The Flood SubsidesGenesis 8 1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
God’s Covenant with Noah20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Genesis 9Genesis 9 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Noah’s Descendants18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”
Nations Descended from NoahGenesis 10 1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.
Professor William Albright said that Genesis 10 “stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework […] the Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.”2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.
6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. 21 To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. 25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. 26 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. 30 The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. 31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.
The Tower of BabelGenesis 11 1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Shem’s Descendants10 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Terah’s Descendants27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why Doesn’t Mark Say Anything About Jesus’ Birth?
By J. Warner Wallace 12/11/2015
I’ve been examining the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ birth and responding to a number of skeptical objections related to the virgin conception. If the virgin conception was an historical event that was well known to the earliest Christians, why wasn’t it mentioned by Mark? Mark’s gospel is widely accepted as the first account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Why doesn’t it contain anything about the virgin conception? Does the absence of a birth narrative in Mark demonstrate that the entire story is a late fictional creation?
Silence Doesn’t Mean Denial
While it is true that Mark does not include a birth narrative, this does not mean that he was either unaware of the truth about Jesus or denied the virgin conception. Eyewitnesses often omit important details because they either (1) have other concerns they want to highlight with greater priority, or (2) presume that the issue under question is already well understood. The gospel of Mark exhibits great influence from the Apostle Peter. In fact, the outline of Mark’s Gospel is very similar to the outline of Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost. According to the Papias, Mark was Peter’s scribe; his gospel is brief and focused. Like Peter’s sermon in Chapter 2 of the Book of Act’s, Mark is focused only on the public life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. But Mark is not alone in omitting the birth narrative. John’s gospel is considered by scholars to be the last Gospel written. The prior three “synoptic Gospels” were already in circulation and the issue of the virgin conception had already been described in two of them. Yet John also omitted the birth narrative. Why? John clearly wanted to cover material that the other Gospel writers did not address; over 90% of the material in the Gospel of John is unique to the text. If John did not agree with the virgin conception as described in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke, he certainly had the opportunity to correct the matter in his own work. But John never does this; his silence serves as a presumption that the “virgin conception” has been accurately described by prior authors.
Brevity Doesn’t Mean Ignorance
It really shouldn’t surprise us that the earliest version of the life of Christ would be the shortest and most focused account. Something very similar happens when police officers are dispatched to a crime scene. The first radio broadcast to responding units is always incredibly brief, offering just the bare details needed to get officers rolling in the right direction, aware of the most important issues they may be about to face. The first broadcast is brief, focused on essentials and designed for a purpose. As units are closing in on their arrival at the scene, a second or third broadcast is offered in order to provide more detail, especially if a responding unit has a question that needs clarification. The Gospel of Mark is the first broadcast about the life of Jesus. As such, the Gospel is prioritized around the same public events that concerned Peter; the events that were most important in articulating the salvation that is offered through the cross.
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.
Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading
By Bruce Ware 1/1/2016
Most Christians are aware of the importance of personal reading of God’s word. After all, the Bible is the only final and absolute authority for our faith and practice, since it is the very revelation of God himself. Here is where we go to truly know who God is and how life is to be lived. How wise is the person who is committed to a diligent input of Scripture, and how great are the derived benefits.
But just how should our daily Bible reading be done? Are there any guidelines for making the best used of our time and gaining the most from our reading of God’s word? Here, then, are five guidelines that have helped me much over many years of reading Scripture. May God grant you wisdom as you approach a new year, and may your time in God’s word bear much fruit.
1. Commit yourself to consistent Bible reading.
Since the word of God written (Scripture) is the main instrument God has provided his people to know his character, to know his plans and purposes, to know his work in creation and redemption, to know ourselves, and to know how we are to live before him and others, it only stands to reason that we need regular time in God’s word for that word to impact our lives.
Consistency, rather than haphazardness, should mark our reading of God’s work. Of course, we all know that emergencies arise and life’s messes interrupt. But it is one thing to have a few pauses in an otherwise consistent Bible reading plan, and another simply to read only when it is convenient to do so. Because it is hard to exaggerate the importance of God’s word to the formation of our minds, hearts, and lives (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and because that word will only have its greatest potential impact as we read it regularly, please consider making consistency a mark of your Bible reading this year.
Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable
By Lenny Esposito 12/16/2014
Naturalism is simply unbelievable. I don't mean unbelievable in the fantastical sense, although I do think there's a lot of hand-waving that goes on to try and excise any supernatural explanation as to why we exist. I mean, the viewpoint is unbelievable in that its own assumptions destroy itself. It is illogical to hold to naturalism.
The naturalist wants us to believe that the natural world is all that exists; we came about through evolutionary processes and our minds are one of the products of that process. Given the survival of the fittest paradigm that rives evolution, the naturalist must also assert "What your beliefs are don't matter nearly as much as what the survival value of your actions are." In fact, they do this when discussing religion all the time. Religion isn't true, they would assert, but it served an evolutionary purpose.
To use an example, picture an overweight man who is running. Now, the man may believe he has a better chance at survival if he runs because he puts his body in better shape, reduces the chances of heart attacks, and is generally more fit for the tasks of survival. However, the man may equally believe that running is an act of worship to the life-god and it drives out the fat demons that plague much of his tribe. Either belief produces the same result: the man runs and the man has an increased chance of longevity. Either belief helps him survive equally well. It doesn't matter which is true on an evolutionary worldview because evolution is all about survivability.
