Remember the LORD Your GodDeuteronomy 8 1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Not Because of RighteousnessDeuteronomy 9 1 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’
The Golden Calf13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ 15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. 17 So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. 18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. 20 And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21 Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.
22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23 And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God and did not believe him or obey his voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
25 “So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 And I prayed to the LORD, ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, 28 lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” 29 For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’
New Tablets of StoneDeuteronomy 10 1 “At that time the LORD said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. 2 And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ 3 So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4 And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me. 5 Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me.”
6 (The people of Israel journeyed from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried. And his son Eleazar ministered as priest in his place. 7 From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land with brooks of water. 8 At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day. 9 Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God said to him.)
10 “I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the LORD listened to me that time also. The LORD was unwilling to destroy you. 11 And the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go on your journey at the head of the people, so that they may go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them.’
Circumcise Your Heart12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why America May Fall Behind in Genetic Technologies, and That’s OK
By J. Warner Wallace 2/26/2018
Americans are accustomed to being technological leaders in a variety of disciplines, but our nation may fall behind other countries in the field of genetic technology – if current activities in China continue. While that may sound like a challenge we should embrace and correct as a nation, there’s actually a good reason to let China pull ahead, especially if we care about the dignity of humans designed in the image of God.
A recent Wall Street Journal article (China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials), reports that Chinese doctors are beginning “to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool.” On it’s face, this sounds like something commendable: saving the lives of dying cancer patients. The American reporters who wrote the article clearly believe the technology is valuable and should be pursued, especially since U.S. scientists helped devise the gene-editing tool (known as Crispr-Cas9). The problem, according to the reporters? American regulations are preventing doctors from using the gene editing tool in human trials.
Chinese doctors don’t face similar restrictions. Physicians in China have been drawing blood from cancer sufferers, modifying disease-fighting cells with the Crispr-Cas9 tool, and infusing improved, cancer fighting cells back into the patients. Very few Chinese regulations govern or limit this treatment, even though no other country in the world has allowed the technology to be used in a similar way. Experts in America are now concerned that the United States is “at a dangerous point in losing our lead in biomedicine.” In spite of this, American regulators are hesitant to approve gene-editing technologies on humans without fully understanding all the risks. According to the article, Crispr therapies might result in “irreversible changes in people that may not emerge for years,” and may even “spark a dangerous immune reaction.”
It’s no wonder that American regulators are cautious about rushing into full Crispr-Cas9 trials with humans, even though they have no such hesitation when it comes to testing the technology on other animals. Why the distinction? Why are we willing to risk the lives of rats, monkey or other laboratory animals, yet hesitant to risk the lives of humans? Perhaps it’s because Americans still acknowledge (or at least remember) their Christian heritage. The Biblical worldview describes humans as uniquely designed for a purpose in the image of God, unlike other animals. This may be one of the reasons we instinctively become more cautious when testing humans rather than lab rats.
“Western scientists,” according to the article, seem to understand the difference between “mice and men.” Scientists who were interviewed for the article “didn’t suggest America’s stringent requirements should be weakened. Instead, many advocate an international consensus on ethical issues around a science that makes fundamental changes to human DNA…” It appears that Western doctors and scientists, raised in a culture that was once deeply influenced by a Biblical view of humanity, would rather the Chinese embrace Western caution than surrender this caution so we can retake the lead.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Ash Wednesday Sermon
By Jason Micheli 3/1/2017
This week we observe Ash Wednesday, the day when Christians defy every lie sold to us by Madison Avenue, the American healthcare system, and our President’s eerily orange visage. (Not to mention, Warren Beatty is still alive!?)
Here’s the lie:
We’re not getting out of this life alive. Not a one. Heaven may be but Death definitely is for real.
With dismal colored ashes, tomorrow Christians confront the stark, counter-cultural truth: from אֲדָמָהadamah (‘earth’) we were made and to the adamah we shall with 100% certainty return.
Ash Wednesday is about our sin, which is but a way of saying it’s about our mortality, which means it’s about all our finitude, shortcomings and contingencies wrapped up in that time-bound word. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the Latin word for 40th, recalling Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the wilderness before his ministry led him inexorably to the cross.
Jesus’ own 40 days in the wilderness echo the 40 years Israel was tested in the wilderness after their Exodus from slavery into Egypt. Whereas Jesus squares off against the devil without a hitch (‘man does not live by bread alone’ says the starving Jesus), Israel fared a bit worse (see: calf, golden).
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Four Temptations on Social Media
By Trilla Newbell 1/2018
We live in an age when screens compete for our attention from the minute we wake up. Updates abound, feeds fill up with news, and information is always at the tips of our fingers.
Since joining the array of voices on the Internet, I have watched controversy after controversy unfold over opinions, news stories, and rumors, some of which have resulted in full-on character assaults. This isn’t something happening out there in the world; it’s also happening within Christian spheres. We, however, have an opportunity to be light in a world marred by confusion and division. Yes, we too are divided, but we know the end of the story and can begin to work toward that end—toward unity and peace.
So, how do we share our opinions, convictions, passions, and differing opinions and still maintain brotherly love and affection? We start by naming the problems and then praying for gospel solutions. Here are four problems in our struggle with Internet controversy in the Christian life.
Our Passions Wage | We often quarrel because we want something we don’t have. Perhaps we want others to view us as right and wise. Or we want to change others’ opinions . . . so we fight. Or we want someone to take action . . . so we threaten. James addresses this tendency with a rhetorical question: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1). Passions can cause us to react, and—as is common on social media—passionate reactions far removed from the matter under discussion often lead to sin.
Controversies Involve Real People | Because online discussion doesn’t involve our physical presence, it is easy to forget the human aspect of the Internet. In other words, we forget there is a person behind that blog entry, article, or social media post. That person is made in the image of God, regardless of his standing before God. As Christians, we have a responsibility to love that person (Luke 6:27–36). That doesn’t mean we have to agree with him, but the way we respond will reveal whether we uphold his God-given dignity.
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Trillia J. Newbell is director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, a conference speaker, and author.
Trillia Newbell Books:
Israel is Key to Christian Presence in Middle East
By Dustin Siggins 2/24/2017In the past decade, millions of Christians have fought to escape persecution and violence in the Middle East. Many have died, while others have traveled to Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere in search of safety.
According to Robert Nicholson, Executive Director of The Philos Project, two of the keys to a continued Christian presence in The Holy Land include a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and a thriving Israel.
“It is imperative that the United States continue to support the existence of the State of Israel,” Nicholson told The Stream at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “It is imperative that we not withdraw from Iraq after its liberation, as that will create a power vacuum which will be filled by another insurgency.”
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Dustin Siggins is Associate Editor for The Stream. He previously served as the public relations officer and DC Correspondent for LifeSiteNews, and has been widely published on important issues of public policy and culture. Follow him on Twitter: @DustinSiggins
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 26I Will Bless The Lord
26 Of David.
1 Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked.
Church Membership Has Left Me Relationally Jaded
By John Piper 10/27/2017
Today’s question comes from a listener named Barb. “Pastor John, hello! I’ve been blessed to be in the same local church for twelve years. It’s a very good church. Nevertheless, over those years, I have seen most of the congregation come and go. People who walked with me through difficult life circumstances have left, and I have started over. I feel more and more lonely as the time passes, mostly because I feel myself becoming more cynical, cautious, and superficial with new people. It is hard work getting to know them, and I know they will likely move on before long. What would you say to a Christian who is growing relationally jaded by membership turnover?”
I would love to help Barb overcome the drift because it is a sinful drift even if an understandable one. The drift toward cynicism or anger or low-grade bitterness is wrong if for no other reason than it won’t solve her problem but only make her life more sad and miserable. Her sense of abandonment will become a self-fulfilling prophecy because nobody wants to be around a bitter person. Several things come to my mind that might help. Let me just offer them to Barb and see if they might be of service.
While Waiting | First, keep a clear biblical view of this life — this earthly life, this church life, this family life. This earthly life is a season of partly joyful and partly painful waiting for the fulfillment of all God’s promises. We need a mindset of waiting in an imperfect situation. Much of our frustration (I speak for myself at least) comes from having wrong expectations about what this world and even this age of church life will be.
We expect a better church, a better marriage, better kids, better government, better health, better friends. And the reality falls short. The more it falls short of these expectations the more it will make us cynical and bitter. I know that God is willing to do great things for us, but most of the time we are dealing with people, including the one in the mirror, who fall short of what we hope for. Therefore, we need a mindset about this age that is sober and marked by the long view of patient waiting.
