Moses Given Powerful SignsExodus 4 1 1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’ ” 2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
10 But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
Moses Returns to Egypt18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”
24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The presence of Zipporah’s name indicates that the personal pronouns refer to Moses. She, judging by her action of suddenly and swiftly circumcising her son, understood that the danger to her husband’s life was intimately connected to the family’s not bearing the sign of the covenant given to Abraham for all his descendants (Gen. 17:10–14). Her evaluation, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” suggests her own revulsion with this rite of circumcision, which Moses should have performed. The result, however, was God’s foregoing the threat and letting Moses go (Ex. 4:26a). The reaction of God at this point dramatically underscored the seriousness of the sign he had prescribed. ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.
Making Bricks Without StrawExodus 5 1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ ” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” 5 And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” 6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”
10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’ ” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”
15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” 20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22 Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
God Promises DeliveranceExodus 6 1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’ ” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
10 So the LORD said to Moses, 11 “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” 12 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” 13 But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
The Genealogy of Moses and Aaron14 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. 15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. 16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. 21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. 22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. 23 Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 24 The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. 25 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans.
26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron.
28 On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
A Thorough Guide to the Non-Canonical Gospels
By J. Warner Wallace 1/17/2018
Many years ago, when I first became interested in Christianity, I encountered a book at a local bookstore entitled, The Lost Books of the Bible. As a new investigator of the claims of the New Testament, I was immediately intrigued. “What?” I thought, “There are books about Jesus that were lost?” I couldn’t help but wonder what these books said about Jesus and why they were allegedly “lost” in the first place. I bought the book and bean to research the historical texts it described. I was disappointed to discover that the book should have been titled, The Well Known, Late Lies About Jesus That Were Ignored By Christians Who Knew Better. These texts were never part of the New Testament canon. They were written late in history and rejected by everyone who knew the truth about Jesus of Nazareth.
My research into the topic resulted in a number of articles that I’ve reproduced here at ColdCaseChristainity.com. This series of posts will help you understand why such untruths about Jesus were written in the first place, what the documents said about Jesus, and why they were rejected as frauds:
Information About the General Reliability of the Non-Canonical Texts | Before surveying each text, these articles examine why such texts would be written in the first place and whether or not these documents do anything to invalidate what we know about Jesus from the reliable New Testament manuscripts:
What Motivated Early Non-Canonical Writers to Modify the Story of Jesus? | Although these late legends contain many exaggerations and lies, they built their myths and fabrications on the foundation of a true account. As we sift through the legendary claims, we can expose the true foundations upon which they crafted their stories. Once exposed, these foundations can give us even greater confidence the original story of Jesus is early and accurate, even though these late legends are not to be trusted.
Do the Non-Canonical Gospels Challenge the Historicity of the New Testament? Those who sought to change the story of Jesus in antiquity were driven by a desire to validate their theological presuppositions. We have little reason to accept late re-writes of the life and ministry of Jesus; these non-canonical fictions were rejected by the ancients who recognized their late arrival and understood the self-serving motivations of their proponents.
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.
Doubt: A Splinter In The Mind
By Bobby Conway 9/4/2015
Beyond surpassing wonder about God or mere inquiry about Him and His truth, doubt digs much deeper. Doubt doesn’t just ask, “What is real?” It poses the challenge, “Is my faith real?” Is what I believe really valid? Or is it simply a modified myth, an uber-marketed religious fairy tale supported by millions of gullible minds throughout history?
Doubt trumps wondering, and it body-slams mere curiosity. In its worst form, it goes beyond simply searching for answers to questions, inevitably denying the legitimacy of the questions themselves.
For Christians, doubt can either serve us or sink us. It can drive us to seek truth or it can drown us in despair, hopelessness, and confusion. If ignored or left unchecked, it can bore into our brain, releasing a virus of unbelief, infecting and eventually destroying every healthy thought about God. It can take us to the place where nothing else matters. Where we find ourselves loathing even life itself.
If left unchecked, intellectual doubt metastasizes, seeping its way into our emotions and collecting a wide array of fears, worries, anxieties, anger, confusion, depression, and ultimately despair at the thought of being played or duped or envisioning a life without our once “cherished belief” in God.
Horrifying so, doubt is no stranger to our time. And capturing the zeitgeist of our changing times is quite the project. We live in a multi-textured culture that is replete with innumerable beliefs, opinions, ideas, and life philosophies. Ours is a culture of doubt and longing, faith and questioning, searching and probing. And much of the doubt has been accelerated by fast-paced change. Our culture is living between the tension of what we once were and what we are now becoming. And for many, waiting in the blank space between the definition of what we were and the search to define what we are becoming feels for the moment confusing, and even a bit uncomfortable.
Bobby Conway | about
Bobby Conway Books:
Why Political Correctness Is War By Other Means
By Raffaele Ventura 1/16/2017
It is not by chance that the most fervent defenders of PC in the United States are called ‘social justice warriors,’ for behind their claims lies a permanent war.
Political correctness was not such a bad idea in the beginning. Western societies have become terribly complex, and a healthy control of language can curb the rise of conflict—although often all it takes is a touch of politeness. This is the great lesson from sixteenth-century European wars of religion: some actions and words must be left outside the public space.
Five centuries later things have escalated, and PC is now a nightmare. It does not only define some areas where it now seems impossible to say anything (for example the so-called “safe spaces” of U.S. universities) but also fails in its basic function: instead of appeasing, it provides new and endless reasons for conflict.
