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Ephesians 1 - 3

Ephesians 1


Ephesians 1:1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2

By Grace Through Faith

Ephesians 2:1     And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 3

The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed

Ephesians 3:1     For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Prayer for Spiritual Strength

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why Does God Want Us to Have Resurrection Bodies?

By J. Warner Wallace 5/18/2014

     There are good philosophical, evidential reasons to believe we are more than simply physical creatures. We are living souls, and the Bible also describes us in this way. We know our souls are united to our bodies while our bodies are alive, and we also know our souls exist beyond the death of our bodies (and will be united with resurrection bodies at the Second Coming of Jesus). As a new Christian, however, I often wondered why God would want us to have a resurrection body in the first place. Why not just leave us as spiritual creatures after the death of our bodies? Why not simply interact with us as living souls? It appears God originally created us as everlasting, living souls in partnership with everlasting material bodies. Both were intended to live forever. Remember, Adam was created as an immortal man, capable of living forever unless he chose to violate God’s singular requirement:

     Genesis 2:16-17 | And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

     The command to Adam was simple: don’t eat and you won’t die. Your soul and body will be united forever. This appears to have been God’s initial design for us as humans. Any separation of the soul from the body came simply as the result of Adam’s rebellion. What we experience today, as fallen humans, is not what God initially intended for us. As Millard J. Erickson (author of Christian Theology) describes, we endure a conditional unity punctuated by the separation of body and soul in this period of time between death and the resurrection. God intends to return us to His original design for humans at the Second Coming of Jesus. As living souls, God intends to reunite us with our bodies for several important reasons:

     The Whole Person is Important | The unity of our souls and bodies is important to God; He designed us as holistic creatures, and our physical condition is inseparably connected to our spiritual condition. For this reason, the Bible does not make a distinction between physical health and spiritual health. One is related to the other in a way we are yet to understand completely. That’s why Jesus healed in a holistic way:

     Matthew 8:16 | When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.

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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.

On Tithing (Not What You Think) II

By Glen Peoples

     Should Christians tithe? The question, along with its archaic language, may be unfamiliar to outsiders to Christian churches. In everyday terms, the question means this: “Are Christians morally required to give ten percent of their income to the church that they are a member of?”

     The first thing to contend with is terminology. The word “tithe” itself does not simply denote an offering. It means one tenth. The question of tithing then is not the same as the question of “giving.” Instead it is a question of how much should be given, and to whom. It is important to make this as clear as possible at the outset so that the person who says “I do not tithe” is not misunderstood as saying “I do not believe in financially supporting the church.”

     Biblical support for tithing is drawn from several passages of Scripture. Something to be careful about is the tendency to draw on a passage of Scripture to bolster the case for tithing when the passage itself concerns only giving to the church in general, not giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, which is a much more specific practice. Obviously a good case for tithing will emphasise the place of giving in general, since tithing is one kind of giving, but it would be an important mistake to think that an argument for giving is an argument for tithing. The texts that I am interested in here are those that specifically mention a tenth, or texts that require an interpretation that connects them to other texts that refer to a tenth. For this reason, familiar texts such as “the Lord loves a cheerful giver” do not bear on the question of tithing.

     Most of the references to the practice of tithing in the Torah (the five books of the law) do not describe what a tithe is. They merely tell us that it happens. For example in  Numbers 18:26, instructions are given to the Levites: “When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering.” We know that the Levites received something from the community, and that they were supposed to give something.  Remember, it says Levites. Christians are NOT Levites. Christians are NOT Jews. Christians are NOT under the law.  Galatians is a small book. It should be read carefully. But understanding what this passage refers to requires that we know the details surrounding the tithe that the Levites received. Likewise,  Leviticus 27:32 says,  “The entire tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod — will be holy to the LORD.” It tells us how much a tithe is, but not what it is, in the sense of what it was for. It would be a mistake, then, to think that we have a very strong case for tithing because of the large number of texts that refer to tithing, such as this one (or  Deuteronomy 12:17, for example). All such texts presuppose a prior understanding of what tithing is. That understanding is spelt out in detail in two places. Those passages are  Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and  Deuteronomy 26:12-15. To gain an understanding of what tithing is in the Old Testament then, these are the most important passages to familiarise ourselves with. For that reason I will reproduce them here in their entirety.

     22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

     28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

     And the second passage:

Deuteronomy 26:12-15 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the LORD my God; I have done everything you commanded me. Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

     Some overall observations can be made by comparing these two passages:

     1) The tithe was one tenth of all that a person produced over a three year period.

     2) The tithe was brought to the storehouse of the town.

     3) The tithe was transferable for silver (and as such, agricultural produce was the same as monetary income for the purposes of tithing).

     4) The tithe was set aside for an event that was a celebration.

     5) Many of the people who consumed the tithe at this celebration were the same people who produced it.

     6) In addition to celebrating and consuming the tithe, the people were instructed to make sure they gave out of the tithe to the Levites, as well as the poor, the widows and the fatherless (namely, the disadvantaged), so that nobody missed out, whether they had the means to produce their own tithe or not.

     7) Certain ceremonial restrictions applied to the eating of the tithe (for example one could not eat it while in mourning).

     This then is the practice of tithing as prescribed by the Old Testament law. It was communal giving – not primarily to any religious institution, but to the wider community. The very first thing that will be noticed (or at any rate, the first thing that I noticed) is that this is never the practice that Christians today refer to when they say that they “tithe” at their local church. What Christians who say that they practice “tithing” today mean is that they give ten percent of their income to the church.

     One thing that may be said in defence of tithing is that those who work in the temple are specified as recipients of the tithe in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, the church is the temple, and so we should tithe to those who work in the church. It is certainly true that there is a typological relationship between the Temple in Israel and the Christian church. This is spelled out clearly in several passages of Scripture (especially  Ephesians 2:19-21. ). The Church is the temple of God. However, notice that the practice of tithing as prescribed in the Old Testament law was not a tax to the temple. Instead some of the tithe was given to those who worked in the temple so that they did not miss out, and they were able to enjoy the produce of society.

     The reason the Levites were specifically included is that they had no allotment of their own as a result of their priestly role, and so they – like the poor – would have nothing to celebrate with were it not for the tithe. This is more akin to welfare than modern “tithing” when it came to the Levites. Welfare ??

     I want the reader to notice that everything I have said so far is entirely independent of the thorny question of the extent to which Christians should obey the Old Testament law. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, by expressing a position on the question of the law, I run the risk of causing people who do not share that view to switch off, and to view the other things I say here in a negative light, whether intentionally or not. The second reason I have avoided the question of the law is that I do not believe that it is necessary to answer that question in order to answer the tithing question. The approach I am taking here is to explain that even if we should follow the laws regarding tithing, this does not justify the claim that Christians should give ten percent of their income to the church. If by “tithing” we simply mean to refer to the practice of setting aside ten percent of our produce and using it as described in the Old Testament Law, then as we have seen, this has nothing to do with the practice of giving ten percent of our income to the church.

     What about Abram?      In addition to the law’s commands about the tithe, one passage that is frequently appealed to in order to build a case for tithing to the church is  Genesis 14:11-24. To summarise, four kings raided Sodom and Gomorrah, and they took away the plunder with them. They also took away Lot, Abram’s nephew. When Abram heard about what had happened to Lot, he went after the kings with over three hundred men, and rescued Lot, taking back the booty and the other captives as well. After this victory, the priest Melchizedek, who was the king of Salem, blessed Abram. In return, Abram gave the king one tenth of all the booty from Sodom and Gomorrah.

     The king of Sodom offered to let Abram keep the rest of the booty, but Abram refused, since he did not wish to receive anything from him, lest he boast and say  “I have made Abraham rich” (verse  23 ). Abram only took what his men had eaten and the share that belonged to the men who had gone with him to rescue Lot.

     Notice several things about this passage. Firstly, we are not talking here about either Abram’s or Lot’s income or produce. There is no evidence anywhere that either man gave Melchizedek any of their own income or produce, at this point or at any later time. What Abram gave was ten percent of the booty from Sodom and Gomorrah.

     Secondly, notice that Abram did not even consider the booty to be his own. He actually gave away other people’s money, and he repudiated the idea that he should own any of it, in case anyone might think that he got rich off the back of the king.

     Thirdly and very importantly, there was no prescription given by either Melchizedek or by God that Abraham ought to have given ten percent of anything. When looking at any issue in Scripture, it is always important to distinguish between prescriptions, that is, commandments about what people should do on an ongoing basis (or even on a one-off basis), and descriptions, that is, accounts of events that took place. Descriptions of what somebody did – even somebody righteous – do not become laws about what we ought to do. For example David killed Goliath, yet we do not infer from this that we ought to kill tall people, even the ones named Goliath. In fact, even in some cases when God did command righteous people to do something, it does not follow that we ought to do it. Abraham was commanded to kill his son. The children of Israel were commanded to march around the city of Jericho. Neither of these events is presented as normative, that is, something that we should do on an ongoing basis.

     As far as I am aware, these are the two main arguments that are made from the Old Testament for the practice of tithing: The law required it, and Abram did it.  Keep in mind Abraham was long before the law was even given so this is a mute point. Between the giving of the promise and the promulgation of the law at Sinai there had been an interval of "four hundred thirty" ( Exod. 12:40 ) or, in round figures, "four hundred" years ( Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6 ). In the first case, we have seen that what the law required was not “tithing” as we think of it. It was the practice of families setting aside resources to be consumed by those very same families in a party, and the Levites and the poor were included in that party. In the second case, Abram tithed only what he and his men plundered from the men who kidnapped Lot, and this was a one-off gift, coming from what was not his own income or produce, and it was not even commanded on this occasion, let alone on an ongoing basis. In short, the passages of the Old Testament that are used to defend the requirement to tithe simply cannot do so, and are quite considerably removed from their context and misunderstood when they are used in this way.

Tithing in the New Testament

     There are only three occasions where tithing is mentioned in the New Testament. One of those occasions appears twice, since  Matthew and  Luke record the same teaching of Jesus. I will quote just one of these, from  Luke 11:42 (similar to  Matthew 23:23 ): “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”  Jesus is scolding them for not taking care of their parents under a ruse of tithing. Notice that Jesus does not say that the Pharisees should not tithe. In fact, he says they should not leave tithing undone, but that justice and the love of God is more important than tithing. Jesus doesn’t say anything about how they should tithe or what it involves, because everyone already knew this. It was spelt out clearly in the law, in the two passages in  Deuteronomy that we saw earlier. The only other time Jesus is recorded saying anything about tithing is in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. In  Luke 18:12, while the Pharisee in Jesus’ story is praising himself before God, he says,  “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” Again, nothing is said about what tithing consists of, because no Jew would have been in doubt about it, since the Law clearly explained it. So there is nothing in the Gospels that says anything suggesting that we ought to tithe to the local church.

     The only other occasion where giving ten percent is mentioned is in the book of  Hebrews, chapter  7. However, what we find there is not instruction for Christians to tithe to the church, but rather a recollection of history – the encounter between Abram and Melchizedek, which we looked at earlier. Here’s what it says, in  Hebrew 7:1-10. This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

     Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people — that is, their brothers — even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

     In context, the writer goes on to say that Jesus is like Melchizedek, because he is not a priest based on the law – which only allowed descendents of Levi to be priests – but rather he has his priesthood  “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (v.  7:16 ). The point of the above quotation, then is to say that in a way, Abraham (the ancestor of the Levites) giving a tenth of the plunder to Melchizedek (who is like Christ) who in turn blesses Abraham signifies that Christ’s priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood of the Mosaic covenant. But there is quite obviously no suggestion here that has anything to do with Christians having an obligation to give ten percent of their income to the church – the subject is not even remotely implied in this context.

     So in short, every reference to tithing in the Old Testament refers to something other than giving ten percent of one’s income to the church, and there are no New Testament references that introduce a new practice of giving ten percent of our income to the church. In order for a Christian – especially a Protestant, to be able to declare with any authority that God requires Christians to give ten percent of their income to the church, they must be able to show us that the Bible lays down such a requirement. It does not.

     So what should I give to the church?

