Create in Me a Clean Heart, O GodPsalm 51 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, When Nathan The Prophet Went To Him, After He Had Gone In To Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The Steadfast Love of God EnduresPsalm 52 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of David, When Doeg, The Edomite, Came And Told Saul, “David Has Come To The House Of Ahimelech.”
1 Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2 Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3 You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4 You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
5 But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
6 The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
7 “See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
8 But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
9 I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
There Is None Who Does GoodPsalm 53 To The Choirmaster. According To Mahalath. A Maskil Of David.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
The Lord Upholds My LifePsalm 54 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Maskil Of David, When The Ziphites Went And Told Saul, “Is Not David Hiding Among Us?”
1 O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah
4 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.
6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Cast Your Burden on the LORDPsalm 55 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Maskil Of David.
1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
8 I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”
9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
16 But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
19 God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
In God I TrustPsalm 56 To The Choirmaster: According To The Dove On Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam Of David, When The Philistines Seized Him In Gath.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Let Your Glory Be over All the EarthPsalm 57 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When He Fled From Saul, In The Cave.
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
4 My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
What I'm Reading
Evangelizing the World
By Lane Keister 6/1/2009
All people are supposed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead. Not only are all people supposed to hear that salvation has been accomplished in history, they are to hear that any who repent of their sin and turn in faith to Jesus will actually possess the benefits of that accomplished salvation as well. In other words, those who offer the gospel are to sow the seed personally and indiscriminately, and are not to be discouraged when many people reject the message. While it would be hasty to say that three quarters of those who hear the message will reject it, it is certainly fair to say that of the various kinds of heart-soil that hear the gospel, three quarters will reject the message. Sowers of the good seed should rejoice in the positive results that do occur (and that God has promised!), rather than sulk about all the bad results or lack of results. The fact is that the outcome of the sowing is not dependent on us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” It is our business to be planting, not digging up the seeds to see if they have sprouted yet.
The biblical thinking outlined above runs counter to all the various kinds of evangelism that put pressure on the one sowing to make the growth happen. Thoughts such as these — “if only I had been a little more eloquent”; “if only I had kept going a little longer”; “if only I had used a different illustration” — are stultifying to the evangelist. Why put pressure on oneself to provide the growth he is incapable of providing? What motive remains for the evangelist if he pressures himself thusly, but has no visible results? If, however, the evangelist depends on God’s grace for the growth and merely concerns himself with presenting clearly the Word of God (which also happens by the grace of God), the proper relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in evangelism will be maintained.
Anyone who thinks this way can be an evangelist. One of the main problems that churches are facing today in the area of evangelism is the idea that the pastor is the only person qualified to evangelize. They might think that the pastor must be the only one to do evangelism because the pastor is paid to do it. Or they might think that only seminary-trained individuals can evangelize. Ultimately, that kind of thinking stems from the idea that the growth depends on us. The real problem is not a lack of education. The real problem is that we seldom love people as we ought. We don’t love people enough to tell them they are going to hell without Jesus Christ. We fear the consequences (men) more than we fear the Consequence (God). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, help us to repent of our unloving hearts!
The application to sowers of the seed is only half the picture. The other half has to do with the hearers of the seed. Most applications of this parable focus on evangelism, and rightly so. What kind of soil do you have? How are you listening to the Word of God? Are you hard-hearted, such that the Word of God bounces and skitters along the surface, never penetrating? The Word is then gone before you even know it is there. Are you shallow, driven with every mad craze of the age, such that the Word of God is just one more fad that will be replaced with yet another, much in the same way as Toad in The Wind in the Willows? Oh, you might receive it well initially, but the next thing to come along withers it. Or, is your heart distracted? The Word might have some penetration in your heart, but you want so many other things alongside the Word. Eventually, those other things crowd out the Word.
The most wonderful thing about God’s grace is that God is the gardener who can change your heart-soil. He can take out the hard heart, the shallow heart, the choked heart, and give you a first-rate topsoil heart, infused with the fertilizing energy of the Holy Spirit, the watering efficacy of the blood of Christ, the sun of the Father’s powerfully enlightening Word, all of which together plow the tough soil, remove the underlying rock layers, and weed out the distractions.
One last thing bears mentioning. Christians can respond to the Word in one of the three bad ways just as much as the unbeliever does. There are areas of our lives that are hard, shallow, or choked. By God’s grace, using the means He has provided for us, we must tend our gardens, using the plow of the Law to prick our hardened consciences, levering out the rocky soil by means of serving one another, and weeding out those worldly idols that so easily entangle us. God’s grace accomplishes this just as much as in the conversion of the unbeliever. However, that does not mean that we sit back and do nothing. As Paul said in Philippians 2:12–13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Rev. Lane Keister is pastor of both Hull Christian Reformed Church and Hope Reformed Church in Hague, North Dakota, and is author of the weblog Green Baggins.
Farmers and the Rest of Us
By Gene Edward Veith 6/1/2009
Might there be a time when readers of the Bible will not understand — without a host of reference books — what a sower is? For most of the world’s history, the majority of people made their living from the land. Today the number of family farms is dwindling. Farms have turned into factories. Tractors pulling seeders and tilling machines have replaced the figure of the sower who throws out seed from a bag. But whatever their agricultural techniques, we cannot do without farmers. Perhaps more clearly than any other profession, farmers exemplify the Reformation doctrine of vocation.
Every time we thank God for the food we are about to eat, we are confessing the doctrine of vocation. God gives us each day our daily bread. He does so through the vocation of the farmer who grew the grain as well as all of the other vocations who turned the grain into flour, then into bread, and eventually bring it to our table.
According to Luther, vocation is all about how God providentially works through human beings: bringing children into existence through the vocations of fathers and mothers; protecting us through the vocations of government, including judges, magistrates, and soldiers; proclaiming Christ through the vocations of pastors and others in the church who, like the sower, disseminate His Word. God grants healing through the work of physicians and nurses; He creates beauty through artists; He gives the blessings of technology through scientists and engineers.
Though God sometimes works without means, He generally chooses to give His gifts through the agency of ordinary people. He often does so through non-believers who, however, do not discern God’s presence and so work out of sinful motives rather than as the fruit of faith. Christians, however, see their lives — with all of their different roles and tasks — in terms of God’s personal callings.
While their relationship to God is based solely on His grace and on their justification through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they know that God has called them into the world to live out their faith in love and service to their neighbors. Such service takes place in vocation, specifically in the multiple vocations that the Christian is called to in the family (marriage, parenthood, and childhood), the workplace (master and servant), the church (pastors, elders, and members), and the state (rulers and citizens).
A farmer sows the seed but is dependent on God working through the natural order for the plant to grow, to produce the grain, and to bring the harvest. The same holds true for other vocations — parents raising their children, pastors preaching the gospel — that we perform the duties of our calling, trusting God for the increase.
According to classical philosophers and theologians, human beings must make their living through some combination of art and nature. “Art” refers to human creativity, craft, knowledge, and skill, all of which are God given. “Nature” refers to objective, God-created reality. Again, farmers provide the model. Nature makes the crops grow, but there can be no crops unless someone applies to nature “the art of farming.” Some professions — such as that of the governor, the lawyer, the teacher — consist mainly of art but still must work with the nature of the state or of human nature.
In Dante’s Inferno, the Seventh Circle is inhabited by those who sinned against art and against nature. This meant, specifically, usurers and sodomites. Today, the similarity between those two staples of modern culture — lending money at interest and homosexuality — may not be evident, much less why they should be punished together on a barren plain with fire raining down. Dante saw homosexuality as a sin against nature, since it violates the natural purpose of sexuality, which is to engender children. He saw usury as a sin against art, since it makes money from money, rather than from applying art to nature. As Charles Williams explains it, homosexuality makes barren what God intends to be fertile, while usury makes fertile what God intends to be barren.
Actually, though, in our modern economy, lending money can be a fertile means of shaping nature. Lending and borrowing leads to the building of houses, the establishment of new businesses, and even the financing of farms. The parable of the sower could even apply to some investments falling on rocky ground, businesses springing up quickly but then dying because they had no root, and others falling on good soil, yielding a hundred fold.
Dante would probably point out that some of our financial dealings — hedge funds, derivatives, short selling — are not so productive, using money to make nothing more than more money. He would probably observe that the recent woes of our banking and financial system stem largely from Seventh Circle economic practices in which money was allowed to grow on its own, apart from the value of tangible goods. He might apply another parable, showing what happens to a house built without a solid foundation.
Still, today farmers cannot farm without bankers, not to mention the people who work in tractor factories, oil refineries, scientific labs, and grocery stores. All vocations are necessary and interdependent.
We are not all called to be farmers. But whatever our vocations, we can all be sowers who go out to sow.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
Plowing in Hope
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/1/2009
The kingdom of God is at war. The promise from the beginning was that the seed of the woman, our King, would come and crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Jesus’ first step out of the tomb at Gethsemane crushed that ancient and wily serpent’s head, and from that time forward we, the bride of Christ, created to be a help suitable for our Husband in His dominion calling, have been engaged in what theologians call a “mopping up” operation. The enemy has been defeated, but he doesn’t yet have the sense to give up.
That our Lord has secured the victory ought to encourage and empower us. That the serpent hasn’t yet given up ought in turn to put us on our guard. That the battles yet rage, despite the glorious truth that the war has been won, ought to inspire us to discern the times. If we were wise, we would seek not only to predict how and where the serpent might attack, but we would also think strategically about where we might attack. Consider, for instance, those culture warriors who aspire to do the work of “pre-evangelism.”
