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7/13/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Proverbs 1 - 3

Proverbs 1

The Beginning of Knowledge

Proverbs 1:1     The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2  To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3  to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4  to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5  Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6  to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

7   The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The Enticement of Sinners

8  Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
9  for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
10  My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
11  If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12  like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13  we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14  throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
15  my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
16  for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17  For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18  but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19  Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.

The Call of Wisdom

20  Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21  at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22  “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23  If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
24  Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25  because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26  I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27  when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28  Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29  Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
30  would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31  therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
32  For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33  but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Proverbs 2

The Value of Wisdom

Proverbs 2:1     My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2  making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3  yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4  if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5  then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6  For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7  he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8  guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9  Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10  for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11  discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12  delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13  who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14  who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15  men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.

16  So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words,
17  who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
18  for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;
19  none who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.

20  So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21  For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
22  but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Proverbs 3

Trust in the LORD with All Your Heart

Proverbs 3:1     My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2  for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

3  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4  So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.

5  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.
7  Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8  It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

9  Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10  then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12  for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

Blessed Is the One Who Finds Wisdom

13  Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14  for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15  She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16  Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17  Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18  She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

19  The LORD by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20  by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.

21  My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22  and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
23  Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
24  If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25  Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26  for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
27  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.

28  Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it” — when you have it with you.
29  Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
30  Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
31  Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
32  for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD,
but the upright are in his confidence.
33  The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34  Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
35  The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why Are You a Christian Believer?

By J. Warner Wallace 9/2/2016

     You don’t have to read much of Cold-Case Christianity to realize I’m an evidentialist. The title usually gives it away. As a result, my inbox is filled with email from people who want to convince me that true faith is independent of evidence. Many of them point to the well-known passage in John chapter 20 where Thomas expresses his doubt that Jesus has been resurrected. When Jesus presented Himself to Thomas, He made an important statement that is occasionally offered as an affirmation of some form of “blind faith”:

     After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:26-29)

     Without any other context to understand what Jesus believed about the relationship between evidence and faith, this single sentence (“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”) does sound like an endorsement of faith independent of evidential support. But context changes everything. Like other declarations offered by Jesus, this statement has to be reconciled with everything else Jesus said and did before we can truly understand what He believed about the role of evidence.

     As it turns out, the Apostle John wrote more about Jesus’ evidential approach than any other Gospel author. According to John, Jesus repeatedly offered the evidence of His miracles to verify his identity and told His observers that this evidence was sufficient:

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

The Historical Paul

By William Lane Craig 5/5/2017

     Dr. Craig, | First, I would like to say God bless you for all that you do with reasonable faith and your many other endeavors. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have ever read that you have written and I enjoy the live stream of your defenders class. Recently I was witnessing to a friend of mine who is an atheist and he had a friend with him who is a religious studies major. As we got into the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection I argued for the origins of the church and the subsequent conversions of James the brother of Jesus and Saul of Tarsus. I was a little thrown off by the response of the religious studies major who stated "Hardly any scholar believes Paul actually existed. It is believed it was a pseudonym for a number of anonymous church members to get their beliefs into church doctrine." I had never encountered this rebuttal before. I was able to move past it but it stuck with me. I have done some armchair research and discovered a whole following of people (including Christians) who take this view in some degree. I have learned there is extrabiblical evidence that Paul existed but it is not as plentiful as would be expected. Most of what I read asserts that a lot of what is known is believed to be legendary including the book of Acts. They claim only 5 epistles were truly written by the historical Paul the rest are forgeries. I was wondering if you have ever encountered this argument and if you have any rebuttals to this particular line of dialogue. Thank you so much for all you do Dr. Craig!

     Man, oh, man, oh, man! Nothing illustrates the truth of the aphorism “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” better than your friend! When I first read your letter, I thought he was just one of the kooks out there—how else could you explain the palpable falsehood that “Hardly any scholar believes Paul actually existed,” when in fact every scholar agrees that he did? Even the Jesus mythicists, who fly in the face of scholarship by denying the existence of the historical Jesus, typically admit the existence of the historical Paul, as one way of explaining away the Jesus myth! How much kookier the claim that Paul never existed?

     But as I contemplated your letter, it began to dawn on me that your friend is just terribly mixed up. He’s learned a few things in his religious studies classes which he misunderstood and mixed up into a mishmash of errors.

     What’s correct is that seven of Paul’s letters are recognized today by scholars as “undisputed” letters written by Paul: Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, and Philemon. The authorship of the remaining epistles is disputed among scholars. If Paul himself did not write them, that’s not to say that they’re “forgeries” in the modern sense. They may have been written by disciples of Paul on his behalf.

     Now obviously if Paul wrote these seven letters, then the historical Paul existed, case closed. Moreover, we know a great deal about his teaching and life on the basis of these letters alone. They alone more than suffice to establish the claims you were making to your friend.

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     William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He and his wife Jan have two grown children.

     At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

     He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument; Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus; Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom; Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of Philosophy, New Testament Studies, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science. In 2016 Dr. Craig was named by The Best Schools as one of the fifty most influential living philosophers. [My Google Profile+]

William Lane Craig Books:

God Reveals His Plan

By Robert Jeffress 2023

God Reveals His Plan

     Scottish poet Robert Burns once destroyed a mouse’s nest while plowing a plot of land. To make amends, he wrote a poem titled, appropriately enough, “To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.” From a translation of this poem, we get the well-known saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

     But what about the best-laid plans of our sovereign, all-powerful, omniscient heavenly Father? God created the world and the human race according to His perfect plan. He gave us free will so that we could choose to love and obey Him. He placed us in an earthly paradise and surrounded us with everything we would ever need, including unfettered access to Him. God and humanity, enjoying perfect fellowship and harmony forever. That was His plan.

     It went awry when we chose to pursue sin instead of Him. We grabbed the reins of our free will and drove straight into a chasm. Remember, God is holy. His holiness demands complete separation from sin. He is also just. His justice demands the punishment for sin: death. The only way to restore our relationship with God — the only way to satisfy His perfect holiness and perfect justice — was with a perfect sacrifice.

     Somebody who was completely sinless — somebody who deserved no punishment from God — had to step forward to bear the full brunt of God’s holy wrath for every sin ever committed. Somebody had to suffer and die in our place.

     So God revealed the continuation of His perfect plan. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth, where He lived a sinless life and then gave that life in place of ours. Jesus paid God’s penalty for our sin. He made it possible for us to restore our relationship with our heavenly Father and have eternal life.

     God revealed His plan in the Old Testament hundreds, even thousands of years before Jesus came to earth. He revealed the unfolding of His plan in the four Gospels. And He revealed the implications of His plan throughout Scripture.

     God’s plan continues to unfold,

Psalm 119:129     Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130     The  unfolding  of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131     I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132     Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your way with those who love your name.
133     Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134     Redeem me from man’s oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135     Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136     My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

and there are roles and responsibilities for everyone who chooses to be part of it. Our first responsibility is to receive the salvation Jesus offers. We do that by acknowledging that Jesus alone can save us. We confess our sins and then repent, or turn away from them. We ask God to forgive us. And then we hand the reins of our lives to Him and give Him control.

Romans 10:9 (NASB95)  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

     After we align ourselves with Jesus, God reveals the roles and responsibilities that will shape the rest of our lives. He instructs us to take the Good News that changed our lives to the people in our sphere of influence who need to hear it so that it can change their lives too. And then He asks us to take that message beyond our sphere of influence.

     God instructs us to follow Jesus’s example in caring for people who slip through the cracks of society. In doing so, He reveals His heart for strugglers and outcasts, for the impaired and the forgotten, for the morally compromised and the emotionally fragile. God asks us to choose first the people who are used to being chosen last.

     These and a lifetime’s worth of other marching orders are revealed in God’s Word. Also there, in John 10:10, are the words of Jesus that reveal the guiding truth threading its way through every part of God’s plan: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The What Now

     God’s revealing of Himself — His attributes, names, and plans — is generous beyond anything we could ever hope for. But He didn’t stop there. Along with His revelation He includes an invitation: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8). In essence, He says, “Here’s who I am. Come and see for yourself.”

     The question falls to us: What do we do with what we know about God?


     When the holy, just, loving, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, immanent, transcendent, sovereign, and unchanging Creator and Sustainer of the universe invites us to get to know Him better, we seize the opportunity. We do so by diving deep into Scripture and searching for more about Him, His nature, and His will. In this chapter, we’ve only scratched the surface of who God is. The Word of God offers a master class on the subject. We can explore His interactions with people in the Old and New Testaments to learn how to build and strengthen a relationship with Him.

     We accept God’s invitation to get to know Him better by rethinking our approach to prayer. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in what we call “the Lord’s Prayer,” He first emphasized the importance of contemplating God’s holiness (“Hallowed be Your name,” Matt. 6:9). Before we start listing our requests and pouring out our troubles to the Lord in prayer, we ought to focus our full attention on God and His holiness, offering Him our heartfelt praise and adoration. When we reach a mindset of proper reverence, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

     We accept God’s invitation to know Him better by writing about our experiences with Him in a prayer journal, thereby recording the evidence of Him that we see in the world around us, keeping track of answered prayer, and creating a paper trail of His work in our lives that we can revisit whenever we need to.

     I have kept a prayer journal for many years. In a spiral notebook, I divide each page into two columns, labeled “My Requests” and “God’s Answers.” I record all my requests to God and use them as a guide for my praying. When God answers that request with a yes or no, I record it under “God’s Answers.” Occasionally, when I am discouraged, I flip through my prayer journal and feel my cloud of discouragement dissipate as I remember God’s supernatural intervention in my life. But I am equally encouraged when I read some of the “no” answers to my prayers and see how God had a better plan for my life than I could have ever imagined. My prayer journal has been a great source of comfort as I look back and see God’s past faithfulness to me.

We Tap into His Resources

     If you were looking for a contractor or a consultant to help you with a major project, what qualities would you look for? What words on a business card or in an online review would catch your eye? Dependable? Conscientious? Professional? Guaranteed? Inexpensive?

     How about all-powerful? Or all-knowing? Or immanent, for that matter — you’d never have to wonder where your contractor was. God’s perfections are our most valuable (super)natural resources. They are available to us 24/7, every single day. And they are limitless. We can draw on them daily, even hourly, if necessary.

     How often do you and I face temptation? Sure, certain temptations are easy to resist when our willpower is fully charged, when we can see the danger of giving in, or when we’re surrounded by people who can help us resist. But not all temptations are so accommodating. Some fly under our radar. They track toward a weak spot in our defenses and land when we’re most vulnerable. And we find ourselves powerless to resist. Fortunately for us, our heavenly Father has power to spare. In fact, He has all power. And we can draw on as much of it as we need — through praying, memorizing Scripture passages, and other methods — until the temptation subsides.

     How often do we struggle with loneliness? How many of us know all too well the sting of being abandoned by friends, feeling alone in a crowd, or being separated from loved ones? In those moments when everyone else seems so distant, our heavenly Father is always near. And when we tap into His immanence, we can find much-needed light in our dark nights of the soul.

     Perhaps you’re wrestling with the question, “Where do I go from here?” Maybe your life has been temporarily delayed on account of uncertainty. Perhaps you’re standing at a crossroads with no direction arrows, or you’re frozen by the fear of making the wrong life choices.

     What you and I need at times like this is Someone wiser to guide us. Someone who can see the big picture. Someone who can say with absolute certainty, “I know where this path leads, and you’re going to like it.” We have that Someone available to us, and He invites us to draw on His wisdom and tap into His omniscience. And because He loves us perfectly, we can trust that He will never lead us astray.

