The Sermon on the MountMatthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
The Beatitudes2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Salt and Light13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
This is only a few scriptures that mention light.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light,
That shineth more and more unto the perfect day. KJ
John 5:35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. KJ
John 12:36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. KJ
Romans 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. KJ
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? KJ
Ephesians 5:8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, KJ
Philippians 2:15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
1 Thessalonians 5:5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Anger21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Lust27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Divorce31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Oaths33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Retaliation38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Giving to the NeedyMatthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Lord’s Prayer5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Fasting16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do Not Be Anxious25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
What I'm Reading
Yes, We Can Make the Case for Christianity with Music
By J. Warner Wallace 10/2/2017
At the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, we often talk about the importance of worldview. Each of us, as Christians, ought to allow our Christian beliefs to shape the way we think about every aspect of life, including the way we consider notions of beauty and artistic expression. That’s why I was delighted to hear about a new concept album from Aryn Michelle, a Christian pop and alternative rock artist. Aryn just released a series of songs (in a collection called The Realist Thing) inspired by William Lane Craig’s book, Reasonable Faith. That’s right, an apologetics album of sorts, walking through “several philosophical arguments for the existence of God and the primary evidences for Jesus Christ as his son.” Sounds interesting, right? Aryn agreed to let me interview her about this groundbreaking effort:
J. Warner: |Aryn, I will confess that I was not familiar with your work prior to this collection of songs. I was incredibly impressed with the creativity and quality of the effort, can you tell us something about your musical journey?
Aryn: | I began writing songs when I was fifteen years old. Initially I had hoped that God would use me as a “light in the darkness” in that I would be a believer writing and working in the secular music industry while always maintaining artistry from a Christian perspective. I pursued this goal for almost ten years (and two albums) before I had the revelation that perhaps working within the secular music industry was how I wanted God to use me, but was not necessarily how God had gifted and equipped me. It took me that long to realize that I needed to approach God and ask him how HE wanted to use my life and the giftedness he had given me. I could see that God had brought me up in a background of church music (I’m the daughter of a music minister), and he has given me a heart for the church and for encouraging the people of God. Even when I was not making “Christian” music, followers of Jesus tended to be the ones who responded to my music. About 5 years ago I turned my attention to write explicitly faith-based music in order to encourage believers, dig deep into God’s truth and follow in obedience in using my gifts for God’s calling.
J. Warner: | In your video you mention being in a place in your life as a Christian where you had many questions. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how Christian apologetics literature helped you to answer some of those questions?
Aryn: | Several years ago I approached one of our pastors and asked to meet with him to talk about some struggles I was having. I told him that while I felt confident in my heart about my belief in Jesus, I felt like my head had not caught up with where my heart was. I felt like I had been neglecting the life of the mind in regards to my faith. I didn’t often have intellectual conversations with other believers about difficult questions where philosophy and theology converged. I was frustrated that it felt like no one around me was expressing an interest to seek out the answer to hard questions. He gave me the wise counsel that if I had a thirst for knowledge then I needed to ask God to reveal to me answers and also to seek out that knowledge. To read books, to dig deeper, to go out searching. He suggested a few books to start with and from that point I kept reading and eventually decided to tackle Dr. Craig’s book Reasonable Faith. This book was very helpful on my journey into a deeper life of the mind because it comprehensively covered a good deal of what I was hoping to learn. I want to clearly state that I believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit is the greatest witness one can give, but I was thankful to be able to also articulate philosophical arguments for the existence of God and evidences for Jesus Christ as God’s son after reading that book in particular.
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 It Harmful to Date in High School?
By John Piper 10/2/2017
Before I say anything about dating in high school today, let me say a couple of things about the older generations that he may be talking about. Once upon a time, young people married much more commonly at age seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen, or even earlier in some cultures. My parents were nineteen and eighteen when they married.
There was a time when the cultural expectations and the cultural supports were in place, partly to prepare young people to marry that early and partly to provide the structures and help after they got married. That’s not as true today in America as it once was. That’s the first thing.
The second thing I want to say about the older generation (my generation perhaps) is that many parents today who did marry quite early would still counsel young people today not to pair off in dating relationships during high school. In other words, it doesn’t follow that because godly people you know married early, that dating early is a good idea. That needs to be decided on other grounds. Whether you see dating at age fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen as wise will depend partly on your view of sexual relations, partly on your view of the meaning of dating, and partly on your view of the relative maturity of teenagers. I think the Bible settles the question of sexual relations for us clearly — namely, sexual relations are for marriage.
The Proper Place for Sex | Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:2, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” In other words, sexual relations are for the marriage covenant, not for the engaged couple and not for casual dating relationships.
That view will, of course, set a Christian young person wonderfully and wildly apart from the view that is pervasive in culture and in media — namely, that it is perfectly acceptable to have sex outside marriage with one provision: that it be consensual. That’s not what the Bible teaches, and it’s not what God’s design for man and woman is. It will bear tragic fruit in your life.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Is the Late First-Century Too Late for Eyewitnesses of Jesus to Have Lived?
By Brian Chilton 5/2/2017
The more I study the New Testament documents, the more I am convinced that the documents, particularly the Synoptic Gospels, are earlier than expected. Scholars like W. F. Albright and John A. T. Robinson—both who are not necessarily conservative in their approach but respected in their field—date the NT texts much earlier than even most conservative scholars do. Norman Geisler notes,
“Known for his role in launching the “Death of God” movement, Robinson wrote a revolutionary book titled Redating the New Testament, in which he posited revised dates for the New Testament books that place them earlier than the most conservative scholars ever held. Robinson places Matthew at 40 to after 60, Mark at about 45 to 60, Luke at before 57 to after 60, and John at from before 40 to after 65. This would mean that one or two Gospels could have been written as early as seven years after the crucifixion. At the latest they were all composed within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the events. Assuming the basic integrity and reasonable accuracy of the writers, this would place the reliability of the New Testament documents beyond reasonable doubt.”