     If tithing is not a biblical requirement, then how much should you give to the church? The answer is – I have no idea. It depends on a lot of things, like how much money you have, what the church needs, and probably a number of other things. There is no direct biblical instruction to church members on just how much they should give to the church.

     There are several passages which do speak to the issue of Christian giving. The largest is  2 Corinthians 8 and  9. The context is as follows: The churches are contributing to the welfare of poor Christians in less prosperous places. Paul tells the Corinthians that he has been boasting to other churches at how generous the Corinthians are, and he is sending Titus to them to collect their contribution. Then we come to the often quoted verses in  2 Corinthians 9:6-8 .   Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

     “The Lord loves a cheerful giver,” Paul says. However, the point is not that “the more you give, the more the Lord will love you.” Rather, the point is that you should not give because you think you have to give a certain amount, because God doesn’t love that. Give what you have decided to give so that when you give it, you will be happy to do so, rather than grudgingly giving in to a rule. This is what the Lord loves. The context here, however, is about charity to poor Christians, so there is no obvious direct application to the amount that we should be giving to the local church.

     In my view the passage of Scripture that has the most direct relevance of the question of giving to the church is  1 Timothy 5 , simply because it is undeniably about giving to the church, and it even mentions the wages of those whose work is in the church. The chapter as a whole is about the welfare and treatment of those in the local church. For example, do not rebuke an older man harshly, but rather exhort him as you would a father (v.  1), provide for the widows in the church who have nobody to support them (v.  3 ), and if people have widows in their families that they can provide for, they should provide for them rather than burden the church with the cost (v.  16 ). Then we come to verses  17-20, where Paul discusses the treatment of elders:

     The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says,  “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and  “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

     Notice that in context immediately prior to these four verses, the particular way of honouring people that Paul is discussing is financial, where the church supports some of its members. Now Paul says that elders – and especially those whose work is preaching and teaching – are particularly worthy of such honour. But he does not stop there. The two quotations he makes, one from the Old Testament law and one from Jesus, make it clear what he is referring to. First, he refers to the law against muzzling an ox while it treads the grain. It was the ox’s task to work the grain, and so it was allowed to take from the grain what it needed to eat. Likewise, it is an elder’s job to manage the church, to teach and to preach in the church. The comparison then means that since this is his job, he is entitled to use what the church provides to provide for his needs. The quotation from Jesus is no less clear. It comes from  Luke 10:5-7, where Jesus instructs his disciples before sending them out as missionaries. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

     Here Jesus told his disciples in no uncertain terms to accept what was provided to them as they stayed and ministered. Paul is drawing on Jesus’ teaching about those in ministry. Elders do no go from town to town as the disciples did, they instead work in one congregation, and from that congregation they are entitled to receive support. The same idea is seen again in  1 Corinthians 9, where Paul insists that those who work do not support themselves, but they are supported by those for whom they work. He says that this applies to him as well, since  “Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (vv.  13-14 ). Paul also says that he freely chose to give up this right (verse  15 ), but it is a right that he says those whose work is preaching the Gospel should have.

     How much support should an elder receive? Again, I have no idea, any more than I know “how much” you should give to your local church. How much church members should give to support them is not based on any amount, it is based on need. But the fact that I have shown that the Bible does not command “tithing” certainly shouldn’t lead to a position of being miserly or reluctant to give. Good elders are an immeasurable asset to any church, and we should be more than happy to demonstrate their worth to us by supporting them generously if their full time work is in the church. If those whose work is in your church are not good enough that you would want to generously support them even if you could, then why do you have them?

Closing Thoughts

     Obviously in our day and age, so much of what a church does requires money, and that money will come from those who believe in the mission of the church, its members. What they will need to give depends on what is needed, but nobody may, with biblical authority, tell the members of the church that God requires that they give ten percent of their income to the church. The texts that are most often appealed to in order to support this claim do not do so when they are fairly examined, and the only texts that do speak to the issue of giving to the church say nothing about the amount that ought to be given. These facts ruin sermons on tithing – and they should. However, a church that is faithfully doing the work of the Gospel should not fear that it will collapse without tithing. The fact is, Christians believe in and will support faithful ministry. Many churches get by financially just fine, in spite of not requiring tithing, simply because its members are in no doubt of the biblical focus and outstanding work of the ministry they are supporting.

     So the next time you hear someone tell you that “unless you tithe, God cannot bless you,” or if they ask “why would you withhold what God requires?”, ask them if they can tell you where the Bible commands them to give ten percent of their income to the church, and offer to spend just five minutes looking at what Scripture teaches. If they don’t want to hear it, that’s fine, but simply ask politely that they don’t try to lay a burden on you that they have no intention of justifying.

     Down with tithing. Up with giving!
 Interesting article. If you want a Biblical explanation, my favorite teacher did a great teaching on this which you can find here.

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     Right Reason is the blog of Dr Glenn Peoples and home of the podcast Say Hello to my Little Friend. It primarily covers issues in philosophy, theology, biblical studies and social issues.

     Say Hello to my Little Friend is the most widely listened to podcast on philosophy or theology in the southern hemisphere. You can find and listen to the episodes by browsing the blog (click on the “podcast” button over on the right to only see the posts that are in the podcast category), or you can subscribe to the podcast at the iTunes Store. The iTunes page for this podcast is here.

     The subject areas that come up most frequently at the blog and podcast will continue to evolve as my interests evolve, but some that interest me are:

  • Philosophy of religion in general, including arguments for and against theism, the (alleged) problem of miracles and the traditional issues covered in philosophy of religion.
  • Meta-ethics, the question of moral foundations, and in particular defending models of ethics with a theological grounding (like certain types of natural law view or a divine command theory), along with defending the thesis that philosophical naturalism leads to moral nihilism.
  • Theological / biblical hermeneutical issues including personal and corporate eschatology (heaven and hell, life after death, as well as theological/biblical questions surrounding the future of humanity and creation), biblical views of human nature, issues surrounding the charismatic/pentecostal phenomenon and various other areas of theological inquiry.
  • The place of religious convictions in public and political life.
  • Philosophy of mind, the questions surrounding the makeup of the human person and the relationship between the mind/soul and the body.
  • Lastly (but never least!), general heckling of those with whom I happen to disagree, humour, capitalising on the political misfortune of others, music, and random comments that have no apparent causal explanation.
     Although I am a Christian (something that will become obvious to regular readers and listeners), when it comes to the sorts of debates that Christians and non-Christians get into, while I am a participant and a commentator, I do not want to be a cheerleader. Fairness is one of the most important measures of integrity, and I certainly do not wish to give religion a “free pass.” I criticise the arguments of Christians as directly as I do the arguments of non-believers when I think that they go wrong, as I think that by doing so I am actually doing the Christian community a service. Christians – like atheists – are not helped by having their intellectual standards lowered by poor argumentation that is accepted because of a partisan spirit. The pursuit of excellence involves the willingness to reject bad arguments even when they are given in defence of “your side.

Pain: God’s Megaphone

By Alistair Begg

     For sixty years, successive generations have been helped by what C.S. Lewis wrote on the subject of pain and suffering. The sustained benefit is due in large measure to the fact that he brought to the “problem” a solid dose of Christian realism. This medicine may be more important now than ever. It is not uncommon to watch as television preachers inform their audiences that God “does not want you to be sick.” It is hard to imagine such an assertion proving to be an encouragement to the wheel-chair bound, long-term sufferer of multiple sclerosis. At best, such preachers are confused. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the now of our earthly pilgrimage and the then of our heavenly home. A day is coming when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. But as any honest observer of the human condition will admit, that day has not arrived. While most of us are probably not facing “the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery,” as Lewis puts it, few of us are untouched by trials of various kinds.

     Although the trial may appear in the disguise of an enemy, in reality it may prove to be a friend. The biblical writer James encourages his readers when faced with trials to welcome them as friends rather than resenting them as intruders. Instead of running and hiding we are to face them in the awareness that they come to prove us and to improve us. Lewis does not argue that suffering is good in itself. Instead, he points to the redemptive, sanctifying effects of suffering.

     Thirty-two years of pastoral ministry have brought me into direct contact with those whose experiences of pain and suffering have proved to be a severe mercy. I think of a nuclear physicist in our church in Scotland who attended out of deference to his wife and three young daughters. He listened to the sermons with an air of polite indifference; he accepted a copy of John Stott’s Basic Christianity (IVP Classics) but remained secure in his scientific shell. It was only when his fourth child, a son, died at eleven months that the megaphone sounded. Recognizing that his worldview was inadequate to deal with tragedy and loss, he found himself reaching beyond his shadow land to find himself caught up in the embrace of the God who is there. By this terrible necessity of tribulation God conquered his rebel will and brought him to the place of peace.

     It is also true that God uses suffering to wean His children away from the plausible sources of false happiness. The Christian may grow drowsy in the sun but will not fall asleep in the fire or the flood. Each of us must recognize how easy it is to think little of God when all is well on the outside. But what a change occurs when, for example, the biopsy comes back positive. A sharp blast of anxiety comes to shatter any illusions of self-sufficiency. How kind of God to rouse us and to bring us to the place of dependence.

     Our experience of pain, if sanctified, will create an awareness of the trials that others face and a tenderness in our dealings. When our pains and disappointments become the occasion for the softening of our hearts, we can anticipate the privilege of bearing with the infirmities of others. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, our great High Priest, is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” and He has left us an example that we should follow. It ought to concern us greatly when those of us who have been called to teach and to lead fail to display gentleness and compassion for the faint and the trembling. Although I have only dipped a toe in the sea of suffering, it is immediately apparent that God uses the lonely hours in the middle of the night to teach us lessons that we never learned in our bright and healthy hours. We rise to affirm Wiliam Cowper’s observation that “behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.”

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     Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.

Dr. Alistair Begg Books:

Why So Much Hatred Against Christians in America Today?

By Michael Brown 11/07/2017

     On Sunday, the day of the church massacre, cultural commentator David French tweeted, “The amount of anti-Christian hate on Twitter the same day Christians were massacred is stunning and chilling.”

     If ever there was a time when we might have expected sympathy for Christians, or at least restraint in attacking them, it’s at a time like this. But the opposite proved true far too many times. Why?

     On Fox News, Laura Ingraham noted that some of the reactions to the shooting pointed to “elite hostility to people of faith.” She stated that “hostility to faith infects the popular culture.” She also spoke of a rising “militant secularism,” drawing attention to comments which mocked the prayers of believers on behalf of those affected by Sunday’s church massacre.

     This is more than heartless and tactless. It’s intentional and focused: Faith in God is to be mocked, in particular Christian faith. And when Christians are slaughtered during a church service? That’s the perfect time to pile on.

     To paraphrase: “Where was your God, you stupid Christians? A lot of good your praying did! Go ahead and stick your head in the sand some more and keep praying to your imaginary deity. You deserve each other!”

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     Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

     He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

     Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

     Dr. Michael Brown Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 14.


     In this chapter commences the second part of Book First--viz. the knowledge of man. Certain things premised. I. The creation of the world generally (s. 1 and 2). II. The subject of angels considered (s. 3-13). III. Of bad angels or devils (s. 13-20); and, IV. The practical use to be made of the history of the creation (s. 20-22).


     1. The mere fact of creation should lead us to acknowledge God, but to prevent our falling away to Gentile fictions, God has been pleased to furnish a history of the creation. An impious objection, Why the world was not created sooner? Answer to it. Shrewd saying of an old man.

     2. For the same reason, the world was created, not in an instant, but in six days. The order of creation described, showing that Adam was not created until God had, with infinite goodness made ample provision for him.

     3. The doctrine concerning angels expounded. 1. That we may learn from them also to acknowledge God. 2. That we may be put on our guard against the errors of the worshippers of angels and the Manichees. Manicheeism refuted. Rule of piety.

     4. The angels created by God. At what time and in what order it is inexpedient to inquire. The garrulity of the Pseudo-Dionysius.

     5. The nature, offices, and various names of angels.

     6. Angels the dispensers of the divine beneficence to us.

     7. A kind of prefects over kingdoms and provinces, but specially the guardians of the elect. Not certain that every believer is under the charge of a single angel. Enough, that all angels watch over the safety of the Church.

