John 13 - 15
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ FeetJohn 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
One of You Will Betray Me21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
A New Commandment31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
John 13:1–17:26 These five chapters recount the ministry of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room, a ministry accompanied by a meal. The other Gospels indicate that the Lord’s Supper was instituted on this occasion, but John does not say so, perhaps because he viewed the institution as sufficiently covered in the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The relationship between the Synoptic accounts and John’s Gospel has been extensively discussed by many commentators. The Synoptic Gospels all state that the meal alluded to in 13:2 was the Passover meal (Matt. 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–23). John, on the other hand, implies that the meal took place on the eve of the Passover, and that Jesus died at the precise time when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered (13:1, 29; 18:28; 19:14, 31, 42). ESV Reformation Study Bible
I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the LifeJohn 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
I Am the True VineJohn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
The Hatred of the World18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
What I'm Reading
What Jurors Can Teach Us About The World We Are Trying to Reach
By J. Warner Wallace 11/9/2016
Yes, I know I analogize and write often about the similarities between Christian Case Making and criminal case making, but bear with me one more time. I think we can learn something from the attributes of jurors when we consider how (and who) we ought to address as we defend what we believe as Christians. I’ve come to recognize the following characteristics of jurors:
Jurors Usually Volunteer Their Service Reluctantly | There’s a reason why we summon people for jury service; if we waited for people to volunteer on their own, we wouldn’t conduct many trials. Potential jurors respond to their summons with an amazing variety of excuses in an effort to avoid serving altogether. I think I’ve heard just about every excuse that can be presented. It’s safe to say that most people don’t want to serve on a jury.
Jurors Usually Struggle to Add Service Into the Balance of Their Lives | For most of us, our hesitance to engage the responsibility of a jury trial comes down to time limitations. It’s difficult to squeeze in yet another task when most of us already have too many pressing responsibilities. This is the overwhelming objection most potential jurors offer: “I am a single parent, so I just don’t have time,” or, “I am starting a new business and I can’t leave it right now”. No one wants their life consumed by a jury trial. My cold cases typically take many weeks to prosecute. It’s difficult to get people to commit to lengthy service of this nature.
Jurors Usually Recognize the Importance of Their Service | The judges I know seldom accept any of the excuses offered by potential jurors. First and foremost, judges typically remind jurors that there’s a reason we call it jury “duty”. All of us, as citizens, have a responsibility (a civic duty actually) to be actively involved in the system that provides for our safety and wellbeing. We all benefit from this system, so we should all be ready and willing to contribute something. When jurors are reminded of their duty as citizens, most reluctantly accept their personal civic responsibility.
Jurors Usually Feel Great About Their Service After the Fact | After every homicide trial, I spend time with the jurors to thank them and answer any questions they might have had about the trial. Even those jurors who were initially hesitant to serve on our panel are usually delighted and satisfied with their service after the trial is over. Sometimes it’s difficult to properly understand the value of an endeavor until you’ve completed the task. I think most jurors would agree that the true value of their effort was most apparent after the verdict was rendered.
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.
Is Christ Inferior to the Father?
By Tim Barnett 11/9/2016
I had a surprise visit from my Jehovah’s Witness friends a couple of weeks ago. They normally call me to set up an appointment, but this time they were in the neighborhood and decided to drop by.
As usual, they had an agenda they wanted to accomplish. On this occasion, they asked if we could talk about the inferiority of Jesus. Immediately I knew where this conversation was going. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was a lesser deity than the Father. To justify this belief, they point to verses that spotlight Jesus’ submission to the Father. In Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses, Ron Rhodes writes,
For example, Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), and referred to the Father as “my God” (John 20:17). 1 Corinthians 11:3 tells us that “the head of Christ is God,” and 1 Corinthians 15:28 says that Jesus will “be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
Consequently, they had me read 1 Corinthians 15:28. Paul writes, “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” Here, they argued, is explicit evidence from Scripture for the inequality between Jesus and the Father.
How should we understand these kinds of passages? Moreover, if Jesus isn’t equal with the Father, how can we claim He is God?
John 15:1-17 The Vine Allegory
By Donald Guthrie 1994
It is not clear from the narrative where Jesus was when he gave this teaching. If John 14:31 marks the point of departure from the upper room, it is possible that Jesus and his disciples were passing by a vine which was then used as a spiritual illustration. I am the vine (1) is the last of the great ‘I am’ sayings in John’s gospel. Its significance can be appreciated against the background of the OT idea of Israel as a vine or vineyard.
Psalm 80:8–16 (NASB95) 8 You removed a vine from Egypt;
You drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground before it,
And it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shadow,
And the cedars of God with its boughs.
11 It was sending out its branches to the sea
And its shoots to the River.
12 Why have You broken down its hedges,
So that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
13 A boar from the forest eats it away
And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.
14 O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
15 Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
Isaiah 5:1–7 (NASB95) 1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6 “I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Ezekiel 15:1–6 (NASB95) 1 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
2 “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest?
3 “Can wood be taken from it to make anything, or can men take a peg from it on which to hang any vessel?
4 “If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends and its middle part has been charred, is it then useful for anything?
5 “Behold, while it is intact, it is not made into anything. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it still be made into anything!
6 “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘As the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
Ezekiel 19:10–14 (NASB95) 10 ‘Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard,
Planted by the waters;
It was fruitful and full of branches
Because of abundant waters.
11 ‘And it had strong branches fit for scepters of rulers,
And its height was raised above the clouds
So that it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches.
12 ‘But it was plucked up in fury;
It was cast down to the ground;
And the east wind dried up its fruit.
Its strong branch was torn off
So that it withered;
The fire consumed it.
13 ‘And now it is planted in the wilderness,
In a dry and thirsty land.
14 ‘And fire has gone out from its branch;
It has consumed its shoots and fruit,
So that there is not in it a strong branch,
A scepter to rule.’ ”
This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation.
Jesus was the true vine in the sense of being genuine as compared with Israel which had not acted in harmony with its calling. Jesus was the reality of which Israel was but the type. The gardener, identified as the Father, would be responsible for the caring for the vine. The figure shows how close is the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Since the purpose of the vine is to produce fruit, the focus of attention falls on the branches and what needs to be done to ensure a good crop (2). Pruning is the most important operation for maintaining the fruitfulness of the vine. A completely fruitless branch is not worthy of its place in the vine and has to be removed, whereas weak branches can be strengthened by being pruned. Among the disciples Judas was removed while the others had to undergo ‘pruning’ experiences before producing fruit after Pentecost. Since Jesus spoke of his word as the means of pruning, he could speak as if the disciples were already pruned (3), although the process was clearly far from complete.
Since branches unattached to the vine have no chance of bearing fruit, it is imperative for the disciples to remain in me (4). The main purpose of the vine allegory is to stress the importance of their dependence on him. V 5 underlines the disciples’ helplessness apart from Jesus. The ‘casting out’ of v 6 is the complement of the pruning action in v 2. There is no need here to regard the fire as anything more than a vivid detail of the parable. These branches which need to be lopped are destined for the bonfire. But the application of the illustration is found in v 7, where remaining in the vine is closely linked with prayer. Those close enough to the vine will not wish to ask anything not in line with the vine himself. This paragraph ends (8) with a further emphasis on the need for fruitfulness; it is not an end in itself but is meant to bring glory to the Father.
The second paragraph of this section develops some of the themes of the first, especially the close relationship between Jesus and his disciples. First, the Father’s love for the Son is the pattern for the Son’s love for his disciples (9). Secondly, the Son’s obedience to the Father is the pattern for the disciples’ obedience to the Son (10). Thirdly, the need to remain in my love is repeated three times in vs 9–10. Fourthly, the Son’s joy is the basis for the disciples’ joy (11). There is a particular poignancy here in view of the approaching passion (but cf. Heb. 12:2).