Even so, most conservative scholars would date the Gospel of John, the Letters of John, and the Apocalypse (i.e., Revelation) to the latter quarter of the first-century. Is this too late for eyewitnesses to have survived? Can we legitimately expect that eyewitnesses of Jesus in the 30s lived into the 80s and 90s? Actually, the answer is a surprising and resounding, yes! New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg, explains,
“Many babies, children, and young adults in the ancient world died because of rampant disease without modern medicine. An ‘average’ is not a maximum upper limit; it is a figure arrived at by adding a group of numbers together and dividing by the number of elements in the group. Records from all over the ancient world describe a considerable number of people living into their fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and occasionally beyond 100 [Pirke Aboth 5.24]. The percentage of the population in any given place and time that did so was noticeably smaller than it was in developed countries today, and that percentage shrank even faster from one decade of life to the next than it does today. But nothing precludes Matthew, Mark, and Luke from having lived into their seventies.”
Scholars unanimously agree that the New Testament was completed by the end of the first-century. Therefore, even if it is true that a large portion of the New Testament was completed in the late first-century, it is completely possible that a large body of Jesus’s eyewitnesses were still alive to check the veracity of the documents. Consider this: if the apostle John was 20 when Jesus died and resurrected in AD 33, then he would have been a mere 72-years-old in AD 85, the date when most scholars hold that the Fourth Gospel was written. With Blomberg’s research, it is completely feasible to accept that John could have lived to that age. Thus, we have further reasons for accepting the New Testament’s reliability as eyewitnesses could have lived even towards the end of the New Testament’s completion.
Praying for a Breakthrough
By Jon Bloom 10/2/2015
A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.
But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.
This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.
Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces | This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).
But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means, except that these forces are very strong.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
How to Talk about the Afterlife (if you must) 2
By D. C. Cramer 7/14/2011
The following are some theses—in no particular order—that I believe should help guide discussions of the afterlife, especially those debates currently raging over universalism and hell. These thoughts are purely my own (and even I’m not sure what I think of all of them). By stating these theses, I am not advocating or endorsing any of the views of the afterlife discussed.
(6) The practical differences between these views shouldn’t be overestimated. Whether an unbeliever suffers forever, is completely destroyed, or suffers for a really long time, it is not a state of affairs that one would desire. So if our evangelism is going to be predicated on the fate of those who don’t accept Christ (which I’m not sure should be our primary motivation, but that’s another discussion), then there shouldn’t be a practical difference between the major evangelical views of the afterlife. Even if one believes—as universalists do—that ultimately all will be saved, one would still want to save people from all the unnecessary suffering they would face in the penultimate afterlife. And as Christians, we would hopefully want all to experience the fullness of Kingdom living now, which should be motivation enough for evangelism regardless of our views of the afterlife.
(7) The theological differences between these views shouldn’t be underestimated. Most of us believe that God loves everyone and that God is perfectly just. But clearly, what one who believes in eternal conscious torment and one who believes in ultimate universal reconciliation mean by terms like “love” and “justice” are going to radically differ. On the eternal conscious torment view, one has to reconcile one’s definition of love and justice with the notion that God torments (or allows to be tormented) unbelievers eternally (that is, after all, the very definition of the term “eternal conscious torment”). Other views of God necessarily follow from eternal conscious torment, for example, that God doesn’t ultimately get everything he desires: minimally, that all should be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Of course, one might say that God desires some things more than he desires all to be saved, but then that too is saying something about God and his character. On the annihilationist view, one has to reconcile one’s view of love and justice with the notion that God destroys (or allows to cease existing) unbelievers after death. One also has to deal with some of the same theological ramifications as the eternal conscious torment view discussed above. On the universalist view, one has to reconcile one’s definition of love and justice with the notion that God will give second (and possibly third, fourth, fifth . . .) chances to those who die in utter defiance toward God and utter hatred toward fellow human beings. Even if these postmortem chances include much suffering (see (6) above), this view is clearly working with a different notion of love and justice than the other views. The question then becomes: Which notion of love and justice is most consistent with the whole scope and tenor of Scripture (as well as those nitty-gritty details of Scripture that the exegetes deal with)?
(8) Each of these positions has both subtle, scholarly articulations and shallow, popular descriptions; care should be taken to distinguish the two. It is always best to take on the best form of an argument and try to refute it than to merely refute popular forms of an argument. However, since popular forms are so, well, popular, it is okay to discuss and refute those too, as long as one specifies that in so doing one isn’t taking on the best version of the argument. So, if popular formulations of eternal conscious torment suggest a sadistic view of God, it is okay to point out the flaws in that view of God. And if popular formulations of universalism suggest a lax view of God, it is okay to point out the flaws in that view of God too. But the most subtle forms of eternal conscious torment try to avoid divine sadism, and the most subtle forms of universalism try to avoid divine laxity; and in debating these issues eventually one will have to deal with these more sophisticated views head on.
(9) We all have motivations for holding the views we hold, but unless someone explicitly states his or her motivation for holding a view, it is best to leave discussion of motivations out of it. Sure, some universalists probably grew up in oppressive fundamentalist churches from which they are trying desperately to break away. Sure, some who hold to eternal conscious torment can’t stand the idea of someday worshiping next to Osama bin Laden in heaven. But not everyone who holds to these views does so for the same reasons or with the same motivations. Speculating on one’s motivations, then, is just another form of the old ad hominem fallacy, and fallacies are generally best to avoid.
Confessions of a Functional Cessationist
By Jason Meyer 10/2/2017
This article is more about aspirations than answers. I am describing the start of a journey more than documenting how to arrive at a destination. I begin with a confession: I have always been a theoretical continuationist. That is, I have always believed that the gifts of the Spirit continue to this very day.