Like James says, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” That’s a long, long patience. It might be to the end of your life. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another” (James 5:7–9).
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
What Makes a Full Atonement Full?
By Mike Wittimer 9/25/2013Last month when the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Songs for the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to exclude “In Christ Alone” from its new hymnal, the chairwoman of the committee said the popular hymn mistakenly expressed “the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger.”
Her comment reveals both a discomfort that many contemporary Christians have with God’s wrath and also an overly simplistic dismissal of penal substitution. We who believe the Son bore the Father’s wrath don’t narrowly think that assuaging this wrath is what the cross is “primarily” about. What happened on the cross is a bit more complicated.
All orthodox theories of the atonement fall into three or four main categories (depending on how sharply you separate moral influence from the example theory), and the four arms of the cross supplies a handy model for remembering them:
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What does the Bible say about illegal immigration?
Answer: Note: We wholeheartedly believe that Christians are called to be compassionate and merciful toward immigrants (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33–34; Matthew 25:35). We also believe that the United States should have a more compassionate and merciful immigration policy. However, that is not the question at hand. The question at hand concerns illegal immigration—whether it is wrong to violate a nation’s borders and transgress its immigration laws.
Romans 13:1–7 makes it abundantly clear that God expects us to obey the laws of the government. The only exception to this is when a law of the government forces us to disobey a command of God (Acts 5:29). Illegal immigration is the breaking of a government’s law. There is nothing in Scripture that contradicts the idea of a sovereign nation having immigration laws. Therefore, it is rebellion against God to unlawfully enter another country. Illegal immigration is a sin.
Illegal immigration is definitely a controversial issue in the United States (and some other countries) today. Some argue that the immigration laws are unfair, unjust, and even discriminatory—thus giving individuals justification to immigrate illegally. However, Romans 13:1–7 does not give any permission to violate a law just because it is perceived as unjust. Again, the issue is not the fairness of a law. The only biblical reason to violate a government’s law is if that law violates God's Word. When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he was under the authority of the Roman Empire, led by Emperor Nero. Under that reign, there were many laws that were unfair, unjust, and/or blatantly evil. Still, Paul instructed Christians to submit to the government.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
26. Moreover, the fear of the Lord, which is uniformly attributed to
all the saints, and which, in one passage, is called "the beginning of
wisdom," in another wisdom itself, although it is one, proceeds from a
twofold cause. God is entitled to the reverence of a Father and a Lord.
Hence he who desires duly to worship him, will study to act the part
both of an obedient son and a faithful servant. The obedience paid to
God as a Father he by his prophet terms honor; the service performed to
him as a master he terms fear. "A son honoureth his father, and a
servant his master. If then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if
I be a master, where is my fear?"  But while he thus distinguishes
between the two, it is obvious that he at the same time confounds them.
The fear of the Lord, therefore, may be defined reverence mingled with
honor and fear. It is not strange that the same mind can entertain both
feelings; for he who considers with himself what kind of a father God
is to us, will see sufficient reason, even were there no hell, why the
thought of offending him should seem more dreadful than any death. But
so prone is our carnal nature to indulgence in sin, that, in order to
curb it in every way, we must also give place to the thought that all
iniquity is abomination to the Master under whom we live; that those
who, by wicked lives, provoke his anger, will not escape his vengeance.
27. There is nothing repugnant to this in the observation of John: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear has torment," (1 John 4:18). For he is speaking of the fear of unbelief, between which and the fear of believers there is a wide difference. The wicked do not fear God from any unwillingness to offend him, provided they could do so with impunity; but knowing that he is armed with power for vengeance, they tremble in dismay on hearing of his anger. And they thus dread his anger, because they think it is impending over them, and they every moment expect it to fall upon their heads. But believers, as has been said, dread the offense even more than the punishment. They are not alarmed by the fear of punishment, as if it were impending over them,  but are rendered the more cautious of doing anything to provoke it. Thus the Apostle addressing believers says, "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things, the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience," (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6). He does not threaten that wrath will descend upon them; but he admonishes them, while they think how the wrath of God is prepared for the wicked, on account of the crimes which he had enumerated, not to run the risk of provoking it. It seldom happens that mere threatening have the effect of arousing the reprobate; nay, becoming more callous and hardened when God thunders verbally from heaven, they obstinately persist in their rebellion. It is only when actually smitten by his hand that they are forced, whether they will or not, to fear. This fear the sacred writers term servile, and oppose to the free and voluntary fear which becomes sons. Some, by a subtle distinction, have introduced an intermediate species, holding that that forced and servile fear sometimes subdues the mind, and leads spontaneously to proper fear.
28. The divine favor to which faith is said to have respect, we understand to include in it the possession of salvation and eternal life. For if, when God is propitious, no good thing can be wanting to us, we have ample security for our salvation when assured of his love. "Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine," says the Prophet, "and we shall be saved," (Ps. 80:3). Hence the Scriptures make the sum of our salvation to consist in the removal of all enmity, and our admission into favor; thus intimating, that when God is reconciled all danger is past, and every thing good will befall us. Wherefore, faith apprehending the love of God has the promise both of the present and the future life, and ample security for all blessings (Eph. 2:14). The nature of this must be ascertained from the word. Faith does not promise us length of days, riches and honors (the Lord not having been pleased that any of these should be appointed us); but is contented with the assurance, that however poor we may be in regard to present comforts, God will never fail us. The chief security lies in the expectation of future life, which is placed beyond doubt by the word of God. Whatever be the miseries and calamities which await the children of God in this world, they cannot make his favor cease to be complete happiness. Hence, when we were desirous to express the sum of blessedness, we designated it by the favor of God, from which, as their source, all kinds of blessings flow. And we may observe throughout the Scriptures, that they refer us to the love of God, not only when they treat of our eternal salvation, but of any blessing whatever. For which reason David sings, that the loving-kindness of God experienced by the pious heart is sweeter and more to be desired than life itself (Ps. 63:3). In short, if we have every earthly comfort to a wish, but are uncertain whether we have the love or the hatred of God, our felicity will be cursed, and therefore miserable. But if God lift on us the light of his fatherly countenance, our very miseries will be blessed, inasmuch as they will become helps to our salvation. Thus Paul, after bringing together all kinds of adversity, boasts that they cannot separate us from the love of God: and in his prayers he uniformly begins with the grace of God as the source of all prosperity. In like manner, to all the terrors which assail us, David opposes merely the favor of God,--"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me," (Ps. 23:4). And we feel that our minds always waver until, contented with the grace of God, we in it seek peace, and feel thoroughly persuaded of what is said in the psalm, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance," (Ps. 33:12).
29. Free promise we make the foundation of faith, because in it faith properly consists. For though it holds that God is always true, whether in ordering or forbidding, promising or threatening; though it obediently receive his commands, observe his prohibitions, and give heed to his threatening; yet it properly begins with promise, continues with it, and ends with it. It seeks life in God, life which is not found in commands or the denunciations of punishment, but in the promise of mercy. And this promise must be gratuitous; for a conditional promise, which throws us back upon our works, promises life only in so far as we find it existing in ourselves. Therefore, if we would not have faith to waver and tremble, we must support it with the promise of salvation, which is offered by the Lord spontaneously and freely, from a regard to our misery rather than our worth. Hence the Apostle bears this testimony to the Gospel, that it is the word of faith (Rom. 10:8). This he concedes not either to the precepts or the promises of the Law, since there is nothing which can establish our faith, but that free embassy by which God reconciles the world to himself. Hence he often uses faith and the Gospel as correlative terms, as when he says, that the ministry of the Gospel was committed to him for "obedience to the faith;" that "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;" that "therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith," (Rom. 1:5, 16, 17). No wonder: for seeing that the Gospel is "the ministry of reconciliation," (2 Cor. 5:18), there is no other sufficient evidence of the divine favor, such as faith requires to know. Therefore, when we say, that faith must rest on a free promise, we deny not that believers accept and embrace the word of God in all its parts, but we point to the promise of mercy as its special object. Believers, indeed, ought to recognize God as the judge and avenger of wickedness; and yet mercy is the object to which they properly look, since he is exhibited to their contemplation as "good and ready to forgive," "plenteous in mercy," "slow to anger," "good to all," and shedding "his tender mercies over all his works". Ps. 86:5; 103:8; 145:8, 9).