Evangelism, of course, is the proclaiming of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is sowing seed, casting forth the Word of God about the victory of the Son of God. Pre-evangelism is an attempt to make ears more ready to hear, eyes more ready to see. To borrow from the parable of the sower, pre-evangelism is an attempt to till the ground, to make rocky soil more fertile, that the seed might take root and flourish. Often pre-evangelism takes the form of “worldview” studies. Here we spend less time and energy declaring the truth about Jesus, and more time and energy defending the truthfulness of truth. In a modern age we proclaim that Jesus is the truth, against the truth claims of other religions or naturalism. In a postmodern age we cannot argue for the truthfulness of the Christian faith until we first establish that truth is even real, that it can be known, and that it transcends that which is merely “true for me” or “true for you.”
Sometimes “pre-evangelism” takes the form of artistic expressions in sundry forms. Here we may, instead of affirming the glory of Jesus, seek to depict the gloom and vanity of a life lived under the sun. We may tell stories of redemption that, while not exactly telling the story of Jesus, are signposts toward His story. We may simply affirm the dignity of man, as we bear the image of God. Here again we are tilling the ground, preparing it for when the seed is cast, prayerfully hoping our labors might be used to bring in the elect from the four corners of the globe and that His reign might be made manifest.
These sundry forms of “pre-evangelism” have advantages and disadvantages. They certainly can be effective for some. They can, however, sometimes create exactly the wrong kind of soil. That is, when we simply assault the foolishness of the world and leave out the heart of the matter, we might be making more “converts” who will wilt under the pressure of the sun. Worse still, sometimes we may miss out on the real issue. In other words, we may be so focused on the “pre” that we miss the “evangelism.” It is far easier to talk around the gospel than it is to say to our family, our friends, and the broader world: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
What we often find, however, is that when our strategies work, even just a little, it’s usually because we have stumbled onto something God has already commanded. There is a form of “pre-evangelism” that God calls us all to do that will work and has worked far more effectively than our worldview wonkery or our high-concept cultural artifacts. It is, in the end, the kingdom itself that brings in the lost. That is to say, we live faithful lives in covenant community, for we, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2), are a light shining upon a hill. This light does indeed condemn the darkness (a victory we ought to celebrate, even as we likewise rejoice when the elect are brought in), but it is also a beacon.
If we were smart, we would know that the lost are rarely brought in by how smart we are. Instead, it is our love one for another that invites them in. This is what Jesus told the disciples (John 13:35) — that it is in and through our love for each other that all men will know that we are His disciples. Our witness, then, in the end, isn’t about our clever arguments. Our witness shines through by our love for each other. This is both pre-evangelism and evangelism, for it softens the heart, even as it intrigues the mind as pre-evangelism. It is also the evidence of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ; it is the reality of the coming of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Once again, in the upside down economy of our Lord, the more we love one another within the kingdom, the more we bring in those who were outside the kingdom. We seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things are added to us.
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
A Teachable Spirit
By Justin Taylor 6/1/2009
Only one book is absolutely essential to save us, to equip us to obey God’s will, and to glorify Him in whatever we do. Only one book gives us undiluted truth — the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Only one book serves as our ultimate and final authority in all that it affirms. That book, of course, is the Bible, God’s Holy Word. No wonder John Wesley once exclaimed, “Let me be homo unius libri” — a man of one book! 33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
And yet the irony is that if we use only this book, we may in fact be in disobedience to it. We should count good teaching about the Bible — whether through commentaries, books, sermons, study Bibles, and so on — to be a gift from God for the good of His church (see Eph. 4:11; James 1:17). So what may look pious on the outside (“Just me and my Bible!”) can actually mask pride on the inside.
(Eph 4:11) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, ESV
(Jas 1:17) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ESV
Acts 8 describes a story that might help us think through this. An Ethiopian eunuch — a God-fearing Gentile who served as treasurer to the Ethiopian queen — had made a five-month journey by chariot to Jerusalem in order to worship God. During his return trip he was puzzling out loud over the Isaiah scroll that he held in his hands. And the Holy Spirit appointed Philip to help him understand the meaning of the Bible.
Philip first asked this man if he understood the passage that he was reading (Isaiah 53). The Ethiopian responded, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (v. 31). After inviting Philip to sit in his chariot, he asked him about whom this passage spoke. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (v. 35). Soon after, the eunuch insisted they stop the chariot in order to be baptized by Philip in obedience to his new savior and king, Jesus Christ.
To be sure, this is a historical narrative recounting an event. The purpose is not necessarily to guide believers today in how to read their Bibles or how to think about the teaching of God’s Word. But the elements within it nonetheless correspond to some wise principles we can adopt as our own. So let’s work through the passage again, letting the various points serve as triggers for our own reflection on understanding the Word of God and those who teach it.
First, the Ethiopian wrestles with and labors to understand the meaning of God’s Word. He doesn’t wait for help; he first tries on his own to figure out what the text is saying. He is not content merely to skim the Scriptures, putting a check mark next to his reading in the scroll for that day. And so it is with us — we must spend time in the Bible, working hard and trusting God for insight into its meaning. Paul expressed this as a command followed by a promise: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7).
Second, the eunuch humbly acknowledges his own insufficiency and lack of understanding. He desires to understand what the Word says, he admits that he needs help, and then he asks for it. We should approach God first remembering that He wants to be asked and that He promises to assist us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). And what should we pray? Psalms 119 provides many examples of how to pray for understanding and application. For example, verses 33–36:
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain! ESV
Fourth, he listens carefully to the Christ-centered, gospel-focused teaching before him. Jesus warned that we must take care how we listen (Luke 8:18), and the Ethiopian eunuch does just that. For many of us, our inclination is to talk first and listen second, but Christ-followers must be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak” (James 1:19).
Finally, he puts into practice what he has just learned from the Word and from his commentator. Philip had told him “the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35), which probably included the teaching that members of God’s covenant community will publicly identify with Christ in the act of baptism. So the Ethiopian official models for us James’ command to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
So let us be the sort of people who prayerfully and carefully immerse ourselves day and night in God’s Word (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2). Let us also be the sort of Berean-like people who receive good teaching about God’s Word “with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.
By Keith Mathison 6/1/2009
In 2004, Alister McGrath published a book entitled The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World in the Modern World. Although the book did not suggest that atheism was dead, its publication may have been a bit premature. For in 2006, atheism scored a propaganda coup with the media attention given to three best-selling books promoting a new and aggressive form of atheism: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett, and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Not to be outdone, Christopher Hitchens published the best-selling God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything in 2007. Dubbed the “New Atheists” for their belligerent tone and militant intolerance, these authors have declared war on theism in general and Christianity in particular, and they have emboldened a new generation of skeptics.
Although Christians may have been taken off guard by the seemingly sudden popularity of these books, they have not been slow to respond. In the last two years, Christians and others have published a number of responses to the so-called new atheism. There have been responses by evangelicals (Alister McGrath, David Robertson, Ravi Zacharias, David Marshall, John Lennox, David Aikman, and Douglas Wilson), Roman Catholics (Scott Hahn, Thomas Crean, and Thomas Williams), liberals (Tina Beattie, and John Haught), an agnostic Jew (David Berlinski) and even an unrepentant Marxist (Terry Eagleton). Among the most recent responses is Albert Mohler’s Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists).
Based upon lectures delivered at Dallas Seminary in 2008, Atheism Remix is an instructive and readable guide to the major personalities and issues associated with the new atheism. In his first chapter, Mohler traces the rise of atheism from the Enlightenment to the present, noting in particular the contributions of Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, and Freud to the worldview that paved the way for the new atheism. Mohler argues that the new atheism is the “endgame of secularism.” Because its proponents see religion in merely functional terms, secularization theory assumed that as humans advanced there would be less need for belief in God. Although this view seems to be validated in certain regions (for example, western Europe) and in certain circles (among the cultural elite), it is contradicted by other phenomenon (for example, strong religious beliefs in the U.S. and the resurgence of religious belief in other parts of the world).
In chapter two, Mohler introduces the reader to the four most well-known proponents of the new atheism: Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. After looking briefly at the backgrounds of each of these men, Mohler distills from their works eight characteristics that distinguish the new atheism from the old atheism: 1) An unprecedented boldness; 2) A clear and specific rejection of the Christian God of the Bible; 3) An explicit rejection of Jesus Christ; 4) A specific grounding in scientific argument; 5) A refusal to tolerate moderate and liberal forms of belief; 6) An attack on toleration; 7) A questioning of the rights of parents to inculcate belief in their children; and 8) The claim that religion itself must be eliminated in order to preserve human freedom.
The bulk of chapter three is an examination of two Christian responses to the new atheism. First, Mohler looks at McGrath’s response in his book The Dawkins Delusion. He then examines a briefer critique of Dawkins written by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. He concludes that Christians need to do more than offer a negative critique of atheism. They also need to positively present and defend Christian theism. In particular, the Christian doctrine of revelation must be defended.
In his final chapter, Mohler looks at the challenges that lie ahead for Christians. He argues that believers cannot respond to the new atheism by accommodating their beliefs to these new views. Accommodating Christian belief to non-Christian assumptions does not impress the new atheists in any case. To show the problems with such accommodationist approaches, Mohler carefully critiques two recent liberal responses to the new atheism.
Mohler concludes by noting that the new atheism presents the church with an opportunity for clarification. The new atheism presents the church with a new version of an age-old challenge. Christians should not be intimidated by these challenges. We should not cower in the face of those who set themselves against God. We must respond with courage and conviction, proclaiming the gospel to all, knowing that we too were once enemies of God.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Don’t Be Fooled: The Left Doesn’t Care About Morals; It Cares About Power
By D.C. McAllister 12/1/2017
Is America undergoing a great awakening in light of the deluge of sex scandals that are now coming to light? Are we seeing a revival of that old-time religion of chastity, purity, and self-control? One would think so as liberals, who once laughed at sexual improprieties, clapped as sinners danced in the streets, and pointed fingers at accusers on national television, are now offering mea culpas and purging all ranks with the fervor of medieval inquisitors.