I have never adopted the cessationist viewpoint that certain spiritual gifts ceased when the apostolic age came to an end. Paul’s argument that tongues and prophecy will end “when the perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:8–10) is a reference to the second coming of Christ, not the close of the biblical canon. I tell my cessationist friends that there is a day coming when I too will be a cessationist: the second coming.
Even though I have always been a theoretical continuationist, I am far too often a functional cessationist. In other words, I am a continuationist in theory, but I look a lot like a cessationist in practice. This gap between theory and practice pricks my conscience.
Test Everything — Including Attitudes | Recently, I have been convicted by clear differences between the way the Bible speaks and the way I speak about spiritual gifts. I have said things like “I am open, but cautious” when it comes to sign gifts like prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. That statement about caution rightly stresses the need to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Every experience must be examined by the searchlight of Scripture.
However, in practice, I can take this caution so far that it turns into suspicion and fear. Instead of “open, but cautious,” I am more like “open, but overly suspicious.” I have discovered that Scripture tests our attitudes and not just our experiences. It was a little shocking to see how much my attitude is actually rebuked by Scripture. Paul commands Christians, “Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). He characterizes the Corinthians as “eager for manifestations of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
I Don’t Take The Bible Literally, And Neither Does Anyone Else
By Glenn T. Stanton 5/1/2017
Literally no one takes the Bible literally. But otherwise intelligent pollsters and journalists continue to ask the question as a gauge for who takes the Bible seriously—or too seriously.
A recent report from Pew tells us that only 39 percent of Christians take the Bible literally. This is very bad news for believers’ fidelity to Scripture, but not for the reason you might think. It’s also a poor reflection on the good folks at Pew.
Why? It’s quite simple: Literally no one takes the Bible literally. NO ONE. But otherwise intelligent pollsters and journalists continue to ask the question as a gauge for who really takes the Bible seriously—or too seriously. And Christians continue to play along.
Here, here and here are just a few examples of this. It all shows an embarrassing ignorance of how billions of Christians and Jews approach this important and world-changing book hermeneutically. This is unacceptable.
I’ll Prove It in Ten Seconds | All one need do is open a Bible to any random page. I’ve just slipped my thumb into my closed Bible as I write this and aimlessly opened to Ecclesiastes 10:2, where we read: “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.”
The Secret to a Happy Life
By R.C. Sproul 10/01/2014
James is sometimes called the “New Testament book of Proverbs.” That’s because of passages such as James 4 that give us a series of loosely linked aphorisms of practical, godly wisdom. This chapter begins with our universal concern about conflict:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend on your passions. (James 4:1-3)
The world is marked by warfare. There’s global war and national conflict; there’s warfare in the church; there’s warfare in the community; there’s warfare in the home — there’s conflict all around us. James says that these quarrels, fights, disputes, and contentions come from within, from the fallenness of our hearts. The motivation for these conflicts is envy, or covetousness, which is a transgression we rarely hear about in our own day.
Conflict is the fruit of covetous hearts that want what others have. Now, it’s not inherently wrong to want something we don’t have. James’ statement that we do not have because we do not ask implicitly calls us to ask God to give us our desires. We should feel no shame when we desire good things as long as our desire does not make those good things into idols. The warning against covetousness comes into play when James acknowledges that sometimes we ask wrongly for what we don’t have. Sometimes we ask for good things in the wrong spirit.
What does this mean? Consider that we ask for things because we believe they will make us happy. This turns into covetousness when we believe that we have an inalienable right to pursue pleasure as the source of happiness. Maximizing pleasure is our culture’s chief goal, but happiness and pleasure are profoundly different.
I’m not opposed to pleasure. I enjoy pleasure. But remember, sin is tempting because it can be pleasurable — in the short term. We sin because we think it will feel good. Every time we sin, we believe the original lie of Satan, who tempts us that we will be happy if we get the pleasure we want. Hedonism, which defines the good in terms of the pleasurable, is the oldest philosophy to oppose God.
However, sin never brings happiness — the state of inner delight, blessedness, and contentment wherein there is no room for greed or covetousness. Christians know moments of happiness, when we are alone in the presence of God, in fellowship with Him, and it is enough to know our sins have been forgiven. But soon we forget and we’re worrying about the bills. Suddenly, we say, “If I just had a little bit more money, if I just had a better car, if I just had a nicer house, I’d finally be happy.”
After explaining conflict’s source, James reveals what ends it and brings true happiness:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-7, 10)
Humility is the secret to a happy life. What is humility? Scripture does not say the humble person is Mr. Milquetoast, the wishy-washy person, the spineless man who is a doormat for the world; rather, the humble person is one who fears God.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and such fear flows from a heart that is in awe of God and bows to His authority.
The opposite of humility is arrogance. To think God owes us every pleasure we want manifests an unspeakable arrogance that presumes to critique God’s provision for us. Every time we start fighting over what we don’t have, our struggle is ultimately with the Lord. Is anything more foolish than warring with God? Opposition from God is opposition with a capital O. He’s the last being I want to have opposing me. God opposes the proud, so we need to get this maxim from James into our souls: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
If there’s anything that we ought to be in a passionate quest to achieve, it’s the grace of God. By definition, grace is not something you can earn. You can receive grace only if God in His mercy gives it to you. It’s a gift. You can’t buy, earn, or merit it. God gives grace to the humble because they understand the graciousness of grace. Humility willingly submits one’s life to God’s sovereign mercy. Humble people recognize that the Lord doesn’t owe them anything.
Do we want more grace? Let’s try a little more humility. Do we seek less opposition from God? Let’s do away with our pride. We must remember that we are unworthy servants throwing ourselves on the mercy of the court. When we enter God’s presence and demand that He give us something or try to persuade Him to give us something as if we were His counselors who advise Him of a better way of doing things, we’ve entered into His presence not boldly as the Bible calls us to do, but arrogantly. We must come to Him in thanksgiving and praise for the grace we’ve already received. The more humble we are, the more grace we get. The prouder we are, the more God opposes us.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Chapter I | History of Christian Martyrs to the First General Persecutions
Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and perceiving the secret hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words three things are to be noted: First, that Christ will have a Church in this world. Secondly, that the same Church should mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the uttermost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and all his malice, should continue.
Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly, what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold: for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of God in His Church might appear to His glory; also that, the continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time, being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian faith.
As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior's history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by His subsequent resurrection. Although one apostle had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him, under the solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken Him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the high-priest"; the history of His resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.
I. St. StephenSt. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the passover which succeeded to that of our Lord's crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the following spring.
Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, that "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution that arose about Stephen."
II. James the GreatThe next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apsotles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin - german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.
III. PhilipWas born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first called by the name of "disciple." He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.
IV. MatthewWhose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.
V. James the LessIs supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Savior. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.
VI. MatthiasOf whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.
VII. AndrewWas the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.
VIII. St. MarkWas born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.
IX. PeterAmong many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, "Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.
X. PaulPaul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptised at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.
XI. JudeThe brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.
XII. BartholomewPreached in several countries, and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.
XIII. ThomasCalled Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.
XIV. LukeThe evangelist, was the author of the Gospel which goes under his name. He travelled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.
XV. SimonSurnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74.
XVI. JohnThe "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
XVII. BarnabasWas of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73.
And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plentously with the blood of saints. Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Us and Them
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/01/2014
It certainly is, comparatively speaking, a subplot. But it is plenty important. As God’s Word describes the power of God’s words in creation, we ought to be astonished. God speaks, and there is light. He speaks and the whole of the universe comes into existence. Creation ex nihilo — the doctrine that God did not merely rearrange preexisting “stuff” to form our universe but spoke it into being — is true, however mind-boggling it may be. God did, however, arrange what He created. Included in the creation account is not just creation, but also division. God divided the earth from sky, dry land from water, day from night. We serve a God of divisions.
The divisions that God makes do not end with the completion of creation. God continues to divide in Genesis 3, when, after Adam and Eve fell into sin, dragging all their progeny with them, God promised that He would make another division. He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” (v. 15). We are all by nature the seed of the serpent. God’s promise, however, is that He will call some out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, that our natures will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is now not just night and day, land and sea, but us and them.
We live in an age, however, that eschews divisions. The broader culture embraces inclusivism, and calls us to do the same. It seeks to blur distinctions at every opportunity. Men and women are interchangeable parts. Good and evil are but weightless individual choices. True and false are just constructs in our mind with no connection to a knowable reality. Which, ironically, is precisely why they must draw us outside their circle of unity. Because we, if we are faithful, will not play along. We are set apart from the folks who think people should not be set apart. Indeed, we are hated by those whose mantra is “Love is all you need.”
Which puts us in something of a pickle. Jesus, after all, calls on us to love our neighbor, to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us. Our neighbors, our enemies, those who persecute us understand love to be, at its core, permissive. Love, we are told, means never having to say you’re sorry. We are therefore tempted, out of love, to join the crowd.
As with all magic, whether the entertaining kind or the diabolical kind, you have to watch for the misdirection. We are led astray because we don’t usually notice, because of the misdirection, because of the switch. Love, we would be wise to remember, is what God is. We ought to seek out how He defines it, rather than how the world defines it. And again, ironically, His definition affirms the reality of us and them. It affirms that we are set apart and distinct from the world outside us, and yet affirms our solidarity and love for those outside.
Love means always telling you that you must be sorry. The very height of love to our enemy, to our neighbor, is precisely to call him to repentance, to exhort him to turn from sin and come to Christ. The obvious way that this is love, of course, is that it redounds to the well-being of the recipient. There is nothing we can do for those outside the kingdom that would help them more than to call them to repent. When we stand outside the abortion mill imploring those going in to turn from their sin, we do so not because we hate them and want it to go poorly for them, but because we love them and want it to go well with them. Without repentance, they will face the unflinching eternal wrath of the Father.
But it is also love because it means we will be hated. Our calling is to love our enemies enough to be hated by them for calling them to repent. They won’t see it that way. They will rail and accuse, bludgeoning us with accusations that we are narrow and unloving. Our calling is to bear up under this — for their sake. Our temptation is to mute the call to repent — for our sake.
When Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, that we are a city on a hill, He tells us both that we are to be set apart from the world, and also that our set-apartness is what is best for the world. As we are a more distinct people, marked by the pursuit of His righteousness, as we highlight the contrasts between us and them, we call them to repent. As we confess that we, too, were once as they were, that we walked according to the course of this world, we show them that in His kingdom there is a doorway, a way in. As we remember there but for the grace of God go I, we live in a way so as to remind them that He is that doorway.
We are a set-apart people called to call those from whom we are set apart to come and join us. And nothing can separate us from His love, to the everlasting praise of His name.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Book 5 | Psalm 107Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say So
107:17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Treat your enemy with kindness
(Oct 3) Bob Gass
‘You will heap coals of fire on his head.’
(Pr 25:22) 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. ESV
It’s not enough to simply leave your enemies alone; you must demonstrate God’s love towards them. ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you’ (vv. 21-22 NKJV). What does it mean to ‘heap coals of fire on his head’? Charles Swindoll explains that in ancient days, homes were heated and meals were fixed on a small portable stove, somewhat like our outside barbecue grills. Frequently, a person would run low on hot coals and need to replenish his or her supply. The container was commonly carried on the head. So, as the individual passed beneath second-storey windows, thoughtful people who had extra hot coals in their possession would reach out the window and place them in the container atop their head. Thanks to the thoughtful generosity of a few folks, they would arrive at the site with a pile of burning coals on their head, and a ready-made fire for cooking and keeping warm. ‘Heaping burning coals on someone’s head’ came to be a popular expression for a spontaneous and courteous act one person would voluntarily do for another. When you treat an enemy this way, the Bible promises, ‘The LORD will reward you.’ You have a choice. You can experience the short-term satisfaction of retaliating and get into trouble with God for doing it, or show mercy and kindness and be rewarded by God for doing it. So, the word for you today is - treat your enemy with kindness.