Reason Offers No Evolutionary Advantage
Because all evolution cares about is the survival of the individual, reason alone offers no evolutionary advantage. In fact, evolutionary theory proves this. According to all New-Darwinian models, there was a time on the earth where there existed no rational thought whatsoever! Animals were primitive and they had no capacity to reason, yet they survived just fine. They mere responded to external stimuli and adjusted their behavior. They don't know why the water is here and not somewhere else; they simply desire water.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
God Will Give You Something to Say
By John Piper 12/27/2016
I would like to encourage you to enjoy a particular experience of the ministry of the Holy Spirit promised by our Lord Jesus.
When he made this promise, he had in mind mainly the tense and dangerous moments when the adversaries of Christianity bring you before authorities and give you a chance to speak. For example, he said,
(Lk 12:11–12) 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” ESV
Or later he said,
(Mt 10:19) 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. ESV
Perhaps something like this has happened to you. But most of us in the West have not yet encountered that kind of official arraignment for being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, It Does Apply to You
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Seven Steps to Strengthen Prayer
By Bonnie McKernan 1/2/2017
My struggles with prayer run deep. The spiritual deserts in my life have always been accompanied by a parched prayer life. Eventually, I came to realize this was not only a symptom, but a cause. I was neglecting the very thing that would satisfy my weary, thirsty soul. I was ignoring the path that would not only lead me out of the desert, but keep me out of the wilderness in the first place.
I often fall short of my good intentions when I fail to view prayer as a discipline that needs to be learned and practiced and developed. We speak frequently of the importance of prayer, but often don’t know (or forget) the “hows” of prayer. Even Jesus’s own disciples had to ask Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1). They saw something in the way he prayed so fervently and intimately to his Father that made them long to do the same. Lord, teach us to pray!
While it won’t be the same for everyone, seven specific actions have really helped me in my battle against a weak prayer life.
Preparing to Pray
1. Set prayer apart. The more we pray, the more we want to pray. To do this, you need to build it into the rhythm of your day any way you can: set alarms, leave notes, put it in your day planner. Prayer is a practice that requires discipline and perseverance, and we should own the cost. Prayer is the greatest act of our day, and we must fight for it. And not just in times of need. It matters how we train and prepare for the battle.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
1. The nature of man, in both parts of his soul--viz. intellect and will--cannot be better ascertained than by attending to the epithets applied to him in Scripture. If he is fully depicted (and it may easily be proved that he is) by the words of our Saviour, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," (John 3:6), he must be a very miserable creature. For, as an apostle declares, "to be carnally minded is death," (Rom. 8:8), "It is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Is it true that the flesh is so perverse, that it is perpetually striving with all its might against God? that it cannot accord with the righteousness of the divine law? that, in short, it can beget nothing but the materials of death? Grant that there is nothing in human nature but flesh, and then extract something good out of it if you can. But it will be said, that the word flesh applies only to the sensual, and not to the higher part of the soul. This, however, is completely refuted by the words both of Christ and his apostle. The statement of our Lord is, that a man must be born again, because he is flesh. He requires not to be born again, with reference to the body. But a mind is not born again merely by having some portion of it reformed. It must be totally renewed. This is confirmed by the antithesis used in both passages. In the contrast between the Spirit and the flesh, there is nothing left of an intermediate nature. In this way, everything in man, which is not spiritual, falls under the denomination of carnal. But we have nothing of the Spirit except through regeneration. Everything, therefore, which we have from nature is flesh. Any possible doubt which might exist on the subject is removed by the words of Paul (Eph. 4:23), where, after a description of the old man, who, he says, "is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," he bids us "be renewed in the spirit" of our mind. You see that he places unlawful and depraved desires not in the sensual part merely, but in the mind itself, and therefore requires that it should be renewed. Indeed, he had a little before drawn a picture of human nature, which shows that there is no part in which it is not perverted and corrupted. For when he says that the "Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart," (Eph. 4:17, 18), there can be no doubt that his words apply to all whom the Lord has not yet formed anew both to wisdom and righteousness. This is rendered more clear by the comparison which immediately follows, and by which he reminds believers that they "have not so learned Christ" these words implying that the grace of Christ is the only remedy for that blindness and its evil consequences. Thus, too, had Isaiah prophesied of the kingdom of Christ, when the Lord promised to the Church, that though darkness should "cover the earth, and gross darkness the people," yet that he should "arise" upon it, and "his glory" should be seen upon it (Isaiah 40:2). When it is thus declared that divine light is to arise on the Church alone, all without the Church is left in blindness and darkness. I will not enumerate all that occurs throughout Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms and Prophetical writings, as to the vanity of man. There is much in what David says, "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity," (Ps. 62:10). The human mind receives a humbling blow when all the thoughts which proceed from it are derided as foolish, frivolous, perverse, and insane.
2. In no degree more lenient is the condemnation of the heart, when it is described as "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," (Jer. 17:9). But as I study brevity, I will be satisfied with a single passage, one, however, in which as in a bright mirror, we may behold a complete image of our nature. The Apostle, when he would humble man's pride, uses these words: "There is none righteous no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes," (Rom. 3:10-18). Thus he thunders not against certain individuals, but against the whole posterity of Adam--not against the depraved manners of any single age, but the perpetual corruption of nature. His object in the passage is not merely to upbraid men in order that they may repent, but to teach that all are overwhelmed with inevitable calamity, and can be delivered from it only by the mercy of God. As this could not be proved without previously proving the overthrow and destruction of nature, he produced those passages to show that its ruin is complete.
