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     1 Chronicles  12 - 14


1 Chronicles 12

The Mighty Men Join David

1 Chronicles 12 1 Now these are the men who came to David at Ziklag, while he could not move about freely because of Saul the son of Kish. And they were among the mighty men who helped him in war. 2 They were bowmen and could shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right or the left hand; they were Benjaminites, Saul’s kinsmen. 3 The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, both sons of Shemaah of Gibeah; also Jeziel and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth; Beracah, Jehu of Anathoth, 4 Ishmaiah of Gibeon, a mighty man among the thirty and a leader over the thirty; Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad of Gederah, 5 Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah the Haruphite; 6 Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites; 7 And Joelah and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.

8 From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains: 9 Ezer the chief, Obadiah second, Eliab third, 10 Mishmannah fourth, Jeremiah fifth, 11 Attai sixth, Eliel seventh, 12 Johanan eighth, Elzabad ninth, 13 Jeremiah tenth, Machbannai eleventh. 14 These Gadites were officers of the army; the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand. 15 These are the men who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it was overflowing all its banks, and put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.

16 And some of the men of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to David. 17 David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in friendship to help me, my heart will be joined to you; but if to betray me to my adversaries, although there is no wrong in my hands, then may the God of our fathers see and rebuke you.” 18 Then the Spirit clothed Amasai, chief of the thirty, and he said,

“We are yours, O David,
and with you, O son of Jesse!
Peace, peace to you,
and peace to your helpers!
For your God helps you.”

Then David received them and made them officers of his troops.

19 Some of the men of Manasseh deserted to David when he came with the Philistines for the battle against Saul. (Yet he did not help them, for the rulers of the Philistines took counsel and sent him away, saying, “At peril to our heads he will desert to his master Saul.”) 20 As he went to Ziklag, these men of Manasseh deserted to him: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zillethai, chiefs of thousands in Manasseh. 21 They helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor and were commanders in the army. 22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

23 These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of the LORD. 24 The men of Judah bearing shield and spear were 6,800 armed troops. 25 Of the Simeonites, mighty men of valor for war, 7,100. 26 Of the Levites 4,600. 27 The prince Jehoiada, of the house of Aaron, and with him 3,700. 28 Zadok, a young man mighty in valor, and twenty-two commanders from his own fathers’ house. 29 Of the Benjaminites, the kinsmen of Saul, 3,000, of whom the majority had to that point kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30 Of the Ephraimites 20,800, mighty men of valor, famous men in their fathers’ houses. 31 Of the half-tribe of Manasseh 18,000, who were expressly named to come and make David king. 32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. 33 Of Zebulun 50,000 seasoned troops, equipped for battle with all the weapons of war, to help David with singleness of purpose. 34 Of Naphtali 1,000 commanders with whom were 37,000 men armed with shield and spear. 35 Of the Danites 28,600 men equipped for battle. 36 Of Asher 40,000 seasoned troops ready for battle. 37 Of the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh from beyond the Jordan, 120,000 men armed with all the weapons of war.

38 All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king. 39 And they were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their brothers had made preparation for them. 40 And also their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.

1 Chronicles 13

The Ark Brought from Kiriath-Jearim

1 Chronicles 13 1 David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us. 3 Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” 4 All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

Uzzah and the Ark

5 So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. 7 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. 8 And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.

9 And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. 11 And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. 12 And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” 13 So David did not take the ark home into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 14 And the ark of God remained with the household of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the LORD blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had.

1 Chronicles 14

The Ark Brought from Kiriath-Jearim

1 Chronicles 14 1 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also masons and carpenters to build a house for him. 2 And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that his kingdom was highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.

3 And David took more wives in Jerusalem, and David fathered more sons and daughters. 4 These are the names of the children born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 5 Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, 6 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 7 Elishama, Beeliada and Eliphelet.

Philistines Defeated

8 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went out against them. 9 Now the Philistines had come and made a raid in the Valley of Rephaim. 10 And David inquired of God, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.” 11 And he went up to Baal-perazim, and David struck them down there. And David said, “God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like a bursting flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 12 And they left their gods there, and David gave command, and they were burned.

13 And the Philistines yet again made a raid in the valley. 14 And when David again inquired of God, God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; go around and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 15 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 16 And David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. 17 And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations.

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Why Assumptions Can Be Hazardous to the Truth of Christianity

By J. Warner Wallce 4/1/2016

     The producers of God’s Not Dead 2 asked me to play a small role in the film, testifying as an expert witness in a civil trial. I was happy to defend the historicity of Jesus and the eyewitness reliability of the Gospels, but I know my efforts sometimes fall on deaf ears. The evidential strength of my case is usually dependent on the pre-existing biases of my audience. If my hearers hold a philosophical presupposition that prevents them from hearing (or fairly evaluating) what I have to say, the truth will elude them. Assumptions can be hazardous to the truth of Christianity.

     I began to understand the hazard of philosophical presuppositions while working as a homicide detective. In Cold-Case Christianity, the book featured in my scene in God’s Not Dead 2, I describe a murder scene I investigated with my partner, Alan Jeffries. The murder appeared on the surface to be a domestic violence crime. Alan and I stood inside the yellow tape, doing our best to answer the question “Who murdered the victim?” But, one of us already had an answer. According to Alan, spouses or lovers typically commit murders like this; case closed. We simply needed to find this woman’s husband or lover. It was as if we were asking the question: “Did her husband kill her?” after first excluding any suspect other than her husband. It’s not surprising that Alan came to his conclusion; he started with it as his premise. As it turned out, Alan was wrong this time. Our killer was an unrelated neighbor. Alan’s assumption prevented him from evaluating the evidence fairly and nearly derailed our investigation.

     When I was an atheist, I did the very same thing. I stood in front of the evidence for God, interested in answering the question “Does God exist?” But I began the investigation as a naturalist with the presupposition that nothing exists beyond natural laws, forces, and material objects. I was asking the question “Does a supernatural being exist?” after first excluding the possibility of anything supernatural. Like Alan, I came to a particular conclusion because I started with it as my premise. This is the truest definition of bias, isn’t it? Starting off with your mind already made up.

     It’s possible to have a prior opinion yet leave this presupposition at the door in order to examine the evidence fairly. We ask jurors to do this all the time. In the state of California, jurors are repeatedly instructed to “keep an open mind throughout the trial” and not to “let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision.” The courts assume that people have biases, hold sympathies and prejudices, and are aware of public opinion. In spite of this, jurors are required to “keep an open mind.” Jurors have to enter the courtroom with empty hands; they must leave all their baggage in the hall. Everyone begins with a collection of biases. We must (to the best of our ability) resist the temptation to allow our biases to eliminate certain forms of evidence (and therefore certain conclusions) before we even begin the investigation.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

What Was the Shape of Jesus’ Cross?

By J. Warner Wallace 11/3/2014

     Last weekend, after speaking at the NRB National Apologetics Conference, I was approached by a man who asked a question about the shape of crucifixion cross of Jesus. He’d been approached by Jehovah’s Witnesses who challenged the traditional shape of the cross. They argued the Greek word for “cross” (stauros) simply meant an “upright pole”, “upright stake” or “torture stake”. His Jehovah’s Witness visitors claimed Jesus was actually nailed to a straight stake with a single spike through his hands and another through his feet. In my experience with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’ve also heard them argue the traditional Christian shape of the cross was borrowed from pagan sources and, as a result, it is un-Christian to acknowledge the traditional cross shape in church architecture, worship or adornment. While the Greek words used for the cross in the New Testament are not specific about its shape (“stauros” = stake / pole and “xulon” = timber / tree), there are several evidential clues offered in the scripture to help us understand the true shape of Jesus’ cross.

     Before we look at the evidence related to the cross, we need to examine the many ways Roman executed criminals on wooden structures of one kind or another throughout history. Josephus, when writing about the siege of Jerusalem ion 70AD, acknowledged the fact Roman soldiers used a variety of methods and stake shapes to execute their prisoners:

     “(The Jews caught outside the walls of Jerusalem) were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures, before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city … the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 5.11.1).

     In addition, the first-century Roman philosopher, Seneca the Younger, described crucifixions in a variety of ways:

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

We Are Family

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2007

     The serpent, who is more cunning than any of the beasts of the field, is a counterfeiter. It is his wily custom to not merely construct an alternate realm to the realm of Christ, but to craft every piece of that realm as a copy of the real. He is a mimic. Anti-Christ does not merely mean “against Christ” but likewise means “instead of Christ.” He is a false messiah of a false kingdom. And like the true Messiah, he is seeking those who would worship him. As such, he is a false prophet, a false priest, and a false king. For every blessing our Father above bestows upon His children, the Devil below has a faux blessing. And it is his unholy habit to cause us to confuse the two.