1 Thess 2
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On October 3, 1789, from the capital of New York City, President George Washington issued the first Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. There was reason to rejoice as just one week earlier, the first session of the United States Congress approved the First Ten Amendments, better known as the Bill of Rights, thereby limiting the power and scope of the Federal Government. Washington wrote: “Now, therefore, I do recommend… the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Here, too, we acquire that spiritual veracity which we so constantly tend to lose; because we are in contact with the living and eternal reality. Our very love is preserved from dissimulation, which is a great danger when we love men and court their love. Prayer is a greater school and discipline of divine love than the service of man is. But not if it is cut off from it.
And no less also is it the school of repentance, which so easily can grow morbid. We are taught to be not only true to reality, but sincere with ourselves. We cannot touch God thus without having a light no less searching than saving shed upon our own hearts; and we are thus protected from Pharisaism in our judgment of either self or friend or foe—especially at present of our foe. No companion of God can war in His name against man without much self-searching and self-humiliation, however reserved. But here humility turns into moral strength.
Here we are also regathered in soul from the fancies that bewilder us and the distractions that dissolve us into the dust of the world. We are collected into peace and power and sound judgment, and we have a heart for any fate, because we rest in the Lord whose judgments are salvation. What gives us our true stay gives us our true self; and it protects us from the elations and despairs which alternate in ourselves by bringing home to us a Saviour who is more to us than we are to ourselves. We become patient with ourselves because we realize the patience of God. We get rid of illusions about ourselves and the world because our intimacy is with the real God, and we know that we truly are just what we are before Him. We thus have a great peace, because in prayer, as the crowning act of faith, we lay hold of the grace of God the Saviour. Prayer alone prevents our receiving God’s grace in vain. Which means that it establishes the soul of a man or a people, creates the moral personality day by day, spreads outward the new heart through society, and goes to make a new ethos in mankind. We come out with a courage and a humanity we had not when we went in, even though our old earth remove, and our familiar hills are cast into the depth of the sea. The true Church is thus co-extensive with the community of true prayer.
It is another paradox that combines the vast power of prayer both on the lone soul and on the moral life, personal and social, with the soul’s shyness and aloofness in prayer. Kant (whose genius in this respect reflected his race) has had an influence upon scientific thought and its efficiency far greater than upon religion, though he is well named the philosopher of Protestantism. He represent (again like his race) intellectual power and a certain stiff moral insight, but not spiritual atmosphere, delicacy, or flexibility, which is rather the Catholic tradition. Intellectualism always tends to more force than finish, and always starves or perverts ethic. And nowhere in Kant’s work does this limitation find such expression as in his treatment of prayer, unless it be in his lack of any misgivings about treating it at all with his equipment or the equipment of his age. Even his successors know better now—just as we in England have learned to find in Milton powers and harmonies hidden from the too great sagacity of Dr. Johnson or his time. Kant, then, speaks of prayer thus. If we found a man (he says) given to talking to himself we should begin to suspect him of some tendency to mental aberration. Yet the personality of such a man is a very real thing. It is a thing we can be more sure of than we can of the personality of God, who, if He is more than a conclusion for intellectual thought, is not more than a postulate for moral. No doubt in time of crisis it is an instinct to pray which even cultivated people do not, and need not, lose. But if any such person were surprised even in the attitude of private prayer, to say nothing of its exercise, he would be ashamed. He would think he had been discovered doing something unworthy of his intelligence, and would feel about it as educated people do when found out to be yielding to a superstition about the number thirteen.
A thinker of more sympathy and delicacy would have spoken less bluntly. Practical experience would have taught him discrimination. He would have realized the difference between shame and shyness, between confusion at an unworthy thing and confusion at a thing too fine and sacred for exposure. And had his age allowed him to have more knowledge and taste in history, and especially the history of religion, he would have gone, not to the cowardice of the ordinary cultivated man, but to the power and thoroughness of the great saints or captains of the race—to Paul, to Thomas a Kempis, to Cromwell with his troops, or Gustavus Adolphus with his. I do but humbly allude to Gethsemane. But Kant belonged to a time which had not realized, as even our science does now, the final power of the subtler forces, and the overwhelming effect in the long run of the impalpable and elusive influences of life. Much might be written about the effect of prayer on the great history of the world.
Tomorrow begins CHAPTER IV, The Timeliness of Prayer.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
America: Why I love her:
"If we want to keep these freedoms,
we may have to fight again.
but if we do,
let's always fight to win…
Face the flag, son…
and thank God it's still there.
--- John Wayne
Helping a person in need is good in itself. But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done. If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty, then the person may recieve your help but may feel awkward and embarrassed. This is because he will feel beholden to you. If,on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully. The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help. And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver. --- John Chrysostom
Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardour of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old.
--- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. While Josephus was making this exhortation to the Jews, many of them jested upon him from the wall, and many reproached him; nay, some threw their darts at him: but when he could not himself persuade them by such open good advice, he betook himself to the histories belonging to their own nation, and cried out aloud, "O miserable creatures! are you so unmindful of those that used to assist you, that you will fight by your weapons and by your hands against the Romans? When did we ever conquer any other nation by such means? and when was it that God, who is the Creator of the Jewish people, did not avenge them when they had been injured? Will not you turn again, and look back, and consider whence it is that you fight with such violence, and how great a Supporter you have profanely abused? Will not you recall to mind the prodigious things done for your forefathers and this holy place, and how great enemies of yours were by him subdued under you? I even tremble myself in declaring the works of God before your ears, that are unworthy to hear them; however, hearken to me, that you may be informed how you fight not only against the Romans, but against God himself. In old times there was one Necao, king of Egypt, who was also called Pharaoh; he came with a prodigious army of soldiers, and seized queen Sarah, the mother of our nation. What did Abraham our progenitor then do? Did he defend himself from this injurious person by war, although he had three hundred and eighteen captains under him, and an immense army under each of them? Indeed he deemed them to be no number at all without God's assistance, and only spread out his hands towards this holy place, 16 which you have now polluted, and reckoned upon him as upon his invincible supporter, instead of his own army. Was not our queen sent back, without any defilement, to her husband, the very next Evening?—while the king of Egypt fled away, adoring this place which you have defiled by shedding thereon the blood of your own countrymen; and he also trembled at those visions which he saw in the night season, and bestowed both silver and gold on the Hebrews, as on a people beloved by God. Shall I say nothing, or shall I mention the removal of our fathers into Egypt, who, when they were used tyrannically, and were fallen under the power of foreign kings for four hundred years together, and might have defended themselves by war and by fighting, did yet do nothing but commit themselves to God! Who is there that does not know that Egypt was overrun with all sorts of wild beasts, and consumed by all sorts of distempers? how their land did not bring forth its fruit? how the Nile failed of water? how the ten plagues of Egypt followed one upon another? and how by those means our fathers were sent away under a guard, without any bloodshed, and without running any dangers, because God conducted them as his peculiar servants? Moreover, did not Palestine groan 17 under the ravage the Assyrians made, when they carried away our sacred ark? as did their idol Dagon, and as also did that entire nation of those that carried it away, how they were smitten with a loathsome distemper in the secret parts of their bodies, when their very bowels came down together with what they had eaten, till those hands that stole it away were obliged to bring it back again, and that with the sound of cymbals and timbrels, and other oblations, in order to appease the anger of God for their violation of his holy ark. It was God who then became our General, and accomplished these great things for our fathers, and this because they did not meddle with war and fighting, but committed it to him to judge about their affairs. When Sennacherib, king of Assyria, brought along with him all Asia, and encompassed this city round with his army, did he fall by the hands of men? were not those hands lifted up to God in prayers, without meddling with their arms, when an angel of God destroyed that prodigious army in one night? when the Assyrian king, as he rose the next day, found a hundred fourscore and five thousand dead bodies, and when he, with the remainder of his army, fled away from the Hebrews, though they were unarmed, and did not pursue them. You are also acquainted with the slavery we were under at Babylon, where the people were captives for seventy years; yet were they not delivered into freedom again before God made Cyrus his gracious instrument in bringing it about; accordingly they were set free by him, and did again restore the worship of their Deliverer at his temple. And, to speak in general, we can produce no example wherein our fathers got any success by war, or failed of success when without war they committed themselves to God. When they staid at home, they conquered, as pleased their Judge; but when they went out to fight, they were always disappointed: for example, when the king of Babylon besieged this very city, and our king Zedekiah fought against him, contrary to what predictions were made to him by Jeremiah the prophet, he was at once taken prisoner, and saw the city and the temple demolished. Yet how much greater was the moderation of that king, than is that of your present governors, and that of the people then under him, than is that of you at this time! for when Jeremiah cried out aloud, how very angry God was at them, because of their transgressions, and told them they should be taken prisoners, unless they would surrender up their city, neither did the king nor the people put him to death; but for you, [to pass over what you have done within the city, which I am not able to describe as your wickedness deserves,] you abuse me, and throw darts at me, who only exhort you to save yourselves, as being provoked when you are put in mind of your sins, and cannot bear the very mention of those crimes which you every day perpetrate. For another example, when Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, lay before this city, and had been guilty of many indignities against God, and our forefathers met him in arms, they then were slain in the battle, this city was plundered by our enemies, and our sanctuary made desolate for three years and six months. And what need I bring any more examples? Indeed what can it be that hath stirred up an army of the Romans against our nation? Is it not the impiety of the inhabitants? Whence did our servitude commence? Was it not derived from the seditions that were among our forefathers, when the madness of Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, and our mutual quarrels, brought Pompey upon this city, and when God reduced those under subjection to the Romans who were unworthy of the liberty they had enjoyed? After a siege, therefore, of three months, they were forced to surrender themselves, although they had not been guilty of such offenses, with regard to our sanctuary and our laws, as you have; and this while they had much greater advantages to go to war than you have. Do not we know what end Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, came to, under whose reign God provided that this city should be taken again upon account of the people's offenses? When Herod, the son of Antipater, brought upon us Sosius, and Sosius brought upon us the Roman army, they were then encompassed and besieged for six months, till, as a punishment for their sins, they were taken, and the city was plundered by the enemy. Thus it appears that arms were never given to our nation, but that we are always given up to be fought against, and to be taken; for I suppose that such as inhabit this holy place ought to commit the disposal of all things to God, and then only to disregard the assistance of men when they resign themselves up to their Arbitrator, who is above. As for you, what have you done of those things that are recommended by our legislator? and what have you not done of those things that he hath condemned? How much more impious are you than those who were so quickly taken! You have not avoided so much as those sins that are usually done in secret; I mean thefts, and treacherous plots against men, and adulteries. You are quarrelling about rapines and murders, and invent strange ways of wickedness. Nay, the temple itself is become the receptacle of all, and this Divine place is polluted by the hands of those of our own country; which place hath yet been