It certainly looks like a change for good. But don’t be fooled. This couldn’t be further from the
Whether it's stripping Matt Lauer of his former glory or firing up the torches in the Roy Moore election, the goal of the Left is not purity, but power. This fact does not negate the reality of transgressions or the possibilities of criminality in individual cases, but anyone who values both goodness and freedom in this country needs to be wise as serpents. We’re not seeing a revival of virtue in America. We’re seeing a resistance to it.
For true national repentance, there needs to be recognition of objective standards that allow for any of these judgments to be made in the first place. There’s not. We’re not seeing careful consideration of how we got to this point — the abandonment of God as the source of all moral authority or, at the very least, a common recognition of natural law and traditional social norms.
Instead, we are seeing navel-gazing about how to rethink sex, what to do about the brutality of masculinity, and how to delegitimize conservatives who have been accused of abandoning character for political expediency.
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Denise C. McAllister is a cultural and political commentator based in Charlotte, NC. She is a senior contributor at The Federalist and her work can be found at several outlets, including PJ Media where she’s a contributor, Real Clear Politics, Hot Air, and Ricochet. She has been a guest on Fox News, CNN, Newsmax TV, Sean Hannity Radio, NPR, BBC Radio, and many other radio programs across the nation. Her book, “A Burning and Shining Light,” is a dramatic narrative about the life and ministry of David Brainerd. She is also a pro-life speaker, advocating for the rights of unborn children. In addition to being a writer, she is a musician and visual artist.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 68God Shall Scatter His Enemies
68 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
11 The Lord gives the word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
12 “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil—
13 though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold.
14 When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF THE SACRAMENTS.
This chapter consists of two principal parts,--I. Of sacraments in general. The sum of the doctrine stated, sec. 1-6. Two classes of opponents to be guarded against--viz. those who undervalue the power of the sacraments, sec. 7-13; and those who attribute too much to the sacraments, sec. 14-17. II. Of the sacraments in particular, both of the Old and the New Testament. Their scope and meaning. Refutation of those who have either too high or too low ideas of the sacraments.
1. Of the sacraments in general. A sacrament defined.
2. Meaning of the word sacrament.
3. Definition explained. Why God seals his promises to us by sacraments.
4. The word which ought to accompany the element, that the sacrament may be complete.
5. Error of those who attempt to separate the word, or promise of God, from the element.
6. Why sacraments are called Signs of the Covenant.
7. They are such signs, though the wicked should receive them, but are signs of grace only to believers.
8. Objections to this view answered.
9. No secret virtue in the sacraments. Their whole efficacy depends on the inward operation of the Spirit.
10. Objections answered. Illustrated by a simile.
11. Of the increase of faith by the preaching of the word.
12. In what way, and how far, the sacraments are confirmations of our faith.
13. Some regard the sacraments as mere signs. This view refuted.
14. Some again attribute too much to the sacraments. Refutation.
15. Refutation confirmed by a passage from Augustine.
16. Previous views more fully explained.
17. The matter of the sacrament always present when the sacrament is duly administered.
18. Extensive meaning of the term sacrament.
19. The ordinary sacraments in the Church. How necessary they are.
20. The sacraments of the Old and of the New Testament. The end of both the same --viz. to lead us to Christ.
21. This apparent in the sacraments of the Old Testament.
22. Apparent also in the sacraments of the New Testament.
23. Impious doctrine of the Schoolmen as to the difference between the Old and the New Testaments.
24. Scholastic objection answered.
25. Another objection answered.
26. Sacraments of the New Testament sometimes excessively extolled by early Theologians. Their meaning explained.
1. Akin to the preaching of the gospel, we have another help to our faith in the sacraments, in regard to which, it greatly concerns us that some sure doctrine should be delivered, informing us both of the end for which they were instituted, and of their present use. First, we must attend to what a sacrament is. It seems to me, then, a simple and appropriate definition to say, that it is an external sign, by which the Lord seals on our consciences his promises of good-will toward us, in order to sustain the weakness of our faith, and we in our turn testify our piety towards him, both before himself, and before angels as well as men. We may also define more briefly by calling it a testimony of the divine favour toward us, confirmed by an external sign, with a corresponding attestation of our faith towards Him. You may make your choice of these definitions, which in meaning differ not from that of Augustine, which defines a sacrament to be a visible sign of a sacred thing, or a visible form of an invisible grace, but does not contain a better or surer explanation. As its brevity makes it somewhat obscure, and thereby misleads the more illiterate, I wished to remove all doubt, and make the definition fuller by stating it at greater length.
2. The reason why the ancients used the term in this sense is not obscure. The old interpreter, whenever he wished to render the Greek term muste'rion into Latin, especially when it was used with reference to divine things, used the word sacramentum. Thus, in Ephesians, "Having made known unto us the mystery (sacramentum) of his will;" and again, "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-wards, how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery" (sacramentum) (Eph. 1:9; 3:2). In the Colossians, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery" (sacramentum) (Col. 1:26). Also in the First Epistle to Timothy, "Without controversy, great is the mystery (sacramentum) of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). He was unwilling to use the word arcanum (secret), lest the word should seem beneath the magnitude of the thing meant. When the thing, therefore, was sacred and secret, he used the term sacramentum. In this sense it frequently occurs in ecclesiastical writers. And it is well known, that what the Latins call sacramenta, the Greeks call muste'ria (mysteries). The sameness of meaning removes all dispute. Hence it is that the term was applied to those signs which gave an august representation of things spiritual and sublime. This is also observed by Augustine, "It were tedious to discourse of the variety of signs; those which relate to divine things are called sacraments" (August. Ep. 5. ad Marcell.).
3. From the definition which we have given, we perceive that there never is a sacrament without an antecedent promise, the sacrament being added as a kind of appendix, with the view of confirming and sealing the promise, and giving a better attestation, or rather, in a manner, confirming it. In this way God provides first for our ignorance and sluggishness, and, secondly, for our infirmity; and yet, properly speaking, it does not so much confirm his word as establish us in the faith of it.  For the truth of God is in itself sufficiently stable and certain, and cannot receive a better confirmation from any other quarter than from itself. But as our faith is slender and weak, so if it be not propped up on every side, and supported by all kinds of means, it is forthwith shaken and tossed to and fro, wavers, and even falls. And here, indeed, our merciful Lord, with boundless condescension, so accommodates himself to our capacity, that seeing how from our animal nature we are always creeping on the ground, and cleaving to the flesh, having no thought of what is spiritual, and not even forming an idea of it, he declines not by means of these earthly elements to lead us to himself, and even in the flesh to exhibit a mirror of spiritual blessings. For, as Chrysostom says (Hom. 60, ad Popul.). "Were we incorporeal, he would give us these things in a naked and incorporeal form. Now because our souls are implanted in bodies, he delivers spiritual things under things visible. Not that the qualities which are set before us in the sacraments are inherent in the nature of the things, but God gives them this signification."
4. This is commonly expressed by saying that a sacrament consists of the word and the external sign. By the word we ought to understand not one which, muttered without meaning and without faith, by its sound merely, as by a magical incantation, has the effect of consecrating the element, but one which, preached, makes us understand what the visible sign means. The thing, therefore, which was frequently done, under the tyranny of the Pope, was not free from great profanation of the mystery, for they deemed it sufficient if the priest muttered the formula of consecration, while the people, without understanding, looked stupidly on. Nay, this was done for the express purpose of preventing any instruction from thereby reaching the people: for all was said in Latin to illiterate hearers. Superstition afterwards was carried to such a height, that the consecration was thought not to be duly performed except in a low grumble, which few could hear. Very different is the doctrine of Augustine concerning the sacramental word. "Let the word be added to the element, and it will become a sacrament. For whence can there be so much virtue in water as to touch the body and cleanse the heart, unless by the agency of the word, and this not because it is said, but because it is believed? For even in the word the transient sound is one thing, the permanent power another. This is the word of faith which we preach says the Apostle" (Rom. 10:8). Hence, in the Acts of the Apostles, we have the expression, "Purify their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). And the Apostle Peter says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience)" (1 Pet. 3:21). "This is the word of faith which we preach: by which word doubtless baptism also, in order that it may be able to cleanse, is consecrated" (August. Hom. in Joann. 13). You see how he requires preaching to the production of faith. And we need not labour to prove this, since there is not the least room for doubt as to what Christ did, and commanded us to do, as to what the apostles followed, and a purer Church observed. Nay, it is known that, from the very beginning of the world, whenever God offered any sign to the holy Patriarchs, it was inseparably attached to doctrine, without which our senses would gaze bewildered on an unmeaning object. Therefore, when we hear mention made of the sacramental word, let us understand the promise which, proclaimed aloud by the minister, leads the people by the hand to that to which the sign tends and directs us.
5. Nor are those to be listened to who oppose this view with a more subtle than solid dilemma. They argue thus: We either know that the word of God which precedes the sacrament is the true will of God, or we do not know it. If we know it, we learn nothing new from the sacrament which succeeds. If we do not know it, we cannot learn it from the sacrament, whose whole efficacy depends on the word. Our brief reply is: The seals which are affixed to diplomas, and other public deeds, are nothing considered in themselves, and would be affixed to no purpose if nothing was written on the parchment, and yet this does not prevent them from sealing and confirming when they are appended to writings. It cannot be alleged that this comparison is a recent fiction of our own, since Paul himself used it, terming circumcision a seal (Rom. 4:11), where he expressly maintains that the circumcision of Abraham was not for justification, but was an attestation to the covenant, by the faith of which he had been previously justified. And how, pray, can any one be greatly offended when we teach that the promise is sealed by the sacrament, since it is plain, from the promises themselves, that one promise confirms another? The clearer any evidence is, the fitter is it to support our faith. But sacraments bring with them the clearest promises, and, when compared with the word, have this peculiarity, that they represent promises to the life, as if painted in a picture. Nor ought we to be moved by an objection founded on the distinction between sacraments and the seals of documents--viz. that since both consist of the carnal elements of this world, the former cannot be sufficient or adequate to seal the promises of God, which are spiritual and eternal, though the latter may be employed to seal the edicts of princes concerning fleeting and fading things. But the believer, when the sacraments are presented to his eye, does not stop short at the carnal spectacle, but by the steps of analogy which I have indicated, rises with pious consideration to the sublime mysteries which lie hidden in the sacraments.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2009
Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace.
