2 Chronicles 32
Sennacherib Invades Judah2 Chronicles 32 1 After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. 2 And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, 3 he planned with his officers and his mighty men to stop the water of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. 4 A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the brook that flowed through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” 5 He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. 6 And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Sennacherib Blasphemes9 After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezekiah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, 10 “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? 11 Is not Hezekiah misleading you, that he may give you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, “The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria”? 12 Has not this same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, “Before one altar you shall worship, and on it you shall burn your sacrifices”? 13 Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to deliver their lands out of my hand? 14 Who among all the gods of those nations that my fathers devoted to destruction was able to deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? 15 Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!’ ”
16 And his servants said still more against the LORD God and against his servant Hezekiah. 17 And he wrote letters to cast contempt on the LORD, the God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, “Like the gods of the nations of the lands who have not delivered their people from my hands, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver his people from my hand.” 18 And they shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. 19 And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men’s hands.
The LORD Delivers Jerusalem20 Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. 21 And the LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. 22 So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the LORD to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.
Hezekiah’s Pride and Achievements24 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26 But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
27 And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; 28 storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. 29 He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. 30 This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31 And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.
32 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and his good deeds, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the upper part of the tombs of the sons of David, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his place.
2 Chronicles 33
Manasseh Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 33 1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, 8 and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.” 9 Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.
Manasseh’s Repentance10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
14 Afterward he built an outer wall for the city of David west of Gihon, in the valley, and for the entrance into the Fish Gate, and carried it around Ophel, and raised it to a very great height. He also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah. 15 And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. 16 He also restored the altar of the LORD and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel. 17 Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the LORD their God.
18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, behold, they are in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 19 And his prayer, and how God was moved by his entreaty, and all his sin and his faithlessness, and the sites on which he built high places and set up the Asherim and the images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the Chronicles of the Seers. 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his house, and Amon his son reigned in his place.
Amon’s Reign and Death21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. 22 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them. 23 And he did not humble himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred guilt more and more. 24 And his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his house. 25 But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon. And the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.
2 Chronicles 34
Josiah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 34 1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 4 And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 7 he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
The Book of the Law Found8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD. And the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11 They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for binders and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12 And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadiah the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music, 13 were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service, and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.
14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the LORD and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king.
19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
Huldah Prophesies Disaster22 So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect. 23 And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 24 Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched. 26 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 27 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. 28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.’ ” And they brought back word to the king. 29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 And the king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. 31 And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.
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The King of Kings
By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2007
The gospel of Luke ends with a supremely jarring statement: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (24:50–53).
What is jarring about this passage is, as Luke reports the departure of Jesus from this world, the response of His disciples was to return to Jerusalem with “great joy.” What about Jesus’ departure would instill in His disciples an emotion of sheer elation? This question is made all the more puzzling when we consider the emotions the disciples displayed when Jesus earlier had told them that His departure would come soon. At that time, the idea that their Lord would leave their presence provoked in them a spirit of profound remorse. It would seem that nothing could be more depressing than to anticipate separation from the presence of Jesus. Yet, in a very short period of time, that depression changed to unspeakable joy.
We have to ask what is it that provoked such a radical change of emotion within the hearts of Jesus’ disciples. The answer to that question is plain in the New Testament. Between the time of Jesus’ announcement to them that He would soon be going away and the time of His actual departure, the disciples came to realize two things. First, they realized why it was that Jesus was leaving. Secondly, they understood the place to which He was going. Jesus was leaving not in order that they might be left alone and comfortless, but that He might ascend into heaven. The New Testament idea of ascension means something far more weighty than merely going up into the sky or even to the abode of the heavenlies. In His ascension, Jesus was going to a specific place for a specific reason. He was ascending into heaven for the purpose of His investiture and coronation as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The New Testament title used to describe Jesus in His kingly role is the “King of kings” and likewise the title “Lord of lords.” This particular literary structure means more than Jesus’ establishment in a position of authority by which He will rule over lesser kings. Rather, it is a structure that indicates the supremacy of Jesus in His monarchical majesty. He is King in the highest possible sense of kingship.
In biblical terms, it is unthinkable to have a king without a kingdom. Since Jesus ascends to His coronation as king, with that coronation comes the designation by the Father of a realm over which He rules. That realm is all creation.
There are two gross errors in modern theology regarding the biblical concept of the kingdom of God. The first is that the kingdom has already been consummated and that nothing is left for the reign of Christ to be made manifest. Such a view can be described as over-realized eschatology (last things). With the realization of the fullness of the kingdom, there would be no more to look forward to in terms of the triumph of Christ. The other error is that which a vast number of Christians believe, that the kingdom of God is something totally futuristic — that is, in no sense does the kingdom of God exist already. This view takes such a strong attitude toward the future dimension of the kingdom of God that even such New Testament passages as the Beatitudes of Matthew 5–7, have no application to the church today because they belong to the future age of the kingdom, which has not yet begun.
Both of the above views do violence to the clear teaching of the New Testament that the kingdom of God has indeed begun. The King is already in place. He has already received all authority on heaven and on earth. That means that at this very moment the supreme authority over the kingdoms of this world and over the entire cosmos is in the hands of King Jesus. There is no inch of real estate, no symbol of power in this world that is not under His ownership and His rule at this very moment. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in chapter 2, in the so-called kenotic hymn, it is said that Jesus is given the name that is above all names. The name that He is given that rises above all other titles that anyone can receive, is a name that is reserved for God. It is God’s title Adonai, which means the “One who is absolutely sovereign.” Again, this title is one of supreme governorship for the One who is the King of all of the earth.
The New Testament translation of the Old Testament title adonai is the name lord. When Paul says that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue confess, the reason for the bowing in obeisance and for confessing is that they are to declare with their lips that Jesus is Lord — that is, He is the sovereign ruler. That was the first confession of faith of the early church.
Then Rome, in her misguided, pagan tyranny tried to enforce a loyalty oath to the emperor cult of religion, in which all people were required to recite the phrase kaisar kurios — “Caesar is lord.” The Christians responded by showing every possible form of civil obedience, by paying their taxes, by honoring the king, by being model citizens; but they could not in good conscience obey the mandate of Caesar to proclaim him lord. Their response to the loyalty oath, kaisar kurios, was as profound in its ramifications as it was simple in its expression, Jesus ho kurios, Jesus is Lord. The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place. It is the task of the church to bear witness to that invisible kingdom, or as Calvin put it, it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom of Christ visible. Though invisible, it is nevertheless real.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
God’s Other Kingdom
By Dr. Gene Edward Veith 12/1/2007
We often talk about how God is “sovereign” over all things. The term has to do with God’s providential control over His creation — that is to say, everything that exists — and, in different contexts, with His action in bringing people to salvation. But to say God is sovereign implies that He is a sovereign. In other words, God is a king.
Christian discussions of the kingdom of God usually focus on His spiritual kingdom, how, through the work of Christ, He reigns in the hearts of believers, in the visible church, and in eternity.
This column is about culture, so I would like to focus on a different aspect of the concept: How it is that God is also the King of the “secular” order, which includes both the material and the social worlds.
Though we can certainly speak about God’s kingdom in an apocalyptic way, as something in the future, or in an evangelistic way, as in something we are working to usher in, I want to focus on the sense in which God is already a king and already rules His kingdom.
Martin Luther sorts out the different senses of these terms when he taught that God has two kingdoms, each of which He governs in different ways. He has a spiritual kingdom, and He has an earthly kingdom. A Christian is a citizen of both. But even non-believers — those who do not know God and who rebel against Him — are citizens of God’s earthly kingdom and cannot escape His rule.
In Luther’s day, it was not unusual for a particular monarch to occupy more than one throne. The emperor that Luther had to contend with was, in addition to his innumerable dukedoms and the imperial office, both the king of Spain and the king of Hungary.
Luther meant that God governs two dominions: One He rules by virtue of His creation; the other by virtue of His act of redemption in Christ. His earthly realm can be known through reason; His spiritual realm must be known through His Word. God rules human societies on earth through His moral law. God rules human hearts and equips them for His eternal kingdom through the Gospel.
God operates in both kingdoms through means. In the spiritual kingdom, He works through His Word, His sacraments, His church. In the earthly kingdom, He works through the processes of natural laws, physical causes, and history. Just as God established the church as the institution through which He works in His spiritual kingdom, He established the family and the state as institutions through which He works in His earthly kingdom. This is to say, God works through vocation. That is, through human beings whom He calls to different offices, tasks, and kinds of service.
Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms is widely misunderstood, both by its critics and by those who claim to follow it. It is most emphatically not dualism; rather, it is a way of uniting different categories. God is the King of both realms.
This is not to be confused with Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities, which is dualistic. Augustine said that the city of man has to do with the love of self, while the city of God has to do with the love of God. In Augustine’s scheme, the two cities are in conflict with each other. Christians must live in the city of Man in this life, but they are being fitted for the city of God. In contrast, Luther’s concept of two kingdoms, both under one divine King, gives the earthly realm — and thus earthly culture — a positive value that it never had in many monasteries.
But is that positive value so great that it sanctifies the status quo? If God already rules in the earthly realm, does not that sanctify whatever secular rulers happen to be in power or whatever secular ideas are currently in vogue? This would be a grotesque confusion of Luther’s teaching. As was said, God rules His earthly kingdom by virtue of His creation and with His moral law. Those who deny God’s creation and who reject His moral law are not following the doctrine of the two kingdoms.
Romans 13 defines legitimate government as one that punishes evildoers and rewards those who do good. Rulers who punish the good and reward the evil do not have God’s sanction. Since the purpose of all vocations is to love and serve one’s neighbors, a tyrant does not have a calling from God.
Yes, the Devil is trying to establish his kingdom in both the earthly and the spiritual realms. But the Devil is an insurgent, a terrorist who can only kill and tear down. All order, beauty, and goodness are from the true King.
In practice, this means that it is not always necessary to Christianize a cultural artifact, such as music or art or ideas. The artifact still must be evaluated according to the moral law and the created order. But it is already part of God’s kingdom.
The two kingdoms offer a critical model by which Christians can engage their cultures. It allows Christians to criticize their societies when necessary, but also to appreciate the good things of society — its arts and sciences, its achievements and satisfactions — as coming from God’s hand. It brings the sacred and the secular together under one Sovereign.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
The Weight of Glory
By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2008
C.S. Lewis emerged as a twentieth-century icon in the world of Christian literature. His prodigious work combining acute intellectual reasoning with unparalleled creative imagination made him a popular figure not only in the Christian world but in the secular world as well. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, though rife with dramatic Christian symbolism, were devoured by those who had no interest in Christianity at all, but were enjoyed for the sheer force of the drama of the stories themselves. An expert in English literature, C.S. Lewis functioned also as a Christian intellectual. He had a passion to reach out to the intellectual world of his day in behalf of Christianity. Through his own personal struggles with doubt and pain, he was able to hammer out a solid intellectual foundation for his own faith. C.S. Lewis had no interest in a mystical leap of faith devoid of rational scrutiny. He abhorred those who would leave their minds in the parking lot when they went into church. He was convinced that Christianity was at heart rational and defensible with sound argumentation. His work showed a marriage of art and science, a marriage of reason and creative imagination that was unparalleled. His gift of creative writing was matched by few of his twentieth-century contemporaries. His was indeed a literary genius in which he was able to express profound Christian truth through art, in a manner similar to that conveyed by Bach in his music and Rembrandt in his painting. Even today his introductory book on the Christian faith — Mere Christianity — remains a perennial best
We have to note that although a literary expert, C.S. Lewis remained a layman theologically speaking. Indeed, he was a well-read and studied layman, but he did not benefit from the skills of technical training in theology. Some of his theological musings will indicate a certain lack of technical understanding, for which he may certainly be excused. His book Mere Christianity has been the single most important volume of popular apologetics that the Christian world witnessed in the twentieth century. Again, in his incomparable style, Lewis was able to get to the nitty-gritty of the core essentials of the Christian faith without distorting them into simplistic categories.
His reasoning, though strong, was not always technically sound. For example, in his defense of the resurrection, he used an argument that has impressed many despite its invalidity. He follows an age-old argument that the truth claims of the writers of the New Testament concerning the resurrection of Jesus are verified by their willingness to die for the truths that they espoused. And the question is asked: Which is easier to believe — that these men created a false myth and then died for that falsehood or that Jesus really returned from the grave? On the surface, the answer to that question is easy. It is far easier to believe that men would be deluded into a falsehood, in which they really believed, and be willing to give their lives for it, than to believe that somebody actually came back from the dead. There has to be other reasons to support the truth claim of the resurrection other than that people were willing to die for it. One might look at the violence in the Middle East and see 50,000 people so persuaded of the truths of Islam that they are willing to sacrifice themselves as human suicide bombs. History is replete with the examples of deluded people who have died for their delusions. History is not filled with examples of resurrections. However, despite the weakness of that particular argument, Lewis nevertheless made a great impact on people who were involved in their initial explorations of the truth claims of Christianity.
To this day, people who won’t read a Bible or won’t read other Christian literature will pick up Mere Christianity and find themselves engaged by the acute mental processes of C.S. Lewis. The church owes an enormous debt to this man for his unwillingness to capitulate to the irrationalism that marked so much of Christian thought in the twentieth century — an irrationalism that produced what many describe as a “mindless Christianity.”
The Christianity of C.S. Lewis is a mindful Christianity where there is a marvelous union between head and heart. Lewis was a man of profound sensitivity to the pain of human beings. He himself experienced the crucible of sanctification through personal pain and anguish. It was from such experiences that his sensitivity developed and his ability to communicate it sharply honed. To be creative is the mark of profundity. To be creative without distortion is rare indeed, and yet in the stories that C.S. Lewis spun, the powers of creativity reached levels that were rarely reached before or since. Aslan, the lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, so captures the character and personality of Jesus; it is nothing short of amazing. Every generation, I believe, will continue to benefit from the insights put on paper by this amazing personality.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Pain: God’s Megaphone
By Alistair Begg 1/1/2008
For sixty years, successive generations have been helped by what C.S. Lewis wrote on the subject of pain and suffering. The sustained benefit is due in large measure to the fact that he brought to the “problem” a solid dose of Christian realism. This medicine may be more important now than ever. It is not uncommon to watch as television preachers inform their audiences that God “does not want you to be sick.” It is hard to imagine such an assertion proving to be an encouragement to the wheel-chair bound, long-term sufferer of multiple sclerosis. At best, such preachers are confused. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the now of our earthly pilgrimage and the then of our heavenly home. A day is coming when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. But as any honest observer of the human condition will admit, that day has not arrived. While most of us are probably not facing “the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery,” as Lewis puts it, few of us are untouched by trials of various kinds.
Although the trial may appear in the disguise of an enemy, in reality it may prove to be a friend. The biblical writer James encourages his readers when faced with trials to welcome them as friends rather than resenting them as intruders. Instead of running and hiding we are to face them in the awareness that they come to prove us and to improve us. Lewis does not argue that suffering is good in itself. Instead, he points to the redemptive, sanctifying effects of suffering.
Thirty-two years of pastoral ministry have brought me into direct contact with those whose experiences of pain and suffering have proved to be a severe mercy. I think of a nuclear physicist in our church in Scotland who attended out of deference to his wife and three young daughters. He listened to the sermons with an air of polite indifference; he accepted a copy of John Stott’s Basic Christianity but remained secure in his scientific shell. It was only when his fourth child, a son, died at eleven months that the megaphone sounded. Recognizing that his worldview was inadequate to deal with tragedy and loss, he found himself reaching beyond his shadow land to find himself caught up in the embrace of the God who is there. By this terrible necessity of tribulation God conquered his rebel will and brought him to the place of peace.
It is also true that God uses suffering to wean His children away from the plausible sources of false happiness. The Christian may grow drowsy in the sun but will not fall asleep in the fire or the flood. Each of us must recognize how easy it is to think little of God when all is well on the outside. But what a change occurs when, for example, the biopsy comes back positive. A sharp blast of anxiety comes to shatter any illusions of self-sufficiency. How kind of God to rouse us and to bring us to the place of dependence.
Our experience of pain, if sanctified, will create an awareness of the trials that others face and a tenderness in our dealings. When our pains and disappointments become the occasion for the softening of our hearts, we can anticipate the privilege of bearing with the infirmities of others. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, our great High Priest, is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” and He has left us an example that we should follow. It ought to concern us greatly when those of us who have been called to teach and to lead fail to display gentleness and compassion for the faint and the trembling. Although I have only dipped a toe in the sea of suffering, it is immediately apparent that God uses the lonely hours in the middle of the night to teach us lessons that we never learned in our bright and healthy hours. We rise to affirm Wiliam Cowper’s observation that “behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face.”