reverenced by the Romans when it was at a distance from them, when they have suffered many of their own customs to give place to our law. And, after all this, do you expect Him whom you have so impiously abused to be your supporter? To be sure then you have a right to be petitioners, and to call upon Him to assist you, so pure are your hands! Did your king [Hezekiah] lift up such hands in prayer to God against the king of Assyria, when he destroyed that great army in one night? And do the Romans commit such wickedness as did the king of Assyria, that you may have reason to hope for the like vengeance upon them? Did not that king accept of money from our king on this condition, that he should not destroy the city, and yet, contrary to the oath he had taken, he came down to burn the temple? while the Romans do demand no more than that accustomed tribute which our fathers paid to their fathers; and if they may but once obtain that, they neither aim to destroy this city, nor to touch this sanctuary; nay, they will grant you besides, that your posterity shall be free, and your possessions secured to you, and will preserve our holy laws inviolate to you. And it is plain madness to expect that God should appear as well disposed towards the wicked as towards the righteous, since he knows when it is proper to punish men for their sins immediately; accordingly he brake the power of the Assyrians the very first night that they pitched their camp. Wherefore, had he judged that our nation was worthy of freedom, or the Romans of punishment, he had immediately inflicted punishment upon those Romans, as he did upon the Assyrians, when Pompey began to meddle with our nation, or when after him Sosius came up against us, or when Vespasian laid waste Galilee, or, lastly, when Titus came first of all near to this city; although Magnus and Sosius did not only suffer nothing, but took the city by force; as did Vespasian go from the war he made against you to receive the empire; and as for Titus, those springs that were formerly almost dried up when they were under your power 18 since he is come, run more plentifully than they did before; accordingly, you know that Siloam, as well as all the other springs that were without the city, did so far fail, that water was sold by distinct measures; whereas they now have such a great quantity of water for your enemies, as is sufficient not only for drink both for themselves and their cattle, but for watering their gardens also. The same wonderful sign you had also experience of formerly, when the forementioned king of Babylon made war against us, and when he took the city, and burnt the temple; while yet I believe the Jews of that age were not so impious as you are. Wherefore I cannot but suppose that God is fled out of his sanctuary, and stands on the side of those against whom you fight. Now even a man, if he be but a good man, will fly from an impure house, and will hate those that are in it; and do you persuade yourselves that God will abide with you in your iniquities, who sees all secret things, and hears what is kept most private? Now what crime is there, I pray you, that is so much as kept secret among you, or is concealed by you? nay, what is there that is not open to your very enemies? for you show your transgressions after a pompous manner, and contend one with another which of you shall be more wicked than another; and you make a public demonstration of your injustice, as if it were virtue. However, there is a place left for your preservation, if you be willing to accept of it; and God is easily reconciled to those that confess their faults, and repent of them. O hard-hearted wretches as you are! cast away all your arms, and take pity of your country already going to ruin; return from your wicked ways, and have regard to the excellency of that city which you are going to betray, to that excellent temple with the donations of so many countries in it. Who could bear to be the first that should set that temple on fire? who could be willing that these things should be no more? and what is there that can better deserve to be preserved? O insensible creatures, and more stupid than are the stones themselves! And if you cannot look at these things with discerning eyes, yet, however, have pity upon your families, and set before every one of your eyes your children, and wives, and parents, who will be gradually consumed either by famine or by war. I am sensible that this danger will extend to my mother, and wife, and to that family of mine who have been by no means ignoble, and indeed to one that hath been very eminent in old time; and perhaps you may imagine that it is on their account only that I give you this advice; if that be all, kill them; nay, take my own blood as a reward, if it may but procure your preservation; for I am ready to die, in case you will but return to a sound mind after my death."
by D.H. Stern
and a rod for the back of fools.
4 Don’t answer a fool in terms of his folly,
or you will be descending to his level;
5 but answer a fool as his folly deserves,
so that he won’t think he is wise.
6 Telling a message to a fool and sending him out
is like cutting off one’s feet and drinking violence.
7 The legs of the disabled hang limp and useless;
likewise a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
8 Like one who ties his stone to the sling
is he who gives honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn branch in the hand of a drunk
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10 A master can make anything,
but hiring a fool is like hiring some passer-by.
11 Just as a dog returns to his vomit,
a fool repeats his folly.
12 Do you see someone who thinks himself wise?
There is more hope for a fool than for him!
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
The sphere of ministration
This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. --- Mark 9:29.
“Why could not we cast him out?” The answer lies in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. This kind can come forth by nothing but by concentration and redoubled concentration on Him. We can ever remain powerless, as were the disciples, by trying to do God’s work not in concentration on His power, but by ideas drawn from our own temperament. We slander God by our very eagerness to work for Him without knowing Him.
You are brought face to face with a difficult case and nothing happens externally, and yet you know that emancipation will be given because you are concentrated on Jesus Christ. This is your line of service—to see that there is nothing between Jesus and yourself. Is there? If there is, you must get through it, not by ignoring it in irritation, or by mounting up, but by facing it and getting through it into the presence of Jesus Christ. Then that very thing, and all you have been through in connection with it, will glorify Jesus Christ in a way you will never know till you see Him face to face.
We must be able to mount up with wings as eagles; but we must also know how to come down. The power of the saint lies in the coming down and the living down. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” said Paul, and the things he referred to were mostly humiliating things. It is in our power to refuse to be humiliated and to say—‘No, thank you, I much prefer to be on the mountain top with God.’ Can I face things as they actually are in the light of the reality of Jesus Christ, or do things as they are efface altogether my faith in Him, and put me into a panic?
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
They made the grey stone
Blossom, setting it on a branch
Of the mind; airy cathedrals
Grew, trembling at the tip
Of their breathing; delicate palaces
Hung motionless in the gold,
Unbelievable sunrise. They praised
With rapt forms such as the blind hand
Dreamed, journeying to its sad
Nuptials. We come too late
On the scene, pelted with the stone
Flowers' bitter confetti.
Biblical counseling for today
Born into an influential Israelite family, Isaiah had grown up rubbing shoulders with royalty. Unimpressed with earthly monarchs, Isaiah envisioned a coming king: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.… For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.… A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what He hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge” (Isa. 7:14; 9:6–7; 11:1–4).
