Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is GoodPsalm 106
1 Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3 Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5 that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.
28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.
32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the LORD commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.
40 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.
47 Save us, O LORD our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD!
Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say SoPsalm 107
1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.
17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.
39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.
What I'm Reading
Edmund Calamy’s Art Of Divine Meditation
By Andrew Fulford 7/2/2017
Since my time reading Dallas Willard in my early 20s, I’ve been interested in the practice of meditation. My diligence in the discipline has waxed and waned throughout my life, with periods where it had deep effect and others where I came up dry. Yet, my growing appreciation for Thomistic psychology has confirmed the potential value of meditation, and my desire to improve in it. General Thoughts about Meditation Biblical Examples of Meditation Reasons to Meditate General Comments on Method Specific Recommended Method Conclusion email@example.com | Andrew Fulford (McGill University) received his MA in Theology from the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, where his research focused on contemporary theological approaches to the interpretation of the Bible. His current research interests are in the relationship between the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker and several subjects of contemporary interest: “the secular”, the use of reason in religion and religious disputes, and the psychology of radicalization and deradicalization. He will be presenting a paper on Hooker’s religious epistemology and apologetical method at the upcoming Sixteenth Century Society meeting.
Recently I read through Edmund Calamy’s (1600-1666) The Art of Divine Meditation and thought it might be worth sharing some of its contents. This post is by no means a complete summary of the book; it’s rather a set of the thoughts that I found particularly striking as I read it on my daily commute. I commend it to the readers as perhaps a place to begin with their own growth in the practice.
I will not cite the text formally, but everything that follows is essentially just a paraphrase of things Calamy says, in some cases only very thinly so, no doubt verging into direct repetition at times. In several cases I have moved material around from the sequence in which they appear in Calamy’s works. But, in other words, I claim no original thoughts in what follows, and commend Calamy’s text to readers.
Second, the importance of dwelling upon God appears in the cycle of forgetfulness that human life manifests apart from it. A man that thinks slightly of God, will love him slightly, serve him slightly. Slight thoughts of God will make slight impressions upon the heart, and slight impressions upon the life; slight thoughts will cause slight affections. For if our apprehensions are slight so will be our affections and actions, for our affections and actions follow our apprehension. Correlatively, the reason we don’t meditate is because we don’t love; you don’t need to persuade people to think about things they love (e.g., covetous people think about money, voluptuous men think about pleasures, ambitious men about honour, men in love think of women they love). As Calamy says, “where the love is, there the soul is”: he that loves good things will think of them very often, very long, and very deep. A man that is deep in love, deeply meditates about the thing he loves.
(Mt 6:26–28) 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, ESV
One way to define the idea is to say: meditating is a dwelling upon, or considering of things.
The plain-hearted Christian meditates in order to love and fear more, to prize more, to hate sin more, to love the promises more. Meditation is useless if it is not aimed at improving our affections and actions, if it only seeks to change ideas in the mind.
At the same time, don’t try to force yourself to feel something. Rather, we should wait for God to move us. Keep meditating, even if it is dull, until your heart is moved; don’t give up and stop meditating because initially it is dull.
Join meditation and prayer: ask God to humble your heart, even if it is just a short prayer. We must not meditate in our own strength, meditation without prayer is unprofitable. Also, we can use reading if we don’t remember enough, especially the Bible. In fact, meditation without reading leads many a weak Christian to error. Further, this reading isn’t done to simply finish a book. Rather, if while reading we find something remarkable, we should stop reading and meditate seriously about that thought.
In this vein, we can dwell on the scriptures to find out how we are benefitted by heavenly things. Interest will facilitate divine meditation. In addition, making a custom of meditation will make it an easy thing, just as a new apprentice finds the trade hard at first, but afterwards easier, and likewise for someone with a new exercise regimen.
If you’re new to the practice, start meditating on easier subjects, and use many of them if you have to (if staying/repeating one is too dry). And don’t aim in meditation to study “speculations and notions”, e.g., when the slaughter of Revelation 11 will happen, or what Daniel and Revelation means in general, etc. Rather, pick out subjects that will help you be weaned from the world, walk humbly with God, kindle a holy fire of love in your souls to Christ, and make you more like Christ; an acute wit makes a learned man, but a holy life makes a good man.
The work of understanding is to blow up and increase, to kindle and inflame the love of God and Christ in the heart. The understanding should be like a nurse to the heart and affections. Just as the nurse cuts the meat and prepares it for the child to eat, so does the understanding prepare divine truths for the affections. The heart should be like the child that eats the meat, and digests it, and turns the divine truths into a holy life. These are the two faculties we must set on work, and we never meditate aright, unless the affections are raised as well as the understanding.
As one might expect, he suggests opening with prayer.
He then turns to how we ought to approach the intellect in meditation, giving a harder and an easier method. The harder way is to focus on nine “logical heads”, which are commonplaces to enlarge understanding of your subject by consideration. He notes that not all of these will apply to every subject; e.g., God has no cause.
"For Meditation is the life and soul of all Christianity; it is that which makes you improve all the Truths of Christian Religion, (you are but the Skeletons of Christians without Meditation) it is as necessary as your daily bread; and as you feed your bodies every day, so you ought to feed your souls every day with meditating on your sins, or your Evidences for Heaven, or the everlasting burnings of Hell, or of the day of Judgment, the great account you are to give at that day, or of the joys of Heaven, or of the Promises, &c. We are every day assaulted with the Devil, therefore we should every day put on the armour of Divine Meditation, to consider how to resist the wiles of the Devil; we are every day subject to death, we are every day subject to sin, therefore we should every day consider how to prepare our selves for death, and every day consider how to resist sin. Meditation is nothing else but a conversing with God, the souls colloquie with God; and it is fit we should every day walk with God. Divine Meditation is nothing else but the souls transmigration into heaven; the souls ascending up into Heaven; now it is fit every day that we should have our conversation in Heaven."
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General Thoughts about MeditationMeditation is the life and soul of true Christianity. This is revealed in many ways. First, dwelling upon God’s excellencies inevitably kindles a flame of love for God, as well as fear of him. Indeed, meditation is an universal remedy against all sin, a help to all goodness, a preservative of all godliness, an armour against all temptations, and the want of it is the cause of all iniquity; it is thus necessary to meditate if we want to reform our lives.
Biblical Examples of MeditationCalamy gives various examples in scripture of what he means by meditation. One is Proverbs 6:6 which says “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise”. Jeremiah 8:7 is a second: Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord.” A third comes from the sermon on the mount:
Reasons to MeditateDivine meditation is a means to preserve and increase grace. The more we meditate on God, Christ, and heaven, the more we will love them; the more we will seek after it, enjoy it, etc. The more we look into them, the more we will look into them. In fact the want of frequent meditation is the reason why we love them so little. Further, the more we meditate on them, the more intimately acquainted with them we become. The more we think of God, the more intimate society we will have with him.
General Comments on MethodDivine meditation must be particular and applicational. This is because, as Aristotle says, fire in general doesn’t burn, this particular fire burns, etc. So confused meditation of God will do little good; but if we would get good by the practice of meditation, we must come down into particulars. We must meditate on Christ for the purpose of applying it to our soul, “this is mine, this is my portion”.
Specific Recommended MethodCalamy closes his discourse with some particular suggestions for how a Christian can meditate. The suggestions closely correspond to the faculties he has mentioned: the intellect and the affections.
ConclusionI commend the work to you, and the importance of the practice. To close, I’ll let Calamy have the last words:
firstname.lastname@example.org | Andrew Fulford (McGill University) received his MA in Theology from the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, where his research focused on contemporary theological approaches to the interpretation of the Bible. His current research interests are in the relationship between the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker and several subjects of contemporary interest: “the secular”, the use of reason in religion and religious disputes, and the psychology of radicalization and deradicalization. He will be presenting a paper on Hooker’s religious epistemology and apologetical method at the upcoming Sixteenth Century Society meeting.
What About the Crusades?
By J. Steve Lee 6/29/2017
My previous post about the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil. The article was published in the study bible which comes out July 1. Today’s post includes my article about the Crusades. One of my most visited posts on this blog is “What About the Crusades? Myths and Facts” which includes a nice infographic, video, quotes from experts, and resources for further study about the Crusades.
Presidents to pundits have referenced the crusades as comparable to radical Islamic terrorism, that the crusades were unprovoked Christian attacks on Islamic territories for land and loot. This is an extreme oversimplification at best and at worst gross negligence of the facts. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides an answer to this perplexing question about the Crusades and the truth of Christianity along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.
“In a speech at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton claimed that the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, is a consequence of the Christian Crusades which occurred almost a thousand years ago. Ask about the Crusades and you will probably be told something like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christian nations against a peaceful Muslim world. The Christians were interested in gaining riches and land.’ In worst-case scenarios, people reject Christianity because they’ve been told that Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims for profit and gain. They conclude that Christianity is a violent religion.
First, and foremost, it must be remembered that Christianity did not originate in the Crusades; it began on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if the Crusaders performed horrific acts of violence and murder, these acts do not undercut the truth of Christianity nor change its essence. At most the Crusades illustrate that sinful and fallen people are capable of wrongfully using the name of Christ for personal gain.
But the Crusades were not just about gaining wealth and land. One must consider the historical context to more fully understanding the motivations of the Crusaders. The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Christians against the Islamic world, but were a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression. From the very beginning of the Islamic religion Muslims sought to conquer the Christian world. In fact, the first three hundred years of Islam can be described as a period of military conquest. Muslim armies conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. Christian Europe had to defend itself or else be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in AD 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople (now called Istanbul).
In other words, the Crusades were a defensive war, not an aggressive grab for land and loot. In fact, crusading was an expensive and costly endeavor. After the success of the First Crusade nearly all the Crusaders went home. Virtually none of them recovered the cost of crusading. If one wanted to get rich, crusading was definitely not the best route to make it happen.
Many atrocities occurred in the Crusades. Understandably, war can bring out the worst in people. Even during World War II some American soldiers committed atrocities, but this does not mean the war was conducted so soldiers could commit crimes. As for the Crusades, Christians have rightly condemned the wrongs that many of the Crusaders committed.
In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful Muslim world, neither were they motivated by a quest for riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars that aimed to stop Muslim military advancement. The West today enjoys religious freedom and democracy because the Christian nations prevailed.
