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     Genesis   41 - 42

Genesis 41

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

Genesis 41 1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11 we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. 18 Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19 Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21 but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. 22 I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. 23 Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, 24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

Joseph Rises to Power

37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Genesis 42

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

Genesis 42 1 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’ ”

35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

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The Hot ‘New’ Church Growth Method

By Owen Strachan / January 12, 2017

     A new study just unearthed a remarkable finding: conservative doctrine grows churches.

     This isn’t necessarily what we’ve heard in recent years. Whether it’s the music, the attractive facility, or the feeling of community, we need something to keep the church growing—something besides biblical teaching. How surprising, then, that David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne have found that doctrine grows churches. In their peer-reviewed scholarly article for the Review of Religious Research, a prestigious journal, the trio present findings among mainstream Canadian churches showing that—contra the stereotypes—doctrinally conservative churches that reach out aggressively often grow. Churches that soften biblical teachings and de-emphasize evangelism often shrink.

     What might these findings mean for the future of evangelicalism? Here are four quick takeaways.

     1. THIS REVERSES CONVENTIONAL WISDOM REGARDING PULPIT THEOLOGY. | As Haskell put it in a Washington Post op-ed, we had been told that liberal doctrine was needed to draw people, but the data show the reverse is true. It turns out people actually want to be called to believe in something, belong to somewhere, commit to Someone. Not everyone is drawn to conservative biblical doctrine, of course. But many are. What an encouragement this is to Bible-loving, gospel-preaching pastors and churches.

     Management philosophies and business methods have left a generation of ministers hungry, even starving, for a better ecclesial model. We’re seeing signs of this interest all over—as an example, here’s one prominent voice in the Church of England calling for pastors to own their theological birthright. The conventional wisdom still has a hold on many, but its grasp is slipping.

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Owen Strachan is the author of Awakening the Evangelical Mind and The Pastor as Public Theologian (with Kevin Vanhoozer). A systematic theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is the director of the Center for Public Theology and hosts the City of God podcast. He is writing a Jonathan Edwards devotional (Tyndale House) and a theological anthropology (B&H Academic). You can follow him on Twitter.

John Webster on the Church’s relationship to the triune God

By Jake Belder 1/12/17

     ‘How do we move from the doctrine of God to the doctrine of the Church?’ John Webster asks in his book, Holiness. That the life of God and the life of the Church are intimately connected is without question, but Webster seeks clarity on that relationship, particularly given the way social trinitarianism has been used ‘for our understanding of human common life, both politically and in the Church. He writes,

     The relatedness of Father, Son and Spirit is canvassed as the ground or model for the Church, and the Church is therefore conceived as the realisation in time of the human vocation to society, and so as the social extension of reconciliation through its gracious participation in the triune life of God (54-55).

     While acknowledging there is much to say on this, Webster admits to two hesitations with social trinitarian theologies. The first is that it gives ‘insufficient attention to the free majesty of God’ and his perfection and sheer distinction from his creatures (55). But he continues:

     A second, related, hesitation concerns the way in which such accounts of the Church’s relation to the triune life of God betray a drift into divine immanence. This can be seen in the way in which such ecclesiologies characteristically stress the continuity between the action of God and the action of the Church, in a manner which can easily jeopardise our sense of the freedom and perfection of God’s work. Such ecclesiologies can place excessive emphasis upon the Church as agent, and, correspondingly, underplay the passivity which is at the heart of the Church as a creature of divine grace. For if the being of the Church is a participation in the life of the triune divine society, then it is in the work of the Church that the work of the triune God finds its realisation, and, in an important sense, its continuation. In effect, this constitutes an orientation in ecclesiology that makes the work of the Church an actualisation of or sharing in the divine presence and action, rather than a testimony to that presence and action.

     The concern Webster has here in relation to his subject is that we do not lose sight of that fact that the holy life of the Church is entirely an act of grace, something which the ‘social trinitarian language of participation, [as it] emphasises the continuity, even coinherence, of divine and ecclesial action’, can obscure. Suggesting there is wisdom in continuing to speak of the Church’s sanctity as something ‘alien’, Webster concludes,

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     Jake Belder | ... this blog contains reflections on things I read. It allows me additional space to think on the notes I make in the margins of my books. You will also see quotations of note and, very occasionally, a book review.

The Liturgies of Soccer

By Jake Meador / January 12, 2017

You don't have to be a soccer fan to get the message of this article, rather long, but interesting, especially as I think about how much of me I invest in the NFL.

     In the summer of 2013 a Bosnian man named Vahid Cehaja went on a long walk—a 600 mile walk, to be exact. He walked from his home in the town of Bugojno to the Allianz Arena, home to German soccer club Bayern Munich.

     Why did he do such a thing? He had first come up with the idea in 2010 as Bayern prepared for a Champions League final against Italian club Inter Milan. He planned to take the walk to celebrate a Bayern victory which would have been the club’s fifth triumph in the world’s greatest club soccer competition.

     Unfortunately for Cehaja, Bayern lost 2-0 to Inter Milan.

     Two years later he planned another trip as Bayern once again advanced to the competition’s championship match. But they lost again and in particularly heartbreaking fashion, losing to English club Chelsea on penalty kicks after taking the lead in extra time after the match’s standard 90 minutes had ended in a draw.

     To make matters worse, the match had been played at the Allianz Arena, the club’s home stadium. So the German giants missed out on a chance to win soccer’s greatest trophy in front of their home fans.

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     Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy and sons Wendell and Austin. Jake’s writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

Francis Schaeffer and the Arts: A Retrospective

By Dr. William Edgar 1/10/17

     He is an easy target. Known for his shoot-from-the-hip generalizations, his rapid surveys of long periods of history, and his occasional mistakes, Francis Schaeffer has been subjected to all kinds of scrutiny, friendly and otherwise, from amateurs and professionals alike. The fact that so much attention has been devoted to this seemingly obscure figure who spent much of his time in a small Swiss mountain village talking with individuals makes the attention he garnered all the more remarkable. Or does it? Counter-intuitively, Francis Schaeffer turns out to have been one of the most significant evangelical Christians in the mid-twentieth century. His ideas are still buzzing around in all kinds of places.