     8. The number and orders of angels not defined. Why angels said to be winged.

     9. Angels are ministering spirits and spiritual essences.

     10. The heathen error of placing angels on the throne of God refuted. 1. By passages of Scripture.

     11. Refutation continued. 2. By inferences from other passages. Why God employs the ministry of angels.

     12. Use of the doctrine of Scripture concerning the holy angels.

     13. The doctrine concerning bad angels or devils reduced to four heads. 1. That we may guard against their wiles and assaults.

     14. That we may be stimulated to exercises of piety. Why one angel in the singular number often spoken of.

     15. The devil being described as the enemy of man, we should perpetually war against him.

     16. The wickedness of the devil not by creation but by corruption. Vain and useless to inquire into the mode, time, and character of the fall of angels.

     17. Though the devil is always opposed in will and endeavour to the will of God, he can do nothing without his permission and consent.

     18. God so overrules wicked spirits as to permit them to try the faithful, and rule over the wicked.

     19. The nature of bad angels. They are spiritual essences endued with sense and intelligence.

     20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.

     21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.

     22. Another object of this knowledge--viz. that perceiving how these things were created for our use, we may be excited to trust in God, pray to him, and love him.

     1. Although Isaiah justly charges the worshipers of false gods with stupidity, in not learning from the foundations of the earth, and the circle of the heavens, who the true God is (Isa. 40:21); yet so sluggish and grovelling is our intellect, that it was necessary he should be more clearly depicted, in order that the faithful might not fall away to Gentile fictions. the idea that God is the soul of the world, though the most tolerable that philosophers have suggested, is absurd; and, therefore, it was of importance to furnish us with a more intimate knowledge in order that we might not wander to and fro in uncertainty. Hence God was pleased that a history of the creation should exist--a history on which the faith of the Church might lean without seeking any other God than Him whom Moses sets forth as the Creator and Architect of the world. First, in that history, the period of time is marked so as to enable the faithful to ascend by an unbroken succession of years to the first origin of their race and of all things. This knowledge is of the highest use not only as an antidote to the monstrous fables which anciently prevailed both in Egypt and the other regions of the world, but also as a means of giving a clearer manifestation of the eternity of God as contrasted with the birth of creation, and thereby inspiring us with higher admiration. We must not be moved by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens and the earth, instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during which thousands of generations might have existed, while the present world is drawing to a close before it has completed its six thousandth year. Why God delayed so long it is neither fit nor lawful to inquire. Should the human mind presume to do it, it could only fail in the attempt, nor would it be useful for us to know what God, as a trial of the modesty of our faith, has been pleased purposely to conceal. It was a shrewd saying of a good old man, who when some one pertly asked in derision what God did before the world was created, answered he made a hell for the inquisitive (August. Confess., lib. 11 c. 12). This reproof, not less weighty than severe, should repress the tickling wantonness which urges many to indulge in vicious and hurtful speculation.

     In fine, let us remember that that invisible God, whose wisdom, power, and justice, are incomprehensible, is set before us in the history of Moses as in a mirror, in which his living image is reflected. For as an eye, either dimmed by age or weakened by any other cause, sees nothing distinctly without the aid of glasses, so (such is our imbecility) if Scripture does not direct us in our inquiries after God, we immediately turn vain in our imaginations. Those who now indulge their petulance, and refuse to take warning, will learn, when too late, how much better it had been reverently to regard the secret counsels of God, than to belch forth blasphemies which pollute the face of heaven. Justly does Augustine complain that God is insulted whenever any higher reason than his will is demanded. (Lib. de Gent.). He also in another place wisely reminds us that it is just as improper to raise questions about infinite periods of time as about infinite space. (De Civit. Dei.). However wide the circuit of the heavens may be, it is of some definite extent. But should any one expostulate with God that vacant space remains exceeding creation by a hundred-fold, must not every pious mind detest the presumption? Similar is the madness of those who charge God with idleness in not having pleased them by creating the world countless ages sooner than he did create it. In their cupidity they affect to go beyond the world, as if the ample circumference of heaven and earth did not contain objects numerous and resplendent enough to absorb all our senses; as if, in the period of six thousand years, God had not furnished facts enough to exercise our minds in ceaseless meditation. Therefore, let us willingly remain hedged in by those boundaries within which God has been pleased to confine our persons, and, as it were, enclose our minds, so as to prevent them from losing themselves by wandering unrestrained.

     2. With the same view Moses relates that the work of creation was accomplished not in one moment, but in six days. By this statement we are drawn away from fiction to the one God who thus divided his work into six days, that we may have no reluctance to devote our whole lives to the contemplation of it. For though our eyes, in what direction soever they turn, are forced to behold the works of God, we see how fleeting our attention is, and holy quickly pious thoughts, if any arise, vanish away. Here, too, objection is taken to these progressive steps as inconsistent with the power of God, until human reason is subdued to the obedience of faith, and learns to welcome the calm quiescence to which the sanctification of the seventh day invited us. In the very order of events, we ought diligently to ponder on the paternal goodness of God toward the human race, in not creating Adam until he had liberally enriched the earth with all good things. Had he placed him on an earth barren and unfurnished; had he given life before light, he might have seemed to pay little regard to his interest. But now that he has arranged the motions of the sun and stars for man's use, has replenished the air, earth, and water, with living creatures, and produced all kinds of fruit in abundance for the supply of food, by performing the office of a provident and industrious head of a family, he has shown his wondrous goodness toward us. These subjects, which I only briefly touch, if more attentively pondered, will make it manifest that Moses was a sure witness and herald of the one only Creator. I do not repeat what I have already explained--viz. that mention is here made not of the bare essence of God, but that his eternal Wisdom and Spirit are also set before us, in order that we may not dream of any other God than Him who desires to be recognised in that express image.

     3. But before I begin to treat more fully of the nature of man (chap. 15 and B. 2 c. 1), it will be proper to say something of angels. For although Moses, in accommodation to the ignorance of the generality of men, does not in the history of the creation make mention of any other works of God than those which meet our eye, yet, seeing he afterwards introduces angels as the ministers of God, we easily infer that he for whom they do service is their Creator. Hence, though Moses, speaking in popular language, did not at the very commencement enumerate the angels among the creatures of God, nothing prevents us from treating distinctly and explicitly of what is delivered by Scripture concerning them in other places. For if we desire to know God by his works, we surely cannot overlook this noble and illustrious specimen. We may add that this branch of doctrine is very necessary for the refutation of numerous errors. The minds of many are so struck with the excellence of angelic natures, that they would think them insulted in being subjected to the authority of God, and so made subordinate. Hence a fancied divinity has been assigned them. Manes, too, has arisen with his sect, fabricating to himself two principles--God and the devil, attributing the origin of good things to God, but assigning all bad natures to the devil as their author. Were this delirium to take possession of our minds, God would be denied his glory in the creation of the world. For, seeing there is nothing more peculiar to God than eternity and autousi'a, i.e. self-existence, or existence of himself, if I may so speak, do not those who attribute it to the devil in some degree invest him with the honour of divinity? And where is the omnipotence of God, if the devil has the power of executing whatever he pleases against the will, and notwithstanding of the opposition of God? But the only good ground which the Manichees have--viz. that it were impious to ascribe the creation of any thing bad to a good God, militates in no degree against the orthodox faith, since it is not admitted that there is any thing naturally bad throughout the universe; the depravity and wickedness whether of man or of the devil, and the sins thence resulting, being not from nature, but from the corruption of nature; nor, at first, did anything whatever exist that did not exhibit some manifestation of the divine wisdom and justice. To obviate such perverse imaginations, we must raise our minds higher than our eyes can penetrate. It was probably with this view that the Nicene Creed, in calling God the creator of all things, makes express mention of things invisible. My care, however, must be to keep within the bounds which piety prescribes, lest by indulging in speculations beyond my reach, I bewilder the reader, and lead him away from the simplicity of the faith. And since the Holy Spirit always instructs us in what is useful, but altogether omits, or only touches cursorily on matters which tend little to edification, of all such matters, it certainly is our duty to remain in willing ignorance.

     4. Angels being the ministers appointed to execute the commands of God, must, of course, be admitted to be his creatures, but to stir up questions concerning the time or order in which they were created (see Lombard, lib. 2 dist. 2, sqq.), bespeaks more perverseness than industry. Moses relates that the heavens and the earth were finished, with all their host; what avails it anxiously to inquire at what time other more hidden celestial hosts than the stars and planets also began to be? Not to dwell on this, let us here remember that on the whole subject of religion one rule of modesty and soberness is to be observed, and it is this, in obscure matters not to speak or think, or even long to know, more than the Word of God has delivered. A second rule is, that in reading the Scriptures we should constantly direct our inquiries and meditations to those things which tend to edification, not indulge in curiosity, or in studying things of no use. And since the Lord has been pleased to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid piety, in the fear of his name, in true faith, and the duties of holiness, let us rest satisfied with such knowledge. Wherefore, if we would be duly wise, we must renounce those vain babblings of idle men, concerning the nature, ranks, and number of angels, without any authority from the Word of God. I know that many fasten on these topics more eagerly, and take greater pleasure in them than in those relating to daily practice. But if we decline not to be the disciples of Christ, let us not decline to follow the method which he has prescribed. In this way, being contented with him for our master, we will not only refrain from, but even feel averse to, superfluous speculations which he discourages. None can deny that Dionysus (whoever he may have been) has many shrewd and subtle disquisitions in his Celestial Hierarchy, but on looking at them more closely, every one must see that they are merely idle talk. The duty of a Theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful. When you read the work of Dionysus, you would think that the man had come down from heaven, and was relating, not what he had learned, but what he had actually seen. Paul, however, though he was carried to the third heaven, so far from delivering any thing of the kind, positively declares, that it was not lawful for man to speak the secrets which he had seen. Bidding adieu, therefore, to that nugatory wisdom, let us endeavour to ascertain from the simple doctrine of Scripture what it is the Lord's pleasure that we should know concerning angels.

     5. In Scripture, then, we uniformly read that angels are heavenly spirits, whose obedience and ministry God employs to execute all the purposes which he has decreed, and hence their name as being a kind of intermediate messengers to manifest his will to men. The names by which several of them are distinguished have reference to the same office. They are called hosts, because they surround their Prince as his court,--adorn and display his majesty,--like soldiers, have their eyes always turned to their leader's standard, and are so ready and prompt to execute his orders, that the moment he gives the nod, they prepare for, or rather are actually at work. In declaring the magnificence of the divine throne, similar representations are given by the prophets, and especially by Daniel, when he says, that when God stood up to Judgment, "thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him," (Dan. 7:10). As by these means the Lord wonderfully exerts and declares the power and might of his hand, they are called virtues. Again, as his government of the world is exercised and administered by them, they are called at one time Principalities, at another Powers, at another Dominions (Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21). Lastly, as the glory of God in some measure dwells in them, they are also termed Thrones; though as to this last designation I am unwilling to speak positively, as a different interpretation is equally, if not more congruous. To say nothing, therefore, of the name of Thrones, the former names are often employed by the Holy Spirit in commendation of the dignity of angelic service. Nor is it right to pass by unhonoured those instruments by whom God specially manifests the presence of his power. Nay, they are more than once called Gods, because the Deity is in some measure represented to us in their service, as in a mirror. I am rather inclined, however, to agree with ancient writers, that in those passages [109] wherein it is stated that the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, Christ was that angel. Still it is true, that when mention is made of all the angels, they are frequently so designated. Nor ought this to seem strange. For if princes and rulers have this honour given them, because in their office they are vicegerents of God, the supreme King and Judge, with far greater reason may it be given to angels, in whom the brightness of the divine glory is much more conspicuously displayed.

