The Altar of IncenseExodus 30 1 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”
The Census Tax11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”
The Bronze Basin17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”
The Anointing Oil and Incense22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’ ”
34 The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), 35 and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. 37 And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. 38 Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”
Oholiab and BezalelExodus 31 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8 the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”
The Sabbath12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’ ” 18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
The Golden CalfExodus 32 1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.
7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ ” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.
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What I'm Reading
The First Question to Ask of an Ancient, Holy Book: Is It Ancient?
By J. Warner Wallace 1/23/2017
Many of the world’s best known religious texts are silent when it comes to claims about history. Many Eastern religious scriptures, for example, describe spiritual principles devoid of historical location or setting. Texts such as these are proverbial in nature, proclaiming ancient wisdom without any connection to historical context. The Abrahamic religions are very different, however. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism make claims about ancient history. For this reason, these religious worldviews are both verifiable and falsifiable. We ought to be able to corroborate the historical claims of ancient religious texts just as we could other historical documents. Such verification would certify their antiquity, if nothing else. On the other hand, if the claims of an ancient holy book are consistently incorrect related to the ancient world it allegedly describes, we ought to consider the text with suspicion.
It’s also important to remember that not every ancient text makes a claim about “divinity”; there are many texts from antiquity that are ancient, but not “holy”. If a text claims to be both ancient and holy, it needs to pass the first test related to antiquity before it can hope to qualify in the second category as holy. After all, a book cannot be holy or divine if it is lying about ancient history.
The test of antiquity was incredibly important to me as a skeptic examining the claims of scripture for the first time. As I became interested in Christianity, my Mormon family encouraged me to examine Mormonism as well. I read the entire Book of Mormon before I completed the Old and New Testament. I wanted to determine the “antiquity” of the Gospels and the Book of Mormon before I could examine the question of “divinity”. I needed to know if the New Testament gospels were written early enough to have been written by eyewitnesses who were actually present to observe what was recorded in these accounts. Similarly, I needed to know if the Book of Mormon was an accurate account of the history of the American continent from 600BC to 400AD (as it claims). My first investigation was centered on the foundational question: Are these ancient holy books truly ancient?
What kinds of questions can an investigator ask when trying to answer this important question related to antiquity? I considered the following:
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.
Did God Really Command Genocide?
By Matt Flannagan and Paul Copan 11/2/2015
Karen Armstrong and Philip Jenkins, among others, have argued that there’s far more violence in the Bible than in the Koran. Jenkins refers to the Old Testament’s ethnic cleansing, institutionalization of segregation, and hate and fear of other races and religions. F&C review some of these themes they’ve already covered: In terms of ethnic cleansing, what we find in the OT instead is “moral cleansing,” and long-awaited judgment on a wicked people whose time had finally come. And God warns the Israelites will experience the same judgment if they commit the same sins. The OT represents a God whose salvation is intended to affect all the peoples of the world. In terms of segregation, Israel was to be distinct morally and spiritually, but they were repeatedly commanded to care for the alien and sojourner in their midst since they too had been aliens in the land of Egypt. In terms of other races and religions, the charge of hating and fearing other races is clearly false, though the Bible is opposed to idolatry, and God brings judgment on ancient Israel for engaging in idolatry and breaking covenant with him after promising to love, cling to, and obey him.
Biblical and Koranic Texts | We see many Koranic references to warfare, and this warfare is not simply defensive but offensive as well. F&C give copious examples; here’s just one: “And those who are slain in the way of God, He will not send their works astray…. And He will admit them to Paradise, that He has made known to them” (47:4, 6).
Clear differences obtain between the Bible and Koran. First, military events captured in a biblical canon are merely descriptive of a unique part of the unfolding of salvation history. Second, whereas the biblical texts offer descriptions of unique history, the Koranic texts by contrast appear to be issuing enduring commands. Islam has exhibited a militaristic aggressiveness from the beginning, and this aggressiveness has been fed by Koranic texts that many Muslims throughout history have taken as normative or binding, enduring throughout history, and worldwide in applicability. Third, the distinctions between divinely commanded wars in the OT and Islamic jihad are much more pronounced than their similarities.
In addition to being unique and unrepeatable events within scripture itself, these wars are restricted to a relatively small portion of land, and accompanied by widely witnessed miracles. By contrast, the “revelations” to Muhammad were private and not publicly available for scrutiny or reinforced by dramatic signs and wonders. What’s more, Israel was an instrument of divine judgment on wicked people, unlike Muhammad, who attacked and overtook even those who were “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians)—part of the global reach to which Muhammed and his followers aspired.
Muhammad’s Example | Consider now Muhammed himself, the supreme human example for Muslims to follow. His goal was “to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no God but Allah.’” He died in AD 632 with his own plans for attacking neighboring nations unfulfilled. In his career, he fought in an estimated eighty-six military campaigns. The first authoritative biography of him covers his battles in 75 percent of its 813 pages, and includes depictions of assassination, rape, and cruelty that met with Muhammed’s approval. In one instance he said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.” A number of instances recount his approval of violence. According to the Koran and the traditions about Muhammed (Hadith), he permitted his soldiers to have sex not only with their wives, but also with female captives and female slaves.
Dr. Matthew Flannagan is a theologian with proficiency in contemporary analytic philosophy. He holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Otago, a Master’s (with First Class Honours), and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from the University of Waikato; he also holds a post-graduate diploma in secondary teaching from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. He currently works as an independent researcher and as teaching pastor at Takanini Community Church in Auckland, New Zealand.