By identifying victims at all levels and complaining about aggressions and micro-aggressions behind every exchange of communication, PC ends up fomenting a “just war” available to everyone. It is easy to see who profits from this permanent conflict: the social class that manages it. The victory of the super-incorrect Donald Trump, a white person tit for tat, is nonetheless a sign of the frailty of this model of integration.
How Tolerance Became Crucial to Peace | Earlier, political correctness functioned differently. When the sixteenth-century political philosopher Michel de Montaigne lived, for example, those who wanted to preserve the neutrality of the public sphere were simply called “politiques.” To end the civil war between Catholics and Protestants it was imperative to break down the vicious circle of vengeance.
Raffaele Ventura is an italian journalist, editor and independent researcher in the field of Culture Industry and Cultural History. His work has been published in IL, Internazionale, Linus, Philosophy Now and elsewhere. @eschatonit”
Ancient tablets reveal life of Jews in Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon
By Luke Baker 2/3/2015
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A new exhibition of ancient clay tablets discovered in modern-day Iraq is shedding light for the first time on the daily life of Jews exiled to Babylon some 2,500 years ago.
The exhibition is based on more than 100 cuneiform tablets, each no bigger than an adult's palm, that detail transactions and contracts between Judeans driven from, or convinced to move from, Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar around 600 BC.
Archaeologists got their first chance to see the tablets -- acquired by a wealthy London-based Israeli collector -- barely two years ago. They were blown away.
"It was like hitting the jackpot," said Filip Vukosavovic, an expert in ancient Babylonia, Sumeria and Assyria who curated the exhibition at Jerusalem's Bible Lands Museum.
"We started reading the tablets and within minutes we were absolutely stunned. It fills in a critical gap in understanding of what was going on in the life of Judeans in Babylonia more than 2,500 years ago."
Luke Baker joined Reuters as a correspondent in 1997 and has worked across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2003, he was embedded with U.S. troops for the invasion of Iraq and spent nearly three years in the country, following the U.S. occupation and the descent into sectarian war. He is now based in Jerusalem as Reuters' bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Luke was born and raised in the UK, attending school in Dorset, before winning a scholarship to the United States. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995, with a degree in English and international affairs. His first job was as a news writer for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in New York. After stringing for USA Today, he joined Reuters in Johannesburg, South Africa and spent three years covering the region, including civil wars in Angola and Congo and events in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Swaziland. He has also had long-term postings in Rome, Jerusalem, London and Brussels, and brief stints in bureaux from Cairo to Kabul. He is married with three daughters.
Luke Baker Books:
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 9I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds
9 To The Choirmaster: According To Muth-Labben. A Psalm Of David.
17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
19 Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O LORD!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah
The Culture War and the Benedict Option: An Interview with Rod Dreher
By Michael Schulson 3/7/2017
“The culture war as we knew it is over,” writes the conservative Christian blogger and author Rod Dreher in his new book, The Benedict Option. “The so-called values voters—social and religious conservatives—have been defeated and are being swept to the political margins.” The election of Donald Trump, Dreher argues, is no solution. “The idea that someone as robustly vulgar, fiercely combative, and morally compromised as Trump will be an avatar for the restoration of Christian morality and social unity is beyond delusional,” he writes.
Dreher sees threats everywhere—secularization, individualism, changing sexual mores, a decline in religious liberty protections—and his diagnosis is grim. He writes that “we in the modern West are living under barbarism.” Dreher’s solution is a kind of civic retreat.
Enter the Benedict Option, as Dreher has branded it. He takes the Benedictine order of Catholic monks as inspiration for a kind of DIY monasticism (the subheader for one of the book’s sections is “Turn Your Home into a Domestic Monastery”). Conservative Christians, Dreher argues, should pull their kids from public schools and “mediocre Christian schools,” expend less energy on national politics, “secede culturally from the mainstream,” and work to build strong, tight-knit Christian communities that can ride out the coming secular storm. The image on the book’s cover is of Mont Saint-Michel, a fortified island monastery in France.
Michael Schulson is a freelance journalist covering religion, science, and technology. He lives in Durham, N.C.
How an Orthodox Rabbi Became an Unlikely Ally of the Christian Right
By Michael Schulson 2/14/2017
Who is Michael Schulson? I'd like to know.
“We are in a third world war,” said Shlomo Riskin, slamming his fist on the table. We were sitting in a windowless room in the D.C. convention center, and Riskin, an Orthodox rabbi, was explaining how he had ended up here, at the annual summit of Christians United For Israel, giving a speech to thousands of conservative evangelicals.
Riskin kept banging on the table. “If you have eyes to see, extremist Islam has taken over Islam. And this is the third world war!”
Riskin is one of the most influential rabbis of his generation. Now an Israeli, he was born and raised in Brooklyn. As a young man, Riskin voted for Democrats. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma. He officiated at a young Elena Kagan’s bat mitzvah and advocated for women’s rights. Over time, he developed a reputation as a religious progressive.
Michael Schulson is a freelance journalist covering religion, science, and technology. He lives in Durham, N.C.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
12. The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more
closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in
whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For
although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger
of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the
Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they
still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling
them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of
the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this
knowledge; just as a servant who desires with all his soul to approve
himself to his master, must still observe, and be careful to ascertain
his master's dispositions, that he may comport himself in accommodation
to them. Let none of us deem ourselves exempt from this necessity, for
none have as yet attained to such a degree of wisdom, as that they may
not, by the daily instruction of the Law, advance to a purer knowledge
of the Divine will. Then, because we need not doctrine merely, but
exhortation also, the servant of God will derive this further advantage
from the Law: by frequently meditating upon it, he will be excited to
obedience, and confirmed in it, and so drawn away from the slippery
paths of sin. In this way must the saints press onward, since, however
great the alacrity with which, under the Spirit, they hasten toward
righteousness, they are retarded by the sluggishness of the flesh, and
make less progress than they ought. The Law acts like a whip to the
flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of
a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of
the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he
would indulge in sloth. David had this use in view when he pronounced
this high eulogium on the Law, "The law of the Lord is perfect,
converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the
simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the
commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes," (Ps. 19:7, 8).