God wants his people to care about justice. As the Prophet Micah reminds us, “Man- kind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mc 6:8).”
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J. Steve Lee has taught Apologetics for over a decade at Prestonwood Christian Academy. He also has taught World Religions and Philosophy at Mountain View College in Dallas. With a degree in history and education from the University of North Texas, Steve continued his formal studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a M.A. in philosophy of religion and has pursued doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Dallas and is finishing his dissertation at South African Theological Seminary. He has published several articles for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students as well as articles and book reviews in various periodicals including Philosophia Christi, Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, and the Areopagus Journal. Having an abiding love for fantasy fiction, Steve has contributed chapters to two books of literary criticism of Harry Potter: Harry Potter for Nerds and Teaching with Harry Potter. He even appeared as a guest on the podcast MuggleNet Academia (Lesson 23: There and Back Again-Chiasmus, Alchemy, and Ring Composition in Harry Potter). He is married to his lovely wife, Angela, and has two teenage boys, Ethan and Josh.
What God Has Joined Together, Let Not Man Separate I
By John Piper 6/24/2007
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
As we come to the end of our series on marriage — this week and next week — it is fitting that we think together about the implications of the meaning of marriage for divorce and remarriage. For many of you who have walked through a divorce and are now single or remarried, or whose parents were divorced, or some other loved one, the mere mention of the word carries a huge weight of sorrow and loss and tragedy and disappointment and anger and regret and guilt. Few things are more painful than divorce. It cuts to the depths of personhood unlike any other relational gash. It is emotionally more heart-wrenching than the death of a spouse. Death is usually clean pain. Divorce is usually dirty pain. In other words, the enormous loss of a spouse in death is compounded in divorce by the ugliness of sin and moral outrage at being so wronged.
The Devastation of Divorce | It is often long years in coming, and long years in the settlement and in the adjustment. The upheaval of life is immeasurable. The sense of failure and guilt and fear can torture the soul. Like the psalmist, night after night a spouse falls asleep with tears (Psalm 6:6). Work performance is hindered. People don’t know how to relate to you anymore and friends start to withdraw. You can feel like you wear a big scarlet D on your chest. The loneliness is not like the loneliness of being a widow or a widower or person who has never been married. It is in class by itself. (Which is one reason why so many divorced people find each other.) A sense of devastated future can be all consuming. Courtroom controversy compounds the personal misery. And then there is often the agonizing place of children. Parents hope against hope that the scars will not cripple the children or ruin their marriages some day. Tensions over custody and financial support deepen the wounds. And then the awkward and artificial visitation rights can lengthen the tragedy over decades. And add to all of this that it happens in America to over four out of every ten married couples.
Responding to Divorce | There are two ways to respond lovingly and caringly to this situation. One is to come alongside divorced persons and stand by them as they grieve and repent of any sinful part of their own. And then to stay by them through the transitions and help them find a way to enjoy the forgiveness and the strength for new obedience that Christ obtained when he died and rose again.
The other way to respond lovingly and caringly is to articulate a hatred of divorce, and why it is against the will of God, and do all we can biblically to keep it from happening. Compromises on the sacredness and life-long permanence of marriage — positions that weaken the solidity of the covenant-union — may feel loving in the short run, but wreak havoc over the decades. Preserving the solid framework of the marriage covenant with high standards may feel tough in the short run, but produces ten thousand blessings for future generations. I hope that both of these ways of loving and caring will flourish at Bethlehem.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Ramming the Ten Commandments: A Prophetic Picture of America
By Michael Brown 6/29/2017
It was the act of only one man who drove his vehicle into a Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas, but it reflected the sentiments of a growing number of Americans: “We do not want the Ten Commandments in our midst, nor do we want the God of the Ten Commandments in our midst.” In that sense, the destructive act of this individual reflected the attitude of tens of millions of Americans. This is not simply a decreased interest in the Bible and the God of the Bible. This is outright rebellion. It sounds like this:
Enough with God’s laws and standards. Enough with His moral principles. Enough with His prohibitions of idolatry and adultery and murder.
We will do what we want to do, when we want to do it, and no law — or God — will tell us otherwise.
The America we want must have no connection to its Judeo-Christian roots. No connection to the moral values of many of its Founders. No connection to the Scriptures which so influenced their thinking.
We will worship created things more than the Creator. We will be full of covetousness and greed. We want our idolatry.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Dr. Michael Brown Books:
- 1 Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living
- 2 Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- 3 The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah
- 4 In the Line of Fire: 70 Articles from the Front Lines of the Culture Wars
- 5 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
- 6 Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide
- 7 Our Hands Are Stained with Blood
- 8 Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire
- 9 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1
- 10 A Queer Thing Happened To America: And what a long, strange trip it's been
- 11 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3
- 12 Go And Sin No More: A Call To Holiness
- 13 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections Vol. 2
- 14 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: New Testament Objections (Vol. 4)
- 15 Whatever Happened to the Power of God?/It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 16 The Grace Controversy: Answers to 12 Common Questions
- 17 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices
- 18 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:Traditional Jewish Objections Vol 5
- 19 Israel's Divine Healer
- 20 Whatever Happened to the Power of God
- 21 A Time For Holy Fire: Preparing the Way for Divine Visitation
- 22 How Saved Are We?
- 23 Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation
- 24 Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change
- 25 What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Jewish Beliefs, Practices, and History
- 26 From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival
- 27 Revolution: Jesus' Call to Change the World
- 28 Let No One Deceive You
- 29 Revolution!: The Call to Holy War
- 30 It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 31 The End of the American Gospel Enterprise
- 32 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message by Michael L. Brown (2014-01-07)
- 33 The Revival Answer Book
Multiverse & Fine Tuning Of Our Universe? Pt 1
By Bill Pratt 9/7/2015
J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, investigates the causes of the fine tuning of our universe. One of the most popular explanations is that there exists multiple universes (the multiverse) and ours is just lucky enough to have the fine tuning that permits life.
Wallace presents the multiverse theory as an explanation for fine tuning as follows:
Multiverse explanations, however, point once again to an external causal agent: a mechanism capable of creating an incredibly large number of universes, each with its own set of physical laws. Most of these universes in the multiverse collection are incapable of permitting life. Our universe, however, through “a series of cosmic accidents,” just happens to support our existence.
Multiverse theories overcome the incredible odds against life (and explain the appearance of fine-tuning) by increasing the chances of such a life-permitting universe. Multiverse theorists have proposed the creation of multiverses through a number of mechanisms, most commonly by way of “eternal inflation,” or “quantum tunneling.” Some physicists suggest the existence of an eternal, primordial vacuum (as we discussed in the last chapter).
According to proponents of eternal inflation models, if an infinitely old vacuum has been experiencing inflation, and the tiny bubble universes we described have emerged, each bubble universe might have its own characteristics and physical laws. Other physicists (such as Alex Vilenkin) propose “quantum tunneling from nothing” to explain the existence of an ensemble of universes without eternal inflation. In these quantum tunneling models, diverse universes pop into existence, because in “quantum mechanics the behavior of physical objects is inherently unpredictable and some quantum processes have no cause at all.”
Bill Pratt | Why am I writing this blog? I am passionate about intellectually defending and explaining the Christian faith to all who will listen. I especially like to tackle tough questions that many folks have, but are afraid to ask. If you’ve ever wanted to dig into the Christian faith and seek answers that your friends, parents, or pastor can’t answer, then you’ve come to the right place. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I can help honest questioners with their search for honest answers.
It is my goal to provide a place where people can clear away any intellectual barriers to the Christian faith that are plaguing them. I understand these barriers, as I have had many in my own life. In clearing away those barriers, I hope to give people a clear view of Jesus Christ, the only One worth seeing.
What are my credentials?
I have been studying Christian apologetics (rational defense of the Christian faith), theology, and philosophy for 14 years. I hold a Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, which is one of the finest apologetics seminaries in the world. I teach and speak about apologetics at my local church, Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is a conservative evangelical church in Greensboro, NC. My wife and I are writing a youth small group curriculum which marches through the Bible chronologically, hitting the highlights.
Personal Information | I have been married to my beautiful wife for 22 years and we have two children – a 19-year old boy and a 16-year old girl. I am vice president of technology for a semiconductor start-up based in Greensboro, NC.
By John Piper 6/27/2017
“Exhort one another every day.” (Hebrews 3:13)
You know why it says every day? Because you’re being lied to every day. You are. Your flesh is lying to you, the world is lying to you, the devil’s lying to you. Remember Andy Nasselli’s message. Social media and all advertising, all TV programs, all movies — they all lie. All of them lie. Every day they’re lying to you. So, it’s no accident that Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another every day”.
If you have a small group that meets every two weeks, that’s fine. Just use email and be on the phone a lot. In other words, the pocket gatherings — weekly or bi-weekly — are to establish relationships that get this thing going for every day. You think you don’t need this every day. You don’t know what you’re up against. I’m so thankful for email and people that love my soul and have the courage to tell me things.
This is your calling. This is your calling as a Christian. No matter what occupation or vocation you do, this is your calling.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 71Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
71 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
7 I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11 and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”
12 O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14 But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
Making Evangelical Churches More Inviting to Christian Intellectuals
By Ken Samples 6/27/2017
There is a growing crisis in evangelical churches today. However, most evangelicals are unaware of the nature of the emergency or of its looming repercussions. The problem is that many intellectually oriented Christian adults increasingly feel out of place in evangelical churches. They often say that as intellectuals, the typical evangelical church has little to offer them in terms of the life of the mind. Some even feel that their insatiable hunger for thinking and learning has caused them to be viewed as unwelcome within their local church congregations.
I know this “mind/faith” or “intellect/church” tension exists based on concerns expressed by leading evangelical scholars over the last forty years about the problem of anti-intellectualism in the church.1 But I also know of the growing problem from my own interaction with many Christian intellectuals through my years of college teaching and working in the field of apologetics. Cerebrally oriented believers often say to me that they feel frustrated with the lack of intellectual rigor that is reflected in their churches. This problem is also evidenced by the fact that my two previous articles on this topic have received more attention on social media than any other topic I have ever addressed.
One of the major consequences of this crisis is that these Christian intellectuals are desperately needed by their churches to help convince Christian young people that Christianity is indeed a rationally based faith system and one worth sticking with. Studies indicate that college-age evangelicals are leaving the church and the faith at an unprecedented rate.2 Unfortunately, the discomfort of the intellectually inclined adults and the exodus on the part of the college-aged students is largely one and the same. That is, the form of Christianity expressed by many evangelical churches seems to have little place for the life of the mind.