30. I stay not to consider the rabid objections of Pighius, and others like-minded, who inveigh against this restriction, as rending faith, and laying hold of one of its fragments. I admit, as I have already said, that the general object of faith (as they express it) is the truth of God, whether he threatens or gives hope of his favor. Accordingly, the Apostle attributes it to faith in Noah, that he feared the destruction of the world, when as yet it was not seen (Heb. 11:17). If fear of impending punishment was a work of faith, threatening ought not to be excluded in defining it. This is indeed true; but we are unjustly and calumniously charged with denying that faith has respect to the whole word of God. We only mean to maintain these two points,--that faith is never decided until it attain to a free promise; and that the only way in which faith reconciles us to God is by uniting us with Christ. Both are deserving of notice. We are inquiring after a faith which separates the children of God from the reprobate, believers from unbelievers. Shall every man, then, who believes that God is just in what he commands, and true in what he threatens, be on that account classed with believers? Very far from it. Faith, then, has no firm footing until it stand in the mercy of God. Then what end have we in view in discoursing of faith? Is it not that we may understand the way of salvation? But how can faith be saving, unless in so far as it in grafts us into the body of Christ? There is no absurdity, therefore, when, in defining it, we thus press its special object, and, by way of distinction, add to the generic character the particular mark which distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever. In short, the malicious have nothing to carp at in this doctrine, unless they are to bring the same censure against the Apostle Paul, who specially designates the Gospel as "the word of faith," (Rom. 10:8).
31. Hence again we infer, as has already been explained, that faith has no less need of the word than the fruit of a tree has of a living root; because, as David testifies, none can hope in God but those who know his name (Ps. 9:10). This knowledge, however, is not left to every man's imagination, but depends on the testimony which God himself gives to his goodness. This the same Psalmist confirms in another passage, "Thy salvation according to thy word," (Ps. 119:41). Again, "Save me," "I hoped in thy word," (Ps. 119:146, 147). Here we must attend to the relation of faith to the word, and to salvation as its consequence. Still, however, we exclude not the power of God. If faith cannot support itself in the view of this power, it never will give Him the honor which is due. Paul seems to relate a trivial or very ordinary circumstance with regard to Abraham, when he says, that he believed that God, who had given him the promise of a blessed seed, was able also to perform it (Rom. 4:21). And in like manner, in another passage, he says of himself, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day," (2 Tim. 1:12). But let any one consider with himself, how he is ever and anon assailed with doubts in regard to the power of God, and he will readily perceive, that those who duly magnify it have made no small progress in faith. We all acknowledge that God can do whatsoever he pleases; but while every temptation, even the most trivial, fills us with fear and dread, it is plain that we derogate from the power of God, by attaching less importance to his promises than to Satan's threatenings against them. 
This is the reason why Isaiah, when he would impress on the hearts of the people the certainty of faith, discourses so magnificently of the boundless power of God. He often seems, after beginning to speak of the hope of pardon and reconciliation, to digress, and unnecessarily take a long circuitous course, describing how wonderfully God rules the fabric of heaven and earth, with the whole course of nature; and yet he introduces nothing which is not appropriate to the occasion; because unless the power of God, to which all things are possible is presented to our eye, our ears malignantly refuse admission to the word, or set no just value upon it. We may add, that an effectual power is here meant; for piety, as it has elsewhere been seen, always makes a practical application of the power of God; in particular, keeps those works in view in which he has declared himself to be a Father. Hence the frequent mention in Scripture of redemption; from which the Israelites might learn, that he who had once been the author of salvation would be its perpetual guardian. By his own example, also, David reminds us, that the benefits which God has bestowed privately on any individual, tend to confirm his faith for the time to come; nay, that when God seems to have forsaken us, we ought to extend our view farther, and take courage from his former favors, as is said in another psalm, "I remember the days of old: I meditate on all thy works," (Ps. 143:5). Again "I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of old" (Ps. 77:11). But because all our conceptions of the power and works of God are evanescent without the word, we are not rash in maintaining, that there is no faith until God present us with clear evidence of his grace.
Here, however, a question might be raised as to the view to be taken of Sarah and Rebekah, both of whom, impelled as it would seem by zeal for the faith, went beyond the limits of the word. Sarah, in her eager desire for the promised seed, gave her maid to her husband. That she sinned in many respects is not to be denied; but the only fault to which I now refer is her being carried away by zeal, and not confining herself within the limits prescribed by the word. It is certain, however, that her desire proceeded from faith. Rebekah, again, divinely informed of the election of her son Jacob, procures the blessing for him by a wicked stratagem; deceives her husband, who was a witness and minister of divine grace; forces her son to lie; by various frauds and impostures corrupts divine truth; in fine, by exposing his promise to scorn, does what in her lies to make it of no effect. And yet this conduct, however vicious and reprehensible, was not devoid of faith. She must have overcome many obstacles before she obtained so strong a desire of that which, without any hope of earthly advantage, was full of difficulty and danger. In the same way, we cannot say that the holy patriarch Isaac was altogether void of faith, in that, after he had been similarly informed of the honor transferred to the younger son, he still continues his predilection in favor of his first-born, Esau. These examples certainly show that error is often mingled with faith; and yet that when faith is real, it always obtains the preeminence. For as the particular error of Rebekah did not render the blessing of no effect, neither did it nullify the faith which generally ruled in her mind, and was the principle and cause of that action. In this, nevertheless, Rebekah showed how prone the human mind is to turn aside whenever it gives itself the least indulgence. But though defect and infirmity obscure faith, they do not extinguish it. Still they admonish us how carefully we ought to cling to the word of God, and at the same time confirm what we have taught--viz. that faith gives way when not supported by the word, just as the minds of Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah, would have lost themselves in devious paths, had not the secret restraint of Providence kept them obedient to the word.
32. On the other hand, we have good ground for comprehending all the promises in Christ, since the Apostle comprehends the whole Gospel under the knowledge of Christ, and declares that all the promises of God are in him yea, and amen.  The reason for this is obvious. Every promise which God makes is evidence of his good will. This is invariably true, and is not inconsistent with the fact, that the large benefits which the divine liberality is constantly bestowing on the wicked are preparing them for heavier judgment. As they neither think that these proceed from the hand of the Lord, nor acknowledge them as his, or if they do so acknowledge them, never regard them as proofs of his favor, they are in no respect more instructed thereby in his mercy than brute beasts, which, according to their condition, enjoy the same liberality, and yet never look beyond it. Still it is true, that by rejecting the promises generally offered to them, they subject themselves to severer punishment. For though it is only when the promises are received in faith that their efficacy is manifested, still their reality and power are never extinguished by our infidelity or ingratitude. Therefore, when the Lord by his promises invites us not only to enjoy the fruits of his kindness, but also to meditate upon them, he at the same time declares his love. Thus we are brought back to our statement, that every promise is a manifestation of the divine favor toward us. Now, without controversy, God loves no man out of Christ. He is the beloved Son, in whom the love of the Father dwells, and from whom it afterwards extends to us. Thus Paul says "In whom he has made us accepted in the Beloved," (Eph. 1:6). It is by his intervention, therefore, that love is diffused so as to reach us. Accordingly, in another passage, the Apostle calls Christ "our peace," (Eph. 2:14), and also represents him as the bond by which the Father is united to us in paternal affection (Rom. 8:3). It follows, that whenever any promise is made to us, we must turn our eyes toward Christ. Hence, with good reasons Paul declares that in him all the promises of God are confirmed and completed (Rom. 15:8). Some examples are brought forward as repugnant to this view. When Naaman the Syrian made inquiry at the prophet as to the true mode of worshipping God, we cannot (it is said) suppose that he was informed of the Mediator, and yet he is commended for his piety (2 Kings 5:17-19). Nor could Cornelius, a Roman heathen, be acquainted with what was not known to all the Jews, and at best known obscurely. And yet his alms and prayers were acceptable to God (Acts 10:31), while the prophet by his answer approved of the sacrifices of Naaman. In both, this must have been the result of faith. In like manner, the eunuch to whom Philip was sent, had he not been endued with some degree of faith, never would have incurred the fatigue and expense of a long and difficult journey to obtain an opportunity of worship (Acts 8:27, 31); and yet we see how, when interrogated by Philip, he betrays his ignorance of the Mediator. I admit that, in some respect, their faith was not explicit either as to the person of Christ, or the power and office assigned him by the Father. Still it is certain that they were imbued with principles which might give some, though a slender, foretaste of Christ. This should not be thought strange; for the eunuch would not have hastened from a distant country to Jerusalem to an unknown God; nor could Cornelius, after having once embraced the Jewish religion, have lived so long in Judea without becoming acquainted with the rudiments of sound doctrine. In regard to Naaman, it is absurd to suppose that Elisha, while he gave him many minute precepts, said nothing of the principal matter. Therefore, although their knowledge of Christ may have been obscure, we cannot suppose that they had no such knowledge at all. They used the sacrifices of the Law, and must have distinguished them from the spurious sacrifices of the Gentiles, by the end to which they referred--viz. Christ.