Again, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,"
(Ps. 119:105). The whole psalm abounds in passages to the same effect.
Such passages are not inconsistent with those of Paul, which show not
the utility of the law to the regenerate, but what it is able of itself
to bestow. The object of the Psalmist is to celebrate the advantages
which the Lord, by means of his law, bestows on those whom he inwardly
inspires with a love of obedience. And he adverts not to the mere
precepts, but also to the promise annexed to them, which alone makes
that sweet which in itself is bitter. For what is less attractive than
the law, when, by its demands and threatening, it overawes the soul,
and fills it with terror? David specially shows that in the law he saw
the Mediator, without whom it gives no pleasure or delight.
13. Some unskilful persons, from not attending to this, boldly discard the whole law of Moses, and do away with both its Tables, imagining it unchristian to adhere to a doctrine which contains the ministration of death. Far from our thoughts be this profane notion. Moses has admirably shown that the Law, which can produce nothing but death in sinners, ought to have a better and more excellent effect upon the righteous. When about to die, he thus addressed the people, "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life," (Deut. 32:46, 47). If it cannot be denied that it contains a perfect pattern of righteousness, then, unless we ought not to have any proper rule of life, it must be impious to discard it. There are not various rules of life, but one perpetual and inflexible rule; and, therefore, when David describes the righteous as spending their whole lives in meditating on the Law (Psalm 1:2), we must not confine to a single age, an employment which is most appropriate to all ages, even to the end of the world. Nor are we to be deterred or to shun its instructions, because the holiness which it prescribes is stricter than we are able to render, so long as we bear about the prison of the body. It does not now perform toward us the part of a hard taskmaster, who will not be satisfied without full payment; but, in the perfection to which it exhorts us, points out the goal at which, during the whole course of our lives, it is not less our interest than our duty to aim. It is well if we thus press onward. Our whole life is a race, and after we have finished our course, the Lord will enable us to reach that goal to which, at present, we can only aspire in wish.
14. Since, in regard to believers, the law has the force of exhortation, not to bind their consciences with a curse, but by urging them, from time to time, to shake off sluggishness and chastise imperfection,--many, when they would express this exemption from the curse, say, that in regard to believers the Law (I still mean the Moral Law) is abrogated: not that the things which it enjoins are no longer right to be observed, but only that it is not to believers what it formerly was; in other words, that it does not, by terrifying and confounding their consciences, condemn and destroy. It is certainly true that Paul shows, in clear terms, that there is such an abrogation of the Law. And that the same was preached by our Lord appears from this, that he would not have refuted the opinion of his destroying the Law, if it had not been prevalent among the Jews. Since such an opinion could not have arisen at random without some pretext, there is reason to presume that it originated in a false interpretation of his doctrine, in the same way in which all errors generally arise from a perversion of the truth. But lest we should stumble against the same stone, let us distinguish accurately between what has been abrogated in the Law, and what still remains in force. When the Lord declares, that he came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil (Mt. 5:17); that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or little shall remain unfulfilled; he shows that his advent was not to derogate, in any degree, from the observance of the Law. And justly, since the very end of his coming was to remedy the transgression of the Law. Therefore, the doctrine of the Law has not been infringed by Christ, but remains, that, by teaching, admonishing, rebuking, and correcting, it may fit and prepare us for every good work.
15. What Paul says, as to the abrogation of the Law, evidently applies not to the Law itself, but merely to its power of constraining the conscience. For the Law not only teaches, but also imperiously demands. If obedience is not yielded, nay, if it is omitted in any degree, it thunders forth its curse. For this reason, the Apostle says, that "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them," (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26). Those he describes as under the works of the Law, who do not place righteousness in that forgiveness of sins by which we are freed from the rigour of the Law. He therefore shows, that we must be freed from the fetters of the Law, if we would not perish miserably under them. But what fetters? Those of rigid and austere exaction, which remits not one iota of the demand, and leaves no transgression unpunished. To redeem us from this curse, Christ was made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Deut. 21:23, compared with Gal. 3:13, 4:4). In the following chapter, indeed, he says, that "Christ was made under the law, in order that he might redeem those who are under the law;" but the meaning is the same. For he immediately adds, "That we might receive the adoption of sons." What does this mean? That we might not be, all our lifetime, subject to bondage, having our consciences oppressed with the fear of death. Meanwhile, it must ever remain an indubitable truth, that the Law has lost none of its authority, but must always receive from us the same respect and obedience.