We Put Him on the Throne of Our Lives

     As we discovered earlier, God’s perfections exist in perfect harmony. That means God’s loving generosity, as awesome as it is, never overshadows His sovereignty. So while He may freely share His power, presence, and wisdom with us, He will not accept a just-when-we-need-Him role in our lives.

     God is supreme over all creation. He answers to no one. His power and wisdom are limitless. He knows every secret the universe holds and every aspect of our being. Why would we expect Him to defer to us in anything? Why would we want Him to?

     The final, and most important, answer to the question, “What do we do with what we know about God?” is this: We submit to His authority. We give God complete control of every area of our lives. We do so with a sense of reverence, gratitude, humility, and joy. Then we buckle up for the adventure!

The Whispers of God’s Presence

     As we wrap up our examination of God the Father, let’s look at one of the most extraordinary — and revealing —encounters with the Almighty in Scripture. The story is found in 1 Kings 19. The Old Testament prophet Elijah was depressed because he thought he was about to be martyred for obeying God. To boost Elijah’s spirit, God told him to grab a front-row seat on Mount Horeb because He, God the Father, was going to pass by.

     In person.

     While Elijah watched, a powerful wind tore across the mountain and shattered the rocks all around him. But God wasn’t in the wind.

     Then a devastating earthquake shook the mountain to its core. But God wasn’t in the earthquake.

     Following that, a raging fire consumed everything in its path. But God wasn’t in the fire.

     In the wake of the fire’s roar, after perhaps the most awesome parade of natural phenomena ever witnessed, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. In 1 Kings 19:13, we read, “When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle.” Why? Because God was in the whisper.

     God’s presence is as big, bold, and dramatic as the most powerful forces on earth — and as intensely personal as a whisper. The better you get to know Him, the louder that whisper will become in your life.

Robert Jeffress, What Every Christian Should Know: 10 Core Beliefs for Standing Strong in a Shifting World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2023)

Advance! Advance in Submission

By Tim Challies 5/8/2017

     Why was Jesus born into the world as a baby instead of arriving as a fully-grown man? Did he really have to endure infancy with its helplessness, childhood with its ignorance, those teenage years with their awkwardness? Why didn’t he just arrive at 30, bang out his mission in three short years, and then make a quick escape from this sin-stained world?

     The author of the letter to the Hebrews answers our questions: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). To complete his mission, the Son of God had to live a complete life as a man. He had to be a baby, he had to be a toddler, he had to be a child, a tween, a teen, a young adult, and a grown man. He had to face and endure the temptations that come with every one of life’s stages. He had to be tempted as a toddler to defy his parents, as a teen to retaliate against sinful brothers and sisters, as an adult to be quick-tempered and sharp-tongued. He was tempted in every way we are, yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).

     But he did not only need to avoid temptation; he also needed to express perfect obedience. He had to perfectly avoid the sins of each of the 10 commandments and also model complete adherence to them. He had to avoid worship of all other gods, and he also had to worship the true and living God. He had to avoid taking God’s name in vain, and he also had to always speak well of the Father. He had to refrain from murdering anyone, and he also had to express love to every person all of the time. God’s commandments are not just sins to avoid but also righteousness to obey. In all of history, only Christ has perfectly avoided all sin and perfectly achieved all righteousness, and this is why he can be our Savior.

     As we consider these 10 commandments, there is one that stands out as especially unusual for this God-man to obey: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). For Jesus to live a perfect life and to perfectly obey God’s law, he would have to honor parents. He who had existed from eternity would have to obey mortal beings. He who had created all things would have to honor those he had brought into existence. He, the perfect Son of God, would have to submit to an imperfect mother and father. To be a suitable Savior, he would need to willingly subject himself to Mary and Joseph.

     As we continue our look at the silent years between Jesus’ childhood and public ministry, we first encounter his submission. Luke comments on these 18 years when he says, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (Luke 2:51). Jesus used his teens and 20s to advance in submission. As we will see, this obedient submission was essential to the other advances Luke highlights—advances in wisdom, stature, and favor. From Jesus we learn that young Christians who wish to advance in those other noble qualities must first advance in submission.

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     Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.

     I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

     Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.

     Tim Challies Books |  Go to Books Page

Entering Adulthood

By Derek Halvorson 6/2017

     The college years are a critical season in young people’s lives. For most, it’s the first time they are really out from underneath mom and dad’s roof, and thus the first time they confront the issues and pressures that come with adult life. It’s a time when they often grapple with philosophical questions about life, such as who they are, what they value, what they want to pursue in life, and what kind of person they want to be. It is an exciting time when they can explore new interests, learn about fresh possibilities, develop a vision for their future, and be challenged and stretched in good ways.

     Sadly, it’s also a time of life when many young adults leave the church. This is not a new trend. Many scholars and journalists have noted—and many of us have witnessed firsthand—the prevalence of young adults removing themselves from participation in the local church during their college years. Research by multiple parties indicates that of the young people who are in the church in high school, more than 60 percent are no longer in the church by age twenty-five.

     The likely explanations for young people’s leaving the church are multiple. Perhaps they follow the example of one or both parents while they are still living at home but are not yet mature in their own faith. Perhaps they lack a role model who is truly committed to participating in a local church. Perhaps they become overwhelmed with their newfound freedom in this season of life when they often have less accountability and more discretion than they did previously.

     The Challenges of College | While each person’s situation is unique, a vital factor that contributes to the likelihood of young people’s remaining committed to the local church is the presence in their lives of meaningful relationships within the church body—and not just relationships with parents or siblings. This makes intuitive sense, given what the church is: a people, a body of believers, the family of God. The church cannot be a family without close ties, and if young adults are not truly invited into the family and are not living as integral members of the family—enmeshed in all the glorious and messy things that accompany any family life—then their weak ties to the church body can be easily broken when new temptations and challenges appear on the horizon. This is a potential threat to students regardless of what college they attend.

     At Covenant College, where I serve as president, we strongly encourage students to join a church congregation and be actively involved in the life of that church during their college years. Equipping young men and women to be faithful, lifelong members of a local church is, in fact, one of our primary aims. We acknowledge in this aim that the call we all receive as disciples of Christ is not to a life of rugged individualism—God does not sanctify us in our own personal silos—but instead to a life wherein we join the fellowship of believers that spans generations, sexes, classes, ethnicities, and cultures. It is not always easy, but this is how God chooses to refine us and make us like Christ.

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     Dr. J. Derek Halvorson is president of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., and chair of the executive committee of Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities.

Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride

By Francis Chan 10/2/2010

     Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3)

     I don’t know if there is a more appropriate passage for us to turn to at this point in the book than 1 Corinthians 8:1–3. It is a passage directed toward those whose have their facts right but hearts wrong. Here Paul addresses the intelligent but unloving.

     It has been wonderful and challenging for me to study this passage. Meditating on 1 Corinthians 8:1–3 caused me to realize how many statements I make each day that are not motivated by love. It has caused me to pray that God would remind me to love each person I encounter and to seek to build up each individual with my words.

     Do I Genuinely Love? | Years ago, a friend of mine asked me how I prepared to preach. I told him how I pictured God in the room and that I would tell him that I wanted to please him alone. I then asked my friend how he would prepare. He told me how he would look at the crowd and pray, “God, you know how I love these people. Give me the right words to bring them closer to you.

     He then explained that there are other times that he would have to pray, “Father, I don’t love these people like I should. Give me a greater love for them.” It is sad that I had been preaching for years, I realized then, without thinking about really loving the people to whom I preached.

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​Francis Chan is a pastor in San Francisco and is actively planting churches in the Bay Area.

A Collegiate Response to 'On Being an Atheist'

By Nate Sala 6/29/2016

     In the article entitled “On Being an Atheist,” H.J. McCloskey attempts to refute the notion of the existence of God.  He opens with his stated goal:  “In this article I wish to remind fellow atheists of the grounds upon which theists base their belief in God, of the inadequacy of these grounds…”[1]  He then addresses several different methods with which Christians argue for a Creator and attempts to refute each one.

     While he does develop a particular stance on the issues of the usefulness of proofs, the inadequacies of the cosmological and teleological arguments, the existence of evil as a detriment to belief in God, and the futility of faith in times of crisis, McCloskey is rarely capable of leaving the realm of assertion to formulate a true argument.  Consequently what appears to be a thoughtful treatment on the existence of God, at first blush, turns out to be nothing more than cleverly worded opinions that are vulnerable to critique as it will shortly become evident.

     Proper Usage Of Proofs | The first observation McCloskey makes is on the reliance of proofs. He writes that philosophers, “… attribute too much importance to the role of the proofs of the existence of God…”[2] He uses phrases like “less conclusive” and “no such indisputable examples” to drive home the point that a Christian’s arguments for God cannot be definitively established. And, if they cannot be definitively established, they must therefore be rejected.

     But this is a clever bait-and-switch. If McCloskey is going to approach certain proofs for the existence of God, he must first make apparent the way in which these proofs are being used. Arguing against a deductive proof when the deductive proof logically cannot prove anything is appropriate given the circumstances. But arguing against a deductive proof when a deductive proof is not even being employed is simply an example of attacking a straw man. It may be that some Christians are trying to make an argument in that sense but McCloskey is implying that Christians are only making one type of argument and is therefore not providing an accurate characterization of the particular arguments for God’s existence.

     The argument for belief can actually be stated inferentially; what C. Stephen Evans cites as “inference to the best explanation.”[3] Since it is possible that something other than the theistic argument is true, Christians are not stating anything in terms of deduction; rather their goal is to rely on what is probable. McCloskey seems to be sidestepping the plausibility issue of the theist’s position over that of the atheist’s by simply stating that the theist’s position fails as a deductive proof; but, again, this fact has no bearing on the true location upon which the Christian stakes her argument.

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     Nate Sala is an English and Forensics Teacher. B.Sc., M.Ed. University of Nevada Las Vegas. Lives in Las Vegas with his wife, two sons, and dogs.

Are You Chasing Happiness or Holiness?

By Tony Reinke 08-07-2017

     Such a question actually reveals a common mistake of pitting holiness and happiness against each other. “God is more interested in you being holy than happy,” so the line goes.

     Some of my favorite theologians fall prey to this subtle dichotomy. And this includes one of the best thinkers I love (David Wells). In charity, and in much gratitude for everything I have learned from his writings, I’ll post a few paragraphs from his 2014 book where this tension arises, and I’ll make a friendly amendment later.

     In attempting to criticize the therapeutic definition of the faith in so many pulpits, he writes:

In this psychological world, the God of love is a God of love precisely and only because he offers us inward balm. Empty, distracted, meandering, and dissatisfied, we come to him for help. Fill us, we ask, with a sense of completeness! Fill our emptiness! Give us a sense of direction amid the mass of competing ways and voices in the modern world! Fill the aching emptiness within!
     This is how many in the church today, especially in the evangelical church, are thinking. It is how they are praying. They are yearning for something more real within themselves than what they currently have. This is true of adults and of teenagers as well. Yes, we say earnestly, hopefully, maybe even a little wistfully, be to us the God of love!

     Those who live in this psychological world think differently from those who inhabit a moral world. In a psychological world, we want therapy; in a moral world, a world of right and wrong and good and evil, we want redemption. In a psychological world, we want to be happy. In a moral world, we want to be holy. In the one, we want to feel good but in the other we want to be good. . . .