33. A simple external manifestation of the word ought to be amply sufficient to produce faith, did not our blindness and perverseness prevent. But such is the proneness of our mind to vanity, that it can never adhere to the truth of God, and such its dullness, that it is always blind even in his light. Hence without the illumination of the Spirit the word has no effect; and hence also it is obvious that faith is something higher than human understanding. Nor were it sufficient for the mind to be illumined by the Spirit of God unless the heart also were strengthened and supported by his power. Here the Schoolmen go completely astray, dwelling entirely in their consideration of faith, on the bare simple assent of the understanding, and altogether overlooking confidence and security of heart. Faith is the special gift of God in both ways,--in purifying the mind so as to give it a relish for divine truth, and afterwards in establishing it therein. For the Spirit does not merely originate faith, but gradually increases it, until by its means he conducts us into the heavenly kingdom. "That good thing which was committed unto thee," says Paul, "keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us," (2 Tim. 1:14). In what sense Paul says (Gal. 3:2), that the Spirit is given by the hearing of faith, may be easily explained. If there were only a single gift of the Spirit, he who is the author and cause of faith could not without absurdity be said to be its effect; but after celebrating the gifts with which God adorns his church, and by successive additions of faith leads it to perfection, there is nothing strange in his ascribing to faith the very gifts which faith prepares us for receiving. It seems to some paradoxical, when it is said that none can believe Christ save those to whom it is given; but this is partly because they do not observe how recondite and sublime heavenly wisdom is, or how dull the mind of man in discerning divine mysteries, and partly because they pay no regard to that firm and stable constancy of heart which is the chief part of faith.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)
By John Bunyan 1678
THE FOURTH STAGESo the next time he comes he finds her at her old work, making things for the poor. Then said he, What, always at it? Yes, said she, either for myself or for others. And what canst thou earn a day? said he. I do these things, said she, that I may be rich in good works, laying up in store for myself a good foundation against the time to come, that I may lay hold on eternal life.
1 Tim. 6:17–19 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. ESV
Why, prithee, what doest thou with them? said he. Clothe the naked, said she. With that his countenance fell. So he forbore to come at her again. And when he was asked the reason why, he said, that Mercy was a pretty lass, but troubled with ill conditions.
When he had left her, Prudence said, Did I not tell thee that Mr. Brisk would soon forsake thee? yea, he will rise up an ill report of thee; for, notwithstanding his pretence to religion, and his seeming love to Mercy, yet Mercy and he are of tempers so different that I believe they will never come together.
MER. I might have had husbands before now, though I spoke not of it to any; but they were such as did not like my conditions, though never did any of them find fault with my person. So they and I could not agree.
PRUD. Mercy in our days is but little set by any further than as to its name: the practice which is set forth by thy conditions, there are but few that can abide.
MER. Well, said Mercy, if nobody will have me, I will die unmarried, or my conditions shall be to me as a husband: for I cannot change my nature; and to have one who lies cross to me in this, that I purpose never to admit of as long as I live. I had a sister named Bountiful, that was married to one of these churls, but he and she could never agree; but because my sister was resolved to do as she had begun, that is, to show kindness to the poor, therefore her husband first cried her down at the cross, and then turned her out of his doors.
PRUD. And yet he was a professor, I warrant you?
MER. Yes, such a one as he was, and of such as he the world is now full: but I am for none of them all.
Now Matthew, the eldest son of Christiana, fell sick, and his sickness was sore upon him, for he was much pained in his bowels, so that he was with it at times pulled, as it were, both ends together. There dwelt also not far from thence one Mr. Skill, an ancient and well-approved physician. So Christiana desired it, and they sent for him, and he came. When he was entered the room, and had a little observed the boy, he concluded that he was sick of the gripes. Then he said to his mother, What diet has Matthew of late fed upon? Diet! said Christiana, nothing but what is wholesome. The physician answered, This boy has been tampering with something that lies in his stomach undigested, and that will not away without means. And I tell you he must be purged, or else he will die.
SAM. Then said Samuel, Mother, what was that which my brother did gather up and eat as soon as we were come from the gate that is at the head of this way? You know that there was an orchard on the left hand, on the other side of the wall, and some of the trees hung over the wall, and my brother did pluck and eat.
CHR. True, my child, said Christiana, he did take thereof, and did eat: naughty boy as he was, I chid him, and yet he would eat thereof.
SKILL. I knew he had eaten something that was not wholesome food; and that food, to wit, that fruit, is even the most hurtful of all. It is the fruit of Beelzebub’s orchard. I do marvel that none did warn you of it; many have died thereof.
CHR. Then Christiana began to cry; and she said, Oh, naughty boy! and Oh, careless mother! what shall I do for my son?
SKILL. Come, do not be too much dejected; the boy may do well again, but he must purge and vomit.
CHR. Pray, sir, try the utmost of your skill with him, whatever it costs.
SKILL. Nay, I hope I shall be reasonable. So he made him a purge, but it was too weak; it was said it was made of the blood of a goat, the ashes of a heifer, and some of the juice of hyssop.
Hebrews 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, ESV
Hebrews 9:19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, ESV
Hebrews 10:1–4 1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. ESV
When Mr. Skill had seen that that purge was too weak, he made one to the purpose. It was made ex carne et sanguine Christi,
John 6:54–57 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. ESV
Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. ESV
(you know physicians give strange medicines to their patients:) and it was made into pills, with a promise or two, and a proportionable quantity of salt.
Mark 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire. ESV
Now, he was to take them three at a time, fasting, in half a quarter of a pint of the tears of repentance.
Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. ESV
When this potion was prepared, and brought to the boy, he was loth to take it, though torn with the gripes as if he should be pulled in pieces. Come, come, said the physician, you must take it. It goes against my stomach, said the boy. I must have you take it, said his mother. I shall vomit it up again, said the boy. Pray, sir, said Christiana to Mr. Skill, how does it taste? It has no ill taste, said the doctor; and with that she touched one of the pills with the tip of her tongue. Oh, Matthew, said she, this potion is sweeter than honey. If thou lovest thy mother, if thou lovest thy brothers, if thou lovest Mercy, if thou lovest thy life, take it. So, with much ado, after a short prayer for the blessing of God upon it, he took it, and it wrought kindly with him. It caused him to purge; it caused him to sleep, and to rest quietly; it put him into a fine heat and breathing sweat, and did quite rid him of his gripes. So in a little time he got up, and walked about with a staff, and would go from room to room, and talk with Prudence, Piety, and Charity, of his distemper, and how he was healed.
So when the boy was healed, Christiana asked Mr. Skill, saying, Sir, what will content you for your pains and care to and of my child? And he said, You must pay the master of the College of Physicians,
Hebrews 13:11–15 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. ESV
according to rules made in that case and provided.
CHR. But, sir, said she, what is this pill good for else?
SKILL. It is a universal pill; it is good against all the diseases that pilgrims are incident to; and when it is well prepared, it will keep good, time out of mind.
CHR. Pray, sir, make me up twelve boxes of them; for if I can get these, I will never take other physic.
SKILL. These pills are good to prevent diseases, as well as to cure when one is sick. Yea, I dare say it, and stand to it, that if a man will but use this physic as he should, it will make him live for ever.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” ESV
But, good Christiana, thou must give these pills no other way but as I have prescribed; for if you do, they will do no good. So he gave unto Christiana physic for herself, and her boys, and for Mercy; and bid Matthew take heed how he ate any more green plums; and kissed them, and went his way.
It was told you before, that Prudence bid the boys, that if at any time they would, they should ask her some questions that might be profitable and she would say something to them.
MATT. Then Matthew, who had been sick, asked her, why for the most part physic should be bitter to our palates.
PRUD. To show how unwelcome the word of God and the effects thereof are to a carnal heart.
MATT. Why does physic, if it does good, purge, and cause to vomit?
PRUD. To show that the word, when it works effectually, cleanseth the heart and mind. For look, what the one doth to the body, the other doth to the soul.
MATT. What should we learn by seeing the flame of our fire go upwards, and by seeing the beams and sweet influences of the sun strike downwards?