Samson: Emptied to Be Filled
By Elton Higgs
The story of Samson in the book of Judges (Judges 13-16) is one of the two longest narratives in the book, and the saddest and most incredible of all. How can a man endowed with such a gift from God, and born with such promise, be so utterly and stupidly reckless? It seems that God wanted to show in him how personal exploitation of a gift from God, without regard to the holy purpose for which God intended it, leads to a folly as great as the holy gift. It ends up as a supreme example of God’s strength being made perfect in weakness, as the blind and bound Sampson, in one final reckless act, slays more Philistines in his death than he had in his lifetime.
Samson’s story begins with a kind of annunciation and a supernatural conception and birth (Judges 13), strangely foreshadowing the birth of Jesus. At the center of these events is the strict charge that Samson be dedicated from birth as a lifelong Nazirite, which required that he never cut his hair, that he imbibe no strong drink, and that he have no contact with dead bodies (see Num. 6). Although his final violation of the first of these is at the climax of his story, he had already by that time violated the first two, as well as having gone against the spirit of God’s sanctification of him by being sexually promiscuous. But at the core of his downfall is his failure to realize that God’s gift of supernatural strength to him was itself holy, and that to use it to satisfy his own pride was to set himself up for a profound fall.
The marvel is that God went along with his self-indulgence for so long, for we are told that he judged Israel for twenty years (Judges 15:20), presumably holding the Philistines at bay for that entire period. At first, God is behind his apparently reckless and inappropriate actions, as he goes down to Timnah to get a Philistine wife, “seeking an opportunity against the Philistines,” an action he took because it was “from the Lord” (Judges 14:4). In all the rest of his great feats, even though we can infer that he revels more and more pridefully in doing them, God was still using him to deliver His people from their oppression.
It was only at the end of this period that he had his disastrous encounter with Delilah (Judges 16). The narrator of the story does a superb job of teasing out the degrees of Samson’s downfall, showing how the hero taunts Delilah and her Philistine masters with false (but increasingly true) answers to her pleas to be told the secret of his strength. When he commits the final desecration of his Nazirite sanctification, and his hair has been cut and the Philistines are upon him, he says to himself, “’I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20). I think that must be among the most poignant statements in all of biblical history. When Samson’s eyes are gouged out, it is but a physical confirmation of his spiritual blindness which had occurred long before.
Another mark of the inspired literary quality of this tragic story is that the account of Samson’s first great feat of strength, the killing of a lion and later finding honey in its carcass, foreshadows God’s final act of strength through a helpless (but enlightened) Samson. As the following poem indicates, Samson’s use of the experience with the lion to pose a riddle to his enemies was, ironically, even deeper than he himself knew.
Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals.
Timeless Parenting in an iWorld
By Gina Stepp Winter 2016
With each technological advance, life seems to get more complicated—especially for parents. Four books explore the challenges of raising children in the age of technology.
For thousands of years parents have been raising children with varying levels of success—whether leaning on punishment as their most trusted tool, trying out their own balance of “carrots and sticks,” hovering incessantly in a vain attempt to spare their children the pain of life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, or forgoing any kind of parental guidance whatsoever.
As we consider the many options and approaches, it can be tempting to believe that the parenting style that produced us is clearly the way to go; after all, look at how well we turned out. Yet we probably also realize that we have flaws and inconsistencies in our thinking and character, opening the possibility that maybe, just maybe, our parents didn’t have all the answers.
Then again, judging by the number of new parenting books that come out every year, perhaps neither do the so-called experts. How do we find our way through this jumble of often contradictory parenting advice? Is there a standard we can hold up against it—and against our own ideas that, precious as they are, may yet be colored by biases and misunderstandings arising from what we imagine were the lessons of our life experiences? Though considered a great teacher, even experience is open to misinterpretation.
While the world is continually changing and new technologies offer increasing challenges to parents, there must be timeless parenting principles we can apply no matter where modern trends take us, if only we can identify them. Let’s see how some recent books stack up as they attempt to do just that.
Gina Stepp is a writer and editor with a master's degree in forensic psychology and a focus on trauma, resilience, attachment, and family dynamics.
Books mentioned from this article:
8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families (8 Keys to Mental Health)
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up
How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 15Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?
15 A Psalm of David.
1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
By Don Carson 3/21/2018
Exodus 32 is simultaneously one of the low points and one of the high points in Israel’s history.
Only months out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites prove so fickle that the delay of Moses on the mountain (a mere forty days) provides them with all the excuse they need for a new round of complaining. Moses’ delay does not prompt them to pray, but elicits callous ingratitude and disoriented syncretism. Even their tone is sneering: “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’ t know what has happened to him” (32:1).
Aaron is revealed as a spineless wimp, unable or unwilling to impose any discipline. He is utterly without theological backbone — not even enough to be a thoroughgoing pagan, as he continues to invoke the name of the Lord even while he himself manufactures a golden calf (32:4-5). He is still a wimp when, challenged by his brother, he insists, rather ridiculously, “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (32:24). Despite the covenantal vows they had made (24:7), many in the nation wanted all the blessings they could get from Yahweh, but gave little thought to the nature of their own sworn obligations to their Maker and Redeemer. It was a low moment of national shame — not the last in their experience, not the last in the confessing church.
The high point? When God threatens to wipe out the nation, Moses intercedes. Not once does he suggest that the people do not deserve to be wiped out, or that they are not as bad as some might think. Rather, he appeals to the glory of God. Why should God act in such a way that the Egyptians might scoff and say that the Lord isn’t strong enough to pull off this rescue (32:12)? Besides, isn’t God obligated to keep his vows to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (32:13)? How could God go back on his solemn promises? His final appeal is simply for forgiveness (32:30-32), and if God cannot extend such mercy, then Moses does not want to begin a new race (as angry as he himself is, 32:19). He prefers to be blotted out with the rest of the people.