Hebrews 12:2 (NASB95) 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus next focused on the power of love. This must be mutual (12) — again the pattern is Jesus’ love for his disciples. That Jesus himself was thinking of his coming passion is seen from the greater love saying of vs 13–14, for he was about to lay down his life for his friends, an act of sacrifice which they were not yet capable of appreciating. The change of relationship from servants to friends is significant. The difference does not lie in a change of attitude — both are expected to obey (14) — but in communication. Whereas servants blindly obey, friends are taken into confidence (15). Although the statement everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you appears as a completed act, the revelation was not fully understood until after the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 16:12). The Spirit was to be the interpreter. Lest the disciples should think they had earned special favour, Jesus reminded them that he chose them, not vice versa. But the purpose of the choosing was fruit - bearing, possibly in this context the bringing of others to Christ. The then (16) is misleading. The promise that the Father will answer prayer is a result of the choosing and not the consequence of the fruit - bearing. V 17 underlines v 12. It may seem strange to think of love as a command, but this idea is prominent in this passage.
Religious Freedom: Still an American Hallmark?
By Sheri Bell 11/9/2016
Religious Freedom + Cultural Tolerance = ?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
When the First Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, it was designed to erect a “wall of separation.” Not, as some think, to keep religion out of politics. Rather, the amendment was added to the Constitution to ensure that the government is thwarted in any attempt to limit the religious freedom of any American citizen.
But our Constitution is under attack. Are you aware, for example, that a recent government report, titled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties, appears to be fully committed to controlling religious freedom in America?
In his letter attached to the report, Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, writes, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, or any form of intolerance.” Adds Castro, “…today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality.”
Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt is an award-winning freelance writer who has contributed to "American Profile," "Family Circle," "HR Innovator," "Ladies Home Journal," and "The Washington Post." She is the author of "Art: Careers for the Twenty-First Century," "Law: Careers for the Twenty-First Century," and "Military: Careers for the Twenty-First Century." She lives in Buffalo, New York.
Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt Books:
- 1 GREAT WORLD WAR II PROJECTS: YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF (Build It Yourself)
- 2 You Think It's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?
- 3 Amazing Maya Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself series)
- 4 Science Experiments That Surprise and Delight (Kitchen Science)
- 5 Sanctuary Rises: Book One in the Junk Lot Jive series
Freedom or Tyranny: What Will America Choose?
By Sean McDowell 11/8/2016
America is deeply confused about freedom. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, America is the land of the free. If anyone understands freedom it’s us!” We are certainly a nation who has historically fought for freedom, and we do have greater freedoms than many nations in the world, but as R.R. Reno points out in his recent book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, we have abandoned classical freedom and embraced a new understanding that will, in the end, bring tyranny.
Historically, Americans pursued a freedom that was aimed at serving the higher good and void of government overreach. There was a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity. Our freedom came from God and was based upon aligning ourselves with nature. We certainly fell short as a nation in living this ideal (e.g., racism and eugenics), but it’s the freedom we valued in principle and fought for.
But today we are embracing an entirely new understanding of freedom. Moral relativists encourage young people to be nonjudgmental. Students are encouraged to accept all lifestyles as equal and not to judge others. The only “sin” is to consider one’s lifestyle superior to another. Moral relativists talk about freedom, but it’s not the kind of freedom that encourages courage, forbearance, and sacrifice but the freedom to define moral truth for oneself. In other words, to the moral relativist, freedom means having no moral constraints.
The new understanding of freedom can also be seen in our cultural trend towards individualism. In The Beauty of Intolerance, my father and I describe the trend this way: “Moral truth comes from the individual; it is subjective and situational. This truth is known through choosing to believe it and through personal experience.” SCOTUS judge Anthony Kennedy famously expressed this individualistic view in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Such a view seems liberating, but unchecked by God, nature, and custom, it will only lead to tyranny. In fact, untethered by any restraints, freedom becomes merely about freedom itself rather than what is best for the collective good. Reno observes:
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Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
The Day After Election Day
By John Stonestreet 11/9/2016
Whoever you voted for yesterday, Chuck Colson has a few words of wisdom for you, words he spoke after the presidential election in 2008. Please listen closely:
Whether you’re recovering from your all-night celebration or drying the tears from your pillow, today’s a good day to remember the words of the apostle Paul: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Chuck went on to point out that the next president would face enormous challenges. First among them back in 2008 was what is now called the great recession.
Now dare I say that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (and as I record this I don’t know who won the election) face even greater challenges? Ninety-four million Americans are not in the workforce—more than ever before. The nation is in the grip of a heroin and painkiller epidemic that’s destroying lives across the country. To say racial tensions are high is an understatement. Domestic terrorism and cyber attacks threaten us daily.
And there’s a real effort to push religious and moral conviction out of the public square, and enshrine in law a dehumanizing vision of sexuality and identity.
John Stonestreet, President, The Chuck Colson Center and BreakPoint Radio Co-Host | Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. The BreakPoint.org features Metaxas and Stonestreet commentaries as well as columns and feature articles by leading Christian writers, and "Youth Reads," which offers a Christian perspective on books for teens and preteens. On "BreakPoint This Week," John Stonestreet and co-host Ed Stetzer host a weekly conversation with leading Christian writers and thinkers. These compelling discussions cover a wide variety of topics, but center on the issues shaping our culture. “RE:News” gathers need-to-know news headlines, and the BreakPoint Blog equips visitors with a biblical perspective on a variety of issues and topics.
By Don Carson 3/24/2018
The farewell discourse, beginning in John 14, includes some extraordinarily rich material on the Holy Spirit. Some highlights:
(1) In Greek, every noun is grammatically designated masculine, feminine, or neuter. The word for “spirit” is neuter. When a pronoun referring to “spirit” is used, it too should be neuter. In this chapter, however, the pronoun is sometimes masculine, breaking grammatical form, a way of gently affirming that the Holy Spirit is personal.
(2) Among his titles is “Counselor” (14:16), or, in some English versions, “Comforter” or “Helper.” When Comforter is coined, it drew from Latin words that meant “to strengthen” or “to strengthen along with.” Today a comforter is either a thick quilt or someone who helps the bereaved, and is therefore too restrictive to convey what is meant here. The Greek word is capable of a variety of nuances, so some do not translate it but merely transliterate it (i.e., put it into English spelling) as Paraclete. He is certainly someone who is called alongside to help and to strengthen. Sometimes the help is legal: he can for instance serve as prosecuting attorney (16:7 -11), and he may be our legal “Counselor.” (The word should not conjure up pictures of camp counselors or psychological counselors.)
(3) He is, Jesus says, “another Counselor” (14:16, italics added). In older Greek, this word for “another” usually had overtones of “another of the same kind.” By the time of the New Testament, that meaning is fairly rare; it cannot be assumed, but must be demonstrated from the context. In this case, Jesus is clearly promising to send someone who will stand in his place. Intriguingly, apart from its use in the Farewell Discourse, the word rendered “Counselor” is found in the New Testament only in one other place, viz. 1 John 2:1 (NIV: “one who speaks to the Father in our defense”). So Jesus is the first Paraclete. At his impending departure, he promises to send the Holy Spirit, another Paraclete, to and for his followers.
(4) He is also called “the Spirit of truth” (14:17). This not only means he tells the truth as opposed to lies, but that he is the true Spirit, the one who mediates the very presence of the Father and the Son to the believers (14:23).
(5) The Spirit, Jesus promises, “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26). Since the “you” are being reminded of what Jesus said, in the first instance they must be the first disciples. The Spirit will enable them to recall Jesus’ teaching, and flesh out its significance in the wake of the cross and resurrection. How secure would the links have been without his work?
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
By Don Carson 3/25/2018
God's Love Is Spoken of in a variety of ways in the Bible.
In some passages God’s love is directed toward his elect. He loves them and not others (e.g., Deut. 4:37; 7:7-8; Mal. 1:2). But if we think of the love of God as invariably restricted to his elect, we will soon distort other themes: his gracious provision of “common grace” (Is he not the God who sends his rain upon the just and upon the unjust? [Matt. 5:45]), his mighty forbearance (e.g., Rom. 2:4), his pleading with rebels to turn and repent lest they die, for he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (e.g., Ezek. 33:11). On the other hand, if this were all that the Bible says about the love of God, God would soon be reduced to an impotent, frustrated lover who has done all he can, poor chap. That will never account for the loving initiative of effective power bound up with the first passages cited, and more like them.
There are yet other ways the Bible speaks of the love of God. One of them dominates in John 15:9-11. Here the Father’s love for us is conditional upon obedience. Jesus enjoins his disciples to obey him in exactly the same way that he obeys his Father, so that they may remain in his love: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and remain in his love” (15:10).