I only begin to scratch the surface of this topic. I must leave the reader to ponder two things. First, consider how suffering and pain often prove to be God’s means of discipline and how in this discipline we find an evidence and seal of our adoption (see Heb. 12:5). Secondly, consider the corrective element in affliction as referenced by the psalmist (Ps. 119:67, 71).
Lewis helps us to realize that when the megaphone of pain sounds in our lives and in the lives of our unbelieving friends and neighbors we dare not respond with some form of superficial triumphalism or descend the abyss of pessimism. If those whose lives are marked by quiet desperation, who are painfully aware of their trials and sufferings are going to seek out the Christian for help, it will not be because we appear to live lives that are free from trials but because we are honest about our own sufferings and difficulties. We will not attempt an answer for every question since we know that God has His secrets (Deut. 29:29). We will affirm that even in the mystery of His purposes we know the security of His love, and we will seek to introduce others to our God who entered into our sorrows and our sufferings.
Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
Inkling of Wonder
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/1/2008
I am a Calvinist. No, better to say that I am a rabid Calvinist. I am the son of a Calvinist. My spiritual grandfather was the Calvinist’s Calvinist, John Gerstner. When I consider my own theological education, I divide it into three equal parts. First, I was raised by R.C. Sproul. Calvinism not only runs in our blood, but it gave the savor to our soup. It was the spice in our stew. The ghost of John Calvin haunted my home, and for that I give thanks. Second, I studied theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. There, all my professors were required to affirm their commitment to Calvinism as a prerequisite for their employment. Third, as a boy, with the able aid of my pastor, I studied The Westminster Shorter Catechism: For Study Classes for Study Groups, by G. I. Williamson. It was there that the pieces fell into place.
When I was in high school, while others were souping up their cars or lining up their dates for Saturday night, I was in my room, reading Calvinists. My children are Calvinists, and I pray their children will be Calvinists as well. Yet, if I am honest and consider those men who have most shaped my own thinking, right after my father and John Gerstner, there stands “Jack,” C.S. Lewis. How could such a fervent Calvinist be shaped by someone from the other side?
One might expect that the answer would be Mere Christianity. In that important work from Lewis he lays out the importance of not appending sundry appellations to our Christianity. We ought not be vegetarian-Christians or Libertarian-Christians. We ought instead to be Christians. It’s a sound enough point, as long as we understand the wisdom of Spurgeon, that Calvinism isn’t the icing on the cake of Christianity, but is the substance of it. Still, this isn’t why Lewis, despite not being a Calvinist, has had such a profound influence on me. Truth be told, and while I am loathe to cause this great man to spin in his grave, I love Lewis, despite the painfully obvious truth that he was not a Calvinist, because I am a Calvinist.
The great thing about Calvinism, rightly understood, is not its emphasis on the sovereignty of God. That instead is but a symptom of a previous commitment. Calvinism, as a system, emphasizes the gap between God and man. It is a system of thought that affirms that God is God and that we are merely men. It is a system that seeks always to awaken as many people as possible to the holiness of God.
Somehow, some way, Lewis, escaped becoming a Calvinist, while his life’s work was committed to this great, fundamental Calvinist truth, that God is God and that we are not. The center of his theology was not the sovereignty of God. It was instead, perhaps slightly more at the center of reality, the wonder of God.
Lewis builds an entire world around the wonder of God in his Chronicles of Narnia. There we discover that Alsan is not a tame lion, that he has not only consumed little girls but has consumed whole cities of children. There we witness creation as it truly was, not a marvelous feat of modernist engineering, but the fruit of beauty, the result of a song. There we come to discern the relationship of life on earth, as it is in heaven, as the Pevensies move further up and further in, at the “beginning” of the story.
We are taught the transcendence of God in The Abolition of Man. There we learn, long before any of us were even aware of post-modernism, that the great evil at work behind this world view is false — beauty is not in the eye of the beholder; rather, it is the manifestation of the very character of God. In That Hideous Strength, the final chapter of the Space Trilogy, we see the battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman as it really is, a battle between officious pettiness masquerading as world-changing power and humble service as the true linchpin of human history.
We find the same principle at work in The Great Divorce, an allegorical tale of the intersection of heaven and hell. There we discover the soft reality that reality is more solid, more substantial than the folly of the world around us. We discern, as we do in The Screwtape Letters, the foolishness of folly, and why and how we always seem to fall for it.
In the end the message is simple enough — God is God, and we are not. We will not enter the kingdom of God until we learn to do so not as theological scientists, but as children. The secret of spiritual maturity, according to Jesus, is learning to be like children. When we come to Narnia, therefore, we do not come as more sophisticated versions of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, but as more jaded versions, who must learn from our spiritual betters — children.
Lewis was not a Calvinist, though by God’s grace he is one now. He was instead a grown child who can lead us into the maturity of childhood. He was gifted by God to gift us in this way — he teaches us to be as children, that we might enter into the kingdom of God. He reminds us that God is God and that we are not. He reminds us that our response to this truth ought not to be mere theological speculation, but mere Christianity — crying out to our Father to have mercy on us, miserable sinners, and rejoicing that He has done so in Christ. He reminds us that this is how we move further up and further in.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 5/19/2018
One of the features of the Psalms that describe the enthronement of a Davidic king, or the reign of a Davidic king, is how often the language goes “over the top.” This feature combines with the built-in Davidic typology to give these Psalms a twin focus. On the one hand, they can be read as somewhat extravagant descriptions of one of the Davidic kings (in this case Solomon, according to the superscription); on the other, they invite the reader to anticipate something more than a David or a Solomon or a Josiah.
So it is in Psalm 72. On the one hand, the Davidic monarch was to rule in justice, and it is entirely appropriate that so much of the Psalm is devoted to this theme. In particular, he is to take the part of the afflicted, “the children of the needy” (Ps. 72:4), those “who have no one to help” (72:12). He is to oppose the oppressor and the victimizer, establishing justice and stability, and rescuing those who would otherwise suffer oppression and violence (72:14). His reign is to be characterized by prosperity, which is itself “the fruit of righteousness” (72:3 — a point the West is rapidly forgetting). Gold will flow into the country, the people will pray for their monarch; grain will abound throughout the land (72:15-16).
On the other hand, some of the language is wonderfully extravagant. Some of this is in line with the way other ancient Near Eastern kings were extolled. Nevertheless, combined with the Davidic typology and the rising messianic expectation, it is difficult not to overhear something more specific. “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (72:5) — which may be true of the dynasty, or may be an extravagant wish for some purely human Davidic king, but is literally true of only one Davidic king. “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River (i.e., the Euphrates) to the ends of the earth” (72:8) — which contains a lovely ambiguity. Are the “seas” no more than the Mediterranean and Galilee? Should the Hebrew be translated (as it might be) more conservatively to read “the end of the land”? But surely not. For not only will “the desert tribes” (i.e., from adjacent lands) bow before him, but the kings of Tarshish — Spain! — and of other distant lands will bring tribute to him (72:9-10). Moreover: “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (72:11). “All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed” (72:17) — as clear an echo of the Abrahamic covenant as one can imagine (Gen. 12:2-3).
One greater than Solomon has come (Matt. 12:42).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 51Create In Me A Clean Heart
51 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, When Nathan The Prophet Went To Him, After He Had Gone In To Bathsheba.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
14. But no sober person will deny that the regular mode of lawful
calling is, that bishops should be designated by men, since there are
numerous passages of Scripture to this effect. Nor, as has been said,
is there anything contrary to this in Paul's protestation, that he was
not sent either of man, or by man, seeing he is not there speaking of
the ordinary election of ministers, but claiming for himself what was
peculiar to the apostles: although the Lord in thus selecting Paul by
special privilege, subjected him in the meantime to the discipline of
an ecclesiastical call: for Luke relates, "As they ministered to the
Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul
for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2). Why this
separation and laying on of hands after the Holy Spirit had attested
their election, unless that ecclesiastical discipline might be
preserved in appointing ministers by men? God could not give a more
illustrious proof of his approbation of this order, than by causing
Paul to be set apart by the Church after he had previously declared
that he had appointed him to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. The same
thing we may see in the election of Matthias. As the apostolic office
was of such importance that they did not venture to appoint any one to
it of their own judgment, they bring forward two, on one of whom the
lot might fall, that thus the election might have a sure testimony from
heaven, and, at the same time, the policy of the Church might not be
15. The next question is, Whether a minister should be chosen by the whole Church, or only by colleagues and elders, who have the charge of discipline; or whether they may be appointed by the authority of one individual?  Those who attribute this right to one individual quote the words of Paul to Titus "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city" (Tit. 1:5); and also to Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man" (l Tim. 5:22). But they are mistaken if they suppose that Timothy so reigned at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, as to dispose of all things at their own pleasure. They only presided by previously giving good and salutary counsels to the people, not by doing alone whatever pleased them, while all others were excluded. Lest this should seem to be a fiction of mine, I will make it plain by a similar example. Luke relates that Barnabas and Paul ordained elders throughout the churches, but he at the same time marks the plan or mode when he says that it was done by suffrage. The words are, Cheirotone'santes presbute'rous kat' ekklesi'an (Acts 14:23). They therefore selected (creabant) two; but the whole body, as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates, for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church. Rightly, therefore, does Cyprian contend for it as of divine authority, that the priest be chosen in presence of the people, before the eyes of all, and be approved as worthy and fit by public judgment and testimony, (Cyprian, Lib. 1 Ep. 3). Indeed, we see that by the command of the Lord, the practice in electing the Levitical priests was to bring them forward in view of the people before consecration. Nor is Matthias enrolled among the number of the apostles, nor are the seven deacons elected in any other way, than at the sight and approval of the people (Acts 6:2). "Those examples," says Cyprian, "show that the ordination of a priest behoved not to take place, unless under the consciousness of the people assisting, so that ordination was just and legitimate which was vouched by the testimony of all." We see, then, that ministers are legitimately called according to the word of God, when those who may have seemed fit are elected on the consent and approbation of the people. Other pastors, however, ought to preside over the election, lest any error should be committed by the general body either through levity, or bad passion, or tumult.