     Two equal and opposite errors have often been made about the legacy of Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984). The first is to praise him uncritically, and defend most or all of what he said as beyond improvement, whether in his scholarship or his informal discussions. He has been called a “genius who cares for ideas.” A major book compares him to C. S. Lewis, calling them the two most influential apologists of our time (IVP, 1998). Most of us would agree that the word “genius” should be used sparingly, if at all. Schaeffer was brilliant, but a genius? And a fair comparison with C. S. Lewis is bound to show up so many differences as perhaps to make such an accolade simply unhelpful.

     The opposite error, though, is to demean his work as being substandard, replete with errors, and generally shoddy. Serious criticism was lodged at many of his views by Reformed apologist Greg Bahnsen. He sharply disagreed with Schaeffer’s view of antithesis, his view on reason and faith, his interpretation of Hegel, and several other basic tenets of his position. One review of The God Who Is There, states, “We use Francis Schaeffer as an example of how not to do philosophy.”

     The purpose of this brief article is to try to forge a third way. No one, even Francis Schaeffer, who ventures into the world of ideas and is bold enough to publish, should be exempt from thoughtful scrutiny. In my profession we call it peer review. At the same time, they should be given a fair hearing. In Schaeffer’s case that is challenging, since he so often ventured outside the box, both in form and in content. Thus, to evaluate his work fairly requires a degree of generosity, though not excuses. Schaeffer was a pastor and an evangelist. There was a delightful informality to the way he treated major thinkers and trends. If he had occupied an academic chair in a major research university he most likely would not have been well-received. But he did not. He was a popularizer in the best sense. As an academic myself, I spend a good deal of my time with footnotes, carefully crafting my writing in order to conform to the highest standards of our science. And I am unashamed to do so. But I do sometime rather envy those who are free from such a model. Not because they are welcome to make mistakes; of course not. But because their style allows more contact with a whole range of people, including academics, but also including laypeople, young and old, working class and upper crust alike. Schaeffer was able to do that, and thus to have the influence that he did.

     My test case is very limited, in one sense, but I hope it is interesting: I want to see if some of Schaeffer’s judgments about the arts stand up to scutiny. I have chosen this particular realm because it is one Schaeffer himself particularly loved. His son, Frank, movingly recounts how his Dad took him around to visit museums and was privileged on that occasion to see a different Francis Schaeffer. “I never saw Dad so happy than when he was looking at and discussing art. His face literally changed. He looked younger.”

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     Dr. William Edgar, per Wikipedia

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name
8 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of David.

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

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Why a Beautiful Sunset Argues for God's Existence

By Lenny Esposito 1/10/17

     Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset or had your breath taken away by a stunning vista? Such experiences leave us with a sense of awe. They also feel a bit hallowed; people are a bit more reverent when taking in the natural beauty of the world. The delicate symmetry of a snowflake or the glistening of a spider's dew-dropped web awakens a sense of beauty in our souls, prompting believers to thank God for His amazing handiwork.

     But is that last move valid? Can we infer God simply from something we ourselves find beautiful? Actually, we can.

     Last week, I was discussing the various arguments for God's existence with Dr. Robert Stewart and Dr. Sean McDowell. Most Christians who are interested in apologetics are familiar with arguments from the existence of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the reality of moral values and duties. Some have heard the argument from consciousness or the argument from reason. But there is another argument that many people don't hear about and that is the argument from beauty.

     What is the argument from beauty? Richard Swinburne explains it this way:

     If there is a God there is more reason to expect a basically beautiful world than a basically ugly one. A priori, however, there is no particular reason for expecting a basically beautiful rather than a basically ugly world. In consequence, if the world is beautiful, that fact would be evidence for God's existence. Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology

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     Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
     Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
     Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.

How to care about social justice (without losing the gospel)

By Russell D. Moore

     Some evangelicals talk as though personal evangelism and public justice are contradictory concerns, or, at least, that one is part of the mission of the church and the other isn’t. I think otherwise, and I think the issue is one of the most important facing the church these days.

     First of all, the mission of the church is the mission of Jesus. This mission doesn’t start with the giving of the Great Commission or at Pentecost. The Great Commission is when Jesus sends the church to the world with the authority he already has (Matt 28:18), and Pentecost is when he bestows the power to carry this commission out (Acts 1:8).

     The content of this mission is not just personal regeneration but disciple-making (Matt 28:19). It is not just teaching, but teaching “them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20).

     This mission is not inconsistent with what we have seen already in the life of Jesus. His mission is defined by Old Testament expectation (for instance, Ps 72), and in the gospel accounts in terms of redemptive love for the whole person, both body and soul. From the literally embryonic moments of the Incarnation, such terms are present in Mary’s prayer about the coming of her Messiah (Luke 1:46-55), and then in Jesus’ own inaugural words about his kingdom’s arrival (Luke 4:18-19).

     This mission is summed up in the gospel as a message of reconciliation that is both vertical and horizontal, establishing peace with both God and neighbor. The Scripture tells us to love neighbor “as yourself” (Luke 10:27-28). This is not simply a “spiritual” ministry, as the example Jesus gives us is of a holistic caring for physical and economic needs of a wounded person, not to mention the transcending of steep ethnic hostilities.

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Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is a TGC Council member and he blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter. He is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist and theologian by background, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.

Books by Russell Moore:

Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel
Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ
Adopted for Life (Foreword by C. J. Mahaney): The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches
The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective
Why I Am a Baptist
A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     14. Another objection is founded on a mode of speaking which is constantly observed both in Scripture and in common discourse. God works are said to be ours, and we are said to do what is holy and acceptable to God, just as we are said to commit sin. But if sins are justly imputed to us, as proceeding from ourselves, for the same reason (say they) some share must certainly be attributed to us in works of righteousness. It could not be accordant with reason to say, that we do those things which we are incapable of doing of our own motion, God moving us, as if we were stones. These expressions, therefore, it is said, indicate that while, in the matter of grace, we give the first place to God, a secondary place must be assigned to our agency. If the only thing here insisted on were, that good works are termed ours, I, in my turn, would reply, that the bread which we ask God to give us is also termed ours. What, then, can be inferred from the title of possession, but simply that, by the kindness and free gift of Gods that becomes ours which in other respects is by no means due to us? Therefore let them either ridicule the same absurdity in the Lord's Prayer, or let them cease to regard it as absurd, that good works should be called ours, though our only property in them is derived from the liberality of God. But there is something stronger in the fact, that we are often said in Scripture to worship God, do justice, obey the law, and follow good works. These being proper offices of the mind and will, how can they be consistently referred to the Spirit, and, at the same time, attributed to us, unless there be some concurrence on our part with the divine agency? This difficulty will be easily disposed of if we attend to the manner in which the Holy Spirit acts in the righteous. The similitude with which they invidiously assail us is foreign to the purpose; for who is so absurd as to imagine that movement in man differs in nothing from the impulse given to a stone? Nor can anything of the kind be inferred from our doctrine. To the natural powers of man we ascribe approving and rejecting, willing and not willing, striving and resisting--viz. approving vanity, rejecting solid good, willing evil and not willing good, striving for wickedness and resisting righteousness. What then does the Lord do? If he sees meet to employ depravity of this description as an instrument of his anger, he gives it whatever aim and direction he pleases, that, by a guilty hand, he may accomplish his own good work. A wicked man thus serving the power of God, while he is bent only on following his own lust, can we compare to a stone, which, driven by an external impulse, is borne along without motion, or sense, or will of its own? We see how wide the difference is. But how stands the case with the godly, as to whom chiefly the question is raised? When God erects his kingdom in them, he, by means of his Spirit, curbs their will, that it may not follow its natural bent, and be carried hither and thither by vagrant lusts; bends, frames trains, and guides it according to the rule of his justice, so as to incline it to righteousness and holiness, and establishes and strengthens it by the energy of his Spirit, that it may not stumble or fall. For which reason Augustine thus expresses himself (De Corrept. et Gratia, cap. 2), "It will be said we are therefore acted upon, and do not act. Nay, you act and are acted upon, and you then act well when you are acted upon by one that is good. The Spirit of God who actuates you is your helper in acting, and bears the name of helper, because you, too, do something." In the former member of this sentence, he reminds us that the agency of man is not destroyed by the motion of the Holy Spirit, because nature furnishes the will which is guided so as to aspire to good. As to the second member of the sentence, in which he says that the very idea of help implies that we also do something, we must not understand it as if he were attributing to us some independent power of action; but not to foster a feeling of sloth, he reconciles the agency of God with our own agency, by saying, that to wish is from nature, to wish well is from grace. Accordingly, he had said a little before, "Did not God assist us, we should not only not be able to conquer, but not able even to fight."

15. Hence it appears that the grace of God (as this name is used when regeneration is spoken of) is the rule of the Spirit, in directing and governing the human will. Govern he cannot, without correcting, reforming, renovating (hence we say that the beginning of regeneration consists in the abolition of what is ours); in like manner, he cannot govern without moving, impelling, urging, and restraining. Accordingly, all the actions which are afterwards done are truly said to be wholly his. Meanwhile, we deny not the truth of Augustine's doctrine, that the will is not destroyed, but rather repaired, by grace--the two things being perfectly consistent--viz. that the human will may be said to be renewed when its vitiosity and perverseness being corrected, it is conformed to the true standard of righteousness and that, at the same time, the will may be said to be made new, being so vitiated and corrupted that its nature must be entirely changed. There is nothing then to prevent us from saying, that our will does what the Spirit does in us, although the will contributes nothing of itself apart from grace. We must, therefore, remember what we quoted from Augustine, that some men labour in vain to find in the human will some good quality properly belonging to it. Any intermixture which men attempt to make by conjoining the effort of their own will with divine grace is corruption, just as when unwholesome and muddy water is used to dilute wine. But though every thing good in the will is entirely derived from the influence of the Spirit, yet, because we have naturally an innate power of willing, we are not improperly said to do the things of which God claims for himself all the praise; first, because every thing which his kindness produces in us is our own (only we must understand that it is not of ourselves); and, secondly, because it is our mind, our will, our study which are guided by him to what is good.

16. The other passages which they gather together from different quarters will not give much trouble to any person of tolerable understanding, who pays due attention to the explanations already given. They adduce the passage of Genesis, "Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him," (Gen. 4:7). This they interpret of sin, as if the Lord were promising Cain that the dominion of sin should not prevail over his mind, if he would labour in subduing it. We, however, maintain that it is much more agreeable to the context to understand the words as referring to Abel, it being there the purpose of God to point out the injustice of the envy which Cain had conceived against his brother. And this He does in two ways, by showing, first, that it was vain to think he could, by means of wickedness, surpass his brother in the favour of God, by whom nothing is esteemed but righteousness; and, secondly, how ungrateful he was for the kindness he had already received, in not being able to bear with a brother who had been subjected to his authority. But lest it should be thought that we embrace this interpretation because the other is contrary to our view, let us grant that God does here speak of sin. If so, his words contain either an order or a promise. If an order, we have already demonstrated that this is no proof of man's ability; if a promise, where is the fulfilment of the promise when Cain yielded to the sin over which he ought to have prevailed? They will allege a tacit condition in the promise, as if it were said that he would gain the victory if he contended. This subterfuge is altogether unavailing. For, if the dominion spoken of refers to sin, no man can have any doubt that the form of expression is imperative, declaring not what we are able, but what it is our duty to do, even if beyond our ability. Although both the nature of the case, and the rule of grammatical construction, require that it be regarded as a comparison between Cain and Abel, we think the only preference given to the younger brother was, that the elder made himself inferior by his own wickedness.

17. They appeal, moreover, to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, because he says, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," (Rom. 9:15). From this they infer, that there is something in will and endeavour, which, though weak in themselves, still, being mercifully aided by God, are not without some measure of success. But if they would attend in sober earnest to the subject there handled by Paul, they would not so rashly pervert his meaning. I am aware they can quote Origin and Jerome [184] in support of this exposition. To these I might, in my turn, oppose Augustine. But it is of no consequence what they thought, if it is clear what Paul meant. He teaches that salvation is prepared for those only on whom the Lord is pleased to bestow his mercy--that ruin and death await all whom he has not chosen. He had proved the condition of the reprobate by the example of Pharaoh, and confirmed the certainty of gratuitous election by the passage in Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Thereafter he concludes, that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. If these words are understood to mean that the will or endeavour are not sufficient, because unequal to such a task, the Apostle has not used them very appropriately. We must therefore abandon this absurd mode of arguing, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth;" therefore, there is some will, some running. Paul's meaning is more simple--there is no will nor running by which we can prepare the way for our salvation--it is wholly of the divine mercy. He indeed says nothing more than he says to Titus, when he writes, "After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us," (Titus 3:4, 5). Those who argue that Paul insinuated there was some will and some running when he said, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth," would not allow me to argue after the same fashion, that we have done some righteous works, because Paul says that we have attained the divine favour, "not by works of righteousness which we have done." But if they see a flaw in this mode of arguing, let them open their eyes, and they will see that their own mode is not free from a similar fallacy. The argument which Augustine uses is well founded, "If it is said, It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,' because neither will nor running are sufficient; it may, on the other hand, be retorted, it is not of God that showeth mercy,' because mercy does not act alone," (August. Ep. 170, ad Vital. See also Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap. 32). This second proposition being absurd, Augustine justly concludes the meaning of the words to be, that there is no good will in man until it is prepared by the Lord; not that we ought not to will and run, but that both are produced in us by God. Some, with equal unskilfulness, wrest the saying of Paul, "We are labourers together with God," (1 Cor. 3:9). There cannot be a doubt that these words apply to ministers only, who are called "labourers with God," not from bringing any thing of their own, but because God makes use of their instrumentality after he has rendered them fit, and provided them with the necessary endowments.