So exactly what is it about mind-faith issues that makes intellectually oriented Christian adults feel so out of place in evangelical churches? I addressed that question in the second article in this series. But two common church-related factors create the problem.
First, the importance of the life of the mind often receives little attention in many evangelical churches. The church often serves as a place of fellowship (often entertainment-oriented), or a counseling center, or a concert hall—all good and valuable things, of course—but the church much less often functions as a school. As such, it is not often a place of learning and development of the life of the mind.
Second, some within the evangelical theological tradition have struggled with the idea that an intense pursuit of the life of the mind is somehow at odds with Christian spirituality. The unfortunate belief that dies hard in some sections of evangelicalism is that faith and reason or spirituality and the intellect are incompatible forces. Some Christians even think that reason and education tend to undermine faith. Church history has shown this to be largely false: often the great minds in Western civilization have also been people of a vibrant Christian faith.
Ken Samples. I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author.
As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason.
I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."
Ken Samples Books:
- 1 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 2 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
- 3 Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
- 4 Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
- 5 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe) by Kenneth Richard Samples (2007-09-01)
- 6 The Image of God: Day 6 and Beyond (Reasons to Believe)
- 7 A Christian Perspective on Islam
He Who Has Ears…
By Scott Anderson 4/1/2010
Everyone loves a story. Whether young or old, we all enjoy hearing, reading, or seeing a good story unfold.
Stories are remarkably powerful things. They stir-up our imaginations and excite our affections. They instruct us and inspire us. They intoxicate and influence us. They linger with us, often becoming more precious and poignant and powerful over time.
In seminary, every pastor-in-training learns about the mysterious homiletical power of story and illustrations. How many times has a church congregation snapped back to attention during a sermon because the preacher began recounting a story or explaining his point with a descriptive, sensory-filled illustration? And why do good preachers do this? Because the human heart is spring-loaded to respond to stories and illustrations. Many times, long after the spoken words are forgotten, we can still call to remembrance the main point of a sermon because of the wise and effective employment of a good story.
During His earthly teaching ministry, the Lord Jesus, who was the master teacher and preacher, often used stories and illustrations as He instructed the crowds of people who flocked to hear Him. Most scholars refer to these types of stories as “parables.” There are about fifty different parables of Christ recorded in the Gospels. In fact, about one-third of all of Jesus’ recorded sayings are parables. This would seem to imply something very interesting: telling stories was one of Jesus’ favorite methods for “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1) and speaking forth “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
The word parable communicates the idea of placing one thing by the side of another, and from this meaning you can easily figure out how they work: simple terms are used to convey a profound truth. In the ministry of Christ, parables are simple stories taken from the familiar world in which Jesus lived, and they are told to relate an unfamiliar spiritual truth. The common, mundane, and everyday are used to elucidate the uncommon, profound, and otherworldly. One person has said that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly message.” And while the parables of Christ are not strict allegories (in which every minor detail is symbolic of something else), they are brief, simple illustrations that usually address one problem or question with which our Lord was dealing. In other words, parables usually drive home one main truth.
But you might be wondering, why parables? Well, you would not be the only one to have asked that question. After hearing Jesus tell the parable of the soils, “the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” (Matt. 13:10). The reply of our Lord is very interesting:
“And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear’” (vv. 11–13, 16).
You see, Christ was speaking to a mixed-multitude. There were those who received His teaching with open hearts, and those who spurned His truth and persisted in unbelief. Rather than try to weed-out the believers in order to instruct only them, Christ set His teaching before the crowds in the form of parables. Those who had hearts to believe would embrace the teaching and seek to understand further, and those who rejected it, even though they had heard, would not understand at all. In this way, parables withdraw the light from the rebellious at heart who hate the truth, and give light to those who believe and love the truth.
The implication of this is profound: more than a mere homiletical device or a powerful didactic tool, the parables of Jesus are actually designed to help us see whether illuminating grace is on the move in our lives. (Whether we fully understand every nuance of a given parable is not the main concern — even the disciples had to have some interpreted for them.) Parables function as little tests of faith, beckoning us to see and believe and obey the truth of the Storyteller.
So as we seek to be the church in this world, let us eagerly read the parables of Jesus — and all of God’s Word — with a humble dependence on the gracious, illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask these kinds of questions: Am I embracing Christ as the ultimate good of the gospel today? Am I open to His teaching? Am I joyfully abiding in His instruction? Am I really interested in His truth? Do I have eyes that want to see and ears that want to hear the words of life?
In reading this way, we will become joy-filled partakers of the great story to which the gospel has so graciously called us, and the Word of God will become a deep well of life-giving truth that provides rich, spiritual satisfaction for our souls.
Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
8. Every one must now see that pædobaptism, which receives such strong support from Scripture, is by no means of human invention. Nor is there anything plausible in the objection, that we nowhere read of even one infant having been baptised by the hands of the apostles. For although
this is not expressly narrated by the Evangelists, yet as they are not expressly excluded when mention is made of any baptised family (Acts
16:15, 32), what man of sense will argue from this that they were not baptised? If such kinds of argument were good, it would be necessary,
in like manner, to interdict women from the Lord's Supper, since we do not read that they were ever admitted to it in the days of the
apostles. But here we are contented with the rule of faith. For when we
reflect on the nature of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, we easily
judge who the persons are to whom the use of it is to be communicated.
The same we observe in the case of baptism. For, attending to the end
for which it was instituted, we clearly perceive that it is not less
applicable to children than to those of more advanced years, and that,
therefore, they cannot be deprived of it without manifest fraud to the
will of its divine Author. The assertion which they disseminate among
the common people, that a long series of years elapsed after the
resurrection of Christ, during which pædobaptism was unknown, is a
shameful falsehood, since there is no writer, however ancient, who does
not trace its origin to the days of the apostles.
9. It remains briefly to indicate what benefit redounds from the observance, both to believers who bring their children to the church to be baptised, and to the infants themselves, to whom the sacred water is applied, that no one may despise the ordinance as useless or superfluous: though any one who would think of ridiculing baptism under this pretence, would also ridicule the divine ordinance of circumcision: for what can they adduce to impugn the one, that may not be retorted against the other? Thus the Lord punishes the arrogance of those who forthwith condemn whatever their carnal sense cannot comprehend. But God furnishes us with other weapons to repress their stupidity. His holy institution, from which we feel that our faith derives admirable consolation, deserves not to be called superfluous. For the divine symbol communicated to the child, as with the impress of a seal, confirms the promise given to the godly parent, and declares that the Lord will be a God not to him only, but to his seed; not merely visiting him with his grace and goodness, but his posterity also to the thousandth generation. When the infinite goodness of God is thus displayed, it, in the first place, furnishes most ample materials for proclaiming his glory, and fills pious breasts with no ordinary joy, urging them more strongly to love their affectionate Parent, when they see that, on their account, he extends his care to their posterity. I am not moved by the objection, that the promise ought to be sufficient to confirm the salvation of our children. It has seemed otherwise to God, who, seeing our weakness, has herein been pleased to condescend to it. Let those, then, who embrace the promise of mercy to their children, consider it as their duty to offer them to the Church, to be sealed with the symbol of mercy, and animate themselves to surer confidence, on seeing with the bodily eye the covenant of the Lord engraven on the bodies of their children. On the other hand, children derive some benefit from their baptism, when, being ingrafted into the body of the Church, they are made an object of greater interest to the other members. Then when they have grown up, they are thereby strongly urged to an earnest desire of serving God, who has received them as sons by the formal symbol of adoption, before, from nonage, they were able to recognise him as their Father. In fine, we ought to stand greatly in awe of the denunciation, that God will take vengeance on every one who despises to impress the symbol of the covenant on his child (Gen. 17:15), such contempt being a rejection, and, as it were, abjuration of the offered grace.
10. Let us now discuss the arguments by which some furious madmen cease not to assail this holy ordinance of God. And, first, feeling themselves pressed beyond measure by the resemblance between baptism and circumcision, they contend that there is a wide difference between the two signs, that the one has nothing in common with the other. They maintain that the things meant are different, that the covenant is altogether different, and that the persons included under the name of children are different. When they first proceed to the proof, they pretend that circumcision was a figure of mortification, not of baptism. This we willingly concede to them, for it admirably supports our view, in support of which the only proof we use is, that baptism and circumcision are signs of mortification. Hence we conclude that the one was substituted for the other, baptism representing to us the very thing which circumcision signified to the Jews. In asserting a difference of covenant, with what barbarian audacity do they corrupt and destroy Scripture? and that not in one passage only, but so as not to leave any passage safe and entire. The Jews they depict as so carnal as to resemble brutes more than men, representing the covenant which was made with them as reaching no farther than a temporary life, and the promises which were given to them as dwindling down into present and corporeal blessings. If this dogma is received, what remains but that the Jewish nation was overloaded for a time with divine kindness (just as swine are gorged in their sty), that they might at last perish eternally? Whenever we quote circumcision and the promises annexed to it, they answer, that circumcision was a literal sign, and that its promises were carnal.
11. Certainly, if circumcision was a literal sign, the same view must be taken of baptism, since, in the second chapter to the Colossians, the apostle makes the one to be not a whit more spiritual than the other. For he says that in Christ we "are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ." In explanation of his sentiment he immediately adds, that we are "buried with him in baptism." What do these words mean, but just that the truth and completion of baptism is the truth and completion of circumcision, since they represent one thing? For his object is to show that baptism is the same thing to Christians that circumcision formerly was to the Jews. Now, since we have already clearly shown that the promises of both signs, and the mysteries which are represented by them, agree, we shall not dwell on the point longer at present. I would only remind believers to reflect, without anything being said by me, whether that is to be regarded as an earthly and literal sign, which has nothing heavenly or spiritual under it. But lest they should blind the simple with their smoke, we shall, in passing, dispose of one objection by which they cloak this most impudent falsehood. It is absolutely certain that the original promises comprehending the covenant which God made with the Israelites under the old dispensation were spiritual, and had reference to eternal life, and were, of course, in like manner spiritually received by the fathers, that they might thence entertain a sure hope of immortality, and aspire to it with their whole soul. Meanwhile, we are far from denying that he testified his kindness to them by carnal and earthly blessings; though we hold that by these the hope of spiritual promises was confirmed. In this manner, when he promised eternal blessedness to his servant Abraham, he, in order to place a manifest indication of favour before his eye, added the promise of possession of the land of Canaan. In the same way we should understand all the terrestrial promises which were given to the Jewish nation, the spiritual promise, as the head to which the others bore reference, always holding the first place. Having handled this subject fully when treating of the difference between the old and the new dispensations, I now only glance at it.
