To Your Name Give Glory
Psalm 115 1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
12 The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
13 he will bless those who fear the LORD,
both the small and the great.
14 May the LORD give you increase,
you and your children!
15 May you be blessed by the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!
16 The heavens are the LORD’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the LORD,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!
I Love the LORD
Psalm 116 1 I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The LORD preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!
The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
Psalm 117 1 Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2 For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
Psalm 118 1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16 the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
What I'm Reading
Be Still (and know that you’re loved)
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/1/2010
The children of God are rather different from the children of men. We have been reborn by a sovereign God. They have not. We have been redeemed by a sovereign God. They have not. We are being remade by a sovereign God. They are not. Despite these things that distinguish us, that set us apart, there are yet ways where we are very much like those outside the kingdom. We, both inside and outside the kingdom, have drunk deeply of the modernist conceit that we are defined by what we know. Thus, we think the difference between us and them, between sheep and goats, is a matter of knowledge. We are those who have been blessed to have the truth revealed to us. Once those outside the kingdom have the truth revealed to them, we seem to think, they will become just like us.
Jesus, of course, dispelled this nonsense. Indeed, His harshest words while ministering on the earth were directed at the scribes and Pharisees, the most widely read, the most highly educated, the most in the know. What separates us in the end isn’t that we know that Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. What separates us isn’t that we know He suffered the wrath of the Father in our place on the cross. What separates us isn’t that we know that the third day He rose again. Remember that the Devil himself believes all those things. The difference is that we not only know these truths but trust in them, cling to them, depend upon them.
Now, inside the kingdom of God, among His children, there are still differences. We who are Reformed, or Calvinists, know that we have been reborn from above. Others affirm that they were reborn from within. We know that we have been sovereignly redeemed. Others affirm that they cooperate with God in their salvation. We know that we are being sovereignly sanctified. Others affirm that they determine themselves how, and even if, they will grow in grace. But once again, we who are Reformed make the mistake of thinking that it is what we think that separates us from our less-than-Reformed brothers. We think it is because we know that God is sovereign and that if they will but be so informed, they will join us.
This too is nonsense. Our calling, in the end, isn’t merely to affirm that God is sovereign, but to rest in that sovereignty, to trust in it, to cling to it. Which means, in turn, that we ought not to worry. God’s wisdom literature draws for us a stark contrast between how those within and those without deal with fear. Solomon tells us that “the wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). The difference is not that the wicked don’t know there’s nothing to be afraid of, but the righteous have been informed. Nor is it that the wicked are well aware of the dangers and are afraid, but the righteous overcome those fears. The distinction runs on two difference tracks. The wicked have fear when they need not. The righteous have courage even in the face of danger. A leaf rustles, and those outside quake. Whereas the godly man finds himself in the valley of the shadow of death, and he fears no evil. What sets us apart from them is that they are craven cowards, while we are, at least we’re supposed to be, courageous heroes. The difference is found in actually believing in, trusting in, resting in the sovereignty of God.
How, though, can we move from simply affirming the sovereignty of God to resting in it? We will rest in His sovereignty when we remember not just that He is almighty, but that He who is almighty loves us with an everlasting love. It is because He is with us in that valley of death that we do not fear. It is because He has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies that we can be assured that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. Our fears in the end are grounded in either a failure to believe in His strength or a failure to believe His gospel. The solution is to believe both.
If our consuming zeal is to see the kingdom come in its fullness, if we are about the business of seeking first His kingdom, and if we know that He will indeed bring all things under subjection, what could we possibly have to fear, save the King Himself? This, in the end, is why we are more than conquerors, why we not only have the courage of a lion, but have the courage of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Should we not be of good cheer, knowing that He has already overcome the world? And He has made us His own, just as the psalmist describes in the following (46:8–11):
(Ps 46:8–11) 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah ESV
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Bearing One Another’s Burdens
By John MacArthur 1/1/2010
The troubles of this world are manifold and relentless. It’s not easy to stay so focused on heaven that we remain unperturbed by the afflictions of earthly life. We’re commanded, of course, to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2), but even the most committed believer will testify that earthly trials sometimes obscure the heavenly perspective.
(Col 3:2) 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. ESV
We worry. We grieve. We stumble. We strain under the toil of our daily labors. We feel the guilt of our fallen condition. Meanwhile, we are assaulted with adversities of various kinds. Those are just a few of the many worldly burdens that frequently keep our thoughts from rising to heaven.
And yet we are commanded repeatedly to “seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1). We are instructed to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). We must not allow the burdens of this life to divert our hearts from heaven.
(Col 3:1) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. ESV
(2 Co 4:18) 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ESV
How is that possible? When the load weighs us down and the troubles become too much for one person to bear, pie-in-the-sky sentiments can sound very hollow.
But that is precisely why the church is so important. It is our duty as believers to help bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.
(Ga 6:2) 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ESV
Of course, that concept is contrary to the drift of our culture, with secular society’s tendency to foster self-absorption. Our generation has developed an unhealthy obsession with entertainment; we are daily assaulted with a plethora of trivial diversions; and we tend to interact with one another in sound-bites or through faceless media. We live in crowded cities and over-populated neighborhoods; yet most individuals are more isolated than ever.
And let’s be honest — Reformed and evangelical churches nowadays often imitate the culture precisely where we most need to confront and counteract its influence. As churches seek to become bigger, flashier, and more technologically savvy, they usually tend to become more cold and impersonal. Contemporary churches sometimes even seem to encourage the “me first” agenda of self-love rather than the “one another” commands of Scripture. As a result, we don’t bear one another’s burdens as we should.
Yet Paul made this duty a high priority. It was the centerpiece of his admonitions to the Galatian churches. The first half (or more) of Galatians is a defense of justification by faith and a series of arguments against the false teaching that threatened to place those churches in bondage to the Law. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
(Ga 5:14) 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ESV
How is that love best manifest? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).
(Ga 6:2) 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ESV
The first and preeminent example of burden-bearing Paul mentions involves dealing with the burden of another Christian’s sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (v. Galatians 6:1). That, of course, isn’t a different approach from the steps of church discipline Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. It merely explains how that process is to be carried out (gently and meekly), and it underscores the true goal (restoration, not punishment or public rebuke per se).
(Ga 6:1) 1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ESV
(Mt 18:15–17) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ESV
In other words, the person restoring the sinning brother isn’t to approach him as if he were a master over him but meekly — as one who is willing to help shoulder the burden so that the one who has stumbled can get to his feet again.
Verse 2 then simply states the underlying principle as an imperative (“Bear one another’s burdens”). Obviously, the precept applies to all kinds of burdens — not merely the burdens of those who stumble into sin. When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfill[s] the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brethren is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law.
(Ga 6:2) 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ESV
But the apostle clearly has in mind spiritual, emotional, and temperamental encumbrances — not physical freight only. The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar loads.
Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.
It’s interesting that Paul would emphasize this theme in an epistle written to confront people who were falling into legalism. It’s as if he were saying, “You want to observe a law? Let it be the law of Christ. If you have to impose burdens on yourselves, let it be through acts of love toward your neighbor.”
If you will do that faithfully, your own burden won’t seem so heavy. Best of all, you will find it easier to keep your focus heavenward, regardless of the trials you suffer in this life.
John MacArthur is pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley , California , author, conference speaker, president of The Master's College and Seminary, and featured teacher with Grace to You.
From 1964 to 1966 Dr. MacArthur served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank , California and from 1966 to 1969 as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated with honors.
In 1969, John came to Grace Community Church . The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage.Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders. These groups are dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.
In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College ), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita , California . In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, John regularly teaches Expository Preaching at the seminary and frequently speaks in chapel.
John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John's books, audiocassettes, free sermons (MP3s) and the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You Weekend radio programs. Grace to You airs thousands of times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 100 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and many titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages.
John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda.They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their eleven grandchildren--Johnny, Ty, Jessy, KD, Olivia, Susannah, Gracie, Kylee, Andrew, Brooke and Elizabeth.
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson
John MacArthur Books | Go to Books Page
Out of Control
By Ken Myers 1/1/2010
In his book, The Way of the (Modern) World: Or, Why It's Tempting to Live As If God Doesn't Exist, Craig Gay observes that one of the major preoccupations that defines modern culture is the quest for control. “The desire to maintain autonomous control over reality by rational-technical means is particularly central to the modern world.…[A] modern society is one in which the prevailing conception of the human task in the world is that of mastery by way of systematic manipulation.”
Francis Bacon’s assertion that knowledge is power may well serve as a slogan for modern culture. To be modern is to believe that we can bring nature and history under our dominion. Systems of all kinds — political, economic, technical, educational, even spiritual — have been designed by modern men and women to extend and ensure that control. Of course, the desire to run the cosmos is nothing new. One of the irrational symptoms of human sinfulness from the very beginning is the belief that we mortals are more reliable in running the cosmos than God is. This attitude is not distinctively modern, but only the modern West has so thoroughly institutionalized this wicked presumption.
C.S. Lewis has this quest for control in mind in a key passage in The Abolition of Man when he compares the rise of modern science and technology to the practice of magic in the high Renaissance. “For the wise men of old,” Lewis wrote, “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.”