16. The case of ceremonies is different, these having been abrogated not in effect but in use only. Though Christ by his advent put an end to their use, so far is this from derogating from their sacredness, that it rather commends and illustrates it. For as these ceremonies would have given nothing to God's ancient people but empty show, if the power of Christ's death and resurrection had not been prefigured by them,--so, if the use of them had not ceased, it would, in the present day, be impossible to understand for what purpose they were instituted. Accordingly, Paul, in order to prove that the observance of them was not only superfluous, but pernicious also, says that they "are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ," (Col. 2:17). We see, therefore, that the truth is made clearer by their abolition than if Christ, who has been openly manifested, were still figured by them as at a distance, and as under a veil. By the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was rent in vain, the living and express image of heavenly things, which had begun to be dimly shadowed forth, being now brought fully into view, as is described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:1). To the same effect, our Saviour declares, that "the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it," (Luke 16:16); not that the holy fathers were left without the preaching of the hope of salvation and eternal life, but because they only saw at a distance, and under a shadow, what we now behold in full light. Why it behaved the Church to ascend higher than these elements, is explained by John the Baptist, when he says, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," (John 1:17). For though it is true that expiation was promised in the ancient sacrifices, and the ark of the covenant was a sure pledge of the paternal favour of God, the whole would have been delusory had it not been founded on the grace of Christ, wherein true and eternal stability is found. It must be held as a fixed point, that though legal rites ceased to be observed, their end serves to show more clearly how great their utility was before the advent of Christ, who, while he abolished the use, sealed their force and effect by his death.
17. There is a little more difficulty in the following passage of Paul: "You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross," &c. (Col. 2:13, 14). He seems to extend the abolition of the Law considerably farther, as if we had nothing to do with its injunctions. Some err in interpreting this simply of the Moral Law, as implying the abolition not of its injunctions, but of its inexorable rigour. Others examining Paul's words more carefully, see that they properly apply to the Ceremonial Law, and show that Paul repeatedly uses the term ordinance in this sense. He thus writes to the Ephesians: "He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man," (Eph. 2:14). There can be no doubt that he is there treating of ceremonies, as he speaks of "the middle wall of partition" which separated Jews and Gentiles. I therefore hold that the former view is erroneous; but, at the same time, it does not appear to me that the latter comes fully up to the Apostle's meaning. For I cannot admit that the two passages are perfectly parallel. As his object was to assure the Ephesians that they were admitted to fellowship with the Jews, he tells them that the obstacle which formerly stood in the way was removed. This obstacle was in the ceremonies. For the rites of ablution and sacrifice, by which the Jews were consecrated to the Lord, separated them from the Gentiles. But who sees not that, in the Epistle to the Colossians, a sublimer mystery is adverted to? No doubt, a question is raised there as to the Mosaic observances, to which false apostles were endeavouring to bind the Christian people. But as in the Epistle to the Galatians he takes a higher view of this controversy, and in a manner traces it to its fountain, so he does in this passage also. For if the only thing considered in rites is the necessity of observing them, of what use was it to call it a handwriting which was contrary to us? Besides, how could the bringing in of it be set down as almost the whole sum of redemption? Wherefore, the very nature of the case clearly shows that reference is here made to something more internal. I cannot doubt that I have ascertained the genuine interpretation, provided I am permitted to assume what Augustine has somewhere most truly affirmed, nay, derived from the very words of the Apostle--viz. that in the Jewish ceremonies there was more a confession than an expiation of sins. For what more was done in sacrifice by those who substituted purifications instead of themselves, than to confess that they were conscious of deserving death? What did these purifications testify but that they themselves were impure? By these means, therefore, the handwriting both of their guilt and impurity was ever and anon renewed. But the attestation of these things was not the removal of them. Wherefore, the Apostle says that Christ is "the mediator of the new testament,--by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament," (Heb. 9:15). Justly, therefore, does the Apostle describe these handwritings as against the worshipers, and contrary to them, since by means of them their impurity and condemnation were openly sealed. There is nothing contrary to this in the fact that they were partakers of the same grace with ourselves. This they obtained through Christ, and not through the ceremonies which the Apostle there contrasts with Christ, showing that by the continued use of them the glory of Christ was obscured. We perceive how ceremonies, considered in themselves, are elegantly and appositely termed handwritings, and contrary to the salvation of man, in as much as they were a kind of formal instruments which attested his liability. On the other hand, when false apostles wished to bind them on the Christian Church, Paul, entering more deeply into their signification, with good reason warned the Colossians how seriously they would relapse if they allowed a yoke to be in that way imposed upon them. By so doing, they, at the same time, deprived themselves of all benefit from Christ, who, by his eternal sacrifice once offered, had abolished those daily sacrifices, which were indeed powerful to attest sin, but could do nothing to destroy it.
 See among the works of Justin. Quæst. 103; and Hieronymus ad Ctesiphont adv. Pelegianos, where he seems to admit and deny the same proposition.
 Book 2. chap. 12 sec. 4; and Book 3, chap. 4 sec. 27; and chap. 11 sec 23.
 August. de Corrept. et Gratia. Ambros. Lib. 1 de Jac. et cap. 6 de Vita Beat.
 August. Ep. 89, Quæst. 2; ad Assell. Ep. 200; ad Innocent. Ep. 95; Lib. de Corrept. et Gratia ad Valent.; in Ps. 70 et 117; Item, Concio. 27.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Finding Contentment Through Boasting
By Tyler Kenney 8/01/2017
It is a sad condition of our fallen hearts that when we see God’s goodness to others, so often instead of rejoicing with them and praising God, we become envious, antagonistic to their happiness, and discontent with our own situation. Instead of celebrating and blessing God for the good things He has given them—a happy marriage, children, natural abilities and talents, financial or ministry success—we feel threatened, excluded, or neglected.
This sinful response is common to all people, but it is a struggle for Christians because we know our hearts should not respond this way. We know that God has already been unspeakably gracious to us by giving us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3), and that we should be perfectly content with whatever comes to us because we already have all things (1 Cor. 3:21).