The context shows that this is not telling us how people become Jesus’ followers. Rather, assuming that his hearers are his followers, Jesus insists that there is a relational love at stake that must be nurtured and preserved. In exactly the same way, the love of the Father for the Son says nothing about how that relation originated (!), it merely reflects the nature of that relationship. The Father’s love for the Son is elsewhere said to be demonstrated in his “showing” the Son everything, so that the Son does all the Father does and receives the same honor as the Father (John 5:19-23); the Son’s love for the Father is demonstrated in obedience (14:31). As my children remain in my love by obeying me and not defying me, so Jesus’ followers remain in his love. Of course, there is a sense in which I shall always love my children, regardless of what they do. But there is a relational element in that love that is contingent upon their obedience.
Thus Jesus mediates the Father’s love to us (15:9), and the result of our obedience to him is great joy (15:11). “Keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude 21).
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 119119 PE
119:129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Persecution of Jerome of PragueThis reformer, who was the companion of Dr. Huss, and may be said to be a co-martyr with him, was born at Prague, and educated in that university, where he particularly distinguished himself for his great abilities and learning. He likewise visited several other learned seminaries in Europe, particularly the universities of Paris, Heidelburg, Cologne and Oxford. At the latter place he became acquainted with the works of Wickliffe, and being a person of uncommon application, he translated many of them into his native language, having, with great pains, made himself master of the English tongue.
On his return to Prague, he professed himself an open favorer of Wickliffe, and finding that his doctrines had made considerable progress in Bohemia, and that Huss was the principal promoter of them, he became an assistant to him in the great work of reformation.
On the fourth of April, 1415, Jerome arrived at Constance, about three months before the death of Huss. He entered the town privately, and consulting with some of the leaders of his party, whom he found there, was easily convinced he could not be of any service to his friends.
Finding that his arrival in Constance was publicly known, and that the Council intended to seize him, he thought it most prudent to retire. Accordingly, the next day he went to Iberling, an imperial town, about a mile from Constance. From this place he wrote to the emperor, and proposed his readiness to appear before the Council, if he would give him a safe-conduct; but this was refused. He then applied to the Council, but met with an answer no less unfavorable than that from the emperor.
After this, he set out on his return to Bohemia. He had the precaution to take with him a certificate, signed by several of the Bohemian nobility, then at Constance, testifying that he had used all prudent means in his power to procure a hearing.
Jerome, however, did not thus escape. He was seized at Hirsaw by an officer belonging to the duke of Sultsbach, who, though unauthorized so to act, made little doubt of obtaining thanks from the Council for so acceptable a service.
The duke of Sultsbach, having Jerome now in his power, wrote to the Council for directions how to proceed. The Council, after expressing their obligations to the duke, desired him to send the prisoner immediately to Constance. The elector palatine met him on the way, and conducted him into the city, himself riding on horseback, with a numerous retinue, who led Jerome in fetters by a long chain; and immediately on his arrival he was committed to a loathsome dungeon.
Jerome was treated nearly in the same manner as Huss had been, only that he was much longer confined, and shifted from one prison to another. At length, being brought before the Council, he desired that he might plead his own cause, and exculpate himself: which being refused him, he broke out into the following exclamation:
"What barbarity is this! For three hundred and forty days have I been confined in a variety of prisons. There is not a misery, there is not a want, that I have not experienced. To my enemies you have allowed the fullest scope of accusation: to me you deny the least opportunity of defence. Not an hour will you now indulge me in preparing for my trial. You have swallowed the blackest calumnies against me. You have represented me as a heretic, without knowing my doctrine; as an enemy of the faith, before you knew what faith I professed: as a persecutor of priests before you could have an opportunity of understanding my sentiments on that head. You are a General Council: in you center all this world can communicate of gravity, wisdom, and sanctity: but still you are men, and men are seducible by appearances. The higher your character is for wisdom, the greater ought your care to be not to deviate into folly. The cause I now plead is not my own cause: it is the cause of men, it is the cause of Christians; it is a cause which is to affect the rights of posterity, however the experiment is to be made in my person."
This speech had not the least effect; Jerome was obliged to hear the charge read, which was reduced under the following heads: 1. That he was a derider of the papal dignity. 2. An opposer of the pope. 3. An enemy to the cardinals. 4. A persecutor of the prelates. 5. A hater of the Christian religion.
The trial of Jerome was brought on the third day after his accusation and witnesses were examined in support of the charge. The prisoner was prepared for his defence, which appears almost incredible, when we consider he had been three hundred and forty days shut up in loathsome prisons, deprived of daylight, and almost starved for want of common necessaries. But his spirit soared above these disadvantages, under which a man less animated would have sunk; nor was he more at a loss of quotations from the fathers and ancient authors than if he had been furnished with the finest library.
The most bigoted of the assembly were unwilling he should be heard, knowing what effect eloquence is apt to have on the minds of the most prejudiced. At length, however, it was carried by the majority that he should have liberty to proceed in his defence, which he began in such an exalted strain of moving elocution that the heart of obdurate zeal was seen to melt, and the mind of superstition seemed to admit a ray of conviction. He made an admirable distinction between evidence as resting upon facts, and as supported by malice and calumny. He laid before the assembly the whole tenor of his life and conduct. He observed that the greatest and most holy men had been known to differ in points of speculation, with a view to distinguish truth, not to keep it concealed. He expressed a noble contempt of all his enemies, who would have induced him to retract the cause of virtue and truth. He entered upon a high encomium of Huss; and declared he was ready to follow him in the glorious task of martyrdom. He then touched upon the most defensible doctrines of Wickliffe; and concluded with observing that it was far from his intention to advance anything against the state of the Church of God; that it was only against the abuse of the clergy he complained; and that he could not help saying, it was certainly impious that the patrimony of the Church, which was originally intended for the purpose of charity and universal benevolence, should be prostituted to the pride of the eye, in feasts, foppish vestments, and other reproaches to the name and profession of Christianity.
The trial being over, Jerome received the same sentence that had been passed upon his martyred countryman. In consequence of this, he was, in the usual style of popish affectation, delivered over to the civil power: but as he was a layman, he had not to undergo the ceremony of degradation. They had prepared a cap of paper painted with red devils, which being put upon his head, he said, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He suffered death for me a most miserable sinner, did wear a crown of thorns upon His head, and for His sake will I wear this cap."
Two days were allowed him in hopes that he would recant; in which time the cardinal of Florence used his utmost endeavors to bring him over. But they all proved ineffectual. Jerome was resolved to seal the doctrine with his blood; and he suffered death with the most distinguished magnanimity.
In going to the place of execution he sang several hymns, and when he came to the spot, which was the same where Huss had been burnt, he knelt down, and prayed fervently. He embraced the stake with great cheerfulness, and when they went behind him to set fire to the fagots, he said, "Come here, and kindle it before my eyes; for if I had been afraid of it, I had not come to this place." The fire being kindled, he sang a hymn, but was soon interrupted by the flames; and the last words he was heard to say these, "This soul in flames I offer Christ, to Thee."
The elegant Pogge, a learned gentleman of Florence, secretary to two popes, and a zealous but liberal Catholic, in a letter to Leonard Arotin, bore ample testimony of the extraordinary powers and virtues of Jerome whom he emphatically styles, A prodigious man!
Persecution of ZiscaThe real name of this zealous servant of Christ was John de Trocznow, that of Zisca is a Bohemian word, signifying one-eyed, as he had lost an eye. He was a native of Bohemia, of a good family and left the court of Winceslaus, to enter into the service of the king of Poland against the Teutonic knights. Having obtained a badge of honor and a purse of ducats for his gallantry, at the close of the war, he returned to the court of Winceslaus, to whom he boldly avowed the deep interest he took in the bloody affront offered to his majesty's subjects at Constance in the affair of Huss. Winceslaus lamented it was not in his power to revenge it; and from this moment Zisca is said to have formed the idea of asserting the religious liberties of his country. In the year 1418, the Council was dissolved, having done more mischief than good, and in the summer of that year a general meeting was held of the friends of religious reformation, at the castle of Wisgrade, who, conducted by Zisca, repaired to the emperor with arms in their hands, and offered to defend him against his enemies. The king bid them use their arms properly, and this stroke of policy first insured to Zisca the confidence of his party.