Let it be a fixed point, then, that men are such as is here described, not by vicious custom, but by depravity of nature. The reasoning of the Apostle, that there is no salvation for man, save in the mercy of God, because in himself he is desperate and undone, could not otherwise stand. I will not here labour to prove that the passages apply, with the view of removing the doubts of any who might think them quoted out of place. I will take them as if they had been used by Paul for the first time, and not taken from the Prophets. First, then, he strips man of righteousness, that is, integrity and purity; and, secondly, he strips him of sound intelligence. He argues, that defect of intelligence is proved by apostasy from God. To seek Him is the beginning of wisdom, and, therefore, such defect must exist in all who have revolted from Him. He subjoins, that all have gone astray, and become as it were mere corruption; that there is none that does good. He then enumerates the crimes by which those who have once given loose to their wickedness pollute every member of their bodies. Lastly, he declares that they have no fear of God, according to whose rule all our steps should be directed. If these are the hereditary properties of the human race, it is vain to look for anything good in our nature. I confess indeed, that all these iniquities do not break out in every individual. Still it cannot be denied that the hydra lurks in every breast. For as a body, while it contains and fosters the cause and matter of disease, cannot be called healthy, although pain is not actually felt; so a soul, while teeming with such seeds of vice, cannot be called sound. This similitude, however, does not apply throughout. In a body however morbid the functions of life are performed; but the soul, when plunged into that deadly abyss, not only labours under vice, but is altogether devoid of good.
3. Here, again we are met with a question very much the same as that which was previously solved. In every age there have been some who, under the guidance of nature, were all their lives devoted to virtue. It is of no consequence, that many blots may be detected in their conduct; by the mere study of virtue, they evinced that there was somewhat of purity in their nature. The value which virtues of this kind have in the sight of God will be considered more fully when we treat of the merit of works. Meanwhile however, it will be proper to consider it in this place also, in so far as necessary for the exposition of the subject in hand. Such examples, then, seem to warn us against supposing that the nature of man is utterly vicious, since, under its guidance, some have not only excelled in illustrious deeds, but conducted themselves most honourably through the whole course of their lives. But we ought to consider, that, notwithstanding of the corruption of our nature, there is some room for divine grace, such grace as, without purifying it, may lay it under internal restraint. For, did the Lord let every mind loose to wanton in its lusts, doubtless there is not a man who would not show that his nature is capable of all the crimes with which Paul charges it (Rom. 3 compared with Ps. 14:3, &c). What? Can you exempt yourself from the number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood; whose hands are foul with rapine and murder; whose throats are like open sepulchres; whose tongues are deceitful; whose lips are venomous; whose actions are useless, unjust, rotten, deadly; whose soul is without God; whose inward parts are full of wickedness; whose eyes are on the watch for deception; whose minds are prepared for insult; whose every part, in short, is framed for endless deeds of wickedness? If every soul is capable of such abominations (and the Apostle declares this boldly), it is surely easy to see what the result would be, if the Lord were to permit human passion to follow its bent. No ravenous beast would rush so furiously, no stream, however rapid and violent, so impetuously burst its banks. In the elect, God cures these diseases in the mode which will shortly be explained; in others, he only lays them under such restraint as may prevent them from breaking forth to a degree incompatible with the preservation of the established order of things. Hence, how much soever men may disguise their impurity, some are restrained only by shame, others by a fear of the laws, from breaking out into many kinds of wickedness. Some aspire to an honest life, as deeming it most conducive to their interest, while others are raised above the vulgar lot, that, by the dignity of their station, they may keep inferiors to their duty. Thus God, by his providence, curbs the perverseness of nature, preventing it from breaking forth into action, yet without rendering it inwardly pure.
What Did God Say?
By Sinclair Ferguson
The root of legalism is almost as old as Eden, which explains why it is a primary, if not the ultimate, pastoral problem. In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in undoing the ancient work of Satan.
In Eden the Serpent persuaded Eve and Adam that God was possessed of a narrow and restrictive spirit bordering on the malign. After all, the Serpent whispered, “Isn’t it true that he placed you in this garden full of delights and has now denied them all to you?”
The implication was twofold.
It was intended to dislodge Eve from the clarity of God’s word (“Did God actually say . . . ?”). Later the attack focused on the authority of God’s word (“You will not surely die”). But it was more. It was an attack on God’s character. For the Serpent’s question carried a deeply sinister innuendo: “What kind of God would deny you pleasure and joy if he really loved you? He allows you nothing, and yet he demands that you obey him.”
Despite an initial struggle, Eve’s ears were soon closed off to God’s word. The Serpent’s tactic was to lead her into seeing and interpreting the world through her eyes (what she saw when she looked at the tree) rather than through her ears (what God had said about it). So her gaze was diverted from the superabundant plenty God had commanded our first parents to enjoy. The use of the verb9 is surely significant in this context: the enjoyment of plenty is the first element in the command; the prohibition of one tree is the second. The Serpent’s tactic was to cause a fixation on the one negative command: “Do not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest you die.”
