to be the chief being, but he must be supposed to give laws to all, and receive laws from none. And if we suppose him with a perfection of justice and righteousness (which we must do, unless we would make a lame and imperfect God) we must suppose him to have an entire dominion, without which he could never be able to manifest his justice. And without a supreme dominion he could not manifest the supremacy and infiniteness of his righteousness.

The Existence and Attributes of God

2 Corinthians 1-4
     JD Farag

2 Corinthians 1:1-4
What Trials Produce 1
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 1:5-6
What Trials Produce 2
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 1:7-9
What Trials Produce 3
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 1:10-11
What Trials Produce 4
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 1:11-14
What Trials Produce 5
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 1:15-24
Three Marks of Integrity
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 2:1-11
The Dangers of Unresolved Conflict
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 2:12-17
The Triumphant Christian
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 3:1-6
The Living Letter of my Christian Life 1
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 3:7-18
The Living Letter of my Christian Life 2
J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 4:1-18
Don’t Lose Heart
J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

2 Corinthians 4
     Certainties that Drive an Enduring Ministry
     John MacArthur

Part One

Part Two

John MacArthur
2 Corinthians 1-4
     Jon Courson

2 Corinthians 1:1-14
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 1-3
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 4
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 1:20
Yea And Amen!!!
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Shake It Off
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 4:7
Cracked Pots
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 1
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 2:4
A Hearing Aid
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 2
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 4:3-4
Open Their Eyes, Lord!
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 3-4
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 4:5-10
It's All Right
Jon Courson

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2 Corinthians 1:8-10
Delivered From Death!
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

2 Corinthians 1-4
     Skip Heitzig

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

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

2 Corinthians 1-4
     Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 1:1-7 pt 1
The God of all Comfort
05-21-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 pt 2
The Apostle Paul and Suffering
05-28-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 1:12-24 pt 3
Making Godly Decisions
06-04-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 2
Church Discipline and Restoration
06-11-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 3
Our Sufficiency is from God
06-25-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

2 Corinthians 4
Church Discipline and Restoration
06-11-2017 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

2 Corinthians 1-4
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | As we read in 2 Corinthians, Pastor Brett talks about the biblical importance of dads as the leaders of their families. This Father’s Day 2011, we study the Father of grace, mercy and comfort.

Father's Day 2011
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
s1-538 | 06-19-2011

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the promises of God. We see how God always keeps his promises, and as Christians, we can take advantage of all of them.

The Promises Of God
2 Corinthians 1:20
s1-539 | 06-26-2011

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Synopsis | As we begin our study through 2 Corinthians, we see that this book, also written to the church at Corinth, is meant to be a word of comfort when going through trials. Paul explains that through trials, we can be comforted and encouraged.

2 Corinthians 1
m1-556 | 06-29-2011

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Synopsis | In 2 Corinthians 2, we see that the Lord took Paul through all kinds of hardships, yet Paul was still determined to preach the gospel. Pastor Brett shows us that Paul ministered to the Corinthian church with a clear conscience, with a compassionate heart and with a conquering faith.

2 Corinthians 2
m1-557 | 07-06-2011

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Synopsis | This morning, we continue our study in 2 Corinthians by taking a closer look at the potter and the clay. We see what being an earthen vessel means.

Mugs of Muci
2 Corinthians 4:7
s1-540 | 07-10-2011

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Synopsis | Tonight, we read 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. Paul speaks to the church at Corinth about how the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3-4
m1-558 | 07-13-2011

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2 Corinthians
We Do Not Lose Heart 2
Alistair Begg

The Attributes of God
Erik Thoennes | Biola University

Hermeneutics and Cultural Implications
Doug Hayward | Biola University

Love: The Greatest Thing
1 Cor 13:1-3 | John MacArthur

The Perfections of Love
1 Cor 13:4-7 | John MacArthur

The Perfections of Love
2 Cor 13:4-7 | John MacArthur

1 Cor 13:8-13
The Persistence of Love | John MacArthur

1 Cor 13:8-13
The Persistence of Love 2 | John MacArthur

2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Randy Stinson | Southern Seminary

Mark and The Eucharist
Tom O'Loughlin | University of Nottingham

The Value of Work
Dallas Willard, Scott Rae, C. William Pollard
Biola University