12. Under the appellation of children the difference they observe is this, that the children of Abraham, under the old dispensation, were those who derived their origin from his seed, but that the appellation is now given to those who imitate his faith, and therefore that carnal infancy, which was ingrafted into the fellowship of the covenant by circumcision, typified the spiritual children of the new covenant, who are regenerated by the word of God to immortal life. In these words we indeed discover a small spark of truth, but these giddy spirits err grievously in this, that laying hold of whatever comes first to their hand, when they ought to proceed farther, and compare many things together, they obstinately fasten upon one single word. Hence it cannot but happen that they are every now and then deluded, because they do not exert themselves to obtain a full knowledge of any subject. We certainly admit that the carnal seed of Abraham for a time held the place of the spiritual seed, which is ingrafted into him by faith (Gal. 4:28; Rom. 4:12). For we are called his sons, though we have no natural relationship with him. But if they mean, as they not obscurely show, that the spiritual promise was never made to the carnal seed of Abraham, they are greatly mistaken. We must, therefore, take a better aim, one to which we are directed by the infallible guidance of Scripture. The Lord therefore promises to Abraham that he shall have a seed in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and at the same time assures him that he will be a God both to him and his seed. All who in faith receive Christ as the author of the blessing are the heirs of this promise, and accordingly are called the children of Abraham.
13. Although, after the resurrection of Christ, the boundaries of the kingdom began to be extended far and wide into all nations indiscriminately, so that, according to the declaration of Christ, believers were collected from all quarters to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 8:11), still, for many ages before, the Jews had enjoyed this great mercy. And as he had selected them (while passing by all other nations) to be for a time the depositaries of his favour, he designated them as his peculiar purchased people (Exod. 19:5). In attestation of this kindness, he appointed circumcision, by which symbol the Jews were taught that God watched over their safety, and they were thereby raised to the hope of eternal life. For what can ever be wanting to him whom God has once taken under his protection? Wherefore the apostle, to prove that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, were the children of Abraham, speaks in this way: "Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised: that righteousness might be imputed to them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had yet being uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:9-12). Do we not see that both are made equal in dignity? For, to the time appointed by the divine decree, he was the father of circumcision. But when, as the apostle elsewhere writes (Eph. 2:14), the wall of partition which separated the Gentiles from the Jews was broken down, to them, also, access was given to the kingdom of God, and he became their father, and that without the sign of circumcision, its place being supplied by baptism. In saying expressly that Abraham was not the father of those who were of the circumcision only, his object was to repress the superciliousness of some who, laying aside all regard to godliness, plumed themselves on mere ceremonies. In like manner, we may, in the present day, refute the vanity of those who, in baptism, seek nothing but water.
14. But in opposition to this is produced a passage from the Epistle to the Romans, in which the apostle says, that those who are of the flesh are not the children of Abraham, but that those only who are the children of promise are considered as the seed (Rom. 9:7). For he seems to insinuate, that carnal relationship to Abraham, which we think of some consequence, is nothing. But we must attend carefully to the subject which the apostle is there treating. His object being to show to the Jews that the goodness of God was not restricted to the seed of Abraham, nay, that of itself it contributes nothing, produces, in proof of the fact, the cases of Ishmael and Esau. These being rejected, just as if they had been strangers, although, according to the flesh, they were the genuine offspring of Abraham, the blessing resides in Isaac and Jacob. This proves what he afterwards affirms--viz. that salvation depends on the mercy which God bestows on whomsoever he pleases, but that the Jews have no ground to glory or plume themselves on the name of the covenant, unless they keep the law of the covenant, that is, obey the word. On the other hand, after casting down their vain confidence in their origin, because he was aware that the covenant which had been made with the posterity of Abraham could not properly prove fruitless, he declares, that due honour should still be paid to carnal relationship to Abraham, in consequence of which, the Jews were the primary and native heirs of the gospel, unless in so far as they were, for their ingratitude, rejected as unworthy, and yet rejected so as not to leave their nation utterly destitute of the heavenly blessing. For this reason, though they were contumacious breakers of the covenant, he styles them holy (such respect does he pay to the holy generation which God had honoured with his sacred covenant), while we, in comparison of them, are termed posthumous, or abortive children of Abraham, and that not by nature, but by adoption, just as if a twig were broken from its own tree, and ingrafted on another stock. Therefore, that they might not be defrauded of their privilege, it was necessary that the gospel should first be preached to them. For they are, as it were, the first-born in the family of God. The honour due, on this account, must therefore be paid them, until they have rejected the offer, and, by their ingratitude, caused it to be transferred to the Gentiles. Nor, however great the contumacy with which they persist in warring against the gospel, are we therefore to despise them. We must consider, that in respect of the promise, the blessing of God still resides among them; and, as the apostle testifies, will never entirely depart from them, seeing that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).
15. Such is the value of the promise given to the posterity of Abraham,--such the balance in which it is to be weighed. Hence, though we have no doubt that in distinguishing the children of God from bastards and foreigners, that the election of God reigns freely, we, at the same time, perceive that he was pleased specially to embrace the seed of Abraham with his mercy, and, for the better attestation of it, to seal it by circumcision. The case of the Christian Church is entirely of the same description; for as Paul there declares that the Jews are sanctified by their parents, so he elsewhere says that the children of Christians derive sanctification from their parents. Hence it is inferred, that those who are chargeable with impurity are justly separated from others. Now, who can have any doubt as to the falsehood of their subsequent averment--viz. that the infants who were formerly circumcised only typified the spiritual infancy which is produced by the regeneration of the word of God? When the apostle says, that "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15:8), he does not philosophise subtilely, as if he had said, Since the covenant made with Abraham has respect unto his seed, Christ, in order to perform and discharge the promise made by the Father, came for the salvation of the Jewish nation. Do you see how he considers that, after the resurrection of Christ, the promise is to be fulfilled to the seed of Abraham, not allegorically, but literally, as the words express? To the same effect is the declaration of Peter to the Jews: "The promise is unto you and to your children" (Acts 2:39); and in the next chapter, he calls them the children of the covenant, that is, heirs. Not widely different from this is the other passage of the apostle, above quoted, in which he regards and describes circumcision performed on infants as an attestation to the communion which they have with Christ. And, indeed, if we listen to the absurdities of those men, what will become of the promise by which the Lord, in the second commandment of his law, engages to be gracious to the seed of his servants for a thousand generations? Shall we here have recourse to allegory? This were the merest quibble. Shall we say that it has been abrogated? In this way, we should do away with the law which Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil, inasmuch as it turns to our everlasting good. Therefore, let it be without controversy, that God is so good and liberal to his people, that he is pleased, as a mark of his favour, to extend their privileges to the children born to them.
16. The distinctions which these men attempt to draw between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous, and void of all semblance of reason, but at variance with each other. For, when they affirm that baptism refers to the first day of spiritual contest, and circumcision to the eighth day, mortification being already accomplished, they immediately forget the distinction, and change their song, representing circumcision as typifying the mortification of the flesh, and baptism as a burial, which is given to none but those who are already dead. What are these giddy contradictions but frenzied dreams? According to the former view, baptism ought to precede circumcision; according to the latter, it should come after it. It is not the first time we have seen the minds of men wander to and fro when they substitute their dreams for the infallible word of God. We hold, therefore, that their former distinction is a mere imagination. Were we disposed to make an allegory of the eighth day, theirs would not be the proper mode of it. It were much better with the early Christians to refer the number eight to the resurrection, which took place on the eighth day, and on which we know that newness of life depends, or to the whole course of the present life, during which, mortification ought to be in progress, only terminating when life itself terminates; although it would seem that God intended to provide for the tenderness of infancy by deferring circumcision to the eighth day, as the wound would have been more dangerous if inflicted immediately after birth. How much more rational is the declaration of Scripture, that we, when already dead, are buried by baptism (Rom. 6:4); since it distinctly states, that we are buried into death that we may thoroughly die, and thenceforth aim at that mortification? Equally ingenious is their cavil, that women should not be baptised if baptism is to be made conformable to circumcision. For if it is most certain that the sanctification of the seed of Israel was attested by the sign of circumcision, it cannot be doubted that it was appointed alike for the sanctification of males and females. But though the right could only be performed on males, yet the females were, through them, partners and associates in circumcision. Wherefore, disregarding all such quibbling distinctions, let us fix on the very complete resemblance between baptism and circumcision, as seen in the internal office, the promise, the use, and the effect.
17. They seem to think they produce their strongest reason for denying baptism to children, when they allege, that they are as yet unfit, from nonage, to understand the mystery which is there sealed--viz. spiritual regeneration, which is not applicable to earliest infancy. Hence they infer, that children are only to be regarded as sons of Adam until they have attained an age fit for the reception of the second birth. But all this is directly opposed to the truth of God. For if they are to be accounted sons of Adam, they are left in death, since, in Adam, we can do nothing but die. On the contrary, Christ bids them be brought to him. Why so? Because he is life. Therefore, that he may quicken them, he makes them partners with himself; whereas these men would drive them away from Christ, and adjudge them to death. For if they pretend that infants do not perish when they are accounted the sons of Adam, the error is more than sufficiently confuted by the testimony of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:22). For seeing it declares that in Adam all die, it follows, that no hope of life remains unless in Christ. Therefore, that we may become heirs of life, we must communicate with him. Again, seeing it is elsewhere written that we are all by nature the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5), of which condemnation is the inseparable attendant, we must part with our own nature before we have any access to the kingdom of God. And what can be clearer than the expression, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"? (1 Cor. 15:50.) Therefore, let everything that is our own be abolished (this cannot be without regeneration), and then we shall perceive this possession of the kingdom. In fine, if Christ speaks truly when he declares that he is life, we must necessarily be ingrafted into him by whom we are delivered from the bondage of death. But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null. Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that some are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord. For if they bring innate corruption with them from their mother's womb, they must be purified before they can be admitted into the kingdom of God, into which shall not enter anything that defileth (Rev. 21:27). If they are born sinners, as David and Paul affirm, they must either remain unaccepted and hated by God, or be justified. And why do we ask more, when the Judge himself publicly declares, that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"? (John 3:3.) But to silence this class of objectors, God gave, in the case of John the Baptist, whom he sanctified from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15), a proof of what he might do in others. They gain nothing by the quibble to which they here resort--viz. that this was only once done, and therefore it does not forthwith follow that the Lord always acts thus with infants. That is not the mode in which we reason. Our only object is to show, that they unjustly and malignantly confine the power of God within limits, within which it cannot be confined. As little weight is due to another subterfuge. They allege that, by the usual phraseology of Scripture, "from the womb," has the same meaning as "from childhood." But it is easy to see that the angel had a different meaning when he announced to Zacharias that the child not yet born would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Instead of attempting to give a law to God, let us hold that he sanctifies whom he pleases, in the way in which he sanctified John, seeing that his power is not impaired.