It was not a question of man’s need for grace. It was a question as to the extent of that need. The church had already condemned Pelagius, who had taught that grace facilitates salvation but is not absolutely necessary for it. Semi-Pelagianism since that time has always taught that without grace there is no salvation. But the grace that is considered in all semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories of salvation is not an efficacious grace. It is a grace that makes salvation possible, but not a grace that makes salvation certain.
In the parable of the sower we see that regarding salvation, God is the one who takes the initiative to bring salvation to pass. He is the sower. The seed that is sown is His seed, corresponding to His Word, and the harvest that results is His harvest. He harvests what He purposed to harvest when He initiated the whole process. God doesn’t leave the harvest up to the vagaries of thorns and stones in the pathway. It is God and God alone who makes certain that a portion of His Word falls upon good ground. A critical error in interpreting this parable would be to assume that the good ground is the good disposition of fallen sinners, those sinners who make the right choice, responding positively to God’s prevenient grace. The classical Reformed understanding of the good ground is that if the ground is receptive to the seed that is sown by God, it is God alone who prepares the ground for the germination of the seed.
The biggest question any semi-Pelagian or Arminian has to face at the practical level is this: Why did I choose to believe the gospel and commit my life to Christ when my neighbor, who heard the same gospel, chose to reject it? That question has been answered in many ways. We might speculate that the reason why one person chooses to respond positively to the gospel and to Christ, while another one doesn’t, is because the person who responded positively was more intelligent than the other one. If that were the case, then God would still be the ultimate provider of salvation because the intelligence is His gift, and it could be explained that God did not give the same intelligence to the neighbor who rejected the gospel. But that explanation is obviously absurd.
The other possibility that one must consider is this: that the reason one person responds positively to the gospel and his neighbor does not is because the one who responded was a better person. That is, that person who made the right choice and the good choice did it because he was more righteous than his neighbor. In this case, the flesh not only availed something, it availed everything. This is the view that is held by the majority of evangelical Christians, namely, the reason why they are saved and others are not is that they made the right response to God’s grace while the others made the wrong response.
We can talk here about not only the correct response as opposed to an erroneous response, but we can speak in terms of a good response rather than a bad response. If I am in the kingdom of God because I made the good response rather than the bad response, I have something of which to boast, namely the goodness by which I responded to the grace of God. I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion. If indeed in the final analysis the reason I’m a Christian and someone else is not is that I made the proper response to God’s offer of salvation while somebody else rejected it, then by resistless logic I have indeed made the good response, and my neighbor has made the bad response.
What Reformed theology teaches is that it is true the believer makes the right response and the non-believer makes the wrong response. But the reason the believer makes the good response is because God in His sovereign election changes the disposition of the heart of the elect to effect a good response. I can take no credit for the response that I made for Christ. God not only initiated my salvation, He not only sowed the seed, but He made sure that that seed germinated in my heart by regenerating me by the power of the Holy Ghost. That regeneration is a necessary condition for the seed to take root and to flourish. That’s why at the heart of Reformed theology the axiom resounds, namely, that regeneration precedes faith. It’s that formula, that order of salvation that all semi-Pelagians reject. They hold to the idea that in their fallen condition of spiritual death, they exercise faith, and then are born again. In their view, they respond to the gospel before the Spirit has changed the disposition of their soul to bring them to faith. When that happens, the glory of God is shared. No semi-Pelagian can ever say with authenticity: “To God alone be the glory.” For the semi-Pelagian, God may be gracious, but in addition to God’s grace, my work of response is absolutely essential. Here grace is not effectual, and such grace, in the final analysis, is not really saving grace. In fact, salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end. Yes, I must believe. Yes, I must respond. Yes, I must receive Christ. But for me to say “yes” to any of those things, my heart must first be changed by the sovereign, effectual power of God the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo gloria.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Inconsistent Christian Living - Psalm 51
By Sinclair Ferguson
Psalm 51:18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
David’s anguished cry of penitence in Psalm 51 illustrates this. As a consequence of his disobedience he confesses, “My sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:3 His consciousness of forgiveness is clouded. He does not “hear joy and gladness.” Psalm 51:8 He fears the complete loss of the Spirit’s witness in his life. He loses all sense of the joy of salvation. Psalm 51:3, 8, 11, 12 He has become like the double-minded man of whom James writes, full of doubt and unstable in all his ways. James 1:8 Where consecration is in question, secret doubt must ultimately flourish and assurance wane. Such inconsistencies of life grieve the Holy Spirit and cause a loss of the sense that he dwells in us as the seal, the security of our redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The remedy? What is required here is an emetic labeled “Repentance.”
The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sinclair Ferguson Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2012 | Evangelism for God’s Glory
To borrow a theme from John Piper’s classic book Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, evangelism isn’t the ultimate goal of the church: worship is. Evangelism exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not evangelism. Evangelism isn’t the end but a means to the end, which is God’s glorious rescue of His people to know Him truly, worship Him purely, enjoy Him fully, and glorify Him eternally. We evangelize in order that God might gather for Himself worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation for His glory. Evangelism is a temporary necessity, but worship abides forever.
Although we certainly need to be discipled in our knowledge of the gospel and equipped to proclaim the gospel, we must not forget that gospel proclamation isn’t first and foremost a program, it’s a way of life. It’s not something we only do on a particular day of the week when our schedules allow it; it’s something we do every day of our lives. Like children who cannot help but express their tender love for their mother and father, or like a married couple who cannot help but express their love for each other in daily words and deeds, we are the born-again, adopted children of God. Moreover, we are the redeemed bride of Christ who cannot help but proclaim the beautifully adorned narrow way, the liberating truth, and the abundant life that all men in all nations can have if they put their trust in Jesus Christ.
The life of the Christian is the daily life of gospel proclamation to our own stubborn hearts when we sin; to our spouses whenever they need to hear our repentance and God’s forgiveness in Christ; to our children whenever we discipline them and point them to their desperate need for Christ; and to our coworkers, colleagues, classmates, communities, and to the ends of the earth. We don’t just enter the mission field when we drive out of our church parking lots each Lord’s Day, we enter the mission field when we get out of bed each morning. Our proclamation of the gospel takes place around the kitchen table in our homes, across the tracks in our communities, and around the world — wherever God has us presently and wherever He might call us in the future.
God has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light and has now called us to go into the darkness and shine, being always ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us a reason for the hope within us, with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). For those whom the Spirit is seeking will, indeed, be found as we reflect Christ’s light by following Him in His mission to a dark and hell-bound world. They will see our good works and they will ask, so let us be ready to proclaim the gospel that they might give all glory to God.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
William Penn signed a treaty with the Delaware Indians this day, June 23, 1683, under an elm tree in what was to become the city of Philadelphia. A Quaker who took his faith seriously, Penn insisted on dealing fairly with the Indians, buying the land rather than taking it by force. As a result his colony was never attacked. William Penn addressed the tribe: “My Friends: There is one great God… that hath made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being… This great God hath written… in our hearts… to love and help… one another and not to doe harm.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The framers of our Constitution
meant we were to have freedom of religion,
not freedom from religion.
--- Billy Graham
Unto the Hills: A Daily Devotional
If patience is worth anything,
it must endure to the end of time.
And a living faith will last
in the midst of the blackest storm.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi: (11 April, 1910 - 12 July, 1911)., Volume 11...
Faith is like electricity.
You can't see it,
but you can see the light.
--- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Raising Abel : The Life of Faith
Read this book for whatever you can accept and take the rest on faith.
You will live and die a better man.
--- Abraham Lincoln
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 13 / R. Zadok Hakohen of Lublin on
“You Shall Love”
Zadok Hakohen, who passed away at the dawn of the twentieth century, is only now being “discovered” as a master of creative, original Jewish, especially hasidic, thought. A man of spiritual gifts and a solid halakhic scholar as well, he left behind various works that sparkle with insight and wisdom. Although R. Zadok’s development of the theme of love of God is less systematic than R. Shneur Zalman’s, his novel comments are exceedingly illuminating and deserve our attention and reflection. In particular, let us focus on two such insights.
Using a different terminology from that of R. Shneur Zalman and a different set of definitions, R. Zadok identifies three kinds of love: ahavat olam and ahavah rabbah, both discussed in the previous chapter according to R. Shneur Zalman, and ahavah zuta, literally, “minor love,” derived from a passage in the Zohar (II, 244). Ahavat olam and ahavah rabbah complement each other, referring to Israel’s love for God and God’s reciprocal love for Israel. Ahavah zuta, in contrast, is unidirectional and refers exclusively to Israel’s or humanity’s love for God. (1) R. Zadok’s ahavah zuta parallels the Tanya’s ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret, “Natural and Hidden Love.” Unlike ahavah rabbah, which bursts into consciousness with a consuming passion, this “Minor Love” lies concealed within the human heart as a natural property.