PRUD. By the going up of the fire, we are taught to ascend to heaven by fervent and hot desires. And by the sun sending his heat, beams, and sweet influences downwards, we are taught the Saviour of the world, though high, reaches down with his grace and love to us below.
MATT. Whence have the clouds their water?
PRUD. Out of the sea.
MATT. What may we learn from that?
PRUD. That ministers should fetch their doctrine from God.
MATT. Why do they empty themselves upon the earth?
PRUD. To show that ministers should give out what they know of God to the world.
MATT. Why is the rainbow caused by the sun?
PRUD. To show that the covenant of God’s grace is confirmed to us in Christ.
MATT. Why do the springs come from the sea to us through the earth?
PRUD. To show that the grace of God comes to us through the body of Christ.
MATT. Why do some of the springs rise out of the tops of high hills?
PRUD. To show that the Spirit of grace shall spring up in some that are great and mighty, as well as in many that are poor and low.
MATT. Why doth the fire fasten upon the candle-wick? I really like this.
PRUD. To show that unless grace doth kindle upon the heart, there will be no true light of life in us.
MATT. Why are the wick, and tallow and all, spent to maintain the light of the candle?
PRUD. To show that body and soul, and all, should be at the service of, and spend themselves to maintain in good condition that grace of God that is in us.
MATT. Why doth the pelican pierce her own breast with her bill?
PRUD. To nourish her young ones with her blood, and thereby to show that Christ the blessed so loved his young, (his people,) as to save them from death by his blood.
MATT. What may one learn by hearing the cock to crow?
PRUD. Learn to remember Peter’s sin, and Peter’s repentance. The cock’s crowing shows also, that day is coming on: let, then, the crowing of the cock put thee in mind of that last and terrible day of judgment.
Now about this time their month was out; wherefore they signified to those of the house, that it was convenient for them to up and be going. Then said Joseph to his mother, It is proper that you forget not to send to the house of Mr. Interpreter, to pray him to grant that Mr. Great-Heart should be sent unto us, that he may be our conductor for the rest of the way. Good boy, said she, I had almost forgot. So she drew up a petition, and prayed Mr. Watchful the porter to send it by some fit man to her good friend Mr. Interpreter; who, when it was come, and he had seen the contents of the petition, said to the messenger, Go, tell them that I will send him.
When the family where Christiana was, saw that they had a purpose to go forward, they called the whole house together, to give thanks to their King for sending of them such profitable guests as these. Which done, they said unto Christiana, And shall we not show thee something, as our custom is to do to pilgrims, on which thou mayest meditate when thou art upon the way? So they took Christiana, her children, and Mercy, into the closet, and showed them one of the apples that Eve ate of, and that she also did give to her husband, and that for the eating of which they were both turned out of paradise, and asked her what she thought that was. Then Christiana said, It is food or poison, I know not which. So they opened the matter to her, and she held up her hands and wondered.
Gen. 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. ESV
Rom. 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ESV
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
By Don Carson 6/6/2018
Interspersed with the historical recital that makes up much of the early chapters of Deuteronomy are bursts of exhortation. One of the most moving is found in Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Its magnificent themes include:
(1) A sheer God-centerdness that embraces both fearing God and loving God (Deut. 10:12-13). In our confused and blinded world, fearing God without loving him will dissolve into terror, and thence into taboos, magic, incantations, rites; loving God without obeying him will dissolve into sentimentalism without strong affection, pretensions of godliness without moral vigor, unbridled lust for power without any sense of impropriety, nostalgic yearnings for relationships without any passion for holiness. Neither pattern squares with what the Bible says: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him . . .?” (Deut. 10:12).
(2) A sheer God-centeredness that pictures election as a gracious act. God owns the whole show — “the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut. 10:14). He can do with it as he wishes. What he has in fact done is “set his affection” on the patriarchs, loving them, and in turn choosing their descendants (Deut. 10:15; cf. Deut. 4:37).
(3) A sheer God-centeredness that is never satisfied with the mere rites and show of religion: it demands the heart (Deut. 10:16). That is why physical circumcision could never be seen as an end in itself, not even in the Old Testament. It symbolized something deeper: circumcision of the heart. What God wants is not merely an outward sign that certain people belong to him, but an inward disposition of heart and mind that orient us to God continually.
(4) A sheer God-centeredness that recognizes his impartiality, and therefore his justice — and acts accordingly (Deut. 10:17-20). He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deut. 10:17). Small wonder then that he accepts no bribes and shows no partiality. (Never confuse election with partiality. Partiality is favoritism that is corrupted by a willingness to pervert justice for the sake of the favored few; election chooses certain people out of God’s free decision and nothing else, and even then justice is not perverted: hence the cross.) And he expects his people to conduct themselves accordingly.
(5) A sheer God-centeredness that is displayed in his people’s praise (Deut. 10:20-22). “He is your praise; he is your God” (Deut. 10:21). Those who focus much on God have much for which to praise. Those whose vision is merely terrestrial or self-centered dry up inside like desiccated prunes. God is your praise!
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Secrets of self-control (3)
3/2/2018 Bob Gass
‘The grace of God…teaches us to say “No.”’
(Tt 2:11) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, ESV
Talk back to your feelings. We put far too much emphasis on our feelings. We think everything has to feel good or it’s not worthwhile. We say things like, ‘I don’t feel like studying…I don’t feel like working…I don’t feel like reading my Bible.’ Or, ‘I feel like having another drink…I feel like sleeping until noon.’ Don’t give your feelings so much authority. Feelings are highly unreliable; if you allow them, they will control and manipulate you. God doesn’t want you to be controlled by your feelings. He wants you to master your moods. With Christ as the Master of your life, you can master your feelings. Talk back to them. God says He wants you to learn how to challenge your emotions. ‘The grace of God…teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives’ (vv. 11-12 NIV 2011 Edition). God’s grace gives you the power to do what’s right. It gives you the ability to say no to that feeling, to that desire, to that impulse. Are you battling a weight problem? Before you ever walk into the kitchen and open the refrigerator door, you have already begun to talk to yourself about eating. If you are serious, you will have to challenge some of those subconscious attitudes about food. When you hear your mind saying, ‘I just have to have a snack or I’ll die,’ you have to say, ‘No, I’m not going to die. In fact, I will be healthier if I don’t have a snack.’ Bottom line: God’s supernatural power can help you to master your moods, thoughts, and desires.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
March 2, 1836, the people of Texas signed a Declaration of Independence, stating: “The government [of] General Santa Ana… now offers… the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes… or submit to the most intolerable… tyranny…. It denies us the right of worshiping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience… It has demanded us to deliver up our arms… It has… incited the… savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our… frontiers.” The Texas Declaration concluded: “Conscious of… our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit… to… the Supreme Arbiter of the Destinies of Nations.”
Thomas R. Kelly
The second is love. It is second not in importance but merely in order of mentioning. For it is true that in the experience of Divine Presence that which flows over the ocean of darkness is an infinite ocean of light and love. In the Eternal Now all men become seen in a new way. We enfold them in our love, and we and they are enfolded together within the great Love of God as we know it in Christ. Once walk in the Now and men are changed, in our sight, as we see them from the plateau heights. They aren't just masses of struggling beings, furthering or thwarting our ambitions, or, in far larger numbers, utterly alien to and insulated from us. We become identified with them and suffer when they suffer and rejoice when they rejoice. One might almost say we become cosmic mothers, tenderly caring for all. But that, I believe, is experienced only in the acutest stages of mystic ecstasy, whereas I have been discussing the experience of milder, less lofty plateaus of glory, prolonged days and even weeks of sense of Presence wherein, as Isaac Penington would say, the springings of the Life are ever fresh. In such a sense of Presence there is a vast background of cosmic Love and tender care for all things (plants included, I find for myself), but in the foreground arise special objects of love and concern and tender responsibility. The people we know best, see oftenest, have most to do with, these are reloved in a new and a deeper way. Would that we could relove the whole world! But a special fragment is placed before us by the temporal now, which puts a special responsibility for our present upon us. The responsibility arising from our location in space is very different from our responsibility arising out of our location in time. For we can journey to distant places and get a different foreground of objects and events, but we cannot journey out of our time-now into a new historical location. The invading Love of the Eternal Now must break in through us into this time-now.