Here is an extraordinary mediator, a man whose entire sympathies are with God and his gracious salvation and revelation, a man who makes no excuses for the people he is called to lead, but who nevertheless so identifies with them that if judgment is to fall on them he begs to suffer with them. Here is a man who “stands in the gap” (cf. Ezek. 13:3-5; 22:29-30).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Do You Exercise for the Wrong Reasons?
By David Mathis / 1/26/2017
“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”
Perhaps you’ve heard his inspiring line in terms of life-calling. In what vocation do you feel God’s pleasure? What role or occupation does it seem he made you to fulfill? However, with the last generation of research in view, it might be interesting to introduce Liddell to the fairly recent discovery of endorphins, and ask how much they played a part in his feeling God’s pleasure as a runner.
My experience as a very amateur runner is that you don’t have to be a pro to “feel God’s pleasure” in, and because of, intense bodily exertion.
God made endorphins to help us feel his joy.
God’s Grace in Exercise | God made us to move, and to do so vigorously. And he wired our brains to reward and reinforce it. Regular human movement has been assumed throughout history, but the innovations and seeming progress of modern life have made a sedentary lifestyle more typical than ever before. We’ve never needed to state the obvious about exercise as much as we do today — not just for earthly health, but for the sake of spiritual soundness and strength.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is the husband of Megan, father of four, and his regular articles are available online at desiringGod.org/mathis.
David Mathis Books:
- 1 Habits of Grace Study Guide: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines
- 2 Acting the Miracle: God's Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification
- 3 Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- 4 How to Stay Christian in Seminary
- 5 The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis
- 6 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 7 Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy
- 8 With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life
- 9 By David Mathis - Finish the Mission (First) (9/19/12)
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.
45. The purport is, that injustice being an abomination to God, we must render to every man his due. In substance, then, the commandment forbids us to long after other men's goods, and, accordingly, requires every man to exert himself honestly in preserving his own. For we must consider, that what each individual possesses has not fallen to him by chance, but by the distribution of the sovereign Lord of all, that no one can pervert his means to bad purposes without committing a fraud on a divine dispensation. There are very many kinds of theft. One consists in violence, as when a man's goods are forcibly plundered and carried off; another in malicious imposture, as when they are fraudulently intercepted; a third in the more hidden craft which takes possession of them with a semblance of justice; and a fourth in sycophancy, which wiles them away under the pretence of donation. But not to dwell too long in enumerating the different classes, we know that all the arts by which we obtain possession of the goods and money of our neighbours, for sincere affection substituting an eagerness to deceive or injure them in any way, are to be regarded as thefts. Though they may be obtained by an action at law, a different decision is given by God. He sees the long train of deception by which the man of craft begins to lay nets for his more simple neighbour, until he entangles him in its meshes--sees the harsh and cruel laws by which the more powerful oppresses and crushes the feeble--sees the enticements by which the more wily baits the hook for the less wary, though all these escape the judgment of man, and no cognisance is taken of them. Nor is the violation of this commandment confined to money, or merchandise, or lands, but extends to every kind of right; for we defraud our neighbours to their hurt if we decline any of the duties which we are bound to perform towards them. If an agent or an indolent steward wastes the substance of his employer, or does not give due heed to the management of his property; if he unjustly squanders or luxuriously wastes the means entrusted to him; if a servant holds his master in derision, divulges his secrets, or in any way is treacherous to his life or his goods; if, on the other hand, a master cruelly torments his household, he is guilty of theft before God; since every one who, in the exercise of his calling, performs not what he owes to others, keeps back, or makes away with what does not belong to him.
46. This commandment, therefore, we shall duly obey, if, contented with our own lot, we study to acquire nothing but honest and lawful gain; if we long not to grow rich by injustice, nor to plunder our neighbour of his goods, that our own may thereby be increased; if we hasten not to heap up wealth cruelly wrung from the blood of others; if we do not, by means lawful and unlawful, with excessive eagerness scrape together whatever may glut our avarice or meet our prodigality. On the other hand, let it be our constant aim faithfully to lend our counsel and aid to all so as to assist them in retaining their property; or if we have to do with the perfidious or crafty, let us rather be prepared to yield somewhat of our right than to contend with them. And not only so, but let us contribute to the relief of those whom we see under the pressure of difficulties, assisting their want out of our abundance. Lastly, let each of us consider how far he is bound in duty to others, and in good faith pay what we owe. In the same way, let the people pay all due honour to their rulers, submit patiently to their authority, obey their laws and orders, and decline nothing which they can bear without sacrificing the favour of God. Let rulers, again, take due charge of their people, preserve the public peace, protect the good, curb the bad, and conduct themselves throughout as those who must render an account of their office to God, the Judge of all. Let the ministers of churches faithfully give heed to the ministry of the word, and not corrupt the doctrine of salvation, but deliver it purely and sincerely to the people of God. Let them teach not merely by doctrine, but by example; in short, let them act the part of good shepherds towards their flocks. Let the people, in their turn, receive them as the messengers and apostles of God, render them the honour which their Supreme Master has bestowed on them, and supply them with such things as are necessary for their livelihood. Let parents be careful to bring up, guide, and teach their children as a trust committed to them by God. Let them not exasperate or alienate them by cruelty, but cherish and embrace them with the levity and indulgence which becomes their character. The regard due to parents from their children has already been adverted to. Let the young respect those advanced in years as the Lord has been pleased to make that age honourable. Let the aged also, by their prudence and their experience (in which they are far superior), guide the feebleness of youth, not assailing them with harsh and clamorous invectives but tempering strictness with ease and affability. Let servants show themselves diligent and respectful in obeying their masters, and this not with eye-service, but from the heart, as the servants of God. Let masters also not be stern and disobliging to their servants, nor harass them with excessive asperity, nor treat them with insult, but rather let them acknowledge them as brethren and fellow-servants of our heavenly Master, whom, therefore, they are bound to treat with mutual love and kindness. Let every one, I say, thus consider what in his own place and order he owes to his neighbours, and pay what he owes. Moreover, we must always have a reference to the Lawgiver, and so remember that the law requiring us to promote and defend the interest and convenience of our fellow-men, applies equally to our minds and our hands.
THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOUR.
47. The purport of the commandment is, since God, who is truth, abhors falsehood, we must cultivate unfeigned truth towards each other. The sum, therefore, will be, that we must not by calumnies and false accusations injure our neighbour's name, or by falsehood impair his fortunes; in fine, that we must not injure any one from petulance, or a love of evil-speaking. To this prohibition corresponds the command, that we must faithfully assist every one, as far as in us lies, in asserting the truth, for the maintenance of his good name and his estate. The Lord seems to have intended to explain the commandment in these words: "Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." "Keep thee far from a false matter," (Exod. 23:1, 7). In another passage, he not only prohibits that species of falsehood which consists in acting the part of tale-bearers among the people, but says, "Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour," (Lev. 19:16). Both transgressions are distinctly prohibited. Indeed, there can be no doubt, that as in the previous commandment he prohibited cruelty unchastity, and avarice, so here he prohibits falsehood, which consists of the two parts to which we have adverted. By malignant or vicious detraction, we sin against our neighbour's good name: by lying, sometimes even by casting a slur upon him, we injure him in his estate. It makes no difference whether you suppose that formal and judicial testimony is here intended, or the ordinary testimony which is given in private conversation. For we must always recur to the consideration, that for each kind of transgression one species is set forth by way of example, that to it the others may be referred, and that the species chiefly selected, is that in which the turpitude of the transgression is most apparent. It seems proper, however, to extend it more generally to calumny and sinister insinuations by which our neighbours are unjustly aggrieved. For falsehood in a court of justice is always accompanied with perjury. But against perjury, in so far as it profanes and violates the name of God, there is a sufficient provision in the third commandment. Hence the legitimate observance of this precept consists in employing the tongue in the maintenance of truth, so as to promote both the good name and the prosperity of our neighbour. The equity of this is perfectly clear. For if a good name is more precious than riches, a man, in being robbed of his good name, is no less injured than if he were robbed of his goods; while, in the latter case, false testimony is sometimes not less injurious than rapine committed by the hand.
48. And yet it is strange, with what supine security men everywhere sin in this respect. Indeed, very few are found who do not notoriously labour under this disease: such is the envenomed delight we take both in prying into and exposing our neighbour's faults. Let us not imagine it is a sufficient excuse to say that on many occasions our statements are not false. He who forbids us to defame our neighbour's reputation by falsehood, desires us to keep it untarnished in so far as truth will permit. Though the commandment is only directed against falsehood, it intimates that the preservation of our neighbour's good name is recommended. It ought to be a sufficient inducement to us to guard our neighbour's good name, that God takes an interest in it. Wherefore, evil-speaking in general is undoubtedly condemned. Moreover, by evil-speaking, we understand not the rebuke which is administered with a view of correcting; not accusation or judicial decision, by which evil is sought to be remedied; not public censure, which tends to strike terror into other offenders; not the disclosure made to those whose safety depends on being forewarned, lest unawares they should be brought into danger, but the odious crimination which springs from a malicious and petulant love of slander. Nay, the commandment extends so far as to include that scurrilous affected urbanity, instinct with invective, by which the failings of others, under an appearance of sportiveness, are bitterly assailed, as some are wont to do, who court the praise of wit, though it should call forth a blush, or inflict a bitter pang. By petulance of this description, our brethren are sometimes grievously wounded.  But if we turn our eye to the Lawgiver, whose just authority extends over the ears and the mind, as well as the tongue, we cannot fail to perceive that eagerness to listen to slander, and an unbecoming proneness to censorious judgments are here forbidden. It were absurd to suppose that God hates the disease of evil-speaking in the tongue, and yet disapproves not of its malignity in the mind. Wherefore, if the true fear and love of God dwell in us, we must endeavour, as far as is lawful and expedient, and as far as charity admits, neither to listen nor give utterance to bitter and acrimonious charges, nor rashly entertain sinister suspicions. As just interpreters of the words and the actions of other men, let us candidly maintain the honour due to them by our judgment, our ear, and our tongue.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By R.C. Sproul
The biblical record contains the stories of men and women who have wrestled with God. The very name Israel means “one who strives with God.” God is holy. He is high above us, transcendent. Yet He is a God with whom we can wrestle. In our wrestling match the goal is not final war but final peace. Some have found it. In this chapter we will look at examples of people who have gone to the mat with God and come away at peace. We will look at Jacob, Job, Habakkuk, and Saul of Tarsus. Then we will examine what it means to make peace with God. Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.
Jacob was a rascal. His name means “Supplanter.” He was the fellow who deceived his father, conned his brother, and entered into an ungodly conspiracy with his mother. It is hard to imagine that the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham could be so corrupt. But in the course of his life he underwent a radical transformation. It started at Bethel:
See Genesis 28:10-11 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.
Travel in ancient Palestine was often an ordeal. The evening brought danger from marauding thieves and wild beasts. On Jacob’s journey there was no way station for him to seek lodging. He traveled as far as he could until the sun went down. At that point he made camp under the stars. His pillow for the night was a stone. When he settled into sleep, he had a dream that was destined to change his life:
See Genesis 28:12-15 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.