     God stands before us not as our Therapist or our Concierge. He stands before us as the God of utter purity to whom we are morally accountable. He is objective to us and not lost within the misty senses of our internal world. His Word comes to us from outside of our self because it is the Word of his truth. It summons us to stand before the God of the universe, to hear his command that we must love him and love our neighbors as ourselves. He is not before us to be used by us. He is not there begging to enter our internal world and satisfy our therapeutic needs. We are before him to hear his commandment. And his commandment is that we should be holy, which is a much greater thing than being happy. . . .

     It is true that there are psychological benefits to following Christ, and happiness may be its by-product. These, though, are not fundamentally what Christian faith is about. It is about the God who is other than ourselves, who is the infinite and gracious God.

     Now it’s certainly appropriate to push back on culturally defined happiness (like consumer-centered materialism, sexual liberation, and self-centeredness in all its many forms). And it’s certainly right to push back on the idea that holiness is non-essential in the Christian life. And it’s certainly right to attack the idea of God as nothing more than a Santa Claus for our felt needs. God self-exists outside of us. He is the wholly pure Creator to whom all creatures will give an account.

     But by distancing holiness from happiness we create a false dichotomy.

Happy or Holy

     When in doubt, glance at the Redwoods of the church: the Puritans. Two in particular can help us respond to the modern attempt to separate happiness from holiness so cleanly. For example, Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) authored a 450-page book under the apt title: The Crown and Glory of Christianity: Or, Holiness, The Only Way To Happiness (1662). It’s a massive defense of the interconnectedness of human happiness and holiness that runs on and on, point after subpoint, to make the case irrefutably clear from Scripture.

     “Holiness differs nothing from happiness but in name,” Brooks boldly writes near the opening of the book. “Holiness is happiness in the bud, and happiness is holiness at the full. Happiness is nothing but the quintessence of holiness.”

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     Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.

Tony Reinke Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 74

Arise, O God, Defend Your Cause
74 A Maskil Of Asaph.

Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

ESV Study Bible

By John Walvoord

God’s Judgment on Babylon

     Isaiah 13:1–22. Isaiah, who was living at the time that Assyria conquered the ten tribes (722 BC), also predicted the future destruction of Babylon that would occur long after his death. The prophecy of Babylon and her destruction is described as occurring in “the day of the LORD” (v.  6 ). The prophecy of Babylon’s destruction was partially fulfilled in 539 BC when the Medes and the Persians captured the city of Babylon. The prophecy concerning Babylon, however, looks far into the future at the final fall of Babylon in the judgments related to the second coming of Christ ( Rev. 18 ). The description of the day of the Lord as a time of terror and God’s wrath was not completely fulfilled at the fall of Babylon (539 BC) and instead describes the great tribulation, the three and a half years that will precede the second coming.

     The victory of the Medes over Babylon anticipated the fall of the city of Babylon as well as the religious and political power of Babylon. Babylon would be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah (  Isa. 13:19 ). The city would be so decimated that it would never be inhabited again (vv.  20–22 ). Historically, the city of Babylon was not destroyed in 539 BC or in the centuries that followed. Even in the beginning of the Christian era, Babylon was still an important city with a large colony of Jews. Instead of a sudden destruction, it was gradually destroyed by the forces of nature.

     In  Revelation 18, Babylon again is described as a city that would experience sudden destruction by earthquake and fire. Though some understand this not to mean the literal city of Babylon, the realistic description of  Revelation 18 fits perfectly into the concept of a major city to be rebuilt in the end time but to be destroyed by earthquake and fire as a judgment from God at the second coming.

Israel’s Blessing after the Destruction of Babylon

     Isaiah 14:1–8. Babylon has been partially rebuilt in the modern age. Israel is described as the object of the Lord’s compassion, a nation victorious over their enemies. Israel will taunt Babylon in the time of her destruction (vv.  3–11 ). The oppression of Babylon will end in the time of millennial peace (v.  7 ).

The Destiny of the Wicked

     Isaiah 14:9–23. The leaders are described here as being in the realm of the spirits of the dead (vv.  9–11 ). The prophecy concerning Babylon here goes beyond the literal city of Babylon. The king of Babylon (v.  3 ) is usually identified as Sennacherib (705–651 BC). Sennacherib was actually the king of Assyria, but when he conquered Babylon, he also was related to Babylon. If he was the one in view (v.  12 ), here he is described like the falling of a morning star, which suddenly disappears once the dawn arrives. He had been a great conqueror of the many nations about Israel. He now would be laid low and killed by assassination. His desire was to be greater than God (vv.  13–14 ).

     Some interpreters consider these verses as referring to more than Sennacherib and actually as a description of the fall of Satan in the prehistoric world. Satan, originally created as a holy angel, rebelled against God and was condemned to the perpetual judgment of God. The wording of verses  13–14 would describe very accurately the viewpoint of Satan in his desire to be raised above all other rulers and made “like the Most High” (v.  14 ). This form of revelation is often found in prophecy. In addition to the historical reference, there is here reference to the larger struggle between Satan and God. Sennacherib is described as one who had been killed without proper burial (vv.  16–20 ). God predicted that Babylon would be cut off (v.  22 ) and would become a place of desolation (v.  23 ).

Assyria to Be Judged

     Isaiah 14:24–27. Here the destruction of Assyria is predicted again (v.  25 ). Historically, this was fulfilled in 612 BC when the Assyrian armies were defeated by the Babylonian armies. Nineveh, its capital, was destroyed. The same area once conquered by Assyria will be subject to Christ after His second coming.

Judgment on the Philistines

     Isaiah 14:28–32. Another prophecy was revealed against the Philistines, who were Israel’s constant enemies. They came out to rejoice over temporary victories over Israel, but they were destined for complete destruction themselves. This was partially fulfilled in history but also will be fulfilled in relation to Jesus Christ as the ultimate victor at His second coming.

Prophecy against Moab

     Isaiah 15:1–16:13. The future destruction of Moab, another traditional enemy of Israel, is predicted ( 15:1–4 ). At the time of Isaiah’s writing, some of the Moabite cities had already been destroyed — such as Ar and Kir, located in the southern part of the Dead Sea. Dibon, one of their principal cities, was close to the Dead Sea. Other principal cities were also destined for destruction, along with cities such as Nebo and Medeba. Fugitives from Moab fled as far as Zoar to the south and west. The destruction of the Moabites was given graphic prediction (vv.  5–9 ).

     Instead of fleeing to the south, the Moabites should have gone to the north to Israel and sent lambs as a tribute ( 16:1 ). Ultimately, this warfare would end, and a man would sit on the throne of the house of David (v.  5 ), a prophecy to be fulfilled in the future millennium. A lament of Moab and her grief is described (vv.  7–12 ). An immediate fulfillment of the destruction of Moab is predicted to come within three years (vv.  13–14 ). This prophecy was fulfilled either in about 732 BC when the Assyrian armies pressed south or in the later invasion in 701 BC by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.

Prophecy against Damascus

     Isaiah 17:1–8. The coming destruction of Damascus, one of the ancient cities of the Middle East, the capital city of Aram, is predicted (vv.  1–2 ). Damascus was allied with Israel in fighting the Assyrians, but it was to no avail because the Assyrians would triumph. Jacob would be like a person with a fat body that wasted away (v.  4 ). The destruction of Damascus was fulfilled in history and prophecy.

I believe it makes more sense to hold that Isaiah 17 was fulfilled in the eighth century BC when both Damascus, the capital of Syria, and Samaria, the capital of Israel, were hammered by the Assyrians. In that conquest, both Damascus and Samaria were destroyed, just as  Isaiah 17 predicts. According to history, Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 BC) pushed vigorously to the west, and in 734 the Assyrians advanced and laid siege to Damascus, which fell two years later in 732. ((Mark Hitchcock, Middle East Burning:))  My favorite Bible teacher, Andy Woods, believes this, but I do not.

Thomas Ice: “Most commentators contend that  Isaiah 17:1–3 was fulfilled in 732 b.c. at the conquest of Tiglath-pileser ((For example, Peter A. Steveson, A Commentary on  Isaiah (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2003), 142. See also, John D. W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary:  Isaiah 1-33, rev. ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 293.)). However, Tiglath-pileser did not totally destroy the city, but merely captured it, as has happened numerous times throughout its history.”
     As a result of their discipline by the conquering Assyrians, Israel would turn from their false gods and Asherah poles to the true God (vv.  7–8 ).

     Isaiah 17:9–14. Strong cities would be abandoned and become desolate (v.  9 ). The reason for their judgment was that they had forgotten God (v.  10 ). The raging of the nations against each other and against God is described, but in the end, God will be the One who triumphs (vv.  12–14 ).

Prophecy against Cush

     Isaiah 18:1–7. This prophecy concerns the destruction of Cush, or Ethiopia, referred to as “the land of whirring wings” (v.  1 ). The territory involved northern Ethiopia, Sudan, and southern Egypt. The “whirring wings” represented either the invaders or the wings of locusts. They are described as a fearsome people, “tall and smooth-skinned,” and an “aggressive nation” (v.  2 ). The Lord promised to remain with them “like shimmering heat in the sunshine” (v.  4 ), but in due time God would punish the Assyrian invaders. After Assyria was destroyed, the people would bring gifts to Israel (v.  7 ). This prophecy about Cush was fulfilled in history and will be fulfilled at the second coming ( Ezek. 38:5; Rev. 16:14–21 ).

Prophecy against Egypt

     Isaiah 19:1–25. Isaiah predicted that the Egyptians would fight each other (v.  2 ) and would “consult the idols and the spirits of the dead” (v.  3 ). They would be conquered by “a fierce king” (v.  4 ). The Nile River would dry up and “the reeds and rushes will wither” (v.  6 ). God’s continued judgment on the Egyptians, the destruction of their economy, and their lack of wisdom were spelled out (vv.  8–15 ). With their internal problems, as well as lack of crops and lack of water, Egypt would be brought to desolation.

     The prediction that Judah would rule over the Egyptians (vv.  16–17 ) may refer to the future millennium, as it does not seem to correspond to any event in history. Some of the cities in Egypt will use the language of Canaan (v.  18 ). In the time of the future kingdom, prophecy indicated that Egypt would turn to the Lord and worship Him. As a result, He would heal them from the plague (vv.  19–22 ).

     Reference was also made to the highway from Egypt to Assyria (v.  23 ) that will be in use in the future kingdom. God’s blessing will rest on Israel as well as on Egypt and Assyria in that day (vv.  24–25 ). The prophecies are fulfilled in history and will be fulfilled in the millennium.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

The Continual Burnt Offering (Luke 1:46-47)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

July 13
Luke 1:46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

     It has often been remarked that Luke’s Gospel “opens with a burst of melody.” The angels, Mary, Elisabeth, Zacharias, Simeon, Anna, and the shepherds, are all found praising and adoring the God of all grace who has raised up in the house of David, a Redeemer for His people. Mary’s song, that which we commonly call “The Magnificat,” is a wondrous expression of her sense of the goodness of God in providing through her a Savior, not only for the race but for herself. She sings as one who recognizes her own sinfulness by nature, but who rejoices in the divine provision for her salvation; she knew nothing of the false doctrine of her own immaculate conception. She gloried in being saved by grace.   Mary's story should be our own. More and more lately God's goodness breaks upon Lily and I like the light of morning in our livingroom window. The trees and shrubbery in so many different shades of green seem to proclaim God's goodness. I am so grateful that God is making us more and more grateful for gifts I used to take for granted.  Here  is a short video, all scripture, proclaiming God's goodness.