Now all Eve saw was a negative command. One small object near the eye can make all larger objects invisible. Now it was the sight of the forbidden tree blocking her vision of a garden abounding in trees. Now she could not see the forest for the tree. Now her eyes were on God the negative lawgiver and judge. In both mind and affections God’s law was now divorced from God’s gracious person. Now she thought God wanted nothing for her. Everything was a myopic, distorted “now.”
The entail of that theology is that if you are to receive anything from this misanthrope deity, then it must now be paid for and earned. By contrast the Father had actually said:
I am giving you everything in this garden. Go and enjoy yourselves. But just before you head off, I have given you all of this because I love you. I want you to grow and develop in your understanding and in your love for me. So this is the plan:
There is a tree here, “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Don’t eat its fruit.
I know—you want to know why, don’t you?
Well, I have made you as my image. I have given you instincts to enjoy what I enjoy. So in one sense you naturally do what pleases me and simultaneously gives you pleasure too.
But I want you to grow in trusting and loving me just for myself, because I am who I am.
You can only really do that if you are willing to obey me, not because you are wired to, but because you want to show me that you trust and love me.
If you do that you will find that you grow stronger and that your love for me deepens.
Trust me, I know.
That’s why I have put that tree there. I so want you to be blessed that I am commanding you to eat and enjoy the fruit of all these trees. That’s a command! But I have another command. What I want you to do is one simple thing: don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.
I am not asking you to do that because the tree is ugly—actually it is just as attractive as the other trees. I don’t create ugly, ever!11 You won’t be able to look at the fruit and think, That must taste horrible. It is a fine-looking tree. So it’s simple. Trust me, obey me, and love me because of who I am and because you are enjoying what I have given to you. Trust me, obey me, and you will grow.
How to Pray for Your Pastor
By Melton L. Duncan 7/01/2017
When Roman legions invaded Caledonia (modern-day Scotland) in the late first century AD, it was said by the historian Tacitus that the powerful Celtic chieftain Calgacus emerged and rallied his tribes against the might of Rome, famously declaring, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.”
Today’s Christian pastor is likewise making similar stands for biblical Christianity in the midst of a secular desert created by an anti-Christian culture. The Bible describes a faithful pastor as an elder who oversees the flock and the household of God. According to Paul, pastor/elders rule the church (Titus 1:5) and guard the treasures of Christ (v. 9). Additionally, they minister to the people by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
If ever there was an era in Christian history that believers should be committed to praying for their pastors, it is now. James rebukes our prayerlessness when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). And what prayers are we offering up to God on behalf of our pastors? Let me suggest several.
THAT HE WOULD DELIGHT IN PREACHINGIf your minister is not being blessed and instructed by the Word, it is highly unlikely that you will be. Your spiritual well-being is directly linked to your pastor’s seeking the Lord in his preparation for the sacred desk. If he is not diligently seeking the Lord, you won’t find Him in his preaching either.
A godly pastor is a joyful, dutiful herald of the most high King. His enthusiasm for proclaiming God’s Word will be infectious and unstoppable, and it will be readily apparent to all who hear him that this is a man who knows his God. Second Timothy 4:1–2 reads:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
THAT HE WOULD ENJOY THE LORD’S DAYI suspect that many people who sit week after week in the pews of their particular church have no idea how difficult a Sunday is for a minister and his family. Pray for your pastor’s Sundays. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says: “A well-spent sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. … We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.”
THAT HE WOULD LEAD HIS FAMILY WELLPray that God would help your pastor in the midst of busyness to taste and see that the Lord is good. Pray that his children would grow up loved and cherished in the household of faith. Joel Beeke says: “Family worship is the foundation of child rearing. As family worship goes, so will go the family. The Puritans thought family worship was the whole backbone of society.” We read in Deuteronomy 6:4–7:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
THAT HE WOULD HAVE A HEART FOR THE LOSTMay your pastor have a Christlike love for the lost and a joy in telling others about the Shepherd-King. If a man loves the Lord, he will love telling others the old story of the gospel. He also will teach and model for others a renewed sense of evangelism and mission. He is worthy to receive the glory and honor due Him (Rev. 4:11). Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is worthy to receive the reward. We need our pastors to have a zeal for the lost.
THAT THE LORD WOULD PROTECT HIMA growing personal relationship with Christ will supply the motivation and zeal needed for a pastor’s duty to God. It will be tiring. It will require an all-in, total commitment. Pray that God would provide every physical and emotional need for the call to serve. Pastors are often subject spiritual temptation, so pray for God to protect these men from the evil one. Pray that they would guard themselves and be granted personal holiness. Pray that they would apply the means of grace to their own hearts, by God’s help.
THAT HE WOULD PREACH THE GOSPELThomas Smyth of the antebellum historic Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., once charged a young pastor by saying:
Preaching is your pre-eminent employment, so the Gospel is the sum and substance of your preaching—the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation.
Necessity is laid upon you, yea, woe is unto you if you preach not the Gospel. … Preach Christ as set forth in the Gospel—the sum and substance of God’s testimony, and the author of eternal salvation to all who believe upon him.
Preach—this glorious Gospel of good news—first and last, every way, and everywhere, in public and in private; in the pulpit and by the press; to the living and to the dying; to the lost and the saved.