The celebration of the possibility of human control is one of the features of Renaissance humanists. As Lewis pointed out, before the rise of modern science, the power to control nature so as to fulfill human desires was sought through the disciplines of magic, specifically astrology, numerology, and alchemy. We forget that Johannes Kepler was not only a brilliant mathematician and astronomer but also a court astrologer who believed that the movements of the planets had profound effects on human life. We still have about eight hundred horoscopes that Kepler drew up for his patrons. Isaac Newton had as much in common with Albus Dumbledore as with Stephen Hawking, being deeply committed to the pursuit of various alchemical and occultic research.
Lewis compared Francis Bacon — the godfather of modern science — with the figure of Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s play about temptation and ambition (The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus). “You will read in some critics that Faustus has a thirst for knowledge. In reality, he hardly mentions it. It is not truth he wants from his devils, but gold and guns and girls. ‘All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his command’ and ‘a sound magician is a mighty god.’” Knowledge is power, indeed.
By the eighteenth century, Western thinkers were more and more confident about the possibility of human reasoning and experimentation to control nature. Nature was understood as a mechanism following observable laws, and it was no longer seen as the site for God’s purposive activity. As Lesslie Newbigin has summarized, “Medieval thought saw divine purpose manifest everywhere in the world of nature. The revelation of that purpose had been given in those events confessed in the church’s creed, and thus all study of nature had its place within the framework that the creed articulated.…The effect of the work of the new scientists…was to replace this explanatory framework with another. The real world disclosed by the work of science was one governed not by purpose but by natural laws of cause and effect.” This view of the cosmos makes God an unnecessary hypothesis, which is convenient for those who are eager to replace His providential care for creation with their own systems.
For more than five hundred years, Western culture has been shaped by the dream of achieving control of an allegedly purposeless nature. But many contemporary thinkers believe that such confidence is waning. Secularized science displaced God in the hopes of achieving human control over all things. But what happens when those scientific systems (including scientific approaches to economic well-being) fail to achieve the levels of control we expect?
Some of our unbelieving contemporaries are beginning to realize that the modern project of comprehensive control may not be possible. Such a realization may drive them to despair, but only because they continue to assume that, if we aren’t in control in this chaotic cosmos, then everything is pointless and doomed. But creation is not meaningless, and we are not called to complete control. As Paul reminds us at the end of Romans 11, there is a purpose being worked out in creation and in history, a purpose that we are not able to comprehend fully. We should be grateful that many people have a dawning sense of losing control; it may be the first step toward personal and cultural repentance.
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Per Amazon: Ken Myers is director of Mars Hill Audio, an organization devoted to helping Christians think wisely about modern culture through a variety of audio resources. Prior to that, he was a producer and editor for National Public Radio and the executive editor of Eternity magazine. Myers is a graduate of the University of Maryland and of Westminster Theological Seminary. He is married and has two children, and lives in central Virginia.
Ken Myers Books:
Pilgrims (and Their Hosts)
By R. Scott Clark 2/1/2010
A wise traveler adapts to the customs and languages of the host country. When we lived abroad, people never asked us about our health. It is considered rude. The day we left England, however, we were peppered with questions by an American woman who was being polite. What was rude in England was polite in Dallas. Changing theological traditions is like traveling abroad. Upon arrival, the visitor is likely to find new language and culture, that is, a new theology, piety, and practice. This cross-cultural encounter creates opportunities and obligations for hosts and pilgrims alike.
There are about sixty-million evangelicals in North America. By contrast, the confessional Reformed communions number fewer than one million members. One effect of these disproportionate numbers is that the theology, piety, and practice of American evangelicals shape the expectations of many Christians. That ethos is the product of a series of religious revivals that began in the eighteenth century and continued through the nineteenth century. These two episodes were different in significant ways but they were similar in important ways too. They were both organized around various kinds of religious experience. They differed on how to arrive at that experience and even on what the experience means. Nevertheless, the common thread of religious experience, whether it be a sort of direct encounter with the risen Christ or a conversion experience at the anxious bench, ties them together. Since the early eighteenth century, all American evangelicals have been shaped by a desire to have an intense, personal religious experience.
By contrast, the theology, piety, and practice of confessional Reformed congregations has been shaped not so much by religious experience but rather by a certain kind of confession of faith, worship, and approach to the Christian life. These confessional churches believe strongly in Christ’s work in us, by His Spirit, through His gospel, but it all begins with what Christ did for sinners in history. For the revivalist traditions, the present work of the Spirit in us often displaces the objective work of Christ for us.
American Protestant denominations trace their roots to the Protestant Reformation, and many invoke memories of that heritage. Most of those denominations and churches, however, came to agree with the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critics of Christianity and thus rejected the old Reformation tradition. Like the revivalists, they too turned to religious experience. They replaced the Jesus of history with the “Jesus of faith,” or the Jesus of personal experience.
There remain, however, churches that not only trace their roots to the Reformation but who also continue to believe the same faith confessed by Calvin and his successors. Those churches confess the same worship and the same approach to the Christian life that marked Calvin’s church. These Reformed churches have a vital theology, piety, and practice, but it is of a different sort than that shaped by American revivalism. It is more interested in nurture than in crisis. It is more interested in what the Reformed call the means of grace (Word, sacraments, prayer) than it is in the anxious bench or the sinner’s prayer.
Because many parts of the American revivalist traditions retained a memory of their Reformation roots, the confessional and revivalist wings of American Protestantism coexisted and cooperated temporarily. Eventually, however, the underlying tensions surfaced and the relationship failed. Now the confessional churches are isolated from both the old liberal mainline and the revivalist traditions.
Despite these shifts, pilgrims from the revivalist and mainline traditions often find their way into confessional Reformed churches. If you are one of those, I hope this map helps you understand a little better why your first time in a confessional Reformed congregation felt so strange: It was. You crossed a border, an international dateline, and did not know it. If you found yourself in an intentionally historic, confessional Reformed congregation, you may have even done a little time traveling to the seventeenth or even the sixteenth century. Be a wise traveler. Give yourself a moment to get oriented. Enjoy the destination.
Now, a word to those congregations (such as mine) who find themselves host to such pilgrims. Please remember that our new friends are probably disoriented. The language, customs, and food are strange to them. They bring with them expectations not shaped by the Reformation. Our emphasis upon the gospel, sacraments, and the visible church may strike them as overly formal. We have two choices. We can pretend that we really belong to their tradition or we can gently, gradually welcome them to ours. I recommend the latter. It may take time for Americans raised on religious fastfood to learn to enjoy a new diet, language, and culture. If we try to become what the pilgrim has left behind, what use are we to the pilgrim? (Matt. 5:13). Let us welcome our brothers and sisters with open arms, open Bibles, and warm smiles. As we do so we will be imitating our great-grand father John Calvin who both welcomed pilgrims and maintained a faithful witness to the Reformation faith.
Dr. R. Scott Clark is professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary California and associate minister of Escondido United Reformed Church. He is author of Recovering the Reformed Confessions.
R. Scott Clark Books:
The Missing Motive
By Eric Alexander 2/1/2010
I am notoriously bad at remembering anniversaries, and last year it was quite a surprise to discover that 2008 marked the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. Not that the occasion was other than memorable. Indeed it was a very special day for many reasons. But I am bound to say that the truly unforgettable part of a moving service was one of the statutory questions put to me by the presbytery: “Are not zeal for the glory of God, and a desire for the salvation of men, so far as you know your own heart, your great motives and chief inducements in seeking this ministry?” I had to answer, “They are.” Worship (Re 4:11) 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
For the past fifty years that question has haunted me, especially as I have climbed the steps of various pulpits to preach, or attended the ordination service of others, or as I have reviewed the year each 31st of December. Abraham Kuyper, that extraordinary Dutch theologian who became the prime minister of his country, points out that the Reformation slogan is not just Deo gloria, but soli Deo gloria. It is a passion for the glory of God as the sole motive of everything.
Now in recent years I have been troubled by the tendency in the evangelical church to be more taken up with methods rather than motives. So I frequently hear of conferences where brethren meet to share insights into new and better methods by which we may fulfill our ministry. I’m sure they are very valuable, and I hope I am not so naïve as to think that methods are unimportant in God’s work. But I have almost never heard of a conference where brethren have met together before God to ask each other: “In all honesty, what are the compelling motives that determine the direction of my ministry?”
Yet Jesus laid great stress on motives: “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). Looking back over His ministry He says, “I have glorified you by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). The glory of the Father was the terminus of everything for Jesus. There was nothing beyond this. And He means it to be so for us.
That is why it is such a serious thing to rob God of His glory. He will not share that glory with another just because He cherishes His own glory above everything else and is jealous of it; it is the motive of everything He does (Isa. 48:11). Paul tells us that the Father’s motive in exalting Christ to the highest place and giving Him a name that is above every name is “the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). If we have any other end in view, then quite simply we will labor without the blessing of God.
Zeal for the glory of God as the controlling motive of our thinking and working will deeply affect at least four areas of our life in the evangelical church. They are worship, evangelism, unity, and church growth.
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” ESV
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
WorshipWhat makes worship in heaven so remarkable and so different is that there is only one desire among God’s people there, and that is to bring glory to God and to the Lamb (see Rev. 4:11; 5:11–14). Our worship here on earth is intended to be a preparation for that pure and perfect worship in the glory. Yet, I suspect that in our concern to make our worship acceptable to those who come to our churches, we are more interested in their acceptance than God’s pleasure. The one quality that equips us to worship God in spirit and in truth is a hunger for His glory.