(1) See his Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, no. 200. Note that the terms ahavah rabbah and ahavat olam are used in the last blessing before the reading of the Shema, one in the Morning and the other in the Evening (according to some versions; for others, only ahavah rabbah is recited).
Ahavah rabbah is clearly superior to ahavah zuta, just as “Revealed Fear,” yirah be’ hitgalut, is superior to fear hidden in the heart. Drawing upon the verse in Proverbs 27:5, “Open rebuke is better than secret love (ahavah mesuteret),” R. Zadok identifies “open rebuke” as “Revealed Fear,” which is superior even to “Hidden Love,” despite the accepted teaching that “love is greater than fear.” However, while we can elevate our “hidden” fear of God from its state of concealment or mere potentiality to a state of revelation (i.e., to awareness in our own consciousness) by external means—in this case, “open rebuke”—we cannot do the same with our hidden love: ahavah rabbah remains a gift of God, and without such grace no amount of effort can raise the ahavah zuta to the level of ahavah rabbah. Here R. Zadok diverges from R. Shneur Zalman, who held that intellectual contemplation can in fact stir the embers of “Natural and Hidden Love” into open and flaming love. According to R. Zadok, both ahavah zuta and ahavah rabbah are divine gifts, beyond our own manipulation.
R. Zadok tempers this categorization with a legitimate caveat: these distinctions should not be too tightly drawn because spiritual emotions often include one another and overlap. Although it may be easy for us to analyze and define such ideas philosophically, representing our own religious experience is not so simple. In actual religious life, R. Zadok realistically concedes, the various forms of love and fear coexist; the distinctions we make when we talk about them are more intellectual than practical, referring mostly to matters of emphasis.
Historically and typologically, Abraham possessed and symbolized ahavah rabbah. Isaac, in turn, symbolized fear in its highest, revelatory form, that which is in our hands to create by ourselves, for, as the Talmud teaches, “all is in the hands of Heaven, save the fear of Heaven” (Berakhot 33b). However, though his fear was revealed, his love was concealed, in the form of ahavah zuta. Lastly, Jacob—often referred to as “the choicest of the Patriarchs”—represented ahavat olam, a love that endures under all circumstances.
Of these three spiritual states, ahavat olam is the greatest. For ahavah rabbah, significant as it is, is ephemeral—although it passionately bursts into brilliant flame, it soon dies down, as does a flame—but ahavat olam is more like a banked fire that keeps on burning steadily, offering light and heat. Ahavat olam serves “both in good times and bad,” which is why (according to the standard prayer book adopted by the Hasidim, known as nusaḥ Sefarad), the Evening Shema is introduced by ahavat olam: As we enter night, the symbol of danger, violence, and foreboding, the ahavat olam of Jacob endures. (2) It is only in the Morning, as day dawns upon us with promise, that we can speak of ahavah rabbah—a sublime experience virtually impossible to attain during the dark night of suffering. Indeed, teaches R. Zadok, since the destruction of the Temple—and the beginning of our long night of exile—ahavah rabbah has not been accessible to Israel; only at the Redemption will it reappear and be available again. It is a form of religious experience that has been lost to us and that will return to us at a much later period.
(2) R. Zadok may be intending a wordplay: olam in biblical Hebrew means “forever,” and Kabbalists use it to signify the relation to he’elam, hiddenness or concealment, because ahavat olam is of a far lower emotional temperature than ahavah rabbah.
A second passage by R. Zadok in the same work (3) focuses on the various kinds of human love, only one of which is the love for God (analyzed in the previous passage). R. Zadok identifies three kinds of love that humans experience: the love for God, the love of Torah, and the love of Israel.
(3) Tzidkat ha-Tzaddik, 196.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Archelaus Procures A Reconciliation Between Alexander Pheroras, And Herod.
1. Now as to Alexander, since he perceived it impossible to persuade his father [that he was innocent], he resolved to meet his calamities, how severe soever they were; so he composed four books against his enemies, and confessed that he had been in a plot; but declared withal that the greatest part [of the courtiers] were in a plot with him, and chiefly Pheroras and Salome; nay, that Salome once came and forced him to lie with her in the night time, whether he would or no. These books were put into Herod's hands, and made a great clamor against the men in power. And now it was that Archelaus came hastily into Judea, as being affrighted for his son-in-law and his daughter; and he came as a proper assistant, and in a very prudent manner, and by a stratagem he obliged the king not to execute what he had threatened; for when he was come to him, he cried out, "Where in the world is this wretched son-in-law of mine? Where shall I see the head of him which contrived to murder his father, which I will tear to pieces with my own hands? I will do the same also to my daughter, who hath such a fine husband; for although she be not a partner in the plot, yet, by being the wife of such a creature, she is polluted. And I cannot but admire at thy patience, against whom this plot is laid, if Alexander be still alive; for as I came with what haste I could from Cappadocia, I expected to find him put to death for his crimes long ago; but still, in order to make an examination with thee about my daughter, whom, out of regard to thee and by dignity, I had espoused to him in marriage; but now we must take counsel about them both; and if thy paternal affection be so great, that thou canst not punish thy son, who hath plotted against thee, let us change our right hands, and let us succeed one to the other in expressing our rage upon this occasion."
2. When he had made this pompous declaration, he got Herod to remit of his anger, though he were in disorder, who thereupon gave him the books which Alexander had composed to be read by him; and as he came to every head, he considered of it, together with Herod. So Archelaus took hence the occasion for that stratagem which he made use of, and by degrees he laid the blame on those men whose names were in these books, and especially upon Pheroras; and when he saw that the king believed him [to be in earnest], he said, "We must consider whether the young man be not himself plotted against by such a number of wicked wretches, and not thou plotted against by the young man; for I cannot see any occasion for his falling into so horrid a crime, since he enjoys the advantages of royalty already, and has the expectation of being one of thy successors; I mean this, unless there were some persons that persuade him to it, and such persons as make an ill use of the facility they know there is to persuade young men; for by such persons, not only young men are sometimes imposed upon, but old men also, and by them sometimes are the most illustrious families and kingdoms overturned."
3. Herod assented to what he had said, and, by degrees, abated of his anger against Alexander, but was more angry at Pheroras; for the principal subject of the four books was Pheroras; who perceiving that the king's inclinations changed on a sudden, and that Archelaus's friendship could do every thing with him, and that he had no honorable method of preserving himself, he procured his safety by his impudence. So he left Alexander, and had recourse to Archelaus, who told him that he did not see how he could get him excused, now he was directly caught in so many crimes, whereby it was evidently demonstrated that he had plotted against the king, and had been the cause of those misfortunes which the young man was now under, unless he would moreover leave off his cunning knavery, and his denials of what he was charged withal, and confess the charge, and implore pardon of his brother, who still had a kindness for him; but that if he would do so, he would afford him all the assistance he was able.
4. With this advice Pheroras complied, and putting himself into such a habit as might most move compassion, he came with black cloth upon his body, and tears in his eyes, and threw himself down at Herod's feet, and begged his pardon for what he had done, and confessed that he had acted very wickedly, and was guilty of every thing that he had been accused of, and lamented that disorder of his mind, and distraction which his love to a woman, he said, had brought him to. So when Archelaus had brought Pheroras to accuse and bear witness against himself, he then made an excuse for him, and mitigated Herod's anger towards him, and this by using certain domestical examples; for that when he had suffered much greater mischiefs from a brother of his own, he prefered the obligations of nature before the passion of revenge; because it is in kingdoms as it is in gross bodies, where some member or other is ever swelled by the body's weight, in which case it is not proper to cut off such member, but to heal it by a gentle method of cure.
5. Upon Arehelaus's saying this, and much more to the same purpose, Herod's displeasure against Pheroras was mollified; yet did he persevere in his own indignation against Alexander, and said he would have his daughter divorced, and taken away from him, and this till he had brought Herod to that pass, that, contrary to his former behavior to him, he petitioned Archelaus for the young man, and that he would let his daughter continue espoused to him: but Archelaus made him strongly believe that he would permit her to be married to any one else, but not to Alexander, because he looked upon it as a very valuable advantage, that the relation they had contracted by that affinity, and the privileges that went along with it, might be preserved. And when the king said that his son would take it for a great favor to him, if he would not dissolve that marriage, especially since they had already children between the young man and her, and since that wife of his was so well beloved by him, and that as while she remains his wife she would be a great preservative to him, and keep him from offending, as he had formerly done; so if she should be once torn away from him, she would be the cause of his falling into despair, because such young men's attempts are best mollified when they are diverted from them by settling their affections at home. So Arehelaus complied with what Herod desired, but not without difficulty, and was both himself reconciled to the young man, and reconciled his father to him also. However, he said he must, by all means, be sent to Rome to discourse with Caesar, because he had already written a full account to him of this whole matter.
6. Thus a period was put to Archelaus's stratagem, whereby he delivered his son-in-law out of the dangers he was in; but when these reconciliations were over, they spent their time in feastings and agreeable entertainments. And when Archelaus was going away, Herod made him a present of seventy talents, with a golden throne set with precious stones, and some eunuchs, and a concubine who was called Pannychis. He also paid due honors to every one of his friends according to their dignity. In like manner did all the king's kindred, by his command, make glorious presents to Archelaus; and so he was conducted on his way by Herod and his nobility as far as Antioch.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and the mouth of the wicked swallows wrongdoing.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Acquaintance with grief
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
--- Isaiah 53:3.