Pray for your pastor, pray as if your very life and those you love depended upon it. Melton L. Duncan is a ruling elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C.
The Antidote to Anemic Worship
By Albert Mohler 7/01/2017
Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A.W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.
Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments or ordinances form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some see evangelism as the heart of worship and therefore plan every facet of the service — songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.
Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the Word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.
Traditional norms of worship are now subordinated to a demand for relevance and creativity. A media-driven culture of images has replaced the word-centered culture that gave birth to the Reformation churches. In some sense, the image-driven culture of modern evangelicalism is an embrace of the very practices rejected by the Reformers in their quest for true biblical worship.
Music fills the space of most evangelical worship, and much of this music comes in the form of contemporary choruses marked by precious little theological content. Beyond the popularity of the chorus as a musical form, many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.
In terms of musical style, the more traditional churches feature large choirs — often with orchestras — and may even sing the established hymns of the faith. Professional staff and an army of volunteers spend much of the week in rehearsals and practice sessions.
All this is not lost on the congregation. Some Christians shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fit their expectations. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”
A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music above all else as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship is the preaching of the Word of God.
Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the Word, sinners are drawn to Christ in faith and the offer of salvation is presented to all. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper and baptism are honored as ordinances by the Lord”s own command, and each finds its place in true worship. But music is not the central act of Christian worship, and neither is evangelism or even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the Word of God.
Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God.
The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8, we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle — he simply and carefully proclaimed the Word of God.
This text is a sobering indictment of much of contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the Word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?
In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service.
The anemia of evangelical worship — all the music and energy aside — is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active Word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, opens eyes, and applies that Word to human hearts.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
January 3Genesis 5:22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. ESV
The pre-flood patriarch, the seventh from Adam, who walked with God and prophesied of judgment to come and of the triumph of the Lord over all the forces of evil, as told so long afterwards by Jude (14-15), was no recluse or ascetic. He was a family man, assuming all the responsibilities that are thereby implied. Yet in a difficult day he walked in fellowship with the holy One as he sought to bring up his children in the fear of God and to keep them from the surrounding iniquity. In this he becomes an example for us. In order to walk with God it is not necessary to flee from the world to some monastic cell or to a convent’s gloomy shelter. Whatever we may be called to do, however heavy the burden that may rest upon our shoulders, it is possible to walk with God and to enjoy His blessed companionship. All that is needed is a yielded will, and subjection of heart to Him who has saved us by His grace.
Jude 14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” ESV
Who walks with God must take His way,
Across far distances and gray,
To goals that others do not see,
Where others do not care to be.
Who walks with God must have no fear
When danger and defeat appear,
Nor stop when every hope seems gone,
For God, our God, moves ever on.
Who walks with God must press ahead
When sun or cloud is overhead,
When all the waiting thousands cheer,
Or when they only stop to sneer;
When all the challenge leaves the hours
And naught is left but jaded powers;
But he will some day reach the dawn,
For God, our God, moves ever on.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
This year invest what God has given you
1/3/2018 Bob Gass
‘Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.’
(Ro 14:10) Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; ESV
Judgment day will be characterised by two things: rewards and regrets! Jesus highlights this in the story of three servants who were given talents to invest on behalf of their master. The first two invested well and were rewarded, while the third one buried his talent and was judged accordingly. The first two considered their options, crunched the numbers, took the plunge, and were willing to risk failure. As a result their boss said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21 NKJV). Now, God doesn’t reward foolishness. So before you make a move, talk it over with Him (see Proverbs 3:5-6). The third servant, however, said, ‘I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground’ (Matthew 25:25 NKJV). He made the most common and tragic mistake when it comes to giftedness: he failed to benefit his Master with his talent. Some invest their talents and give God credit, while others misuse theirs and give Him grief. Some honour Him with ‘fruit’, while others insult Him with excuses. And how does God feel about the latter? ‘Get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb’ (Matthew 25:29 MSG). Fear is the opposite of faith, and ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ (Hebrews 11:6 KJV). So this year step out in faith; God won’t let you down. Take a risk; He won’t fail you. Even if you stumble on your way to success, He encourages you to envision the day when you’ll feel His hand on your shoulder and hear the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’
(Mt 25:21) His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ESV
(Pr 3:5–6) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. ESV
(Mt 25:25) so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ ESV
(Mt 25:29) For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. ESV
(Heb 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ESV
UCB The Word For Today
January 3, 2016
Second day of house sitting. Beautiful house, grand piano, walls covered with paintings, chandeliers … but I miss our little Lily decorated apartment. I like being surrounded by the things she creates, arranges, and decorates. It’s snowing. Blue jays have a monopoly on the birdfeeders. Waiting for a good football game.
From the very beginning, two thousand years ago, the followers of Jesus have always maintained that he took the tears of the world and made them his own, carrying them all the way to his cruel and unjust death to carry out God’s rescue operation; and that he took the joy of the world and brought it to new birth as he rose from the dead and thereby launched God’s new creation. … But it makes the point that the Christian faith endorses the passion for justice which every human being knows, the longing to see things put to rights. And it claims that in Jesus, God himself has shared this passion and put it into effect, so that in the end all tears may be dried and the world may be filled with justice and joy.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by Bill Federer
Frederick the Great of Prussia called these ten days “the most brilliant in the world’s history.” After winning the Battle of Trenton, Christmas night, George Washington’s small force dodged General Cornwallis’ 8,000 man British army. Then one night, Washington left his campfires burning and snuck his army around the back of the British camp at Princeton, New Jersey. At daybreak, this day, January 3, 1777, Washington attacked, capturing three regiments of British troops. Enthusiasm swept America. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, stated: “Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have conceived the surprise move upon the enemy at Princeton?”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
When grace possesses the life,
it brings a threefold power.