16. It remains to consider the form of ordination, to which we have assigned the last place in the call (see chap. 4, sec. 14, 15). It is certain, that when the apostles appointed any one to the ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. This form was derived, I think, from the custom of the Jews, who, by the laying on of hands, in a manner presented to God whatever they wished to be blessed and consecrated. Thus Jacob, when about to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, placed his hands upon their heads (Gen. 48:14). The same thing was done by our Lord, when he prayed over the little children (Mt. 19:15). With the same intent (as I imagine), the Jews, according to the injunction of the law, laid hands upon their sacrifices. Wherefore, the apostles, by the laying on of hands, intimated that they made an offering to God of him whom they admitted to the ministry; though they also did the same thing over those on whom they conferred the visible gifts of the Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6). However this be, it was the regular form, whenever they called any one to the sacred ministry. In this way they consecrated pastors and teachers; in this way they consecrated deacons. But though there is no fixed precept concerning the laying on of hands, yet as we see that it was uniformly observed by the apostles, this careful observance ought to be regarded by us in the light of a precept (see chap. 14, sec. 20; chap. 19, sec. 31). And it is certainly useful, that by such a symbol the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church. Besides, it will not prove an empty sign, if it be restored to its genuine origin. For if the Spirit of God has not instituted anything in the Church in vain, this ceremony of his appointment we shall feel not to be useless, provided it be not superstitiously abused. Lastly, it is to observed, that it was not the whole people, but only pastors, who laid hands on ministers, though it is uncertain whether or not several always laid their hands: it is certain, that in the case of the deacons, it was done by Paul and Barnabas, and some few others (Acts 6:6; 13:3). But in another place, Paul mentions that he himself, without any others, laid hands on Timothy. "Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6). For what is said in the First Epistle, of the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, I do not understand as if Paul were speaking of the college of Elders. By the expression, I understand the ordination itself; as if he had said, Act so, that the gift which you received by the laying on of hands, when I made you a presbyter, may not be in vain.
 Latin, "quasi vicariam operam."--French, "les faisans comme ses lieutenans;"--making them as it were his substitutes.
 See on this subject August. de Doctrina Christiana, Lib. 1
 Latin, "senatum."--French, "conseil ou consistoire;"--council or consistory.
 Luke 21:15; 24:49; Mark 6:15; Acts 1 8; 1 Tim. 5:22.
 See chap. 4 sec. 10, 11; chap. 5 sec. 2, 3. Also Calv. in Acts 6:3, and Luther, tom. 2 p 374.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2009 A Sower Went Out To Sow
Church historian Mark Noll writes, “In many ways, the defining figure in the history of American evangelicalism is the eighteenth-century revivalist George Whitefield.” Prior to America’s declaration of independence from England, the Calvinist preacher from England turned the colonies upside down and led America to its knees in the First Great Awakening. Whitefield’s passionate preaching drew crowds in the tens of thousands as townspeople went to the fields.
Trusting the Lord to provide the increase of repentance and faith, Whitefield planted and watered with the seed of the outward call of the gospel, neither tickling the ears nor reconciling the impenitent, and going so far to say, “It is a poor sermon that gives no offense — that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”
In 1739, during his first of seven trips to the colonies, Whitefield caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin, who penned the following in his memoirs: “The multitudes … that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem’d as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”
From London to Boston, Whitefield lifted up his eyes and saw the fields that were white for harvest (John 4:35). He preached the Word in season and out of season before the face of God, before the faces of his English countrymen, and before the very faces of those who fought for America’s independence from England. With liberty and mercy for all those who had ears to hear, the gospel took root in the fertile hearts of many, except, it seems, in the heart of Benjamin Franklin who admitted, Whitefield used “to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.”
click here for article source
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The Invincible Spanish Armada sailed off this day, May 19, 1588, to conquer England. Queen Elizabeth relied on Sir Francis Drake, who used smaller, faster vessels and ingeniously sent burning ships at midnight downwind where the Spaniards were anchored, dispersing them in a panic. Aided by gale force winds half the Spanish fleet was wrecked. Had England lost, there would have been no Pilgrims, no New England, and no United States. A coin minted after the event showed ships sinking and men kneeling under the inscription "Man Proposeth, God Disposeth."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
"What do you think of God," the teacher asked.
After a pause, the young pupil replied,
"He's not a think, he's a feel."
--- Paul Frost
In God's Care: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery (Hazelden Meditation Series)
I feel most ministers who claim they've heard God's voice
are eating too much pizza before they go to bed at night,
and it's really an intestinal disorder, not a revelation.
--- Rev. Jerry Falwel
In God's Care: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery (Hazelden Meditation Series)
If you serve only to earn a salary, you will never do your best as long as you think you’re underpaid. If you minister to get recognition, you will start doing less when people don’t show their appreciation. The only motivation that will take you through the storms and keep you on the job is, ‘I’m serving Jesus Christ.’
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
On Being a Servant of God
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Complete Works of Aristotle, Vol. 1
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Eleventh Chapter / Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion
O MOST sweet Lord Jesus, how great is the happiness of the devout soul that feasts upon You at Your banquet, where there is set before her to be eaten no other food but Yourself alone, her only Lover, most desired of all that her heart can desire!
To me it would be happiness, indeed, to shed tears in Your presence from the innermost depths of love, and like the pious Magdalen to wash Your feet with them. But where now is this devotion, this copious shedding of holy tears? Certainly in Your sight, before Your holy angels, my whole heart ought to be inflamed and weep for joy. For, hidden though You are beneath another form, I have You truly present in the Sacrament.
My eyes could not bear to behold You in Your own divine brightness, nor could the whole world stand in the splendor of the glory of Your majesty. In veiling Yourself in the Sacrament, therefore, You have regard for my weakness.
In truth, I possess and adore Him Whom the angels adore in heaven—I as yet by faith, they face to face unveiled. I must be content with the light of the true faith and walk in it until the day of eternal brightness dawns and the shadow of figures passes away. When, moreover, that which is perfect shall have come, the need of sacraments shall cease, for the blessed in heavenly glory need no healing sacrament. Rejoicing endlessly in the presence of God, beholding His glory face to face, transformed from their own brightness to the brightness of the ineffable Deity, they taste the Word of God made flesh, as He was in the beginning and will remain in eternity.
Though mindful of these wonderful things, every spiritual solace becomes wearisome to me because so long as I do not plainly see the Lord in His glory, I consider everything I hear and see on earth of little account.
You are my witness, O God, that nothing can comfort me, no creature give me rest but You, my God, Whom I desire to contemplate forever. But this is not possible while I remain in mortal life, and, therefore, I must be very patient and submit myself to You in every desire.
Even Your saints, O Lord, who now rejoice with You in the kingdom of heaven, awaited the coming of Your glory with faith and great patience while they lived. What they believed, I believe. What they hoped for, I hope for, and whither they arrived, I trust I shall come by Your grace. Meanwhile I will walk in faith, strengthened by the example of the saints. I shall have, besides, for comfort and for the guidance of my life, the holy Books, and above all these, Your most holy Body for my special haven and refuge.