But knowing God’s Word and obeying it from the heart are different things, and often in our sanctification we feel the gap between them. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit does not leave us to make up this difference on our own but equips and empowers us to do as He has commanded.
One passage that can be particularly helpful in the fight for contentment is found in Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses a problem the church is having with personality cults, where some are saying, “I follow Paul,” and others, “I follow Apollos,” and there is quarreling and division among them. In his analysis of this behavior, Paul discerns that their rallying around well-known preachers stems from a worldly desire to exalt themselves through association. In other words, by favoring a particular church leader, the people are trying to puff themselves up (4:6). Rather than being content with who they are or what they have, they are attempting to place themselves above others in the church.
Some among them favor Paul, most likely because he was an Apostle and the first to bring the gospel and establish the church in Corinth. Many would have learned the basics of the faith under Paul while he taught the Word of God to them for eighteen months (Acts 18:11). A few could even boast of having been baptized by him (1 Cor. 1:14–16).
Others in the church favor Apollos. Unlike Paul, who spoke “not with words of eloquent wisdom” but “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1:17; 2:3), Apollos was “an eloquent man” and, while in Corinth, he “powerfully refuted the Jews in public” (Acts 18:24–28). Perhaps those who boasted in him were among his disciples and had come to share in his gifts and reputation.
In addition to these, there are other groups in the church who, for one reason or another, place their boast in Cephas or Christ over against the rest (1 Cor. 1:12). Each group has its chosen champion, and certainly they are leaders worthy to be followed, but Paul discerns in all of these factions not the noble outcome of spiritual loyalty or conviction, but plain and simple worldliness. “Merely human” behavior, he calls it (3:4), and as part of his correction, he reminds the church why, instead of being divided, they ought rather to be united. He writes,
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1:26–29)
Against the Corinthians’ tribalism, Paul reestablishes the ground for their unity by reminding them of what they have in common: they are all essentially a band of nobodies whom, precisely on account of their lack of distinction, God has been pleased to call His own. No matter how much they may try to surpass one another, they are all so insignificant that any such competition between them is inconsequential. What is more, being the wisest, most powerful, or most distinguished is not what God cares about. In fact, as seen in 1:29–31, being great “according to worldly standards” (v. 26) and placing confidence in that (boasting in self) is the antithesis to the reason that God chose them. He elected them and united them with Christ Jesus so that Christ might be their “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
The Corinthians’ attempts to exalt themselves fly in the face of God’s purposes for them in Christ, which are that “no human being might boast in the presence of God” but instead that they would acknowledge and own all that Christ has done for them and “boast in the Lord.”
This passage reminds us of what does and does not make for true contentment. Seeking to exalt ourselves through our own accomplishments or associations is a deception that divides Christ’s church and robs Him of the glory that belongs to Him alone. This is the problem with envying others’ blessings and becoming discontented: it reveals that we are seeking significance in earthly accolades, possessions, or power, all of which ultimately fail.
True contentment comes when our boast is in the Lord. It comes when we remember our complete unworthiness to be given any good thing, receive God’s “inexpressible gift to us in Christ Jesus” (2 Cor. 9:15), and recognize with heartfelt gratitude and overflowing praise that every gift, whether to us or to others, is wisely and lovingly given by God in accordance with His good purposes for all His people.
The Need for Rural Ministry
By Kyle Borg 8/01/2017
In the evening glow of the setting sun, I can stand on my front step and gaze down the street, taking in the full length and width of the community I am glad to call home. Fading letters that almost spell “Winchester” on the weather-beaten water tower—the sole object in our skyline — are a fitting reflection of a small town that is modest but not altogether unattractive. This rural community does not offer much economically. It will never be a place of significant cultural influence or worldly success. Nevertheless, I have a settled indifference, because I am convinced that the gospel has much to offer and can have a profound influence in the forgotten places of rural America. What gives me that confidence? Jesus does.
Small and rural towns were not peripheral to the life and ministry of Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem, which was not, even in His time, a booming city (Mic. 5:2). When His family returned from Egypt, He was raised in Nazareth, which was not an epicenter of potential but an obscure village nestled among the hills (Luke 4:29; John 1:46). During His ministry, He intentionally preached in towns and villages (Mark 1:38; Luke 13:22), and sent out the Twelve with the assumption that they would do the same (Matt. 10:11). He taught that the summons of the kingdom was to be heralded even to the out-of-the-way and irrelevant places in order to fill His Father’s house (Luke 14:23). In reading the Gospels, it is undeniable that Jesus had a heart for ministry in rural and small towns.
One must wonder, however, if the contemporary church shares Jesus’ heart on this matter. The rural population of the United States accounts for 15–20 percent of the general population, or between forty-five million and sixty million people. To put that in perspective, this number is greater than the populations of the vast majority of independent countries in the world, and it is a population ranking in size between the populations of Italy and France.
In the last thirty years, however, a significant movement has devoted much of the church’s resources and people to planting and growing churches in the city. Without diminishing the good this has accomplished, we can raise reflective questions. Has an enthusiasm for planting churches uprooted a devotion to the equally necessary and Apostolic work of revitalization? Has an overdependence on the economy been more formative for our ministries than the universal call of Jesus? Has the pursuit of influence produced a partiality against the least influential? Has a vision for urban centers overlooked small communities? Has the light and noise of the city blinded and deafened us to the critical and spiritual needs of rural America?