Let sinners saved give thanks and sing,
Salvation’s theirs and of the Lord;
They draw from heaven’s eternal spring,
The living God, their great reward.

Let sinners saved give thanks and sing,
Whom grace has kept in dangers past,
And oh, sweet truth! the Lord will bring
His people safe to heaven at last.
--- T. Kelly

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

Terms for “Wisdom” in  Proverbs

     The purpose of a book of proverbs is to instruct in the principles of wisdom. There are three major terms for wisdom employed throughout this work: ḥoḵmâ, bɩ̄nâ, and tûšiyyâ.
     1. Ḥoḵmâ (“wisdom”) the term most frequently used, pertains not so much to the realm of theoretical knowledge or philosophy as to a proper grasp of the basic issues of life and of the relationship of God to man as a moral agent. This kind of “wisdom” involves a proper discernment between good and evil, between virtue and vice, between duty and self-indulgence. It also includes prudence in secular matters and a skill in the accomplishment of business affairs as well as in interpersonal relationships. It implies an ability to apply theory to practice in real-life situations, consistently applying that which we know to that which we have to do.
     2. Bɩ̄nâ (“understanding”) connotes the ability to discern intelligently the difference between sham and reality, between truth and error, between the specious attraction of the moment and the long-range values that govern a truly successful life. The root idea of this term is found in the related preposition bên, meaning “between;” hence there is always an analytical or judgmental factor involved and the ability to distinguish between the valid and the invalid, the false and the true.
     3. Tûšiyyâ (“sound wisdom, efficient wisdom,” or, in a derived sense, “abiding success”). This term conceives of wisdom as an authentic insight into, or intuition of, spiritual or psychological truth. It focuses upon the ability of the human mind to rise from below to a grasp of divine reality above, so to speak, rather than the wisdom of a prophetic revelation that comes down supernaturally from heaven. It points to the activity of the believer’s mind by which he is able to deduce from what God has revealed the manner in which these principles are to be applied in everyday situations of life (cf.  Prov. 3:21; 8:14; 18:1; and also in the sense of help or deliverance,  Prov. 2:7 ).
     It should be noted that the characteristic type of māšāl or proverb in this book is the balanced antithesis which incisively contrasts the wise man and the fool, the good man and the wicked, true value and false appearance, in such a way as to set forth the two sides of the truth in clearest opposition to each other and thus perform an incisive didactic function. The constant preoccupation of the book is with the elemental antinomies of obedience versus rebellion, industry versus laziness, prudence versus presumption, and so on. These are so presented as to put before the reader a clear-cut choice, leaving him no ground for wretched compromise or vacillating indecision.     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     33. The same view must be taken of communion, which, according to them, has no existence unless they swallow the flesh of Christ under the bread. But no slight insult is offered to the Spirit if we refuse to believe that it is by his incomprehensible agency that we communicate in the body and blood of Christ. Nay, if the nature of the mystery, as delivered to us, and known to the ancient Church for four hundred years, had been considered as it deserves, there was more than enough to satisfy us; the door would have been shut against many disgraceful errors. These have kindled up fearful dissensions, by which the Church, both anciently and in our own times, has been miserably vexed; curious men insisting on an extravagant mode of presence to which Scripture gives no countenance. And for a matter thus foolishly and rashly devised they keep up a turmoil, as if the including of Christ under the bread were, so to speak, the beginning and end of piety. It was of primary importance to know how the body of Christ once delivered to us becomes ours, and how we become partakers of his shed blood, because this is to possess the whole of Christ crucified, so as to enjoy all his blessings. But overlooking these points, in which there was so much importance, nay, neglecting and almost suppressing them, they occupy themselves only with this one perplexing question, How is the body of Christ hidden under the bread, or under the appearance of bread? They falsely pretend that all which we teach concerning spiritual eating is opposed to true and what they call real eating, since we have respect only to the mode of eating. This, according to them, is carnal, since they include Christ under the bread, but according to us is spiritual, inasmuch as the sacred agency of the Spirit is the bond of our union with Christ. Not better founded is the other objection, that we attend only to the fruit or effect which believers receive from eating the flesh of Christ. We formerly said, that Christ himself is the matter of the Supper, and that the effect follows from this, that by the sacrifice of his death our sins are expiated, by his blood we are washed, and by his resurrection we are raised to the hope of life in heaven. But a foolish imagination, of which Lombard was the author, perverts their minds, while they think that the sacrament is the eating of the flesh of Christ. His words are, "The sacrament and not the thing are the forms of bread and wine; the sacrament and the thing are the flesh and blood of Christ; the thing and not the sacrament is his mystical flesh" (Lombard, Lib. 4 Dist. 8). Again a little after, "The thing signified and contained is the proper flesh of Christ; the thing signified and not contained is his mystical body." To his distinction between the flesh of Christ and the power of nourishing which it possesses, I assent; but his maintaining it to be a sacrament, and a sacrament contained under the bread, is an error not to be tolerated. Hence has arisen that false interpretation of sacramental eating, because it was imagined that even the wicked and profane, however much alienated from Christ, eat his body. But the very flesh of Christ in the mystery of the Supper is no less a spiritual matter than eternal salvation. Whence we infer, that all who are devoid of the Spirit of Christ can no more eat the flesh of Christ than drink wine that has no savour. Certainly Christ is shamefully lacerated, when his body, as lifeless and without any vigour, is prostituted to unbelievers. This is clearly repugnant to his words, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). They object that he is not there speaking of sacramental eating; this I admit, provided they will not ever and anon stumble on this stone, that his flesh itself is eaten without any benefit. I should like to know how they confine it after they have eaten. Here, in my opinion, they will find no outlet. But they object, that the ingratitude of man cannot in any respect detract from, or interfere with, faith in the promises of God. I admit and hold that the power of the sacrament remains entire, however the wicked may labour with all their might to annihilate it. Still, it is one thing to be offered, another to be received. Christ gives this spiritual food and holds forth this spiritual drink to all. Some eat eagerly, others superciliously reject it. Will their rejection cause the meat and drink to lose their nature? They will say that this similitude supports their opinion--viz. that the flesh of Christ, though it be without taste, is still flesh. But I deny that it can be eaten without the taste of faith, or (if it is more agreeable to speak with Augustine), I deny that men carry away more from the sacrament than they collect in the vessel of faith. Thus nothing is detracted from the sacrament, nay, its reality and efficacy remain unimpaired, although the wicked, after externally partaking of it, go away empty. If, again, they object, that it derogates from the expression, "This is my body," if the wicked receive corruptible bread and nothing besides, it is easy to answer, that God wills not that his truth should be recognised in the mere reception, but in the constancy of his goodness, while he is prepared to perform, nay, liberally offers to the unworthy what they reject. The integrity of the sacrament, an integrity which the whole world cannot violate, lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them. We may add, that it is no more possible to receive Christ without faith, than it is for seed to germinate in the fire. They ask how Christ can have come for the condemnation of some, unless they unworthily receive him; but this is absurd, since we nowhere read that they bring death upon themselves by receiving Christ unworthily, but by rejecting him. They are not aided by the parable in which Christ says, that the seed which fell among thorns sprung up, but was afterwards choked (Mt. 13:7), because he is there speaking of the effect of a temporary faith, a faith which those who place Judas in this respect on a footing with Peter, do not think necessary to the eating of the flesh and the drinking of the blood of Christ. Nay, their error is refuted by the same parable, when Christ says that some seed fell upon the wayside, and some on stony ground, and yet neither took root. Hence it follows that the hardness of believers is an obstacle which prevents Christ from reaching them. All who would have our salvation to be promoted by this sacrament, will find nothing more appropriate than to conduct believers to the fountain, that they may draw life from the Son of God. The dignity is amply enough commended when we hold, that it is a help by which we may be ingrafted into the body of Christ, or, already ingrafted, may be more and more united to him, until the union is completed in heaven. They object, that Paul could not have made them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord if they had not partaken of them (1 Cor. 11:7); I answer, that they were not condemned for having eaten. but only for having profaned the ordinance by trampling under foot the pledge, which they ought to have reverently received, the pledge of sacred union with God.

34. Moreover, as among ancient writers, Augustine especially maintaine [650] this head of doctrine, that the grace figured by the sacraments is not impaired or made void by the infidelity or malice of men, it will be useful to prove clearly from his words, how ignorantly and erroneously those who cast forth the body of Christ to be eaten by dogs, wrest them to their present purpose. Sacramental eating, according to them, is that by which the wicked receive the body and blood of Christ without the agency of the Spirit, or any gracious effect. Augustine, on the contrary, prudently pondering the expression. "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life " (John 6:54), says: "That is the virtue of the sacrament, and not merely the visible sacrament: the sacrament of him who eats inwardly, not of him who eats outwardly, or merely with the teeth" (Hom. in Joann. 26). Hence he at length concludes, that the sacrament of this thing, that is, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, is set before some for life, before others for destruction: while the matter itself, of which it is the sacrament, is to all for life, to none for destruction, whoever may have been the partaker. Lest any one should here cavil that by thing is not meant body, but the grace of the Spirit, which may be separated from it, he dissipates these mists by the antithetical epithets, Visible and Invisible. For the body of Christ cannot be included under the former. Hence it follows, that unbelievers communicate only in the visible symbol; and the better to remove all doubt, after saying that this bread requires an appetite in the inner man, he adds (Hom. in Joann. 59), "Moses, and Aaron, and Phinehas, and many others who ate manna, pleased God. Why? Because the visible food they understood spiritually, hungered for spiritually, tasted spiritually, and feasted on spiritually. We, too, in the present day, have received visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament is another." A little after, he says: "And hence, he who remains not in Christ, and in whom Christ remains not, without doubt neither spiritually eats his flesh, nor drinks his blood, though with his teeth he may carnally and visibly press the symbol of his body and blood." Again, we are told that the visible sign is opposed to spiritual eating. This refutes the error that the invisible body of Christ is sacramentally eaten in reality, although not spiritually. We are told, also, that nothing is given to the impure and profane beyond the visible taking of the sign. Hence his celebrated saying, that the other disciples ate bread which was the Lord, whereas Judas ate the bread of the Lord (Hom. in Joann. 62). By this, he clearly excludes unbelievers from participation in his body and blood. He has no other meaning when he says, "Why do you wonder that the bread of Christ was given to Judas, though he consigned him to the devil, when you see, on the contrary, that a messenger of the devil was given to Paul to perfect him in Christ?" (August. de Bapt. Cont. Donat. Lib. 5). He indeed says elsewhere, that the bread of the Supper was the body of Christ to those to whom Paul said, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; and that it does not follow that they received nothing because they received unworthily." But in what sense he says this, he explains more fully in another passage (De Civit. Dei, Lib. 21 c. 25). For undertaking professedly to explain how the wicked and profane, who, with the mouth, profess the faith of Christ, but in act deny him, eat the body of Christ; and, indeed, refuting the opinion of some who thought that they ate not only sacramentally, but really, he says: "Neither can they be said to eat the body of Christ, because they are not to be accounted among the members of Christ. For, not to mention other reasons, they cannot be at the same time the members of Christ and the members of a harlot. In fine, when Christ himself says, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him' (John 6:56), he shows what it is to eat the body of Christ, not sacramentally, but in reality. It is to abide in Christ, that Christ may abide in him. For it is just as if he had said, Let not him who abides not in me, and in whom I abide not, say or think that he eats my body or drinks my blood." Let the reader attend to the antithesis between eating sacramentally and eating really, and there will be no doubt. The same thing he confirms not less clearly in these words: "Prepare not the jaws, but the heart; for which alone the Supper is appointed. We believe in Christ when we receive him in faith: in receiving, we know what we think: we receive a small portion, but our heart is filled: it is not therefore that which is seen, but that which is believed, that feeds (August. Cont. Faust. Lib. 8 c. 16). Here, also, he restricts what the wicked take to be the visible sign, and shows that the only way of receiving Christ is by faith. So, also, in another passage, declaring distinctly that the good and the bad communicate by signs, he excludes the latter from the true eating of the flesh of Christ. For had they received the reality, he would not have been altogether silent as to a matter which was pertinent to the case. In another passage, speaking of eating, and the fruit of it, he thus concludes: "Then will the body and blood of Christ be life to each, if that which is visibly taken in the sacrament is in reality spiritually eaten, spiritually drunk" (De Verb. Apost. Serm. 2) Let those, therefore, who make unbelievers partakers of the flesh and blood of Christ, if they would agree with Augustine, set before us the visible body of Christ, since, according to him, the whole truth is spiritual. And certainly his words imply that sacramental eating, when unbelief excludes the entrance of the reality, is only equivalent to visible or external eating. But if the body of Christ may be truly and yet not spiritually eaten, what could he mean when he elsewhere says: "Ye are not to eat this body which you see, nor to drink the blood which will be shed by those who are to crucify me? I have committed a certain sacrament to you: it is the spiritual meaning which will give you life" (August. in Ps. 98). He certainly meant not to deny that the body offered in the Supper is the same as that which Christ offered in sacrifice; but he adverted to the mode of eating--viz. that the body, though received into the celestial glory, breathes life into us by the secret energy of the Spirit. I admit, indeed, that he often uses the expression, "that the body of Christ is eaten by unbelievers;" but he explains himself by adding, "in the sacrament." And he elsewhere speaks of a spiritual eating, in which our teeth do not chew grace (Hom. in Joann. 27). And, lest my opponents should say that I am trying to overwhelm them with the mass of my quotations, I would ask how they get over this one sentence: "In the elect alone, the sacraments effect what they figure." Certainly they will not venture to deny, that by the bread in the Supper, the body of Christ is figured. Hence it follows, that the reprobate are not allowed to partake of it. That Cyril did not think differently is clear from these words: "As one in pouring melted wax on melted wax mixes the whole together, so it is necessary, when one receives the body and blood of the Lord, to be conjoined with him, that Christ may be found in him, and he in Christ." From these words, I think it plain that there is no true and real eating by those who only eat the body of Christ sacramentally, seeing the body cannot be separated from its virtue, and that the promises of God do not fail, though, while he ceases not to rain from heaven, rocks and stones are not penetrated by the moisture.