     One of the telling measures of our own cultural decline is the steady erosion of a sane understanding of the family. Family, we should remember, is on one level what we call a common blessing. God has not restricted the freedom to marry and to raise up children to His redeemed. He has instead blessed all mankind with that liberty, with that calling. The serpent, however, has countless versions of the false family, a dizzying array of communities held together by base and foolish affections. He entices us to look for love in all the wrong places, to draw circles in the sand that will wash away with the tide.

     Family, as family, provides a sense of belonging, of shared convictions, of common goals. The local Christian family, just like the corporate Christian family, the church, has one goal, to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. When my own family, for instance, gathers together in the evening for family worship, we come together to do what we were brought together to do. The Devil’s versions are rather anemic by comparison.

     Where I live, just thirty miles north of the Bristol Motor Speedway, we have feuding clans built around particular race car drivers. There is that faux family that pulls for Dale Earnhardt Junior every race, and others that pull for Jeff Gordon. You can recognize which clan is which by the bumper stickers on the backs of their trucks. People choose their clothes, their cars, and their hairstyles all based on belonging to a family of fans of a particular driver.

     Some draw their lines through their experience, seeking family in those who shared a common illness, or even a common hobby. They see themselves as united with those who have survived cancer like them, or who raise prize roses, like them.

     Still others draw lines based on secondary genetic markers. They believe that their family consists of those who share a common genetic makeup. Their loyalties go to a particular skin color. These folks consider my own family to be “race traitors” because God has blessed us with a little boy whose ancestors hail from Africa. My little boy may have brown hair, brown eyes, and brown knees, but he is a Sproul, and like the rest of us, he is called to seek first the kingdom of God.

     It is sad to see those outside the kingdom looking for identity, looking for belonging in such pointless ways. Sadder still, however, is that the same kinds of ties bind too many of us within the church. We call ourselves Christians, but we are more loyal to our favorite football team (and its fans) than we are to Christ and those He has bought. We call ourselves Christians, but what gets our blood pumping the most on any given Sunday is when our team advances in the playoffs. We call ourselves Christians, but we would rather spend our time with a peer group defined by age, gender, and socio-economic status. We call ourselves Christians, but we define ourselves, and those around us, by just about anything but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

     Our Father in heaven told us all, that is, all that are His, to pray to Him as our Father in heaven. This is what defines us, as us. We are those who have God as our Father. Our lines of loyalty then are clearly drawn. My kin is not balding forty-somethings with children still at home. My kin are not those who can trace their lineage back to the British Isles. My kin are those who have been bought by the blood of the Lamb. They are my brothers and my sisters, even if they root for the wrong football team. My calling is to love them like family, for they are family. They, like me, have been born a second time, born into the family of God. We share a common Father, we share a common mother, the church, and we share a common brother, Jesus our Lord. This is now how our family is described, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2: 9–10). May we by His grace live as sojourners and pilgrims, our identity held not here on earth, but with our Father in heaven. May we live as His family.

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     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

The New Birth

By R. C. Sproul 3/1/2007

     REGENERATION PRECEDES FAITH. This assertion that captures the heart of the distinctive theology of historic Augustinian and Reformed thought is the watershed assertion that distinguishes that theology from all forms of semi-Pelagianism. That is, it distinguishes it from almost all forms of semi-Pelagianism.

     There is one historic position of semi-Pelagianism that advocates the view of a universal benefit that embraces all mankind as a result of the atonement of Jesus. This universal benefit is the universal regeneration of all men — at least to the degree that rescues them from the moral inability of their original sin and now empowers them with the ability to exercise faith in Christ. This new ability to believe makes faith possible but by no means effectual. This type of regeneration does not bring in its wake the certainty that those who are born again will in fact place their trust in Christ.

     For the most part, however, the statement, “Regeneration precedes faith,” is the watershed position that creates apoplexy in the minds of semi-Pelagians. The semi-Pelagian would argue that despite the ravages of the fall, man still has an island of righteousness left in his soul, by which he still can accept or reject God’s offer of grace. This view, so widely held in evangelical circles, argues that one must believe in Christ in order to be born again, and so the order of salvation is reversed in this view by maintaining that faith precedes regeneration.

     However, when we consider the teaching on this issue as found in John’s record of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus, we see the emphasis that Jesus places on regeneration as a necessary condition, a sine qua non, for believing in Him. He says to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Then again in verses 5–7, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” The must-ness of regeneration of which Jesus speaks is necessary for a person to see even the kingdom of God, let alone to enter it. We cannot exercise faith in a kingdom that we cannot enter apart from rebirth.

     The weakness of all semi-Pelagianism is that it invests in the fallen, corrupt flesh of man the power to exercise faith. Here, fallen man is able to come to Christ without regeneration, that is, before regeneration. On the other hand, the axiom that regeneration precedes faith gets to the very heart of the historic issue between Augustinianism and semi-Pelagianism.

     In the Augustinian and Reformation view, regeneration is seen first of all as a supernatural work of God. Regeneration is the divine work of God the Holy Spirit upon the minds and souls of fallen people, by which the Spirit quickens those who are spiritually dead and makes them spiritually alive. This supernatural work rescues that person from his bondage to sin and his moral inability to incline himself towards the things of God. Regeneration, by being a supernatural work, is obviously a work that cannot be accomplished by natural man on his own. If it were a natural work, it would not require the intervention of God the Holy Spirit.

     Secondly, regeneration is a monergistic work. “Monergistic” means that it is the work of one person who exercises his power. In the case of regeneration, it is God alone who is able, and it is God alone who performs the work of regenerating the human soul. The work of regeneration is not a joint venture between the fallen person and the divine Spirit; it is solely the work of God.

     Thirdly, the monergistic work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an immediate work. It is immediate with respect to time, and it is immediate with respect to the principle of operating without intervening means. The Holy Spirit does not use something apart from His own power to bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life, and when that work is accomplished, it is accomplished instantaneously. No one is partly regenerate, or almost regenerate. Here we have a classic either/or situation. A person is either born again, or he is not born again. There is no nine-month gestation period with respect to this birth. When the Spirit changes the disposition of the human soul, He does it instantly. A person may not be aware of this internal work accomplished by God for some time after it has actually occurred. But though our awareness of it may be gradual, the action of it is instantaneous.

     Fourthly, the work of regeneration is effectual. That is, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a human soul, the purpose of that regeneration is to bring that person to saving faith in Jesus Christ. That purpose is effected and accomplished as God purposes in the intervention. Regeneration is more than giving a person the possibility of having faith, it gives him the certainty of possessing that saving faith.

     The result of our regeneration is first of all faith, which then results in justification and adoption into the family of God. Nobody is born into this world a child of the family of God. We are born as children of wrath. The only way we enter into the family of God is by adoption, and that adoption occurs when we are united to God’s only begotten Son by faith. When by faith we are united with Christ, we are then adopted into that family of whom Christ is the firstborn. Regeneration therefore involves a new genesis, a new beginning, a new birth. It is that birth by which we enter into the family of God by adoption.

     Finally, it’s important to see that regeneration is a gift that God disposes sovereignly to all of those whom He determines to bring into His family.

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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

Family vs. Culture

By Gene Edward Veith 3/1/2007

     The family is the foundation of culture. This is not a bromide of the Christian right, but plain fact, as every anthropologist will tell you. Families associate with groups of families, forming networks of social interdependence as families make a living, socialize children, and protect themselves. The family and the culture are supposed to work hand-in-hand.

     But today, in the twenty-first century West, we are struggling through a cultural dysfunction of almost unparalleled magnitude. The culture and the family are now in conflict, to the detriment of both.

     Cultural artifacts are set against the family. According to anthropologists, the artifacts of a culture — its art, stories, music, and other creations — serve to communicate and to reinforce that culture’s values. By these means, the elders teach the children the ways of the culture. Eventually, the young people learn what they need to know and are initiated into adulthood, whereupon they can start families of their own.

     But today, families are put in the strange position of having to protect their children from their own culture.

     Our culture’s art, stories, music, and other creations tend to undermine what parents are trying to teach their children, rather than reinforce them. Our culture’s artifacts — television, movies, and video games — often glamorize immorality. The world they project often has nothing to do with family, being mostly about the adventures of single people. When the entertainment media does deign to show families, they are often presented in a negative light (with husbands and wives yelling at each other and yearning to be single; with buffoon fathers and smothering mothers; with misunderstood children who are wiser than their parents).