But what is the content and aim of this yearning Love, which is the Divine Love loving its way into and through us to others? It is that they too may make the great discovery, that they also may find God or, better, be found by Him, that they may know the Eternal breaking in upon them and making their lives moving images of the Eternal Life. It is not reserved merely for the Father-Love in heaven to grieve over prodigal sons. Wherever any heart has tasted of the heavenly Love, there is the Father-Love grieving over prodigals, there is the shepherd heart yearning over sheep not having a shepherd, not knowing where are the green pastures, not even aware that there are green pastures to find, there is one of the sons of God mourning to see his fellows raking together the sticks and the straws while over their heads is held the crown of life. Heaven's eternal Now within us makes us speak blasphemous things, for we seem to assume the prerogatives of God. But this is a part of that astounding boldness of which I mean to speak under the head of peace-our next main fruit of the spirit.
But first I would point out the new fellowship which is born among those who have found the Love which is in the Eternal Now. For those who have been brought back to the Principle within them are exquisitely drawn toward all others who have found the same Principle. The fellowship is not founded upon a common subjective experience, like the fellowship of hay-fever sufferers! It is founded upon a common Object, who is known by them all to be the very Life within them. This is the Reality which removes Quakerism from pure individualism and from pure subjectivism, as it is so commonly and so mistakenly interpreted.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs
is people who have come alive.
--- Howard Thurman
The first duty of love is to listen.
--- Paul Tillich
Property may be destroyed and money may lose its purchasing power; but, character, health, knowledge and good judgment will always be in demand under all conditions.
--- Roger Babson
The Christian of the future will be a mystic.
--- Karl Rahner
... from here, there and everywhere
Vers. 1–6.—Life’s meaning discerned by the retrospect of it. The remark has not unfrequently been made that incidents closely connected cannot be rightly understood till the time has come for them to be reviewed in their entirety as matters of history What is true of events generally, applies in all its force to the wonders included in the rescue and wanderings of the people of Israel. And that which may be said of them, holds good, in this respect, of the life-story of God’s children now. Two words would sum up the pith of their experience—“redemption,” “training.” Redeemed first, trained afterwards. Redeemed, that they might be trained; trained, that they might become worthy of the redemption. Both the redemption and the training had in Israel’s case a depth of meaning of which the people knew little at the time, but which Israel’s God intended from the first. Afterwards, their varied experiences, when reviewed as a piece of history, became matter for grateful record and adoring praise. The paragraph before us now is “the aged lawgiver reviewing the experiences of Israel in their wanderings.” Four lines of meditation open up—
I. THERE ARE MANY LESSONS WHICH GOD’S CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN. 1. “To humble thee” (ver. 2), i.e. to bring them to feel their dependence on God. This, indeed, seems such an obvious truth, that men ought not to need to be taught it. But we must remember that, before we are redeemed, our training for eternity has never begun at all, and that when redemption is with us a realized fact, we then present ourselves to God only in the rough, relying on his love to make us what we should be. And one of the lessons we have thoroughly to learn is that “without Christ we can do nothing.” 2. “To prove thee” (ver. 2). A double proof is indicated. (1) What they were: “To know what was in thine heart.” (2) What they would do: “Whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” There is no subject on which the young convert is so ignorant as—himself; and he never can become what a Christian should be till he sees his own conceit. He must become a sadder man ere he can be a wiser one 3. “That he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone.” It has been remarked that, as Moses in this clause refers to the manna, the meaning is: (1) That it is not from nature but from nature’s God that supplies come. (2) That God is free to adopt any course he pleases in providing food. Doubtless this is true. But it is not the whole truth, nor do we deem it the truth here intended. We know that with these words our Saviour repelled one assault of the tempter. This being so, we are set somewhat on a different track for their interpretation (cf. Matt. 4:3, 4). Our Saviour’s reply is, in effect, “Man has a double life, not only that of the body, but also that of the spirit; you ask me to nourish the lower at the expense of the higher—to get food for the body by a negation of the self-sacrifice for which I came. It is not bread alone which sustains the man. He has a higher self, which lives on higher food, and I cannot pamper the lower at the cost of the prostration of the higher.” Now, with such light thrown on the passage by our Lord, we are led to regard the words of Moses as referring not only to the supply of food, but rather to the entire discipline in the wilderness, as intended by God to bring out to the people the reality and worth of the nobler part of man. Our God cares more for growth of soul than for comfort of body. His aim is not only to find us food, but to train us for himself. Nor was it that they only might learn these lessons, but that others in after time might see on what rough and raw material the Great Educator will condescend to work, and with what care he will work upon it.
II. GOD ADOPTS VARIED METHODS OF TEACHING THESE NEEDED LESSONS. The clauses in the paragraph indicate these. 1. There was “the way” by which they were led. It was not given to Israel to choose it. It was not the shortest way. It was “the right” way, appointed by God. 2. The method of sending supplies: “Day by day the manna fell.” They were thus taught to live by the day. 3. The disappointments they met: “These forty years.” If they had been told, when they set out from Egypt, that so long a period intervened between them and Canaan, they would scarcely have set out. And if God were to unveil to us the incidents of coming years, we could not bear the sight. 4. The wants they felt: “He suffered thee to hunger.” God sometimes lets his people feel how completely they are shut up to him. 5. Yet there were constant proofs of thoughtful care (ver. 4). We do not understand any miracle involved here, still less so odd a one as the rabbis suggested, that the children’s clothes grew upon their backs. The meaning of Moses surely is, “God so provided for their wants that they needed not to wear tattered garments, nor to injure their feet by walking without shoes or sandals.” 6. There was also chastening (ver. 5). This word includes not only correction but all that belongs to the training of a child (cf. Heb. 12:7; 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:32; Job 7:17, 18; Prov. 3:11, 12; Rev. 3:19).
III. THERE IS A REASON INDICATED HERE WHY GOD TAKES SO MUCH PAINS TO TEACH THESE LESSONS. Ver. 5, “As a man chasteneth his son.” We might well ask, Why should the Great Supreme do so much to educate into shape such raw and rough natures as ours? That he should do so at all is, per se, far harder to believe than any apparent variation of the ordinary course of physical nature. The reason is found in the words, “Ye are sons.” Israel was God’s son, even his firstborn. Believers are the adopted children of God; hence the greatness of their destiny, and the earnestness of their Leader in training them for it. It may be said, indeed, by an unbeliever, “I have all these changes in life, but they are not training me,” etc. No, because the one condition is wanting under which all these come to be a training—sonship. This order is never reversed—rescued, then educated. If men have not known the first, they cannot understand the second.
IV. IF GOD CARES SO MUCH TO TRAIN, WE SHOULD CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT HIS TRAINING MEANS. (Vers. 2, 5.) Let us understand what a high moral and spiritual aim God has in the culture of this life of ours! The life of a man is not a mere material something, on a physical basis; it is the expression of a plan of God. Then let us be as anxious to be rightly educated for eternity, as God is so to educate us. Never let us allow the lower ends of life to master the higher (Ver. 6). Ever let us keep the end of life in view. For eternity we are meant, and for eternity we should live. Some have life largely in retrospect, even now. Do they not see that the past is explained by the present? Even so the present will be explained by the future (John 13:7). Let them rejoice that they have a Father who guides by the way which he sees to be right, and not “according to their mind.” Some have life before them. 1. Let it be the supreme desire to let life become what God wants it to be—a continuous advance in preparation for heaven. This is of more consequence than all the ease and comfort in the world. 2. Recognize and praise the kindness of God in giving men these chequered experiences of life, if they do but educate for higher service. Don’t let us wonder if we cannot understand God’s ways at the time. We shall in the end. 3. If we want God to train us for glory—first, we must come out of Egypt. The education cannot begin in the land of bondage,—we must first be the Lord’s free men; then, let us leave the way and method of the culture entirely to God. If he were to let us choose the way, what mistakes we should make! Our faith in God even in youth should be such as to lead us to say, “Father, my supreme desire is to grow like thee, and to live with thee. I know not by what paths I need to be led, nor through what discipline I need to be brought, to bring about this end. I leave all in thy gracious hands, desiring that thine infinite wisdom and love should order all things for me. Here I am. Take me as I am, all guilty and defiled. Make me what I should be; and if by thy grace I am ripened for and led to Canaan, then will I sing, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to him which sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!’ ”
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
University of Virginia Library 1994
Fourth of fourth month, 1758. -- Orders came to some officers in Mount Holly to prepare quarters for a short time for about one hundred soldiers. An officer and two other men, all inhabitants of our town came to my house. The officer told me that he came to desire me to provide lodging and entertainment for two soldiers, and that six shillings a week per man would be allowed as pay for it. The case being new and unexpected I made no answer suddenly, but sat a time silent, my mind being inward. I was fully convinced that the proceedings in wars are inconsistent with the purity of the Christian religion; and to be hired to entertain men, who were then under pay as soldiers, was a difficulty with me. I expected they had legal authority for what they did; and after a short time I said to the officer, if the men are sent here for entertainment I believe I shall not refuse to admit them into my house, but the nature of the case is such that I expect I cannot keep them on hire; one of the men intimated that he thought I might do it consistently with my religious principles. To which I made no reply, believing silence at that time best for me. Though they spake of two, there came only one, who tarried at my house about two weeks, and behaved himself civilly. When the officer came to pay me, I told him I could not take pay, having admitted him into my house in a passive obedience to authority. I was on horseback when he spake to me, and as I turned from him, he said he was obliged to me; to which I said nothing; but, thinking on the expression, I grew uneasy; and afterwards, being near where he lived, I went and told him on what grounds I refused taking pay for keeping the soldier.