It brings "redemption," the powers of liberation;
it brings "wisdom," the power of illumination;
it brings "understanding,"
the power of applying the illumination
to the difficulties of life.
--- John Henry Jowett
The marvel of the Redemptive Reality of God is that the worst and the vilest can never get to the bottom of His (God’s) love. Paul did not say that God separated him to show what a wonderful man He could make of him, but “to reveal his son in me.”
--- Oswald Chambers
Prayer will make a man cease from sin,
or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
--- John Bunyon
God doth justify the believing man,
yet not for the worthiness of his belief,
but for his worthiness who is believed.
--- Richard Hooker
A Learned Discourse of Justification
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
don’t go along with them.
11 Suppose they say, “Come with us:
we’ll ambush somebody and kill him,
we’ll waylay some harmless soul, just for fun;
12 we’ll swallow him alive, like Sh’ol,
whole, like those who descend to the pit;
13 we’ll find everything he has of value,
we’ll fill our homes with loot!
14 Throw in your lot with us;
we’ll share a common purse”—
15 my son, don’t go along with them,
don’t set foot on their path;
16 their feet run to evil,
they rush to shed blood.
17 For in vain is the net baited
if any bird can see it;
18 rather, they are ambushing themselves
to shed their own blood, waylaying themselves.
19 So are the ways of all greedy for gain—
it takes the lives of those who get it.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
By Saint Augustine edited by E.B. Pusey
Book ICHAPTER VI — HE DESCRIBES HIS INFANCY, AND LAUDS THE PROTECTION AND ETERNAL PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
Yet suffer me to speak unto Thy mercy, me, dust and ashes. Yet suffer me to speak, since I speak to Thy mercy, and not to scornful man. Thou too, perhaps, despisest me, yet wilt Thou return and have compassion upon me. For what would I say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came into this dying life (shall I call it?) or living death. Then immediately did the comforts of Thy compassion take me up, as I heard (for I remember it not) from the parents of my flesh, out of whose substance Thou didst sometime fashion me. Thus there received me the comforts of woman’s milk. For neither my mother nor my nurses stored their own breasts for me; but Thou didst bestow the food of my infancy through them, according to Thine ordinance, whereby Thou distributest Thy riches through the hidden springs of all things. Thou also gavest me to desire no more than Thou gavest; and to my nurses willingly to give me what Thou gavest them. For they, with a heaven-taught affection, willingly gave me what they abounded with from Thee. For this my good from them, was good for them. Nor, indeed, from them was it, but through them; for from Thee, O God, are all good things, and from my God is all my health. This I since learned, Thou, through these Thy gifts, within me and without, proclaiming Thyself unto me. For then I knew but to suck; to repose in what pleased, and cry at what offended my flesh; nothing more.
Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in other infants, though of myself I remember it not. Thus, little by little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And when I was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me; and avenged myself on them by tears. Such have I learnt infants to be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it.
And, lo! my infancy died long since, and I live. But Thou, Lord, who for ever livest, and in whom nothing dies: for before the foundation of the worlds, and before all that can be called “before,” Thou art, and art God and Lord of all which Thou hast created: in Thee abide, fixed for ever, the first causes of all things unabiding; and of all things changeable, the springs abide in Thee unchangeable: and in Thee live the eternal reasons of all things unreasoning and temporal. Say, Lord, to me, Thy suppliant; say, all-pitying, to me, Thy pitiable one; say, did my infancy succeed another age of mine that died before it? was it that which I spent within my mother’s womb? for of that I have heard somewhat, and have myself seen women with child? and what before that life again, O God my joy, was I any where or any body? For this have I none to tell me, neither father nor mother, nor experience of others, nor mine own memory. Dost Thou mock me for asking this, and bid me praise Thee and acknowledge Thee, for that I do know?
I acknowledge Thee, Lord of heaven and earth, and praise Thee for my first rudiments of being, and my infancy, whereof I remember nothing; for Thou hast appointed that man should from others guess much as to himself; and believe much on the strength of weak females. Even then I had being and life, and (at my infancy’s close) I could seek for signs whereby to make known to others my sensations. Whence could such a being be, save from Thee, Lord? Shall any be his own artificer? or can there elsewhere be derived any vein, which may stream essence and life into us, save from thee, O Lord, in whom essence and life are one? for Thou Thyself art supremely Essence and Life. For Thou art most high, and art not changed, neither in Thee doth to-day come to a close; yet in Thee doth it come to a close; because all such things also are in Thee. For they had no way to pass away, unless Thou upheldest them. And since Thy years fail not, Thy years are one to-day. How many of ours and our fathers’ years have flowed away through Thy “to-day,” and from it received the measure and the mould of such being as they had; and still others shall flow away, and so receive the mould of their degree of being. But Thou art still the same, and all things of tomorrow, and all beyond, and all of yesterday, and all behind it, Thou hast done to-day. What is it to me, though any comprehend not this? Let him also rejoice and say, What thing is this? Let him rejoice even thus! and be content rather by not discovering to discover Thee, than by discovering not to discover Thee.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Clouds and darkness
Clouds and darkness are round about Him. --- Psalm 97:2
A man who has not been born of the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when you are baptized with the Holy Ghost, you find “clouds and darkness are round about Him.” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first insight into this aspect of things. The only possibility of understanding the teaching of Jesus is by the light of the Spirit of God on the inside. If we have never had the experience of taking our commonplace religious shoes off our common-place religious feet, and getting rid of all the undue familiarity with which we approach God, it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and familiar are those who have never yet been introduced to Jesus Christ. After the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable darkness of realizing Who He is.