     6. But the point on which the Scriptures specially insist is that which tends most to our comfort, and to the confirmation of our faith, namely, that angels are the ministers and dispensers of the divine bounty towards us. Accordingly, we are told how they watch for our safety, how they undertake our defence, direct our path, and take heed that no evil befall us. There are whole passages which relate, in the first instance, to Christ, the Head of the Church, and after him to all believers. "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Again, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." [110] By these passages the Lord shows that the protection of those whom he has undertaken to defend he has delegated to his angels. Accordingly, an angel of the Lord consoles Hagar in her flight, and bids her be reconciled to her mistress. Abraham promises to his servant that an angel will be the guide of his journey. Jacob, in blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, prays "The angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads." So an angel was appointed to guard the camp of the Israelites; and as often as God was pleased to deliver Israel from the hands of his enemies, he stirred up avengers by the ministry of angels. Thus, in fine (not to mention more), angels ministered to Christ, and were present with him in all straits. To the women they announced his resurrection; to the disciples they foretold his glorious advent. In discharging the office of our protectors, they war against the devil and all our enemies, and execute vengeance upon those who afflict us. Thus we read that an angel of the Lord, to deliver Jerusalem from siege, slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the camp of the king of Assyria in a single night.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Here’s What Christians Should Be Busy Protesting

By Michael J. Kruger 10/24/2017

     There’s a lot of protesting going on in our culture today. Seems like everyone is upset about something. And they are quite willing to let the world know about it. Indeed, even in the evangelical Christian world, it seems like protesting has become the thing to do.

     The key question, however, will always be, “Against what things should Christians offer a protest?”

     I suppose there are many answers to that question. But, as we near the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the Wittenberg door (Oct 31st), we should at least consider what the Reformers were busy protesting.

     After all, that is what the Reformers were. The term “Protestant,” of course, comes from the Latin protestari, which simply means to “declare publicly, testify, protest.” And if you are a Protestant today, then you still are, effectively, a protestor.

     Unfortunately, most modern day Protestants have forgotten what the protest was (originally) all about. And now they have moved on to protesting other things that perhaps seem more important. And, indeed, many modern issues are important and deserve protest (e.g., we should protest the practice of abortion).

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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

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

By Corrie ten Boom

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

― Corrie ten Boom

     Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her closet. She was imprisoned for her actions.

Corrie ten Boom Books:

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10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #2: “Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon”

By Michael J. Kruger 04/10/2012

     Contemporary challenges to the New Testament canon have taken a number of different forms over the years. For generations, scholars have mainly focused upon the problem of the boundaries of the New Testament. The perennial question has usually been “How do we know we have the right books?” But, in recent years, a new challenge has begun to take center stage (though it is really not new at all). While the validity of the canon’s boundaries is still an area of concern, the attention has shifted to the validity of the canon’s very existence. The question now is “Why is there a New Testament at all?”

     The answer, according to critics of the canon, is not to be found in the first-century — there was nothing about earliest Christianity (or the books themselves) that would naturally lead to the development of a canon. Instead, we are told, the answer is to be found in the later Christian church. The canon was an ecclesiastical product that was designed to meet ecclesiastical needs. Thus, the New Testament canon was not a natural development within early Christianity, but a later, artificial development that is out of sync with Christianity’s original purpose — it was something imposed upon the Christian faith. Gamble argues this very point: “There is no intimation at all that the early church entertained the idea of Christian scriptures… Therefore, the NT as we think of it was utterly remote from the minds of the first generation of Christian believers.” [The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning]

     However, are we really to think that there was nothing about earliest Christianity that might have given rise to a new collection of scriptural books? I will argue here that the earliest Christians held a number of beliefs that, especially when taken in tandem, would have naturally led to the development of a new collection of sacred books — what we could call a “canon.” In other words, the theological matrix of first-century Christianity created a favorable environment for the growth of a new written revelational deposit. Let us consider what three of these theological beliefs might have been.

     1. The earliest Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the eschatological fulfillment of foundational Old Testament promises about God’s redemption of his people. It is important to remember the Jews of the first century period were in a state of anticipation — waiting and longing for God’s redemptive deliverance of Israel. In other words, Jews of this period viewed the story of the Old Testament books as incomplete. When the Old Testament story of Israel was viewed as a whole, it was not viewed as something that was finished but as something that was waiting to be finished. N.T. Wright observes, “The great story of the Hebrew scriptures was therefore inevitably read in the second-temple period as a story in search of a conclusion.” [The New Testament and the People of God] What made the earliest Christians unique is that they believed that the story of the Old Testament had been completed. It was finished and fulfilled in the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. The long-awaited redemption of God had arrived.

     If so, it is not difficult to see how this belief might impact the production of new scriptural books. If Christians believed the OT story had now been completed, then it reasonable to think that the proper conclusion to the Old Testament might then be written. Otherwise the OT Scriptures would be a play without a final act. This possibility finds confirmation in the fact that some of the New Testament writings seem to be intentionally completing the Old Testament story. It is noteworthy that the first book of the New Testament begins with a genealogy with a strong Davidic theme ( Matt 1:1 ), and the (likely) last book of the Hebrew canon begins with a genealogy that has a strong Davidic theme ( 1 Chronicles 1-2 ). This structural feature led D. Moody Smith to declare, “In doing so,  Matthew makes clear that Jesus represents the restoration of that dynasty and therefore the history of Israel and the history of salvation. Thus, Jesus continues the biblical narrative.” Davies and Allison agree that Matthew “thought of his gospel as a continuation of the biblical history.” [A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (International Critical Commentary) Volume III (VOLUME 3)]

     2. The earliest Christians believed that Jesus inaugurated a new covenant. We must remember that the Jews of the first century were covenantally oriented. N.T. Wright has observed that “Covenant theology was the air breathed by the Judaism of this period.” [The New Testament and the People of God] And it is clear that the earliest Christians were also covenantally oriented, as they saw Jesus as ushering in a new covenant ( Luke 22:2; cf.  Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 7:22, 8:8 ). What implications does this belief have on canon?

     The answer lies in the very close connection between covenants and written texts. It is well-established by now that the very concept of ‘covenant’ (or treaty) was drawn from the ancient near eastern world where a suzerain king would often make a treaty - covenant with his vassal king. And here is the key: when such covenants were made, they were accompanied by written documentation of that covenant. It is not surprising then that when God made a treaty - covenant with Israel on Sinai, he gave them written documentation of the terms of that covenant. Indeed, so close was the connection between the covenant and written texts, that Old Testament language would often equate the two — the written text was the covenant!

     If this is the background of early Christian understanding of covenants, then the implications are easy to see. The earliest Christians were themselves immersed in the covenantal structure of the Old Testament and thus would have understood this critical connection between covenants and written texts. Thus, if they believed that through Jesus Christ a new covenant had been inaugurated with Israel ( Jer 31:31 ), it would have been entirely natural for them to expect new written documents to testify to the terms of that covenant.

     In other words, this Old Testament covenantal background provides strong historical reason for thinking that early Christians would have had a predisposition towards written canonical documents and that such documents might have arisen naturally from the early Christian movement. At a minimum, the covenantal context of early Christianity suggests that the emergence of a new corpus of scriptural books, after the announcement of a new covenant, could not be regarded as entirely unexpected.

     This appears to find confirmation in  2 Cor 3:6 when Paul refers to himself and the other apostles as “ministers of the new covenant” — and Paul makes this declaration in a written text that bears his authority as a minister of the new covenant. Thus, one could hardly fault the Corinthians if they understood Paul’s letter as, in some sense, a covenant document.

     3. The earliest Christians believed in the authority of the apostles to speak for Christ. Jesus had commissioned his apostles “so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority” ( Mark 3:14–15 ). When Jesus sent out the twelve, he reminds them that “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” Matt 10:20 ). Thus, he is able to give a warning to those who reject the apostles’ authority: “If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words… it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” Matt 10:14 ).

     Given this background, we come to the key question: what would happen if the apostles put their authoritative message in written form? How would such documents be viewed? Initially, of course, the apostles delivered their message orally through teaching and preaching. But, it was not long before they began to write their message down. And when they did so, they also told Christians  “Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” 2 Thess 2:15 ). And again,  “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person and have nothing to do with him” 2 Thess 3:14 ).

     It is here that we see the obvious connection between the role of the apostles and the beginnings of the canon. If apostles were viewed as the mouthpiece of Christ, and they wrote down that apostolic message in books, then those books would be received as the very words of Christ himself. Such writings would not have to wait until second, third, or fourth-century ecclesiastical decisions to become authoritative — instead they would be viewed as authoritative from almost the very start. For this reason, a written New Testament was not something the church formally “decided” to have at some later date, but was instead the natural outworking of the redemptive - historical function of the apostles.

     In sum, these three theological beliefs of the earliest Christians should, at a bare minimum, make us hesitant about confident proclamations from modern scholars that early Christians had no inclinations toward a canon. On the contrary, these beliefs suggest that the development of a new corpus of scriptural books would have been a natural, and to some extent even inevitable, part of early Christianity.

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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

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 138

Give Thanks to the LORD
138 Of David.

138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

ESV Study Bible

The Importance of Our Devotional Lives

By Ryan Huguley 8/01/2016

     They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While I prefer to start most mornings with my standard three eggs scrambled and a cup of coffee, I must respectfully disagree with this popular sentiment. The single most critical meal you and I should consume on a daily basis consists of a focused time with God in His Word and in prayer (Ps. 1:1–2).

     Yet, despite how much you and I need a consistent devotional life, many of us struggle to keep up. We start more Januarys than we care to admit fired up by the grand plans of reading through the entire Bible over the course of the year,   ( It takes less than 15 minutes a day to read through the Bible in a year. If you would rather look at the day's scrpture and listen to someone else read it and pronounce those difficult words you can also do that at Lean-Into-God. )  but more often than not we fry out somewhere in the middle of yet another sacrifice in Leviticus.

     Why this constant swing from enthusiasm to apathy? When I think about my own experience and the experiences of those I have pastored over the years, I believe that the quality and consistency of our daily time in God’s Word rises and falls based on our remembering why it matters in the first place.

     The truth is, pursuing God through prayer and time in His Word is not always easy, fun, or natural for us. It takes effort and discipline. If you are like me, effort and discipline are short-lived when you forget the why that motivates what you are called to.

     The Bible is filled with rich motives for making our devotional lives a priority, but for brevity’s sake, allow me to remind you of three.

God’s Word Reveals God’s Will

     As a pastor, I regularly counsel people who are trying to discern the will of God. For this I am very thankful. I am thankful that most Christians are sincerely concerned with honoring God in their decisions and day-to-day lives. Sadly, too many Christians complain of their desire to know the will of God with a closed copy of the Word of God by their side. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have to break open the Book.

     What a gift that God has not left us to mere speculation but in fact has blessed us with the revelation of His will in His Word. Our paths will be straighter and our decisions will be stronger if we prioritize regular meditation on the Bible. Few things will keep you fired up to dig deep in the Scriptures like knowing that through it God reveals His will.

God’s Word Reminds Us of Our Sin

     In Romans 7:7, Paul reminds us that “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” Scripture shines a light on what is truly in our hearts and lives.

     In our living room, we have an old dresser that is filled with our kids’ toys. This particular dresser looks great — until we open the blinds and let the sunshine hit it. The sun reveals every bump and bruise that many years of use have inflicted upon it. The light reveals what is truly there. Scripture has that same effect in our lives.

     I cannot remember a time spent in the Word and in prayer when I did not walk away convicted of some specific shortcoming in my life. Every time I read, I am reminded of God’s holy and perfect standard and my complete inability to live up to it. This regular reminder of my sin helps my humility and keeps me dependent upon His grace.

God’s Word Revives Our Hearts

     I need reviving on a regular basis. Coffee has a way of reviving my mind in the morning. Sleep has a way of reviving my body at night. A good laugh with a great friend has a way of reviving my emotions. But only God’s Word by the power of God’s Spirit has the power to revive our hearts — the very seat of all we are.

     In Psalm 119:50, the psalmist prays, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word has revived me.” The sum total of Scripture points us to who Jesus is and what He has accomplished on our behalf through His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to fill our hearts afresh with love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest of the fruit He has promised us (Gal. 5:22–23).

     Do not miss another opportunity to get on your knees, open God’s Book, and beg Him to revive your heart in the way that only He can.

     Clearly, there is no shortage of reasons why our devotional lives are important, and my guess is that little of what I’ve shared thus far comes as a surprise to you. Unfortunately, familiarity does not necessarily guard us from the legalistic motives that lurk in the dark corners of our hearts. Motives matter. Why you do what you do is just as important as what you do.