I feel there are especially necessary for me in this life two things without which its miseries would be unbearable. Confined here in this prison of the body I confess I need these two, food and light. Therefore, You have given me in my weakness Your sacred Flesh to refresh my soul and body, and You have set Your word as the guiding light for my feet. Without them I could not live aright, for the word of God is the light of my soul and Your Sacrament is the Bread of Life.
These also may be called the two tables, one here, one there, in the treasure house of holy Church. One is the table of the holy altar, having the holy Bread that is the precious Body of Christ. The other is the table of divine law, containing holy doctrine that teaches all the true faith and firmly leads them within the veil, the Holy of holies.
Thanks to You, Lord Jesus, Light of eternal light, for the table of Your holy teaching which You have prepared for us by Your servants, the prophets and Apostles and other learned men.
Thanks to You, Creator and Redeemer of men, Who, to declare Your love to all the world, have prepared a great supper in which You have placed before us as food not the lamb, the type of Yourself, but Your own most precious Body and Blood, making all the faithful glad in Your sacred banquet, intoxicating them with the chalice of salvation in which are all the delights of paradise; and the holy angels feast with us but with more happiness and sweetness.
Oh, how great and honorable is the office of the priest, to whom is given the consecration of the Lord of majesty in sacred words, whose lips bless Him, whose hands hold Him, whose tongue receives Him, and whose ministry it is to bring Him to others!
Oh, how clean those hands should be, how pure the lips, how sanctified the body, how immaculate the heart of the priest to whom the Author of all purity so often comes. No word but what is holy, none but what is good and profitable ought to come from the lips of the priest who so often receives the Sacrament of Christ. Single and modest should be the eyes accustomed to looking upon the Body of Christ. Pure and lifted up to heaven the hands accustomed to handle the Creator of heaven and earth. To priests above all it is written in the law: “Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
Let Your grace, almighty God, assist us, that we who have undertaken the office of the priesthood may serve You worthily and devoutly in all purity and with a good conscience. And if we cannot live as innocently as we ought, grant us at least to lament duly the wrongs we have committed and in the spirit of humility and the purpose of a good will to serve You more fervently in the future.
The Imitation Of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Seven Years.
From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Antiochus Epiphanes,
To The Death Of Herod The Great.
How The City Jerusalem Was Taken, And The Temple Pillaged
[By Antiochus Epiphanes]. As Also Concerning The Actions Of The Maccabees, Matthias And Judas; And Concerning The Death Of Judas.
1. At the same time that Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, had a quarrel with the sixth Ptolemy about his right to the whole country of Syria, a great sedition fell among the men of power in Judea, and they had a contention about obtaining the government; while each of those that were of dignity could not endure to be subject to their equals. However, Onias, one of the high priests, got the better, and cast the sons of Tobias out of the city; who fled to Antiochus, and besought him to make use of them for his leaders, and to make an expedition into Judea. The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months. But Onias, the high priest, fled to Ptolemy, and received a place from him in the Nomus of Heliopolis, where he built a city resembling Jerusalem, and a temple that was like its temple 1 concerning which we shall speak more in its proper place hereafter.
2. Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city, or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. Bacchides also, who was sent to keep the fortresses, having these wicked commands, joined to his own natural barbarity, indulged all sorts of the extremest wickedness, and tormented the worthiest of the inhabitants, man by man, and threatened their city every day with open destruction, till at length he provoked the poor sufferers by the extremity of his wicked doings to avenge themselves.
3. Accordingly Matthias, the son of Asamoneus, one of the priests who lived in a village called Modin, armed himself, together with his own family, which had five sons of his in it, and slew Bacchides with daggers; and thereupon, out of the fear of the many garrisons [of the enemy], he fled to the mountains; and so many of the people followed him, that he was encouraged to come down from the mountains, and to give battle to Antiochus's generals, when he beat them, and drove them out of Judea. So he came to the government by this his success, and became the prince of his own people by their own free consent, and then died, leaving the government to Judas, his eldest son.
4. Now Judas, supposing that Antiochus would not lie still, gathered an army out of his own countrymen, and was the first that made a league of friendship with the Romans, and drove Epiphanes out of the country when he had made a second expedition into it, and this by giving him a great defeat there; and when he was warmed by this great success, he made an assault upon the garrison that was in the city, for it had not been cut off hitherto; so he ejected them out of the upper city, and drove the soldiers into the lower, which part of the city was called the Citadel. He then got the temple under his power, and cleansed the whole place, and walled it round about, and made new vessels for sacred ministrations, and brought them into the temple, because the former vessels had been profaned. He also built another altar, and began to offer the sacrifices; and when the city had already received its sacred constitution again, Antiochus died; whose son Antiochus succeeded him in the kingdom, and in his hatred to the Jews also.
5. So this Antiochus got together fifty thousand footmen, and five thousand horsemen, and fourscore elephants, and marched through Judea into the mountainous parts. He then took Bethsura, which was a small city; but at a place called Bethzacharis, where the passage was narrow, Judas met him with his army. However, before the forces joined battle, Judas's brother Eleazar, seeing the very highest of the elephants adorned with a large tower, and with military trappings of gold to guard him, and supposing that Antiochus himself was upon him, he ran a great way before his own army, and cutting his way through the enemy's troops, he got up to the elephant; yet could he not reach him who seemed to be the king, by reason of his being so high; but still he ran his weapon into the belly of the beast, and brought him down upon himself, and was crushed to death, having done no more than attempted great things, and showed that he preferred glory before life. Now he that governed the elephant was but a private man; and had he proved to be Antiochus, Eleazar had performed nothing more by this bold stroke than that it might appear he chose to die, when he had the bare hope of thereby doing a glorious action; nay, this disappointment proved an omen to his brother [Judas] how the entire battle would end. It is true that the Jews fought it out bravely for a long time, but the king's forces, being superior in number, and having fortune on their side, obtained the victory. And when a great many of his men were slain, Judas took the rest with him, and fled to the toparchy of Gophna. So Antiochus went to Jerusalem, and staid there but a few days, for he wanted provisions, and so he went his way. He left indeed a garrison behind him, such as he thought sufficient to keep the place, but drew the rest of his army off, to take their winter-quarters in Syria.
6. Now, after the king was departed, Judas was not idle; for as many of his own nation came to him, so did he gather those that had escaped out of the battle together, and gave battle again to Antiochus's generals at a village called Adasa; and being too hard for his enemies in the battle, and killing a great number of them, he was at last himself slain also. Nor was it many days afterward that his brother John had a plot laid against him by Antiochus's party, and was slain by them.
by D.H. Stern
9 He who conceals an offense promotes love,
but he who harps on it can separate even close friends.
10 A rebuke makes more impression on a person of understanding
than a hundred blows on a fool.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
“Out of the wreck I rise”
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
--- Romans 8:35.
God does not keep a man immune from trouble; He says—“I will be with him in trouble.” It does not matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can separate him from his relationship to God. We are “more than conquerors in all these things.” Paul is not talking of imaginary things, but of things that are desperately actual; and he says we are super-victors in the midst of them, not by our ingenuity, or by our courage, or by anything other than the fact that not one of them affects our relationship to God in Jesus Christ. Rightly or wrongly, we are where we are, exactly in the condition we are in. I am sorry for the Christian who has not something in his circumstances he wishes was not there.
“Shall tribulation …?” Tribulation is never a noble thing; but let tribulation be what it may—exhausting, galling, fatiguing, it is not able to separate us from the love of God. Never let cares or tribulations separate you from the fact that God loves you.
“Shall anguish …?”—can God’s love hold when everything says that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?
“Shall famine …?”—can we not only believe in the love of God but be more than conquerors, even while we are being starved?
Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are all against God’s character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it—the love of God in Christ Jesus. “Out of the wreck I rise” every time.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
On The Farm
Beasts rearing from green slime—
an illiterate country, unable to read
its own name. Stones moved into position
on the hills’ sides; snakes laid their eggs
in their cold shadow. The earth suffered
the sky’s shrapnel, bled yellow
There was Dai Puw. He was no good.
They put him in the fields to dock swedes,
And took the knife from him, when he came home
At late Evening with a grin
Like the slash of a knife on his face.
There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
Every Evening after the ploughing
With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
And stare into the tangled fire garden,
Opening his slow lips like a snail.
There was Huw Puw, too. What shall I say?
I have heard him whistling in the hedges
On and on, as though winter
Would never again leave those fields,
And all the trees were deformed.
And lastly there was the girl;
Beauty under some spell of the beast.