The twentieth (and now twenty-first) century had a devastating effect on the regions of Appalachia in the East, the farms of the Midwest, and the fishing and forestry areas along the coastlines. Mechanization and industrialization have motivated a rural exodus, leaving depleted populations, economies, and communities. But the social realities confronting these places pale in comparison to the spiritual crisis of these rural communities. Substance abuse, poverty, suicide, broken families, tragedy, and danger—at rates that are proportionally higher than in the city—betray a shared sense of fear, pessimism, and discouragement.
These issues have spiritual causes and effects. The only thing capable of speaking meaningfully of these problems is the gospel. Unfortunately, as rural towns have declined, so too has the presence of Christian witness. Churches that at one time were the center of community life now grapple with diminishing budgets, aging membership, empty pews, and the desire that many young people—including pastors—have for the opportunities and conveniences of the city. When these congregations are forced to close their doors, it is the end of a ministry that has likely existed for a century or more. Communities are left without any witness to Jesus Christ and the glory of His gospel.
This should motivate the church to think and act upon the need for rural ministry. This begins, of course, with those who already find themselves in that context. It is easy to wallow in self-pity at the way the rural church is neglected or give in to defeat because the resources seem lacking. It is easy to despair because success seems impossible. But the truth remains: there are millions of people in rural communities who are not worshiping Jesus. He calls His church not to worldly success but to faithfulness. He does not ask us to steward resources we do not have; He asks us to be faithful with what we do have. He does not demand from us worldly recognition but reminds us that a cup of cold water in His name has eternal benefits. The rural church must fulfill the ministry of gathering and perfecting the saints because that is the work Jesus has given us to do.
Rural America needs to be seen (and invested in) by the broader church as a mission field. It might be a bold suggestion, but we should embrace the extreme challenge of planting in small towns with courage and resolve. Yet it cannot end there. More can be done to encourage people toward the arduous work of revitalizing that which is growing weak. In the words of Charles Spurgeon:
To me, it seems it should be your glory to join in the poorest and weakest churches of your denomination and wherever you go, to say, “This little cause is not as strong as I should like it to be, but by the grace of God, I will make it more influential. At any rate, I will throw my weight to strengthen the weak things of Zion, and certainly I will not despise the day of small things.”
Rural ministry is worth our time and effort because the Lamb is worthy to receive the reward of His suffering—a reward that is, I am convinced, present even in the rural communities of our world.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
The difference between Samson and Samuel (3)
1/19/2018 Bob Gass
‘The LORD your God was your king.’
(1 Sa 12:12) And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king. ESV
Difference three: Motives. Samson repeatedly dishonoured the Lord by his actions and his lifestyle. That’s because he had no regard for God’s honour. What a contrast Samuel was! When Israel wanted a king in order to be like all the surrounding nations, it broke his heart. He said to the people, ‘The LORD your God was your king.’ Honouring God was his highest priority. And there’s a lesson here for us, especially those in ministry. Every time someone steps behind a pulpit, they must check their ego and ask themselves the motive question: ‘Is my aim to make God look good, or myself look good?’ And it’s a hard question to answer. The Bible says, ‘For the LORD is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed’ (1 Samuel 2:3 NKJV). The truth is that without the power of God’s indwelling Spirit, none of us have what it takes to do the job, and we must never forget that. The tragedy of Samson’s end is described in these two Scriptures: ‘He awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him’ (Judges 16:20 NKJV). ‘So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them’ (v. 25 NKJV). Note the word perform. Without God’s grace and power we are all, at best, just performers. So stay humble, and seek only to exalt the Lord.
UCB The Word For Today
January 19, 2016
Funny how the brain introduces unexpected thoughts. This morning I was thinking about a conversation I had with one of my directees last year about prayer. I was trying to make the point that the Lord’s Prayer covers all the bases, especially God’s will be done. I pointed out that God answered Hezekiah’s prayer for longer life (Isaiah 38) after the prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah his sickness would lead to death. During that extra fifteen years Hezekiah had a son and his name was Manasseh. Manasseh was the most evil king of all Judah’s kings. My directee told me not to forget that great was Manasseh’s repentance. He reigned longer than any other king from Judah or Israel and he died peacefully in his own bed. I had to go reread the story. One more point then that great is God’s forgiveness. (2 Kings 20:21-21:18 and 2 Chronicles 33:10-20)
Philosopher André Comte-Sponville writes poignantly about the beauty of humility: “Humility may be the most religious of virtues. How one longs to kneel down in churches!” But he said he could not bring himself to do this because he would have to believe that God created him, and human beings seem to him too wretched to permit that possibility. “To believe in God would be a sin of pride.”
Anne R. Cousin
The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for –
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.
The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.
O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit –
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.
Philosopher André Comte-Sponville writes poignantly about the beauty of humility: “Humility may be the most religious of virtues. How one longs to kneel down in churches!” But he said he could not bring himself to do this because he would have to believe that God created him, and human beings seem to him too wretched to permit that possibility. “To believe in God would be a sin of pride.”Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by Bill Federer
William Orville Douglas died this day, January 19, 1980. He was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 36 years, after teaching law at Yale and Columbia University. In the 1952 case of Zorach v. Clauson, Justice William Douglas asserted: “The First Amendment… does not say that in every respect there shall be a separation of Church and State…. Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other.” Justice Douglas continued: “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being…. When the state encourages religious instruction… it follows the best of our traditions.”