We are not acquainted with grief in the way in which Our Lord was acquainted with it; we endure it, we get through it, but we do not become intimate with it. At the beginning of life we do not reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin. We take a rational view of life and say that a man by controlling his instincts, and by educating himself, can produce a life which will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we go on, we find the presence of something which we have not taken into consideration, viz., sin, and it upsets all our calculations. Sin has made the basis of things wild and not rational. We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God. Either God or sin must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue. If sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is no possible ultimate but that. The climax of sin is that it crucified Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will be true in your history and in mine. In our mental outlook we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin as the only explanation as to why Jesus Christ came, and the explanation of the grief and sorrow in life.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart's passions -- that was praise
Enough; and the mind's cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
No one loves his fellow craftsman.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 7:1–2 / The Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I seen as righteous before Me in this generation. (authors’ translation)
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 32, 2 / “Go …” “For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face” (Psalm 11:7). Rabbi Tanḥuma in the name of Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon and Rabbi Menaḥama in the name of Rabbi Eliezer bar Yosé said, “No one loves his fellow craftsman, but a sage loves his fellow craftsman, like Rabbi Ḥiyya of Rabbi Hoshaya and Rabbi Hoshaya of Rabbi Ḥiyya. And the Holy One, praised is He, loves His fellow craftsman, as it says, ‘For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face.’ ” This is Noah, as it says, “The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go …’ ”
CONTEXT / This Midrash bases itself on the fact that the biblical text says that God told Noah that he was “seen” as righteous. Using the verse from Psalms—“the upright shall behold His face”—Rabbi Tanḥuma understood that Noah was the righteous one who actually saw God. Therefore, when God says to Noah “for you alone have I seen as righteous before Me,” God means “I have seen you, a righteous man, standing before Me.”
This leads Rabbi Tanḥuma to question how righteous people should behave, and he proposes—by implication—that the righteous should imitate not other people but God. Humans are naturally filled with jealousy toward those with similar talents and traits. “No one loves his fellow craftsman” means that there is an instinctive rivalry between two people who are in the same field. God, however, does not have this jealousy. God, who is —according to the verse from Psalm 11—tzaddik, “righteous,” does not have any rivalry toward Noah, who is similarly described in Genesis 6:9 as tzaddik, “righteous.” Scholars who attempt to imitate God’s ways should not be jealous of each other. The example given is of Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Hoshaya, two third-century masters of the Midrash in Israel. It is interesting to note that this Midrash begins with Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Hoshaya and ends with God and Noah, almost as if God imitates the scholar, rather than vice versa. This may be a case of Rabbinic hubris, or it may simply be a literary tool: the Midrash has to end with God and Noah, so that the verse “The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go …’ ” is the final quote of the section.
D’RASH / Long ago and far away: A craftsman sits in his workshop, turning the potter’s wheel with his foot, shaping the wet clay with his hands. One eye is on the work before him, the other on the oven that is baking the clay vessels into pottery.
Business has been good—until now. For the past ten years, there had been a steady stream of customers who came for all their household utensils. The potter had been kept busy and managed to do well enough to provide food, clothing, and shelter for his large family.
But all that is now in jeopardy. Just last week a new family, from another village, came to town. One could quickly see from the tools and wares carried by their donkeys that the head of the household was—a potter.
As the newcomers trekked into the neighborhood, the resident craftsman was filled with anger and fear. “Curse him, that wretched foreigner! Why does he have to come here, of all places? We already have a potter; we don’t need another one.”
“Do not be upset, my husband. Your customers are loyal, decent people. They will not abandon an old and talented friend!”
“Oh? You don’t think so? And what if the competition starts charging a copper-piece less than I do? Do you think the fickle housewives will still come to me, to pay more? This stranger is taking the food out of your tender children’s mouths, woman! And beyond the price there is a deeper worry: What if the potter is better than I am? Suppose he has better tools, or a steadier hand, or a more creative imagination? What if his pottery is more durable, what if his handiwork is more beautiful than mine? People have gotten used to me and to what I produce, but for ten years they haven’t had a choice. Now they do. Who knows what the future holds for us? I curse that man, and I curse the day he set foot in our town!”
Technology may be vastly different, but human nature hasn’t changed much in three thousand years. We are still fearful—and resentful—of competition, in whatever shape it comes. But with God, things are different. While humans have a hard time making peace with those who do the same work, God seems to welcome all those who do godlike things. God is in the business of doing righteousness, and when a new man or woman comes to town looking to do the business of righteousness, God is not at all threatened. God is pleased. That’s why God was able to welcome Noah with open arms. (In other Near Eastern versions of the flood story, the gods want to destroy all humanity; in the Torah’s version, the person saved is the one who is called righteous.) There may be a limit to how much pottery can be sold in one town, but there is no limit to the amount of righteousness that can be spread around.
The same, apparently, is true of Torah. Rabbis are not to see each other as the “competition.” Instead, they are to be חֲבֵרִים/ḥaverim, not only colleagues, but friends who teach and support one another. Rabbi Ḥiyya was the main student of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, the compiler of the Mishnah. Later, when Rabbi Ḥiyya established his own beit midrash, Rabbi Hoshaya was one of Ḥiyya’s main students. At the beginning of the third century, Hoshaya moved on to establish his own beit midrash. These two rabbis were responsible for collecting many baraitot, tannaitic teachings not included in the Mishnah. Apparently, Ḥiyya was not jealous of his former pupil’s success, and Hoshaya no doubt continued to show respect to his former teacher. The two worked together toward the same goal: teaching and disseminating Torah to the Jewish people. Ḥiyya and Hoshaya serve us as wonderful role models of how “craftsmen” can rise above petty concerns and, in doing so, become very much like God.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"From an experience of rebellion and discipline, Jonah turns to an experience of repentance and dedication, and God graciously gives him a new beginning. Jonah no doubt expected to die in the waters of the sea, (Some expositors believe that Jonah actually died and was resurrected, and base their interpretation on statements in his prayer like “From the depths of the grave [Sheol-the realm of the dead] I called for help” (2:2, NIV) and “But You brought my life up from the pit” (v.6, NIV). But Jonah’s prayer is composed of quotations from at least fifteen different Psalms, and while some of these Psalms describe near-death experiences, none describes a resurrection miracle. The reference to Sheol in verse 2 comes from Psalm 30:3 (and see 16:10 and 18:4–6), and the reference to “the pit” comes from
49:15, both of which were written by David. If these two Psalms describe Jonah’s resurrection, then they must also describe David’s resurrection, but we have no evidence that David ever died and was raised to life. Instead, these Psalms describe frightening experiences when God delivered His servants from the very gates of death. That seems to be what Jonah is describing as he quotes them in his prayer. Furthermore, if Jonah died and was resurrected, he could not be an accurate type of Christ (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29); for types picture the antitype but don’t duplicate it, for the antitype is always greater. It’s a dangerous thing to build an interpretation on the poetic language of Scripture when we don’t have a clear New Testament interpretation to lean on.) but when he woke up inside the fish, he realized that God had graciously spared him. As with the Prodigal Son, whom Jonah in his rebellion greatly resembles
(Luke 15:11–24), it was the goodness of God that brought him to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Notice the stages in Jonah’s spiritual experience as described in his prayer.
He prayed for God’s help (Jonah 2:1–2). “Then Jonah prayed” (2:1) suggests that it was at the end of the three days and three nights when Jonah turned to the Lord for help, but we probably shouldn’t press the word “then” too far. The Hebrew text simply reads, “And Jonah prayed.” Surely Jonah prayed as he went down into the depths of the sea, certain that he would drown. That would be the normal thing for any person to do, and that’s the picture we get from verses 5 and 7.
His prayer was born out of affliction, not affection. He cried out to God because he was in danger, not because he delighted in the Lord. But better that he should pray compelled by any motive than not to pray at all. It’s doubtful whether any believer always prays with pure and holy motives, for our desires and God’s directions sometimes conflict.
However, in spite of the fact that he prayed, Jonah still wasn’t happy with the will of God. In chapter 1, he was afraid of the will of God and rebelled against it, but now he wants God’s will simply because it’s the only way out of his dangerous plight. Like too many people today, Jonah saw the will of God as something to turn to in an emergency, not something to live by every day of one’s life.
Jonah was now experiencing what the sailors experienced during the storm: he felt he was perishing
(1:6, 14). It’s good for God’s people, and especially preachers, to remember what it’s like to be lost and without hope. How easy it is for us to grow hardened toward sinners and lose our compassion for the lost. As He dropped Jonah into the depths, God was reminding him of what the people of Nineveh were going through in their sinful condition: they were helpless and hopeless.
God heard Jonah’s cries for help. Prayer is one of the constant miracles of the Christian life. To think that our God is so great He can hear the cries of millions of people at the same time and deal with their needs personally! A parent with two or three children often finds it impossible to meet all their needs all the time, but God is able to provide for all His children, no matter where they are or what their needs may be. “He who has learned to pray,” said William Law, “has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.”
He accepted God’s discipline (Jonah 2:3). The sailors didn’t cast Jonah into the stormy sea; God did. “You hurled me into the deep … all your waves and breakers swept over me” (v.3, NIV, italics mine). When Jonah said those words, he was acknowledging that God was disciplining him and that he deserved it.
How we respond to discipline determines how much benefit we receive from it. According to Hebrews 12:5–11, we have several options: we can despise God’s discipline and fight (v. 5); we can be discouraged and faint (v. 5); we can resist discipline and invite stronger discipline, possibly even death (v. 9) (“There is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:17, KJV). “The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30–31). Professed believers who play with sin and trifle with God’s loving discipline are asking for trouble. Better that we should die than that we should resist His will and bring disgrace to the name of Christ.); or we can submit to the Father and mature in faith and love (v. 7). Discipline is to the believer what exercise and training are to the athlete (v. 11); it enables us to run the race with endurance and reach the assigned goal (vv. 1–2).
The fact that God chastened His servant is proof that Jonah was truly a child of God, for God disciplines only His own children. “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (v. 8). And the father chastens us in love so that “afterward” we might enjoy “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (v.11).