Winceslaus was succeeded by Sigismond, his brother, who rendered himself odious to the reformers; and removed all such as were obnoxious to his government. Zisca and his friends, upon this, immediately flew to arms, declared war against the emperor and the pope, and laid siege to Pilsen with 40,000 men. They soon became masters of the fortress, and in a short time all the southwest part of Bohemia submitted, which greatly increased the army of the reformers. The latter having taken the pass of Muldaw, after a severe conflict of five days and nights, the emperor became alarmed, and withdrew his troops from the confines of Turkey, to march them into Bohemia. At Berne in Moravia, he halted, and sent despatches to treat of peace, as a preliminary to which Zisca gave up Pilsen and all the fortresses he had taken. Sigismond proceeding in a manner that clearly manifested he acted on the Roman doctrine, that no faith was to be kept with heretics, and treating some of the authors of the late disturbances with severity, the alarm-bell of revolt was sounded from one end of Bohemia to the other. Zisca took the castle of Prague by the power of money, and on August 19, 1420, defeated the small army the emperor had hastily got together to oppose him. He next took Ausea by assault, and destroyed the town with a barbarity that disgraced the cause in which he fought.
Winter approaching, Zisca fortified his camp on a strong hill about forty miles from Prague, which he called Mount Tabor, whence he surprised a body of horse at midnight, and made a thousand men prisoners. Shortly after, the emperor obtained possession of the strong fortress of Prague, by the same means Zisca had before done: it was blockaded by the latter, and want began to threaten the emperor, who saw the necessity of a retreat.
Determined to make a desperate effort, Sigismond attacked the fortified camp of Zisca on Mount Tabor, and carried it with great slaughter. Many other fortresses also fell, and Zisca withdrew to a craggy hill, which he strongly fortified, and whence he so annoyed the emperor in his approaches against the town of Prague, that he found he must either abandon the siege or defeat his enemy. The marquis of Misnia was deputed to effect this with a large body of troops, but the event was fatal to the imperialists; they were defeated, and the emperor having lost nearly one third of his army, retreated from the siege of Prague, harassed in his rear by the enemy.
In the spring of 1421, Zisca commenced the campaign, as before, by destroying all the monasteries in his way. He laid siege to the castle of Wisgrade, and the emperor coming to relieve it, fell into a snare, was defeated with dreadful slaughter, and this important fortress was taken. Our general had now leisure to attend to the work of reformation, but he was much disgusted with the gross ignorance and superstition of the Bohemian clergy, who rendered themselves contemptible in the eyes of the whole army. When he saw any symptoms of uneasiness in the camp, he would spread alarm in order to divert them, and draw his men into action. In one of these expeditions, he encamped before the town of Rubi, and while pointing out the place for an assault, an arrow shot from the wall struck him in the eye. At Prague it was extracted, but, being barbed, it tore the eye out with it. A fever succeeded, and his life was with difficulty preserved. He was now totally blind, but still desirous of attending the army. The emperor, having summoned the states of the empire to assist him, resolved, with their assistance, to attack Zisca in the winter, when many of his troops departed until the return of spring.
The confederate princes undertook the siege of Soisin, but at the approach merely of the Bohemian general, they retreated. Sigismond nevertheless advanced with his formidable army, consisting of 15,000 Hungarian horse and 25,000 infantry, well equipped for a winter campaign. This army spread terror through all the east of Bohemia. Wherever Sigismond marched, the magistrates laid their keys at his feet, and were treated with severity or favor, according to their merits in his cause. Zisca, however, with speedy marches, approached, and the emperor resolved to try his fortune once more with that invincible chief. On the thirteenth of January, 1422, the two armies met on a spacious plain near Kremnitz. Zisca appeared in the center of his front line, guarded, or rather conducted, by a horseman on each side, armed with a pole-axe. His troops having sung a hymn, with a determined coolness drew their swords, and waited for a signal. When his officers had informed him that the ranks were all well closed, he waved his sabre round his head, which was the sign of battle.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
By Aimee Byrd 3/01/2016
Last year, I was asked to do something I am uncomfortable with. For the first time as a speaker, I was asked to open a conference with my testimony. Sure, I know how a testimony is supposed to go. It begins with good intentions, introduces a point where major drama entered our lives, and ends with how we overcame the odds, giving all the glory to God, of course. I certainly had all of these elements to share. But I couldn’t help but feel a little artificially self-important stepping in front of all these women to tell them my testimony.
I felt silly preparing such a thing. In fact, there I was on the plane headed for Texas still wondering what I was going to share about myself for forty-five minutes that evening. I just wanted to talk about my message on perseverance from the sermon-letter to the Hebrews. I wanted to talk about the idea that while we know faith is a gift from God who is faithful, it is a fighting grace.
The preacher to the Hebrews even uses metaphors of marathon runners, gymnasts, and Grecian Olympic fighters to illustrate the fighting faith that we need to persevere to the end. After delivering a strong theology of Christ as the ultimate prophet, priest, and king, he issues a command for perseverance in Hebrews 10:23, which reads, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We are exhorted to hold tight to God’s promises which are fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. We are called to cling to these promises by faith until we see Christ by sight.
So I decided to gear my testimony with an angle explaining how I was led to write about the kind of mentality we see in the sermon-letter to the Hebrews.
I was raised with a fighting mentality. My childhood was a bit atypical. I had a karate studio in my house. That’s right — my dad, who was also a Secret Service agent, taught martial arts from our home. My mother taught aerobics classes to the neighbors in the karate studio until she eventually opened up a gym downtown. Both parents valued an active lifestyle. I remember the neighborhood kids joining in the fun obstacle courses my dad would make for us to race in the backyard. Dad would time us as we raced through it, telling my brother and me after each run that we had beat the other by just one second. It wasn’t until my adult years that I realized dad had made that up just to get us to run faster in the next round.
But this wasn’t merely a physical pursuit; it was a way of thinking. Dad taught us how to be good observers, making eye contact, noticing the exit routes in case of an emergency, and always thinking in terms of self-defense and helping others. We were taught to survey our inventory, so that we would see what tools we had to help us escape, or to fight if needed. This way of thinking, and the many exercises he trained us in to develop it, taught us that perseverance is not passive. It is something you have to prepare for, fight for, and train for repetitively.
As I gave my testimony, I explained how my upbringing helped me make connections with the fighting faith we are called to in Hebrews. Having a confession is not enough — we must hold fast to it. And that takes conditioning. We need theological fitness in the Christian life of faith and obedience. Theological fitness refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. Every Christian will persevere, but whatever stage of the race we may find ourselves in, we respond to our trials, triumphs, and ordinary circumstances according to what we believe to be true about God and His work. One thing is for sure: we cannot hold fast to a confession that we know little about. A good servant of Jesus Christ is trained in the Word of the faith. This takes a fighting mentality.
Although I may feel like I’m getting old, Lord willing, I still have a long way to go. I felt presumptuous getting in front of those women and giving my testimony on the Christian life. But I did have something to share about what I want my testimony to be. I want my testimony to be in that cloud of witnesses that we see in Hebrews 11:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (vv. 13–16)
I don’t want my testimony to be some book I wrote. I don’t even want my testimony to be how good a wife or mother I am, or how I overcame a particular adversity in my life. I want my testimony to be, “She made it to the new heavens and the new earth, and she helped encourage and equip people along the way.” I have to look to Christ and run with Spirit-enabled endurance to do that (Heb. 12:1–2). Right now, I am just in the race. At the end of the race, I want to hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
By Faith11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. 32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. ESV
I've been married to my husband, Matt, for 16 years. We can often be found at a softball field, baseball field, or volleyball court cheering our three active children on. We are members of Pilgrim Presbyterian church (PCA). I am a women's Bible study teacher there... ooh, and I'm the crazy librarian who is always stalking down members (and unassuming visitors) with the perfect date, I mean, book for them. I like my coffee strong, my rollerblades fast, and my chocolate dark. I'm a porch sitter and an exceptional barista. And I love to get women talking about theology.
The Continual Burnt Offering (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 102 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. ESV
A growing faith is evidence that one is going on with God and learning to depend upon His Word because of having proven the truth of its promises. Faith is confidence, and confidence is increased as we see the Lord working in accordance with His revealed will for the blessing of those who walk in obedience to His precepts. When growing faith and abounding love go hand in hand there is true spiritual development. Unbelief dishonors God, and lack of love is a reproach upon the name of Him who prayed for His own, “that they may be one.” The better we know God our Father the more we shall love all the household of faith. To profess to love Him while cold to His children is but hypocrisy.