18. And, indeed, Christ was sanctified from earliest infancy, that he might sanctify his elect in himself at any age, without distinction. For as he, in order to wipe away the guilt of disobedience which had been committed in our flesh, assumed that very flesh, that in it he might, on our account, and in our stead, perform a perfect obedience, so he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that, completely pervaded with his holiness in the flesh which he had assumed, he might transfuse it into us. If in Christ we have a perfect pattern of all the graces which God bestows on all his children, in this instance we have a proof that the age of infancy is not incapable of receiving sanctification. This, at least, we set down as incontrovertible, that none of the elect is called away from the present life without being previously sanctified and regenerated by the Spirit of God.  As to their objection that, in Scripture, the Spirit acknowledges no sanctification save that from incorruptible seed, that is, the word of God, they erroneously interpret Peter's words, in which he comprehends only believers who had been taught by the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23). We confess, indeed, that the word of the Lord is the only seed of spiritual regeneration; but we deny the inference that, therefore, the power of God cannot regenerate infants. This is as possible and easy for him, as it is wondrous and incomprehensible to us. It were dangerous to deny that the Lord is able to furnish them with the knowledge of himself in any way he pleases.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
5/1/2013 Delighting in Our Duty
When we think of the law of God, the first thing that should come to mind is love—God’s love for us as fallen sinners, directing us to love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him. God’s law is a gracious gift to us, and it has three primary uses. First, the law functions as a teacher by showing us God’s perfect righteousness and our unrighteousness and sin, and it shows our danger of God’s judgment, leading us, by God’s grace, in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ who fulfilled all the righteous demands of God’s law (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; Gal. 3:19–24). Second, the law functions to restrain evil in all realms of society, preserving humanity and, thus, serving God’s overall plan of redemption for His covenant people (Deut. 19:16–21; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). Third, the law functions as a guide to righteous living for all men, and it directs us as God’s beloved children by teaching us what pleases our heavenly Father and fulfills the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; 1 Thess. 4:1–8).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, and in fulfilling it, He set us free to love the law, to delight in keeping the law, and to repent for our lawbreaking as we live by faith in Christ for the Glory of God in all that we do (Rom. 3:31; Titus 2:11–14; 1 John 2:3–4). Even in the Great Commission, Christ commanded that we make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe (“to keep” or “to obey”) all that He commanded. And to His disciples Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), promising to send the Holy Spirit to indwell us, help us, comfort us, and sustain us.
Moreover, when a scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28–31). In giving the first great commandment, Jesus was quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, which is the preeminent Old Testament monotheistic self-proclamation of the God of Israel and the confession of all who are united by faith alone to the true Israel of God, Jesus Christ the righteous. The Shema is God’s call to “hear, O Israel,” and in hearing God, loving God, and obeying God, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, trusting Him and following Him every hour of every day in all that we do with our whole being—all the while, teaching and showing our covenant children what it means to live each day coram Deo, before God’s face, as we strive to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
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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)
by Bill Federer
The Declaration of Independence was approved this day, July 4, 1776. John Hancock, the first to sign, said: “the price on my head has just doubled.” Benjamin Franklin signed saying “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.” Of the fifty-six signers: 17 lost their fortunes, 12 had their homes destroyed, 9 fought and died, 5 were arrested as traitors, and 2 lost sons in the War. As Samuel Adams signed, he said: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
A real Christian is a person
who can give his pet parrot
to the town gossip.
--- Billy Graham
The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations
If we had lived in the second millennium BC, the millennium of Abraham, and could have canvassed all the nations of the earth, what would they have said of Abraham’s journey? In most of Africa and Europe, they would have laughed at Abraham’s madness and pointed to the heavens, where the life of earth had been plotted from all eternity ... a man cannot escape his fate. The Egyptians would have shaken their heads in disbelief. The early Greeks might have told Abraham the story of Prometheus ... Do not overreach, they would advise; come to resignation. In India, he would be told that time is black, irrational and merciless. Do not set yourself the task of accomplishing something in time, which is only the dominion of suffering. On every continent, in every society, Abraham would have been given the same advice that wise men as diverse as Heraclitus, Lao-Tsu and Siddhartha would one day give their followers: do not journey but sit; compose yourself by the river of life, meditate on its ceaseless and meaningless flow.
“The Jews started it all—and by ‘it’ I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings ... we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.
--- Thomas Cahill
The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History)
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
--- C.S. Lewis
... from here, there and everywhere
PART III / Verses 3–6
CHAPTER 16 / “With All Your Heart
and All Your Soul and All Your Might”
The Jerusalem Talmud, however, in stressing R. Akiva’s simultaneous performance of the two separate mitzvot, implies that the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem is achieved only at the moment one actually dies for God’s sake. Although psychologically surrendering one’s life when reading the Shema prepares one for martyrdom, the full performance of the mitzvah takes place only when the martyr actually suffers death. In R. Akiva’s case, he was able to perform the two mitzvot simultaneously—reading the Shema and suffering martyrdom—but the two are not integrally related.
Later sources express support for both these views. Thus, the Zohar writes:
Whoever intends with these words [i.e., “you shall love … with all your soul”] to surrender his life for the sanctification of the divine Name, Scripture considers it as if he was martyred every day [that he recited these words with this kavvanah]. (Zohar III, 195b)
This passage reinforces the view that we have attributed to the Babylonian Talmud. Other sources espouse this point of view as well. But some sources take the opposite view, siding with the perspective implied in the version of the Jerusalem Talmud.
Whether or not the intention to undergo martyrdom adequately fulfills the mitzvah formally, it is clear that such an intention is an integral part of the Reading of the Shema. We then are faced with an interesting question: to what extent must we pursue this mitzvah? Should we seek out opportunities to tempt fate and expose ourselves to danger in order to demonstrate our love of God? Not all authorities agree on the answer to this question.
R. Isaiah Horowitz (end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century), in his Shenei Luḥot ha-Berit, (11) one of the most significant works in all of Jewish literature, expresses strong opinions on the matter:
(11) Shaar ha-Otiot, end of letter alef.
One should not think that because martyrdom is a great mitzvah, therefore I will pursue it diligently, in the same way that one must diligently pursue every (other) mitzvah, and I will try to create a situation [that will result in my martyrdom], such as: when he sees a pagan he will spit at him, or visit other such indignities upon him, so that they will seize him and burn him at the stake.…
One who acts in this manner is guilty [of forfeiting] his life. The mitzvah [of martyrdom] applies only to a case where [the violation of one of the three commandments requiring martyrdom] was forced upon him by others; only then shall he sanctify the Name and prefer to be killed rather than violate [one of these commandments].
That is, we must not seek out opportunities to die a martyr’s death. Such active solicitation of martyrdom is a disguised form of suicide and must be discouraged. We can only conjecture about the historical circumstances that may have inspired this vigorous condemnation of pro-active martyrdom.
The Netziv (R. Naftali Zevi Yehuda Berlin) concurs: “Heaven forbid that R. Akiva hoped for such a terrible death.” (12) The Netziv’s nephew, R. Baruch Epstein, apparently unaware of his uncle’s comment, takes the opposite view. Citing an incident recorded about R. Akiva in the Talmud, (13) he contends that R. Akiva did indeed anticipate and hope for a martyr’s death. (14) The plain sense of the passage in both Talmuds seems to support the view of R. Epstein.
(12) Harḥev Davar to Deut. 6:5, no. 2.
(13) Eruvin 21b.
(14) R. Baruch Epstein, Torah Temimah to Deut. 6:5,
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of Sixty-Nine Years. From The Death Of Herod Till Vespasian Was Sent To Subdue The Jews By Nero.
Archelaus Makes A Funeral Feast For The People, On The Account Of Herod. After Which A Great Tumult Is Raised By The Multitude And He Sends The Soldiers Out Upon Them, Who Destroy About Three Thousand Of Them.
1. Now the necessity which Archelaus was under of taking a journey to Rome was the occasion of new disturbances; for when he had mourned for his father seven days,1 and had given a very expensive funeral feast to the multitude, [which custom is the occasion of poverty to many of the Jews, because they are forced to feast the multitude; for if any one omits it, he is not esteemed a holy person,] he put on a white garment, and went up to the temple, where the people accosted him with various acclamations. He also spake kindly to the multitude from an elevated seat and a throne of gold, and returned them thanks for the zeal they had shown about his father's funeral, and the submission they had made to him, as if he were already settled in the kingdom; but he told them withal, that he would not at present take upon him either the authority of a king, or the names thereto belonging, until Caesar, who is made lord of this whole affair by the testament, confirm the succession; for that when the soldiers would have set the diadem on his head at Jericho, he would not accept of it; but that he would make abundant requitals, not to the soldiers only, but to the people, for their alacrity and good-will to him, when the superior lords [the Romans] should have given him a complete title to the kingdom; for that it should be his study to appear in all things better than his father.
2. Upon this the multitude were pleased, and presently made a trial of what he intended, by asking great things of him; for some made a clamor that he would ease them in their taxes; others, that he would take off the duties upon commodities; and some, that he would loose those that were in prison; in all which cases he answered readily to their satisfaction, in order to get the good-will of the multitude; after which he offered [the proper] sacrifices, and feasted with his friends. And here it was that a great many of those that desired innovations came in crowds towards the Evening, and began then to mourn on their own account, when the public mourning for the king was over. These lamented those that were put to death by Herod, because they had cut down the golden eagle that had been over the gate of the temple. Nor was this mourning of a private nature, but the lamentations were very great, the mourning solemn, and the weeping such as was loudly heard all over the city, as being for those men who had perished for the laws of their country, and for the temple. They cried out that a punishment ought to be inflicted for these men upon those that were honored by Herod; and that, in the first place, the man whom he had made high priest should be deprived; and that it was fit to choose a person of greater piety and purity than he was.