35. This consideration will easily dissuade us from that carnal adoration which some men have, with perverse temerity, introduced into the sacrament, reasoning thus with themselves: If it is body, then it is also soul and divinity which go along with the body, and cannot be separated from it; and, therefore, Christ must there be adored. First, if we deny their pretended concomitance, what will they do? For, as they chiefly insist on the absurdity of separating the body of Christ from his soul and divinity, what sane and sober man can persuade himself that the body of Christ is Christ? They think that they completely establish this by their syllogisms. But since Christ speaks separately of his body and blood, without describing the mode of his presence, how can they in a doubtful matter arrive at the certainty which they wish? What then? Should their consciences be at any time exercised with some more grievous apprehension, will they forthwith set them free, and dissolve the apprehensions by their syllogisms? In other words, when they see that no certainty is to be obtained from the word of God, in which alone our minds can rest, and without which they go astray the very first moment when they begin to reason, when they see themselves opposed by the doctrine and practice of the apostles, and that they are supported by no authority but their own, how will they feel? To such feelings other sharp stings will be added. What? Was it a matter of little moment to worship God under this form without any express injunction? In a matter relating to the true worship of God, were we thus lightly to act without one word of Scripture? Had all their thoughts been kept in due subjection to the word of God, they certainly would have listened to what he himself has said, "Take, eat, and drink," and obeyed the command by which he enjoins us to receive the sacrament, not worship it. Those who receive, without adoration, as commanded by God, are secure that they deviate not from the command. In commencing any work, nothing is better than this security. They have the example of the apostles, of whom we read not that they prostrated themselves and worshipped, but that they sat down, took and ate. They have the practice of the apostolic Church, where, as Luke relates, believers communicated not in adoration, but in the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). They have the doctrine of the apostles as taught to the Corinthian Church by Paul, who declares that what he delivered he had received of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:23).

36. The object of these remarks is to lead pious readers to reflect how dangerous it is in matters of such difficulty to wander from the simple word of God to the dreams of our own brain. What has been said above should free us from all scruple in this matter. That the pious soul may duly apprehend Christ in the sacrament, it must rise to heaven. But if the office of the sacrament is to aid the infirmity of the human mind, assisting it in rising upwards, so as to perceive the height of spiritual mysteries, those who stop short at the external sign stray from the right path of seeking Christ. What then? Can we deny that the worship is superstitious when men prostrate themselves before bread that they may therein worship Christ? The Council of Nice undoubtedly intended to meet this evil when it forbade us to give humble heed to the visible signs. And for no other reason was it formerly the custom, previous to consecration, to call aloud upon the people to raise their hearts, sursum corda. Scripture itself, also, besides carefully narrating the ascension of Christ, by which he withdrew his bodily presence from our eye and company, that it might make us abandon all carnal thoughts of him, whenever it makes mention of him, enjoins us to raise our minds upwards and seek him in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:2). According to this rule, we should rather have adored him spiritually in the heavenly glory, than devised that perilous species of adoration replete with gross and carnal ideas of God. Those, therefore, who devised the adoration of the sacrament, not only dreamed it of themselves, without any authority from Scripture, where no mention of it can be shown (it would not have been omitted, had it been agreeable to God); but, disregarding Scripture, forsook the living God, and fabricated a god for themselves, after the lust of their own hearts. For what is idolatry if it is not to worship the gifts instead of the giver? Here the sin is twofold. The honour robbed from God is transferred to the creature, and God, moreover, is dishonoured by the pollution and profanation of his own goodness, while his holy sacrament is converted into an execrable idol. Let us, on the contrary, that we may not fall into the same pit, wholly confine our eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and tongues, to the sacred doctrine of God. For this is the school of the Holy Spirit, that best of masters, in which such progress is made, that while nothing is to be acquired anywhere else, we must willingly be ignorant of whatever is not there taught.

37. Then, as superstition, when once it has passed the proper bounds, has no end to its errors, men went much farther; for they devised rites altogether alien from the institution of the Supper, and to such a degree that they paid divine honours to the sign. They say that their veneration is paid to Christ. First, if this were done in the Supper, I would say that that adoration only is legitimate which stops not at the sign, but rises to Christ sitting in heaven. Now, under what pretext do they say that they honour Christ in that bread, when they have no promise of this nature? They consecrate the host, as they call it, and carry it about in solemn show, and formally exhibit it to be admired, reverenced, and invoked. I ask by what virtue they think it duly consecrated? They will quote the words, "This is my body." I, on the contrary, will object, that it was at the same time said, "Take, eat." Nor will I count the other passage as nothing; for I hold that since the promise is annexed to the command, the former is so included under the latter, that it cannot possibly be separated from it. This will be made clearer by an example. God gave a command when he said, "Call upon me," and added a promise, "I will deliver thee" (Psal. 50:15). Should any one invoke Peter or Paul, and found on this promise, will not all exclaim that he does it in error? And what else, pray, do those do who, disregarding the command to eat, fasten on the mutilated promise, "This is my body," that they may pervert it to rites alien from the institution of Christ? Let us remember, therefore, that this promise has been given to those who observe the command connected with it, and that those who transfer the sacrament to another end have no countenance from the word of God. We formerly showed how the mystery of the sacred Supper contributes to our faith in God. But since the Lord not only reminds us of this great gift of his goodness, as we formerly explained, but passes it, as it were, from hand to hand, and urges us to recognise it, he, at the same time, admonishes us not to be ungrateful for the kindness thus bestowed, but rather to proclaim it with such praise as is meet, and celebrate it with thanksgiving. Accordingly, when he delivered the institution of the sacrament to the apostles, he taught them to do it in remembrance of him, which Paul interprets, "to show forth his death" (1 Cor. 11:26). And this is, that all should publicly and with one mouth confess that all our confidence of life and salvation is placed in our Lord's death, that we ourselves may glorify him by our confession, and by our example excite others also to give him glory. Here, again, we see what the aim of the sacrament is--namely, to keep us in remembrance of Christ's death. When we are ordered to show forth the Lord's death till he come again, all that is meant is, that we should, with confession of the mouth, proclaim what our faith has recognised in the sacrament--viz. that the death of Christ is our life. This is the second use of the sacrament, and relates to outward confession.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Poetry in
    the Proverbs
  • Poetry in
    the Bible
  • The Genre of
    Wisdom Literature

#1   John Hutchinson | Biola


#2   Walt Russell | Biola


#3   Walt Russell | Biola


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2014    Real Love Wins

     One of the more loving and merciful things Jesus did was preach on hell. He preached on hell more than He preached on heaven, and He did so in order to point the lost to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life apart from condemnation and eternal punishment in hell—which He created. Although most preachers have not denied the doctrine of hell outright, they might as well have, since it is entirely absent from their sermons. My guess is that many preachers think that preaching on hell is unkind, unloving, and offensive. They are certainly right that it is offensive in that preaching on hell offends our false perceptions of self-righteousness. However, such an offense is a most kind, loving, and blessed offense, as it points all men to their desperate need for the righteous life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. If preachers do not preach sin, wrath, death, and hell, their supposed preaching of the gospel is practically useless. If they do not preach what we’re saved from, then their message of what we’re saved to is worthless. For as Charles Spurgeon said, “When men talk of a little hell, it’s because they think they have only a little sin and believe in a little Savior.”

     If we don’t believe in hell, the good news isn’t really that good. And if we don’t believe in hell, we have no good reason to believe in heaven either. Hell is a foundational doctrine of the historic Christian faith, and to deny it is to deny the faith, because if we don’t believe in hell, we don’t believe Jesus. We cannot deny hell and accept the words of Jesus.