We ask not, Lord, for sight: increase our faith,
Unquestioning alike in life or death.
No earthly joys can give to restless hearts
The joy and peace that trust in Thee imparts.
Beyond this earth-bound vista human sight
Could not endure to see heav’n’s unveil’d light,
Or rend the future, mercifully seal’d,
And day by day in Thy good time revealed.
--- W. A. Rice
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Teach your child God’s Word
(Nov 10) Bob Gass
‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.’
(2 Ti 3:15) and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ESV
There’s a story about a woman who came to her pastor and said, ‘How early should I start the spiritual training of my child?’ The pastor asked, ‘How old is the child?’ She answered, ‘Five.’ He replied, ‘Lady, get busy – you’re already five years late!’ Psychologists confirm that your child’s capacity and hunger for knowledge begins at infancy. So while they are in the listening stage, you should be in the teaching stage. Take every opportunity to read the Bible to them. Use everyday experiences to teach them what God’s Word has to say about the Golden Rule, how to be polite, how to forgive, and how to confess and repent of sin. Never underestimate God’s ability to develop spiritual character and teach spiritual truths to your children, even at a very early age. While their heart is still young and tender, introduce them to Jesus. Some of the greatest Christians in history were saved at an early age. Jonathan Edwards, whose ministry shook New England for God, was saved at the age of eight. Charles Spurgeon, ‘the prince of preachers’, was saved at the age of twelve. Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, was saved at the age of eleven. Timothy was an apostle by the time he was seventeen. Paul writes, ‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ Yes, your child can understand the basic truths about salvation. And they can come to know Christ at an early age.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Your other question is one which, I think, really gets in pious people's way. It was, you remember, "How important must a need or desire be before we can properly make it the subject of a petition?" Properly, I take it, here means either "without irreverence" or "without silliness," or both.
When I'd thought about it for a bit, it seemed to me that there are really two questions involved.
1. How important must an object be before we can, without sin and folly, allow our desire for it to become a matter of serious concern to us? This, you see, is a question about what old writers call our "frame"; that is, our "frame of mind."
2. Granted the existence of such a serious concern in our minds, can it always be properly laid before God in prayer?
We all know the answer to the first of these in theory. We must aim at what St. Augustine (is it?) calls "ordinate loves." Our deepest concern should be for first things, and our next deepest for second things, and so on down to zero-to total absence of concern for things that are not really good, nor means to good, at all.
Meantime, however, we want to know not how we should pray if we were perfect but how we should pray being as we now are. And if my idea of prayer as "unveiling" is accepted, we have already answered this. It is no use to ask God with factitious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with the desire for B. We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning Jonathan, One Of The Sicarii, That Stirred Up A Sedition In Cyrene, And Was A False Accuser [Of The Innocent].
1. And now did the madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reach as far as the cities of Cyrene; for one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer sort to give ear to him; he also led them into the desert, upon promising them that he would show them signs and apparitions. And as for the other Jews of Cyrene, he concealed his knavery from them, and put tricks upon them; but those of the greatest dignity among them informed Catullus, the governor of the Libyan Pentapolis, of his march into the desert, and of the preparations he had made for it. So he sent out after him both horsemen and footmen, and easily overcame them, because they were unarmed men; of these many were slain in the fight, but some were taken alive, and brought to Catullus. As for Jonathan, the head of this plot, he fled away at that time; but upon a great and very diligent search, which was made all the country over for him, he was at last taken. And when he was brought to Catullus, he devised a way whereby he both escaped punishment himself, and afforded an occasion to Catullus of doing much mischief; for he falsely accused the richest men among the Jews, and said that they had put him upon what he did.
2. Now Catullus easily admitted of these his calumnies, and aggravated matters greatly, and made tragical exclamations, that he might also be supposed to have had a hand in the finishing of the Jewish war. But what was still harder, he did not only give a too easy belief to his stories, but he taught the Sicarii to accuse men falsely. He bid this Jonathan, therefore, to name one Alexander, a Jew [with whom he had formerly had a quarrel, and openly professed that he hated him]; he also got him to name his wife Bernice, as concerned with him. These two Catullus ordered to be slain in the first place; nay, after them he caused all the rich and wealthy Jews to be slain, being no fewer in all than three thousand. This he thought he might do safely, because he confiscated their effects, and added them to Caesar's revenues.
3. Nay, indeed, lest any Jews that lived elsewhere should convict him of his villainy, he extended his false accusations further, and persuaded Jonathan, and certain others that were caught with him, to bring an accusation of attempts for innovation against the Jews that were of the best character both at Alexandria and at Rome. One of these, against whom this treacherous accusation was laid, was Josephus, the writer of these books. However, this plot, thus contrived by Catullus, did not succeed according to his hopes; for though he came himself to Rome, and brought Jonathan and his companions along with him in bonds, and thought he should have had no further inquisition made as to those lies that were forged under his government, or by his means; yet did Vespasian suspect the matter and made an inquiry how far it was true. And when he understood that the accusation laid against the Jews was an unjust one, he cleared them of the crimes charged upon them, and this on account of Titus's concern about the matter, and brought a deserved punishment upon Jonathan; for he was first tormented, and then burnt alive.
4. But as to Catullus, the emperors were so gentle to him, that he underwent no severe condemnation at this time; yet was it not long before he fell into a complicated and almost incurable distemper, and died miserably. He was not only afflicted in body, but the distemper in his mind was more heavy upon him than the other; for he was terribly disturbed, and continually cried out that he saw the ghosts of those whom he had slain standing before him. Where upon he was not able to contain himself, but leaped out of his bed, as if both torments and fire were brought to him. This his distemper grew still a great deal worse and worse continually, and his very entrails were so corroded, that they fell out of his body, and in that condition he died. Thus he became as great an instance of Divine Providence as ever was, and demonstrated that God punishes wicked men.
5. And here we shall put an end to this our history; wherein we formerly promised to deliver the same with all accuracy, to such as should be desirous of understanding after what manner this war of the Romans with the Jews was managed. Of which history, how good the style is, must be left to the determination of the readers; but as for its agreement with the facts, I shall not scruple to say, and that boldly, that truth hath been what I have alone aimed at through its entire composition.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Unless we have the courage to fight
for a revival of wholesome reserve between man and man,
we shall perish in an anarchy of human values… .
Socially it means the renunciation of all place-hunting,
a break with the cult of the “star,”
an open eye both upwards and downwards,
especially in the choice of one’s more intimate friends,
and pleasure in private life
as well as courage to enter public life.
Culturally it means a return
from the newspaper and the radio to the book,
from feverish activity to unhurried leisure,
from dispersion to concentration,
from sensationalism to reflection,
from virtuosity to art,
from snobbery to modesty,
from extravagance to moderation.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ (Making of Modern Theology)
One may be capable of performances that benefit others spiritually and yet be a stranger oneself to the Spirit wrought inner transformation that true knowledge of God brings. The manifestation of the Spirit in charismatic performance is not the same thing as the fruit of the Spirit in Christ-like character, and there may be much of the former with little or none of the latter.
--- J.I. Packer
Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God
That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.
--- Henry David Thoreau
Wisdom from the Monastery: A Program of Spiritual Healing
I hit him to get his attention.
I shot him to calm him down.
I killed him to reason with him.
-- Henry Rollins
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but one who hates greed will prolong his life.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Fellowship in the Gospel
Fellow labourer in the Gospel of Christ. --- 1 Thess. 3:2.
After sanctification it is difficult to state what your aim in life is, because God has taken you up into His purpose by the Holy Ghost. He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself—‘God has called me for this and that,’ you are putting a barrier to God’s use of you. As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through into identification with God’s interests. You can only get there by losing for ever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world, and because your goings are of the Lord, you can never understand your ways.
I have to learn that the aim in life is God’s, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say—‘Lord, this gives me such heartache.’ To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do anything He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil; if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. I have ‘a world within the world’ in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
He is a religious man.
How often I have heard him say,
looking around him with his worried eyes
at the emptiness: There must be something.