(Re 4:11) 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
EvangelismIf you ask members of an evangelical church what the motives for evangelism are, they will almost certainly respond with two accurate and acceptable answers. One would be the Great Commission, and the other would be the condition of the lost who are without Christ. But neither of these is the ultimate motive. The ultimate motive is that throughout the world there are places where God is being robbed of His glory: in our own street, at our place of work, in professions and governments — wherever we turn it is true that men and women have “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:18–32). ]
(Ro 1:18–32) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ESV
UnityThe reason Jesus brings together in John 17 the glory of the Father and the Son and the unity of the disciples in the church is that the motive deriving from the former is the only effective way of securing the latter. Unless our entire motivation is set on fire by an overwhelming desire for the glory of God — all wills bowing in the same direction, all hearts burning with the same flame, all minds united by the same obedience — we shall never know the unity for which Jesus prays.
Church GrowthHow is God most glorified in the growth of the church? Not primarily by growth in numbers but by growth in depth and in quality — growth in the knowledge of God.
So we really do need to allow that question to haunt us: “Are not zeal for the glory of God and a desire for the salvation of men, so far as we know our own hearts, our great motives and chief inducements in seeking this ministry?” God help us in the last day to reply, “They were.” Click here to go to source
Rev. Eric J. Alexander is a retired minister in the Church of Scotland, most recently serving as senior minister of St. George’s–Tron Church in Glasgow until his retirement. He is author of Our Great God and Saviour.
Eric Alexander Books:
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By Don Carson 6/20/2018
Sometimes translation difficulties prompt Bible translators to include footnotes that preserve alternative possibilities. Sometimes no alternative is included, and something important is lost. One instance of each kind is found in Psalm 116, and both deserve thoughtful reflection.
(1) The NIV reads, “I believed; therefore I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars’”(116:10-11). The Revised Standard Version renders the first line, “I kept my faith, even when I said . . .” The latter is a perfectly possible rendering of the Hebrew, and most modern translations have followed it. Paul quotes from the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew, commonly called the Septuagint (or LXX), which preserves the meaning found in the NIV of Psalm 116:10-11 (see 2 Cor. 4:13).
But in this case, surprisingly little is at stake. Perhaps the NIV rendering is a trifle stronger: the reason why the psalmist said he was greatly afflicted was that he believed (“I believed; therefore I said”). In other words, it was nothing other than his faith in God — and the entire relationship with God that such faith presupposes –that enabled him to see that when he faced terrible suffering it was nothing other than the affliction meted out by God. But more importantly, both the NIV and the RSV make a point frequently illustrated in the Psalms, and particularly illustrated in Job: when someone feels crushed (Ps. 116:10) or utterly disillusioned (Ps. 116:11), and says so, it does not follow that he or she has abandoned faith. Rather, the unguarded accents of pain, offered up to God, give evidence of both life and faith.
(2) The NIV’s “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15) is often cited at funerals, and doubtless it expresses an important truth. But there is good reason to think that the word rendered “precious” should be rendered “costly” or the like: hence Jerusalem Bible’s “The death of the devout costs Yahweh dear.” The psalmist’s rescue from the borders of death (Ps. 116:3-8) makes that rendering more likely. Certainly Jesus recognizes how costly is the death of one human being (Matt. 10:29-31).
If that is the case, it is vitally important to see that although God in his sovereignty rules over everything, including all deaths, this reign for him is not some cold piece of accounting. He knows better than we do the sheer ugliness and abnormality of death, how it is irrefragably tied to our rebellion and the curse we have attracted. It is immensely comforting to perceive that the death of the devout costs Yahweh dear. Still more wonderful is the price he was willing to pay to supplant death by resurrection.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 72Give the King Your Justice
72 Of Solomon.
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
28. This unassailable argument, in which they confide so much, seems already to be considerably shaken; but as we have sufficient protection in the simplicity of truth, I am unwilling to evade the point by paltry
subtleties. Let them, therefore, have a solid answer. The command here given by Christ relates principally to the preaching of the gospel: to
it baptism is added as a kind of appendage. Then he merely speaks of
baptism in so far as the dispensation of it is subordinate to the function of teaching. For Christ sends his disciples to publish the
gospel to all nations of the world, that by the doctrine of salvation
they may gather men, who were previously lost, into his kingdom. But
who or what are those men? It is certain that mention is made only of
those who are fit to receive his doctrine. He subjoins, that such,
after being taught, were to be baptised, adding the promise, Whosoever
believeth and is baptised, shall be saved. Is there one syllable about infants in the whole discourse? What, then, is the form of argument
with which they assail us? Those who are of adult age are to be instructed and brought to the faith before being baptised, and
therefore it is unlawful to make baptism common to infants. They cannot, at the very utmost, prove any other thing out of this passage,
than that the gospel must be preached to those who are capable of hearing it before they are baptised; for of such only the passage
speaks. From this let them, if they can, throw an obstacle in the way of baptising infants.
29. But I will make their fallacies palpable even to the blind, by a very plain similitude. Should any one insist that infants are to be deprived of food, on the presence that the apostle permits none to eat but those who labour (2 Thess. 3:10), would he not deserve to be scouted by all? Why so? Because that which was said of a certain class of men, and a certain age, he wrests and applies to all indifferently. The dexterity of these men in the present instance is not greater. That which every one sees to be intended for adult age merely, they apply to infants, subjecting them to a rule which was laid down only for those of riper years. With regard to the example of our Saviour, it gives no countenance to their case. He was not baptised before his thirtieth year. This is indeed true, but the reason is obvious; because he then determined to lay the solid foundation of baptism by his preaching, or rather to confirm the foundation which John had previously laid. Therefore, when he was pleased with his doctrine to institute baptism, that he might give the greater authority to his institution, he sanctified it in his own person, and that at the most befitting time, namely, the commencement of his ministry. In fine, they can prove nothing more than that baptism received its origin and commencement with the preaching of the gospel. But if they are pleased to fix upon the thirtieth year, why do they not observe it, but admit any one to baptism according to the view which they may have formed of his proficiency? Nay, even Servetus, one of their masters, although he pertinaciously insisted on this period, had begun to act the prophet in his twenty-first year; as if any man could be tolerated in arrogating to himself the office of a teacher in the Church before he was a member of the Church.
30. At length they object, that there is not greater reason for admitting infants to baptism than to the Lord's Supper, to which, however, they are never admitted: as if Scripture did not in every way draw a wide distinction between them. In the early Church indeed, the Lord's Supper was frequently given to infants, as appears from Cyprian and Augustine (August. ad Bonif. Lib. 1); but the practice justly became obsolete. For if we attend to the peculiar nature of baptism, it is a kind of entrance, and as it were initiation into the Church, by which we are ranked among the people of God, a sign of our spiritual regeneration, by which we are again born to be children of God; whereas, on the contrary, the Supper is intended for those of riper years, who, having passed the tender period of infancy, are fit to bear solid food. This distinction is very clearly pointed out in Scripture. For there, as far as regards baptism, the Lord makes no selection of age, whereas he does not admit all to partake of the Supper, but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord, to examine their own conscience, to show forth the Lord's death, and understand its power. Can we wish anything clearer than what the apostle says, when he thus exhorts, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup"? (1 Cor. 11:28.) Examination, therefore, must precede, and this it were vain to expect from infants. Again, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord's body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food? Then what is our Lord's injunction? "Do this in remembrance of me." And what the inference which the apostle draws from this? "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." How, pray, can we require infants to commemorate any event of which they have no understanding; how require them "to show forth the Lord's death," of the nature and benefit of which they have no idea? Nothing of the kind is prescribed by baptism. Wherefore, there is the greatest difference between the two signs. This also we observe in similar signs under the old dispensation. Circumcision, which, as is well known, corresponds to our baptism, was intended for infants, but the passover, for which the Supper is substituted, did not admit all kinds of guests promiscuously, but was duly eaten only by those who were of an age sufficient to ask the meaning of it (Exod. 12:26). Had these men the least particle of soundness in their brain, would they be thus blind as to a matter so very clear and obvious?