     Prayer is never a price we pay to put God in our debt. Bible reading is never a means of meriting the approval of God. We do not build a devotional life so that God will love us. We build a devotional life because, in Christ, God already does love us. If your devotional life degenerates into attempts at pandering for the favor and approval of God, you are devaluing the beauty of God’s grace in Christ.

     Make no mistake, your devotional life is of the utmost importance. But motive is everything. If you build it for the wrong reasons, the very thing meant to be a means of God’s grace in your life will become a crushing burden that will rob you of joy. Be reminded today of why your devotional life is of so much importance and that we pursue God in devotions because He has first pursued us.

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     Ryan Hugely is senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory, N.C., and host of the podcast In the Room.

Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 18)

By John Foxe 1563

     Yet, under all these calamities, they behaved with patience and modesty towards the government, and upon occasion of the Ryehouse plot in 1682, thought proper to declare their innocence of that sham plot, in an address to the king, wherein "appealing to the Searcher of all hearts," they say, "their principles do not allow them to take up defensive arms, much less to avenge themselves for the injuries they received from others: that they continually pray for the king's safety and preservation; and therefore take this occasion humbly to beseech his majesty to compassionate their suffering friends, with whom the jails are so filled, that they want air, to the apparent hazard of their lives, and to the endangering an infection in divers places. Besides, many houses, shops, barns, and fields are ransacked, and the goods, corn, and cattle swept away, to the discouraging trade and husbandry, and impoverishing great numbers of quiet and industrious people; and this, for no other cause, but for the exercise of a tender conscience in the worship of Almighty God, who is sovereign Lord and King of men's consciences."

     On the accession of James II they addressed that monarch honestly and plainly, telling him: "We are come to testify our sorrow for the death of our good friend Charles, and our joy for thy being made our governor. We are told thou art not of the persuasion of the Church of England, no more than we; therefore we hope thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself, which doing, we wish thee all manner of happiness."

     When James, by his dispensing power, granted liberty to the dissenters, they began to enjoy some rest from their troubles; and indeed it was high time, for they were swelled to an enormous amount. They, the year before this, to them one of glad release, in a petition to James for a cessation of their sufferings, set forth, "that of late above one thousand five hundred of their friends, both men and women, and that now there remain one thousand three hundred and eighty-three; of which two hundred are women, many under sentence of praemunire; and more than three hundred near it, for refusing the oath of allegiance, because they could not swear. Three hundred and fifty have died in prison since the year 1680; in London, the jail of Newgate has been crowded, within these two years sometimes with near twenty in a room, whereby several have been suffocated, and others, who have been taken out sick, have died of malignant fevers within a few days. Great violences, outrageous distresses, and woful havoc and spoil, have been made upon people's goods and estates, by a company of idle, extravagant, and merciless informers, by persecutions on the conventicle-act, and others, also on qui tam writs, and on other processes, for twenty pounds a month, and two thirds of their estates seized for the king. Some had not a bed to rest on, others had no cattle to till the ground, nor corn for feed or bread, nor tools to work with; the said informers and bailiffs in some places breaking into houses, and making great waste and spoil, under pretence of serving the king and the Church. Our religious assemblies have been charged at common law with being rioters and disturbers of the public peace, whereby great numbers have been confined in prison without regard to age, and many confined to holes and dungeons. The seizing for 20 pounds a month has amounted to many thousands, and several who have employed some hundreds of poor people in manufactures, are disabled to do so any more, by reason of long imprisonment. They spare neither widow nor fatherless, nor have they so much as a bed to lie on. The informers are both witnesses and prosecutors, to the ruin of great numbers of sober families; and justices of the peace have been threatened with the forfeiture of one hundred pounds, if they do not issue out warrants upon their informations." With this petition they presented a list of their friends in prison, in the several counties, amounting to four hundred and sixty.

     During the reign of King James II these people were, through the intercession of their friend Mr. Penn, treated with greater indulgence than ever they had been before. They were now become extremely numerous in many parts of the country, and the settlement of Pennsylvania taking place soon after, many of them went over to America. There they enjoyed the blessings of a peaceful government, and cultivated the arts of honest industry.

     As the whole colony was the property of Mr. Penn, so he invited people of all denominations to come and settle with him. A universal liberty of conscience took place; and in this new colony the natural rights of mankind were, for the first time, established.

     These Friends are, in the present age, a very harmless, inoffensive body of people; but of that we shall take more notice hereafter. By their wise regulations, they not only do honor to themselves, but they are of vast service to the community.

     It may be necessary here to observe, that as the Friends, commonly called Quakers, will not take an oath in a court of justice, so their affirmation is permitted in all civil affairs; but they cannot prosecute a criminal, because, in the English courts of justice, all evidence must be upon oath.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Continual Burnt Offering (James 4:6)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

December 9
James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”    ESV

     There is nothing to which the human heart is so prone as pride, and yet have nothing to be proud of! Our many sins might well humble us to the lowest depths, yet this evil root persists even in the most devoted saints. Paul needed a thorn in the flesh lest he be exalted above measure. David insisted on numbering the people for his own glory. Peter became lifted up when blessed with special spiritual illumination. By this sin Lucifer fell and carried one third of the angels of Heaven with him, and its virus has infected the whole human race since Eve was seduced by it in Eden. Christ is our supreme example of humility. His was a meekness that never exalted itself but sought only the glory of God. May we follow His steps in this as in all else.

He would have us wear beautiful garments—
Those which we may have through grace—
The robe of a tranquil spirit,
The calm of a peaceful face;
The charm of a gentle manner,
The lustre of heaven-lit eyes;
That robe of such sacred splendour,
The spirit of sacrifice.
These, these, and yet other garments,
All beautiful, bright and fair,
We may, by His grace, adorn us,
And unto His glory wear.
--- J. Danson Smith

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

  • Preach the Word
  • A Memorial Forever
  • Virtue Spiritual Discipline

#3 John Coe   Biola University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Don’t be a hypocrite
     12/09/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘All their works they do to be seen by men.’

(Mt 23:5) 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, ESV

     Here’s a working definition of the word hypocrisy: ‘to be seen by men’. Jesus had a no-tolerance policy when it came to hypocrisy. Why? Because He knew it turns people against God. Instead, He taught: 1) Expect no credit for your good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. Stop and ask yourself this question: ‘If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it?’ If not, you’re doing it ‘to be seen’ by people. 2) Give your financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So Jesus said, ‘When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ (Matthew 6:3 NLT). 3) Don’t fake your spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen, or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake ‘Praise the Lord’, or a shallow ‘Hallelujah’, or an insincere ‘Glory be to God’, Ever watch children in a playground shouting, ‘Watch me!’ That’s acceptable because they’re still immature, but it’s not acceptable in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite!

Amos 4-6
Rev 4

UCB The Word For Today
Richard S. Adams
     December 9, 2009

I read the Bible every day, systematically making my way through scripture so I can read through the entire Bible in a year. That is the reason for this website. I am a very slow reader, but it usually only takes me thirty minutes or so, the same time it would take to watch the same news coverage you have already seen three times. I used to get angry when people told me they just don't have time. You can't spare thirty minutes a day to go through the entire Bible in a year? I know I should not say it, but you know and I know you lie. However, it is your decision and as my grandmother used to tell me, you made your bed now you sleep in it.

Parts of the Bible read out of context or read without the backdrop of God's nature can lead the reader down one way streets, sometimes frightening dead ends or misunderstandings and wrong conclusions. To read a little here and read a little there can short-circuit the message of the Bible. We need to read it all, always remembering God's nature. God never changes. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. The tender, gentle, merciful Jesus is also the One who called hypocrites hypocrites to their faces. He is also the God Who will return at the end of the age to set up his Kingdom which He will rule withn a fist of iron. You really need to get the whole story. The Bible is full of many characters who do many things contrary to God's will, just like you and me. To read the Bible without God's unchanging nature in mind can cause us to think incorrectly about ourselves, each other and God. This can cause un-Christ like applications with painful consequences.

Do you understand what I mean by keeping God's nature as the backdrop? I love wind chimes, some more than others. We got some wind chimes at our local Goodwill store that I find especially beautiful. Whenever I hear them I think of the old movie Its A Wonderful Life. Every time a bell rings an angel gets it wings. Of course it’s not scriptural, even silly, but a gentle thought none the less.

Does the sound of the ocean affect you? What about a waterfall? How about the wind in the trees? When you are home alone and it's raining do you think of hot chocolate, soup, coffee?

All of these are backdrops to what is happening on the stage, but the backdrop often gives meaning to what is happening to us or in us. Come on, you and I know we just feel different when we are at Multnomah Falls, Silver Falls, or the coast. The backdrop of where we are; physically, emotionally and spiritually, can fill our senses and our heart.

So what is the backdrop of the Bible? First, I see the Bible as a love story. It starts in a garden and it ends in a city. It is just like the parable that Jesus told about the prodigal son. To read Scripture and somehow forget that God loves us, wants what is best for us and died that our relationship with God might be restored, is to miss the point of the Bible. You must know its all about Jesus Christ, all of it. If you don't get that, if you don't understand Jesus Christ is not only the backdrop of the Bible but the essence of the Bible, then... you have cheated yourself greatly.

I don't believe the Bible is supposed to be a point of division or a weapon for condemnation. That is man putting his two cents in. The Bible can and will convict us, but the point of conviction is to help us change direction. (repentance) Most of us have a hard time forgetting what others have done to hurt us, but the Bible teaches that God forgives and God forgets. You and I tend to focus on the past, but God focuses on the present and the future. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, not the man, "go and sin no more."

If the hustle and bustle of the season leaves you feeling like you are missing something then you probably are. Family, friends, lights and music are nice, but that is not the reason for the season. A new year is about to start. Why not start something that will reward you for eternity. To really know Jesus Christ is to love Him. Thirty minutes a day for the rest of your life will bless your socks off.

     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of twelve, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.


     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of thirteen, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox Evangelical Seminary 1/2009 to 7/2018.

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     In the year 1891, on this day, December 9th, President Benjamin Harrison wrote: “This Government has found occasion to express… to the… Czar its serious concern because of the harsh measures now being enforced against the Hebrews in Russia… Great numbers… have been constrained… to abandon their homes and leave the Empire… It is estimated that over one million will be forced from Russia within a few years.” President Harrison concluded: “The Hebrew… has always kept the law… often under… oppressive…restrictions… This consideration, as well as the suggestion of humanity, furnishes ample ground for the remonstrances… we have presented to Russia.”

American Minute

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

     Chapter 15  December 9

     Here again, if I could dive deeply enough, I might again reach at the bottom that which simply is.

     And only now am I ready, in my own fashion, to "place myself in the presence of God." Either mystery, if I could follow it far enough, would lead me to the same point-the point where something, in each case unimaginable, leaps forth from God's naked hand. The Indian, looking at the material world, says, "I am that." I say, "That and I grow from one root." Verbum superne prodiens, the Word coming forth from the Father, has made both, and brought them together in this subject-object embrace.

     And what, you ask, is the advantage of all this? Well, for me-I am not talking about anyone else-it plants the prayer right in the present reality. For, whatever else is or is not real, this momentary confrontation of subject and object is certainly occurring: always occurring except when I am asleep. Here is the actual meeting of God's activity and man's -not some imaginary meeting that might occur if I were an angel or if God incarnate entered the room. There is here no question of a God "up there" or "out there"; rather, the present operation of God "in here," as the ground of my own being, and God "in there," as the ground of the matter that surrounds me, and God embracing and uniting both in the daily miracle of finite consciousness.

     The two facades-the room as I perceive it-were obstacles as long as I mistook them for ultimate realities. But the moment I recognized them as facades, Do you see? A lie is a delusion only so long as we believe it; but a recognized lie is a reality-a real lie-and as such may be highly instructive. A dream ceases to be a delusion as soon as we wake. But it does not become a nonentity. It is a real dream: and it also may be instructive. A stage set is not a real wood or drawing room: it is a real stage set, and may be a good one. (In fact we should never ask of anything "Is it real?," for everything is real. The proper question is "A real what?," e.g., a real snake or real delirium tremens?) The objects around me, and my idea of "me," will deceive if taken at their face value. But they are momentous if taken as the end-products of divine activities. Thus and not other­ wise, the creation of matter and the creation of mind meet one another and the circuit is closed.