18. They appeal also to Ecclesiasticus, who is well known to be a writer of doubtful authority. But, though we might justly decline his testimony, let us see what he says in support of free will. His words are, "He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel; If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and perform acceptable faithfulness. He has set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him," (Ecclesiasticus 15:14-17). Grant that man received at his creation a power of acquiring life or death; what, then, if we, on the other hand, can reply that he has lost it? Assuredly I have no intention to contradict Solomon, who asserts that "God has made man upright;" that "they have sought out many inventions," (Eccl. 7:29). But since man, by degenerating, has made shipwreck of himself and all his blessings, it certainly does not follow, that every thing attributed to his nature, as originally constituted, applies to it now when vitiated and degenerate. Therefore, not only to my opponents, but to the author of Ecclesiasticus himself (whoever he may have been), this is my answer: If you mean to tell man that in himself there is a power of acquiring salvation, your authority with us is not so great as, in the least degree, to prejudice the undoubted word of God; but if only wishing to curb the malignity of the fleshy which by transferring the blame of its own wickedness to God, is wont to catch at a vain defence, you say that rectitude was given to man, in order to make it apparent he was the cause of his own destruction, I willingly assent. Only agree with me in this, that it is by his own fault he is stript of the ornaments in which the Lord at first attired him, and then let us unite in acknowledging that what he now wants is a physician, and not a defender.

19. There is nothing more frequent in their mouths than the parable of the traveller who fell among thieves, and was left half dead (Luke 10:32). I am aware that it is a common idea with almost all writers, that under the figure of the traveller is represented the calamity of the human race. Hence our opponents argue that man was not so mutilated by the robbery of sin and the devil as not to preserve some remains of his former endowments; because it is said he was left half dead. For where is the half living, unless some portion of right will and reason remain? First, were I to deny that there is any room for their allegory, what could they say? There can be no doubt that the Fathers invented it contrary to the genuine sense of the parable. Allegories ought to be carried no further than Scripture expressly sanctions: so far are they from forming a sufficient basis to found doctrines upon. And were I so disposed I might easily find the means of tearing up this fiction by the roots. The Word of God leaves no half life to man, but teaches, that, in regard to life and happiness, he has utterly perished. Paul, when he speaks of our redemption, says not that the half dead are cured (Eph. 2:5, 6; 5:14) but that those who were dead are raised up. He does not call upon the half dead to receive the illumination of Christ, but upon those who are asleep and buried. In the same way our Lord himself says, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God," (John 5:25). How can they presume to set up a flimsy allegory in opposition to so many clear statements? But be it that this allegory is good evidence, what can they extort out of it? Man is half dead, therefore there is some soundness in him. True! he has a mind capable of understanding, though incapable of attaining to heavenly and spiritual wisdom; he has some discernment of what is honourable; he has some sense of the Divinity, though he cannot reach the true knowledge of God. But to what do these amount? They certainly do not refute the doctrine of Augustine--a doctrine confirmed by the common suffrages even of the Schoolmen, that after the fall, the free gifts on which salvation depends were withdrawn, and natural gifts corrupted and defiled (supra, chap. 2 sec. 2). Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth, which no engines can shake, that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted, foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with the fetters of wickedness.


[178] The French is, "Mais c'est comme si un capitaine assembloit force gens qui ne fussent nullement duits ? la guerre pour espouvanter son ennemi. Avant que les mettre en oeuvre, il feroient grande monstre; mais s'il faloit venir en bataille et joindre eontre son ennemi on les feroit fuir du premier coup." But it is as if a captain were to assemble a large body of people, in no wise trained to war, to astonish the enemy. Before coming into action they would make a great show; but if they were to go into battle, and come to close quarters with the enemy, the first stroke would make them fly.

[179] August. Enchir. ad Laurent. de Gratia et Liber. Arbit. cap. 16. Homil 29, in Joann. Ep. 24.

[180] Joel 2:12; Jer. 31:18; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 31:18. Vid. Calvin. adv. Pighium.

[181] The French is, "Et de fait cette raison a grande apparence humainement. Car on peut deduire gue ce seroit une cruauté de Dieu,"&c.--And, in fact, humanly speaking, there is great plausibility in this argument. For, it may be maintained, that it would be cruelty in God,

[182] The French adds, "Veu qu'en cela il fait le profit de ses serviteurs et rend les iniques plus damnables;" seeing that by this he promotes the good of his servants, and renders the wicked more deserving of condemnation.

[183] The French is "Où est-ce que sera cette facilité, veu que notre natute succombe en cet endroit, et n'y a celui qui ne trebusche voulant marcher?" Where is this facility, seeing that our nature here gives way, and there is not a man who in wishing to walk does not tumble?

[184] Orig. Lig. 7 in Epist. ad Rom.--Hieron. Dial. i in Pelagium.--For the passage in Augustine, see the extract in Book 3. chap. 24 sec. 1.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Sealing of the Abrahamic Covenant—15:1–21

Arnold Fruchtenbaum | 1. The Covenantal Promise—15:1–6

     1 After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, O Lord Jehovah, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is my heir. 4 And, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This man shall not be your heir; But he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if you be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall your seed be. 6 And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.