     And, in the oddest anthropological phenomenon of all, our cultural artifacts are shaped not by adults but by children. Teenagers set our cultural fashions. In every other culture, elders determine the fashions, make the music, and tell the stories. With us, adolescent children make the culture.

     Of course, children cannot afford recording studios or Hollywood sound stages. Adults still manufacture and sell the artifacts. But they gear television and movies to the taste of adolescents, with little effort to form them into adults. And our popular music is entirely the province of teenagers, who are the performers and trend-setters. The result is that our adult culture is infantilized. Adults try to be like children, instead of vice versa, as is the case in normal cultures. All of this is, of course, pathetic, ridiculous, and embarrassing to actual children.

     Sex is set against the family. God designed sex in order to create families. A man and a woman are drawn to each other, and they marry. By means of their sexual union, they engender children. Sex is supposed to be a family value.

     But today, our culture presents sex completely out of the context of the family. Sex is not reserved for marriage. Most of the many portrayals of sex in our cultural artifacts are specifically outside marriage.

     And from those portrayals, one would never dream that sex exists to engender children. In practice, “getting pregnant” is an unfortunate side effect of sexual pleasure, to be medicated against. If the woman wants the child, of course, that is fine, but if not — since in our culture, the choice of the will determines everything — the child is killed.

     When sex is disassociated from marriage and from having children — from the family — the pleasure is all that remains. And it becomes difficult for many people to see what is wrong with whatever gives a person sexual pleasure. If sex is disconnected with marriage and having children, why not have sex with someone you are not married to? Or with someone of your own gender? Or with yourself?

     Work is set against the family. The Reformers spoke of the “three estates,” the three institutions God established: the family, the church, and the state. We, in turn, have callings — or vocations — in each of these realms, where we are to love and serve our different neighbors and live out our Christian faith.

     When we think of “vocation” today, we often immediately think of the particular work we do. But the word “economics” originally referred to “the management of a household.” For the Reformers, the various callings that constitute economic activity fell under the estate of the family.

     In our work, we make a living for ourselves and our families. Our vocations are not a matter of our own self-fulfillment or self-aggrandizement, but for the sake of our neighbors: the customers we serve and the family-members we are supporting.

     But today, work is thought of as being about the self. Our work isolates us rather than brings us into service to our culture and especially to our families. Thus, we often neglect our families in favor of our work. When fathers are so busy at work — or commuting back and forth — that they spend less than five minutes a day with their children, as is common today, their callings are seriously out of whack.

     Broken marriages, unparented children, pornography, abortion, and most of our other “culture war” issues are family problems. Building strong families is the key to putting the culture back together.

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     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

Numbers 12-13

By Don Carson 5/5/2018

     Rebellion has many faces.

     Numbers 12-13 reports two quite different and complex forms of rebellion. The first finds Aaron and Miriam bad-mouthing their brother Moses. The presenting problem is that because the Lord has spoken through them as well as through Moses, they feel they have the right to share whatever authority he enjoys. But other layers lie hidden: they are upset with Moses because of his marriage to a Cushite. Human motives are often convoluted.

     Inevitably, the protest sounds reasonable and sensible, even (to our ears) democratic. Further, it is calculated to put Moses into a horrible position. If he insists that he alone is the leader whom God has peculiarly called to this task, he could be accused by the envious and the skeptical as guilty of self-promoting turf-protection. What saves him, in part, is that, like the Savior who followed him, Moses is an extraordinarily humble man (12:3; cf. Matt. 11:29).

     God himself intervenes and designates who the leader is. Moses is unique, for the immediacy of the revelation he receives and transmits is beyond that of all other prophets; further, Moses has proved faithful in all God’s household (12:6-8). Miriam faces fearful judgment. Why Miriam is so afflicted and not Aaron is unclear: perhaps in this rebellion she was the leader, or perhaps God did not want to undermine the legitimate authority Aaron possessed as high priest. What is clear is that even when Miriam, owing to Moses’ intercessory intervention, is forgiven, she faces a week of disgrace and illness outside the camp, to teach both her and the nation that the rebellion that manifests itself in lust for power deserves judgment from the living God.

     The second rebellion, reported in Numbers 13, begins with the fears of ten of the twelve spies commissioned to reconnoiter the Promised Land. They could not fail to report its lush fertility, but they focused on the obstacles. In this they had forgotten, or willfully ignored, all that God had miraculously performed to bring them this far. But their rebellion is worse yet. As leaders they were charged not only with accurate reporting but also with forming the opinion of the people. As leaders of the people of God, they should have presented the features of the land as they found them, and then focused attention on the faithful, covenantal God, reminding the people of the plagues, the Passover, the Exodus, the supply of food and safety in the desert, and God’s self-disclosure at Sinai. But in fact, they succeed only in fomenting a major mutiny (see chap. 14), primarily by fostering fear and unbelief.

     In what ways does rebellion manifest itself among the people of God today?

Click here to go to source

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 45

Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
45 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah; A Love Song.

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.

16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     10. There is a third absurdity by which the adversaries of predestination defame it. As we ascribe it entirely to the counsel of the divine will, that those whom God adopts as the heirs of his kingdom are exempted from universal destruction, they infer that he is an acceptor of persons; but this Scripture uniformly denies: and, therefore Scripture is either at variance with itself, or respect is had to merit in election. First, the sense in which Scripture declares that God is not an acceptor of persons, is different from that which they suppose: since the term person means not man, but those things which when conspicuous in a man, either procure favor, grace, and dignity, or, on the contrary, produce hatred, contempt, and disgrace. Among, these are, on the one hand, riches, wealth, power, rank, office, country, beauty, &c.; and, on the other hand, poverty, want, mean birth, sordidness, contempt, and the like. Thus Peter and Paul say, that the Lord is no acceptor of persons, because he makes no distinction between the Jew and the Greek; does not make the mere circumstance of country the ground for rejecting, one or embracing the other (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:10, Gal. 3:28). Thus James also uses the same words, when he would declare that God has no respect to riches in his judgment (James 2:5). Paul also says in another passage, that in judging God has no respect to slavery or freedom (Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25). There is nothing inconsistent with this when we say, that God, according to the good pleasure of his will, without any regard to merit, elects those whom he chooses for sons, while he rejects and reprobates others. For fuller satisfaction the matter may be thus explained (see August. Epist. 115, et ad Bonif., Lib. 2, cap. 7). It is asked, how it happens that of two, between whom there is no difference of merit, God in his election adopts the one, and passes by the other? I, in my turn, ask, Is there any thing in him who is adopted to incline God towards him? If it must be confessed that there is nothing, it will follow, that God looks not to the man, but is influenced entirely by his own goodness to do him good. Therefore, when God elects one and rejects another, it is owing not to any respect to the individual, but entirely to his own mercy which is free to display and exert itself when and where he pleases. For we have elsewhere seen, that in order to humble the pride of the flesh, "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called," (1 Cor. 1:26); so far is God in the exercise of his favor from showing any respect to persons.

11. Wherefore, it is false and most wicked to charge God with dispensing justice unequally, because in this predestination he does not observe the same course towards all. If (say they) he finds all guilty, let him punish all alike: if he finds them innocent, let him relieve all from the severity of judgment. But they plead with God as if he were either interdicted from showing mercy, or were obliged, if he show mercy, entirely to renounce judgment. What is it that they demand? That if all are guilty all shall receive the same punishment. We admit that the guilt is common, but we say, that God in mercy succors some. Let him (they say) succor all. We object, that it is right for him to show by punishing that he is a just judge. When they cannot tolerate this, what else are they attempting than to deprive God of the power of showing mercy; or, at least, to allow it to him only on the condition of altogether renouncing judgment? Here the words of Augustine most admirably apply: "Since in the first man the whole human race fell under condemnation, those vessels which are made of it unto honor, are not vessels of self-righteousness, but of divine mercy. When other vessels are made unto dishonor, it must be imputed not to injustice, but to judgment," (August. Epist. 106, De Prædest. et Gratia; De Bone Persever., cap. 12). Since God inflicts due punishment on those whom he reprobates, and bestows unmerited favor on those whom he calls, he is free from every accusation; just as it belongs to the creditor to forgive the debt to one, and exact it of another. The Lord therefore may show favor to whom he will, because he is merciful; not show it to all, because he is a just judge. In giving to some what they do not merit, he shows his free favor; in not giving to all, he declares what all deserve. For when Paul says, "God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," it ought also to be added, that he is debtor to none; for "who has first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (Rom. 11:32, 33).