Thomas R. Kelly
He went to the Germantown Friends' Meeting at Coulter Street to deliver three lectures in January 1938. He told me that the lectures wrote themselves. At Germantown, people were deeply moved and said, "This is authentic." His writings and spoken messages began to be marked by a note of experimental authority. "To you in this room who are seekers, to you, young and old who have toiled all night and caught nothing, but who want to launch out into the deeps and let down your nets for a draught, I want to speak as simply, as tenderly, as clearly as I can. For God can be found. There is a last rock for your souls, a resting place of absolute peace and joy and power and radiance and security. There is a Divine Center into which your life can slip, a new and absolute orientation in God, a Center where you live with Him and out of which you see all of life, through new and radiant vision, tinged with new sorrows and pangs, new joys unspeakable and full of glory." It was the same voice, the same pen, the same rich imagery that always crowded his writing, and on the whole a remarkably similar set of religious ideas. But now he seemed to be expounding less as one possessed of "knowledge about" and more as one who had had unmistakable "acquaintance with." In April 1938, he wrote to Rufus Jones, "The reality of Presence has been very great at times recently. One knows at first-hand what the old inquiry meant, 'Has Truth been advancing among you?’ “
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Faith requires no apology.
And, if faith in God creates the problem,
it is surely understandable
that faith in God is going to answer it.
--- James S. Stewart
The course of human history consists of a series of encounters… in which each man or woman or child… is challenged by God to make [the] free choice between doing God’s will and refusing to do it. When Man refuses, he is free to make his refusal and to take the consequences.
--- Arnold Joseph Toynbee
The way of God was ever hated by the world and the powers thereof. Never heed the rough spirits nor the heavy, for their bound is set, and their limit known; but mind the Seed, which hath dominion over all. And forsake not the assembling of yourselves together in which you have found God and his promise and power and blessing amongst you, your understanding opened.
--- Francis Howgill, 1618-1668
That book, (The Bible) Sir, is the Rock upon which our republic rests.
--- Andrew Jackson
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
14 Don’t follow the path of the wicked
or walk on the way of evildoers.
15 Avoid it, don’t go on it,
turn away from it, and pass on.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Vision and darkness
An horror of great darkness fell upon him. --- Genesis 15:12.
Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He puts him, as it were, in the shadow of His hand, and the saint’s duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is an illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfil His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on commonsense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but stay upon God (cf. Isaiah 50:10, 11).
Have I any confidence in the flesh? Or have I got beyond all confidence in myself and in men and women of God, in books and prayers and ecstasies; and is my confidence placed now in God Himself, not in His blessings? “I am the Almighty God” — El-Shaddai, the Father - Mother God. The one thing for which we are all being disciplined is to know that God is real. As soon as God becomes real, other people become shadows. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever perturb the one who is built on God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The fifteenth passes with drums
and in armour;
the monk watches it
through the mind's grating.
The sixteenth puts on its cap and bells
to poach vocabulary from a king's laughter.
The seventeenth wears a collar of lace
at its neck,
the flesh running from thought's candle.
The eighteenth has a high fever
and hot blood,
but clears its nostrils with the snuff of wit.
The nineteenth emerges from history's cave
rubbing its eyes at the glass prospect.
The twentieth is what is looked forward to
beating its wings at windows
that are not there.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.
--- John 14:2.
It is the Father’s house, a paternal home. (Classic Sermons on Heaven and Hell (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) The Father is needed to make it a home in any sense; needed to give the heart rest either on earth or in heaven. Those who inquire into the facts and laws of the world and find no God in it have made themselves homeless. Those who have found human affection but no God beneath it have found only the shadow of a home. Thought and affection are shallow, short-lived things without him—the Father of our spirits—who sets the solidarity in families.
It is to teach us this that God has made a father’s love the bond of a true human household. You recollect how Joseph, when he spoke with his brothers, could not rest until he had an answer to his question, “How is your aged father?” The good of the land of Egypt would have been empty and its glory gone without his father to look on and share it with him. It is not that love like this leads us to think of having a father in God; God himself, desiring to be our Father, has put this love into our hearts that it may reflect his own. Let a soul but once awake truly to the feeling of its misery, if it is orphaned in the universe—no pitying eye looking down on its solitude, no hand to guide its wanderings or hold it up in its weakness, no infinite heart to which it can bring its own when wounded and bleeding—let it see, or think it sees, that the world is fatherless and that there is no hope beyond the grave for those that are broken in their hearts and grieved in their minds, and I cannot understand how that soul would not be stricken with despair. If it were possible to enter heaven and find no Father there, heaven would be the grave of hope. But what will make the heavenly house a home is that it will have not friends and brothers and sisters only, but a Father whose presence will fill it and make itself felt in every pulse of every heart.
--- John Ker
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The mixing of politics and spirituality can be explosive for a head of state or the head of a church—and especially when both heads occupy one set of shoulders.
The English Reformation occurred when divorce-prone King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Anglican church, replacing the pope. But it didn’t satisfy those desiring genuine renewal. The Puritans didn’t feel Henry went far enough in purifying the church from the “rags of popery” and returning it to the Scriptures.
Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, opposed the Puritans. Her successor, King James I, threatened at the Hampton Court Conference to “harry them out of the kingdom.” But it was James’s son, Charles I, who lost his head over them.
Charles was born in 1600 and assumed the throne 25 years later. He was deeply religious and morally unsullied, a perfect family man. He was an obstinate monarch, however, and committed to the divine right of kings. He took a Catholic wife and appointed a Catholic-leaning archbishop of Canterbury. He oppressed the Puritans, and thousands of them fled to America; the rest stayed and simmered.