31. Though I am unwilling to annoy the reader with the series of conceits which Servetus, not the least among the Anabaptists, nay, the great honour of this crew, when girding himself for battle, deemed, when he adduced them, to be specious arguments, it will be worth while briefly to dispose of them.  He pretends that as the symbols of Christ are perfect, they require persons who are perfect, or at least capable of perfection. But the answer is plain. The perfection of baptism, which extends even to death, is improperly restricted to one moment of time; moreover, perfection, in which baptism invites us to make continual progress during life, is foolishly exacted by him all at once. He objects, that the symbols of Christ were appointed for remembrance, that every one may remember that he was buried together with Christ. I answer, that what he coined out of his own brain does not need refutation, nay, that which he transfers to baptism properly belongs to the Supper, as appears from Paul's words, "Let a man examine himself," words similar to which are nowhere used with reference to baptism. Whence we infer, that those who from nonage are incapable of examination are duly baptised. His third point is, That all who believe not in the Son remain in death, the wrath of God abideth on them (John 3:36); and, therefore, infants who are unable to believe lie under condemnation. I answer, that Christ does not there speak of the general guilt in which all the posterity of Adam are involved, but only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who proudly and contumaciously spurn the grace which is offered to them. But this has nothing to do with infants. At the same time, I meet him with the opposite argument. Every one whom Christ blesses is exempted from the curse of Adam, and the wrath of God. Therefore, seeing it is certain that infants are blessed by him, it follows that they are freed from death. He nexts falsely quotes a passage which is nowhere found, Whosoever is born of the Spirit, hears the voice of the Spirit. Though we should grant that such a passage occurs in Scripture, all he can extract from it is, that believers, according as the Spirit works in them, are framed to obedience. But that which is said of a certain number, it is illogical to apply to all alike. His fourth objection is, As that which precedes is animal (1 Cor. 15:46), we must wait the full time for baptism, which is spiritual. But while I admit that all the posterity of Adam, born of the flesh, bear their condemnation with them from the womb, I hold that this is no obstacle to the immediate application of the divine remedy. Servetus cannot show that by divine appointment, several years must elapse before the new spiritual life begins. Paul's testimony is, that though lost by nature, the children of believers are holy by supernatural grace. He afterwards brings forward the allegory that David, when going up into mount Zion, took with him neither the blind nor the lame, but vigorous soldiers (2 Sam. 5:8). But what if I meet this with the parable in which God invites to the heavenly feast the lame and the blind? In what way will Servetus disentangle this knot? I ask, moreover, whether the lame and the maimed had not previously served with David? But it is superfluous to dwell longer on this argument, which, as the reader will learn from the sacred history, is founded on mere misquotation. He adds another allegory-- viz. that the apostles were fishers of men, not of children. I ask, then, What does our Saviour mean when he says that in the net are caught all kinds of fishes? (Mt. 9:19; 13:47.) But as I have no pleasure in sporting with allegory, I answer, that when the office of teaching was committed to the apostles, they were not prohibited from baptising infants. Moreover, I should like to know why, when the Evangelist uses the term anthro'pous (which comprehends the whole human race without exception), he denies that infants are included. His seventh argument is, Since spiritual things accord with spiritual (1 Cor 2:13), infants, not being spiritual, are unfit for baptism. It is plain how perversely he wrests this passage of Paul. It relates to doctrine. The Corinthians, pluming themselves excessively on a vain acuteness, Paul rebukes their folly, because they still require to be imbued with the first rudiments of heavenly doctrine. Who can infer from this that baptism is to be denied to infants, whom, when begotten of the flesh, the Lord consecrates to himself by gratuitous adoption? His objection, that if they are new men, they must be fed with spiritual food, is easily obviated. By baptism they are admitted into the fold of Christ, and the symbol of adoption is sufficient for them, until they grow up and become fit to bear solid food. We must, therefore, wait for the time of examination, which God distinctly demands in the sacred Supper. His next objection is, that Christ invites all his people to the sacred Supper. But as it is plain that he admits those only who are prepared to celebrate the commemoration of his death, it follows that infants, whom he honoured with his embrace, remain in a distinct and peculiar position until they grow up, and yet are not aliens. When he objects, that it is strange why the infant does not partake of the Supper, I answer, that souls are fed by other food than the external eating of the Supper, and that accordingly Christ is the food of infants, though they partake not of the symbol. The case is different with baptism, by which the door of the Church is thrown open to them. He again objects, that a good householder distributes meat to his household in due season (Mt. 24:45). This I willingly admit; but how will he define the time of baptism, so as to prove that it is not seasonably given to infants? He, moreover, adduces Christ's command to the apostles to make haste, because the fields are already white to the harvest (John 4:35). Our Saviour only means that the apostles, seeing the present fruit of their labour, should bestir themselves with more alacrity to teach. Who will infer from this, that harvest only is the fit time for baptism? His eleventh argument is, That in the primitive Church, Christians and disciples were the same; but we have already seen that he argues unskilfully from the part to the whole. The name of disciples is given to men of full age, who had already been taught, and had assumed the name of Christ, just as the Jews behoved to be disciples under the law of Moses. Still none could rightly infer from this that infants, whom the Lord declared to be of his household, were strangers. Moreover, he alleges that all Christians are brethren, and that infants cannot belong to this class, so long as we exclude them from the Supper. But I return to my position, first, that none are heirs of the kingdom of heaven but those who are the members of Christ; and, secondly, that the embracing of Christ was the true badge of adoption, in which infants are joined in common with adults, and that temporary abstinence from the Supper does not prevent them from belonging to the body of the Church. The thief on the cross, when converted, became the brother of believers, though he never partook of the Lord's Supper. Servetus afterwards adds, that no man becomes our brother unless by the Spirit of adoption, who is only conferred by the hearing of faith. I answer, that he always falls back into the same paralogism, because he preposterously applies to infants what is said only of adults. Paul there teaches that the ordinary way in which God calls his elect, and brings them to the faith, is by raising up faithful teachers, and thus stretching out his hand to them by their ministry and labours. Who will presume from this to give the law to God, and say that he may not ingraft infants into Christ by some other secret method? He objects, that Cornelius was baptised after receiving the Holy Spirit; but how absurdly he would convert a single example into a general rule, is apparent from the case of the Eunuch and the Samaritans, in regard to whom the Lord observed a different order, baptism preceding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The fifteenth argument is more than absurd. He says that we become gods by regeneration, but that they are gods to whom the word of God is sent (John 10:35; 2 Pet. 1:4), a thing not possible to infant children. The attributing of deity to believers is one of his ravings, which this is not the proper place to discuss; but it betrays the utmost effrontery to wrest the passage in the psalm (Ps. 82:6) to a meaning so alien to it. Christ says, that kings and magistrates are called gods by the prophet, because they perform an office divinely appointed them. This dexterous interpreter transfers what is addressed by special command to certain individuals to the doctrine of the Gospel, so as to exterminate infants from the Church. Again, he objects, that infants cannot be regarded as new men, because they are not begotten by the word. But what I have said again and again I now repeat, that, for regenerating us, doctrine is an incorruptible seed, if indeed we are fit to perceive it; but when, from nonage, we are incapable of being taught, God takes his own methods of regenerating. He afterwards returns to his allegories, and says, that under the law, the sheep and the goat were not offered in sacrifice the moment they were dropt (Exod. 12:5). Were I disposed to deal in figures, I might obviously reply, first, that all the first-born, on opening the matrix, were sacred to the Lord (Exod. 13:12); and, secondly, that a lamb of a year old was to be sacrificed: whence it follows, that it was not necessary to wait for mature age, the young and tender offspring having been selected by God for sacrifice. He contends, moreover, that none could come to Christ but those who were previously prepared by John; as if John's ministry had not been temporary. But, to omit this, assuredly there was no such preparation in the children whom Christ took up in his arms and blessed. Wherefore, let us have done with his false principle. He at length calls in the assistance of Trismegistus and the Sybils, to prove that sacred ablutions are fit only for adults. See how honourably he thinks of Christian baptism, when he tests it by the profane rites of the Gentiles, and will not have it administered except in the way pleasing to Trismegistus. We defer more to the authority of God, who has seen it meet to consecrate infants to himself, and initiate them by a sacred symbol, the significancy of which they are unable from nonage to understand. We do not think it lawful to borrow from the expiations of the Gentiles, in order to change, in our baptism, that eternal and inviolable law which God enacted in circumcision. His last argument is, If infants, without understanding, may be baptised, baptism may be mimicked and jestingly administered by boys in sport. Here let him plead the matter with God, by whose command circumcision was common to infants before they received understanding. Was it, then, a fit matter for ridicule or boyish sport, to overthrow the sacred institution of God? But no wonder that these reprobate spirits, as if they were under the influence of frenzy, introduce the grossest absurdities in defence of their errors, because God, by this spirit of giddiness, justly avenges their pride and obstinacy. I trust I have made it apparent how feebly Servetus has supported his friends the Anabaptists.
32. No sound man, I presume, can now doubt how rashly the Church is disturbed by those who excite quarrels and disturbances because of pædobaptism. For it is of importance to observe what Satan means by all this craft--viz. to rob us of the singular blessing of confidence and spiritual joy, which is hence to be derived, and in so far to detract from the glory of the divine goodness. For how sweet is it to pious minds to be assured not only by word, but even by ocular demonstration, that they are so much in favour with their heavenly Father, that he interests himself in their prosperity! Here we may see how he acts towards us as a most provident parent, not ceasing to care for us even after our death, but consulting and providing for our children. Ought not our whole heart to be stirred up within us, as David's was (Ps. 48:11), to bless his name for such a manifestation of goodness? Doubtless the design of Satan in assaulting pædobaptism with all his forces is to keep out of view, and gradually efface, that attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes. In this way, not on]y would men be impiously ungrateful for the mercy of God, but be less careful in training their children to piety. For it is no slight stimulus to us to bring them up in the fear of God, and the observance of his law, when we reflect, that from their birth they have been considered and acknowledged by him as his children. Wherefore, if we would not maliciously obscure the kindness of God, let us present to him our infants, to whom he has assigned a place among his friends and family, that is, the members of the Church.
 The French from the beginning of the chapter is as follows:--"Or d'autant que nous voyons l'observation que nous tenons de baptiser les petits enfans etre impugnée et debatue par aucuns esprits malins, comme si elle n'avoit point eté institutée de Dieu mais inventée nouvellement des hommes, ou pour le moins quelques années apres le tems des Apostres, j'estime qu'il viendra bien à propos, de confermer en cest endroit les consciences imbecilles, et refuter les objections mensonges qui pouroient faire teis seducteurs, pour renverser le verité de Dieu aux coeur des simples, qui ne seraient pas exercités pour repondre a leur cauteles et cavillations."--Now, inasmuch as we see that the practice which we have of baptising little children is impugned and assailed by some malignant spirits, as if it had not been appointed by God, but newly invented by men, or at least some years after the days of the Apostles, I think it will be very seasonable to confirm weak consciences in this matter, and refute the lying objections which such seducers might make, in order to overthrow the truth of God in the hearts of the simple, who might not be skilled in answering their cavils and objections.