     Verse 1 begins with a divine declaration, with the opening phrase: After these things, meaning after the events of chapter 14, after the war of the kings. This is now the third reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant. At this point: The word of Jehovah came unto Abram. This is the first mention of the phrase: the word of Jehovah; God’s word first came unto Abram. This is now the fourth appearance to Abram, and this time it came in a vision. This is also the first mention of a vision in the biblical text. There is more than one Hebrew word for vision, and the word used here is machazeh, a word found only three other times in reference to a vision of God (Num. 24:4, 24:16; Ezek. 13:7). Literally, the Hebrew reads “in the vision,” a specific vision, a divinely initiated vision. It is the vision that will lead to the actual sealing of the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s initial declaration is: Fear not, Abram. This is the first mention of the phrase Fear not. God will say this again to Isaac (26:24) and to Jacob (46:3). So all three Patriarchs at one point in their encounters with God receive the message Fear not. For Abram, this is being said in light of his courage in attacking the far superior armies of the kings. Yet the word of Jehovah comes to him and declares: Fear not, Abram, and God then gives two reasons for not fearing. The first reason is: I am your shield. A shield, of course, is a soldier’s defensive protection. In addition, what God told Abram was that God is the One who protected Abram from the four kings. This is the first mention of God as a shield. The Hebrew word is magen, as in the term Magen David, or the Shield of David, sometimes mistranslated as the “Star” of David. However, the Bible itself never speaks of a Magen David, the Shield of David; but it does speak of a Magen Avram, the Shield of Abram. The second reason not to fear is because of your [Abram’s] exceeding great reward. The way this phrase reads in the Hebrew, it could be taken in one of two different ways. The first option is that God Himself is the reward. The second option is that Abram’s reward would be very great. While the Hebrew allows for both translations as far as the end product is concerned, it does not matter because both were true. God was the reward, and God also rewarded Abram. This promise of enrichment came in light of Abram’s refusal to accept the spoils of war from the king of Sodom.

     Abram, in Genesis 15:2–3, responded in two ways. His first response is in verse 2: And Abram said, O Lord Jehovah. In Hebrew it is Adonai YHVH, the first time in the Hebrew text that the Hebrew word for Lord, Adonai, and God’s four-lettered Name, YHVH, are actually combined. This combination is used twice in this very chapter; whereas elsewhere in the Mosaic Law, it is used only twice (Deut. 3:24, 9:26). Also found here is the first actual dialogue between God and Abram. In the past, God merely appeared to Abram, or the word came to Abram to give a message or a command, but no dialogue was recorded. In this dialogue, Abram revealed what his fear actually was: What will you give me, seeing I go childless. Materially speaking, Abram had enough prosperity; what he lacked was not prosperity but posterity. Therefore, what is the value of this great reward if it cannot be transmitted? The inheritor Abram had was one of his servants: He that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, who was his chief servant. This statement is in accordance with the Code of Hammurabi and the Nuzi Tablets: A childless husband and wife were free to adopt their slave in order to have an heir to inherit their possessions. In the Hebrew text, there is a play upon words between the word for possessor, Ben-Mesek, and the word for Damascus, Damesek. Abram’s second response, in 15:3, again expressed his fear: Behold, to me you have given no seed; and the inheritor is going to be a servant: and, lo, one born in my house is my heir. Therefore, Eliezer of Damascus was his servant, born in the house of Abram, and he was the son of a servant from Damascus, not a natural son of Abram.

     Then came God’s promise, in Genesis 15:4–5, with verse 4 containing God’s declaration of the promise. For the second time in this context, it states: Behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, and God declared something to Abram, which was both negative and positive. Negatively: This man shall not be your heir; so Eliezer of Damascus will not be the heir of Abram’s wealth. The Hebrew text is quite emphatic, which literally reads as follows: “not your heir this one.” Positively: but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels [or loins] shall be your heir. The promise was that Abram would have a son directly out of his own loins. In addition, this reaffirms a previous promise about a seed. At this point, it was not stated that Sarai would be the mother, only that Abram would be the father. Then in 15:5, God gave him an illustration. The circumstance was: And he brought him forth abroad, and said. God sent Abram outside under the open sky, and what this shows is that the vision took place at night and inside a tent. But now God told him to come outside the tent where he could see the stars of the heavens, followed by the promise that his seed would become innumerable: Look now toward heaven, and number the stars. The reference to stars shows that the vision took place at night. God then points out the impossibility of counting them: if you be able to number them; and, of course, he would not be able to number the stars. That led to the promise: and he said unto him, So shall your seed be. Earlier, in 13:16, God compared Abram’s seed with the dust of the earth. Here the comparison is made with the stars of the heavens, but both illustrations mean the same thing. Some have tried to make a distinction by claiming that the dust of the earth represents the earthly seed, the Jewish nation, while the stars of the heavens represent the heavenly seed, the Church. But the Bible nowhere allows for such a distinction. In fact, in this context He was dealing with a literal son of Abram, not a spiritual son nor an adoptive son, when He gives this illustration of the stars of the heavens. God simply used two different illustrations to teach the same thing, and there is no biblical basis to teach that Israel is the earthly seed with earthly promises and the Church is the heavenly seed with heavenly promises. In fact, both Israel and the Church have earthly and heavenly promises. However, dust and stars are symbols of innumerability. In fact, three different illustrations are used to make the same point: dust (13:16, 28:14), stars (15:5, 22:17, 26:4), and the sand of the seashore (22:17, 32:12).

     Genesis 15:6 contains the declaration of Abram’s faith. This is a soteriological statement containing both the human requirement and the divine response. The human requirement is: And he believed in Jehovah. This is not sequential to verses 1–5. Obviously, Abram was already a believer as of Genesis 11–12 when he obeyed God to leave Ur of the Chaldees. This verse is a general statement concerning Abram’s life of faith, since his belief in Jehovah was already clear from 12:1 and probably even earlier, at the end of chapter 11. The content of Abram’s faith was what he heard and understood directly from God. The content of Abram’s faith was belief in the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. There was no indication that the content of Abram’s faith was belief in the Messiah as such. There is a tendency to oversimplify the difference between the Old and New by saying the Old Testament saint looked forward to the death of Messiah and the New Testament saint looks back. That is an oversimplification, and the Bible simply does not allow for it. Indeed, there always was, always is, and always will be only one means of salvation: by grace through faith. That does not change. What changes is the content of faith. What is it that one has to believe to be saved? This changes based upon what God has revealed up to any given point. What was it that Abram actually believed? The Bible does not say that he believed in the coming of the Messiah; it does not say he believed that the Messiah was going to die for his sins. It states: He believed in Jehovah. In addition, in this context, what he believed was the promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant. So concerning the salvation of Abram, the means was he believed; he exercised faith. The content of his faith was the promises of God. The object of his faith was Jehovah. The Hebrew word for believed is in the hiphil stem, and the same word will be used two more times in Genesis (42:20, 45:26). The human requirement leads to the divine response: and he reckoned it to him for righteousness; God imputed righteousness to Abram. Thus, Abram was saved by grace through faith, and the content of his faith was the promises of God. Here is the first mention of three key soteriological terms: “believe,” meaning faith in God; “reckon,” and “righteousness.”