     There is, however, another more subtle, diabolical, and dangerous denial of hell that is rampant in the church today. While many preachers have not yet denied hell and perhaps still mention it occasionally in their sermons, they are not preaching the biblical doctrine of hell but a non-offensive, man-made version of hell without all the fire and brimstone. They point to the vivid imagery that Jesus used to describe hell, and they suggest that because Jesus used such imagery we should not think that hell is a literal lake of fire where the damned will be punished eternally. Thus, they reason that since we don’t really know what hell will be like, we don’t need to preach it as Jesus preached it. And though it is true that the imagery Jesus used may not be the literal reality of what hell will be like, that is no comfort whatsoever. The reality will likely be far more terrible than what we can comprehend, considering the limits of our language and understanding. Nevertheless, I cannot think of anything more terrifying than eternally burning in a lake of fire, and that is precisely the point, and precisely why we must preach hell as Jesus preached hell and preach the gospel of eternal life as He preached it—for the love of God and our love for the lost.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Did you know that after Washington retired from being President, he again became the Commander-in-Chief of the Army? It was just a year and a half before he died that he received an urgent plea from President John Adams to put on his general’s uniform. France, in the midst of revolution, was demanding payment not to harass American ships. The cry went out “Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute.” Washington replied this day, July 13, 1798: “We can, with pure hearts, appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause and … trust the final result to that kind Providence who has … so often … favored the … United States.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

     Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God.
--- Author Unknown

     Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is congregation or meeting-place of all waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . .His excellencies are pure and unmixed; he is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
--- John Flavel

     I do not ask for mighty words to leave the crowd impressed,
But grant my life may ring so true my neighbors shall be blessed.
I do not ask for influence to sway the multitude;
Give me a “word in season” for the soul in solitude.
--- Unknown

     What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.
--- A. W. Tozer

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
     and Education

     “When You Sit in Your House, and When You Walk by the Way, When You Lie Down and When You Rise Up”

     Our involvement in the study and life of Torah must not be limited in time; we must at all times “talk of them,” whether we are sitting, walking, going to sleep, or getting up in the Morning. At no time should Torah be absent from our life. How does this principle relate to the central theme of the first paragraph of the Shema, namely, the love for God?

     R. Naftali Zevi Yehuda Berlin, “the Netziv,” tells us that constant study is the surest path to the love for God. If we will but do as the Torah commands us, and “talk of them when you sit,” etc., then we shall fulfill the primary commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God.” (24)

(24)     Ha’amek Davar to
Deut. 6:7.

     But the equation may work equally well in the opposite direction: true love of God expresses itself not only in emotional and rapturous ways, but also in the spiritual and intellectual modes so characteristic of normative Judaism. In the picturesque language of Maimonides:

     What is the proper kind of love?—when one loves God with very powerful, great, and overflowing love such that his soul is bound up in the love for God, and he finds himself constantly thinking about it as if he were love-sick [for a woman] and his mind is never distracted from loving her and thinking about her constantly, whether sitting or standing, whether while eating or drinking. Even greater must be the love for God in the hearts of those who love Him—constantly preoccupied with this love, as we were commanded, “with all your heart and all your soul” (
Deut. 6:5). This is what Solomon intended when he said, figuratively, “for I am love-sick” (Song of Songs 2:5); and all of Song of Songs is a parable of this matter. (25)

(25)     Hilkhot Teshuvah, 10:3.

     This halakhah in Maimonides’ legal code is then followed by three other halakhot fortifying this view, namely, that love is expressed in the ongoing preoccupation with the beloved, specifically, the study of Torah for its own sake. Thus, because we love God, we wish to dote on Him—and what better way than to study His Torah at all times?

     We now turn to analyze the details of our verse. As before, note that when the focus is on the recitation of the Shema as the antecedent of “you shall talk of them,” what follows is usually a purely halakhic treatment of the verse; when the antecedent is assumed to be the words of the Torah, we generally encounter a broader exegesis of the text.

     “When you sit in your house and when you go by the way.” In its halakhic analysis, the Talmud sees in this verse an exclusion: when you sit and walk, that is, when you are engaged in mundane, permissible activities, then you are required to read the Shema; but if you are occupied with obligatory activities, i.e., the performance of a mitzvah, then you are exempt from reciting the Shema. (26) This expresses the halakhic principle osek be’mitzvah patur min ha-mitzvah, that one who is already engaged in performing a mitzvah is excused from other positive mitzvot that may come his way at the same time; hence, for instance, one who is traveling during the festival of Sukkot on a mitzvah mission, such as to study Torah or redeem a captive, need not busy himself with the mitzvah of building and dwelling in a sukkah. In regard to reciting the Shema, the Talmud offers the special case of a groom on his wedding night: because his mind is preoccupied with thoughts of his bride and the consummation of their relationship—a mitzvah—he need not recite the Shema that night, for it may be assumed that he will not have proper kavvanah in his recitation. Nevertheless, an early authority advocates the reverse point of view: Pseudo-Targum Jonathan, an early translator of Scripture into Aramaic, sees in the words “when you sit in your house” a veiled reference to one building a new home or family, i.e., a groom on his wedding night. Thus, the verse is inclusive rather than exclusionary: it includes the groom in the ranks of those required to read the Shema (“You talk of it”) at all times. (27)

(26)     Sukkah 25a, and Berakhot 11a.

(27)     Pseudo-Jonathan to Deut. 6:7. Some commentators have suggested that the Targum sides with those authorities who, citing Mishnah Berakhot 2:5 that Rabban Gamaliel himself recited the Shema on his wedding night, hold that a groom should recite the Shema.

     The Zohar’s comment on our verse offers much needed homespun wisdom:

     “When you sit in your house.” One should conduct himself in his house in a wholesome manner, in a constructive manner, so that the members of his household will learn to conduct themselves serenely and joyously. He should not be overbearing towards members of his household, and all that is done in his house should be done in a proper manner. (28)

(28)     Zohar III, p. 269a. It is possible that the Zohar plays on the word ve’dibbarta (“you shall talk”): the root d-b-r in Hebrew means “talk” or “speak” and in Aramaic means “lead” or “conduct.” On the talmudic attitude on the manner of conducting one’s household, see my “Sheloshah Devarim …” in Hapardes (Kislev, 5754).

     “When you lie down and when you rise up.” The halakhic issues that arose in connection with this phrase were quite controversial before they were definitively decided. The matter was in contention between the two great “Houses,” the House or school of Shammai and that of Hillel. The House of Shammai took the verse literally, thus mandating that the recitation of the Shema in the Evening be done in a prone position—“when you lie down”—and in the Morning while standing—“when you rise up.” The House of Hillel disagreed, holding that the Torah was referring to the time of day, not the posture of the worshiper. Thus, the Shema should be recited in the Evening when people usually go to bed and in the Morning when they usually rise. (29) R. Tarfon (who flourished during the first century, when the controversies between the Houses were being decided) relates that he was traveling and, when the time came for him to read the Shema, he lay down, whereupon he was attacked by a gang of robbers, who endangered his life. His colleagues commented that it served him right, for he followed the House of Shammai when the halakha is decided according to the House of Hillel. (30)

(29)     Mishnah Berakhot 1:3.

(30)     Ibid.

     But if indeed the Hillelites were right, that the terms “when you lie down” and “when you rise up” refer to Evening and Morning, respectively, why then did the Torah not say so explicitly—“you shall talk of them … in the Evening and in the Morning?” Why the circumlocution of lying down and rising up?

     An insightful answer is provided by R. Zadok Hakohen of Lublin. According to him, “Evening” and “Morning” refer to the natural world; they are astronomical terms, with no special relevance to human beings. Thus, were the Torah to specify “Evening” and “Morning,” we might have interpreted the conjunction vav as meaning “or” rather than “and,” and we would have deduced that it is sufficient to recite the Shema, the acceptance of the “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” only once a day. But since the Torah speaks explicitly of going to sleep and (the letter vav) getting up, speaking in human terms, we know that we are commanded to recite the Shema twice during the course of our day. (31)

(31)     Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, 3.

     For human beings, day and night are qualitatively and functionally different. Upon rising in the Morning, we face a workday; when we go to sleep, we are ready for rest, for physical and mental refreshment. Hence, in the Morning, we need to recite the Shema and accept upon ourselves the “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” so that we succeed in dedicating our varied activities of the day “for the sake of Heaven.” That is, we pray that our mundane work, whatever its nature, be impregnated with higher meaning, that it fit into a transcendental context. We set our intention on purpose, hoping that our major mundane occupations are consonant with our ultimate values.

     However, when we retire, facing the quotidian period of sleep and rest, we need a different affirmation that we are submitting ourselves to the yoke of Heaven. Here our need to recite the Shema is more subtle: for even when lying in bed and preparing for sleep, a person must know “before Whom he lies.” (32) This is a far more difficult task, for it is easier to focus an action than to dedicate a period of rest and physical inactivity to a higher end.

(32)     This last clause is a quotation from Rema, in his very first gloss to the first volume of the Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim. It is, in turn, a paraphrase of the talmudic dictum directed to the worshiper who stands before the Almighty to recite the Amidah, “Know before Whom you stand” (Berakhot 28b).

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     6. And truly, as for other things, they do nothing but according to the injunctions of their curators; only these two things are done among them at everyone's own free-will, which are to assist those that want it, and to show mercy; for they are permitted of their own accord to afford succor to such as deserve it, when they stand in need of it, and to bestow food on those that are in distress; but they cannot give any thing to their kindred without the curators. They dispense their anger after a just manner, and restrain their passion. They are eminent for fidelity, and are the ministers of peace; whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury 4 for they say that he who cannot be believed without [swearing by] God is already condemned. They also take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients, and choose out of them what is most for the advantage of their soul and body; and they inquire after such roots and medicinal stones as may cure their distempers.

     7. But now if any one hath a mind to come over to their sect, he is not immediately admitted, but he is prescribed the same method of living which they use for a year, while he continues excluded'; and they give him also a small hatchet, and the fore-mentioned girdle, and the white garment. And when he hath given evidence, during that time, that he can observe their continence, he approaches nearer to their way of living, and is made a partaker of the waters of purification; yet is he not even now admitted to live with them; for after this demonstration of his fortitude, his temper is tried two more years; and if he appear to be worthy, they then admit him into their society. And before he is allowed to touch their common food, he is obliged to take tremendous oaths, that, in the first place, he will exercise piety towards God, and then that he will observe justice towards men, and that he will do no harm to any one, either of his own accord, or by the command of others; that he will always hate the wicked, and be assistant to the righteous; that he will ever show fidelity to all men, and especially to those in authority, because no one obtains the government without God's assistance; and that if he be in authority, he will at no time whatever abuse his authority, nor endeavor to outshine his subjects either in his garments, or any other finery; that he will be perpetually a lover of truth, and propose to himself to reprove those that tell lies; that he will keep his hands clear from theft, and his soul from unlawful gains; and that he will neither conceal any thing from those of his own sect, nor discover any of their doctrines to others, no, not though anyone should compel him so to do at the hazard of his life. Moreover, he swears to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself; that he will abstain from robbery, and will equally preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the names of the angels 5 [or messengers]. These are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes to themselves.

     8. But for those that are caught in any heinous sins, they cast them out of their society; and he who is thus separated from them does often die after a miserable manner; for as he is bound by the oath he hath taken, and by the customs he hath been engaged in, he is not at liberty to partake of that food that he meets with elsewhere, but is forced to eat grass, and to famish his body with hunger, till he perish; for which reason they receive many of them again when they are at their last gasp, out of compassion to them, as thinking the miseries they have endured till they came to the very brink of death to be a sufficient punishment for the sins they had been guilty of.

     9. But in the judgments they exercise they are most accurate and just, nor do they pass sentence by the votes of a court that is fewer than a hundred. And as to what is once determined by that number, it is unalterable. What they most of all honor, after God himself, is the name of their legislator [Moses], whom if any one blaspheme he is punished capitally. They also think it a good thing to obey their elders, and the major part. Accordingly, if ten of them be sitting together, no one of them will speak while the other nine are against it. They also avoid spitting in the midst of them, or on the right side. Moreover, they are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting from their labors on the seventh day; for they not only get their food ready the day before, that they may not be obliged to kindle a fire on that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go to stool thereon. Nay, on other days they dig a small pit, a foot deep, with a paddle [which kind of hatchet is given them when they are first admitted among them]; and covering themselves round with their garment, that they may not affront the Divine rays of light, they ease themselves into that pit, after which they put the earth that was dug out again into the pit; and even this they do only in the more lonely places, which they choose out for this purpose; and although this easement of the body be natural, yet it is a rule with them to wash themselves after it, as if it were a defilement to them.