12. Another argument which they employ to overthrow predestination is that if it stand, all care and study of well doing must cease. For what man can hear (say they) that life and death are fixed by an eternal and immutable decree of God, without immediately concluding that it is of no consequence how he acts, since no work of his can either hinder or further the predestination of God? Thus all will rush on, and like desperate men plunge headlong wherever lust inclines. And it is true that this is not altogether a fiction; for there are multitudes of a swinish nature who defile the doctrine of predestination by their profane blasphemies, and employ them as a cloak to evade all admonition and censure. "God knows what he has determined to do with regard to us: if he has decreed our salvation, he will bring us to it in his own time; if he has doomed us to death, it is vain for us to fight against it." But Scripture, while it enjoins us to think of this high mystery with much greater reverence and religion, gives very different instruction to the pious, and justly condemns the accursed license of the ungodly. For it does not remind us of predestination to increase our audacity, and tempt us to pry with impious presumption into the inscrutable counsels of God, but rather to humble and abase us, that we may tremble at his judgment, and learn to look up to his mercy. This is the mark at which believers will aim. The grunt of these filthy swine is duly silenced by Paul. They say that they feel secure in vices because, if they are of the number of the elect, their vices will be no obstacle to the ultimate attainment of life. But Paul reminds us that the end for which we are elected is, "that we should be holy, and without blame before him," (Eph. 1:4). If the end of election is holiness of life, it ought to arouse and stimulate us strenuously to aspire to it, instead of serving as a pretext for sloth. How wide the difference between the two things, between ceasing from well-doing because election is sufficient for salvation, and its being the very end of election, that we should devote ourselves to the study of good works. Have done, then, with blasphemies which wickedly invert the whole order of election. When they extend their blasphemies farther, and say that he who is reprobated by God will lose his pains if he studies to approve himself to him by innocence and probity of life, they are convicted of the most impudent falsehood. For whence can any such study arise but from election? As all who are of the number of the reprobate are vessels formed unto dishonor, so they cease not by their perpetual crimes to provoke the anger of God against them, and give evident signs of the judgment which God has already passed upon them; so far is it from being true that they vainly contend against it.

13. Another impudent and malicious calumny against this doctrine is, that it destroys all exhortations to a pious life. The great odium to which Augustine was at one time subjected on this head he wiped away in his treatise De Correptione et Gratia, to Valentinus, a perusal of which will easily satisfy the pious and docile. Here, however, I may touch on a few points, which will, I hope, be sufficient for those who are honest and not contentious. We have already seen how plainly and audibly Paul preaches the doctrine of free election: is he, therefore, cold in admonishing and exhorting? Let those good zealots compare his vehemence with theirs and they will find that they are ice, while he is all fervor. And surely every doubt on this subject should be removed by the principles which he lays down, that God has not called us to uncleanness; that every one should possess his vessel in honor; that we are the workmanship of God, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (1 Thess. 4:4, 7; Eph. 2:10). In one word, those who have any tolerable acquaintance with the writings of Paul will understand, without a long demonstration, how well he reconciles the two things which those men pretend to be contradictory to each other. Christ commands us to believe in him, and yet there is nothing false or contrary to this command in the statement which he afterwards makes: "No man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father," (John 6:65). Let preaching then have its free course, that it may lead men to faith, and dispose them to persevere with uninterrupted progress. Nor, at the same time, let there be any obstacle to the knowledge of predestination, so that those who obey may not plume themselves on anything of their own, but glory only in the Lord. It is not without cause our Savior says, "Who has ears to hear, let him hear," (Mt. 13:9). Therefore, while we exhort and preach, those who have ears willingly obey: in those again, who have no ears is fulfilled what is written: "Hear ye indeed, but understand not," (Isaiah 6:9). "But why (says Augustine) have some ears, and others not? Who has known the mind of the Lord? Are we, therefore, to deny what is plain because we cannot comprehend what is hid?" This is a faithful quotation from Augustine; but because his words will perhaps have more authority than mine, let us adduce the following passage from his treatise, De Bone Persever., cap. 15.

"Should some on hearing this turn to indolence and sloth, and leaving off all exertion, rush headlong into lust, are we, therefore to suppose that what has been said of the foreknowledge of God is not true? If God foreknew that they would be good, will they not be good, however great their present wickedness? and if God foreknow that they would be wicked, will they not be wicked, how great soever the goodness now seen in them? For reasons of this description, must the truth which has been stated on the subject of divine foreknowledge be denied or not mentioned? and more especially when, if it is not stated, other errors will arise?" In the sixteenth chapter he says, "The reason for not mentioning the truth is one thing, the necessity for telling the truth is another. It were tedious to inquire into all the reasons for silence. One, however, is, lest those who understand not become worse, while we are desirous to make those who understand better informed. Now such persons, when we say anything of this kind, do not indeed become better informed, but neither do they become worse. But when the truth is of such a nature, that he who cannot comprehend it becomes worse by our telling it, and he who can comprehend it becomes worse by our not telling it, what think ye ought we to do? Are we not to tell the truth, that he who can comprehend may comprehend, rather than not tell it, and thereby not only prevent both from comprehending, but also make the more intelligent of the two to become worse, whereas if he heard and comprehended others might learn through him? And we are unwilling to say what, on the testimony of Scripture, it is lawful to say. For we fear lest, when we speak, he who cannot comprehend may be offended; but we have no fear lest while we are silent, he who can comprehend the truth be involved in falsehood." In chapter twentieth, glancing again at the same view, he more clearly confirms it. "Wherefore, if the apostles and teachers of the Church who came after them did both; if they discoursed piously of the eternal election of God, and at the same time kept believers under the discipline of a pious life, how can those men of our day, when shut up by the invincible force of truth, think they are right in saying, that what is said of predestination, though it is true, must not be preached to the people? Nay, it ought indeed to be preached, that whoso has ears to hear may hear. And who has ears if he has not received them from him who has promised to give them? Certainly, let him who receives not, reject. Let him who receives, take and drink, drink and live. For as piety is to be preached, that God may be duly worshipped; so predestination also is to be preached, that he who has ears to hear may, in regard to divine grace, glory not in himself, but in God."

14. And yet as that holy man had a singular desire to edify, he so regulates his method of teaching as carefully, and as far as in him lay, to avoid giving offense. For he reminds us, that those things which are truly should also be fitly spoken. Were any one to address the people thus: If you do not believe, the reason is, because God has already doomed you to destruction: he would not only encourage sloth, but also give countenance to wickedness. Were any one to give utterance to the sentiment in the future tense, and say, that those who hear will not believe because they are reprobates, it were imprecation rather than doctrine. Wherefore, Augustine not undeservedly orders such, as senseless teachers or minister and ill-omened prophets, to retire from the Church. He, indeed, elsewhere truly contends that "a man profits by correction only when He who causes those whom He pleases to profit without correction, pities and assists. But why is it thus with some, and differently with others? Far be it from us to say that it belongs to the clay and not to the potter to decide." He afterwards says, "When men by correction either come or return to the way of righteousness, who is it that works salvation in their hearts but he who gives the increase, whoever it be that plants and waters? When he is pleased to save, there is no free-will in man to resist. Wherefore, it cannot be doubted that the will of God (who has done whatever he has pleased in heaven and in earth, and who has even done things which are to be) cannot be resisted by the human will, or prevented from doing what he pleases, since with the very wills of men he does so." Again, "When he would bring men to himself, does he bind them with corporeal fetters? He acts inwardly, inwardly holds, inwardly moves their hearts, and draws them by the will, which he has wrought in them." What he immediately adds must not be omitted: "because we know not who belongs to the number of the predestinated, or does not belong, our desire ought to be that all may be saved; and hence every person we meet, we will desire to be with us a partaker of peace. But our peace will rest upon the sons of peace. Wherefore, on our part, let correction be used as a harsh yet salutary medicine for all, that they may neither perish, nor destroy others. To God it will belong to make it available to those whom he has foreknown and predestinated."

__________________________________________________________________

[499] This is taken from Auguste Dein Gen. cont. Manich., Lib. 1 c. 3.

[500] French. "Toutesfois en parlant ainsi, nous n'approuvons pas la reverie des theologiens Papistes touchant la puissance absolue de Dieu;"--still in speaking thus, we approve not of the reverie of the Popish theologians touching the absolute power of God.