3. At these clamors Archelaus was provoked, but restrained himself from taking vengeance on the authors, on account of the haste he was in of going to Rome, as fearing lest, upon his making war on the multitude, such an action might detain him at home. Accordingly, he made trial to quiet the innovators by persuasion, rather than by force, and sent his general in a private way to them, and by him exhorted them to be quiet. But the seditious threw stones at him, and drove him away, as he came into the temple, and before he could say any thing to them. The like treatment they showed to others, who came to them after him, many of which were sent by Archelaus, in order to reduce them to sobriety, and these answered still on all occasions after a passionate manner; and it openly appeared that they would not be quiet, if their numbers were but considerable. And indeed, at the feast of unleavened bread, which was now at hand, and is by the Jews called the Passover, and used to be celebrated with a great number of sacrifices, an innumerable multitude of the people came out of the country to worship; some of these stood in the temple bewailing the Rabbins [that had been put to death], and procured their sustenance by begging, in order to support their sedition. At this Archelaus was affrighted, and privately sent a tribune, with his cohort of soldiers, upon them, before the disease should spread over the whole multitude, and gave orders that they should constrain those that began the tumult, by force, to be quiet. At these the whole multitude were irritated, and threw stones at many of the soldiers, and killed them; but the tribune fled away wounded, and had much ado to escape so. After which they betook themselves to their sacrifices, as if they had done no mischief; nor did it appear to Archelaus that the multitude could be restrained without bloodshed; so he sent his whole army upon them, the footmen in great multitudes, by the way of the city, and the horsemen by the way of the plain, who, falling upon them on the sudden, as they were offering their sacrifices, destroyed about three thousand of them; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed upon the adjoining mountains: these were followed by Archelaus's heralds, who commanded every one to retire to their own homes, whither they all went, and left the festival.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
so don’t get involved with a talkative person.
20 Whoever curses his father or mother—
his lamp will go out in total darkness.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Acts 2 - N.T. Wright
To begin with, building on the startling call to holiness we just noticed, we see right across the early Christian writings the notion that those who follow Jesus are called to fulfill the Law—that is, the Torah, the Jewish Law. Paul says it; James says it; Jesus himself says it. Now there are all kinds of senses in which Christians do not, and are not meant to, perform the Jewish Law. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews insists that with the death of Jesus the sacrificial system came to an end, and with it the whole point of the Temple. Paul insists that when pagan men and boys believe the gospel of Jesus and get baptized, they do not have to get circumcised. Jesus himself hinted strongly that the food laws which had marked out the Jews from their pagan neighbors were to be set aside in favor of a different kind of marking out, a different kind of holiness. The early Christians, following Jesus himself, were quite clear that keeping the Jewish Sabbath was no longer mandatory, even though doing so was one of the Ten Commandments.
Nevertheless, the early Christians continued to speak, not least in the passages where they talked of the Spirit, of the obligation to fulfill the Law. If you are guided and energized by the Spirit, declares Paul, you will no longer do those things which the Law forbids—murder, adultery, and the rest. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God’s Law,” he writes in the Letter to the Romans. “Such a mindset does not submit to God’s Law, indeed it can’t; and those of that sort cannot please God.” But, as he goes on at once, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit does indeed dwell in you” (note the Temple language again). The Spirit will give life—resurrection life—to all those in whom the Spirit dwells; and this is to be anticipated (future-in-the-present language again) in holiness of life here and now (Romans 8:7–17). Later in the same letter, he explains further: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (13:10).
The point, once again, is not that the Law is a convenient moral guide, ancient and venerable. It is that the Torah, like the Temple, is one of the places where heaven and earth meet, so that, as some Jewish teachers had suggested, those who study and keep the Torah are like those who worship in the Temple. And the early Christians are encouraging one another to live as points of intersection, points of overlap, between heaven and earth. Again, this sounds fearsomely difficult, not to say downright impossible. But there is no getting around it. Fortunately, as we shall see, what ought to be normal Christianity is actually all about finding out how to sustain this kind of life and even grow in it.
I immediately think of our being called to be ambassadors, lights in the darkness, image bearers.
The fulfillment of the Torah by the Spirit is one of the main themes underlying the spectacular description, in Acts 2, of the day of Pentecost itself. To this day, Pentecost is observed in Judaism as the feast of the giving of the Law. First comes Passover, the day when the Israelites leave their Egyptian slavery behind for good. Off they go through the desert, and fifty days later they reach Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain and comes down with the Law, the tablets of the covenant, God’s gift to his people of the way of life by which they will be able to demonstrate that they really are his people.
This is the picture we ought to have in mind as we read Acts 2. The previous Passover, Jesus had died and been raised, opening the way out of slavery, the way to forgiveness and a new start for the whole world—especially for all those who follow him. Now, fifty days later, Jesus has been taken into “heaven,” into God’s dimension of reality; but, like Moses, he comes down again, to ratify the renewed covenant and to provide the way of life, written not on stone but in human hearts, by which Jesus’s followers may gratefully demonstrate that they really are his people. That is the underlying theology by which the remarkable phenomenon of Pentecost as Luke tells it—the wind, the fire, the tongues, and the sudden, powerful proclamation of Jesus to the astonished crowds—is given its deepest meaning. Those in whom the Spirit comes to dwell are to be people who live at the intersection between heaven and earth.
Nor is it only Temple and Torah that are fulfilled by the Spirit. Remember the two additional ways in which, in the language of ancient Judaism, God was at work within the world: God’s word and God’s wisdom.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
One of God’s great don’ts
Fret not thyself, it tendeth only to evil doing.
--- Psalm 37:8 (R.V.).
Fretting means getting out at elbows mentally or spiritually. It is one thing to say ‘Fret not,’ but a very different thing to have such a disposition that you find yourself able not to fret. It sounds so easy to talk about “resting in the Lord” and “waiting patiently for Him” until the nest is upset—until we live, as so many are doing, in tumult and anguish, is it possible then to rest in the Lord? If this ‘don’t’ does not work there, it will work nowhere. This ‘don’t’ must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it never will work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work in anyone else’s case. Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all, but on your relationship to God Himself.
Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not ‘out’ to realize His own ideas; He was ‘out’ to realize God’s ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.
Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all ‘supposing’ on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
I lean over the fire; a smell
as of frost comes, sparks embroidering
the soot. It is a tapestry
of the past. How many men
have leaned, spat, dreamed
by a fire, remembering love,
youth, victory, happier
times, and the uselessness of remembering?
There is a flower of bright flame
asleep in a log, one, many
of them. It is a garden
to sit by, for thought to wander
in seeking for the lost innocence
at the centre, where the tree
was planted for the naked
conscience to conceal itself under
from the voice calling.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
One angel doesn’t do two missions.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 19:1–5 / The two angels arrived in Sodom in the Evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground, he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last man—gathered about the house. And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.”
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 50, 2 / The two angels arrived.… “He is one; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does” (Job 23:13). It was taught: One angel doesn’t do two missions, and two angels don’t do one mission. But you say “two”! Michael told the news and left, Gabriel was sent to overthrow Sodom, and Raphael to rescue Lot. The two angels arrived in Sodom.… Here it says “angels,” and there [Genesis 18:2] it calls them “men”! There the Shekhinah was above them and they are called “men”; when the Shekhinah left them, they took the form of angels.
CONTEXT / The Rabbis were puzzled as they read the biblical story of Abraham, Lot, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When the men (who we know are messengers from God, or angels) appear to Abraham, there are three of them:
The Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. (Genesis 18:1–2)
At Abraham’s invitation, these three messengers enter his tent and eat a meal with him. Soon, they announce that Sarah will give birth to a child—this is Isaac—and that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. Later in the story, when the messengers (now called “angels”) appear to Lot, there are only two of them: “The two angels arrived in Sodom in the Evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” This discrepancy led the Rabbis to ask: What happened to the third man/angel?
We should note that in the Hebrew, the word מַלְאָךְ/malakh means both “angel” and “messenger,” because the Bible understood an angel as a messenger from God. It is not clear whether we should translate the word מַלְאָךְ/malakh as “angel” or “messenger,” because it is not clear in what form they appeared to Lot. The text doesn’t tell us what Lot thought when he urged them to spend the night at his house. However, the evil residents of Sodom clearly saw these envoys as humans, for they desired the men for sexual relations.
From a close reading of the biblical text—the fact that three men come to Abraham, but only two to Lot—the Rabbis concluded that God sent a separate messenger or angel for each task. Michael told the news that Sarah would give birth to Isaac and Michael left, Gabriel was sent to overthrow Sodom, and Raphael was sent to rescue Lot from Sodom. We would likely say that it’s less work and expense to send one messenger on several errands, and this is why the Midrash begins by quoting the verse from Job: “He, God, is one, unique; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does,” and God is not under human constraints. God, having unlimited resources, can choose to send a separate angel on each mission.
Each of these messengers has a theophoric name, a name with a form of God, El, in it. Each name symbolizes the angel’s mission.
מִיכָאֵל, Mikha-El, “who is like El/God,” announced Sarah’s impending pregnancy and the birth of Isaac: “Then one said, ‘I will return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son!’ … And Sarah laughed to herself …” (Genesis 18:10, 12). The name מִיכָאֵל, Mikha-El, “who is like El/God,” symbolizes God’s ability to do anything: “Is anything too wondrous for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)
גַּבְרִיאֵל, Gavri-El, meaning “God is my strength,” foretells of the overthrow of the evil city of Sodom. The name symbolizes God’s ability to act in powerful ways.
רְפָאֵל, Refa-El, “God heals,” becomes the agent of rescue for Abraham’s nephew, Lot. God heals the misfortune of Lot, who resides in this evil city.