 127 D127 The "analogy of faith," to which we are to "bring every interpretation of Scripture," refers to the ultimate rule or standard of interpretation, the final test of all doctrine; namely, the teaching of Scripture as a whole. Analogy suggests comparison; thus we are to compare a proposed interpretation of a specific portion of Scripture with the interpretation which Scripture as a whole; either explicitly or generally, gives to itself. Analogy suggests proportion or measure; thus we are to ascertain the intention and importance of a single text of Scripture in proportion to its place and distribution in the whole body of revealed truth. Analogy also suggests relationship; thus we are to study the particular doctrines of Scriptures in relation to the system of doctrine revealed therein.
 128 D128 This strong assertion must be seen in its relationship to the question of the salvation of elect infants dying in infancy. If they are to have remission of sins, a new nature, and the blessing of eternal life, it is clear that they must be regenerated.
 129 D129 It is instructive to take not of Calvin's careful restraint and sense of proportion in the previous few sentences. With respect to the question of the manner in which elect infants dying in infancy are saved, Calvin, while presupposing their need and the Spirit's supply of regeneration (see note on section 18), makes no definite assertion concerning the presence or absence of faith in them. This position of indecision (as Calvin terms it) is commendable, precisely because it does not presume beyond the teaching of Scripture.
 130 D130 In connection with the sacraments, there are three aspects which must be carefully distinguished: 1. the spiritual reality which is signified (what Calvin calls "the thing") 2. the external sacrament itself (what Calvin calls "the sign") 3. our understanding of the spiritual significance of the sacrament (as mediated to us by the Word and Spirit). Calvin has called our attention to the very important fact that a particular time order of these aspects is not crucial to the proper use of the sacraments. He asserts that the spiritual reality itself (e.g., regeneration) may either precede or follow the external sacrament (i.e., 1 may precede 2, or 2 may precede 1). The order then, of the three aspects enumerated above could be 1, 2, 3, or 1, 3, 2, or 2, 1, 3. (The reason why the order could not be 2, 3, 1, or 3, 1, 2, or 3, 2, 1, is that, because of that depravity which fills our minds with ignorance and spiritual darkness, our understanding of the sacrament's spiritual significance  must always follow the spiritual reality which is signified ). Calvin's specific interest in this section is, of course, to point out that the third possible order (2, 1, 3) is a live option. That is, the time order (in addition to the other possible orders) could be as follows: 2. the external sacrament itself (e.g., baptism) 1. the spiritual reality which is signified (e.g., regeneration) 3. our understanding of the spiritual significance of the sacrament. And the time lapse between number 2 and numbers 1 and 3 could amount to an indefinite number of years, just as it ordinarily did in the case of circumcised infants in Old Testament times.
 See Calv. Cont. Articulos Theologorum Paris. Art 4. Item, Ad. Concil. Trident. Item, Vera Eccles. Reformand. Ratio, et in Append. Nævus in August. Lib. 1 ad Bonifac. et Epist. 28. Ambros. de Vocat. Gentium, Lib. 2 cap. 8, de Abraham. Lib. 2 cap. 11.
 French, "Combien qu'il me fasche d'amasser tant de reveries frivoles que pourront ennuyer les lecteurs, toutesfeis pource que Servet, se meslant aussi de mesdire du baptesme des petis enfans, a cuide amener de fort belles raisons, il sera raison de les rabattre brievement."--Although I am sorry to amass so many frivolous reveries which may annoy the reader, yet as Servetus, taking it upon him to calumniate baptism also, has seemed to adduce very fine arguments, it will be right briefly to dispose of them.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By Don Carson 1/1/2018
When I was a boy, a plaque in our home was inscribed with the words “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Apart from the change from “hath” to “has,” similar words are preserved in the NIV of Psalm 118:24.
My father gently applied this text to his children when we whined or complained about little nothings. Was the weather too hot and sticky? “This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Were the skies pelting rain, so we could not go out to play? “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” What a boring day (or place, or holiday, or visit to relatives)! “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Sometimes the words were repeated with significant emphasis: “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
It is not that Dad would not listen to serious complaints; it is not that Scripture does not have other things to say. But every generation of Christians has to learn that whining is an affront against God’s sovereignty and goodness.
But the text must first be read in its context. Earlier the psalmist expresses his commitment to trust in God and not in any merely human help (Ps. 118:8-9), even though he is surrounded by foes (Ps. 118:10). Now he also discloses that his foes include “the builders” (Ps. 118:22) — people with power within Israel. These builders were quite capable of rejecting certain “stones” while they built their walls — and in this case the very stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. In the first instance this stone, this capstone, is almost certainly a reference to a Davidic king, perhaps to David himself. The men of power rejected him, but he became the capstone.
Moreover, this result was not achieved by brilliant machination or clever manipulation. Far from it: “the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). In his own day Isaiah portrays people who make a lie their refuge while rejecting God’s cornerstone (Isa. 28:15-16). The ultimate instance of this pattern is found in Jesus Christ, rejected by his own creatures, yet chosen of God, the ultimate building-stone, and precious (Matt. 21:42; Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8) — a “stone” disclosed in all his true worth by his resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:10-11). Whether in David’s day or in the ultimate fulfillment, this marvelous triumph by God calls forth our praise: This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2013 The Heart of Words
Words are powerful. They transform lives and make history. They birth nations and topple empires. They make peace and fuel wars. They make covenants in marriage and wound those we most cherish. They change hearts and give news of eternal life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Words are foundational to everything we think, do, and say in all of life. Nevertheless, words are not ends in themselves. Words exist because God spoke them into existence that He might communicate with us. He spoke the world into existence and has graciously spoken to us in His sacred Word. When He created us in His image, He gave us the gift of speech in order that we might commune with Him in prayer, fellowship with one another, hear and preach the life-giving gospel, train our children in the way they should go, and open our lips that we might proclaim His praises.
However, we have abused God’s gift. Rather than praising God, we take His name in vain. Rather than building up one another, we flatter, gossip, and slander. Rather than speaking the truth in love, we hide the truth under a basket. Rather than patiently training our children, we yell at them. And as James says, with our tongue, “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 3:9–10). We are called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. One way we practice such love is through our words, not only what we say, but what we don’t say. Nevertheless, what comes out of our mouths isn’t the real problem. Our fundamental problem isn’t a tongue problem, it’s a heart problem.
Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). What is in the well of our hearts comes up in the bucket of our mouths. What we say is the overflow of what we believe. We need to watch our mouths, but more importantly we need to guard our hearts. The heart is the seat of our affections, encompassing everything we are, everything we do, everything we desire, everything we think, and everything we say. But because we are sinners, our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). And as John Calvin said, “The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.” Contrary to the self-esteem-building mantra of so many well-intentioned mothers and fathers, we do not have good hearts—we have idol-making hearts. The only hope for our hearts is that they be conquered, invaded, and replaced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit who causes the Word of Christ to dwell within us richly and enables us to die daily to self and live each day coram Deo, before the face of God.
click here for article source
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Prior to the Civil War there were two major political parties: the Democrats, who believed Americans should have the freedom of choice to own a slave; and the Whigs, who wanted to be the big tent party embracing free and slave states. But on this day, July 6, 1854, a group of anti-slavery men met in Jackson, Michigan, to start a new party, demanding the Fugitive Slave Law be repealed. Their chief plank was “to prohibit … those twin relics of barbarism: polygamy and slavery.” They called themselves “The Republican Party.” (The first local meeting before the above mentioned state convention was in Ripon,
Wisconsin, February 28, 1854.)
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
…walking by the incoming sea …
Grace is a transcendent and ineffable force,
the outgoing energies of the redeeming God
washing against the polluted shores of human need.
--- John Henry Jowett
The Whole Armour of God
The Jews, however, are beyond all doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race at present living in Europe; they know how to succeed even under the worst conditions (in fact better than under favorable ones) by means of virtues of some sort, which one would like nowadays to label as vices-owing above all to a resolute faith which does not need to be ashamed before “modern idea…
It is certain that the Jew, if he desired-or if they were driven to it, as the antisemites seem to wish-could now have the ascendancy, nay, literally the supremacy, over Europe; that they are not working or planning for that end is equally sure… The resourcefulness of the modern Jews, both in mind and soul, is extraordinary…
--- Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil
Occasionally God rips aside the veil, and you begin to see this very fact: All things happen for you. All things. Everything is knit together.
--- Timothy Keller
I shall prove to you as you stand here that we have not believed empty fables, or words without any foundation but words filled with the Spirit of God, and big with power, and flourishing with grace.