[501] French, "Si leur constance er fermeté a eté fondee au bon plasir de Dieu, la revolte des diables monstre qu'ils n'ont pas eté retenus, mais plustost delaisse;"--if their constancy and firmness was founded on the good pleasure of God, the revolt of the devils shows that they were not restrained, but rather abandoned.

[502] The French adds, "ou autre heretique;"--or other heretic.

[503] See Calvin, De Prædestinatione.

__________________________________________________________________

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion



  • John Newton
  • Ascension of Jesus
  • History of Christian Doctrine

#1 Bruce Hindmarsh | Regent College (Vancouver, BC)

 

#2 John Stackhouse | Regent College (Vancouver, BC)

 

#3 Hans Boersma | Regent College (Vancouver, BC)

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2005    Why Not?

     As a Reformed pastor, I am regularly confronted with questions about Reformed theology. Sometimes I am asked to explain a particular point of Reformed theology, and sometimes I am asked simply to explain what Reformed theology is.

     Depending upon who is asking the question, and, perhaps more importantly, in what tone the question is being asked, I will often respond first by explaining precisely what Reformed theology is not. This method of identification, traditionally called the “way of negation” (via negativa), usually employed in the identification of divine attributes, is a helpful way of approaching many subjects. Though it is not necessary to approach any subject according to this method, it can be helpful in our pursuit in understanding the complexities of particular subjects, especially when those subjects have been so poorly explained and so poorly understood. Reformed theology has long been a victim of such poor explanation and poor understanding.

     For nearly two years I fought against Reformed theology as it had been explained to me. When I was first introduced to the word “Reformed,” I was a freshman in Bible college, and, as a matter of fact, I was told that Reformed theology taught that man is basically a puppet on a string who has no freedom but is subject to a partial deity who whimsically picks those he wants to save and those he wants to toss into the eternal fires of hell. I was told about the “frozen chosen” who don’t believe it is necessary to evangelize or pray for the simple reason that it doesn’t matter what they do because God has predetermined all things.

     My understanding of Reformed theology was completely skewed, and it wasn’t until I went to the Word of God and studied the sovereignty of God that I became convinced of Reformed theology. I discovered the biblical God, the biblical Christ, the biblical Gospel, and, consequently, the biblical doctrine of salvation. At a crossroads in my spiritual journey, I was humbled and amazed to find that Reformed theology is not a theology of determinism, that it is not opposed to prayer and evangelism, and that it is not the defender of a capricious deity who fools with the hearts of men as he would dance a little, faceless puppet on a string. Indeed, by God’s grace, and before His face (coram Deo), I was confronted with the beauty and simplicity of Reformed theology — a theology that is not anything other than the theology of Scripture.

     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)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     May 5th, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed an Act of Congress designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer. This has always been a part of American life. Indeed, President Washington declared a National Day of Prayer during his first year in office. President Madison did during the War of 1812, Lincoln during the Civil War, and President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. It was President Harry S. Truman, though, who made it an annual event, saying: "In times of national crisis when we are striving to strengthen the foundations of peace…we stand in special need of Divine support."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

God's will is not an itinerary,
but an attitude.
--- Andrew Dhuse
10 things you should know about God and Life


Let God's promises shine
on your problems.
--- Corrie Ten Boom
Clippings from My Notebook

A second quality of calledness is seen in John's certainty of his own identity. Let me paraphrase his remarks. You will remember that he said to his visitors, that I've told you often who I am not: namely, the Christ. Knowing who he was not was the beginning of knowing who he was.
--- Gordon MacDonald
Ordering Your Private World

When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied. --- Herophilus (Greek physician, 335-280 BCE)
Hippocratic Writings (Penguin Classics)

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifty-Sixth Chapter / We Ought To Deny Ourselves And Imitate Christ Through Bearing The Cross

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, the more you depart from yourself, the more you will be able to enter into Me. As the giving up of exterior things brings interior peace, so the forsaking of self unites you to God. I will have you learn perfect surrender to My will, without contradiction or complaint.

     Follow Me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way which you must follow, the Truth which you must believe, the Life for which you must hope. I am the inviolable Way, the infallible Truth, the unending Life. I am the Way that is straight, the supreme Truth, the Life that is true, the blessed, the uncreated Life. If you abide in My Way you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and you shall attain life everlasting.

     If you wish to enter into life, keep My commandments. If you will know the truth, believe in Me. If you will be perfect, sell all. If you will be My disciple, deny yourself. If you will possess the blessed life, despise this present life. If you will be exalted in heaven, humble yourself on earth. If you wish to reign with Me, carry the Cross with Me. For only the servants of the Cross find the life of blessedness and of true light.

     The Disciple

     Lord Jesus, because Your way is narrow and despised by the world, grant that I may despise the world and imitate You. For the servant is not greater than his Lord, nor the disciple above the Master. Let Your servant be trained in Your life, for there is my salvation and true holiness. Whatever else I read or hear does not fully refresh or delight me.

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     My child, now that you know these things and have read them all, happy will you be if you do them. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me. And I will love him and will show Myself to him, and will bring it about that he will sit down with Me in My Father’s Kingdom.

     The Disciple

     Lord Jesus, as You have said, so be it, and what You have promised, let it be my lot to win. I have received the cross, from Your hand I have received it. I will carry it, carry it even unto death as You have laid it upon me. Truly, the life of a good religious man is a cross, but it leads to paradise. We have begun—we may not go back, nor may we leave off.

     Take courage, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus’ sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus’ sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us. Let us follow like men. Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Kept Through Faith

     And now the other side--Believing. "Kept by the power of God through faith." How must we look at this faith?

     Faith Implies Helplessness

     Let me say, first of all, that this faith means utter impotence and helplessness before God.

     At the bottom of all faith there is a feeling of helplessness. If I have a bit of business to transact, perhaps to buy a house, the lawyer must do the work of getting the transfer of the property in my name and making all the arrangements. I cannot do that work, and in trusting that agent I confess I cannot do it. And so faith always means helplessness. In many cases it means: I can do it with a great deal of trouble, but another can do it better. But in most cases it is utter helplessness; another must do it for me. And that is the secret of the spiritual life. A man must learn to say: "I give up everything; I have tried and longed and thought and prayed, but failure has come. God has blessed me and helped me, but still, in the long run, there has been so much of sin and sadness." What a change comes when a man is thus broken down into utter helplessness and self-despair, and says: "I can do nothing!"

     Remember Paul. He was living a blessed life, and he had been taken up into the third Heaven, and then the thorn in the flesh came, "a messenger of Satan to buffet me." And what happened? Paul could not understand it, and he prayed the Lord three times to take it away; but the Lord said, in effect:

     "No; it is possible that you might exalt yourself, and therefore I have sent you this trial to keep you weak and humble."

     And Paul then learned a lesson that he never forgot, and that was—to rejoice in his infirmities. He said that the weaker he was the better it was for him, for when he was weak, he was strong in his Lord Christ.

     Do you want to enter what people call "the higher life"? Then go a step lower down. I remember Dr. Boardman telling how that once he was invited by a gentleman to go to see a factory where they made fine shot, and I believe the workmen did so by pouring down molten lead from a great height. This gentleman wanted to take Dr. Boardman up to the top of the tower to see how the work was done. The doctor came to the tower, he entered by the door, and began going upstairs; but when he had gone a few steps the gentleman called out:

     "That is the wrong way. You must come down this way; that stair is locked up."

     The gentleman took him downstairs a good many steps, and there an elevator was ready to take him to the top; and he said:

     "I have learned a lesson that going down is often the best way to get up."

     Ah, yes, God will have to bring us very low down; there will have to come upon us a sense of emptiness and despair and nothingness. It is when we sink down in utter helplessness that the everlasting God will reveal Himself in His power, and that our hearts will learn to trust God alone.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:10-12
     by D.H. Stern

10     Divine inspiration is on the lips of the king,
          so his mouth must be faithful when he judges.
11     The balance and scales of justice
          have their origin in ADONAI;
          all the weights in the bag are his doing.
12     It is an abomination for a king to do evil,
          for the throne is made secure by righteousness.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Judgment on the abyss of love

     For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. ---
1 Peter 4:17.

     The Christian worker must never forget that salvation is God’s thought, not man’s; therefore it is an unfathomable abyss. Salvation is the great thought of God, not an experience. Experience is only a gateway by which salvation comes into our conscious life. Never preach the experience; preach the great thought of God behind. When we preach we are not proclaiming how man can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God.

     In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out, it is the sign of God’s love. Never sympathize with a soul who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to find out the reason why it is difficult, but so to present the truth of God that the Spirit of God will show what is wrong. The great sterling test in preaching is that it brings everyone to judgment. The Spirit of God locates each one to himself.