     10. Now after the time of their preparatory trial is over, they are parted into four classes; and so far are the juniors inferior to the seniors, that if the seniors should be touched by the juniors, they must wash themselves, as if they had intermixed themselves with the company of a foreigner. They are long-lived also, insomuch that many of them live above a hundred years, by means of the simplicity of their diet; nay, as I think, by means of the regular course of life they observe also. They contemn the miseries of life, and are above pain, by the generosity of their mind. And as for death, if it will be for their glory, they esteem it better than living always; and indeed our war with the Romans gave abundant evidence what great souls they had in their trials, wherein, although they were tortured and distorted, burnt and torn to pieces, and went through all kinds of instruments of torment, that they might be forced either to blaspheme their legislator, or to eat what was forbidden them, yet could they not be made to do either of them, no, nor once to flatter their tormentors, or to shed a tear; but they smiled in their very pains, and laughed those to scorn who inflicted the torments upon them, and resigned up their souls with great alacrity, as expecting to receive them again.

     11. For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward. And this is like the opinions of the Greeks, that good souls have their habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allot to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den, full of never-ceasing punishments. And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion, when they allot the islands of the blessed to their brave men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods; and to the souls of the wicked, the region of the ungodly, in Hades, where their fables relate that certain persons, such as Sisyphus, and Tantalus, and Ixion, and Tityus, are punished; which is built on this first supposition, that souls are immortal; and thence are those exhortations to virtue and dehortations from wickedness collected; whereby good men are bettered in the conduct of their life by the hope they have of reward after their death; and whereby the vehement inclinations of bad men to vice are restrained, by the fear and expectation they are in, that although they should lie concealed in this life, they should suffer immortal punishment after their death. These are the Divine doctrines of the Essens 6 about the soul, which lay an unavoidable bait for such as have once had a taste of their philosophy.

     12. There are also those among them who undertake to foretell things to come, 7 by reading the holy books, and using several sorts of purifications, and being perpetually conversant in the discourses of the prophets; and it is but seldom that they miss in their predictions.

     13. Moreover, there is another order of Essens, 8 who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life, which is the prospect of succession; nay, rather, that if all men should be of the same opinion, the whole race of mankind would fail. However, they try their spouses for three years; and if they find that they have their natural purgations thrice, as trials that they are likely to be fruitful, they then actually marry them. But they do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do not many out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity. Now the women go into the baths with some of their garments on, as the men do with somewhat girded about them. And these are the customs of this order of Essens.

     14. But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned, the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect. These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does co-operate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment. But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men's own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades. Moreover, the Pharisees are friendly to one another, and are for the exercise of concord, and regard for the public; but the behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild, and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them. And this is what I had to say concerning the philosophic sects among the Jews.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 21:5-6
     by D.H. Stern

5     The plans of the diligent lead only to abundance;
but all who rush in arrive only at want.

6     A fortune gained by a lying tongue
is vapor dispersed [by] seekers of death.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The price of vision

     In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord.
--- Isaiah 6:1.

     Our soul’s history with God is frequently the history of the “passing of the hero.” Over and over again God has to remove our friends in order to bring Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was, died—I gave up everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? or—I saw the Lord?

     My vision of God depends upon the state of my character. Character determines revelation. Before I can say “I saw also the Lord,” there must be something corresponding to God in my character. Until I am born again and begin to see the Kingdom of God, I see along the line of my prejudices only; I need the surgical operation of external events and an internal purification.

     It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever. “In all the world there is none but thee, my God, there is none but thee.”

     Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision.

My Utmost for His Highest

Wallace Stevens
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Wallace Stevens

On New Year's night after a party
  His father lay down and made hem
  In the flesh of a girl out of Holland.
  The baby was dropped at the first fall
  Of the leaf, wanting the safe bough
  He came from, and was for years dumb,
  Mumbling the dry crust
  Of poetry, until the teeth grew,
  Ivory of a strange piano.

  Yet it was not those that he played.
  They were too white; he preferred black,
  The deep spaces between stars,
  Fathomless as the cold shadow
  His mind cast. In the bleak autumn
  Of real time here I remember
  Without eloquence his birth.

How like him to bleed at last
  Inwardly, but to the death,
  Who all his life from the white page
  He was in the fields, when I set out.
  He was in the fields, when I came back.
  On between, what long hours,
  What centuries might have elapsed.
  Did he look up? His arm half
  Lifted was more to ward off
  My foolishness. You will return,
  He intimated; the heart's roots
  Are here under this black soil
  I labour at. A change of wind
  Can bring the smooth town to a stop;
  The grass whispers beneath the flags;
  Every right word on your tongue
  Has a green taste. It is the mind
  Calling you, eager to paint
  Its distances; but the truth's here,
  Closer than the world will confess,
  In this bare bon of life that I pick.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

J. Vernon McGee
     Thru the Bible Radio Program

                The Levites and the Tabernacle

     The Levites’ assignment to carry the tabernacle through the wilderness is over. Now they have a new ministry for
the Lord.
     Again, this is something that I wish we could learn. God has raised up many fine Christian organizations; then after they have served their purpose, there are folk who try to preserve them. Some of them are as dead as a dodo bird. They do not serve any good purpose. When God is through with a thing, He is through with it, my friend. It is time to get something new going. To the Levites, God is saying in effect, “We’re not going to be trotting around in the wilderness any more. Now we will have a temple and your service is going to be different.” Oh, my friend, let’s keep step with God and do something that is alive and moving!
     The Levites now have a new service. The staves are removed from the ark. It will not be moved again. It is to remain permanently in Jerusalem on the threshing floor of Ornan. David has bought the place, and the temple will be erected there. In the temple there will be a great deal for the Levites to do; so David organizes them into shifts, selected by lot. They will serve for a period of time, then they will retire—have time off. This is the way David organized the service of the temple.  

J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set)

Malachi 1:1–2:16
     The Sins of God’s People: Part 1
     W. W. Wiersbe

     A church member scolded her pastor for preaching a series of RS Thomas on “The Sins of the Saints.”

     “After all,” she argued, “the sins of Christians are different from the sins of other people.”

     “Yes,” agreed her pastor, “they’re worse.”

     They are worse, for when believers sin, they not only break the Law of God, but they break the heart of God. When a believer deliberately sins, it isn’t just the disobedience of a servant to a master, or the rebellion of a subject against a king; it’s the offense of a child against the loving Father. The sins we cherish and thing we get away with bring grief to the heart of God.

     Malachi was called to perform a difficult and dangerous task. It was his responsibility to rebuke the people for the sins they were committing against God and against one another, and to call them to return to the Lord. Malachi took a wise approach: he anticipated the objections of the people and met them head-on. “This is what God says,” declared the prophet, “but you say __” and then he would answer their complaints. The Old Testament prophets were often the only people in the community who had a grip on reality and saw things as they actually were, and that’s what made them so unpopular. “Prophets were twice stoned,” said Christopher Morley, paraphrasing
Matthew 22:29–31, “first in anger, then, after their death, with a handsome slab in the graveyard.”

     In this chapter, we’ll study what Malachi wrote concerning three of their sins, and then we’ll consider the remaining three in the next chapter. But don’t read Malachi as ancient history. Unfortunately, these sins are with us in the church today.

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     What are you worth? In order to calculate such a figure, you might start with the money you have in the bank; you would then add to that the worth of your real estate holdings, and for good measure you’d throw in your stock portfolio. Include a few more odds and ends and subtract what you owe and you’d arrive at some dollar figure that translates into your net worth.

     At least that’s how most people today would answer the question. But in a different time and place, there might be a very different answer. A Holocaust survivor who came to America instructed his children: “Forget about bank accounts, forget about real estate. Those things are meaningless. All that matters, in terms of material things, is jewelry. Whatever money you have—take it and go buy jewelry. Then keep the jewelry close to you at all times.” His children were puzzled by this obsession with jewels: “Why, Papa? What is so special about a necklace, or a bracelet, or a ring?” they asked.

     “I knew many people in Germany who had the chance to get out before it was too late. They didn’t have weeks, or even days, to get ready. At a moment’s notice, they had to pack a suitcase and leave. Real estate and money in the bank they had to leave behind. Only jewelry could they take with them. And I know a man who was sent off to the camps, who had diamonds sewn into the inside of a hat. On more than one occasion, those jewels served to bribe a guard to look the other way, or bought food for the family that otherwise would have starved. True wealth is only what you can carry on your person. What you can hide in a hat is yours; everything else is meaningless.”

     There’s still another way to calculate a person’s worth. A man dies in his sixties. After the period of mourning, his children sit down and try to figure out their father’s holdings. They quickly discover that there is no big yerushah, no inheritance waiting for them. There is barely enough money to pay for the funeral. One son is very disappointed. “I was sort of hoping that when this day came, we would find out that we were suddenly rich. That Dad, who had worked so hard his entire life, had been secretly putting away money for us and that his final gift would be a nice little nest egg that would leave us quite comfortable and secure.”
Lily and I have no inheritance to leave our children and grandchildren. Hopefully, however, we will leave a heritage of loving and trusting God, loving one another, and gratefulness for life.

     The other son disagreed. “Dad did leave us a wonderful gift. But it’s not here—in the wallet. It’s here—in the head. Dad taught us how to love one’s family. He taught us how to be proud of our heritage. And he taught us how to laugh and enjoy the little things in life. Those things we carry with us wherever we go. And no one can ever take them from us, and we can never spend them away.”

     What’s under your head is yours.


     Taken as a metaphor for our views on the land of Israel, this text speaks of two different, and contrary, opinions. Bar Kapara and Rabbi Shimon say: You must be on the land. You must live in the land of Israel. Rabbi Shimon said in the name of Bar Kapara, “He [God] folded it all up like a writing tablet and put it under his head, as people say, ‘What’s under your head is yours,’ ” that is, where you lie is where you live. It’s not surprising that these two authorities believe that the only way to possess the land is to live on it. Both Bar Kapara and Rabbi Shimon were themselves born in Israel.

     A divergent view is presented by Rav Huna and Rabbi Elazar: It’s important to have some connection with the land of Israel, even if you’re only buried there. Rav Huna said in the name of Rabbi Elazar, “He [God] said, ‘Providing that you are buried there.’ ” This way of seeing Israel has more in common with the Diaspora. And, in fact, Rav Huna himself was from Babylonia.

     These two opinions reflect two modern stances on Zionism. Some—like Ben Gurion—are of the opinion that you’re not a Zionist unless you live in Israel. The only way to care for Israel is to live in the land. Ben Gurion once supposedly quipped, “We don’t need any more dead Jews,” that is, Jews who support Israel from outside the security of the land during their lifetimes and whose bodies are shipped to Israel for burial when they die.

     Others feel that a strong Diaspora is healthy for Jewish life and even for Israel itself. Babylonia was, and America is, a strong center of Jewish life and culture. Jews can cherish and support Israel without living there. For two thousand years, Jews have dreamed of being buried there, even if they did not live in the land. And for those who cannot accomplish this, one of the burial customs is a token of their love for the land of Israel: sprinkling some earth from Israel in a grave at the time of burial.