Her pale face was the lantern
By which they read in life’s dark book
The shrill sentence: God is love.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
"Let the mouth of another praise you, not yours" (Proverbs 27:2). Thus, we are not allowed to lavish praise on ourselves. Yet, Jewish law frowns upon self-deprecation as well. It is not only wrong but also unbecoming and improper for us to put ourselves at a disadvantage. The concern we show for others, especially for our relatives, must also be shown to ourselves. This is the traditional interpretation of "a person is related to himself."
Our text reminds us that we have to watch out for ourselves in a positive sense. In American jurisprudence, there is a similar concept in the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Our assumptions about a person who "pleads the Fifth" are negative; that person is guilty, and the constitutional immunity protected that individual from self-incrimination. However, there is a very positive side to the Fifth Amendment, as well as to our rule that "a person is related to himself." Even a guilty individual is protected by the Fifth Amendment from lying and thus compounding the wrong.
As much as we have to attend to the needs of others, those entrusted to our care, we also have to think of the needs of the caregivers, ourselves. How often have we seen a devoted mother strap her child in an automobile seat belt yet not put one on herself? Isn't that mother "related to herself"? Shouldn't she show the same concern for her child's mother as she shows for her child? Similarly, we buy our children new clothes for a special occasion but deny ourselves that luxury. Aren't we "related to ourselves"? We consider it important for our parents to concern themselves with health and medicine, but not for us to do the same. Or we make sure that our children have a religious education, but then somehow cannot find the time for one ourselves. All that we desire for those closest to us, all the positives that we do for them and promote in them, we have to do for ourselves as well, for "a person is related to himself," that is, we are our own first and primary relatives.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" is usually interpreted in Jewish sources as meaning "Only if you love yourself can you love your neighbor." Rava's words are not intended to justify excessive narcissism or self-indulgence. Rather, they should prevent self-martyrdom. Each of us who cares for relatives must begin that concern with the one who is most closely related—himself or herself.
Even though he sinned, he is still "Israel."
Text / "Israel has sinned!" [Joshua 7:11]. Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said: "Even though he sinned, he is still 'Israel.' " Rabbi Abba said: "This is as people say, 'A myrtle that stands among the willows is still a myrtle, and a myrtle it is called.' "
Context / Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, pay honor to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make confession to Him. Tell me what you have done; do not hold anything back from me." Achan answered Joshua, "It is true, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I did: I saw among the spoil a fine Shinar mantle, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, and I coveted them and took them." … And Joshua said, "What calamity you have brought upon us! The Lord will bring calamity upon you this day." And all Israel pelted him with stones. (Joshua 7:19–21, 25)
Before leading the Israelites into battle against the city of Jericho, Joshua had warned the people not to take spoils of war. "If you take anything from that which is proscribed, you will cause the camp of Israel to be proscribed; you will bring calamity upon it" (Joshua 6:18). One man, Achan son of Carmi of the tribe of Judah, took some of the forbidden items for himself. When the Israelites next went to war against the town of Ai, they suffered a terrible defeat. Joshua complained to God: "Why did You lead this people across the Jordan only to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to be destroyed by them?" (Joshua 7:7). God answered: "Israel has sinned! They have broken the covenant by which I bound them. They have taken of the proscribed" (Joshua 7:11).
The Rabbis noted God's use of the term Israel here. (Rashi, in his commentary, points out that we might have expected God to say "The people have sinned.") Since Israel is a name of honor, the question is raised why God would use this particular name even when the context refers to a dishonorable act. The answer is that even when the people do wrong, even when they commit a sin, they still retain the honor and uniqueness that the name Israel carries with it.
A folk saying is brought to support this concept. The myrtle is a beautiful and fragrant shrub with rich green leaves. Even when surrounded by the ordinary willow (as during the festival of Sukkot, when the palm branch of the lulav has myrtle and willow branches attached to it), the myrtle stands out and maintains its uniqueness and its name. Just as the myrtle is always a myrtle, no matter where or when, so too the people of Israel always remain "Israel" no matter where or when.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The years following David's flight were agonizing ones. Saul, determined to kill David and establish a dynasty, pursued him. Cities which David helped to deliver from Israel's enemies were quick to betray their deliverer to Saul to gain the king's favor! The continual strain began to tell on the young leader; at times David knew deep despair and despondency.
The tremendous stress on David and his response to it are illustrated in the events recorded in 1 Samuel 26–27. Saul received a report of David's latest hiding place and rushed there with 3,000 men. The army camped near David; that night he and Abishai, a follower, eluded the sentries and stood over their sleeping enemy. Able to kill Saul with the king's own spear, David refused. God had chosen Saul. As God's anointed, Saul could not be murdered and the killer remain guiltless. God Himself had to depose Saul, in His own time. David disciplined himself to wait.
The next Morning David stood on a nearby mountain crag and shouted down to Saul and his general, Abner. He showed them Saul's spear which he had taken away to demonstrate that he could have killed the sleeping king. Saul, admitting he was wrong, blessed David and stopped his pursuit. But this change of heart was only temporary, and David knew it would be!
Immediately after David's inner victory over what must have been a terrible temptation, David thought, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul"
(1 Sam. 27:1). As is often the case with us, victory was followed by an emotional letdown. David was in despair.
In his despondency, David fled to the land of Israel's enemies, the Philistines. He was given a city by one Philistine lord, and from that city he and his men raided distant countries. David let the Philistines believe that his forays were against Israel. Soon David was viewed as a trusted servant of Achish, lord of the city of Gath.
Psalm 142 tells something of David's feelings during the time he hid from Saul and lived under the strain of constant persecution and pursuit. Reading this psalm today, we can sense the inner turmoil that David felt at this critical time. And we can see feelings reflected that we ourselves have known in times of stress.
I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
before Him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is You who knows my way.
In the path where I walk
men have hidden a snare for me.
Look to my right and see;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
I cry to You, O Lord;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."
Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise Your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of Your goodness to me.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
ERICH S. GRUEN
A Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. For the Jews of antiquity the loss of the Temple not only constituted a devastating blow but signaled an enduring trauma. The reverberations of that event still resonate. The day of the Temple’s destruction, which, by a quirk of fate or (more probably) fabrication, coincides with that on which Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians six and a half centuries earlier, continues to receive annual commemoration in Israel. For many it shaped the consciousness of the Jewish Diaspora through the centuries to follow. The eradication of the center that had given meaning and definition to the nation’s identity obliged Jews to alter their sights, accommodate to a displaced existence, and rethink their own heritage in the context of alien surroundings.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?” --- Ruth 3:1.
The second of the two notable words in this chapter is goel. ( The Book of Ruth (A Devotional Commentary) ) Like the word menuchah, it has a history in the Hebrew conception of the Messiah. According to its derivation, goel means “one who unlooses”—unlooses that which has been bound and restores it to its original position. Boaz was among the goelim of Naomi and Ruth.
We learn from the Pentateuch that there were three tragic contingencies in which the legal redeemer and avenger was bound to interpose—each of which was of much more frequent occurrence than the case recorded in the book of Ruth.
The Forfeited Inheritance. If an Israelite had sold his estate or any part of it, any of his near kin who was able to do so was commanded to purchase it, but when the trumpets announced the year of Jubilee, it reverted to its original owner.
Of whom can the Israelite alienated from his original inheritance be the type but of fallen humanity? All things were ours, but by our sin, we put them all into the hands of the Adversary, so that through our sin, the whole creation has been brought under the shadows of decay. And who can the Goel be but that divine Kinsman—bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh—who has redeemed and restored the inheritance we had forfeited? All things are made ours by his grace—if we are his—and when the trumpet will sound Jubilee, even the creation will be delivered from imperfection, out of “bondage to decay… into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
The Forfeited Liberty. To discharge a debt or to save himself from the last extremities of want, a Hebrew might sell himself either to a stranger or another Israelite. If he sold himself to an Israelite, he was treated not as a slave but as a hired servant and became free [in] the year of Jubilee. But if he sold himself to a foreigner, he became a slave, and in that case any of his kinsmen was permitted to interpose and to pay the price of his redemption.
The human race was sold under sin, led captive at the will of an alien and adverse spirit. Our freedom was gone; we were in bondage. And Christ has proved himself our Goel by giving himself a ransom for all, by redeeming us with his own precious blood.