     If Jesus ever gave us a command He could not enable us to fulfil, He would be a liar; and if we make our inability a barrier to obedience, it means we are telling God there is something He has not taken into account. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.

My Utmost for His Highest

Song at the Year's Turning
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


Song at the Year's Turning

Shelley dreamed it. Now the dream decays.
The props crumble; the familiar ways
Are stale with tears trodden underfoot.
The heart's flower withers at the root.
Bury it then, in history's sterile dust.
The slow years shall tame your tawny lust.

Love deceived him; what is there to say
The mind brought you by a better way
To this despair? Lost in the world's wood
You cannot stanch the bright menstrual blood.
The earth sickens; under naked boughs
The frost comes to barb your broken vows.

Is there blessing? Light's peculiar grace
In cold splendour robes this tortured place
For strange marriage. Voices in the wind
Weave a garland where a mortal sinned.
Winter rots you; who is there to blame?
The new grass shall purge you in its flame.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Kiddushin 42b

     D’RASH

     A first-year high school teacher, just out of college, finds himself in a deep philosophical conflict with his principal, a veteran administrator of the "old school." The teacher sees his role not as disciplinarian, not as authority figure, but as a mentor and guide who can best achieve results by being a friend to his students. He dresses informally—in jeans and a sweat shirt. He insists that his students call him by his first name. And he tries to spend time interacting socially with the students, both during school hours and after.

     The principal is certain that this is an approach that is sure to lead to chaos and disaster. She insists that teachers wear a jacket and tie and use the title "Mr.," and suggests that faculty and students not socialize at all. The teacher, however, believes strongly that he can best succeed by having his students relate to him as a person, and by relating to them as individuals, virtually on an equal par. The formality of dress and title only serve to distance his students from him. He demands that the principal allow him to dispense with the formalities in an attempt to bring the two sides closer together. The principal believes just as strongly that school, and most of society, functions because there are well-accepted rules of relationships. Students know how they are supposed to behave. It is that expectation, from both sides, that enables one teacher to teach and control thirty children who would, by desire or disposition, rather talk or play. The teacher feels that the students' respect for him will be earned by treating them as equals. The principal is sure that respect is first imposed by adhering to accepted norms; later, it can be earned as students get to know the teacher. The teacher pleads: "I'm an individual. Let me do what I can do best!" The principal answers: "You are a teacher and a member of the faculty. What you do affects not only your own class but every other class and every other teacher as well!"

     The debate of the Rabbis about the "honor" due certain individuals is actually over a much more fundamental question: "Who are we, really?" All of us play many roles in life—"child," "sibling," "friend," "pupil," "spouse," "parent," and "employee" or "boss." Into each role we infuse different elements of our personalities. Sometimes, those roles impose upon us very rigid modes of behavior that leave little room for individuality. It is only when we discover where the self ends and the role begins that we have started to define who we really are.

     There is no agent for wrongdoing.

     Text / It has been taught: One who causes a fire to break out through the agency of a deaf-mute, an insane person, or a minor is not liable by human law, but is liable by Heaven's laws. If one caused it through the agency of a person in possession of all his faculties, the person in possession of all his faculties is liable. Why is this so? Can we not say that a person's agent is considered like the person? That case is different, for there is no agent for wrongdoing, as we say: "The words of the Master, and the words of the disciple: Whose words do we obey?"

     Context / The ḥeresh (deaf-mute), shoteh (insane person) and katan (minor) are three groups of people who, because of their limited intellectual capacity, are not held responsible for their actions and are not obligated to perform the mitzvot. Ḥeresh is someone who can neither speak nor hear. The Rabbis bring examples of the behavior that characterizes a shoteh: going out alone at night, sleeping in a cemetery, ripping his clothing, and losing all personal possessions. A katan is someone who has not reached the age of maturity, thirteen years and one day.

     The Gemara begins by quoting a Mishnah (Bava Kamma 6:4) that lays down who is responsible for damage done by fire to someone else's property. In the first case, someone of diminished mental capacity blows on hot coals and causes a fire. The person who gave the coals is not legally responsible ("by human laws"), though is morally liable ("by Heaven's laws") for the damage. But if the person given the coals is of normal mental capacity, that person (and not the one who gave him the coals) is legally responsible for any damage.

     The question is then raised concerning this second case: Why blame the one given the coals? Why not blame the person who gave the coals in the first place? Isn't that person ultimately responsible for the fire and for the damage done? This line of reasoning follows the legal principle "sh'luḥo shel adam k'moto," "a person's agent is considered like the person." The Talmud rejects this approach, relying on another principle, "There is no agent for wrongdoing." The person given the coals, being of sound mind, knew right from wrong and knew the potential damage that hot coals could do. Therefore once that individual had possession of the coals, the responsibility for them and for destruction done to any property falls on the recipient, not on the one who gave them. Blame or liability cannot be shifted.

     In the final question of our piece, the "words of the Master" refer to God's teaching; the "words of the disciple" are instructions given to us by human beings (in our case, the potentially dangerous order to take hot coals through a neighbor's property). The moral imperative to do the right thing takes precedence over anything else someone may tell us to do.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Gideon: Judges 6–8
     Teacher's Commentary

     In the days of Gideon, the Israelites in his area were oppressed by Midianites. The reason, explained by an unnamed prophet sent by the Lord to His people, was that they refused to listen to God but worshiped the pagan gods and goddesses of the land.

     The familiar story of Gideon has lessons for us in almost every phase.

     Gideon's call (Judges 6:11–24). Young Gideon was openly skeptical when an Angel of the Lord appeared, called him "mighty warrior," and announced that the Lord was with him. Gideon wondered aloud first about God's presence. He was at that time hiding on his own land while he threshed grain from his own wheat, for fear a party of the enemy might come by and take it from him. Why was Israel in such a state if the God of miracles really was with them?

     Gideon was also skeptical about his own prowess. Far from being a "mighty warrior," Gideon was a nothing: the least in the weakest clan in Manasseh.

     Gideon was even skeptical about the promise of the Lord, "I will be with you," and about His promise to strike down the enemy (Judges 6:16).

     Gideon respectfully asked for a sign—that is, some miraculous evidence that what this stranger was saying was true. This should not be taken as a lack of faith. Deuteronomy 18 indicates that prophets in Israel—those who claimed to speak for God—could and should be tested. A prophet was supposed to make some statement which came true, giving supernatural indication he or she was God's spokesperson (Deuteronomy 18:21–22).

     Gideon prepared a young goat and flour as an offering, and when these were placed on a rock, the Angel caused fire to flare miraculously and consume the offering.

     Gideon, now aware of the nature of his supernatural visitor, worshiped and honored the Lord.

     Gideon's initial obedience (
Judges 6:25–40). Gideon was told to destroy the altar to pagan gods and goddesses erected by his own father for their town. He did it fearfully, at night, but he did obey. This initial act of obedience must have called for great courage. Each of us must begin our adventure with God in the same way. Great actions come only when we have been qualified by obeying in the smaller, local acts of obedience, which may seem frightening to us too.

     When the townsmen wanted to kill Gideon for destroying their place of pagan worship, Gideon's father resisted. If Baal was truly a god, the father argued, let him fight his own battles. The only thing that happened was that Gideon won a new nickname: Jerub-Baal. "Let Baal fight him."

     Baal did not, and when the enemy prepared to come in force as they had each harvesttime, to strip Israel of its winter food, God's Spirit came on Gideon and he summoned the four tribes in his area to send men to fight.

     Gideon had begun to experience God's protection, and to sense His Spirit stir within him. And yet like us at times, Gideon needed reassurance.

     Gideon begged the Lord to give that reassurance by putting out a fleece at night, asking that there be dew on it but none on the ground. When Morning came, that was what had happened. But the next day, begging God not to be angry, Gideon asked that the sign be reversed. He wanted dew on the ground, but a dry fleece. Again God provided the reassurance.

     Why wasn't this a presumptuous sin, a "putting God to the test" that the Bible forbids? (Deuteronomy 6:16) The difference was that Gideon asked God in faith, humbly, seeking reassurance. The generation that had tested God earlier demanded that God prove Himself, and demanded it because they did not believe, not because they wanted reassurance.

     God is very gracious in His dealings with His people. He was aware that Gideon felt a need for reassurance despite his faith. And God gave Gideon the reassurance that he asked for. When we need reassurance, God may very well deal with us in this same gracious way.