     Or put it this way. I have called my material surroundings a stage set. A stage set is not a dream nor a nonentity. But if you attack a stage house with a chisel you will not get chips of brick or stone; you'll only get a hole in a piece of canvas and, beyond that, windy darkness. Similarly, if you start investigating the nature of matter, you will not find anything like what imagination has always supposed matter to be. You will get mathematics. From that unimaginable physical reality my senses select a few stimuli. These they translate or symbolize into sensations, which have no likeness at all to the reality of matter. Of these sensations my associative power, very much directed by my practical needs and influenced by social training, makes up little bundles into what I call "things" (labeled by nouns). Out of these I build myself a neat little box stage, suitably provided with properties such as hills, fields, houses, and the rest. In this I can act.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

As for me, I am tired of talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don't want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don't want to speak ab...out Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people. I don't want to just write about the Holy Spirit; I want to experience His presence in my life in a profound way.
--- Francis Chan

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion
is surely the ugliest thing in the world.
--- Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)
Do Love: A Love Hack's Path to Spiritual Maturity

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
--- Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady (Women of Achievement)

A person is just about as big as the things that make them angry.
--- Heraclitis
Remembering Heraclitus

     Said the robin to the sparrow,
     “I should really like to know,
     Why these anxious human beings
     Rush about and worry so.”
     Said the sparrow to the robin,
     “Friend I think that it must be,
     That they have no Heavenly Father,
     Such as cares for you and me.”
--- Elizabeth Cheney

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 30:7-9
     by D.H. Stern

7     [God,] I have asked two things of you;
don’t deny them to me as long as I live—
8     keep falsehood and futility far from me,
and give me neither poverty nor wealth.
Yes, provide just the food I need today;
9     for if I have too much, I might deny you
and say, “Who is ADONAI?”
And if I am poor, I might steal
and thus profane the name of my God.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Ad hominem
     What is it?

     An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent's argument. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy, more precisely an irrelevance.

     Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponents in order to attack their claims or invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent's argument. This is logically fallacious because it relates to the opponent's personal character, which has nothing to do with the logical merit of the opponent's argument, whereas mere verbal abuse in the absence of an argument is not ad hominem nor any kind of logical fallacy.


  "Candidate George's proposal about zoning is ridiculous. He was caught cheating on his taxes in 2003."
  "What would Margaret know about fixing cars? She is a woman."
  "What makes you so smart and all-knowing that you can deny God's existence? You haven't even finished school."
  "If Dr. Schweitzer is such a skilled heart surgeon, then why was he arrested for skinny-dipping in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese's?!"
  "Your fashion opinion isn't valid; you can't even afford new shoes."
  "Your exposition is highly correct and valid, but you don't have enough academic certification." (an example of the Credential fallacy)

     An abusive ad hominem can apply to a judgment of cultural works or academic efforts based on the behavior or unconventional political beliefs of an artist, author, or musician, or the taste of an infamous person who loved a certain work.


     Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false; this overlaps with the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source).

     The circumstantial fallacy applies only where the source taking a position is only making a logical argument from premises that are generally accepted. Where the source seeks to convince an audience of the truth of a premise by a claim of authority or by personal observation, observation of their circumstances may reduce the evidentiary weight of the claims, sometimes to zero.


     Mandy Rice-Davies's famous testimony during the Profumo Affair, "Well, he would [say that], wouldn't he?", is an example of a valid circumstantial argument. Her point was that a man in a prominent position, accused of an affair with a callgirl, would deny the claim whether it was true or false. His denial, in itself, carries little evidential weight against the claim of an affair. Note, however, that this argument is valid only insofar as it devalues the denial; it does not bolster the original claim. To construe evidentiary invalidation of the denial as evidentiary validation of the original claim is fallacious (on several different bases, including that of argumentum ad hominem); however likely the man in question would be to deny an affair that did in fact happen, he could only be more likely to deny an affair that never happened.

     Conflict of Interest: Where a source seeks to convince by a claim of authority or by personal observation, identification of conflicts of interest are not ad hominem – it is generally well accepted that an "authority" needs to be objective and impartial, and that an audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source. Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment of a conflict of interest is a problem.

     [edit] Ad feminam/Ad hominem

     An ad feminam is an ad hominem attack, used in attempt to defeat a woman's argument. An example would be the response "Is it your time of the month?" to a woman making an argument. The term is most frequently used in this sense in feminist philosophy, to note systemic tendencies to discredit opinions of women. As such, it is similar in nature and purpose to such feminist neologisms as "herstory". Quotes:

  "Ahmad's characteristic method here of reductive ad hominem and ad feminam critique subverts his accompanying claim to Marxist subjectivity..." ]
  "Almost any ad hominem (or in this case, ad feminam) response such as this one invalidates the content of the patient's viewpoint"

     In Latin, the word homō (of which hominem is the accusative case) has the gender-neutral meaning of "a human being", "a person" (unlike the words in Romance languages it gave rise to, such as French homme and Italian uomo). A translation of ad hominem that preserves this gender-neutrality is "to the person". In contrast, ad feminam is gender-specific and used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women.

     [edit] Tu quoque

     Main article: Tu quoque

     Ad hominem tu quoque (literally: "You also") refers to a claim that the source making the argument has spoken or acted in a way inconsistent with the argument. In particular, if Source A criticizes the actions of Source B, a tu quoque response is that Source A has acted in the same way. This argument is fallacious because it does not disprove the argument; if the premise is true then Source A may be a hypocrite, but this does not make the statement less credible from a logical perspective. Indeed, Source A may be in a position to provide personal testimony to support the argument.

     For example, a father may tell his son not to start smoking as he will regret it when he is older, and the son may point out that his father is or was a smoker. This does not alter the fact that his son may regret smoking when he is older.

     [edit] Guilt by association

     Main article: Association fallacy

     Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad hominem fallacy if the argument attacks a source because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument.

  This form of the argument is as follows:
  1.Source S makes claim C.
  2.Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
  3.Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.

     [edit] Halo effect

     See also; List of cognitive biases

     Ad hominem arguments work via the halo effect, a human cognitive bias in which the perception of one trait is influenced by the perception of an unrelated trait, e.g. treating an attractive person as more intelligent or more honest. People tend to see others as tending to all good or tending to all bad. Thus, if you can attribute a bad trait to your opponent, others will tend to doubt the quality of their arguments, even if the bad trait is irrelevant to the arguments.

     [edit] Questions about the notion of an ad hominem fallacy

     Doug Walton, Canadian academic and author, has argued that ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, and that in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue, as when it directly involves hypocrisy, or actions contradicting the subject's words.

     The philosopher Charles Taylor has argued that ad hominem reasoning is essential to understanding certain moral issues, and contrasts this sort of reasoning with the apodictic reasoning of philosophical naturalism.

     Olavo de Carvalho, Brazilian philosopher, has argued that ad hominem reasoning not only has rhetorical, but also logical value. As an example, he cites Karl Marx's idea that only the proletariat has an objective view of history. If that were to be taken rigorously, an ad hominem argument would effectively render Marx's general theory as incoherent: as Marx was not a proletarian, his own view of history couldn't be objective.


My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The offence of the natural

     And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
--- Galatians 5:24.

     The natural life is not sinful; we must be apostatized from sin, have nothing to do with sin in any shape or form. Sin belongs to hell and the devil; I, as a child of God, belong to heaven and God. It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence and self-assertiveness, and this is where the battle has to be fought. It is the things that are right and noble and good from the natural standpoint that keep us back from God’s best. To discern that natural virtues antagonize surrender to God, is to bring our soul into the centre of its greatest battle. Very few of us debate with the sordid and evil and wrong, but we do debate with the good. It is the good that hates the best, and the higher up you get in the scale of the natural virtues, the more intense is the opposition to Jesus Christ. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh”—it is going to cost the natural in you everything, not something. Jesus said—“If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself” i.e., his right to himself, and a man has to realize Who Jesus Christ is before he will do it. Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.

     The natural life is not spiritual, and it can only be made spiritual by sacrifice. If we do not resolutely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural in us. There is no royal road there; each of us has it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of performing.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


Something to bring back to show
  you have been there: a lock of God's
  hair, stolen from him while he was
  asleep; a photograph of the garden
  of the spirit. As has been said,
  the point of traveling is not
  to arrive, but to return home
  laden with pollen you shall work up
  into the honey the mind feeds on.

What are our lives but harbors
  we are continually setting out
  from, airports at which we touch
  down and remain in too briefly
  to recognize what it is they remind
  us of? And always in one
  another we seek the proof
  of experiences it would be worth
          dying for.

Surely there is a shirt of fire
  this one wore, that is hung up now
  like some rare fleece in the hall of
  Surely these husbands and wives
  have dipped their marriages in a fast
  spring? Surely there exists
  as the justification for our looking
          for it,
  the one light that can cast
          such shadows?

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Take Heart
     December 9

     When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. --- Luke 22:14.

     What [else] did this table companionship imply?
  Till He Come  

     A third meaning of the assembling around the table is camaraderie. Our Lord showed himself one with them, a brother indeed. We do not read that there was any order of priority by which their seats were arranged.

     You have no right to come to that table unless those who are washed in Jesus’ blood have a claim on your love and on your benevolence. Are you to live together forever in heaven, and will you show no affection for one another here below? It is your Master’s new command that you love one another; will you disregard it? He has given this as the badge of Christians: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples”—not if you wear a gold cross, but—“if you love one another” (
John 13:35).

     But this table means more yet: it signifies common enjoyment. Jesus eats, and they eat, the same bread. He drinks, and they drink, the same cup. There is no distinction in the provisions. What means this? The very joy that delights Christ is that which he prepares for his people. You, if you are a true believer, have part in Christ’s joy, you delight to see his kingdom come, the truth advanced, sinners saved, grace glorified, holiness promoted, God exalted; this also is his delight. But are you certain that the mainstay of your life is the same as his, namely, to do the will of the heavenly Father? If it is, may you joy in him as he joys in you, and so may your fellowship be sweet!

     The feast at the one table indicated familiar affection. It is the child’s place to sit at the table with its parents, for there affection rules. People at the table often reveal their minds more fully than elsewhere. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table with his disciples. ’Twas a meal of a simple kind; intimate exchange ruled the hour. Oh, brothers and sisters, I am afraid we have come to this table sometimes and gone away again without having had communion with Christ, and then it has been an empty formality and nothing more. Do pray the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask that it may not be a dead form to you but that now in very deed you may give to Christ your heart, while he will show you his hands and his side and make known to you his agonies and death, with which he redeemed you from the coming wrath. All this, and vastly more, is the teaching of the table at which Jesus sat with the Twelve.
--- C. H. Spurgeon

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

On This Day   December 9
     The Dream Team

     They have been called the Dream Team of missions, seven young aristocratic athletes from Cambridge who stunned England by renouncing fame and fortune to serve Christ in the back country of Asia as missionaries with the China Inland Mission. The greatest speaker among them was Stanley Smith, who was captain of Cambridge’s rowing team. Charles T. Studd, captain of the Cambridge cricket team, was a poor speaker, but imposing in appearance. Smith, Studd, and their five compatriots toured the British Isles, preaching Christ and promoting missions, prior to their departure for the field. They were a media sensation.

     On Tuesday, December 9, 1884, Smith and Studd arrived in Edinburgh to speak to students at the university there. They had been staying up all night at various colleges, praying and talking to students, and were in a “mortal funk,” as Studd later described it. Organizers had rented the Free Assembly Hall, distributed bundles of flyers, and put men in placards on sidewalks. There were two fears. Some worried that few of the skeptical Scottish students would show up; others were afraid the meetings would be disrupted by heckling. Studd and Smith spent the afternoon in prayer, “till they got the victory.”