--- Samuel Cox
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Earthquake Synod May 19
“God is our … fortress,” says Psalm 46. “And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble. … ” The trembling of the earth may even reassure God’s children of his power, as happened on this day, St. Dunstan’s Day, May 19, 1382. St. Dunstan’s Day is named for the British politician who, having slighted the king, found himself banished to a monastery in Belgium. There he committed himself to Christ’s cause, eventually returning to England and becoming archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan died May 19, 988.
Three hundred years later another archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenay, held sway. Courtenay, powerful and headstrong, raged against Oxford professor John Wycliffe, who criticized church teaching. Wycliffe believed the head of the church to be Christ, not the pope. He opposed selling indulgences and warned against superstitions associated with the Mass. We are saved, he said, by faith in Christ, Scripture alone being our authority. He pre-Luthered Luther, and thus is called The Morning Star of the Reformation.
Courtenay tried repeatedly to convict Wycliffe, but the popular professor always bested him. Finally Courtenay summoned a special committee to examine Wycliffe’s teachings, to condemn and destroy the Bible teacher. John Foxe tells the story: Here is not to be passed over the great miracle of God … for when the archbishop with other doctors of divinity and lawyers, with a great company of babbling friars and religious persons, were gathered together to consult touching Wycliffe’s books, when they were gathered in London to begin their business on St. Dunstan’s day, after dinner, about two of the clock, the very hour and instant that they should go forward, a wonderful and terrible earthquake fell throughout all England: whereupon divers of them, being affrighted, thought it good to leave off from their determinate purpose.
Wycliffe later declared that the Lord sent the earthquake “because the friars had put heresy upon Christ. The earth trembled as it did when Christ was damned to bodily death.” Wycliffe, however, didn’t tremble when the earth did, for God was his fortress. But the archbishop’s meeting has ever since been known in English history as the Earthquake Synod.
God is our mighty fortress,
Always ready to help in times of trouble.
And so, we won’t be afraid!
Let the earth tremble
And the mountains tumble into the deepest sea.
--- Psalm 46:1,2.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 19
“I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” --- Ecclesiastes 10:7.
Upstarts frequently usurp the highest places, while the truly great pine in obscurity. This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright; but it is so common a fact, that none of us should murmur if it should fall to our own lot. When our Lord was upon earth, although he is the Prince of the kings of the earth, yet he walked the footpath of weariness and service as the Servant of servants: what wonder is it if his followers, who are princes of the blood, should also be looked down upon as inferior and contemptible persons? The world is upside down, and therefore, the first are last and the last first. See how the servile sons of Satan lord it in the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they lift up their horn on high! Haman is in the court, while Mordecai sits in the gate; David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state; Elijah is complaining in the cave while Jezebel is boasting in the palace; yet who would wish to take the places of the proud rebels? and who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints? When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.
Let us not fall into the error of letting our passions and carnal appetites ride in triumph, while our nobler powers walk in the dust. Grace must reign as a prince, and make the members of the body instruments of righteousness. The Holy Spirit loves order, and he therefore sets our powers and faculties in due rank and place, giving the highest room to those spiritual faculties which link us with the great King; let us not disturb the divine arrangement, but ask for grace that we may keep under our body and bring it into subjection. We were not new created to allow our passions to rule over us, but that we, as kings, may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of spirit, soul, and body, to the glory of God the Father.
Evening - May 19
“And he requested for himself that he might die.” --- 1 Kings 19:4.
It was a remarkable thing that the man who was never to die, for whom God had ordained an infinitely better lot, the man who should be carried to heaven in a chariot of fire, and be translated, that he should not see death—should thus pray, “Let me die, I am no better than my fathers.” We have here a memorable proof that God does not always answer prayer in kind, though he always does in effect. He gave Elias something better than that which he asked for, and thus really heard and answered him. Strange was it that the lion-hearted Elijah should be so depressed by Jezebel’s threat as to ask to die, and blessedly kind was it on the part of our heavenly Father that he did not take his desponding servant at his word. There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss. If we ask for that which is not promised—if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate—if we ask contrary to his will, or to the decrees of his providence—if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to his glory, we must not expect that we shall receive. Yet, when we ask in faith, nothing doubting, if we receive not the precise thing asked for, we shall receive an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for it. As one remarks, “If the Lord does not pay in silver, he will in gold; and if he does not pay in gold, he will in diamonds.” If he does not give you precisely what you ask for, he will give you that which is tantamount to it, and that which you will greatly rejoice to receive in lieu thereof. Be then, dear reader, much in prayer, and make this Evening a season of earnest intercession, but take heed what you ask.
Morning and Evening
GRACIOUS SPIRIT, DWELL WITH ME
Thomas T. Lynch, 1818–1871
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you … and I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees. (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)
An awareness and knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s ministries is most important for every believer. Note briefly these ten specific ministries:
• Teaches truths about God and reveals Christ
--- (John 16:12–15).
• Convicts us of wrong doing
--- (John 16:8–11).
• Regenerates and renews us
--- (Titus 3:5).
• Baptizes or places us into the body of Christ
--- (1 Corinthians 12:13).
• Gives assurance of our salvation
--- (Romans 8:16).
• Indwells and guides our lives
--- (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
• Prays for us
--- (Romans 8:26).
• Fills our lives with joy and power
--- (Ephesians 5:18).
• Seals and guarantees our eternal promise
--- (Ephesians 4:30).
• Distributes gifts to the church
--- (1 Corinthians 12:1–11).
In spite of a renewed awareness and appreciation of the Holy Spirit’s ministries within recent years, these is also much theological difference between various groups of believers regarding terminologies and specifics. May we not become so engrossed with our theological differences about the Holy Spirit that we forfeit the practical benefits of living and walking in the Spirit and demonstrating the fruit of a Spirit-filled life to a lost world—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). “Gracious Spirit, Dwell Within Me” also reminds us that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit should make us “gracious,” “truthful,” “mighty,” and “holy.”
Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be; and with words that help and heal would Thy life in mine reveal; and with actions bold and meek would for Christ my Savior speak.
Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would truthful be; and with wisdom kind and clear let Thy life in mine appear; and with actions brotherly speak my Lord’s sincerity.
Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be; mighty so as to prevail where unaided man must fail: ever by a mighty hope pressing on and bearing up.
Holy Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would holy be; separate from sin, I would choose and cherish all things good, and whatever I can be, give to Him who gave me Thee!
For Today: Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 5:25; 1 Peter 1:22.
Since the Holy Spirit is the most neglected and least understood Person of the Godhead, what can you do to help your church bring more attention to the importance of the Holy Spirit and His specific ministries?
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXIX. — BUT we will grant you, if you please ‘that they were all saints, that they all had the Spirit, that they all wrought miracles’(which, however, you do not require.) But tell me this — was any one of them made a saint, did any one of them receive the Spirit or work miracles, in the name, or by virtue of “Free-will,” or to confirm the doctrine of “Free-will”? Far be such a thought (you will say,) but in the name, and by virtue of Jesus Christ, and for the confirmation of the doctrine of Christ, all these things were done. Why then do you bring forward the sanctity, the spirit, ‘and the miracles of these, in confirmation of the doctrine of “Free-will,”’ for which they were not wrought and given?
Their miracles, Spirit, and sanctity, therefore, belong to us who preach Jesus Christ, and not the ability and works of men. And now, what wonder if those who were thus holy, spiritual, and wonderful for miracles, were sometimes under the influence of the flesh, and spoke and wrought according to the flesh; since that happened, not once only, to the very apostles under Christ Himself. For you do not deny, but assert, that “Free-will” does not belong to the Spirit, or to Christ, but is human; so that, the Spirit who is promised to glorify Christ, cannot preach “Free will.” If, therefore, the fathers have at any time preached “Free-will,” they have certainly spoken from the flesh, (seeing they were men,) not from the Spirit of God; much less did they work miracles for its confirmation. Wherefore, your allegation concerning the sanctity, the Spirit, and the miracles of the fathers is nothing to the purpose, because “Free-will” is not proved thereby, but the doctrine of Jesus Christ against the doctrine of “Free-will.”
But come, shew forth still, you that are on the side of “Free-will,” and assert that a doctrine of this kind is true, that is, that it proceeds from the Spirit of God — shew forth still, I say, the Spirit, still work miracles, still evidence sanctity. Certainly you who make the assertion owe this to us, who deny these things. The Spirit, sanctity, and miracles ought not to be demanded of us who maintain the negative, but from you who assert in the affirmative. The negative proposes nothing, is nothing, and is bound to prove nothing, nor ought to be proved: it is the affirmative that ought to be proved. You assert the power of “Free-will” and the human cause: but no miracle was ever seen or heard of, as proceeding from God, in support of a doctrine of the human cause, only in support of the doctrines of the divine cause. And we are commanded to receive no doctrine whatever, that is not first proved by signs from on high. (Deut. xviii. 15-22.) Nay, the Scripture calls man “vanity,” and “a lie:” which is nothing less than saying, that all human things are vanities and lies. Come forward then! come forward! I say, and prove, that your doctrine, proceeding from human vanity and a lie, is true. Where is now your shewing forth the Spirit! Where is your sanctity! Where are your miracles! I see your talents, your erudition, and your authority; but those things God has given alike unto all the world!