... 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 hasidic master, R. Zadok Hakohen of Lublin, (23) maintains that “with all your might/money” means that we must be so filled with ahavat Hashem (love for God) that this love overflows into our very possessions so that they too, inanimate as they are, glow with our love of God. That is why the Sages taught that the donkey of the Tanna R. Pinḥas b. Yair ate no forbidden foods; the sanctity of its master was carried over to the animal. Of course, attaining such a spiritual level is rare indeed, which is why the Torah included “with all your might/money” in the first paragraph of the Shema, formulated in the singular and thus directed to individuals, but not in the second paragraph, written in the plural and addressed to all Jews, those incapable of such spiritual excellence. Only the truly unique individuals arrive at a state whereby all they possess is elevated to the level of holy articles—such as the scroll of the Torah or tefillin—for through such things they spread ahavat Hashem in the world.
(23) R. Zadok Hakohen, Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, 86.
Here we encounter the hasidic concept of shoresh ha-nefesh, the “Root of the Soul.” According to hasidic teaching, the soul is located in an environment or spiritual neighborhood that determines our situation in mundane life. Thus “all that man possesses—his wife and children, his servant and maid, his animals and home, his gold and his silver, all that he owns—all of this comes from the Root of his Soul.” (24) This belief derives from hasidic immanentism, the view that divinity inheres in everything, that (in the words of the Zohar) “there is no place that is free of Him.” This is how Hasidism understands the literal and therefore real meaning of the prophet’s declaration that “the world is filled with His glory” (Isa. 6:3). Not only does divinity inhere in the human soul and intellect, but—as R. Isaac Luria had said—in every object in the world, no matter how lowly.
(24) R. Zadok Hakohen, Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, 86.
Thus, even material objects have a spiritual origin or core; we can speak of them as having a source in the empyrean realms. So, just as friendship in the here-and-now “reveals” the propinquity of the “Roots of the Souls” to each other in the world of the spirit, so too are we related to our most cherished physical possessions in a spiritual manner: the Roots of human Souls are close indeed to the soul-roots of our inert possessions. In this manner, R. Zadok and other hasidic masters speak of a person’s ahavat Hashem being revealed through his or her material possessions. (25) For if a person is truly devout, if his ahavat Hashem is genuine, then somehow, marvelously, this love will shine through the most mundane and inanimate objects in his possession.
(25) R. Zadok Hakohen, Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, 197.
Finally, let us look at an interpretation by R. Meir Simḥa of Dvinsk, Latvia, in his great commentary, the Meshekh Ḥokhmah (to Deut. 6:5). He regards the word me’od, “very,” as indicating excess: “more” or “extra.” Our very-ness, our me’od, is that which we, as human beings, possess and which lower species do not. R. Meir Simḥa identifies that extra “something” as the ability to abide present difficulties for the sake of future benefits—something of which animals are incapable. It is with this talent to defer current gratification that we must love God: “hence … even though He punishes us, we must know that it is all for the sake of some future good, whether it be the forgiveness of sins [through suffering] or the purification of our material selves, and the like-matters known to Providence alone.”
Thus, we must humanize the very act of loving God as me’od: we must love even when that love is as yet unrequited, confident that ultimately it will be acknowledged, accepted, and reciprocated. Religious people thus take a great risk in offering their emotions, their lives, their distinctiveness to a God who sometimes seems not to care; yet that is what makes them all the more human. Our capacity to be vulnerable and to defer gratification demonstrates not only our psychological maturity but also our spiritual growth.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. Then stood up Salome's son, Antipater, [who of all Archelaus's antagonists was the shrewdest pleader,] and accused him in the following speech: That Archelaus did in words contend for the kingdom, but that in deeds he had long exercised royal authority, and so did but insult Caesar in desiring to be now heard on that account, since he had not staid for his determination about the succession, and since he had suborned certain persons, after Herod's death, to move for putting the diadem upon his head; since he had set himself down in the throne, and given answers as a king, and altered the disposition of the army, and granted to some higher dignities; that he had also complied in all things with the people in the requests they had made to him as to their king, and had also dismissed those that had been put into bonds by his father for most important reasons. Now, after all this, he desires the shadow of that royal authority, whose substance he had already seized to himself, and so hath made Caesar lord, not of things, but of words. He also reproached him further, that his mourning for his father was only pretended, while he put on a sad countenance in the day time, but drank to great excess in the night; from which behavior, he said, the late disturbance among the multitude came, while they had an indignation thereat. And indeed the purport of his whole discourse was to aggravate Archelaus's crime in slaying such a multitude about the temple, which multitude came to the festival, but were barbarously slain in the midst of their own sacrifices; and he said there was such a vast number of dead bodies heaped together in the temple, as even a foreign war, that should come upon them [suddenly], before it was denounced, could not have heaped together. And he added, that it was the foresight his father had of that his barbarity which made him never give him any hopes of the kingdom, but when his mind was more infirm than his body, and he was not able to reason soundly, and did not well know what was the character of that son, whom in his second testament he made his successor; and this was done by him at a time when he had no complaints to make of him whom he had named before, when he was sound in body, and when his mind was free from all passion. That, however, if any one should suppose Herod's judgment, when he was sick, was superior to that at another time, yet had Archelaus forfeited his kingdom by his own behavior, and those his actions, which were contrary to the law, and to its disadvantage. Or what sort of a king will this man be, when he hath obtained the government from Caesar, who hath slain so many before he hath obtained it!
6. When Antipater had spoken largely to this purpose, and had produced a great number of Archelaus's kindred as witnesses, to prove every part of the accusation, he ended his discourse. Then stood up Nicolaus to plead for Archelaus. He alleged that the slaughter in the temple could not be avoided; that those that were slain were become enemies not to Archelaus's kingdom, only, but to Caesar, who was to determine about him. He also demonstrated that Archelaus's accusers had advised him to perpetrate other things of which he might have been accused. But he insisted that the latter testament should, for this reason, above all others, be esteemed valid, because Herod had therein appointed Caesar to be the person who should confirm the succession; for he who showed such prudence as to recede from his own power, and yield it up to the lord of the world, cannot be supposed mistaken in his judgment about him that was to be his heir; and he that so well knew whom to choose for arbitrator of the succession could not be unacquainted with him whom he chose for his successor.
7. When Nicolaus had gone through all he had to say, Archelaus came, and fell down before Caesar's knees, without any noise;—upon which he raised him up, after a very obliging manner, and declared that truly he was worthy to succeed his father. However, he still made no firm determination in his case; but when he had dismissed those assessors that had been with him that day, he deliberated by himself about the allegations which he had heard, whether it were fit to constitute any of those named in the testaments for Herod's successor, or whether the government should be parted among all his posterity, and this because of the number of those that seemed to stand in need of support therefrom.
by D.H. Stern
and false scales are not good.
24 A man’s steps are ordered by ADONAI,
so how can a person understand his own ways?
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Vision and reality
And the parched ground shall become a pool.
--- Isaiah 35:7.
We always have visions before a thing is made real. When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on. Instead of the vision becoming real, there has come the valley of humiliation.
'Life is not as idle ore,
But iron dug from central gloom,
And batter’d by the shocks of doom
To shape and use.’
God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience. Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry. We are always in such a frantic hurry. In the light of the glory of the vision we go forth to do things, but the vision is not real in us yet; and God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality. Ever since we had the vision God has been at work, getting us into the shape of the ideal, and over and over again we escape from His hand and try to batter ourselves into our own shape.
The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be. Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision. Don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Temptation Of A Poet
The temptation is to go back,
to make a tryst with the pale ghost
Of an earlier self, to summon
To the mind's hearth, as I would now,
Accompaniment to the black kettle's
Whine, and so into the cold
Dark to smother in the thick tide
Of night that drifted about the walls
Of his stark farm on the hill ridge.
It was not the dark filling my eyes
And mouth appalled me; not even the drip
Of rain like blood from the one tree
Weather-tortured. It was the dark
Silting the veins of that sick man
I left stranded upon the vast
And lonely shore of his bleak bed.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 21:14–19 / Early the next Morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears. God heard the cry of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 53, 14 / And an angel of God called to Hagar. On Abraham’s merit. Where he is. On his own merit; the prayer of a sick person on his own behalf is better than all others. Where he is. Rabbi Simon said, “The ministering angels jumped up to indict him [Ishmael], saying before Him, ‘Master of the World! For a man who will someday kill your children with thirst, you will bring up a spring?’ He said to them; ‘Right now, is he righteous or wicked?’ They said to Him, ‘Righteous,’ He said to them, ‘I judge a person only [where he is] at that moment.’ Come, lift up the boy.… Then [God] opened her eyes.” Rabbi Binyamin said, “All are presumed to be blind until the Holy One, praised is He, enlightens their eyes, thus, ‘Then God opened her eyes.’ ”
CONTEXT / When Sarah gave birth to Isaac, as God had promised, tension increased between Sarah and Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, who had already given birth to a son, Ishmael.
Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:9–10)
God told Abraham to follow Sarah’s instructions. The Bible text above, Genesis 21:14–19, describes what happened next: Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, giving them a water skin and bread. When they ran out of water and gave up hope, God kept the promise to “make a great nation of him [Ishmael]” and provided water for them.