     The building was crammed well before the appointed hour, and when the two athletes entered the hall they were loudly cheered. Studd spoke first. His remarks were halting, but his devotion to Christ melted the crowd. Then Smith spoke about the hypocrisy of Christians lacking full commitment. The atmosphere was tense with spiritual power, and when Smith finished the students surged around him wanting to hear more of Christ and the Great Commission. Later that Evening, the two young men arrived at the train station and found it thronged with young people shouting “Speech! Speech!” As the train pulled from the platform, the students ran after it singing, “God be with you till we meet again.”

     The Cambridge Seven catapulted the China Inland Mission to the attention of the world. When they arrived in China in 1885, CIM had 163 missionaries there. By 1900 there were 800.

     When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come.
--- Matthew 24:14.

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

Advent Week Two Mystery - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     God Is In The Manger (Day 6)

     The Mysteries of God

     No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of' the divine child in the stable. Without the holy night, there is no theology. "God is revealed in flesh," the God-human Jesus Christ¬ that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of'God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God's mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ.... If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we - captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God - must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.

  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

     Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our pre-occupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.

  Eugene Peterson

(Lk 2:15–20) 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ESV

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 9

     “Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you." Isaiah 30:18.

     God often DELAYS IN ANSWERING PRAYER. We have several instances of this in sacred Scripture. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day—he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophenicia was answered not a word for a long while. Paul besought the Lord thrice that “the thorn in the flesh” might be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it should be taken away, but instead thereof a promise that God’s grace should be sufficient for him. If thou hast been knocking at the gate of mercy, and hast received no answer, shall I tell thee why the mighty Maker hath not opened the door and let thee in? Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show his power and his sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit. Thou art perhaps kept waiting in order that thy desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if he keeps thee waiting thou wilt see thy necessity more clearly, and wilt seek more earnestly; and that thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also be something wrong in thee which has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes thee tarry awhile that he may the more fully display the riches of his grace to thee at last. Thy prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to thy delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make thee silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication.

          Evening - December 9

     “My people shall dwell in quiet resting places.” --- Isaiah 32:18.

     Peace and rest belong not to the unregenerate, they are the peculiar possession of the Lord’s people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives perfect peace to those whose hearts are stayed upon him. When man was unfallen, his God gave him the flowery bowers of Eden as his quiet resting places; alas! how soon sin blighted the fair abode of innocence. In the day of universal wrath when the flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family were quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant, herein typifying Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath the blood-besprinkled habitations of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the first-born; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud, and the flowing rock, gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose. At this hour we rest in the promises of our faithful God, knowing that his words are full of truth and power; we rest in the doctrines of his word, which are consolation itself; we rest in the covenant of his grace, which is a haven of delight. More highly favoured are we than David in Adullam, or Jonah beneath his gourd, for none can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of his people, and when we draw near to him in the breaking of the bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to him to be the return of peace to our spirits.      “I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,
     I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.
     ’Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah’s name,
     ’Tis stable as his steadfast throne, for evermore the same:
     The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,
     This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     December 9

          JOY TO THE WORLD!

     Isaac Watts, 1674–1748

     But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10

     As one of the most joyous of all Christmas hymns, this carol omits references to shepherds, angelic choruses, and wise men. It emphasizes instead the reverent but ecstatic joy that Christ’s birth brought to mankind. For centuries hearts had yearned for God to reveal Himself personally. At last it happened as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The entire Advent season should be filled with solemn rejoicing as we contemplate anew God’s great gift, providing the means whereby sinful man might live eternally.

     “Joy to the World” is a paraphrase of the last part of Psalm 98:

     Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.

     Although it was originally a song of rejoicing for Jehovah’s protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when He would be the God of the whole earth, this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise. It exalts the salvation that began when God became incarnate as the Babe of Bethlehem who was destined to remove the curse of Adam’s fall. The text was originally titled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom” when it first appeared in Watts’ hymnal of 1719. The music for this popular carol is thought to have been adapted by Lowell Mason, an American church musician, from some of the phrases used in parts of George Frederick Handel’s beloved oratorio, The Messiah, first performed in 1742.

     Through the combined talents of an English literary genius of the 18th century, a German-born musical giant from the same period, and a 19th century American choir director and educator, another great hymn was born.

     Joy to the world! the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.
     Joy to the earth the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.
     No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
     He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.

     For Today: Genesis 3:17, 18; Psalm 98; Romans 5:20, 21

     Express gratitude for our Savior’s birth with these words ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     (2.) Punishing the transgressions of his law. This is a necessary branch of dominion. His sovereignty in making laws would be a trifle, if there were not also an authority to vindicate those laws from contempt and injury; he would be a Lord only spurned at by rebels. Sovereignty is not preserved without justice. When the Psalmist speaks of the majesty of God’s kingdom, he tells us, that “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne” (Psalm 97:1, 2). These are the engines of Divine dignity which render him glorious and majestic. A legislative power would be trampled on without executive; by this the reverential apprehensions of God are preserved in the world. He is known to be Lord of the world “by the judgments which he executes” (Psalm 9:16). When he seems to have lost his dominion, or given it up in the world, he recovers it by punishment. When he takes some away “with a whirlwind, and in his wrath,” the natural consequence men make of it, is this: “Surely there is a God that judgeth the earth” (Psalm 58:9, 11). He reduceth the creature, by the lash of his judgments, that would not acknowledge his authority in his precepts. Those sins which disown his government in the heart and conscience, as pride, inward blasphemy, &c., he hath reserved a time hereafter to reckon for. He doth not presently shoot his arrows into the marrow of every delinquent, but those sins which traduce his government of the world, and tear up the foundations of human converse, and a public respect to him, he reckons with particularly here, as well as hereafter, that the life of his sovereignty might not always faint in the world.

     (3.) This of punishing was the second discovery of his dominion in the world. His first act of sovereignty was the giving a law; the next, his appearance in the state of a judge. When his orders were violated, he rescues the honor of them by an execution of justice. He first judged the angels, punishing the evil ones for their crime: the first court he kept among them as a governor, was to give them a law; the second court he kept was as a judge trying the delinquents, and adjudging the offenders to be “reserved in chains of darkness” till the final execution (Jude 6); and, at the same time probably, he confirmed the good ones in their obedience by grace. So the first discovery of his dominion to man, was the giving him a precept, the next was the inflicting a punishment for the breach of it. He summons Adam to the bar, indicts him for his crime, finds him guilty by his own confession, and passeth sentence on him, according to the rule he had before acquainted him with.

     (4.) The means whereby he punisheth shows his dominion. Sometimes he musters up hail and mildew; sometimes he sends regiments of wild beasts; so he threatens Israel (Lev. 26:22). Sometimes he sends out a party of angels to beat up the quarters of men, and make a carnage among them (2 Kings 19:35). Sometimes he mounts his thundering battery, and shoots forth his ammunition from the clouds, as against the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:10). Sometimes he sends the slightest creatures to shame the pride and punish the sin of man, as “lice, frogs, locusts,” as upon the Egyptians (Exod. 8–10.).

     Secondly. This dominion it manifested by God as a proprietor and Lord of his creatures and his own goods. And this is evident,

     1. In the choice of some persons from eternity. He hath set apart some from eternity, wherein he will display the invincible efficacy of his grace, and thereby infallibly bring them to the fruition of glory (Eph. 1:4, 5): “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Why doth he write some names in the “book of life,” and leave out others? Why doth he enrol some, whom he intends to make denizens of heaven, and refuse to put others in his register? The apostle tells us, it is the pleasure of his will. You may render a reason for many of God’s actions, till you come to this, the top and foundation of all; and under what head of reason can man reduce this act but to that of his royal prerogative? Why doth God save some, and condemn others at last? because of the faith of the one, and unbelief of the other. Why do some men believe? because God hath not only given them the means of grace, but accompanied those means with the efficacy of his Spirit. Why did God accompany those means with the efficacy of his Spirit in some, and not in others? because he had decreed by grace to prepare them for glory. But why did he decree, or choose some, and not others? Into what will you resolve this but into his sovereign pleasure? Salvation and condemnation at the last upshot, are acts of God as the Judge, conformable to his own law of giving life to believers, and inflicting death upon unbelievers; for those a reason may be rendered; but the choice of some, and preterition of others, is an act of God as he is a sovereign monarch, before any law was actually transgressed, because not actually given. When a prince redeems a rebel, he acts as a judge according to law; but when he calls some out to pardon, he acts as a sovereign by a prerogative above law; into this the apostle resolves it (Rom. 9:13, 15). When he speaks of God’s loving Jacob and hating Esau, and that before they had done either good or evil, it is, “because God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion.” Though the first scope of the apostle, in the beginning of the chapter, was to declare the reason of God’s rejecting the Jews, and calling in the Gentiles; had he only intended to demolish the pride of the Jews, and flat their opinion of merit, and aimed no higher than that providential act of God; he might, convincingly enough to the reason of men, have argued from the justice of God, provoked by the obstinacy of the Jews, and not have had recourse to his absolute will; but, since he asserts this latter, the strength of his argument seems to he thus: if God by his absolute sovereignty may resolve, and fix his love upon Jacob and estrange it from Esau, or any other of his creatures, before they have done good or evil, and man have no ground to call his infinite majesty to account, may he not deal thus with the Jews, when their demerit would be a bar to any complaints of the creature against him? If God were considered here in the quality of a judge, it had been fit to have considered the matter of fact in the criminal; but he is considered as a sovereign, rendering no other reason of his action but his own will; “whom he will he hardens” (ver. 18). And then the apostle concludes (ver. 20), “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” If the reason drawn from God’s sovereignty doth not satisfy in this inquiry, no other reason can be found wherein to acquiesce: for the last condemnation there will be sufficient reason to clear the justice of his proceedings. But, in this case of election, no other reason but what is alleged, viz., the will of God, can be thought of, but what is liable to such knotty exceptions that cannot well be untied.

     (1.) It could not be any merit in the creature that might determine God to choose him. If the decree of election falls not under the merit of Christ’s passion, as the procuring cause, it cannot fall under the merit of any part of the corrupted mass. The decree of sending Christ did not precede, but followed, in order of nature, the determination of choosing some. When men were chosen as the subjects for glory, Christ was chosen as the means for the bringing them to glory (Eph. 1:4): “Chosen us in him, and predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” The choice was not merely in Christ as the moving cause; that the apostle asserts to be “the good pleasure of his will;” but in Christ, as the means of conveying to the chosen ones the fruits of their election. What could there be in any man that could invite God to this act, or be a cause of distinction of one branch of Adam from another? Were they not all hewed out of the same rock, and tainted with the same corruption in blood? Had it been possible to invest them with a power of merit at the first, had not that venom, contracted in their nature, degraded all of power for the future? What merit was there in any but of wrathful punishment, since they were all considered as criminals, and the cursed brood of an ungrateful rebel? What dignity can there be in the nature of the purest part of clay, to be made a vessel of honor, more than in another part of clay, as pure as that which was formed into a vessel for mean and sordid use? What had any one to move his mercy more than another, since they were all children of wrath, and equally daubed with original guilt and filth? Had not all an equal proportion of it to provoke his justice? What merit is there in one dry bone more than another, to be inspired with the breath of a spiritual life? Did not all lie wallowing in their own filthy blood? and what could the steam and noisomeness of that deserve at the hands of a pure Majesty, but to be cast into a sink furthest from his sight? Were they not all considered in this deplorable posture, with an equal proportion of poison in their nature, when God first took his pen, and singled out some names to write in the book of life? It could not be merit in any one piece of this abominable mass, that should stir up that resolution in God to set apart this person for a vessel of glory, while he permitted another to putrefy in his own gore. He loved Jacob, and hated Esau, though they were both parts of the common mass, the seed of the same loins, and lodged in the same womb.