     Gideon's victory (Judges 7:1–25). Gideon had now been prepared by God for a stunning act of obedience. Thirty-two thousand men rallied in response to Gideon's call. God told Gideon this was too many, because the victory must be seen to be the Lord's. So Gideon told those who were fearful to leave. Twenty-two thousand left.

     But on the march God told Gideon this was still too many. All but 300 were eliminated by the next test: anyone who took time to kneel at the riverside to drink was released. Only those so eager to meet the enemy that they dipped up water in their hands as they hurried through the waters could be kept!

     Gideon did not now ask God for further reassurance. But the Lord provided it anyway! Gideon and a servant slipped near the enemy camp, and heard a man interpret another's dream about destruction of the Midianites!

     The rest of the story is well known. Gideon gave his men trumpets and concealed torches. They surrounded the enemy camp, and when they suddenly shouted, the enemy were thrown into such confusion that they struck out at each other, running in panic.

     Then the other Israelites hurried to join in pursuing the survivors.

The Teacher's Commentary

The Land of Israel
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     Judaism as a designation for the entire phenomenon of the Jewish ways of living and believing is a Greek term (Ioudaismos) first attested in 2 Macc. 2:21; 14:38. It is related to the name for the land where many Jews lived—the land of Judah or Judea—and seems to have been coined as a way of contrasting traditional Jewishness with Hellenism (Hellenismos; see 2 Macc. 4:13). This essay will focus on Judaism as it came to expression in the land of Israel.

     The Scriptures repeatedly mention God’s promise that the descendants of Abraham and Sarah would possess the land (
Gen. 12:7; 13:14–17; 15:7, 17–21; etc.), and the book of Joshua shows how that promise came to fruition (e.g., Josh. 21:43–45). The people of Israel lived in the promised land for centuries, but finally their sins, according to the Deuteronomistic History (2 Kings 21:10–15; etc.), so sorely tried the divine patience that YHWH invoked the curses of the covenant upon them, and gave them into the power of their enemies, who torched Jerusalem and the Temple and exiled many from the land. Decades later a return to the land began and a new temple was constructed on the site of the old one. Though a large number of Jewish people by this time lived in the various diasporas, the land of Israel remained a powerful symbol for them, although this spiritual and national force did not necessarily impel them to live there. The Temple was a center for pilgrimages and gifts in addition to being the place where sacrifices were continually offered. The prophets had looked forward to a day when the dispersed people of God would be gathered to their home (e.g., Isa. 11:10–16; Ezek. 37:15–28), and that longing comes to expression in some of the literature written when the Second Temple stood, although the vast majority of Diaspora Jews remained where they were.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 5

     Is there any God besides me? --- Isaiah 44:8.

     In the Christian view of God there are two attributes that it is not easy for the human reason to combine. Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) One of them we call the transcendence of God; to the other we give the name of immanence.

     Now what do we mean by the divine transcendence? We mean that God is over all, blessed forever. We mean that apart from and above the universe there lives and reigns a personal Creator. We mean that were this world to be extinguished and were every living being to disappear, still would there be, eternal in the heavens, the Spirit whom we designate as God. Over against all created things, sustaining them and yet distinct from them, self-conscious in the silence of eternity and looking from without on all things made—it is to such a God, exalted over all, that we apply the attribute transcendence.

     And what do we mean by the immanence of God? We mean the presence of the Almighty in creation. We mean that time and space and all their thousand occupants are but the garments that we see him by. Deep through the universe runs the thrill of life, and wherever that life is, there is God. His personal habits are the laws of nature; his love of beauty is seen in every valley. A God transcendent, like some consummate painter, adorns with his brush the lilies of the field; a God who is immanent breathes into the lilies, and they become the expression of himself. A God transcendent, like some master crafter, fashions the fowls of the air for flight; a God who is immanent lives in every bird and breaks the eternal silence in their song. A God transcendent, like some mighty sculptor, models with his deft hand the human form; a God who is immanent looks through human eyes and thinks in the thinking of the human brain.

     Deny, reject, make light of God’s transcendence, and you cut at the very roots of human progress. The immanence of God is a great truth to be grasped firmly by the believing soul, but to say that the immanence of God is everything is to be a traitor to tomorrow.
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Justinian and Jesus  May 5

     The fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries rumbled with prolonged controversy about the nature of Christ, and numerous councils convened to grapple with this issue. The Council of Nicaea in 325 said that Christ was fully divine. Fifty years later, the Council of Constantinople proclaimed Christ fully human. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 formulated the famous creed that Christ is “truly God and truly man … two natures without confusion, without change, without division, or without separation. … ”

     On this day in Christian history, May 5, 553, another council was convoked, this one by Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. Justinian, brilliant and tireless, longed to be religious. He spent many nights in prayer and fasting, and endless days in theological study. He built the fabulous cathedral of Hagia Sophia and spoke longingly of a unified church.

     But Justinian was also vain, ambitious, ostentatious, and easily influenced. His beautiful wife Theodora, daughter of a bear trainer, was ruthless, and she played him like a marionette. Unable to understand the two natures of Christ, she held the Monophysite view—that Jesus had no human nature but possessed only a divine nature, clothed somehow in human flesh. At the Council of Constantinople, Justinian, manipulated by his wife, issued a decree favorable to the Monophysites.

     Pope Vigilius had refused to attend the council due to fear for his safety and because of the preponderance of Eastern bishops. In Rome he received news of the council’s actions with disdain but eventually accepted its decisions as unimportant. Monophysite views, however, continue to this day in Abyssinia, Syria, and in the Coptic church of Egypt.

     And Justinian? He eventually became a full-fledged heretic, preaching that the body of Christ, being incorruptible, could not have experienced suffering and death. He died in 565, unrepentant, at age 83, his later years darkened by perpetual disasters.

     Healthy Christianity demands both a correct theological knowledge of Christ and a personal knowledge of the Savior through faith and obedience. Justinian grappled with the former, never arrived at the latter, and makes us wonder what the Lord thinks of his title in history—Justinian the Great.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 5

     “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
2 Corinthians 6:16.

     What a sweet title: “My people!” What a cheering revelation: “Their God!” How much of meaning is couched in those two words, “My people!” Here is speciality. The whole world is God’s; the heaven, even the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s, and he reigneth among the children of men; but of those whom he hath chosen, whom he hath purchased to himself, he saith what he saith not of others—“My people.” In this word there is the idea of proprietorship. In a special manner the “Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” All the nations upon earth are his; the whole world is in his power; yet are his people, his chosen, more especially his possession; for he has done more for them than others; he has bought them with his blood; he has brought them nigh to himself; he has set his great heart upon them; he has loved them with an everlasting love, a love which many waters cannot quench, and which the revolutions of time shall never suffice in the least degree to diminish. Dear friends, can you, by faith, see yourselves in that number? Can you look up to heaven and say, “My Lord and my God: mine by that sweet relationship which entitles me to call thee Father; mine by that hallowed fellowship which I delight to hold with thee when thou art pleased to manifest thyself unto me as thou dost not unto the world?” Canst thou read the Book of Inspiration, and find there the indentures of thy salvation? Canst thou read thy title writ in precious blood? Canst thou, by humble faith, lay hold of Jesus’ garments, and say, “My Christ”? If thou canst, then God saith of thee, and of others like thee, “My people;” for, if God be your God, and Christ your Christ, the Lord has a special, peculiar favour to you; you are the object of his choice, accepted in his beloved Son.

          Evening - May 5

     “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”
Proverbs 16:20.

     Wisdom is man’s true strength; and, under its guidance, he best accomplishes the ends of his being. Wisely handling the matter of life gives to man the richest enjoyment, and presents the noblest occupation for his powers; hence by it he finds good in the fullest sense. Without wisdom, man is as the wild ass’s colt, running hither and thither, wasting strength which might be profitably employed. Wisdom is the compass by which man is to steer across the trackless waste of life; without it he is a derelict vessel, the sport of winds and waves. A man must be prudent in such a world as this, or he will find no good, but be betrayed into unnumbered ills. The pilgrim will sorely wound his feet among the briers of the wood of life if he do not pick his steps with the utmost caution. He who is in a wilderness infested with robber bands must handle matters wisely if he would journey safely. If, trained by the Great Teacher, we follow where he leads, we shall find good, even while in this dark abode; there are celestial fruits to be gathered this side of Eden’s bowers, and songs of paradise to be sung amid the groves of earth. But where shall this wisdom be found? Many have dreamed of it, but have not possessed it. Where shall we learn it? Let us listen to the voice of the Lord, for he hath declared the secret; he hath revealed to the sons of men wherein true wisdom lieth, and we have it in the text, “Whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” The true way to handle a matter wisely is to trust in the Lord. This is the sure clue to the most intricate labyrinths of life, follow it and find eternal bliss. He who trusts in the Lord has a diploma for wisdom granted by inspiration: happy is he now, and happier shall he be above. Lord, in this sweet eventide walk with me in the garden, and teach me the wisdom of faith.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 5

          FAIREST LORD JESUS!