But however, we will not compel you to work great miracles, nor “to cure a lame horse,” lest you should plead, as an excuse, the carnality of the age. Although God is wont to confirm His doctrines by miracles, without any respect to the carnality of the age: nor is He at all moved, either by the merits or demerits of a carnal age, but by pure mercy and grace, and a love of souls which are to be confirmed, by solid truth, unto their glory. But we give you the choice of working any miracles, as small an one as you please.
But come! I, in order to irritate your Baal into action, insult, and challenge you to create even one frog, in the name, and by virtue of “Free-will;” of which, the Gentile and impious Magi in Egypt, could create many. I will not put you to the task of creating lice; which, neither could they produce. But I will descend a little lower yet. Take even one flea, or louse, (for you tempt and deride our God by your ‘curing of the lame horse,’) and if, after you have combined all the powers, and concentrated all the efforts both of your god and your advocates, you can, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will,” kill it, you shall be victors; your cause shall be established; and we also will immediately come over and adore that god of yours, that wonderful killer of the louse. Not that I deny, that you could even remove mountains; but it is one thing to say, that a certain thing was done by “Free-will,” and another to prove it.
And, what I have said concerning miracles, I say also concerning sanctity. — If you can, out of such a series of ages, men, and all the things which you have mentioned, shew forth one work, (if it be but the lifting a straw from the earth,) or one word, (if it be but the syllable MY,) or one thought of “Free-will,” (if it be but the faintest sigh,) by which men applied themselves unto grace, or by which they have merited the Spirit, or by which they have obtained pardon, or by which they have prevailed with God even in the smallest degree, (I say nothing about being sanctified thereby,) again, I say, you shall be victors, and we vanquished; and that, as I repeat, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will.”
For what things soever are wrought in men by the power of divine creation, are supported by Scripture testimonies in abundance. And certainly, you ought to produce the same: unless you would appear such ridiculous teachers, as to spread abroad throughout the world, with so much arrogance and authority, doctrines concerning that, of which you cannot produce one proof. For such doctrines will be called mere dreams, which are followed by nothing: than which, nothing can be more disgraceful to men of so many ages, so great, so learned, so holy, and so miraculous! And if this be the case, we shall rank even the stoics before you: for although they took upon them to describe such a wise man as they never saw, yet they did attempt to set forth some part of the character. But you cannot set forth any thing whatever, not even the shadow of your doctrine.
The same also I observe concerning the Spirit. If you can produce one out of all the assertors of “Free-will,” who ever had a strength of mind and affection, even in the smallest degree, so as, in the name and by virtue of “Free-will,” to be able to disregard one farthing, or to be willing to be without one farthing, or to bear one word or sign of injury, (I do not speak of the stoical contempt of riches, life, and fame,) again, the palm of victory shall be yours, and we, as the vanquished, will willingly pass under the spear. And these proofs you, who with such trumpeting mouths sound forth the power of “Free-will,” are bound to produce before us. Or else, again, you will appear to be striving to give establishment to a nothing: or to be acting like him, who sat to see a play in an empty theatre.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
9 “You Prepare a Table Before Me . . .”
There is another chore the sheepman takes care of on the tableland. He clears out the water holes, springs, and drinking places for his stock. He has to clean out the accumulated debris of leaves, twigs, stones, and soil that may have fallen into the water source during the autumn and winter. He may need to repair small earth dams he has made to hold water. And he will open the springs that may have become overgrown with grass and brush and weeds. It is all his work, his preparation of the table for his own sheep in summer.
The parallel in the Christian life is that Christ, our great Good Shepherd, has Himself already gone before us into every situation and every extremity that we might encounter. We are told emphatically that He was tempted in all points as we are. We know He entered fully and completely and very intimately into the life of men upon our planet. He has known our sufferings, experienced our sorrows, and endured our struggles in this life; He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Because of this He understands us; He has totally identified Himself with humanity. He has, therefore, a care and compassion for us beyond our ability to grasp. No wonder He makes every possible provision to insure that when we have to cope with Satan, sin, or self, the contest will not be one-sided. Rather, we can be sure He has been in that situation before; He is in it now again with us, and because of this, the prospects of our preservation are excellent.
It is this attitude of rest in Him, of confidence in His care, of relaxation as we realize His presence in the picture that can make the Christian’s life one of calm and quiet confidence. The Christian walk can thus become a mountaintop experience—a tableland trip—simply because we are in the care and control of Christ, who has been over all this territory before us and prepared the “table” for us in plain view of our enemies who would demoralize and destroy us if they could.
It is encouraging to know that just as in any other aspect of life where there are lights and shadows, so in the Christian life there are valleys and mountaintops. Too many people assume that once one becomes a Christian, automatically life becomes one glorious garden of delight. This is simply not the case. It may well become a garden of sorrow just as our Savior went through the Garden of Gethsemane. As was pointed out previously, you do not have mountains without valleys, and even on the mountaintop there can be some tough experiences.
Just because the shepherd has gone ahead and made every possible provision for the safety and welfare of his sheep while they are on the summer range does not mean they will not have problems there. Predators can still attack, poisonous weeds can still grow, storms and gales can still come swirling up over the peaks, and a dozen other hazards can haunt the high country.
Yet in His care and concern for us, Christ still ensures that we shall have some gladness with our sadness, some delightful days as well as dark days, some sunshine as well as shadow.
It is not always apparent to us what tremendous personal cost it has been for Christ to prepare the table for His own. Just as the lonely, personal privation of the sheepman who prepares the summer range for his stock entails a sacrifice, so the lonely agony of Gethsemane, of Pilate’s hall, of Calvary, have cost my Master much.
When I come to the Lord’s Table and partake of the Communion service, which is a feast of thanksgiving for His love and care, do I fully appreciate what it has cost Him to prepare this table for me?
Here we commemorate the greatest and deepest demonstration of true love the world has ever known. For God looked down upon sorrowing, struggling, sinning humanity and was moved with compassion for the contrary, sheep-like creatures He had made. In spite of the tremendous personal cost it would entail to deliver them from their dilemma, He chose deliberately to descend and live amongst them that He might deliver them.
This meant laying aside His splendor, His position, His prerogatives as the perfect and faultless One. He knew He would be exposed to terrible privation, to ridicule, to false accusations, to rumor, to gossip, and to malicious charges that branded Him as a glutton, drunkard, friend of sinners, and even an imposter. It entailed losing His reputation. It would involve physical suffering, mental anguish, and spiritual agony.
In short, His coming to earth as the Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth, was a straightforward case of utter self-sacrifice that culminated in the cross of Calvary. The laid-down life, the poured-out blood were the supreme symbols of total selflessness. This was love. This was God. This was divinity in action, delivering men from their own utter selfishness, their own stupidity, their own suicidal instincts as lost sheep unable to help themselves.
In all of this there is an amazing mystery. No man will ever be able fully to fathom its implications. It is bound up inexorably with the concept of God’s divine love of self-sacrifice that is so foreign to most of us who are so self-centered. At best we can only grasp feebly the incredible concept of a perfect person, a sinless one being willing actually to be made sin that we who are so full of faults, selfish self-assertion, and suspicion might be set free from sin and self to live a new, free, fresh, abundant life of righteousness.
Jesus told us Himself that He had come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Just as the sheepman is thrilled beyond words to see his sheep thriving on the high, rich summer range (it is one of the highlights of his whole year), so my Shepherd is immensely pleased when He sees me flourish on the tablelands of a noble, lofty life that He has made possible for me.
Part of the mystery and wonder of Calvary, of God’s love to us in Christ, is bound up too with the deep desire of His heart to have me live on a higher plane. He longs to see me living above the mundane level of common humanity. He is so pleased when I walk in the ways of holiness, of selflessness, of serene contentment in His care, aware of His presence and enjoying the intimacy of His companionship.
To live thus is to live richly.
To walk here is to walk with quiet assurance.
To feed here is to be replete with good things.
To find this tableland is to have found something of my Shepherd’s love for me.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
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