     Before leaving this section, two general observations can be made. The first observation is that the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were unconditional promises, and that very fact of the unconditionality of the Abrahamic Covenant was recognized by rabbinic commentaries as well. Soncino quotes Rabbi Nachmanides as saying: “Having received God’s assurance, Abraham now believed that the prophecy would certainly be fulfilled, and that he was not to fear that he might forfeit it through sin.” It was an act of grace that no matter what happened to Abram personally, God’s promise regarding his descendants would stand. The second observation concerns two major elements of the Abrahamic Covenant: the seed and the Land. The seed has been the concern of 15:1–6 and the Land will be the concern of 15:7–21.

     Finally, there are three New Testament quotations and applications. First, Romans 4:3, 4:9, and 4:22 make reference to this passage to show that Abraham was saved through faith and not through works. Second, Galatians 3:6 refers to this passage to show that Abram was saved through faith and not by the works of the Law. So the only way of salvation is still by grace through faith (Rom. 3:7–9). Third, James 2:21–23 makes reference to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac to show that Abraham was justified by faith, because his willingness to sacrifice Isaac was the evidence of Abram’s faith as expressed in Genesis 15:6. The passage is cited to show that Abram’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac was evidence of his previously declared righteousness through faith. In other words, his actions were evidence of his faith in God and showed the maturity of his faith. Therefore, Abram was justified by faith, and his work of offering up Isaac was the evidence of that justification by faith.

     Arnold Fruchtenbaum | Wikepidia

The Book of Genesis, Ariel's Bible Commentary by Ph.D. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum Th.M. (2009-01-01)

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     The virtue of diligence
     1/14/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘The hand of the diligent makes rich.’

(Pr 10:4) A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

     The word diligent means ‘to cut or sharpen’, It describes a worker who’s sharp, decisive, and keen. He or she wants to work, make a difference, and contribute to their families and to society. Life ‘owes’ you nothing except an opportunity to succeed. And you’ll have to work for that success. One day two teens were talking when one said to the other, ‘I’m really worried. Dad slaves away at his job so I’ll never want for anything. He pays all my bills and sends me to college. Mum slaves every day washing, ironing, cleaning up after me, and even takes care of me when I’m sick.’ Puzzled, his friend asked, ‘So, what’re you worried about?’ He replied, ‘I’m worried the slaves might escape!’ If you’re a parent, teach your children the virtue of diligence. And don’t just preach it – live it! You’ll know you’re succeeding when they no longer feel ‘entitled’ to an allowance, and stop seeing you as a human cashpoint machine with the words ‘Give me!’ stamped on your forehead. Your children will spend over half the waking hours of their prime adult lives working, and they need to know that it was God’s idea and not a form of punishment. Some people think work was the result of the curse in Eden, but it wasn’t. God gave Adam the job of tending the garden before sin came on the scene (see Genesis 2:15). Jesus was a carpenter (see Mark 6:3). And Paul, one of the greatest Christians in history, was a tentmaker (see Acts 18:1-3). There’s nothing dishonourable about work worth doing, and work done well.

Luke 1:21-38
Psalm 4-6

UCB The Word For Today

     January 14, 2016

     I try to walk daily. It is my time with the Lord. I pray during the day and before bed, but when I walk I am sometimes, frequently surprised, convicted and sometimes saddened by the thoughts that drop into my consciousness.

     Yesterday, Wednesday, January 13, as I tried to get some better video of the ducks in Browns Ferry, I started thinking about the lottery craze and Romans 12:2. This verse tells the reader not to be conformed to the world. I bought a ticket and like so many I have a plan of what I would do if I won. It would be divided eighteen ways between Lily, me, our four sons, her brothers and my brother and sisters, two friends and three non-profits. This whole lottery craze is so typical of the world. The more I think about it the more I know I too am being conformed to the world and its corrupt systems and authorities and that makes me angry and sad.

     It is so easy to be assimilated. The rest of that verse in Romans says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. That means fixing our attention on Jesus Christ, not what we would do if we won the lottery.

     … Christian spirituality normally involves a measure of suffering. One of the times when Jesus is recorded as having used the Abba-prayer was when, in Gethsemane, he asked his Father if there was another way, if he really had to go through the horrible fate that lay in store for him. The answer was yes, he did.

     Those who follow Jesus are called to live by the rules of the new world (God’s coming world, not this one) rather than the old one, and the old one won’t like it. Although the life of heaven is designed to bring healing to the life of earth, the powers that presently run this earth have carved it up to their own advantage, and they resent any suggestion of a different way. That is why the powers—whether they are in politics or the media, in the professions or the business world—bitterly resent any suggestion from Christian leaders as to how things ought to be, even while sneering at the church for not “speaking out” on issues of the day. --- N. T. Wright

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Albert Schweitzer was born this day, January 14, 1875. He was a medical missionary who founded a hospital in the jungle village of Lambarene, Gabon, west central Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and used the prize money to build a leper colony. Overcoming innumerable difficulties, Dr. Albert Schweitzer once wrote: “One day, in my despair, I threw myself into a chair in the consulting room and groaned out: ‘What a blockhead I was to come out here to doctor savages like these!’ Whereupon his native assistant quietly remarked: ‘Yes, Doctor, here on earth you are a great blockhead, but not in heaven.’ ”