He trusted God’s promises (Jonah 2:4–7). Jonah was going in one direction only—down. In fact, he had been going in that direction since the hour he rebelled against God’s plan for his life. He went “down to Joppa” and “down into the sides of the ship” (1:3, 5). Now he was going “down to the bottoms of the mountains” (2:6); and at some point, the great fish met him, and he went down into the fish’s belly (1:17). When you turn your back on God, the only direction you can go is down.
What saved Jonah? His faith in God’s promise. Which promise? The promise that involves “looking toward God’s holy temple” (2:4, 7). When King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, he asked God for this special favor (1 Kings 8:38–40, NKJV):
Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know … that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.
Jonah claimed that promise. By faith, he looked toward God’s temple (the only way to look was up!) and asked God to deliver him; and God kept His promise and answered his call. “I remembered [the] Lord” (Jonah 2:7) means, “I acted on the basis of His commitment to me.” Jonah knew God’s covenant promises and he claimed them.
He yielded to God’s will (Jonah 2:8–9). Now Jonah admits that there were idols in his life that robbed him of the blessing of God. An idol is anything that takes away from God the affection and obedience that rightfully belongs only to Him. One such idol was Jonah’s intense patriotism. He was so concerned for the safety and prosperity of his own nation that he refused to be God’s messenger to their enemies the Assyrians. We shall learn from chapter 4 that Jonah was also protecting his own reputation (4:2), for if God spared Nineveh, then Jonah would be branded a false prophet whose words of warning weren’t fulfilled. For somebody who was famous for his prophecies
(2 Kings 14:25), this would be devastating.
Jonah closes his prayer by uttering some solemn vows to the Lord, vows that he really intended to keep. Like the psalmist, he said: “I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble”
(Ps. 66:13–14, NKJV). Jonah promised to worship God in the temple with sacrifices and songs of thanksgiving. He doesn’t tell us what other promises he made to the Lord, but one of them surely was, “I will go to Nineveh and declare Your message if You give me another chance.”
Jonah couldn’t save himself, and nobody on earth could save him, but the Lord could do it, for “salvation is of the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9b, NKJV) This is a quotation from
Psalms 3:8 and 37:39 and it is the central declaration in the book. It is also the central theme of the Bible. How wise of Jonah to memorize the Word of God; because being able to quote the Scriptures, especially the Book of Psalms, gave him light in the darkness and hope in his seemingly hopeless situation.)
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Are Some of Paul’s Utterances Uninspired?
The divine inspiration of certain passages in Paul’s Epistles is denied in view of statements he makes which are supposed to assert the contrary. For instance, it is asked, if Paul’s writings are inspired throughout, how is it he can say in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, “But this I say by way of permission, not of command” (1 Cor. 7:6), and again, “I think that I also have the Spirit of God” (v. 40), whereas in the 10th verse he definitely states that it is not he who gives charge, but the Lord? Is he not making a distinction here, it is urged, between his own thoughts which may not have been inspired and those which were directly received from the Lord?
As to the 6th verse, the difference between his giving advice and receiving permission from God does not affect the Inspiration of his words. His statements in both verses, 6 and 10, are inspired. They are what the Holy Spirit gave him to write. In the first case his statement is inspired, that he is declaring something by way of permission, not of command; in the second case he is recalling what was well-known to be the command of the Lord in forbidding the wife to depart from her husband. He was simply repeating the command that what God had joined together no man was to put asunder. He was not making any such distinction as that he merely gave his own thoughts in the one instance and expressed the Lord’s mind in the other.
In regard to verse 40, anyone who understands the use of the word dokeō, “I think,” will know that the apostle is not suggesting for a moment that he has any doubt about the truth of what he is saying, but that he is expressing the certainty that he has the Spirit of God. The same word is used to express an emphatic asseveration, just as when we say “I should think not indeed,” giving the hearer to understand that there is no doubt in our mind. The apostle uses the word in the same way in 1 Corinthians 4:9.
We may compare his words in the second Epistle, “Herein I give my judgment” (2 Cor. 8:10). There he is exhorting the Church to contribute to the needs of poor saints. In regard to the matter of his message, the words themselves are as much inspired as any other part of the Epistle. The Holy Spirit was causing him to express himself that way as being the best mode of giving his exhortation. The fact that he was pronouncing his own judgment instead of giving a command from the Lord in no way affects the Inspiration of His words. His words are authoritative in either case. Concerning the instructions which he gave without having received a revelation or command from the Lord, he says, “So ordain I in all the churches”
(1 Cor. 7:17 with v. 10). In giving his judgment upon such matters he was not instituting anything contrary to his Divinely given authority.
If a father were about to leave his children for a considerable time, he might gather them round him before doing so and give them instructions as to what they were to do during his absence. Those might be given in two ways, some by way of commandments to be obeyed, others as advice as to how he would desire them to act in certain circumstances which were likely to arise. His children would be expected to accept both command and instruction as authoritative and to act accordingly. So with the apostle’s instructions, there is a difference in the mode of conveyance, but the same Spirit of God inspires his language, and the converts would accept the command he gave as from the Lord, and the judgment he himself gave, as divinely authoritative in each case.
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The story of modern scholarship on early Judaism is largely a story of retrieval. None of the literature of this period was preserved by the rabbis. The Greek literature of the Diaspora may not have been available to them. Much of the apocalyptic literature and of the material in the Dead Sea Scrolls was rejected for ideological reasons. The recovery of this literature in modern times presents us with a very different view of early Judaism than was current in the nineteenth century, and even than more recent accounts that impose a rabbinic paradigm on the period in the interests of normativity.
No doubt, our current picture of early Judaism is also incomplete. Despite the important documentary papyri from the Judean Desert dating to the Bar Kokhba period (Cotton in Oppenheimer, ed. 1999: 221–36), descriptions of the realia of Jewish life still rely heavily on rabbinic sources that are possibly anachronistic. The overdue study of women in this period is a case in point (Ilan 1995). One of the salutary lessons of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they revealed aspects of Judaism that no one would have predicted before the discovery. And yet this was only the corpus of writings collected by one sect. To do justice to early Judaism we would need similar finds of Pharisaic, Sadducean, and other groups, and further documentary finds similar to those that have shed at least limited light on Egyptian Judaism and on Judah in the Bar Kokhba period.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Purpose Of Sacrifice
A proper understanding of the purpose of sacrifice is outlined in this psalm. This is intended to serve as a contrasting ideology to the sacrificial practices of Israel’s neighbors. Two points are emphasized here. First, God does not need to be sustained with food like the gods of Mesopotamia and Egypt (as in the Gilgamesh flood epic, where the gods flock like starving flies to Utnapishtim’s sacrifice). Second, and perhaps more important, is that the Israelites have an obligation to God to make “thank offerings” as a sign of their acknowledgment of the covenant. It
is the failure of the people to differentiate between ritual and the knowledge of God that is so often condemned by
the prophets (1 Sam 15:22; Hos 6:6). Micah in particular parodies these ineffectual offerings and notes that all God
requires of Israel is “to act justly and love mercy” (Mic 6:8).
Dictionary of New Testament Background (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series)
Sometimes I like to take a word or a phrase and chew on it all day. Memorizing Scripture usually doesn't work for me, but contemplating and internalizing a personal meaning often deepens my conviction that God has much work to do in me. Micah 6:8 has often been one of those verses.
God accuses the people of forgetting that the deity is not “just like them,” willing to look the other way when evil occurs or even able to approve of their sinful actions. This ultimate form of anthropomorphizing God is a terrible crime deserving of rebuke and punishment. Divine silence is not to be considered a sign of weakness or of disinterest. Jeremiah in his “temple sermon” (Jer 7:9–11) makes similar accusations, noting that the people of Judah seem to believe they can commit any sin and then come to the temple and proclaim, “We are safe.” He declares that God is watching them and is not blind to their deeds.
Dictionary of New Testament Background (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series)
Try as we continually do, with our pride in technology and fantastic accomplishments, we continually fail to become like God. Humanity has some incredible accomplishments, but catastrophic failures as well. Charitable hearts have soared to lofty heights, but jaded cruelty has dragged us deep into darkness. We have the capacity for both.
We proclaim we will not forget the Holocaust, but it continues; a different place, a different people, but our inclination to inflict pain and sorrow on one another has not diminished.
In a court of law, the bystander, the witness who keeps silent is every bit as guilty as the one committing the crime. The so-called silent majority, those of us who stand by silently, limiting our complaints of injustice to email and Facebook are responsible for much of the hurt in this world.
Since the beginning we have been trying to become like God, but we always fail, therefore we attempt to mold and shape God into our own image, a superhuman person. We cannot grasp what holiness is, or understand the meaning of mercy, unless we turn and face God. God is not us.
No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” --- Daniel 4:35.
God has reigned from the first day; God shall reign when days are gone. (Classic RS Thomas on the Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) Everywhere he is the reigning God—reigning when Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him?” reigning when scribe and Pharisee, Jew and Roman, nailed his only-begotten Son to the cross; reigning amid all the calamities that sweep the globe, as much as he will be in the golden days of peace. Never is the throne vacant, never is the scepter laid aside. Your monarch has not yielded his sword to a superior foe, you do not have to search for another leader. In the person of his dear Son he walks among our golden lampstands and holds our stars in his right hand.
Here is our comfort; it is right that God should have this might, because he always uses his might with strictest rectitude. God cannot will to do anything unjust, ungenerous, unkind—ungodlike. No laws bind him as they bind us, but he is a law to himself. There is “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” for me, for you, but who will attempt to be legislator to the King of kings? God is love. God is holiness. God is the law. God is love, and, doing as he wills, he wills to love. God is holy, and, doing as he wills, he wills holiness, he wills justice, he wills truth. It is not for me to unriddle the enigmas of the Infinite—he will explain himself. I am not so impertinent as to be his apologist; he will clear himself. I am not called to vindicate his character. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). What folly to hold up a candle to show the brightness of the sun! How much more foolish to attempt to defend the thrice-holy Jehovah! Let him speak for himself if he will deign to contend with you.