I have been informed that Thomas a Kempis lived and died in the profession of the Roman Catholic religion; and, in reading his writings, I have believed him to be a man of a true Christian spirit, as fully so as many who died martyrs because they could not join with some superstitions in that church. All true Christians are of the same spirit, but their gifts are diverse, Jesus Christ appointing to each one his peculiar office, agreeably to his infinite wisdom.
John Huss contended against the errors which had crept into the church, in opposition to the Council of Constance, which the historian reports to have consisted of some thousand persons. He modestly vindicated the cause which he believed was right; and though his language and conduct towards his judges appear to have been respectful, yet he never could be moved from the principles settled in his mind. To use his own words: "This I most humbly require and desire of you all, even for his sake who is the God of us all, that I be not compelled to the thing which my conscience doth repugn or strive against." And again, in his answer to the Emperor: "I refuse nothing, most noble Emperor, whatsoever the council shall decree or determine upon me, only this one thing I except, that I do not offend God and my conscience." At length, rather than act contrary to that which he believed the Lord required of him, he chose to suffer death by fire. Thomas a Kempis, without disputing against the articles then generally agreed to, appears to have labored, by a pious example as well as by preaching and writing, to promote virtue and the inward spiritual religion; and I believe they were both sincere-hearted followers of Christ. True charity is an excellent virtue; and sincerely to labor for their good, whose belief in all points doth not agree with ours, is a happy state.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
is a beautiful woman who lacks good sense.
23 The righteous desire only good,
but what the wicked hope for brings wrath.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Have you felt the hurt of the Lord?
Jesus said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? --- John 21:17.
Have you felt the hurt of the Lord to the uncovered quick, the place where the real sensitiveness of your life is lodged? The devil never hurts there, neither sin nor human affection hurts there, nothing goes through to that place but the word of God. “Peter was grieved, because Jesus said unto him the third time.…” He was awakening to the fact that in the real true centre of his personal life he was devoted to Jesus, and he began to see what the patient questioning meant. There was not the slightest strand of delusion left in Peter’s mind, he never could be deluded again. There was no room for passionate utterance, no room for exhilaration or sentiment. It was a revelation to him to realize how much he did love the Lord, and with amazement he said—“Lord, Thou knowest all things.” Peter began to see how much he did love Jesus; but he did not say—‘Look at this or that to confirm it.’ Peter was beginning to discover to himself how much he did love the Lord, that there was no one in heaven above or upon earth beneath beside Jesus Christ; but he did not know it until the probing, hurting questions of the Lord came. The Lord’s questions always reveal me to myself.
The patient directness and skill of Jesus Christ with Peter! Our Lord never asks questions until the right time. Rarely, but probably once, He will get us into a corner where He will hurt us with His undeviating questions, and we will realize that we do love Him far more deeply than any profession can ever show.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
St Julien and the Leper
Though all ran from him, he did not
Run, but awaited
Him with his arms
Out, his ears stopped
To his bell, his alarmed
Crying. He lay down
With him there, sharing his sores'
Stench, the quarantinr
Of his soul; contaminating
imself with a kiss,
With the love that
Our science has disinfected.
Not that he brought flowers
Sacrifice: Leviticus 1–7
The Book of Leviticus is a book of detailed regulations. It may seem dull to many. But imbedded in the instructions of this book are many principles which have relevance to us today.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary makes these points about the role of sacrifice in the Old Testament system. First, under the Law sacrifice was given as the only sufficient means for Israelites to remain in fellowship with the Lord. But second, with one possible exception, the sacrifices were limited in scope, dealing only with certain kinds of personal sins. They were “mainly concerned with sins of ignorance, accident, carelessness, and omission” and included sins of ritual and social nature. There was no individual sacrifice provided for willful violation of God’s commands. Such sins could be forgiven—as David’s experience and psalms testify (cf. Pss. 32; 51)—on the basis of a grace response to faith and repentance. But the sacrificial system was not in itself a way of salvation. Yet, sacrifice in the Old Testament has continually been associated with forgiveness and with fellowship with God.
A historic overview. In other cultures, sacrifice was viewed usually as food for the gods, and the priests often used the entrails of sacrificial beasts for occult divination. In Israel the sacrifice was not divine food (cf. Ex. 29:38–41; Ps. 50:8–15). And in Israel it was the blood of the sacrificed animal that was significant. In fact, the blood was crucial, for God said, “I have given it [the life-blood of the sacrificial animal] to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Lev. 17:11). The worshiper was taught that sin calls for the surrender of life, and that God will accept a substitute.
The practice of sacrifice precedes the Mosaic Law. Some see God’s killing of an animal to cover Adam and Eve with skins as the first sacrifice. The story of Cain and Abel certainly suggests that the first family was taught this way to approach God. Cain “brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord” (Gen. 4:3), while Abel “brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (v. 4). God rebuked Cain. “If you do what is right,” God said (v. 7), implying clearly that Cain’s offering was in willful violation of God’s known will.
Animal sacrifices continued to be the norm. They were offered by Noah (Gen 8:20–21). Job, who may have been a contemporary of Abraham, offered sacrifices for sins (Job 1:5; 42:7–9). Genesis shows that the patriarchs built altars when they called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:8; 13:4; 26:25). The Passover lamb was a family sacrifice, rich in powerful imagery.
Now, before Sinai, God gave Israel in His Law a carefully designed, detailed system of offerings and sacrifices.
As noted earlier, however, these sacrifices were for personal sins of a limited nature. They were to be offered for unintentional sins (cf. Lev. 4:13, 22, 27; 5:14; etc.). In such cases a common ritual was followed. The one who sinned unintentionally was guilty. The guilty sinner brought an animal to the priests, who offered it in sacrifice. “In this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven” (Lev 4:26).
But forgiveness was not really won through the ritual itself. That is, the ritual was not sufficient in itself. The later prophets made more clear the implications of forgiveness offered for the unintentional sins. The individual who chose to dishonor God by refusing to live the just and merciful life the Lord commanded had no real recourse to sacrifice, even though generations of Israelites failed to grasp this reality. Thus Isaiah thundered against the sinful of his days who enjoyed both sin and “worship”:
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to Me.… Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts My soul hates. They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of My sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:13–17 (See also Jer. 7:20–23; Amos 5:21–27; Micah 6:6–8.)
The message of sacrifice was never that one could sin impudently, and then come to God for an easy remedy. Sacrifice was for those whose hearts were already turned to the Lord.
The Teacher's Commentary
6 Orders and Encampments by the Water
Zeraim (“Seeds”) — agricultural laws;
Moed (“Holiday”) — Shabbat and festivals;
Nashim (“Women”) — marriage and divorce;
Nezikin (“Damages”) — civil & criminal law;
Kodashim (“Holy Things”) — sacrifices;
Teharot (“Clean Things”) — ritual purity.
While the Mishnah is arranged according to these six broad topics, the Gemara does not restrict or limit itself at all to these particular subjects. By its very nature, the Talmud is organic; its commentaries move from topic to tangent, encompassing every conceivable issue. The reader of this book will quickly discover that our texts and D’rashot (plural of D’rash), while arranged in the order of the tractates of the Mishnah, are as wide-ranging as is the Gemara.