     This Midrash preserves both opinions in the names of four great teachers. Perhaps back then the editors of the Midrash collections knew what we know today, that there is validity to each argument.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 13

     Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.

     When God saves sinners or a sinful people, he does it for his name’s sake notwithstanding their provocations by which they forfeit his help and deserve destruction. (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.)Learn, by way of caution, the following particulars:

1.     This doctrine yields no encouragement to sin, though God saves sinners for his name’s sake; the current of his providence, the current of his Word, the current of his dealing, all declare his enmity at sin. What is there in the Word that can encourage us in sin? All the threatenings of the law say, in effect, if you regard the wrath of God, beware of sin. All the commands of the law say, if you regard the authority of God, beware of sin. All the promises of the Gospel say, if you regard the grace, love, and mercy of God, beware of sin. God’s saving for his name’s sake says, if you regard the great name of God, beware of sin. The great salvation that he exhibits for his name’s sake is salvation from sin. To make this an encouragement to sin is to affront his name, to abuse it, to profane it, and to take it in vain.

2.     Do not think that God will deliver any from eternal damnation who have gone to hell, or save them for his name’s sake; no, by no means. Those who die out of Christ are lost forever.

     By way of exhortation to all sinners in general, does God save for his name’s sake and with that “yet”—a notwithstanding of innumerable sins? Then let sinners hope in his name and fly to his name for salvation.

     You will find no object of faith in yourself. Then, sinner, his word, which you are called to take hold of, is his name; it is that by which he makes himself known. And in going to him for salvation, (1) let his name be your motive, for thus you will glorify his name; (2) let his name be your tower, to which you fly for salvation; (3) let his name be the measure of your hope—how much he will be glorified in saving you, so much let your hope and expectation go forth that he will do so; (4) let his name be your plea and argument, “O save for your name’s sake. Glorify your name.” Cast anchor here, and you will ride out all storms and be eternally safe.
--- Ralph Erskine

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

On This Day
     Domini Canes  July 13

     Dominic and Francis lived at the same time, and both founded an order of preachers—the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Francis grew up amid great wealth, repudiated it all, and established an order stressing manual labor and preaching. Dominic grew up in libraries and study cells, embraced it all, and founded an order stressing study and preaching.

     Dominic was born in 1170 in Spain. His mother, Juana, raised him until he reached seven, then he was passed to the priestly instruction of his uncle. The young man loved his studies, especially philosophy and theology. In 1202, while accompanying a Spanish bishop to France on a mission to secure a wife for a Spanish prince, he was greatly moved by the need he saw. Theology in France was weak, doctrine was faulty, and heresy was rampant.

     Dominic organized a preaching tour especially aimed at converting those who had fallen into error. Death threats and danger imperiled him on every side, but he pressed on, using persuasion rather than persecution to convert the heretics. By 1215 he was recruiting other preachers to the task. The order quickly took root in Paris, Bologna, Rome, Madrid, and Seville. Dominican preachers went into Germany where chapters were established in Cologne, Worms, Strasburg, and Basel. In 1221 the order was introduced into England and settled in Oxford.

     Dominic preached throughout Europe until he fell ill and returned to Bologna where he died on August 6, 1221. He was canonized on July 13, 1234. At the time of his death, his preaching friars had 60 monasteries scattered from England to Eastern Europe.

     But even a good cause can take a wrong turn. The symbol of the Dominicans eventually became a watchdog carrying a flaming torch—the Domini Canes. Their zeal for orthodoxy led to their being named chief agents of the Inquisition. They loaded up suspected heretics by the wagonful and took them to grim dungeons to be tortured. The devil, having created the disease of heresy, managed also to corrupt the cure.

     Don’t let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance. Let the wonderful kindness and the understanding that come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help you to keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever! Amen.
--- 2 Peter 3:17b,18

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 13

     “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry?” --- Jonah 4:9.

     Anger is not always or necessarily sinful, but it has such a tendency to run wild that whenever it displays itself, we should be quick to question its character, with this enquiry, “Doest thou well to be angry?” It may be that we can answer, “YES.” Very frequently anger is the madman’s firebrand, but sometimes it is Elijah’s fire from heaven. We do well when we are angry with sin, because of the wrong which it commits against our good and gracious God; or with ourselves because we remain so foolish after so much divine instruction; or with others when the sole cause of anger is the evil which they do. He who is not angry at transgression becomes a partaker in it. Sin is a loathsome and hateful thing, and no renewed heart can patiently endure it. God himself is angry with the wicked every day, and it is written in His Word, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Far more frequently it is to be feared that our anger is not commendable or even justifiable, and then we must answer, “NO.” Why should we be fretful with children, passionate with servants, and wrathful with companions? Is such anger honourable to our Christian profession, or glorifying to God? Is it not the old evil heart seeking to gain dominion, and should we not resist it with all the might of our newborn nature? Many professors give way to temper as though it were useless to attempt resistance; but let the believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned. If we cannot control our tempers, what has grace done for us? Some one told Mr. Jay that grace was often grafted on a crab-stump. “Yes,” said he, “but the fruit will not be crabs.” We must not make natural infirmity an excuse for sin, but we must fly to the cross and pray the Lord to crucify our tempers, and renew us in gentleness and meekness after His own image.

          Evening - July 13

     "When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me." --- Psalm 56:9.

     It is impossible for any human speech to express the full meaning of this delightful phrase, “God is for me.” He was “for us” before the worlds were made; he was “for us,” or he would not have given his well-beloved son; he was “for us” when he smote the Only-begotten, and laid the full weight of his wrath upon him—he was “for us,” though he was against him; he was “for us,” when we were ruined in the fall—he loved us notwithstanding all; he was “for us,” when we were rebels against him, and with a high hand were bidding him defiance; he was “for us,” or he would not have brought us humbly to seek his face. He has been “for us” in many struggles; we have been summoned to encounter hosts of dangers; we have been assailed by temptations from without and within—how could we have remained unharmed to this hour if he had not been “for us”? He is “for us,” with all the infinity of his being; with all the omnipotence of his love; with all the infallibility of his wisdom; arrayed in all his divine attributes, he is “for us,”—eternally and immutably “for us”; “for us” when yon blue skies shall be rolled up like a worn out vesture; “for us” throughout eternity. And because he is “for us,” the voice of prayer will always ensure his help. “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies be turned back.” This is no uncertain hope, but a well grounded assurance—“this I know.” I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up for the answer, assured that it will come, and that mine enemies shall be defeated, “for God is for me.” O believer, how happy art thou with the King of kings on thy side! How safe with such a Protector! How sure thy cause pleaded by such an Advocate! If God be for thee, who can be against thee?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 13


     Vernon J. Charlesworth, 1838–? with alteration

     You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)

     Storms often hit the northern coast of England bringing distress to the many small fishing vessels that ply the coastal waters. It is reported that “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” has long been a favorite song of many of the fishermen in this area, and they are often heard singing it as they approach their harbors during a storm.

     The vivid wording of this hymn assures us that we too are safer during life’s storms with Christ in control than in the calm times without Him. We as Christians must rest assured that “no fears alarm, no foes affright” in the shelter of His safe retreat. Just as a young bird would never fly if not pushed out of its nest, we would never develop spiritual strength if we did not learn to handle—with absolute confidence in God—the storms He allows to come our way.

     The text for this hymn was written by Vernon J. Charlesworth, an English pastor who also served as headmaster of Charles Spurgeon’s Stockwell Orphanage. Ira Sankey, American Gospel musician and publisher, discovered the song in a small London paper and gave it a singable new melody, adding a refrain that could be easily sung.

     The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide—a shelter in the time of storm, secure whatever ill betide—a shelter in the time of storm.
     A shade by day, defense by night—a shelter in the time of storm; no fears alarm, no foes affright—a shelter in the time of storm.
     The raging storms may round us beat—a shelter in the time of storm; we’ll never leave our safe retreat—a shelter in the time of storm.
     O Rock divine, O Refuge dear—a shelter in the time of storm; be Thou our helper ever near—a shelter in the time of storm.
     Chorus: O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land; O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land—a shelter in the time of storm.

     For Today: Psalm 94:22; Proverbs 14:26; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4; Nahum 1:7; Hebrews 10:22.

     Thank God for the storms in life that have helped you develop spiritual strength. Seek to encourage someone who may be floundering in a difficult situation. Carry this musical truth with you realizing ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. LXXXIV. — BUT here, perhaps, it will be asked, how can God be said to work evil in us, in the same way as He is said to harden us, to give us up to our own desires, to cause us to err.

     We ought, indeed, to be content with the Word of God, and simply to believe what that saith; seeing that, the works of God are utterly unspeakable. But however, in compliance with Reason, that is, human foolery, I will just act the fool and the stupid fellow for once, and try, by a little babbling, if I can produce any effect upon her.

     First, then, both Reason and the Diatribe grant, that God works all in all; and that, without Him, nothing is either done or effective, because He is Omnipotent; and because, therefore, all things come under His Omnipotence, as Paul saith to the Ephesians.

     Now then, Satan and man being fallen and left of God, cannot will good; that is, those things which please God, or which God wills; but are ever turned the way of their own desires, so that they cannot but seek their own. This, therefore, their will and nature, so turned from God, cannot be a nothing: nor are Satan and the wicked man a nothing: nor are the nature and the will which they have a nothing, although it be a nature corrupt and averse. That remnant of nature, therefore, in Satan and the wicked man, of which we speak, as being the creature and work of God, is not less subject to the divine omnipotence and action, than all the rest of the creatures and works of God.

     Since, therefore, God moves and does all in all, He necessarily moves and does all in Satan and the wicked man. But He so does all in them, as they themselves are, and as He finds them: that is, as they are themselves averse and evil, being carried along by that motion of the Divine Omnipotence, they cannot but do what is averse and evil. Just as it is with a man driving a horse lame on one foot, or lame on two feet; he drives him just so as the horse himself is; that is, the horse moves badly. But what can the man do? He is driving along this kind of horse together with sound horses; he, indeed, goes badly, and the rest well; but it cannot be otherwise, unless the horse be made sound.

     Here then you see, that, when God works in, and by, evil men, the evils themselves are inwrought, but yet, God cannot do evil, although He thus works the evils by evil men; because, being good Himself He cannot do evil; but He uses evil instruments, which cannot escape the sway and motion of His Omnipotence. The fault, therefore, is in the instruments, which God allows not to remain action-less; seeing that, the evils are done as God Himself moves. Just in the same manner as a carpenter would cut badly with a saw-edged or broken-edged axe. Hence it is, that the wicked man cannot but always err and sin; because, being carried along by the motion of the Divine Omnipotence, he is not permitted to remain motionless, but must will, desire, and act according to his nature. All this is fixed certainty, if we believe that God is Omnipotent!

     It is, moreover, as certain, that the wicked man is the creature of God; though being averse and left to himself without the Spirit of God, he cannot will or do good. For the Omnipotence of God makes it, that the wicked man cannot evade the motion and action of God, but, being of necessity subject to it, he yields; though his corruption and aversion to God, makes him that he cannot be carried along and moved unto good. God cannot suspend His Omnipotence on account of his aversion, nor can the wicked man change his aversion. Wherefore it is, that he must continue of necessity to sin and err, until he be amended by the Spirit of God. Meanwhile, in all these, Satan goes on to reign in peace, and keeps his palace undisturbed under this motion of the Divine Omnipotence.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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