American Minute
A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     In the spring of 1935 he finished the manuscript on Meyerson and at the same time made a decision that promised to change the whole course of his life. From the days of his missionary concern for Japan, Thomas Kelly had had a steady interest for the culture of the Far East. At Earlham College, he had sought to interest his student friends in the writings and customs of the East. In the course of that spring an opportunity came to go to the University of Hawaii to teach philosophy and to assimilate what he could of the atmosphere of China and Japan as it was reflected in this curious way-station between Orient and Occident. After a long struggle to decide, he accepted it. It seemed a step into the future again. He wrote Professor Lewis of his reasons for the decision. "For a number of years I have had a desire to be acquainted with the philosophical thought of the whole world, not merely with the thought of the Western world. To live solely within one's own cultural traditions (in this case, the outgrowths of Greek culture) not actively familiar with the powerful thought of India, China and the rest impresses me as a provincialism not warranted by the spirit of philosophy itself. This point of view was in my mind sometime before I came to Harvard five years ago. And I laid out a tentative and hoped for course of life-development, which had three steps or phases. The first phase was to get an unimpeachable drill in the most rigorous philosophy department of the West. The second was to get to the Orient, in some way or other, for a period of two, three or four years (One can hardly comprehend the quest of the Buddha sitting under a maple sugar tree in a mid-west corn field). The third was to return to this country to teach and write with this world background."

     Once established at the University of Hawaii in the autumn of 1935, he saw Earlham becoming somewhat restored in stature. On first acquaintance, he found the faculty there not as cultured or as cultivated as at Earlham. "If Earlham was over-benevolent in its conceptions of a 'guarded' education, this institution is as far in the other direction." But closer contact with several of his colleagues, with his more able students, and especially with the Dean and the President whose vision for the institution he managed to catch, led him to temper his judgment before the year was out. The opportunity to associate with Chinese and Japanese scholars and the teaching of a course in Indian philosophy and a second in Chinese philosophy stirred up great enthusiasm in him. In a letter to Professor Rufus Jones, he says, "At a distance it might seem that the year here has been spent in a very restricted little field. I am reminded of the remark of a young fellow in Berlin who said to me, 'I never live an additional week in Berlin but what Bang! goes another horizon.' The horizons I have wanted to have broken, have been breaking and showing new and wonderful vistas."

A Testament of Devotion
Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7

God often visits us,
but most of the time
we are not at home.
--- Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest, 1886

The honour of the world makes us attribute to ourselves all that we do, and ends by setting us upon pedestals like little gods. Well, proud and self-complacent soul, thus deified by the honour of the world, see how the eternal, the living God abases Himself in order to confound you! Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility! Man falsely attributes to himself what belongs to God; and God, in order to teach him to humble himself, takes what belongs to man. This is the remedy for insolence! This alone can confound the honour of the world—that Hill of Calvary, that Cross of Shame, Jesus Christ the Incarnate God, our Pattern, our Master, our King.
--- Jacques Benigne Bossuet (French Catholic)

The truth value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.
--- Albert Einstein (1879-1966)

There is but a little thing (like a grain of mustard-seed), a weak thing, a foolish thing, even that which is not (to man’s eye), to overcome all this; and yet in this is the power. And here is the great deceit of man; he looks for a great, manifest power in or upon him to begin with, and doth not see how the power is in the little weak stirrings of life in the heart…
--- Isaac Penington, 1616-1679

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 3:19-20
     by D.H. Stern

19     ADONAI by wisdom founded the earth,
by understanding he established the heavens,
20     by his knowledge the deep [springs] burst open
and the dew condenses from the sky.

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

                Called of God

     Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. --- Isaiah 6:8.

     God did not address the call to Isaiah; Isaiah overheard God saying—“Who will go for us?” The call of God is not for the special few, it is for everyone. Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition. “Many are called but few are chosen,” that is, few prove themselves the chosen ones. The chosen ones are those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered and their ears unstopped, and they hear the still small voice questioning all the time—“Who will go for us?” It is not a question of God singling out a man and saying, ‘Now, you go.’ God did not lay a strong compulsion on Isaiah; Isaiah was in the presence of God and he overheard the call, and realized that there was nothing else for him but to say, in conscious freedom—“Here am I; send me.”

     Get out of your mind the idea of expecting God to come with compulsions and pleadings. When Our Lord called His disciples there was no irresistible compulsion from outside. The quiet, passionate insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men with every power wide awake. If we let the Spirit of God bring us face to face with God, we too will hear something akin to what Isaiah heard, the still small voice of God; and in perfect freedom will say—“Here am I; send me.”

My Utmost for His Highest
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


Of all the women of the fields--
     full skirt, small waist
the scarecrow is the best dressed.

She has an air about her
     which more than makes up
for her loss of face.

There is nothing between us.
     if I take her arm
there is nowhere to go.

We are alone and strollers
     of a fine day with
under us the earth's fathoms waiting.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Chiastic structure

     Chiastic structure (also called chiastic pattern or ring structure) is a literary structure used in ancient literatures including epic poetry (Odyssey and Iliad); scripture (the Torah, the Bible), as well as in the texts of other pre-modern cultures texts. Concepts or ideas are placed in a special symmetric order or pattern in a chiastic structure to emphasize them.

     For example, suppose that the first topic in a text is labeled by A, the second topic is labeled by B and the third topic is labeled by C. If the topics in the text appear in the order ABC…CBA so that the first concept that comes up is also the last, the second is the second to last, and so on, the text is said to have a chiastic structure. Also, a chiastic structure can be of the form ABBAABB…ABBA.

     Chiastic structures are sometimes called palistrophes,[1] chiasms, symmetric structures, ring structures, or concentric structures


Take Heart
     January 14

     I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. --- Exodus 20:5.

     It is in the Bible, and the Bible only, that we meet with the thought of the jealousy of God. ("Unconscious Ministries," in Wind on the Heath (original title: The Afterglow of God,)) That the unseen powers are envious of humans is an old concept. You light on it far back in ancient Greece; you detect it in a hundred superstitions. That the gods are envious and filled with a grudge against too great prosperity is one of the oldest conceptions of the mind. Such divine envy is wholly different from divine jealousy. [Envy] does not spring from a great pity; it springs from the malevolence of spite. And not until there had dawned on the world that truth so wonderful — that God is love — do you ever have the truth that God is jealous. It is the Bible and the Bible only that has convinced the world that God is love. And it is the very depth and splendor of that love, sealed in the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, that has given us the jealousy of God.