The stairway Jacob saw in his dream is commonly referred to as Jacob’s ladder. It served as a bridge between heaven and earth. Up to this point in his life Jacob was not a man who was in touch with heavenly things. He had a profound sense of the absence of God. It seems strange that a son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham would be so “secular.” Abraham had spoken with God. Surely young Jacob had sat around camp fires and heard stories from his father and grandfather. He must have known about God’s order to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar at Mount Moriah.
Jacob’s life had been lived out on the plane of this world. Talk about heavenly matters had made little impression upon him. His mind was fixed on the earth. As far as he was concerned there was an unbridgeable chasm between heaven and earth. If there was a God, He was so remote, so utterly transcendent that He had no relevance to Jacob’s life. This God of whom his parents spoke was too high for Jacob to reach. Until he had a dream.
The dream featured a stairway. The stairway was a contact point, a connection between the realm of the holy and the realm of the profane. On the stairway Jacob saw angels ascending and descending. They were moving in both directions, from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth. The traffic was continuous. They moved from the presence of God to the presence of men. At the top of the staircase Jacob saw the figure of God. God spoke to him confirming the promise that He had made earlier to Abraham and Isaac. The promise of God would continue to future generations. It was going to pass through Jacob. He would be the carrier of the covenant oath that God had sworn. God promised to be with Jacob wherever he went and to stay with him until all the promises had been accomplished.
Whatever happened to Jacob’s ladder? The image virtually disappears in Old Testament history. Centuries pass with no mention of it. Then suddenly, it appears again in the New Testament:
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus’ words to Nathanael were radical. In this conversation He declared that He is the ladder of Jacob; He is the bridge between heaven and earth; He is the one who spans the chasm between the Transcendent One and mortal men. The angels of God ascend and descend upon Him. He makes the absent God present among us. Was this what Jacob saw in a dim, shadowy way?
When Jacob awoke from his dream he was stunned. He was overcome by the power of his nighttime vision:
See Genesis 28:16-17 in yesterday's Daily Bible reading.
The name of the place where Jacob had his dream became known as “Bethel.” The word Bethel means in Hebrew “house of God.” There was no tabernacle there, no temple, no church. Jacob called it the house of God because there the Holy One made Himself known. Jacob’s words are typical of the plight modern man feels. Ours is a day when men feel a sense of the absence of God. We see no burning bushes, no pillars of fire, no incarnate Christ walking in our midst. We feel abandoned, thrown to the waters of a hostile, or even worse, indifferent universe. We seem locked into a world from which there is no exit, no stairway to the stars.
Jacob felt the same way until he had his dream. His words are relevant to our modern situation. “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” God was there all the time. He was not remote from Jacob but Jacob had missed Him all his life. He was unaware of the presence of God. This tragic ignorance of God’s presence is played out in our culture every day in the lives of millions of people. God is here but we are unaware. The moment awareness of His divine presence begins, the deepest personal struggle a man can experience begins as well. The dream did not end Jacob’s struggle. It was the beginning of a struggle that was for keeps. From that moment on, he was fighting for his own soul.
“How awesome is this place!” This was Jacob’s response to being in the house of God. People do not normally feel that way in church. There is no sense of awe, no sense of being in the presence of One who makes us tremble. The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.
Scholars do not agree on the precise time of Jacob’s conversion. Some locate it here at Bethel when he had the overwhelming sense of God’s presence. Others pinpoint it years later in Jacob’s life when he had his fateful wrestling match with God:
(Ge 32:22–30) 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Obviously the “man” Jacob wrestled was more than a man—he was the angel of God. The battle was fierce, raging through the night with neither combatant gaining the upper hand. Finally the angel used the overpowering might of God to touch the socket of Jacob’s hip. Jacob’s “victory” was not one of conquest but of survival. He walked away from the duel, but he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
The discussion with the angel about names is significant. The angel demanded the name of Jacob. The demand for the name was similar to the custom we have today of indicating surrender by saying “uncle.” For the combatant to yield his name meant that he was acknowledging the superiority of the other party. The yielding of the name was an act of submission. When Jacob surrendered his name, he surrendered his soul. He relinquished authority over his own life. With the surrender came a new name, a new identity. Israel.
In defeat Jacob was still hoping for a draw, a tie in the contest that would leave his pride intact. Even a split decision would help. He said to the angel, “Please tell me your name.” Note the difference in the name-exchange issue. The angel demanded Jacob’s name and Jacob surrendered it. Jacob politely requested the angel’s name and did not get it. This was the final act of divine conquest. There are no draws with God, no split decisions. When we wrestle with the Almighty, we lose. He is the undefeated champion of the universe.
The Holy One cannot be defeated in personal combat. But there is some consolation here. Jacob wrestled with God and lived. He was beaten; he was left crippled, but he survived that battle. At least we can learn from this that God will engage us in our honest struggles. We may wrestle with the Holy One. Indeed, for the transforming power of God to change our lives there is a sense in which we must wrestle with Him. We must know what it means to fight with God all night if we are also to know what it means to experience the sweetness of the soul’s surrender.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream
By John Bunyan 1678
THE THIRD STAGENow I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation.
Isaiah 26:1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.” Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.
Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. ESV
Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee.” So the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,”
Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” ESV
the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment,
Zech. 3:4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” ESV
the third also set a mark on his forehead,
Eph. 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, ESV
and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,
“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!”
Christian then seeing them lie in this case, went to them, if peradventure he might awake them, and cried, you are like them that sleep on the top of a mast,
Prov. 23:34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
1 Pet. 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV
comes by, you will certainly become a prey to his teeth. With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: Simple said, I see no danger; Sloth said, Yet a little more sleep; and Presumption said, Every tub must stand upon its own bottom. And so they lay down to sleep again, and Christian went on his way.