At the beginning of each Order, we will give a brief introduction to that section of the Mishnah and to the tractates that it contains. The individual entries, found in that Order, will then follow. At the conclusion of each section, we bring a short piece called “Rest Stop.” The study of the Talmud is like a journey (at times, a very difficult one). Just as one needs to stop and rest along the way on a journey, so, too, one needs to pause and reflect after studying challenging texts. We offer some brief stories—talmudic, hasidic, and modern—that enable the reader to stop and think, and to put the learning into the broader perspective. We hope these tales serve to refresh you, so that you may continue the journey, stronger and wiser. To highlight the rest stops, we have placed them in the context of the journeys of the Israelites: From Egypt (slavery) to Sinai (and the receiving of the Torah) to Israel (the ultimate destination, and the Promised Land). Significantly, these rest stops, or encampments, were at places near bodies of water. The Rabbis saw water as a metaphor for Torah and learning; it is for the very same reason that the Talmud was often called a sea.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Fifth Chapter / Ourselves
WE MUST not rely too much upon ourselves, for grace and understanding are often lacking in us. We have but little inborn light, and this we quickly lose through negligence. Often we are not aware that we are so blind in heart. Meanwhile we do wrong, and then do worse in excusing it. At times we are moved by passion, and we think it zeal. We take others to task for small mistakes, and overlook greater ones in ourselves. We are quick enough to feel and brood over the things we suffer from others, but we think nothing of how much others suffer from us. If a man would weigh his own deeds fully and rightly, he would find little cause to pass severe judgment on others.
The interior man puts the care of himself before all other concerns, and he who attends to himself carefully does not find it hard to hold his tongue about others. You will never be devout of heart unless you are thus silent about the affairs of others and pay particular attention to yourself. If you attend wholly to God and yourself, you will be little disturbed by what you see about you.
Where are your thoughts when they are not upon yourself? And after attending to various things, what have you gained if you have neglected self? If you wish to have true peace of mind and unity of purpose, you must cast all else aside and keep only yourself before your eyes.
You will make great progress if you keep yourself free from all temporal cares, for to value anything that is temporal is a great mistake. Consider nothing great, nothing high, nothing pleasing, nothing acceptable, except God Himself or that which is of God. Consider the consolations of creatures as vanity, for the soul that loves God scorns all things that are inferior to Him. God alone, the eternal and infinite, satisfies all, bringing comfort to the soul and true joy to the body.
The Imitation Of Christ
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.
The Lord has compassion on our childish ignorance. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) He is not angry with us because we do not know everything, because the little we do know we mostly turn topsy-turvy, because what he has taught us we are apt to forget by reason of fickle memory; no, but he has compassion on us. A true father, when his children do not know, tells them, and if a child hasn’t got it then, he tries again.
Does the father expect his child to know as much as he himself? Certainly not. And when the child makes mistakes at which others laugh, the father feels the affront and has compassion on his child, and he goes on to teach more. “Why did you tell your child that piece of information twenty times?” said one. Said the mother, “Because when I had told him nineteen times he did not know it, so I went on to twenty times.” And that is how God does with us. To know him and to know something of the power of his resurrection and something of conformity to his death—these are lessons we are learning, with a sweet prospect of being taught yet more and more and never a fear of being dismissed because of our dullness.
A word of admonition before we go any further. Do not think that you do not have the privileges of children because you do not know as much as more experienced saints. Do not think our heavenly Father does not love you, that he will refrain from keeping his eye on you or cease to watch your growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ until he has more fully instructed you. Do not condemn those of God’s children who do not know as much as you do. You have not gotten far yet yourselves. Still, there is a tendency in some to say, “Why, this cannot be genuine grace, for it is accompanied with such little knowledge.”
If that suspicion leads you to give more instruction, it is well, but if it leads you to set aside the uninstructed one, it is ill. In the church of God it is fit for us to have the same compassion for the ignorant as our heavenly Father has shown toward our ignorance, and we ought to have even more, since he has no ignorance of his own and we have much. Let us therefore be compassionate and full of pity toward those who as yet know only a little.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Council of Constance
The Great Schism is a term describing two events in church history. The first is the breach between the eastern and western churches that occurred in 1054. The second is the sad period from 1378 to 1417 during which rival popes claimed to rule Christendom. In 1414 one of the claimants, Pope John XXIII, called together a church council in the city of Constance to end this schism.
John packed the conference with his followers, and he felt he would be affirmed as sole pope. As he approached Constance, he said, “Ha, this is the place where foxes are trapped.” He entered the city on a white horse accompanied by 1,600 troops. The excitement was breathtaking. Constance swelled with as many as 100,000 visitors from across Europe, including princes, musicians, and prostitutes. So many people bathed in the city’s lake that 500 drownings were reported.
But John’s smugness quickly faded. The proceedings were dominated by an overriding desire to restore church unity. The council, to John’s surprise, wanted to replace all three popes and elect a new one from scratch. When documents began circulating questioning his fitness for office, John became frightened. On March 2, 1415 he appeared before the council and said, I, John XXIII, a pope, promise and obligate myself, vow and swear—here he dramatically rose from his seat and fell on his knees—before God, the Church, and this holy council to give peace to the Church by abdication, provided the pretenders, Benedict and Gregory, do the same.
Constance erupted in joy, church bells pealing, people weeping and laughing and shouting. John, fearing for his life, fled Constance disguised in a gray coat and hat. But the council tracked him down, returned him to Constance, condemned him for scandalous conduct, and officially deposed him. In time, it successfully ended the Great Schism.
But John XXIII wasn’t the council’s only victim. The same assembly attacked so-called heretics like John Wycliffe and Jon Hus. When Hus himself came to Constance under promise of safe conduct, he was imprisoned, condemned, and handed over to secular authorities to be burned at the stake.
But his efforts inspired Scots for years to come, and the Reformation triumphed in their land at last.
I did not send these prophets or speak to them, but they ran to find you and to preach their message. If they had been in a meeting of my council in heaven, they would have told you people of Judah to give up your sins and come back to me.
--- Jeremiah 23:21,22.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 2
“But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.” --- 1 Samuel 13:20.
We are engaged in a great war with the Philistines of evil. Every weapon within our reach must be used. Preaching, teaching, praying, giving, all must be brought into action, and talents which have been thought too mean for service, must now be employed. Coulter, and axe, and mattock, may all be useful in slaying Philistines; rough tools may deal hard blows, and killing need not be elegantly done, so long as it is done effectually. Each moment of time, in season or out of season; each fragment of ability, educated or untutored; each opportunity, favourable or unfavourable, must be used, for our foes are many and our force but slender.
Most of our tools want sharpening; we need quickness of perception, tact, energy, promptness, in a word, complete adaptation for the Lord’s work. Practical common sense is a very scarce thing among the conductors of Christian enterprises. We might learn from our enemies if we would, and so make the Philistines sharpen our weapons. This morning let us note enough to sharpen our zeal during this day by the aid of the Holy Spirit. See the energy of the Papists, how they compass sea and land to make one proselyte, are they to monopolize all the earnestness? Mark the heathen devotees, what tortures they endure in the service of their idols! are they alone to exhibit patience and self-sacrifice? Observe the prince of darkness, how persevering in his endeavours, how unabashed in his attempts, how daring in his plans, how thoughtful in his plots, how energetic in all! The devils are united as one man in their infamous rebellion, while we believers in Jesus are divided in our service of God, and scarcely ever work with unanimity. O that from Satan’s infernal industry we may learn to go about like good Samaritans, seeking whom we may bless!
Evening - March 2
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” --- Ephesians 3:8.
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness. If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are. Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme. The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
Morning and Evening
JESUS LOVES ME
Anna B. Warner, 1820–1915
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)
The story is told of a brilliant professor at Princeton Seminary who always left his graduation class with these words: “Gentlemen, there is still much in this world and in the Bible that I do not understand, but of one thing I am certain—‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’—and gentlemen, that is sufficient!”
Without doubt the song that has been sung more by children than any other hymn is this simply stated one by Anna Warner. Written in 1860, it is still one of the first hymns taught to new converts in other lands.
Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan. It was part of their novel Say and Seal, one of the best selling books of that day. Today few individuals would know or remember the plot of that story, which once stirred the hearts of many readers. But the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fax, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of countless children around the world.
Jesus loves me! this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.
Jesus loves me! loves me still, tho I’m very weak and ill, that I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree.
Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.
Jesus loves me! He will stay close beside me all the way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee.
Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.
William Bradbury, the composer of the music, was one of the leading contributors to the development of early gospel music in America. He became recognized as one of the pioneers in children’s music both for the church and in the public schools. In 1861 Bradbury composed the music for Anna Warner’s text and personally added the chorus to her four stanzas. The hymn appeared the following year in Bradbury’s hymnal collection, The Golden Sower. It had an immediate response.
For Today: Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3; Matthew 11:25; Mark 10:16.
“If there is anything that will endure the eye of God, because it still is pure, it is the spirit of a little child, fresh from His hand, and therefore undefiled.” Ask God to give you this kind of spirit.
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