     Note that the same attitude is very evident in our Lord himself. No one can read the story of the Gospels, believing that God was incarnate in humanity, without awaking to the awful truth that the Lord our God is a jealous God. As surely as God will tolerate no rival, Jesus Christ would tolerate no rival. He makes a claim on the human heart of absolute and unconditional surrender. Even had we never heard from the Old Testament that there was such a thing as divine jealousy, we would conclude it from the life of Jesus. There were many things that Jesus tolerated that we would never have thought to find him tolerating. He bore with social abuses — with personal discourtesies — in a way that is sometimes hard to understand.

     But there was one thing Jesus never tolerated, and that was the division of his empire. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That is either stupendous arrogance — or the jealousy of God.

     A jealous God may be a dark conception, but a jealous God can never be indifferent. He loves with a love so burning and intense that he is passionately jealous for his people. And it was that great love, shown in a beauty that people had never dreamed of, that was at last revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
--- George H. Morrison

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

On This Day   January 14
     My Head to My Feet

     Walter Lewis Wilson, medical doctor and Christian, agonized over his fruitless efforts at witnessing. One day in 1913, a French missionary visiting in the Wilson home asked the doctor, “Who is the Holy Spirit to you?”

     Wilson replied, “One of the Persons of the Godhead … Teacher, Guide, Third Person of the Trinity.” The friend challenged Wilson: “You haven’t answered my question.” To this Wilson replied sadly: “He is nothing to me. I have no contact with Him and could get along quite well without Him.”

     The next year, on January 14, 1914, Wilson heard a sermon by James M. Gray, Reformed Episcopal clergyman and later president of Moody Bible Institute. Speaking from Romans 12:1, Gray leaned over the pulpit and said, “Have you noticed that this verse does not tell us to whom we should give our bodies? It is not the Lord Jesus. He has His own body. It is not the Father. He remains on His throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God gives you the indescribable honor of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be His dwelling place on earth.”

     Wilson returned home and fell on the carpet. There in the quiet of that late hour, he said, “My Lord, I have treated You like a servant. When I wanted You I called for You. Now I give You this body from my head to my feet. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. It is your body from this moment on.”

     The next morning, two ladies came to Wilson’s office selling advertising. He promptly led both to Christ, and that was the beginning of a life of evangelistic fruitfulness. Wilson later founded Central Bible Church in Kansas City, Flagstaff Indian Mission, Calvary Bible College, and he wrote the bestselling Romance of a Doctor’s Visits. “With regard to my own experience with the Holy Spirit, the transformation in my life on January 14, 1914 was much greater than the change that took place when I was saved December 21, 1896.”

     Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve God. Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.
--- Romans 12:1-2.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 14

     “Mighty to save." --- Isaiah 63:1.

     By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep his people holy after he has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ’s might doth not lie in making a believer and then leaving him to shift for himself; but he who begins the good work carries it on; he who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul, prolongs the divine existence, and strengthens it until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory. Believer, here is encouragement. Art thou praying for some beloved one? Oh, give not up thy prayers, for Christ is “mighty to save.” You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm, and rouse it to put forth its strength. Does your own case trouble you? Fear not, for his strength is sufficient for you. Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is “mighty to save;” the best proof of which lies in the fact that he has saved you. What a thousand mercies that you have not found him mighty to destroy!

          Evening - January 14

     “Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” --- Matthew 14:30.

     Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late was not too late. In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox hides to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven’s great harbour of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.

     Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.

     Our extremities are the Lord’s opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but his swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest assured that he will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can do all things; let us enlist his powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     January 14


     Edgar Page Stites, 1836–1921

     Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:3–5 KJV)

     “Simply trusting every day” along a “stormy way,” “in danger” when “the path is drear” “if the way is clear”—what a valuable lesson for each of us to learn. We are so prone to look ahead in life to see how our problems will be solved or where our path will lead. We waste much time and energy in worrying instead of simply trusting, delighting, and committing our ways to the Lord. That’s how to find His strength and wisdom to face our problems and responsibilities for tomorrow and all the days ahead. Edgar Stites, an obscure but active lay worker, had learned that spiritual lesson. He discovered that “while He leads I cannot fall.” God’s way in our lives is always far superior to the path we might have chosen.

     The writer of “Trusting Jesus” was a faithful member of the Methodist church in Cape May, New Jersey. After serving in the Civil War, he worked as a riverboat pilot and later as a home missionary in the Dakotas. He wrote several other hymns, including the very popular “Beulah Land.”

     Mr. Stites’ poem first appeared in a newspaper in 1876. It was then given to evangelist D. L. Moody, who in turn asked his associate, Ira Sankey, to compose a suitable tune for the words. The hymn was widely used in the Moody-Sankey evangelistic services, and through the years Christians have responded to the implicit, child-like faith expressed so well in this simple but inspiring hymn.

     Simply trusting ev’ry day, trusting thru a stormy way; even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus—that is all.
     Brightly does His Spirit shine into this poor heart of mine; while He leads I cannot fall, trusting Jesus—that is all.
     Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear; if in danger, for Him call, trusting Jesus—that is all.
     Chorus: Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by; trusting Him whate’er befall, trusting Jesus—that is all.

     For Today: Deuteronomy 33:25; Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 3:5; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 5:4, 5.

     Consciously commit every problem or concern to Jesus, trusting Him fully to guide you in the right way and deliver you from all useless worry. Sing this truth as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Alistair Begg
     Alistair Begg

When Tempted James 1:13

Bad Men, Weak Women 2 Timothy 3:1

The Word of Truth

Do What It Says

Genesis 41 - 42
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Genesis 41
m2-025 | 4-30-2014

Wowsy Wowsy Woo Woo Genesis 42:36
s2-026 | 5-04-2014

Walk Like An Egyptian? Genesis 42:1-6
s2-027 | 5-18-2014

Genesis 42
m2-026 | 5-21-2014

     ==============================      ==============================

Genesis 41 - 42

Agony and Ecstacy: The Book of Psalms
James Crenshaw | Vanderbilt University

Identity in Relationships
Garrett Suhr | Biola University

Lisa Igram | Biola University

Remaining Faithful
Jonathan Uyboco | Biola University

Non-Violent Communication
Graham Reside | Biola University

Is Genesis Literal History?
John MacArthur

Spiritual Social Justice
Tom Crisp | Biola University

C.S. Lewis Spiritual Formation
Houston & Hindmarsh | Biola University