Yet he was troubled to think that men in that danger should so little esteem the kindness of him that so freely offered to help them, both by awakening of them, counselling of them, and proffering to help them off with their irons. And as he was troubled thereabout, he espied two men come tumbling over the wall, on the left hand of the narrow way; and they made up apace to him. The name of the one was Formalist, and the name of the other Hypocrisy. So, as I said, they drew up unto him, who thus entered with them into discourse.
CHR. Gentlemen, whence came you, and whither do you go?
FORM. AND HYP. We were born in the land of Vain-glory, and are going, for praise, to Mount Zion.
CHR. Why came you not in at the gate which standeth at the beginning of the way? Know ye not that it is written, that “he that cometh not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber?”
John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. ESV
FORM. AND HYP. They said, that to go to the gate for entrance was by all their countrymen counted too far about; and that therefore their usual way was to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall, as they had done.
CHR. But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the city whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed will?
FORM. AND HYP. They told him, that as for that, he needed not to trouble his head thereabout: for what they did they had custom for, and could produce, if need were, testimony that would witness it for more than a thousand years.
CHR. But, said Christian, will you stand a trial at law?
FORM. AND HYP. They told him, that custom, it being of so long standing as above a thousand years, would doubtless now be admitted as a thing legal by an impartial judge: and besides, said they, if we get into the way, what matter is it which way we get in? If we are in, we are in: thou art but in the way, who, as we perceive, came in at the gate; and we also are in the way, that came tumbling over the wall: wherein now is thy condition better than ours?
CHR. I walk by the rule of my Master: you walk by the rude working of your fancies. You are counted thieves already by the Lord of the way: therefore I doubt you will not be found true men at the end of the way. You come in by yourselves without his direction, and shall go out by yourselves without his mercy.
To this they made him but little answer; only they bid him look to himself. Then I saw that they went on, every man in his way, without much conference one with another, save that these two men told Christian, that as to laws and ordinances, they doubted not but that they should as conscientiously do them as he. Therefore, said they, we see not wherein thou differest from us, but by the coat that is on thy back, which was, as we trow, given thee by some of thy neighbors, to hide the shame of thy nakedness.
CHR. By laws and ordinances you will not be saved, since you came not in by the door.
Gal. 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. ESV
And as for this coat that is on my back, it was given me by the Lord of the place whither I go; and that, as you say, to cover my nakedness with. And I take it as a token of kindness to me; for I had nothing but rags before. And besides, thus I comfort myself as I go. Surely, think I, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof will know me for good, since I have his coat on my back; a coat that he gave me freely in the day that he stripped me of my rags. I have, moreover, a mark in my forehead, of which perhaps you have taken no notice, which one of my Lord’s most intimate associates fixed there in the day that my burden fell off my shoulders. I will tell you, moreover, that I had then given me a roll sealed, to comfort me by reading as I go on the way; I was also bid to give it in at the celestial gate, in token of my certain going in after it: all which things I doubt you want, and want them because you came not in at the gate.
To these things they gave him no answer; only they looked upon each other, and laughed. Then I saw that they went all on, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably: also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.
I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring,
Isa. 49:10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
I looked then after Christian, to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now about the midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant Arbor, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshment of weary travellers. Thither, therefore, Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him: then he pulled his roll out of his bosom, and read therein to his comfort; he also now began afresh to take a review of the coat or garment that was given to him as he stood by the cross. Thus pleasing himself awhile, he at last fell into a slumber, and thence into a fast sleep, which detained him in that place until it was almost night; and in his sleep his roll fell out of his hand. Now, as he was sleeping, there came one to him, and awaked him, saying, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”
Prov. 6:6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
A small change can make a big difference
1/28/2018 Bob Gass
‘Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?’
(Zec 4:10) For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. ESV
Imagine the temple lying in ruins, and having to be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s what things were like when Zechariah shared his vision with the people of Israel. Some thought it couldn’t be done, and others thought that their particular contribution would make no difference. So Zechariah challenged them in these words: ‘Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!’ In 1963, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz presented the hypothesis that became known as the butterfly effect. He theorised that a minor event, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, could conceivably alter wind currents sufficiently to cause a tornado in Texas. Lorenz came to the simple yet profound conclusion: ‘Minuscule changes in input can make macroscopic differences in output.’ That simple discovery has the power to change your life. It can radically alter your spiritual, emotional, relational, or financial forecast. It can change the atmosphere of your organisation or your marriage. One decision. One change. One risk. One idea. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to make one hundred changes. All that does is divide your energy by one hundred, and results in a 1 per cent chance of success. You have to be 100 per cent committed to one change. It will take an all-out effort. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But that one change has the potential to make a 100 per cent difference in your life.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, on this day, January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing its entire seven member crew, which included a Highschool teacher, the first private citizen to fly aboard the craft. In his address to the nation after this disaster, President Ronald Reagan stated: “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth,’ to ‘touch the face of God.’ ”
Thomas R. Kelly
The Society of Friends arose as a rediscovery of the ever-open inward springs of immediacy and revelation. George Fox and the Quakers found a Principle within men, a Shekinah of the soul, a Light Within that lights every man coming into the world. Dedicating themselves utterly and completely to attendance upon this Inward Living Christ, they were quickened into a new and bold tenderness toward the blindness of the leaders of Christian living. Aflame with the Light of the inner sanctuary, they went out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness, and called men to listen above all to that of God speaking within them, to order all life by the Light of the Sanctuary. "Dear Friends," writes Fox to his groups, "keep close to that which is pure within you, which leads you up to God." John Woolman, the Quaker tailor of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, resolved so to order his outward affairs, so to adjust his business burdens, that nothing, absolutely nothing would crowd out his prime attendance upon the Inward Principle. And in this sensitizing before the inward altar of his soul, he was quickened to see and attack effectively the evils of slave-holding, of money-loaning, of wars upon the Indians.