The Rabbis wondered what the import of the phrase “God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is” could be. Thus, Rabbi Simon imagined that ministering angels jumped up to indict him, Ishmael, saying before Him, God, “Master of the World! For a man who will someday kill your children with thirst,” a reference to later Jewish history. According to Rabbinic legend, at the time of the destruction of the first Temple and the Babylonian exile, the Ishmaelites did not help the Jews of Judea who were dying of thirst. The angels saw a connection between the water of the well that God prepared for Ishmael and the water that—years in the future—the descendants of Ishmael would deny the descendants of Abraham. And these angels asked God, “You will bring up a spring for this child who will father a people who will one day be the enemies of the Jews?” He, God, said to them, the angels, “Now, at this very moment, is he, Ishmael, righteous or wicked?” God challenged the angels, and they said to Him, “Righteous.” He, God, said to them, “I judge a person only at that moment.” The Hebrew בִּשְׁעָתוֹ/bish’ato, “at that moment,” is interpreted as God saying, “I judge a person not for what he might do in the future, but for how he acts now.” Thus, God tells Hagar, “Come, lift up the boy” now, for at this moment, he is an innocent lad and deserves to be saved.
“God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” This leads Rabbi Binyamin to question how Hagar, desperate to save her son who is dying from thirst, could not see a well of water right in front of her. Thus, Rabbi Binyamin teaches that “All are presumed to be blind until the Holy One, praised is He, enlightens their eyes.” God provides eyesight—and insight. Hagar was not really blind but was still unable to see what was right in front of her until God “opened her eyes” and enabled her to see.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Prophet Watching and Waiting
W. W. Wiersbe
"This chapter reports an experience Habakkuk had that is similar to one recorded by Asaph the psalmist in Psalm 73. Like Habakkuk, Asaph was bewildered at the providential working of God in this world: he was disturbed because the wicked seemed to be prospering while the righteous were suffering. Like Habakkuk, he reasoned with God, and then, like Habakkuk, he gave God the opportunity to reply.
“When I thought to know this,” he wrote, “it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:16–17). There in the sanctuary he found God’s answer to his problem, and his sighing was turning into singing.
Let’s join Habakkuk on the watchtower, which was his sanctuary, and listen to what the Lord said to him. When God did speak to His servant, He gave him three responsibilities to fulfill.
1. Write God’s Vision (Hab. 2:1–3)
The prophet saw himself as a watchman on the walls of Jerusalem, waiting for a message from God that he could share with the people. In ancient days, the watchmen were responsible to warn the city of approaching danger, and if they weren’t faithful, their hands would be stained with the blood of the people who died (Ezek. 3:17–21; 33:1–3). It was a serious responsibility.
The image of the watchman carries a spiritual lesson for us today. As God’s people, we know that danger is approaching, and it’s our responsibility to warn people to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). If we don’t share the Gospel with lost sinners, then their blood may be on our hands. We want to be able to say with Paul, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26, NKJV).
You get the impression that Habakkuk was fearful of what the Lord might say to him because of His servant’s “complaint.” But the Lord graciously answered Habakkuk and gave him the vision he needed to turn his worrying into worshiping. This vision included not only the words in Habakkuk 2, but also the revelation of God’s glory recorded in 3:3–15. When you behold the glory of God and believe the Word of God, it gives you faith to accept the will of God.
We wouldn’t be studying this book today had Habakkuk not obeyed God’s orders and written down what God had told him and shown him. This writing was to be permanent so that generation after generation could read it. It was also to be plain, written so that anybody could read it, and it was to be public so that even somebody running past the tablets on display could get the message immediately. (Commentators and translators don’t agree on what “that he may run that reads it” really means. The NIV translates it “so that a herald may run with it” and the NASB says “so that the one who reads it may run.” The NRSV translates it “so that a runner may read it,” and F.F. Bruce puts it “so that one who reads it may read with ease” (Minor Prophets, The: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary , edited by Thomas E. McComiskey [Baker Book House, 1993], vol. 2, 858). Bruce explains the phrase to mean “not that the person who reads it will start running, but rather that the reader will be able to take it in at a glance, so large and legible is the writing; the eye will run over the text with ease.” That seems to be what the Lord said to Habakkuk.) Habakkuk wasn’t the only person in Judah who needed this message, and it was his obligation to share it.
The revelation God gave was for a future time and about a future time. While the immediate application was to the end of the Babylonian Captivity, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews interpreted it to refer also to the return of Jesus Christ. Led by the Holy Spirit, he changed “it” to “He” and applied it to our Lord. “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37). Along with the scoffers Peter wrote about, some readers might ask, “Where is the promise of His coming? (2 Peter 3:3ff) and God’s reply is, “Wait for it! It will surely come!” A discouraged Jew in Babylonian exile might ask, “Will the Lord come and deliver us?” and the answer is, “Yes! Wait for him!”
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.
By the name of God we may understand his being, God himself: “this glorious and awesome name—the LORD your God” (Deut. 28:58). (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) To save for his name’s sake is to save for his own sake.
By the name of God we may understand his authority, that is, his absolute right and power to do what he pleases with his own creatures. “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isa. 46:10). When he saves for his name’s sake, he saves for the sake of his sovereign will and pleasure and for showing his own absolute authority.
By the name of God we may understand the Christ of God, for in our Lord Jesus Christ is the whole name and authority of God. When he pardons for his name’s sake, he pardons for Christ’s sake. God has done and will do much for Christ, because his name is in him, and in him he is well pleased and reconciled.
By the name of God we are to understand the attributes of God. I will mention some of these.
His power is his name, and for the sake of that he saves: “He saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.” We cannot want more than he can give; we cannot pray for as much as he can bestow; we are not able to think what he can do. God’s power is a part of his name that faith may take hold of for salvation and flee to.
When he saves for his name’s sake, he saves for his mercy’s sake: “May your mercy come quickly to meet us,… for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins” (Ps. 79:8–9).
God, in saving sinners through Christ, has such a regard to his name as a God of infinite wisdom that in this method of salvation, the manifold wisdom of God is shown (Eph. 3:10).
His truth and faithfulness is one of the capital letters of his name: “abounding in… faithfulness” (Exod. 34:5–6). And how often did God remember his promise toward Israel? In saving sinners through Christ, God’s truthfulness is displayed in fulfilling the law on the Surety in the place of the sinner, in fulfilling the promises of the Gospel, and in fulfilling the promises made to Christ of seeing his offspring upon his giving his life a guilt offering for sin (Isa. 53:10).
--- Ralph Erskine
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Brief Reunion July 6
On November 17, 1417 Cardinal Oddone Colonna was elected Pope Martin V in Constance, and when he later arrived in Rome he was shocked by the conditions he saw. Both buildings and people were dilapidated, and the capital of Christendom had deteriorated into perhaps the least civilized city in Europe. Italy was in turmoil. Warlords ruled the cities, and bandits terrorized the countryside. The pope’s treasuries were empty and his enemies legion.
Martin restored order in Rome, cleared out nests of bandits along roadways, and named men of intellect to office. He was more a political than a spiritual leader, but he ate sparingly, drank only water, slept little, worked hard, and earned the respect of the people and the wrath of his foes.
Meanwhile the patriarch of Constantinople, Martin’s counterpart in the Eastern Church, was having problems of his own. The Ottomans were advancing on Constantinople, and Eastern leaders, who in 1054 had torn apart from Rome, now needed military help. News that Christendom might reunite stirred all Europe. On February 8, 1438 Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople arrived in Venice with a delegation of 700 to meet Pope Martin. A joint council convened in Ferrara, then in Florence. Committees formulated ways to reconcile the divergences between the two churches, tackling issues like the relationship between pope and patriarch, the use of unleavened bread, the nature of purgatory, and the role of the Holy Spirit. Debates raged for months then compromises were struck. On July 6, 1439, in the great cathedral of Florence, the council read a decree uniting the two churches. The leaders kissed and all present bent the knee and celebrated.
Their joy was brief. The people of Constantinople flatly rejected the decisions. The Turkish Ottomans took the city and decreed it Islamic. And back in Florence, the Renaissance broke out partly because of the impact made by the influx of Eastern Greeks to the council which had been hosted by Cosimo de’ Medici. The Ferrara/Florence Council, one might argue, contributed to losing the church in the East to the Muslims and the church in the West to the humanists.
My dear friends, remember the warning you were given by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They told you that near the end of time, selfish and godless people would start making fun of God. And now these people are already making you turn against each other. They think only about this life, and they don’t have God’s Spirit. Jude 17–19.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 6
“Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” --- Proverbs 1:33.
Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath. When the Israelites provoked the Most High by their continued idolatry, he punished them by withholding both dew and rain, so that their land was visited by a sore famine; but while he did this, he took care that his own chosen ones should be secure. If all other brooks are dry, yet shall there be one reserved for Elijah; and when that fails, God shall still preserve for him a place of sustenance; nay, not only so, the Lord had not simply one “Elijah,” but he had a remnant according to the election of grace, who were hidden by fifties in a cave, and though the whole land was subject to famine, yet these fifties in the cave were fed, and fed from Ahab’s table too by His faithful, God-fearing steward, Obadiah. Let us from this draw the inference, that come what may, God’s people are safe. Let convulsions shake the solid earth, let the skies themselves be rent in twain, yet amid the wreck of worlds the believer shall be as secure as in the calmest hour of rest. If God cannot save his people under heaven, he will save them in heaven. If the world becomes too hot to hold them, then heaven shall be the place of their reception and their safety. Be ye then confident, when ye hear of wars, and rumours of wars. Let no agitation distress you, but be quiet from fear of evil. Whatsoever cometh upon the earth, you, beneath the broad wings of Jehovah, shall be secure. Stay yourself upon his promise; rest in his faithfulness, and bid defiance to the blackest future, for there is nothing in it direful for you. Your sole concern should be to show forth to the world the blessedness of hearkening to the voice of wisdom.