The Rabbis also note that here (Genesis 19:1) it says “angels,” and there (Genesis 18:2) it calls them “men”! In other words, our question about who these messengers were is also theirs. They, too, question the language of the Bible—why it refers to them as “men” when Abraham greets them, but as angels when they visit Lot. The Rabbis answer that there (in the Abraham story) the Shekhinah (God’s divine presence) was above them and they are called “men.” That is, God’s physical manifestation appeared to Abraham. Thus, with Abraham seeing a divine image, the Shekhinah, the messengers appeared as mere humans, men. However, as the text tells us, “the men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord” (Genesis 18:22). The Rabbis see this as proof that the Shekhinah, God’s presence, remained with Abraham. The messengers left for Sodom where—no longer in the presence of God—they appeared not as humans but as angels.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Stanley M. Horton, Th.D.
"For the Sabbath to be a day of rest, the Israelites were to plan their work so they could put it aside by sundown on the sixth day.
The Greek sabbatou hodos (Acts 1:12) designates the distance from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In New Testament times, Jewish rabbis used this term as the limit in distance a Jew could go from his or her home on the Sabbath. The rabbis set this distance by their tradition as 2,000 cubits or about 1,000 yards (a cubit was slightly less than 18 inches).
First, the rabbis based their tradition on the last part of Exodus 16:29,30, which forbade the Israelites to go out on the Sabbath to gather manna. "Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out. So the people rested on the seventh day." (NIV) Then, since the distance separating the people from the ark as they marched across the Jordan was 1,000 yards (Joshua 3:4), the rabbis believed this was the distance between the peoples’ tents and the tabernacle during their wilderness journeys. They concluded it was reasonable for the people to travel that far to approach the tabernacle and worship. Rabbis supported this contention further by the fact 1,000 yards around the towns were given to the Levites (Numbers 35:5).
What was the purpose of this limit of a Sabbath day’s journey? Leviticus 23:3 identifies the Sabbath as a day of "rest, a day of sacred assembly…a Sabbath to the Lord." The word rest (Hebrew, menuchah) has the basic meaning of "ceasing." God ceased from His work of creating on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2,3). For the Sabbath to be a day of rest, the Israelites were to plan their work so they could put it aside by sundown on the sixth day. This would enable them to come together on the seventh day for a sacred assembly of worship and teaching. The Sabbath was to be a day devoted to the Lord. By putting a travel limit of 1,000 yards on the people, the rabbis made sure everyone would be present for this sacred assembly every Sabbath.
Some later rabbis invented a tradition that enabled them to get around this limitation. For example, since they were allowed to go 1,000 yards from their home, they defined their home as anywhere their personal possessions were. They would take a bag of worthless possessions, go 1,000 yards, put down a personal possession, and say, "This is my Sabbath home; I can go another 1,000 yards." By this means, they could go anywhere they wanted. No wonder Jesus said, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8).
Since the walled cities were rather small, ranging from 6 to about 23 acres (Jerusalem being larger from Solomon’s time on) and the many unwalled villages were even smaller, each city would form a small congregation. Everyone would know each other and would unite in worship and in presenting their needs to the Lord. These small groups were important.
The Law, however, did not limit the Israelites to this weekly sacred assembly. According to Exodus 23:14–17, it called for three pilgrimage feasts: Unleavened Bread (included with Passover in March–April), Harvest (Pentecost in May, which continued as a family feast with the father as the priest for the family), Ingathering (Tabernacles in September–October). This was specifically commanded for the men; however, it was customary for men to bring their families. Thus, the sense of the unity of God’s people was experienced as the crowds gathered in the temple courts.
After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and took most of the Jews into Babylonian exile, the Jews realized that their sins and unbelief had brought God’s judgment, and they turned to the Lord. Again, the importance of the sacred assembly and the togetherness of a small group was recognized, and people gathered around those who could teach them God’s Word and lead them in worship. From these meetings, synagogues were established.
The Greek sunagoge ("gathering place") was first of all a place for teaching the Law. Philo, a first-century B.C. to first-century A.D. philosopher, called synagogues "houses of instruction, where the philosophy of the fathers and all manner of virtues were taught." In addition to the Law, selections from the Psalms and Prophets were read. Prayers and preaching were included in the service. The ruler of the synagogue (Hebrew, ro’sh hakkeneseth, "head of the assembly") directed the services and decided who would read from the Law and the Prophets and preach. He would encourage discussion afterward and was responsible in keeping order. Some suppose women were seated in a special gallery, but there is no evidence for this in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the oldest Jewish writings. During the week, the synagogue buildings were used as community centers and schools for the boys.
Early Christian writings used the word synagogue or its Palestinian Aramaic equivalent, kenishta, for Christian churches. From the New Testament, from other early Christian writings, and from archaeology, it is evident that the early Christian assemblies, their services, and their government followed the example of the synagogues.
The Greek word translated "church" (ekklesia, "assembly of citizens") always applies to people in the New Testament. Archaeologists have found church buildings in Asia Minor dating from the middle of the second century (including baptistries for baptism by immersion). But in the first century there were no church buildings; the people met in homes. Since most of the people lived in one-room homes, wealthier converts would offer theirs, as in the case of John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12) and Lydia, the wealthy dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:15). As the Gospel spread and more people were being saved, the house churches multiplied, each with its own elder (Greek, presbuteros, also called episkopos, "overseer," a term, which through the Latin eventually developed into the term bishop).
In his last journey to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul stopped at Miletus and sent for the elders of the city of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). He also referred to them as overseers and shepherds of "the assembly of God [literal translation] which he bought with his own blood" (verse 28). Note that the singular is used for "assembly," although each elder was the overseer of an individual house church. All the Blood-bought believers were part of the one universal assembly of God.
Since the Christian believers were not under law, there is no evidence that they had any concern about the limitations of a Sabbath Day’s journey. At first, as seen in the Book of Acts, believers gathered "in one accord" (one of Luke’s favorite expressions). However, by the time of what must have been largely second-generation Christians, some must have needed the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." The "Day" refers to the coming Day of the Lord, a day we are fast approaching. Believers today need the same exhortation. They need to be encouraged to be faithful to their local churches.
Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal
The Prophet Worrying
"One of the modern “Christian myths” that ought to be silenced says that when you trust Jesus Christ, you get rid of all your problems. You don’t.
It’s true that your basic spiritual problem—your relationship with God—has been solved, but with that solution comes a whole new set of problems that you didn’t face when you were an unbeliever, like: “Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper?” or “Why isn’t God answering my prayer?” or “When I’m doing my best for the Lord, why do I experience the worst from others?”
Christians who claim to be without problems are either not telling the truth or not growing and experiencing real life. Perhaps they’re just not thinking at all. They’re living in a religious dream world that has blocked out reality and stifled honest feelings. Like Job’s uncomfortable comforters, they mistake shallow optimism for the peace of God and “the good life” for the blessing of God. You never hear them ask what David and Jesus asked, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46).
Habakkuk wasn’t that kind of a believer. As he surveyed the land of Judah, and then watched the international scene, he found himself struggling with some serious problems. But he did the right thing: he took his problems to the Lord.
1. “Why Is God So Indifferent?” (Hab. 1:2–11)
Being a perceptive man, Habakkuk knew the kingdom of Judah was rapidly deteriorating. Ever since the death of King Josiah in 609 B.C., his religious reforms had been forgotten and his son and successor Jehoiakim had been leading the nation closer to disaster. (If you want to know what God thought about Jehoiakim, read Jer. 22:13–19.)
The prophet’s concern (Hab. 1:2–3). Habakkuk’s vocabulary in this chapter indicates that times were difficult and dangerous, for he uses words like violence, iniquity, grievance (misery), spoiling (destruction), strife, contention (disputes), and injustice. Habakkuk prayed that God would do something about the violence, strife, and injustice in the land, but God didn’t seem to hear. In verse 2, the first word translated “cry” simply means “to call for help,” but the second word means “to scream, to cry with a loud voice, to cry with a disturbed heart.” As he prayed about the wickedness in the land, Habakkuk became more and more burdened and wondered why God seemed so indifferent.
The basic cause (Hab. 1:4). The nation’s problems were caused by leaders who wouldn’t obey the law. “Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (v. 4, NIV). The rich exploited the poor and escaped punishment by bribing the officials. The law was either ignored or twisted, and nobody seemed to care. The courts were crooked, officials were interested only in money, and the admonition in Exodus 23:6–8 was completely unheeded.
The Lord’s counsel (Hab. 1:5–11). God answered His servant and assured him that He was at work among the nations even though Habakkuk couldn’t see it. (Paul quoted this verse at the close of his message in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:41; and see also Isa. 29:14). It was a warning to the people not to treat the Gospel lightly and thereby reject it. The original statement to Habakkuk referred to the coming of the Babylonians, but Paul applied it to the saving work of Jesus Christ and the offer of the Gospel. Both were incredible works of God.) God gave Habakkuk a revelation, not an explanation, for what we always need in times of doubt is a new view of God. The Lord doesn’t owe us any explanations, but He does graciously reveal Himself and His work to those who seek Him. (What Habakkuk suffered in a small way, Job suffered in a great way, and God’s answer to Job’s many questions was simply to reveal Himself to Job. We don’t live on explanations, we live on promises, and the promises of God are based on the character of God. The turning point in Job’s experience came when he put his hand on his mouth, stopped arguing with the Lord, and began to worship the Lord (Job 40:1–5; 42:1–6). Habakkuk had a similar experience. There’s nothing like a fresh view of the glory of God to give you strength for the journey!)
What God was doing was so amazing, incredible, and unheard of, that even His prophet would be shocked: God was planning to punish the Jews by using the godless Babylonians! They were a “ruthless and impetuous people” (v. 6, NIV), “a feared and dreaded people” who were a law unto themselves and afraid of nobody (v. 7, NIV). Their only purpose was to promote themselves and conquer and enslave other peoples.
The Lord then used a number of pictures from nature to describe the Babylonians and how they treated people. Their horses had the speed of leopards and the ferocity of wolves, and their troops swooped down on their prey like vultures. Their army swept across the desert like the wind and gathered and deported prisoners the way a man digs sand and ships it to a foreign land.
Could anything stop them? Certainly God could stop them, but He was the one who was enlisting their aid! Nothing human could hinder their progress. The Babylonians had no respect for authority, whether kings or generals. (One of their practices was to put captured kings in cages and exhibit them, like animals.) They laughed at gates and walls as they built their siege ramps and captured fortified cities. They worshiped the god of power and depended wholly on their own strength.