But the value of Woolman and Fox and the Quakers of today for the world does not lie merely in their outward deeds of service to suffering men, it lies in that call to all men to the practice of orienting their entire being in inward adoration about the springs of immediacy and ever fresh divine power within the secret silences of the soul. The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups-yes, and of non-Christian groups as well who seriously mean to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. He is the center and source of action, not the end-point of thought. He is the locus of commitment, not a problem for debate. Practice comes first in religion, not theory or dogma. And Christian practice is not exhausted in outward deeds. These are the fruits, not the roots. A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it (after the pattern seen on the Mount). To the reverent exploration of this practice we now address ourselves.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God is more concerned about His workers
than He is about their work,
for if the workers are what they ought to be,
the work will be what it ought to be.
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
Confession of errors is like a broom
which sweeps away the dirt
and leaves the surface brighter and clearer.
I feel stronger for confession.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
For we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our god in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of god and all professors for Gods sake; we shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going: And to shut up this discourse with that exhortation of Moses that faithful servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israel Deut. 30. Beloved there is now set before us life, and good, death and evil in that we are Commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments and his Ordinance, and his laws, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whether we go to possess it: But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other Gods our pleasures, and profits, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good Land whether we pass over this vast Sea to possess it.
--- John Winthrop
Marital fidelity echoes and anticipates God’s fidelity to the whole creation.
--- Derek Prince
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
lives by crooked speech,
13 winking his eyes, shuffling his feet,
pointing with his fingers.
14 With deceit in his heart,
he is always plotting evil and sowing discord.
15 Therefore disaster suddenly overcomes him;
unexpectedly, he is broken beyond repair.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
But it is hardly credible
that one could so persecute Jesus!
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? --- Acts 26:14.
Am I set on my own way for God? We are never free from this snare until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. Obstinacy and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set upon our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Jesus. Whenever we stand on our dignity we systematically vex and grieve His Spirit; and when the knowledge comes home that it is Jesus Whom we have been persecuting all the time, it is the most crushing revelation there could be.
Is the word of God tremendously keen to me as I hand it on to you, or does my life give the lie to the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of one thing only—a perfect oneness with the Father, and He says “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” All I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that I can be easily put upon, easily over-reached, easily ignored; but if I submit to it for His sake, I prevent Jesus Christ being persecuted.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
As though a voice
said to me not
in words: I ask the supreme
gesture. Take me
as I am. And the sky
was round as though everything
But my mind,
I said, holding it
in my unseen
hands: the pain of it
is what keeps
me human. What you ask
is an assemblage
that shall pass unscathed
through the bonfire
of its knowledge.
You do yourself
harm, coming to us
with your sleeves rolled up
as though not responsible
for deception. We have seen
you lay life like a cloth
over the bones
at our parties and wave
your cold wand and expect
us to smile, when you took it away
again and there was nothing.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
The Stolen Blessing
Rebekah, and Jacob her son, plotted to deceive Isaac and get the blessing for Jacob that Isaac wanted to go to his oldest son, Esau. Disguised to fool the now-blind Isaac, Jacob stood before his father and lied, “I am Esau your firstborn” (v. 19).
How completely unnecessary! At the brothers’ births God had told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger (25:23). Yet as the critical time drew closer and closer, mother and son felt impelled to “help God out.”
What was the result? Jacob did receive the blessing—which he would have received anyway. Bitterness was heightened between the brothers, and Esau’s hatred became so intense that he planned to kill Jacob after their father died. Rebekah, who had plotted to help her favorite son, was forced to send him away for 20 years, and did not live to see him return.
True, it worked out in the end. But the anger, the fear, the separation—all these might have been avoided had Jacob and Rebekah simply trusted God and rejected deceit.
The Teacher's Commentary
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
--- Philippians 3:13–14.
[Paul] cultivated a wise forgetfulness. (Classic Sermons on the Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) )
And what are some of the things that we ought to forget? We ought to forget our blunders. How many blunders we all make! Learn how to make them bridges over which we will span the chasms and go to better days.
We are to learn how to forget our losses. In human life losses of all kinds come. No one is to whine and mope because losses come. We are to learn to get past them and to forget them.
We are to learn how to forget life’s injuries. Refuse to let them rankle like poisons in the heart and thus vitiate every high thing that the spirit should hold most dear.
We are to learn how to forget our successes. There is danger in success. A person who can bear success can bear anything. Easier far can the human spirit bear adversity than it can bear prosperity, for the human spirit is lifted up. If we do not learn what success is for, the day comes for our undoing and our downfall and our defeat.
We are to learn how to forget our sorrows—and sooner or later these sorrows come to us, each and all. We are to take these sorrows to the great, refining, overruling Master and ask him so to dispose, so to rule and overrule in them and with them that we may come out of them all refined and disciplined, the better educated and more useful. You are to learn how to so have it woven into the warp and woof of your life that you will not be weaker and worse for the sorrow but will be richer and stronger and better because of such sorrow.
We are to learn how to forget our sins. If Paul had not learned how to forget his sins he would have been crippled utterly. Paul consented to the death of Stephen. Paul persecuted the church. Paul was a ringleader in sin. Paul seemed to run the whole gamut of sin. He called himself the chief of sinners, and perhaps he was. When we look at the debit side of our lives do our hearts faint within us? Mine faints within me. But then the Master of life says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
--- George W. Truett
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Here I Stand
The apostle Paul, having stood alone before the Roman emperor, the most powerful man on earth, said, “When I was first put on trial, no one helped me … But the Lord stood beside me. He gave me … strength” (2 Tim 4:16-17).