How wise to be at one with him! He invites you to come. He might have commanded you to depart. If he is on our side, who can be against us? How this should help you that suffer! If God does it all, and nothing happens apart from God, even human wickedness and cruelty being still overruled by him, you readily may submit. It is your God who is in it all, your Father God, the infinitely good. If we can bow before his crushing strokes and feel that if the crushing of us by the weight of his hand will bring him honor we are content, this is true faith. Give us grace enough, O Lord, never to fail in our loyalty but to be your faithful servants even to suffering’s bitterest end.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Augsburg Confession June 23
“You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone,” said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9. Martin Luther had Philipp Melanchthon. Melanchthon was younger, calmer, and smarter than Luther. Born in Germany in 1494, Philipp entered the University of Heidelberg at age 13, excelling in Greek. He became professor of Greek at the University of Wittenberg where, in a stammering inaugural lecture, he appeared nervous. But Luther, professor of theology, listened with interest as the young man called students “back to the sources, back to the Holy Scriptures.”
Soon the two were allies, as perfectly matched as David and Jonathan. Melanchthon, cautious and moderate, provided balance to Luther’s impulsiveness. He was a peacemaker, as contrasted to Luther’s contentiousness. Melanchthon tempered his friend’s ideas and calmly drafted the theology and organization of Luther’s movement. He became the formulating genius of the Reformation, casting Luther’s teachings in proper, systematic form. Luther loved his younger associate, admitting that without Philipp’s organizational skills his own work would have been lost.
Philipp also directed the publishing and educational side of the Reformation, and his work in developing German schools earned him the title, “the teacher of Germany.” He became involved in training clergy and wrote commentaries, theologies, and ministerial manuals for that purpose.
In 1529 Emperor Charles V, in a final effort to unify the church, called a meeting in Augsburg. Luther wasn’t invited. The emperor hoped Philipp’s gentler spirit might calm the storm and pacify the debate. But Melanchthon’s beliefs were as deep as Luther’s. On this night, June 23, 1530, being told a position paper was required quickly, Philipp worked into the wee hours, writing and rewriting and formulating Protestant doctrines. His paper was read on June 25 while delegates stood listening for two hours.
Its rejection by the largely Catholic assembly marked the final break between Protestants and Catholics. But the Augsburg Confession with its definitive expression of Lutheran beliefs has become the basis of Lutheran theology to this day.
You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.
--- Ecclesiastes 4:9,10.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 23
“Ephraim is a cake not turned.” --- Hosea 7:8.
A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be thy case. Art thou thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of thy being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all thy powers, thy actions, thy words, and thy thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be thine aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in thee anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else thou, too, wilt be a cake not turned.
A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.
If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from thy heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of thy grace, I must be consumed for ever amid everlasting burnings.
Evening - June 23
"Waiting for the adoption." --- Romans 8:23.
Even in this world saints are God’s children, but men cannot discover them to be so, except by certain moral characteristics. The adoption is not manifested, the children are not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and keep it private for a long time: but there was a second adoption in public; when the child was brought before the constituted authorities its former garments were taken off, and the father who took it to be his child gave it raiment suitable to its new condition of life. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” We are not yet arrayed in the apparel which befits the royal family of heaven; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the sons of Adam; but we know that “when he shall appear” who is the “first-born among many brethren,” we shall be like him, we shall see him as he is. Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, and adopted by a Roman senator, would say to himself, “I long for the day when I shall be publicly adopted. Then I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank”? Happy in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him. So it is with us today. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. We are young nobles, and have not yet worn our coronets. We are young brides, and the marriage day is not yet come, and by the love our Spouse bears us, we are led to long and sigh for the bridal Morning. Our very happiness makes us groan after more; our joy, like a swollen spring, longs to well up like an Iceland geyser, leaping to the skies, and it heaves and groans within our spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to men.
Morning and Evening
I’D RATHER HAVE JESUS
Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, 1894–1966
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
The inspiring and challenging words of this hymn, written by Mrs. Rhea Miller, so influenced 23–year-old George Beverly Shea that they determined the direction of his entire life. As he began to compose a melody for these moving lines, he decided to devote his singing talent to God’s glory alone.
Growing up with devoted Christian parents, Bev was encouraged to use his fine singing voice often in the services of the Wesleyan Methodist churches of which his father was a minister. Financial needs of the family made it necessary for him to leave college and work in an insurance office. However, he continued singing in churches and for Christian radio programs. Unexpectedly he was offered an audition for a secular singing position in New York City and passed the test. The opportunity for a substantial salary and wide recognition made Bev’s decision very difficult.
One Sunday as Bev went to the family piano to prepare a song for the Morning service, he found there the poem “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” His mother, who collected beautiful quotations and literary selections, had begun to leave some of them around the house for her son to read, hoping to guide him spiritually. Bev was deeply moved with the challenging message of this text. Immediately he began to compose the music for the lines and used the song that same day in his father’s church service.
Bev Shea comments: “Over the years, I’ve not sung any song more than ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’ but I never tire of Mrs. Miller’s heartfelt words.” As a young man of 23, Bev allowed the message of this text to guide him wisely to a wonderfully productive and worthwhile life of service to Christ as he shared his musical “theme song” with audiences around the world ---
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name:
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs—I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead:
Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway! I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.
For Today: Joshua 24:15; Matthew 16:24–26; Romans 1:16; Philippians 3:8.
What would be your honest response to this question: “What are you living for and what would you be willing to die for?” Sing this testimony ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXIV. — BUT, why it is, that some are touched by the law and some are not touched, why some receive the offered grace and some despise it, that is another question which is not here treated on by Ezekiel; because, he is speaking of THE PREACHED AND OFFERED MERCY OF GOD, not of that SECRET AND TO BE FEARED WILL OF GOD, who, according to His own counsel, ordains whom, and such as He will, to be receivers and partakers of the preached and offered mercy: which WILL, is not to be curiously inquired into, but to be adored with reverence as the most profound SECRET of the divine Majesty, which He reserves unto Himself and keeps hidden from us, and that, much more religiously than the mention of ten thousand Corycian caverns.
But since the Diatribe thus pertly argues — “Would the righteous Lord deplore that death of His people, which He Himself works in them? This would seem quite absurd” —
I answer, as I said before, — we are to argue in one way, concerning the WILL OF GOD preached, revealed, and offered unto us, and worshipped by us; and in another, concerning GOD HIMSELF not preached, not revealed, not offered unto us, and worshipped by us. In whatever, therefore, God hides Himself and will be unknown by us, that is nothing unto us ‘and here, that sentiment’ stands good — ‘What is above us, does not concern us.’
And that no one might think that this distinction is my own, I follow Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians concerning Antichrist, saith, (2 Thess. ii. 4.) “that he should exalt himself above all that is God, as preached and worshipped:” evidently intimating, that any one might be exalted above God as He is preached and worshipped, that is, above the word and worship of God, by which He is known unto us and has intercourse with us. But, above God not worshipped and preached, that is, as He is in our own nature and majesty, nothing can be exalted, but all things are under His powerful hand.
God, therefore, is to be left to remain in His own Nature and Majesty; for in this respect, we have nothing to do with Him, nor does He wish us to have, in this respect, anything to do with Him: but we have to do with Him, as far as He is clothed in, and delivered to us by, His Word; for in that He presents Himself unto us, and that is His beauty and His glory, in which the Psalmist celebrates Him as being clothed. Wherefore, we say, that the righteous God does not ‘deplore that death of His people which He Himself works in them;’ but He deplores that death which He finds in His people, and which He desires to remove from them. For GOD PREACHED desires this: — that, our sin and death being taken away, we might be saved; “He sent His word and healed them.” (Psalm cvii. 20.) But GOD HIDDEN IN MAJESTY neither deplores, nor takes away death, but works life and death and all things: nor has He, in this Character, defined Himself in His Word, but has reserved unto Himself, a free power over all things.
But the Diatribe is deceived by its own ignorance, in not making a distinction between GOD PREACHED and GOD HIDDEN: that is, between the word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not make known unto us in His word: He also wills many things which He does not in His word make known unto us that He wills. Thus, He does not ‘will the death of a sinner,’ that is, in His word; but He wills it by that will inscrutable. But in the present case, we are to consider His word only, and to leave that will inscrutable; seeing that, it is by His word, and not by that will inscrutable, that we are to be guided; for who can direct himself according to a will inscrutable and incomprehensible? It is enough to know only, that there is in God a certain will inscrutable: but what, why, and how far that will wills, it is not lawful to inquire, to wish to know, to be concerned about, or to reach unto — it is only to be feared and adored!
Therefore it is rightly said, ‘if God does not desire our death, it is to be laid to the charge of our own will, if we perish:’ this, I say, is right, if you speak of GOD PREACHED. For He desires that all men should be saved, seeing that, He comes unto all by the word of salvation, and it is the fault of the will which does not receive Him: as He saith. (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!” But WHY that Majesty does not take away or change this fault of the will IN ALL, seeing that, it is not in the power of man to do it; or why He lays that to the charge of the will, which the man cannot avoid, it becomes us not to inquire, and though you should inquire much, yet you will never find out: as Paul saith, (Rom. ix, 20,) “Who art thou that repliest against God!” — Suffice it to have spoken thus upon this passage of Ezekiel. Now let us proceed to the remaining particulars.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. John D. Street | The Master's Seminary
Lecture 1: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 2: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 3: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 4: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 5: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 6: Marriage and Family Counseling
Lecture 7: Marriage and Family Counseling
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