It is the same at night, when,
rising from his fused prayers,
he faces the illuminated city
above him: All that brightness, he thinks,
and nobody there ! I am nothing
religious. All I have is a piece
of the universal mind that reflects
infinite darkness between points of light.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
These great evils that come about between the human individuals who inflict them upon one another because of purposes, desires, opinions, and beliefs, are all of them likewise consequent upon privation. For all of them derive from ignorance, I mean from a privation of knowledge. Just as a blind man, because of absence of sight, does not cease stumbling, being wounded, and also wounding others, because he has nobody to guide him on his way, the various sects of men—every individual according to the extent of his ignorance—does to himself and to others great evils from which individuals of the species suffer. If there were knowledge, whose relation to the human form is like that of the faculty of sight to the eye, they would refrain from doing any harm to themselves and to others. For through cognition of the truth, enmity and hatred are removed and the inflicting of harm by people on one another is abolished. It holds out this promise, saying: “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and so on. And the cow and the bear shall feed, and so on. And the sucking child shall play, and so on.” Then it gives the reason for this, saying that the cause of the abolition of these enmities, these discords and these tyrannies, will be the knowledge that men will then have concerning the true reality of the Deity. For it says: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Know this.
In Maimonides’ description of the actions of the Messiah, it is a slow process of education—and not miracles—which brings about a redeemed world:
For in those days, knowledge, wisdom, and truth will increase, as it is said “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Is. 11:9), and it is said, “They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother (Jer. 31:34), and further, “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). Because the king who will arise from the seed of David will possess more wisdom than Solomon and will be a great Prophet, approaching Moses, our Teacher, he will teach the whole of the Jewish people and instruct them in the way of God; and all nations will come to hear him, as it is said, “And in the end of days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the top of the mountains” (Mic. 4:1; Is. 2:2).
Messianism does not bring about a qualitative change in history or nature.37 Man’s nature is not transformed in the messianic age; Torah which guides and educates man, will be as necessary then as it is now.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. --- Hebrews 10:32.
No blessing is nobler than illumination. “The Anguish of the Light,” in The Weaving of Glory It tells of the benediction of the light, of a life that has arisen from darkness and moved into the sun. After illumination—a great joy? We would have looked for some conclusion such as that. After illumination, liberty and peace that the world cannot take away? Scripture does not deny these blessed consequences, but in its fidelity to all experience it says that after illumination may come battle.
Think, then, of the illumination of the intellect and of all that follows on the light of knowledge. That is not always liberty and power; it is sometimes conflict. When Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, her eyes were opened, and she was illuminated, yet that light did not bring peace to Eve nor gladness nor any rest of the heart, but only the sorrow of struggle. The more we know the more we want to know. The more we know the more we cannot know. And doubts are born and much that once seemed certain grows unstable, until at last, wearied and in perplexity, not through the power of darkness but of light, we realize how grim is the struggle that follows illumination.
There are those here who can recall the struggle that followed the light. Here for instance is a young man, a student, who has been trained in a pious home. There he accepted without questioning the faith of his father and mother. Their character commended it to him—he saw it lived and therefore felt it true—and in a faith that never had been shaken, he joined in worship and in prayer. There are many who never lose that childhood faith. But often, with that light of knowledge that the years bring to most of us today, there falls a different story. Illumination comes by what we read: it flashes on us in our college lectures. And the world is different, and God and humanity are different. And then begins that time of stress and strain, so bitter and yet so infinitely blessed, through which people must fight their way, alone, to faith and peace and character and God. There is a strife that is nobler than repose. There is a battle more blessed than tranquility. There is a stress and strain that comes when God arises and cries to a young heart “Let there be light.” All which, so modern that it seems of yesterday, is yet so old that Scripture understands it.
--- George H. Morrison
In 1942 a missionary to Malaysia named Paul Fleming contracted cerebral malaria and returned home. While recovering he spent hours talking with pastor Cecil Dye about the need for reaching remote tribes for Christ. They formed an interdenominational agency named New Tribes Mission, and soon Dye, his brother, and three other men arrived with their families in Bolivia to establish a ministry among the Ayores, a wild tribe of Indians. Bolivians warned them of danger, but the men nonetheless moved their families into the heart of the jungle and established a base. From there the five plunged into the thicket in search of Ayores.
A month passed, and a search party set out along a rocky path over the hills. They found nothing but a cracked camera lens, a sock, a machete, and some other personal items. A second search found more effects at an abandoned Ayore site. Army troops prepared to invade the area in retribution for the apparent murders, but a mission representative stopped them, saying, “Don’t go! We want to reach them for Christ.”
Years passed, and the women moved deeper into Ayore territory, still hoping their husbands were alive. Then in 1948 a band of naked Indians appeared at the camp, took proffered gifts, and disappeared. Later they returned for more gifts and told the women their husbands were dead.
Gradually more details emerged: On November 10, 1944 the five missionaries had approached an Ayore village, creating great excitement. An impatient warrior had released an arrow, wounding one of them. Another missionary pulled out the arrow, and the five walked rapidly away. Upoide, an enraged warrior, led a band after the men, and one by one the missionaries were clubbed, speared, and killed.
The wives soon learned that it was Upoide himself who had approached their camp, telling the story. When he sensed the women would forgive him, he confessed his involvement, repented, and came to Christ. A permanent Christian settlement was soon established among the Ayores as a base for other missionary activity, and a fruitful ministry to South American aboriginals continues to this day.
The LORD is my strength, the reason for my song, because he has saved me. I praise and honor the LORD—he is my God and the God of my ancestors. The LORD is his name, and he is a warrior!
--- Exodus 15:2,3.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 10
“The eternal God is thy refuge.” --- Deuteronomy 33:27.
The word refuge may be translated “mansion,” or “abiding- place,” which gives the thought that God is our abode, our home. There is a fulness and sweetness in the metaphor, for dear to our hearts is our home, although it be the humblest cottage, or the scantiest garret; and dearer far is our blessed God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It is at home that we feel safe: we shut the world out and dwell in quiet security. So when we are with our God we “fear no evil.” He is our shelter and retreat, our abiding refuge. At home, we take our rest; it is there we find repose after the fatigue and toil of the day. And so our hearts find rest in God, when, wearied with life’s conflict, we turn to him, and our soul dwells at ease. At home, also, we let our hearts loose; we are not afraid of being misunderstood, nor of our words being misconstrued. So when we are with God we can commune freely with him, laying open all our hidden desires; for if the “secret of the Lord is with them that fear him,” the secrets of them that fear him ought to be, and must be, with their Lord. Home, too, is the place of our truest and purest happiness: and it is in God that our hearts find their deepest delight. We have joy in him which far surpasses all other joy. It is also for home that we work and labour. The thought of it gives strength to bear the daily burden, and quickens the fingers to perform the task; and in this sense we may also say that God is our home. Love to him strengthens us. We think of him in the person of his dear Son; and a glimpse of the suffering face of the Redeemer constrains us to labour in his cause. We feel that we must work, for we have brethren yet to be saved, and we have our Father’s heart to make glad by bringing home his wandering sons; we would fill with holy mirth the sacred family among whom we dwell. Happy are those who have thus the God of Jacob for their refuge!
Evening - November 10
“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master.” --- Matthew 10:25.
No one will dispute this statement, for it would be unseemly for the servant to be exalted above his Master. When our Lord was on earth, what was the treatment he received? Were his claims acknowledged, his instructions followed, his perfections worshipped, by those whom he came to bless? No; “He was despised and rejected of men.” Outside the camp was his place: cross-bearing was his occupation. Did the world yield him solace and rest? “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” This inhospitable country afforded him no shelter: it cast him out and crucified him. Such—if you are a follower of Jesus, and maintain a consistent, Christ-like walk and conversation—you must expect to be the lot of that part of your spiritual life which, in its outward development, comes under the observation of men. They will treat it as they treated the Saviour—they will despise it. Dream not that worldlings will admire you, or that the more holy and the more Christ-like you are, the more peaceably people will act towards you. They prized not the polished gem, how should they value the jewel in the rough? “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” If we were more like Christ, we should be more hated by his enemies. It were a sad dishonour to a child of God to be the world’s favourite. It is a very ill omen to hear a wicked world clap its hands and shout “Well done” to the Christian man. He may begin to look to his character, and wonder whether he has not been doing wrong, when the unrighteous give him their approbation. Let us be true to our Master, and have no friendship with a blind and base world which scorns and rejects him. Far be it from us to seek a crown of honour where our Lord found a coronet of thorn.