Charles ruled long without a Parliament, but when he tried to force changes in the Scottish church, his northern kingdom revolted. Needing money and arms, Charles at last summoned Parliament. But it proved even more opposed to Charles than the Scots, and when Charles attempted to arrest its leaders, civil war erupted. Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan forces, aided by the Scots, defeated the king’s supporters in 1645.
On January 19, 1649, King Charles was placed on trial. The judges sat on a raised dais at one end of Westminster Hall, soldiers stood at the other end, and Charles sat alone in the center. The drama gripped the nation, and in the end the king, condemned, went to the scaffold calmly. His head was severed with one swing of the ax while a groan rose from the horrified crowd. If he could have governed his kingdom as he had cared for his family, they said, he would have been among England’s greatest monarchs.
He didn’t, and the head of the head of the Anglican church was lost.
We humans make plans, but the LORD has the final word.
We may think we know what is right,
but the LORD is the judge of our motives.
--- Proverbs 16:1,2.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 19
“I sought him, but I found him not." --- Song of Solomon 3:1.
Tell me where you lost the company of a Christ, and I will tell you the most likely place to find him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there you must seek and find him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and seeking by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust doth dwell. Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, “Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there.” So look for Christ where you lost him, for he has not gone away. But it is hard work to go back for Christ. Bunyan tells us, the pilgrim found the piece of the road back to the Arbour of Ease, where he lost his roll, the hardest he had ever travelled. Twenty miles onward is easier than to go one mile back for the lost evidence.
Take care, then, when you find your Master, to cling close to him. But how is it you have lost him? One would have thought you would never have parted with such a precious friend, whose presence is so sweet, whose words are so comforting, and whose company is so dear to you! How is it that you did not watch him every moment for fear of losing sight of him? Yet, since you have let him go, what a mercy that you are seeking him, even though you mournfully groan, “O that I knew where I might find him!” Go on seeking, for it is dangerous to be without thy Lord. Without Christ you are like a sheep without its shepherd; like a tree without water at its roots; like a sere leaf in the tempest—not bound to the tree of life. With thine whole heart seek him, and he will be found of thee: only give thyself thoroughly up to the search, and verily, thou shalt yet discover him to thy joy and gladness.
Evening - January 19
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.”
--- Luke 24:45.
He whom we viewed last evening as opening Scripture, we here perceive opening the understanding. In the first work he has many fellow-labourers, but in the second he stands alone; many can bring the Scriptures to the mind, but the Lord alone can prepare the mind to receive the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus differs from all other teachers; they reach the ear, but he instructs the heart; they deal with the outward letter, but he imparts an inward taste for the truth, by which we perceive its savour and spirit. The most unlearned of men become ripe scholars in the school of grace when the Lord Jesus by his Holy Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to them, and grants the divine anointing by which they are enabled to behold the invisible. Happy are we if we have had our understandings cleared and strengthened by the Master! How many men of profound learning are ignorant of eternal things! They know the killing letter of revelation, but its killing spirit they cannot discern; they have a veil upon their hearts which the eyes of carnal reason cannot penetrate. Such was our case a little time ago; we who now see were once utterly blind; truth was to us as beauty in the dark, a thing unnoticed and neglected. Had it not been for the love of Jesus we should have remained to this moment in utter ignorance, for without his gracious opening of our understanding, we could no more have attained to spiritual knowledge than an infant can climb the Pyramids, or an ostrich fly up to the stars. Jesus’ College is the only one in which God’s truth can be really learned; other schools may teach us what is to be believed, but Christ’s alone can show us how to believe it. Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, and by earnest prayer call in his blessed aid that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.
Morning and Evening
BE STILL, MY SOUL
Katharina von Schlegel, 1697–? English Translation-Jane L. Borthwick, 1813–1897
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
Spiritual revivals throughout history have always been accompanied by an outburst of new song. This was especially true of the 16th century reformation movement when, following centuries of dormancy during the Middle Ages, congregational singing was rediscovered. However, by the 17th century the church was once more cold and non-evangelistic. Again God lit the fires of revival in the latter half of that century with a movement known as the Pietistic Revival in Germany, which was similar to the Puritan and Wesleyan movements in England. The Pietistic movement also gave birth to many rich German hymns, one of which incorporates the contributions of three persons.
Katharina von Schlegel was the outstanding woman of this revival movement. Little is known of her other than that she was a Lutheran and may have been the canoness of an evangelical women’s seminary in Germany. However, we do know that she contributed a number of lyrics to a collection of spiritual songs published in 1752.
Approximately 100 years after it was written, this hymn text was translated into English by Jane Borthwick, a scholar noted for her fine work in translating German texts. This hymn tune is an arrangement of one movement from Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia.” Sibelius was Finland’s best-known composer, and his music is generally characterized by a strong nationalistic fervor.
God has used the talents of these three individuals from different lands to provide His people with a hymn that teaches so well the biblical truth that we all need to relearn daily: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength …” (Isaiah 40:31).
Be still, my soul—the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide—In ev’ry change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul—thy best, thy heav’nly Friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul—thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past; thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake—All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul—the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
For Today: Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 30:15; 40:31; Hebrews 10:35.
Determine to live by the truth that “the Lord is on thy side!” Remember that “All now mysterious shall be bright at last ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
John Piper | Desiring God
What Made Jonathan Edwards
a Christian Hedonist?
Joy in This World
Joy Changes Everything
What Is It Like
to Enjoy God?–Job 22
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
m2-034 | 7-23-2014
What In The World Is Going On? Exodus 6:2-8
s2-037 | 7-27-2014
m2-035 | 7-30-2014