Habakkuk learned that God was not indifferent to the sins of the people of Judah. The Lord was planning to chasten Judah by allowing the Babylonians to invade the land and take them into exile. (Jeremiah would fill in the details and explain that the people would be in exile for seventy years. After that, a remnant would return to Judah, rebuild the temple, and establish the nation. See Jeremiah 25 and 29.) This wasn’t the answer Habakkuk was expecting. He was hoping God would send a revival to His people (see 3:2), judge the evil leaders, and establish righteousness in the land. Then the nation would escape punishment and the people and cities would be spared.
However, God had warned His people time and time again, but they wouldn’t listen. Prophet after prophet had declared the Word (2 Chron. 36:14–21), only to be rejected, and He had sent natural calamities like droughts and plagues, and various military defeats, but the people wouldn’t listen. Instead of repenting, the people hardened their hearts even more and turned for help to the gods of the nations around them. They had tried God’s long-suffering long enough and it was time for God to act.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Then sing ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng.
--- William Wordsworth in “Intimations of Immortality”
I have ventured… this many summers in a sea of glory.
--- William Shakespeare
You will have a covenant with the stones of the field.
--- Job 5:23.
In these long June days when the world is so fresh and green, our thoughts turn instinctively to the ministry of nature. (The unlighted lustre: Addresses from a Glasgow pulpit ) June is so fresh, so sweet, so full of light, so throbbing and thrilling with love and hope and joy that the dullest and most world-weary heart beats a little faster at the touch of its mystic fingers. There is always an element of surprise in June. It is always a new thing, fresh and unexpected. We have it annually since our childhood, yet when it comes again it is as a stranger from the glory. That is one mark of the genius of God—his gifts come so regularly, yet they never weary. They reach us a thousand times, but the thousand and first time they are still wonderful, surprising, touched with dew.
What does it mean, “You will have a covenant with the stones of the field”? Eliphaz is talking—not of everybody—he is talking of the person who trusts in God. He is describing the one who is at peace with God and who has entered into a covenant with the Almighty. And what he says is, “Are you in league with heaven? Then with the very stones you will be in league. Are you at peace with God in your own heart? Then you are on new terms with every bird and beast and flower.” That is to say that people’s attitude toward nature and all the meaning that nature may convey to them depends on their spiritual and moral state. It is not so much by the eye as by the heart that the book of this summer world must be interpreted. Let people live basely and in defiance of God, let them mock at these moral laws that are our safeguard, then somehow there will be no runes on any rock for them; they will be out of harmony with tree and flower and summer. But let people be reverent and lowly and pure in heart and tender, let them be at peace with that Jehovah who delights in love—then in the covenant of comradeship June will unfold her secrets to them, and they will read RS Thomas in the stones of the field. It is not the artistic nature, it is the moral nature that holds the key to the ministry of summer. To be out of touch with God and God’s ideal is to be out of touch with everything, but to be spiritually in league with God is to be in league with the stones of the field.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Investment July 4
Martha Scarborough celebrated Independence Day, July 4, 1870, by giving birth to a son, Lee. When the boy was eight, Martha and her husband George, a part-time Baptist preacher, moved to Texas to raise cattle and share Christ. A dugout shelter first served as home, then a log cabin near Clear Fork Creek. George and Martha dreamed of a beautiful house atop a nearby hill. They saved frugally, but times were lean, and years passed before they accumulated enough to proceed with the long-discussed house. Lee, meanwhile, grew into a brawny 16-year-old cowboy.
One day, their work behind them, George said to Martha, “Let’s go up the hill and select a suitable place for the home. We have saved money for that purpose, so we had as well begin plans to build.” Arm in arm, the couple strolled to the grassy crest of the hill behind their cabin. This was a moment long anticipated. At the top of the hill, he said, “Here is the place. This is the most suitable location we can find.” But Martha turned toward him, her eyes filling with tears. “My dear,” she said, “I do appreciate your desire to build me a new, comfortable home on this place of beauty, but there is another call for our money which is far greater. Let’s live on in the old house and put this money in the head and heart of our boy. I fear that if we use this money to build a home we shall never be able to send Lee to college. I would rather a thousand times that we should never build this house if we can invest the money in our boy.”
George was disappointed, and he said little for several days. Finally one Evening past midnight he yielded. The house was never built, but Lee Scarborough left home on January 8, 1888, for Baylor College in Waco, Texas. He eventually became a powerhouse for Christ, a Southern Baptist leader, a writer, a seminary president, a pastor, an evangelist, and a business leader who built colleges, seminaries, churches, hospitals, and mission stations around the world.
Invest in truth and wisdom, discipline and good sense, And don’t part with them. Make your father truly happy by living right And showing sound judgment. Make your parents proud, especially your mother.
--- Proverbs 23:23-25.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 4
“Sanctify them through thy truth.” --- John 17:17.
Sanctification begins in regeneration. The Spirit of God infuses into man that new living principle by which he becomes “a new creature” in Christ Jesus. This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. This is carried on every day in what is called “perseverance,” by which the Christian is preserved and continued in a gracious state, and is made to abound in good works unto the praise and glory of God; and it culminates or comes to perfection, in “glory,” when the soul, being thoroughly purged, is caught up to dwell with holy beings at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But while the Spirit of God is thus the author of sanctification, yet there is a visible agency employed which must not be forgotten. “Sanctify them,” said Jesus, “through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The passages of Scripture which prove that the instrument of our sanctification is the Word of God are very many. The Spirit of God brings to our minds the precepts and doctrines of truth, and applies them with power. These are heard in the ear, and being received in the heart, they work in us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. The truth is the sanctifier, and if we do not hear or read the truth, we shall not grow in sanctification. We only progress in sound living as we progress in sound understanding. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Do not say of any error, “It is a mere matter of opinion.” No man indulges an error of judgment, without sooner or later tolerating an error in practice. Hold fast the truth, for by so holding the truth shall you be sanctified by the Spirit of God.
Evening - July 4
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." --- Psalm 24:4.
Outward practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. If our hands are not clean, let us wash them in Jesus’ precious blood, and so let us lift up pure hands unto God. But “clean hands” will not suffice, unless they are connected with “a pure heart.” True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please, but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats.
The man who is born for heaven “hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity.” All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with husks, will be reckoned with the swine. Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.
“Nor sworn deceitfully.” The saints are men of honour still. The Christian man’s word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God’s house, whatever may be his professions or doings. Reader, does the text before us condemn thee, or dost thou hope to ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Morning and Evening
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
Francis Scott Key, 1779–1843
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: Whether it be to the king, as supreme, or to governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1 Peter 2:13, 14 KJV)
During the War of 1812, while on the deck of a truce ship, Francis Key paced nervously as a fierce battle raged nearby during the British attack on the harbor of Baltimore. As District Attorney of Georgetown and a spiritual lay leader of his church, Key had been sent by President James Madison to negotiate with the British for a physician who had been taken prisoner. All night Key and his party were detained as the heavy bombardment continued. When the firing suddenly stopped just before Morning, Key was fearful of the outcome; but as he looked hesitantly across the water, he saw the American flag still triumphantly flying with the assurance of our nation’s freedom!
With joyful relief, Key wrote his poem hastily on the back of an envelope and put finishing touches on it after being released later that Evening. One month later the song was published, accompanied by an old hunting tune, “Anacron in Heaven,” attributed to John Stafford Smith of England. Although enthusiastically received by the people, the song was not officially adopted by Congress as our national anthem until March 3, 1931.
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there. O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; and this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
For Today: Proverbs 14:34; Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:13–21.
Write a letter of commendation to a public official for some worthy contribution he has made to the moral and spiritual betterment of our country. May this musical question from our national anthem be a continuing challenge and concern.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXV. — AFTER this, it comes to Paul also, the most determined enemy to “Free-will,” and even he is dragged in to confirm “Free-will;” “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?” — (Rom. ii. 4.) — “How (says the Diatribe) can the despising of the commandment be imputed where there is not a Free-will? How can God invite to repentance, who is the author of impenitence? How can the damnation be just, where the judge compels unto evil doing?” —
I answer: Let the Diatribe see to these questions itself. What are they unto us! The Diatribe said according to that ‘probable opinion.’ ‘that “Free-will” cannot will good, and is of necessity compelled to serve sin.’ How, therefore, can the despising of the commandment be charged on the will, if it cannot will good, and has no liberty, but is necessarily compelled to the service of sin? How can God invite to repentance who is the author of the reason why it cannot repent, while it leaves, or does not give grace to, that, which cannot of itself will good? How can the damnation be just, where the judge, by taking away his aid, compels the wicked man to be left in his wickedness who cannot of his own power do otherwise?
All these conclusions therefore recoil back upon the head of the Diatribe. Or, if they prove any thing, as I said, they prove that “Free-will” can do all things: which, however, is denied by the Diatribe and by all. Thus these conclusions of reason torment the Diatribe, throughout all the passages of Scripture: seeing that, it must appear ridiculous and coldly useless, to enforce and exact with so much vehemence, when there is no one to be found who can perform: for the apostle’s intent is, by means of these threats, to bring the impious and proud to a knowledge of themselves and of their impotency, that he might prepare them for grace when humbled by the knowledge of sin.
And what need is there to speak of, singly, all those parts which are brought forward out of Paul, seeing that, they are only a collection of imperative or conditional passages, or of those by which Paul exhorts Christians to the fruits of faith? Whereas the Diatribe, by its appended conclusions, forms to itself a power of “Free-will,” such and so great, which can, without grace, do all things which Paul in his exhortations prescribes. Christians, however, are not led by “Free-will,” but by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 14): and to be led, is not to lead, but to be impelled, as a saw or an axe is impelled by a carpenter.
And that no one might doubt whether or not Luther asserted things so absurd, the Diatribe recites his own words; which, indeed, I acknowledge. For I confess that that article of Wycliffe, ‘all things take place from necessity, that is, from the immutable will of God, and our will is not compelled indeed, but it cannot of itself do good,’ was falsely condemned by the Council of Constance, or that conspiracy or cabal rather. Nay the Diatribe itself defends the same together with me, while it asserts, ‘that Free-will cannot by its own power will any thing good,’ and that, it of necessity serves sin: although in furnishing this defence, it all the while designs the direct contrary.
Suffice it to have spoken thus in reply to the FIRST PART of the Diatribe, in which it has endeavoured to establish “Free-will.” Let us now consider the latter part in which our arguments are refuted, that is, those by which “Free-will” is utterly overthrown. — Here you will see, what the smoke of man can do, against the thunder and lightning of God!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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