PRAISE HIM! PRAISE HIM!
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:2)
Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a living presence. This realization can turn any gloom into a song.
--- S.T. Coleridge
Praise is our Lord’s most righteous due. It is not an option whether we will offer praise—it is one of God’s commands. Scriptures clearly teach that we are to offer a sacrifice of praise to God continually (Hebrews 13:15, 16). Our daily sacrifice of praise should include joyful songs for who Christ is—“our blessed redeemer.” Then we need to praise God for all of His daily blessings, which are beyond number. We should offer praise even for the trials of life for they are often blessings in disguise. Finally, our sacrifice should include praise for His leading in ways yet to be experienced.
This is another of the many favorite Gospel hymns written by Fanny Crosby, blind American poetess. In all she wrote between 8,000 and 9,000 Gospel hymn texts and supplied our hymnals with more beloved hymns that are still sung today than any other writer.
“Praise Him! Praise Him!” first appeared in a Sunday school hymnal, Bright Jewels, which was published in 1869. The song was originally titled “Praise, Give Thanks.” And still today, these words evoke praise from each believing heart ---
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim! Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory; strength and honor give to His holy name! Like a shepherd Jesus will guard His children. In His arms He carries them all day long:
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! For our sins He suffered, and bled and died; He, our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified. Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows; love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong:
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring. Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him! crown Him! Prophet and Priest and King! Christ is coming! over the world victorious, pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong:
Refrain: Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness; praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!
For Today: Psalm 71:23; Hebrews 1:3–8; 13:8; Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:11-14
Go forth with a renewed awareness of Christ’s presence in your life. Offer Him this sacrifice of praise ---
Use III. The third use is for exhortation.
1. Meditate on this power of God, and press it often upon your minds. We conclude many things of God that we do not practically suck the comfort of, for want of deep thoughts of it, and frequent inspection into it. We believe God to be true, yet distrust him; we acknowledge him powerful, yet fear the motion of every straw. Many truths, though assented to in our understandings, are kept under hatches by corrupt affections, and have not their due influence, because they are not brought forth into the open air of our souls by meditation. If we will but search our hearts, we shall find it is the power of God we often doubt of. When the heart of Ahaz and his subjects trembled at the combination of the Syrian and Israelitish kings against him, for want of a confidence in the power of God, God sends his prophet with commission to work a miraculous sign at his own choice, to rear up his fainting heart; and when he refused to ask a sign out of diffidence of that almighty Power, the prophet complains of it as an affront to his Master (Isa. 7:12, 13). ( I love this so I have to break in )
(Is 7:10–17) 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!” ESV
Moses, so great a friend of God, was overtaken with this kind of unbelief, after all the experiments of God’s miraculous acts in Egypt; the answer God gives him manifests this to be at the core: “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short” (Num. 11:23)? For want of actuated thoughts of this, we are many times turned from our known duty by the blast of a creature; as though man had more power to dismay us, than God hath to support us in his commanded way. The belief of God’s power is one of the first steps to all religion; without settled thoughts of it, we cannot pray lively and believingly for the obtaining the mercies we want, or averting the evils we fear; we should not love him, unless we are persuaded he hath a power to bless us; nor fear him, unless we were persuaded of his power to punish us. The frequent thoughts of this would render our faith more stable, and our hopes more stedfast; it would make us more feeble to sin, and more careful to obey. When the virgin staggered at the message of the angel, that she should “bear a Son,” he, in his answer, turns her to the creative power of God (Luke 1:35), “The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;” which seems to be in allusion to the Spirit’s moving upon the face of the deep, and bringing a comely world out of a confused mass. Is it harder for God to make a virgin conceive a Son by the power of his Spirit, than to make a world? Why doth he reveal himself so often under the title of Almighty, and press it upon us, but that we should press it upon ourselves? And shall we be forgetful of that which everything about us, everything within us, is a mark of? How come we by a power of seeing and hearing, a faculty, and act of understanding and will, but by this power framing us, this power assisting us? What though the thunder of his power cannot be understood, no more can any other perfection of his nature; shall we, therefore, seldom think of it? The sea cannot be fathomed, yet the merchant excuseth not himself from sailing upon the surface of it. We cannot glorify God without due consideration of this attribute; for his power is his glory as much as any other, and called both by the name of glory (Rom. 6:4), speaking of Christ’s resurrection by the glory of the Father; and also “the riches of his glory” (Eph. 3:16). Those that have strong temptations in their course and over-pressing corruptions in their hearts, have need to think of it out of interest, since nothing but this can relieve them. Those that have experimented the working of it in their new creation, are obliged to think of it out of gratitude. It was this mighty power over himself that gave rise to all that pardoning grace already conferred, or hereafter expected; without it our souls had been consumed, the world overturned; we could not have expected a happy heaven, but have lain yelling in an eternal hell, had not the power of his mercy exceeded that of his justice, and his infinite power executed what his infinite wisdom had contrived for our redemption. How much also should we be raised in our admirations of God, and ravish ourselves in contemplating that might that can raise innumerable worlds in those infinite imaginary spaces without this globe of heaven and earth, and exceed inconceivably what he hath done in the creation of this?
2. From the pressing the consideration of this upon ourselves, let us be induced to trust God upon the account of his power. The main end of the revelation of his power to the patriarchs, and of the miraculous operations of it in Egypt, was to induce them to an entire reposing themselves in God: and the Psalmist doth scarce speak of the Divine Omnipotence without making this inference from it; and scarce exhorts to a trust in God, but backs it with a consideration of his power in creation, it being the chief support of the soul (Psalm 146:1): “Happy is he whose hope is in the Lord his God, which made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is.” That Power is invincible that drew the world out of nothing: nothing can happen to us harder than the making the world without the concurrence of instruments: no difficulty can nonplus that strength, that hath drawn all things out of nothing, or out of a confused matter next to nothing: no power can rifle what we commit to him (2 Tim. 1:12). He is all power, above the reach of all power; all other powers in the world flowing from him, or depending on him, he is worthy to be trusted, since we know him true, without ever breaking his word; and Omnipotent, never failing of his purpose; and a confidence in it is the chief act whereby we can glorify this power, and credit his arm. A strong God, and a weak faith in omnipotence, do not suit well together. Indeed, we are more engaged to a trust in Divine power than the ancient patriarchs were; they had the verbal declaration of his power, and many of them little other evidence of it, than in the creation of the world; and their faith in God being established in this first discovery of his omnipotence, drew out itself further to believe, that whatsoever God promised by his word, he was able to perform, as well as the creation of the world out of nothing; which seems to be the intendment of the apostle (Heb. 6:3); not barely to speak of the creation of the world by God, which was a thing the Hebrews understood well enough from their ancient oracles; but to show the foundation of the patriarch’s faith, viz. God making the world by his Word, and what use they made of the discovery of his power in that, to lead them to believe the promise of God concerning the Seed of the woman to be brought into the world. But we have not only the same foundation, but superadded demonstrations of this attribute in the conception of our Saviour, the union of the two natures, the glorious redemption, the propagation of the gospel, and the new creation of the world. They relied upon the naked power of God, without those more illustrious appearances of it, which have been in the ages since, and arrived to their notice; we have the wonderful effects of that which they had but obscure expectations of.