Centuries later, another stood before the greatest ruler on earth making a similar defense—and Luther, too, discovered that God gives unexplained courage at critical moments.
Pope Leo had demanded that Martin Luther retract his teachings. Luther responded by burning the papal orders, and the impasse forced Emperor Charles V to convene an Imperial Congress in Worms, a German city on the Rhine, on January 28, 1521.
Leo sent lawyers to discredit Luther, who determined to defend himself even at risk of life. “I will not flee, still less recant,” Luther said. “May the Lord Jesus strengthen me.” Luther left Wittenberg on the ten-day journey with three friends, riding in a rough two-wheel cart. Crowds gathered along the way, and Luther preached at every stop. But as he grew closer to Worms, suspense grew. His friends warned he would suffer the same fate as John Hus. “Though Hus was burned,” Luther replied, “the truth was not burned, and Christ still lives. … I shall go to Worms, though there were as many devils there as tiles on the roofs.”
Luther’s arrival in Worms was heralded by city watchmen blowing horns, and thousands gathered. Stepping from his wagon, Luther whispered, “God will be with me.” Shortly, he stood before Emperor Charles V and the congress. The tension was thick as fog, and Luther, appearing to lose his nerve, mumbled and seemed near collapse. But the next day, fortified by prayer, he thundered his defense of the sufficiency of Scripture. “I cannot and will not recant!” he reportedly said. “Here I stand. God help me! Amen.” The congress erupted in confusion and was abruptly adjourned. Luther’s friends quickly spirited him to safety. Luther later said, “I was fearless, I was afraid of nothing; God can make one so desperately bold.”
And such is the testimony of all those who stand alone for Christ in perilous times.
The Lord will always keep me from being harmed by evil, and he will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.
--- 2 Timothy 4:18a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 28
“Perfect in Christ Jesus.” --- Colossians 1:28.
Do you not feel in your own soul that perfection is not in you? Does not every day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye, weeps “imperfection”; every harsh word which proceeds from your lip, mutters “imperfection.” You have too frequently had a view of your own heart to dream for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness of imperfection, here is comfort for you—you are “perfect in Christ Jesus.” In God’s sight, you are “complete in him;” even now you are “accepted in the Beloved.” But there is a second perfection, yet to be realized, which is sure to all the seed. Is it not delightful to look forward to the time when every stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Hart did not go beyond the truth when he said—
“With my Saviour’s garments on,
Holy as the Holy One.”
Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short sentence, “Complete in Christ.” Not till then shall we fully comprehend the heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Doth not thy heart leap for joy at the thought of it? Black as thou art, thou shalt be white one day; filthy as thou art, thou shalt be clean. Oh, it is a marvellous salvation this! Christ takes a worm and transforms it into an angel; Christ takes a black and deformed thing and makes it clean and matchless in his glory, peerless in his beauty, and fit to be the companion of seraphs. O my soul, stand and admire this blessed truth of perfection in Christ.
Evening - January 28
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” --- Luke 2:20.
What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had heard—for the good tidings of great joy that a Saviour was born unto them. Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard of Jesus and his salvation. They also praised God for what they had seen. There is the sweetest music—what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own—“the things which we have made touching the King.” It is not enough to hear about Jesus: mere hearing may tune the harp, but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus with the God-giving sight of faith, suffer no cobwebs to linger among the harp strings, but loud to the praise of sovereign grace, awake your psaltery and harp. One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence—“As it was told unto them.” Have you not found the gospel to be in yourselves just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said he would give you rest—have you not enjoyed the sweetest peace in him? He said you should have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in him—have you not received all these? Are not his ways ways of pleasantness, and his paths paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” I have found Christ more sweet than his servants ever said he was. I looked upon his likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere daub compared with himself; for the King in his beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness. Surely what we have “seen” keeps pace with, nay, far exceeds, what we have “heard.” Let us, then, glorify and praise God for a Saviour so precious, and so satisfying.
Morning and Evening
O ZION, HASTE
Mary Ann Thomson, 1834–1923
May Your ways be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. (Psalm 67:2)
The Christian church is God’s appointed means of spreading the gospel around the world. A church that is not a missionary church will quench the Spirit of God and miss His blessing. God’s agenda for history is “that all nations might believe and obey Him” (Romans 16:26). All too often, however, the church has allowed itself to become self-centered, merely maintaining the status quo and failing to respond actively to this biblical directive.
That’s why we need missionary hymns like this one. Its author, Mary Ann Thomson, was born in London, England, but spent most of her life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she was active in the Church of the Annunciation. She wrote a number of hymns and poems, this being the only one to survive, however. She wrote “O Zion, Haste” out of a stressful experience in 1868. One night, as she was watching her child who was ill with typhoid fever, the desire to write a missionary hymn pressed upon her. Some have felt that perhaps Mrs. Thomson had made a covenant with God that if he would spare her child, she would consecrate him to His service. The opening line of the final stanza, “give of thy sons to bear the message glorious,” could indicate this. May these words move us from lethargy to evangelism.
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling, to tell to all the world that God is Light, that He who made all nations is not willing one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
Behold, how many thousands still are lying, bound in the darksome prison-house of sin, with none to tell them of the Savior’s dying, or of the life He died for them to win.
Proclaim to every people, tongue and nation that God in whom they live and move is love: Tell how He stooped to save His lost creation, and died on earth that man might live above.
Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious; give of thy wealth to speed them on their way; pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious; and all thou spendest Jesus will repay.
Refrain: Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace; tidings of Jesus, redemption, and release.
For Today: Isaiah 52:7; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:15; 16:26.
Prayerfully consider how your church could have a greater impact on worldwide missions. At the right time, share your thoughts with the pastor and other leaders. Carry the urgency for missions with you with this hymn’s refrain ---
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