Jesus said: “The words that I speak unto you,” not—‘the words I have spoken’—“they are spirit, and they are life.” The Bible has been so many words to us—clouds and darkness, then all of a sudden the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us in a particular condition. That is the way God speaks to us, not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God it is by the most simple way of words.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Nietzsche had a word
for it. History discredits
his language. Ours
more quietly rusts
in autumnal libraries
of the spirit. Scolded
for small faults,
we see how violence in others
is secretly respected.
Do we amble pacifically
towards our extinction? The answers
from over the water
are blood-red. I wonder,
seeing the rock
split by green grass
as the atom, is this
the centre from which
nature will watch out
human folly, until
it is time to call back
to the small field civilization
began in the small
people the giants deposed?
Then in 4:3–4a came the sacrifices, or better, the offerings. The timing was: And in the process of time it came to pass. The Hebrew literally reads “at the end of days,” meaning “at a specific appointed time.” So already, this early in human history, there was a fixed time in which the offerings were to be offered. It was clearly a regularly prescribed time. This being so, this means that this was not the first time sacrifices were offered or even the first time that Cain offered a sacrifice. Previously, since Abel was the shepherd and Cain was the farmer, in order to have a blood-sacrifice, Cain would have had to purchase a sheep or a goat from his brother, Abel. However, this time, he chose not to do it that way, but Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering. The Hebrew word is minchah, which means “an offering” in general terms. Nevertheless, in Cain’s case, it was bloodless; and because it was bloodless, it was unacceptable. This is an example of an act of religion, but apart from faith. He was only going through the motions to try to discharge his duty. Although God later did accept grain offerings, even the grain offerings of the Mosaic Law always came in contact with blood. Therefore, what Cain offered was from the fruit of the ground; and there is no indication as to its being of the best quality, no indication even that it was of the first fruits. Bringing it unto Jehovah meant he brought it to a specific place, to a prescribed place; but there is no mention of an altar. So again, the place may well have been at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, where the presence of the Shechinah Glory was manifested. Then came the offering of Abel: And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. Abel’s offering was different from Cain’s in two ways: It was a firstling, a firstborn; and it was a blood sacrifice. The text adds that Abel brought of the fat thereof, which was viewed as the best part (Lev. 3:16). For Abel, this sacrifice was an act of faith, to perform his spiritual duty. The mention of the fat shows that the issue was the sacrifice of blood. Popular relational theology tries to claim that the whole thing was an issue of attitude, that Cain had the wrong attitude but Abel had the right attitude. However, there is simply no indication of this in the text, and the thrust of Scripture is that the problem was a lack of blood, as shown in Hebrews: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4); Messiah’s blood that speaks better than that of Abel (Heb. 12:24). The clear emphasis here is on blood, not merely attitude. Both Cain and Abel were sinners; both were born after the Fall and outside the Garden of Eden; both had the same parents, the same upbringing, the same environment, and the same knowledge. However, Cain’s offering was not of faith, while Abel’s offering was an act of faith in response to revelation and knowledge.
God responds. In verse 4b, God responds to Abel’s offering: And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering. He respected Abel’s faith, and He had respect for Abel’s offering, because it was of the prescribed type. It was a firstling, and it had blood. Just how God showed His acceptance, it does not say. According to Rashi, it was accepted by fire descending out of Heaven and consuming it. Although there is no indication of this in the text, it is clear that it was made obvious in some way. In verse 5a, God responds to Cain’s offering: He had not respect. God rejected Cain because Cain had no faith, and his lack of faith showed in the type of offering he offered. God had no respect for Cain’s offering because it was not the first-fruits and there was no blood involved.
Genesis 4:5b records the reaction of Cain: Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. Jude 11 mentions the way of Cain; and the way of Cain is rejecting God’s way and then becoming angry when God does not accept one’s own way to God.
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. --- Ecclesiastes 9:11. KJV
Men might be swift, but they did not always win. ( Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) Armies might be strong, but they did not always triumph. There were incalculable powers abroad, balancing, adjusting, compensating, so that turn where one would in human affairs, there were unexpected and dramatic outcomes. You may call that chance, or you may take it from the other side and call it God. But whatever you call it, the fact remains that the rearranging and revising power is there.
This is true of Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I sometimes contrast the Man of Nazareth with the emperor who was reigning then, Tiberius. Tiberius was the most powerful person living, the ruler of all that was fairest in the world. There was no control to his power, no limit to his wealth, no barrier to his pleasures. On one of the most enchanting spots of earth he chose his home—a lovely island with a delicious climate. Wouldn’t you be happy if all that were yours? Yet Pliny calls him the most gloomy of souls. Now think of Christ with nowhere to lay his head, despised and rejected, jeered at, crucified. Pay attention to his words about “my joy,” “my peace” that the world cannot give and cannot take away. Who wins in that race for happiness and peace? Is it the mighty Caesar or the rejected Christ?