(1.) Consider, trust in God can never be without taking in God’s power as a concurrent foundation with his truth. It is the main ground of trust, and so set forth in the prophet (Isa. 26:4); “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” And the faith of the ancients so recommended (Heb. 11.), had this chiefly for its ground; and the faith in gospel times is called a “trusting on his arm” (Isa. 51:5.) All the attributes of God are the objects of our veneration, but they do not equally contribute to the producing trust in our hearts; his eternity, simplicity, infiniteness, ravish and astonish our minds when we consider them; but there is no immediate tendency in their nature to allure us to a confidence in him, no, not in an innocent state, much less in a lapsed and revolted condition: but the other perfections of his nature, as his holiness, righteousness, mercy, are amiable to us in regard of the immediate operations of them upon and about the creature, and so have something in their own nature to allure us to repose ourselves in him; but yet those cannot engage to an entire trust in him without reflecting upon his ability, which can only render those useful and successful to the creature. For whatsoever bars stand in the way of his holy, righteous, and merciful proceedings toward his creatures, are not overmastered by those perfections, but by that strength of his which can only relieve us in concurrence with the other attributes. How could his mercy succor us without his arm, or his wisdom guide us without his hand, or his truth perform promises to us without his strength? As no attribute can act without it, so in our addresses to him upon the account of any particular perfection in the Godhead according to our indigency, our eye must be perpetually fixed upon this of his power, and our faith would be feeble and dispirited without eyeing this: without this, his holiness, which hates sin, would not be regarded; and his mercy, pitying a grieving sinner, would not be valued. As this power is the ground of a wicked man’s fear, so it is the ground of a good man’s trust. This was that which was the principal support of Abraham, not barely his promise, but his ability to make it good (Rom. 4:21); and when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, the ability of God to raise him up again (Heb. 11:19). All faith would droop, and be in the mire, without leaning upon this; all those attributes which we consider as moral in God, would have no influence upon us without this, which we consider physically in God. Though we value the kindness men may express to us in our distresses, yet we make them not the objects of our confidence, unless they have an ability to act what they express. There can be no trust in God without an eye to his power.
(2.). Sometimes the power of God is the sole object of trust. As when we have no promise to assure us of his will, we have nothing else to pitch upon but his ability; and that not his absolute power, but his ordinate, in the way of his providence; we must not trust in it so as to expect he should please our humor with fresh miracles, but rest upon his power, and leave the manner to his will. Asa, when ready to conflict with the vast Ethiopian army, pleaded nothing else but this power of God (2 Chron. 14:11). And the three children, who had no particular promise of deliverance (that we read of) stuck to God’s ability to preserve them against the king’s threatening, and owned it in the face of the king, yet with some kind of inward intimations in their own spirits, that he would also deliver them (Dan. 3:17). “Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” And accordingly the fire burnt the cords that tied them, without singeing any thing else about them. But when this power hath been exercised upon like occasions, it is a precedent he hath given us to rest upon. Precedents in law are good pleas, and strong encouragements to the client to expect success in his suit. “Our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them,” saith David (Psalm 22:4). And Jehoshaphat, in a case of distress (2 Chron. 20:7), “Art not thou our God, that didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel?” When we have not any statute law and promise to plead, we may plead his power, together with the former precedents and act of it. The centurion had nothing else to act his faith upon but the power of Christ, and some evidences of it in the miracles reported of him; but he is silent in the latter, and casts himself only upon the former, acknowledging that Christ had the same command over diseases, as himself had over his soldiers (Matt. 8:10). And our Saviour, when he receives the petition of the blind men, requires no more of them in order to a cure, but a belief of his ability to perform it (Matt. 9:28). “Believe you that I am able to do this?” His will is not known but by revelation, but his power is apprehended by reason, as essentially and eternally linked with the notion of a God. God also is jealous of the honor of this attribute; and since it is so much virtually discredited, he is pleased when any do cordially own it, and entirely resign themselves to the assistance of it. Well, then, in all duties where faith is particularly to be acted, forget not this as the main prop of it: do you pray for a flourishing and triumphing grace? Consider him “as able to make all grace to abound in you” (2 Cor. 9:8). Do you want comfort and reviving under your contritions and godly sorrow? Consider him, as he declares himself, “the high and lofty One” (Isa. 57:15). Are you under pressing distresses? take Eliphaz’s advice to Job, when he tells him what he himself would do if he were in his case (Job 5:8), “I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:” but observe under what consideration (ver. 9) as to one “that doth great things, and unsearchable; marvellous things without number.” When you beg of him the melting your rocky hearts, the dashing in pieces your strong corruptions, the drawing his beautiful image in your soul, the quickening your dead hearts, and reviving your drooping spirits, and supplying your spiritual wants, consider him as one “able to do abundantly,” not only “above what you can ask,” but “above what you can think” (Eph. 3:20). Faith will be spiritless, and prayer will be liveless, if power be not eyed by us in those things which cannot be done without an arm of Omnipotence.
3. This doctrine teacheth us humility and submission. The vast disproportion between the mightiness of God, and the meanness of a creature, inculcates the lesson of humility in his presence. How becoming is humility under a mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6)! What is an infant in a giant’s hand, or a lamb in a lion’s paw? Submission to irresistible power is the best policy, and the best security; this gratifies and draws out goodness, whereas murmuring and resistance exasperates and sharpens power. We sanctify his name, and glorify his strength, by falling down before it; it is an acknowledgment of his invisible strength, and our inability to match it. How low should we therefore be before him, against whose power our pride and murmuring can do no good, who can out-wrestle us in our contests, and alway overcome when he judges (Rom. 3:4)!
4. This doctrine teacheth us not to fear the pride and force of man. How unreasonable is it to fear a limited, above an unbounded power! How unbecoming is the fear of man in him, who hath an interest in a strength able to curb the strongest devils! Who would tremble at the threats of a dwarf, that hath a mighty and watchful giant for his guard? If God doth but arise, his enemies are scattered (Psalm 68:1): the least motion makes them fly before him: it is no difficult thing for Him, that made them by a word, to unmake their designs, and shiver them in pieces by the breath of his mouth: “He brings princes to nothing, and makes the judges of the earth vanity; they wither when he blows upon them, and their stock shall not take root in the earth. He can command a whirlwind to take them away as stubble” (Isa. 40:23, 24); yea, with the “shaking of his hand he makes servants to become rulers of those that were their masters” (Zech. 2:9). Whole nations are no more in his hands than a “morning cloud,” or the “dew upon the ground,” or “the chaff before the wind,” or the smoke against the motion of the air, which, though it appear out of a chimney like a black invincible cloud, is quickly dispersed, and becomes invisible (Hos. 13:3). ( Interesting that I read this today, immediately after the 2018 midterm elections. I had to stop, return to Hosea and read all of chapter 13 before returning here. ) How inconsiderable are the most mighty to this strength, which can puff away a whole world of proud grasshoppers, and a whole sky of daring clouds! He that by his word masters the rage of the sea, can overrule the pride and power of men. Where is the fury of the oppressor? It cannot overleap the bounds he hath set it, nor march an inch beyond the point he hath prescribed it. Fear not the confederacies of man, but “sanctify the Lord of hosts; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:13). To fear men is to dishonor the name of God, and regard him as a feeble Lord, and not as the Lord of hosts, who is mighty in strength, so that they that harden themselves against him shall not prosper.
5. Therefore this doctrine teacheth us the fear of God. The prophet Jeremiah counts it as an impossible thing for men to be destitute of the fear of God, When they seriously consider his name to be great and mighty (Jer. 10:6, 7): “Thou art great, and thy name is great in might: who would not fear thee, O thou King of nations?” Shall we not tremble at his presence, who hath placed the “sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree;” that though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they cannot prevail (Jer. 5:22). He can arm the weakest creature for our destruction, and disarm the strongest creatures which appear for our preservation. He can command a hair, a crumb, a kernel, to go awry, and strangle us. He can make the heavens brass over our head, stop close the bottles of the clouds, and make the fruit of the fields droop, when there is a small distance to the harvest; he can arm men’s wit, wealth, hands, against themselves; he can turn our sweet morsels into bitter, and our own consciences into devouring lions; he can root up cities by moles, and conquer the proudest by lice and worms. The omnipotence of God is not only the object of a believer’s trust, but a believer’s fear. It is from the consideration of this power only, that our Saviour presses his disciples, whom he entitles his friends, to fear God; which lesson he presses by a double repetition, and with a kind of asseveration, without rendering any other reason than this of the ability of God to cast into hell (Luke 12:5). We are to fear Him because he can; but bless his goodness because he will not. In regard of his omnipotence, he is to be reverenced, not only by mortal men, but by the blessed angels, who are past the fear of any danger by his power, being confirmed in a happy state by his unalterable grace: when they adore him for his holiness, they reverence him for his power with covered faces: the title of the “Lord of hosts” is joined in their reverential praise with that of his holiness (Isa. 6:3), “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” How should we adore that Power which can preserve us, when devils and men conspire to destroy us! How should we stand in awe of that Power which can destroy us, though angels and men should combine to preserve us! The parts of his ways which are discovered, are sufficient motives to an humble and reverential adoration: but who can fear and adore him according to the vastness of his power, and his excellent greatness, since “the thunder of his power who can understand?”
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