Evening - July 6
"How many are mine iniquities and sins?" --- Job 13:23.
Have you ever really weighed and considered how great the sin of God’s people is? Think how heinous is your own transgression, and you will find that not only does a sin here and there tower up like an alp, but that your iniquities are heaped upon each other, as in the old fable of the giants who piled Pelian upon Ossa, mountain upon mountain. What an aggregate of sin there is in the life of one of the most sanctified of God’s children! Attempt to multiply this, the sin of one only, by the multitude of the redeemed, “a number which no man can number,” and you will have some conception of the great mass of the guilt of the people for whom Jesus shed his blood. But we arrive at a more adequate idea of the magnitude of sin by the greatness of the remedy provided. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s only and well-beloved Son. God’s Son! Angels cast their crowns before him! All the choral symphonies of heaven surround his glorious throne.
“God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.” And yet he takes upon himself the form of a servant, and is scourged and pierced, bruised and torn, and at last slain; since nothing but the blood of the incarnate Son of God could make atonement for our offences. No human mind can adequately estimate the infinite value of the divine sacrifice, for great as is the sin of God’s people, the atonement which takes it away is immeasurably greater. Therefore, the believer, even when sin rolls like a black flood, and the remembrance of the past is bitter, can yet stand before the blazing throne of the great and holy God, and cry, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that hath risen again.” While the recollection of his sin fills him with shame and sorrow, he at the same time makes it a foil to show the brightness of mercy—guilt is the dark night in which the fair star of divine love shines with serene splendour.
Morning and Evening
LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS
Frances R. Havergal, 1836–1879
If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:18)
Our gift of salvation includes more than pardon from sin, deliverance from hell, and a guarantee to heaven. It includes everything we need to live victorious lives of “perfect peace and rest” here and now. An untroubled mind is one of life’s greatest goals. Many seek it by pursuing money, success, drugs, or alcohol, but all such roads end in failure and frustration. Contentment has been described as that inner satisfaction that enables us to live in quietness, peace, and acceptance. The secret of contentment does not depend on our material possessions; rather, it depends on our spiritual awareness and the appropriation of what we possess by being members of the heavenly family.
This hymn text by Frances Havergal, often called “England’s Consecration Poet,” reflects so well her personal lifestyle. Her brief life of 43 years was said to be completely dedicated to God and His service. The music was composed for this text by James Mountain, an English Baptist pastor, evangelist and musician. The hymn first appeared in its present form in the Hymns of Consecration and Faith, published in 1876. The song was titled “Perfect Peace.”
These choice words have made this a favorite hymn of many of God’s people through the years, especially when called upon to face difficult problems:
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace, over all victorious in its bright increase; perfect, yet it floweth fuller ev’ry day; perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand, never foe can follow, never traitor stand; not a surge of worry, not a shade of care, not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Ev’ry joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love; we may trust Him fully all for us to do—They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
Refrain: Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest—finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
For Today: Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; Philippians 4:11; Colossians 3:15; James 3:17.
Reflect on this statement—“A mind stayed on God produces a sound mind for daily living.” Carry this musical truth with you as a reminder ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXVII. — IN this part of the discussion, then, the Diatribe has found out a new way of eluding the most clear passages: that is, it will have that there is, in the most simple and clear passages, a trope. And as, before, when speaking in defence of “Free-will,” it eluded all the imperative and conditional sentences of the law by means of conclusions tacked, and similitudes added to them; so now, where it designs to speak against us, it twists all the words of the divine promise and declaration just which way it pleases, by means of a trope which it has invented; thus, being everywhere an incomprehensible Proteus! Nay, it demands with a haughty brow, that this permission should be granted it, saying, that we ourselves, when pressed closely, are accustomed to get off by means of invented tropes: as in these instances: — “On which thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand:” (Ex. viii. 5,) that is, grace shall extend thine hand on which it will. “Make you a new heart:” (Ezek. xviii. 31,) that is, grace shall make you a new heart: and the like. It seems, therefore, an indignity offered, that Luther should be allowed to give forth an interpretation so forced and twisted, and that it should not be far more allowable to follow the interpretations of the most approved doctors.
You see then, that here, the contention is not for the text itself, no, nor for conclusions and similitudes, but for tropes and interpretations. When then shall we ever have any plain and pure text, without tropes and conclusions, either for or against “Free-will?” Has the Scriptures no such texts anywhere? And shall the cause of “Freewill” remain for ever in doubt, like a reed shaken with the wind, as being that which can be supported by no certain text, but which stands upon conclusions and tropes only, introduced by men mutually disagreeing with each other?
But let our sentiment rather be this: — that neither conclusion nor trope is to be admitted into the Scriptures, unless the evident strife of the particulars, or the absurdity of any particular as militating against an article of faith, require it: but, that the simple, pure, and natural meaning of the words is to be adhered to, which is according to the rules of grammar, and to that common use of speech which God has given unto men. For if every one be allowed, according to his own lust, to invent conclusions and tropes in the Scriptures, what will the whole Scripture together be, but a reed shaken with the wind, or a kind of Vertumnus? Then, in truth, nothing could, to a certainty, be determined on or proved concerning any one article of faith, which you might not subject to cavillation by means of some trope. But every trope ought to be avoided as the most deadly poison, which is not absolutely required by the Scriptures itself.
See what happened to that trope-inventor, Origen, in expounding the Scriptures. What just occasion did he give the calumniator Porphery, to say, ‘those who favour Origen, can be no great friends to Hieronymus.’ What happened to the Arians by means of that trope, according to which, they made Christ God nominally? What happened in our own times to those new prophets concerning the words of Christ, “This is my body?” One invented a trope in the word “this,” another in the word “is,” another in the word “body.” I have therefore observed this: — that all heresies and errors in the Scriptures, have not arisen from the simplicity of the words, as is the general report throughout the world, but from men not attending to the simplicity of the words, and hatching tropes and conclusions out of their own brain.
For example. “On which soever thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand.” I, as far as I can remember, never put upon these words so violent an interpretation, as to say, ‘grace shall extend thine hand on which soever it will:’ “Make yourselves a new heart,” ‘that is, grace shall make you a new heart, and the like;’ although the Diatribe traduces me thus in a public work, from being so carried away with, and illuded by its own tropes and conclusions, that it knows not what it says about any thing. But I said this: — that by the words, ‘stretch forth thine hand,’ simply taken as they are, without tropes or conclusions, nothing else is signified than what is required of us in the stretching forth of our hand, and what we ought to do; according to the nature of an imperative expression, with grammarians, and in the common use of speech.
But the Diatribe, not attending to this simplicity of the word, but with violence adducing conclusions and tropes, interprets the words thus: — “Stretch forth thine hand;” that is, thou art able by thine own power to stretch forth thine hand. “Make you a new heart,” that is, ye are able to make a new heart. ‘Believe in Christ,’ that is, ye are able to believe in Christ. So that, with it, what is spoken imperatively, and what is spoken indicatively, is the same thing; or else, it is prepared to aver, that the Scripture is ridiculous and to no purpose. And these interpretations, which no grammarian will bear, must not be called, in Theologians, violent or invented, but the productions of the most approved doctors received by so many ages.
But it is easy for the Diatribe to admit and follow tropes in this part of the discussion, seeing that, it cares not at all whether what is said be certain or uncertain. Nay, it aims at making all things uncertain; for its design is, that the doctrines concerning “Free-will” should be left alone, rather than searched into. Therefore, it is enough for it, to be enabled in any way to avoid those passages by which it finds itself closely pressed.
But as for me, who am maintaining a serious cause, and who am inquiring what is, to the greatest certainty, the truth, for the establishing of consciences, I must act very differently. For me, I say, it is not enough that you say there may be a trope here: but I must inquire, whether there ought to be, or can be a trope there. For if you cannot prove that there must, of necessity, be a trope in that passage, you will effect nothing at all. There stands there this word of God — “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh.” (Ex. iv. 21, Rom. ix. 17-18.) If you say that it can be understood or ought to be understood thus: — I will permit it to be hardened: I hear you say, indeed, that it may be so understood. And I hear this trope used by every one, ‘I destroyed you, because I did not correct you immediately when you began to do wrong.’ But here, there is no place for that interpretation. We are not here inquiring, whether that trope be in use; we are not inquiring whether any one can use it in that passage of Paul: but this is the point of inquiry — whether or not it be sure and safe to use this passage plainly as it stands, and whether Paul would have it so used. We are not inquiring into the use of an indifferent reader of this passage, but into the use of the author Paul himself.
What will you do with a conscience inquiring thus? — Behold God, as the Author, saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh:” the meaning of the word “harden” is plain and well known. But a man, who reads this passage, tells me, that in this place, ‘to harden,’ signifies ‘to give an occasion of becoming hardened,’ because, the sinner is not immediately corrected. But by what authority does he this? With what design, by what necessity, is the natural signification of this passage thus twisted? And suppose the reader and interpreter should be in error, how shall it be proved that such a turn ought to be given to this passage? It is dangerous, nay, impious, thus to twist the Word of God, without necessity and without authority. Would you then comfort a poor soul thus labouring, in this way? — Origen thought so and so. Cease to search into such things, because they are curious and superfluous. But he would answer you, this admonition should have been given to Moses or Paul before they wrote, and so also to God Himself, for it is they who vex us with these curious and superfluous Scriptures.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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