     (2.) Nor could it be any foresight of works to be done in time by them, or of faith, that might determine God to choose them. What good could he foresee resulting from extreme corruption, and a nature alienated from him? What could he foresee of good to be done by them, but what he resolved in his own will, to bestow an ability upon them to bring forth? His choice of them was to holiness, not for a holiness preceding his determination (Eph. 1:4). He hath chosen us, “that we might be holy” before him; he ordained us “to good works,” not for them (Eph. 2:10). What is a fruit cannot be a moving cause of that whereof it is a fruit: grace is a stream from the spring of electing love; the branch is not the cause of the root, but the root of the branch; nor the stream the cause of the spring, but the spring the cause of the stream. Good works suppose grace, and a good and right habit in the person, as rational acts suppose reason. Can any man say that the rational acts man performs after his creation were a cause why God created him? This would make creation, and everything else, not so much an act of his will, as an act of his understanding. God foresaw no rational act in man, before the act of his will to give him reason; nor foresees faith in any, before the act of his will determining to give him faith: “Faith is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). In the salvation which grows up from this first purpose of God, he regards not the works we have done, as a principal motive to settle the top-stone of our happiness, but his own purpose, and the grace given in Christ; “who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ, before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). The honor of our salvation cannot be challenged by our works, much less the honor of the foundation of it. It was a pure gift of grace, without any respect to any spiritual, much less natural, perfection. Why should the apostle mention that circumstance, when he speaks of God’s loving Jacob, and hating Esau, “when neither of them had done good or evil” (Rom. 9:11), if there were any foresight of men’s works as the moving cause of his love or hatred? God regarded not the works of either as the first cause of his choice, but acted by his own liberty, without respect to any of their actions which were to be done by them in time. If faith be the fruit of election, the prescience of faith doth not influence the electing act of God. It is called “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit. 1:1): “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect;” i. e. settled in this office to bring the elect of God to faith. If men be chosen by God upon the foresight of faith, or not chosen till they have faith, they are not so much God’s elect, as God their elect; they choose God by faith, before God chooseth them by love: it had not been the faith of God’s elect, i. e. of those already chosen, but the faith of those that were to be chosen by God afterwards. Election is the cause of faith, and not faith the cause of election; fire is the cause of heat, and not the heat of fire; the sun is the cause of the day, and not the day the cause of the rising of the sun. Men are not chosen because they believe, but they believe because they are chosen: the apostle did ill, else, to appropriate that to the elect which they had no more interest in, by virtue of their election, than the veriest reprobate in the world. If the foresight of what works might be done by his creatures was the motive of his choosing them, why did he not choose the devils to redemption, who could have done him better service, by the strength of their nature, than the whole mass of Adam’s posterity? Well, then, there is no possible way to lay the original foundation of this act of election and preterition in anything but the absolute sovereignty of God. Justice or injustice comes not into consideration in this case. There is no debt which justice or injustice always respects in its acting: if he had pleased, he might have chosen all; if he had pleased, he might have chosen none. It was in his supreme power to have resolved to have left all Adam’s posterity under the rack of his justice; if he determined to snatch out any, it was a part of his dominion, but without any injury to the creatures he leaves under their own guilt. Did he not pass by the angels, and take man? and, by the same right of dominion, may he pick out some men from the common mass, and lay aside others to bear the punishment of their crimes. Are they not all his subjects? all are his criminals, and may be dealt with at the pleasure of their undoubted Lord and Sovereign. This is a work of arbitrary power; since he might have chosen none, or chosen all, as he saw good himself. It is at the liberty of the artificer to determine his wood or stone to such a figure, that of a prince, or that of a toad; and his materials have no right to complain of him, since it lies wholly upon his own liberty. They must have little sense of their own vileness, and God’s infinite excellency above them by right of creation, that will contend that God hath a lesser right over his creatures than an artificer over his wood or stone. If it were at his liberty whether to redeem man, or send Christ upon such an undertaking, it is as much at his liberty, and the prerogative is to be allowed him, what person he will resolve to make capable of enjoying the fruits of that redemption. One man was as fit a subject for mercy as another, as they all lay in their original guilt: why would not Divine mercy cast its eye upon this man, as well as upon his neighbor? There was no cause in the creature, but all in God; it must be resolved into his own will: yet not into a will without wisdom. God did not choose hand over head, and act by mere will, without reason and understanding; an Infinite Wisdom is far from such a kind of procedure; but the reason of God is inscrutable to us, unless we could understand God as well as he understands himself; the whole ground lies in God himself, no part of it in the creature; “not in him that wills, nor in him that runs, but in God that shows mercy” (Rom. 9:15, 16). Since God hath revealed no other cause than his will, we can resolve it into no other than his sovereign empire over all creatures. It is not without a stop to our curiosity, that in the same place where God asserts the absolute sovereignty of his mercy to Moses, he tells him he could not see his face: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious;” and he said, “Thou canst not see my face” (Exod. 33:19, 20): the rays of his infinite wisdom are too bright and dazzling for our weakness. The apostle acknowledged not only a wisdom in this proceeding, but a riches and treasure of wisdom; not only that, but a depth and vastness of those riches of wisdom; but was unable to give us an inventory and scheme of it (Rom. 11:33). The secrets of his counsels are too deep for us to wade into; in attempting to know the reason of those acts, we should find ourselves swallowed up into a bottomless gulf: though the understanding be above our capacity, yet the admiration of his authority and submission to it are not. “We should cast ourselves down at his feet, with a full resignation of ourselves to his sovereign pleasure.” This is a more comely carriage in a Christian than all the contentious endeavors to measure God by our line.

     2. In bestowing grace where he pleases. God in conversion and pardon works not as a natural agent, putting forth strength to the utmost, which God must do, if he did renew man naturally, as the sun shines, and the fire burns, which always act, ad extremum virium, unless a cloud interpose to eclipse the one, and water to extinguish the other. But God acts as a voluntary agent, which can freely exert his power when he please, and suspend it when he please. Though God be necessarily good, yet he is not necessitated to manifest all the treasures of his goodness to every subject; he hath power to distil his dews upon one part, and not upon another. If he were necessitated to express his goodness without a liberty, no thanks were due to him. Who thanks the sun for shining on him, or the fire for warming him? None; because they are necessary agents, and can do no other. What is the reason he did not reach out his hand to keep all the angels from sinking, as well as some, or recover them when they were sunk? What is the reason he engrafts one man into the true Vine, and lets the other remain a wild olive? Why is not the efficacy of the Spirit always linked with the motions of the Spirit? Why does he not mould the heart into a gospel frame when he fills the ear with a gospel sound? Why doth he strike off the chains from some, and tear the veil from the heart, while he leaves others under their natural slavery and Egyptian darkness? Why do some lie under the bands of death, while another is raised to a spiritual life? What reason is there for all this but his absolute will? The apostle resolves the question, if the question be asked, why he begets one and not another? Not from the will of the creature, but “his own will,” is the determination of one (James 2:18). Why doth he work in one “to will and to do,” and not in another? Because of “his good pleasure,” is the answer of another (Phil. 2:13). He could as well new create every one, as he at first created them, and make grace as universal as nature and reason, but it is not his pleasure so to do.

The Existence and Attributes of God

Business Ethics
     Scott Rae | Biola University

Serving God in Vocation

Business Ethics and Christian Economics

Business Ethics Part 2

Spiritual Direction
     John Coe | Biola University

The Ministry of the Spirit 1

Love and the Spiritual Disciplines

Virtue and the Spiritual Discipline

Ephesians 1-3
     Daniel Darko

Ephesians Intro 1

Ephesians Intro 2

Eph 1:3-14

Eph 1:15-2:3

Eph 2:1-10

Eph 2:11-22

Eph 3:1-13

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 1-3
     JD Farag

Ephesians 1:1-2
Change Based on God’s Grace
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 1:3-14
God Really Likes Me!
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 1:15-23
Why Pray
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 2:1-9
But God!
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 2:10-13
Why God Allows Adversity
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 2:14-18
Is There Anything Too Hard For The Lord?
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 2:19-22
Surviving Life’s Storms
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 3:1-15
When Life Gets Hard
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 3:16-19
My Prayer Life
J.D. Farag

Ephesians 3:20-21
God is Able
J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

Ephesians 1-3
     Jon Courson

Ephesians 1:3-6
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 2
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3:17-19
Christ IS At Home!
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:1-5
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:8-10
We Know The Flow
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:5-10
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:22-23
Under His Feet
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:11-16
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:15-18
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:17-23
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 2:4
But God
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 2
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3:14-17
Jesus: At Home In Your Heart
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3:13
Care Through Prayer
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 1:1-6
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 2:8-10
Grace, Good Works And Richard Nixon
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 2:1-9
The Message In The Mess
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3:17-19
A Birth Announcement - The Weight
Jon Courson

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Ephesians 3:14-20
A Paradigm For Prayer
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

Ephesians 1-3
     Skip Heitzig

Ephesians 1-6
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2:1-10
You Were Dead…but God
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2
Church: A Place for Purpose
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2:11-19
The Modern (Church) Family
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2:1-7
Come Alive
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2:1-7
Once Dead, Now Alive!
Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 2:1-7
Easter Drive-In - Come Alive
Calvary Chapel NM

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

Ephesians 1 - 3
     Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 1:1-10 pt 1
Our Spiritual Blessings in Christ
04-08-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 1:11-23 pt 2
Our Inheritance in Christ
04-15-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 2:1-7 pt 1
A Before and After Picture
04-22-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 2:8-10 pt 2
Not By Works
04-29-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 2:11-13 pt 3
Brought Near to God
05-06-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 2:14-22 pt 4
Created to Be One
05-13-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 3:1-3 pt 1
Who's In Charge of Your Life?
06-03-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 3:1-13 pt 2
Calling and Power
06-10-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Ephesians 3:14-21 pt 3
Paul's Prayer for the Church
06-17-2018 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Ephesians 1 - 3
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | This morning, we begin Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He tells the Ephesians there is no need to worry, as God has everything under His control. This is a lesson we can glean from today.

Don't Worry
Ephesians 1:8-10
s1-552 | 10-09-2011

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Synopsis | Tonight, Pastor Brett gives us a bit of background on Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. We see that in the first part of chapter 1, Paul takes a moment to praise the Lord for all He has done for His people.

Ephesians 1:1-14
m1-570 | 10-12-2011

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Synopsis | In Ephesians 1, Paul praises the Lord in verses 3-14. He writes these praises while in prison, where most would probably complain about their circumstances. What should we do when we are upset or depressed? Learn the biblical answers as we look at Ephesians 1, in our through-the-Bible study.

Count Your Many Blessings
Ephesians 1:3-14
s1-553 | 10-16-2011

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Synopsis | Tonight, we take a closer look at the first chapter of Ephesians. Paul spends the last half of the chapter praising and thanking the saints of the church at Ephesus. Pastor Brett talks about how many Americans today are discontent with their quality of life. However, as Christians, we don’t have to be discontent! God knows what we are dealing with, and He will see us through.

Ephesians 1:15-23
m1-571 | 10-19-2011

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Synopsis | In Ephesians 2:4, Paul talks about how God is rich in mercy. Even when we find ourselves caught up in sin, He saves us through grace. We see examples all throughout the Bible showing how God has intervened on the behalf of those who have found themselves in trouble.

But God
Ephesians 2:4
s1-554 | 10-23-2011

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Synopsis | Today we study the great work of Jesus Christ as we read through Ephesians 2. A story of grace, we learn of sin’s work against us, God’s work for us, the Lord’s work in us, God’s work through us and God’s work between us.

God's Work
Ephesians 2
s1-555 | 10-30-2011

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Synopsis | When the Bible talks about a mystery, the mystery’s resolve is usually presented as well. Tonight we study Ephesians 3, where Paul writes of the mystery of how God loves the gentiles and his plan of salvation for them.

Ephesians 3
m1-572 | 11-02-2011

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Ephesians 1-2
Our Spiritual Blessings In Christ
Gary Hamrick

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February 21, 2010

Ephesians 3-4
Body Building
Gary Hamrick

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March 7, 2010

Ephesians 1:15-2:10
Gary Hamrick

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August 2, 2017

Ephesians 2:11-3:21
Gary Hamrick

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September 6, 2017

Lect 20 | NT Literature Ephesians
David Mathewson

Lect 21 | NT Literature Ephesians 2
David Mathewson

Bob Saucy | Biola University

Introducing Ephesians
Alistair Begg

How Is Your Thanksgiving?
Alistair Begg

Christ, the Head of the Church
Ephesians 1 | John MacArthur

Be Strong, Stand Firm | Alistair Begg