Let me suggest some of the moral values of this truth. First, it keeps us from discouragement and cheers us when the lights are dim. We can say in our weakness, I may still win my crown, for the battle is not always to the strong. Then, it weans us from pride and keeps us watchful, humble, and dependent. It is a strange world, rich in dramatic touches, and the battle is not always to the strong.
Lastly, it clears the ground for God and leaves a space to recognize him. If the strongest were sure of triumph in every battle there would be little room on the field for the divine. Whose is the arm that so upholds the weak that after the strife theirs is the cry of victory? So we return, we who were once so blind, with eyes that have been opened to see God, and now we know that just because he reigns, the battle is not always to the strong.
--- George H. Morrison
Send Me to the Rough
David Brainard was a frail young man, tubercular, sickly, and easily depressed. He longed to reach the Indians of Colonial America, but his first venture to a tribe in Massachusetts was fraught with danger. Unknown to him, his every move was monitored by warriors intent on killing him. But as they raised their bows, they saw a rattlesnake slithering alongside him, lifting its head, flicking its tongue, preparing to strike. Suddenly the snake uncoiled and glided away. The warriors attributed Brainard’s safety to the “Great Spirit.”
But the incident didn’t lead to sustained evangelistic fruitfulness, and Brainard’s missionary work in 1743 saw little success. His despondency increased during Christmas. He wrote, I was very fatigued with my journey, wherein I underwent great hardships; much exposed and very wet by falling into the river. The next year was no better; he grew even more depressed.
On January 3, 1745, Brainard set aside the entire day for fasting and prayer, pleading for an outpouring of spiritual power. He claimed the promise in John 7: Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving waters flowing from deep inside you. …
Then he preached repeatedly from John 7, and the unfolding year proved the most fruitful of his ministry. His interpreter, an alcoholic named Tattamy, was converted. An immediate change seemed to transform Tattamy’s life and his translating of Brainard’s sermons. Scores of Indians were saved and baptized.
Brainard grew weaker, and in 1747 he died at age 29 in the home of Jonathan Edwards. But his story moved his generation—Henry Martyn, William Carey, Adoniram Judson—toward missions. His diary became one of the most powerful Christian books in early American history, containing such entries as this one: Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service and to promote Thy kingdom.
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit …
--- John 7:37-39a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 3
“I will give thee for a covenant of the people.”
--- Isaiah 49:8.
Jesus Christ is himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, canst thou estimate what thou hast gotten in Christ? “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Consider that word “God” and its infinity, and then meditate upon “perfect man” and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man, ever had, or can have, is thine—out of pure free favour, passed over to thee to be thine entailed property forever. Our blessed Jesus, as God, is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to preserve you even to the end. Has he love? Well, there is not a drop of love in his heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of his love, and you may say of it all, “It is mine.” Hath he justice? It may seem a stern attribute, but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most certainly secured to you. And all that he has as perfect man is yours. As a perfect man the Father’s delight was upon him. He stood accepted by the Most High. O believer, God’s acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest thou not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it honourable, is thine, and is imputed to thee. Christ is in the covenant.
“My God, I am thine—what a comfort divine!
What a blessing to know that the Saviour is mine!
In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name.”
Evening - January 3
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” --- Luke 3:4.
The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the Master’s proclamation, and give him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text must have my serious attention.
Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.
Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set thee right in this respect.
The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.
The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when he comes to honour his favoured ones with his company. Oh that this Evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by his grace, that he may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.
O GOD, OUR HELP IN AGES PAST
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (Psalm 90:1, 2)
It has been wisely said that no thinking person ever regarded the beginning of a new year with indifference. Each of us faces many concerns and questions as we stand on the threshold of the unknown future.
The mystery of time is the subject of this hymn text, a paraphrase of Psalm 90. The hymn is considered by many to be one of the finest ever written and perhaps the best known of the 600 hymns by Isaac Watts, often called the “father of English hymnody.”
At an early age Isaac displayed unusual talent in writing poetic verse. As a young man he became increasingly concerned with the congregational singing in the English speaking churches. Only ponderous metrical Psalms were used until this time. To use any words other than the actual words of Scripture would have been considered an insult to God.
Challenged by his father to “write something better for us to sing,” young Watts began to create new versions of the Psalms with inspiring and expressive style. Eventually, at the early age of 25, he published an important hymnal titled The Psalms of David in the Language of the New Testament. In addition to “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” several of Watts’ other paraphrases based on psalm settings are hymn texts still widely sung today. They include such favorites as “Joy to the World,” Psalm 98; and “Jesus Shall Reign,” Psalm 72.
After more than 250 years, Isaac Watts’ hymn is still a timely reminder of God’s faithfulness throughout the past and His sure promises for our future.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne still may we dwell secure; sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood or earth received her frame, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same.
Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.
For Today: Psalm 33:20; 48:14; 90; Isaiah 26:4
Live confidently in the assurance that the One who has directed your steps to this moment of time is worthy of your complete trust for the days ahead.
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