     Text from Münster Gesangbuch, 1677
     4th verse translated by Joseph A. Seiss, 1823–1904

     For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16)

     This lovely hymn extolling the beauty and virtues of Christ leads us to the praise and worship or our “beautiful Savior.” The vivid comparisons of all the enjoyable sights of nature with Jesus, who is the very source and essence of all beauty, fill us with awe. Then we are reminded that our Savior outshines all creations of God, including the hosts of angels. How worthy He is of the deepest “glory and honor, praise, adoration now and forevermore!”

     Little is known of the origin of this inspiring hymn. It is thought by some to have been sung in the 12th century by the German crusaders as they made their wearisome and dangerous trip to the Holy Land. Another source claims that this was one of the hymns used by the followers of John Hus. These were Moravian believers who were driven out of Bohemia in the bloody anti-Reformation purge of 1620. They settled in Silesia, now a part of Poland. “Fairest Lord Jesus” is thought to be a folk hymn that came from these devout Silesian peasants. The fourth verse, a fine translation by Joseph A. Seiss, emphasizes the dual nature of the Savior—“Son of God and Son of Man”—as well as the praise that will be eternally His.

     Whatever the actual origin of the hymn may be, Christians for centuries have been blessed with this worshipful and joyful text, which focuses our view on the fair Son of God who reveals to us the glory of the Father.

     Fairest Lord Jesus! Ruler of all nature! O Thou of God and man the Son! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown!
     Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, who makes the woeful heart to sing.
     Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heav’n can boast.
     Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration now and forevermore be Thine!


     For Today: John 1:1, 3, 14; 5:23; 20:31; Philippians 2:9–11; Colossians 1:13, 15; 2:9; Hebrews 1:2, 3.

     Take time to reflect once again on the virtues of our lovely Lord Jesus. Offer thanks to God for the matchless gift of His Son. Worship Him with this musical expression ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. XV. — NOW let us see your reasons for giving this advice — ‘you think, that, although it may be true, that God, from His nature, is in a beetle’s hole, or even in a sink, (which you have too much holy reverence to say yourself, and blame the Sophists for talking in such a way) no less than in Heaven, yet it would be unreasonable to discuss such a subject before the multitude.’ —

     First of all, let them talk thus, who can talk thus. We do not here argue concerning what are facts in men, but concerning justice and law: not that we may live, but that we may live as we ought. Who among us lives and acts rightly? But justice and the doctrine of law are not therefore condemned: but rather they condemn us. You fetch from afar these irrelevant things, and scrape together many such from all quarters, because you cannot get over this one point, the prescience of God: and since you cannot overthrow it in any way, you want, in the mean time, to tire out the reader with a multiplicity of empty observation. But of this, no more. Let us return to the point.

     What then is your intention, in observing that there are some things which ought not to be spoken of openly? Do you mean to enumerate the subject of “Free-will” among those things? If you do, the whole that I have just said concerning the necessity of knowing what “Free-will” is, will turn round upon you. Moreover, if so, why do you not keep to your own principles, and have nothing to do with your Diatribe? But, if you do well in discussing “Free-will,” why do you speak against such discussion? and if it is a bad subject, why do you make it worse? But if you do not enumerate it among those things, then, you leave your subject-point; and like an orator of words only, talk about those irrelevant things that have nothing to do with the subject.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
     W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)


          6 He Guides Me in Paths of Righteousness for His Name’s Sake

     1. Instead of loving myself most, I am willing to love Christ best and others more than myself.

     Now love in a scriptural sense is not a soft, sentimental emotion. It is a deliberate act of my will. It means that I am willing to lay down my life, lay myself out, pour myself out on behalf of another. This is precisely what God did for us in Christ. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

     The moment I deliberately do something definite either for God or others that costs me something, I am expressing love. Love is selflessness or self-sacrifice in contradistinction to selfishness. Most of us know little of living like this or being “led” in this right way. But once a person discovers the delight of doing something for others, he has started through the gate being led into one of God’s green pastures.

     2. Instead of being one of the crowd, I am willing to be singled out, set apart from the gang.

     Most of us, like sheep, are pretty gregarious. We want to belong. We don’t want to be different in a deep, distinctive way, though we may wish to be different in minor details that appeal to our selfish egos.

     But Christ pointed out that only a few would find His way acceptable. And to be marked as one of His would mean a certain amount of criticism and sarcasm from a cynical society. Many of us don’t want this. Just as He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, so we may be. Instead of adding to the sorrows and sadness of society, we may be called on to help bear some of the burdens of others, to enter into the suffering of others. Are we ready to do this?

     3. Instead of insisting on my rights, I am willing to forego them in favor of others.

     Basically this is what the Master meant by denying one’s self. It is not easy, nor normal, nor natural to do this. Even in the loving atmosphere of the home, self-assertion is pretty evident, and the powerful exercise of individual rights is always apparent.

     But the person who is willing to pocket his pride, to take a backseat, to play second fiddle without a feeling of being abused or put upon has gone a long way onto new ground with God.

     There is a tremendous emancipation from “self” in this attitude. One is set free from the shackles of personal pride. It’s pretty hard to hurt such a person. He who has no sense of self-importance cannot be offended or deflated. Somehow such people enjoy a wholesome outlook of carefree abandon that makes their Christian lives contagious with contentment and gaiety.

     4. Instead of being “boss,” I am willing to be at the bottom of the heap. Or to use sheep terminology, instead of being “top ram,” I’m willing to be a “tail-ender.”

     When the desire for self-assertion, self-aggrandizement, self-pleasing gives way to the desire for simply pleasing God and others, much of the fret and strain is drained away from daily living.

     A hallmark of the serene soul is the absence of “drive,” at least “drive” for self-determination. The person who is prepared to put his personal life and personal affairs in the Master’s hands for His management and direction has found the place of rest in fresh fields each day. These are the ones who find time and energy to please others.

     5. Instead of finding fault with life and always asking “Why?” I am willing to accept every circumstance of life in an attitude of gratitude.

     Human beings, being what they are, somehow feel entitled to question the reasons for everything that happens to them. In many instances life itself becomes a continuous criticism and dissection of one’s circumstances and acquaintances. We look for someone or something on which to pin the blame for our misfortunes. We are often quick to forget our blessings, slow to forget our misfortunes.

     But if one really believes his affairs are in God’s hands, every event, no matter whether joyous or tragic, will be taken as part of God’s plan. To know beyond doubt that He does all for our welfare is to be led into a wide area of peace and quietness and strength for every situation.

     6. Instead of exercising and asserting my will, I am willing to learn to cooperate with His wishes and comply with His will.

     It must be noted that all the steps outlined here involve the will. The saints from earliest times have repeatedly pointed out that nine-tenths of religion, of Christianity, of becoming a true follower, a dedicated disciple, lies in the will.

     When men or women allow their will to be crossed out, canceling the great I in their decisions, then indeed the cross has been applied to their lives. This is the meaning of taking up one’s cross daily—to go to one’s own death—no longer my will in the matter but His will be done.

     7. Instead of choosing my own way, I am willing to choose to follow in Christ’s way: simply to do what He asks me to do.

     This basically is simple, straightforward obedience. It means I just do what He asks me to do. I go where He invites me to go. I say what He instructs me to say. I act and react in the manner He maintains is in my own best interest as well as for His reputation (if I’m His follower).

     Most of us possess a formidable amount of factual information on what the Master expects of us. Precious few have either the will, intention, or determination to act on it and comply with His instructions. But the person who decides to do what God asks him has moved onto fresh ground, which will do both him and others a world of good. Besides, it will please the Good Shepherd to no end.

     God wants us all to move on with Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants it not only for our welfare but for the benefit of others as well as His own dear reputation.

     Perhaps there are those who think He expects too much of us. Maybe they feel the demands are too drastic. Some may even consider His call impossible to carry out.

     It would be if we had to depend on self-determination or self-discipline to succeed. But if we are in earnest about wanting to do His will, and to be led, He makes this possible by His own gracious Spirit who is given to those who obey (Acts 5:32). For it is He who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Reformation Conference 2017
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