Imagine. Eight centuries before Bethlehem, Isaiah offered up brilliant foreign policy advice: National security begins with God. Just as Judah’s northern neighbors had been scourged by the Assyrians, so their southern counterparts were headed toward defeat at the hands of Babylon. Unless they repented, the people of Judah were staring down the barrel of trouble (Isa. 1–39).
In the end, blessed comfort would come (Isa. 40–66), but it would come only through a right relationship with the Davidic offshoot, a virgin-born King, rich with exquisite qualities and an unending reign. Among His attributes, the predicted Savior would be a Wonderful Counselor (9:6). Imbued with the very wisdom of God, Jesus Christ would not be fooled by appearances or mere words; to the contrary, He would always make the correct appraisal in His dealings with people (11:2–4).
Although mere mortals can never expect to have Christ’s x-ray vision for the soul (1 Sam. 16:7; John 2:24), we who are growing in Christ’s likeness (Rom. 8:28–30; Phil. 1:6) can count on the help of the Lord, the One who will one day permit us to know as we are known. In the meantime even those with gifts in counseling only “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12, KJV).
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. --- Romans 12:3.
After saying, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy,” here [Paul] says again, “by the grace.” (A SELECT LIBRARY OF THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH Volume XI: Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans.) Observe the teacher’s lowliness of mind. He means to say that he is in no respect worthy to be trusted in such an exhortation and counsel. But at one time he takes the mercies of God along with him, at another his grace. It is not my word, he would say, that I am speaking, but one from God. “To every one of you.” Not to this person and to that merely, but to the governor and to the governed, to the slave and to the free, to the unlearned and to the wise, to the woman and to the man, to the young and to the old. And by this he also makes his language inoffensive, setting the lessons he gives to all, even to such as do not come under them, that those who do come under them may with more willingness accept such a reproof and correction. And what do you say? Let me hear. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” Here he is bringing before us the mother of good deeds, which is lowliness of mind, in imitation of his own Master. For as Jesus, when he went up into the mountain and was going to give a teaching of moral precepts, took this for his first beginning and made this the foundation, in the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), so Paul too, as he has now passed from the doctrinal parts to those of a more practical kind, has taught us virtue in general terms by requiring of us the admirable sacrifice. And being on the point of giving a more particular portrait of it, he begins from lowliness of mind as from the head and tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think but to think of ourselves with sober judgment. We have received wisdom not that we should use it to make us arrogant but to make us sober-minded. And he does not say in order to be lowly in mind, but in order to sobriety, meaning by sobriety here not that virtue which contrasts with lewdness nor the being free from intemperance, but being sensible and healthful in mind. And the Greek name of it means keeping the mind safe.
--- John Chrysostom
One Woman’s Crusade
Was the first Thanksgiving really held by the pilgrims shortly after the Mayflower anchored at Plymouth? Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America was proclaimed in Palo Duro Canyon by Padre Juan De Cadilla for Coronado’s troops in 1541, 79 years before the Pilgrims.
At any rate, Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday was slow in coming. Throughout early American history, some leaders issued Thanksgiving proclamations; some did not. Many were against it for various reasons, and Thanksgiving was an on-again, off-again affair … until Sarah Hale got hold of it. Sarah was a young widow with five children and a millinery shop. She used spare moments for writing, and in 1823 her first book appeared. She was soon hired as editor of a small magazine; then, in 1837, she was named editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the nation’s foremost women’s magazine. Circulation mushroomed. Godey’s wasn’t a Christian magazine, but Sarah, an Episcopalian, was a devout Christian who injected religious issues into her editorials. In 1846 she launched a crusade to establish Thanksgiving as a holiday. She wrote stirring editorials about it, and November issues featured Thanksgiving poetry, stories, and turkey recipes. She pelted politicians with personal letters on the subject, and by 1859 30 governors had agreed to a common day of Thanksgiving.
Still, no national holiday emerged. As America lurched toward civil war, Sarah tried a new tactic. Disunion, she wrote in 1859, could be averted by Thanksgiving: If every State would join in union Thanksgiving on the 24th of this month, would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution!
But war erupted in 1861. In 1863 she wrote President Lincoln, laying before you a subject of deep interest … the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed union festival. The beleaguered president finally agreed, and on October 3, 1863 he established Thanksgiving as a national holiday for the last Thursday of November. Even in war, Lincoln said, we can count our blessings: “They are gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Tell the LORD how thankful you are,
Because he is kind and always merciful.
Tell the LORD how thankful you are,
Because he is kind and always merciful.
--- Psalm 118:1,29.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 3
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” --- Hebrews 1:14.
Angels are the unseen attendants of the saints of God; they bear us up in their hands, lest we dash our foot against a stone. Loyalty to their Lord leads them to take a deep interest in the children of his love; they rejoice over the return of the prodigal to his father’s house below, and they welcome the advent of the believer to the King’s palace above. In olden times the sons of God were favoured with their visible appearance, and at this day, although unseen by us, heaven is still opened, and the angels of God ascend and descend upon the Son of man, that they may visit the heirs of salvation. Seraphim still fly with live coals from off the altar to touch the lips of men greatly beloved. If our eyes could be opened, we should see horses of fire and chariots of fire about the servants of the Lord; for we have come to an innumerable company of angels, who are all watchers and protectors of the seed-royal. Spenser’s line is no poetic fiction, where he sings ---
“How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!”
To what dignity are the chosen elevated when the brilliant courtiers of heaven become their willing servitors! Into what communion are we raised since we have intercourse with spotless celestials! How well are we defended since all the twenty- thousand chariots of God are armed for our deliverance! To whom do we owe all this? Let the Lord Jesus Christ be for ever endeared to us, for through him we are made to sit in heavenly places far above principalities and powers. He it is whose camp is round about them that fear him; he is the true Michael whose foot is upon the dragon. All hail, Jesus! thou Angel of Jehovah’s presence, to thee this family offers its Morning vows.
Evening - October 3
“He himself hath suffered being tempted.” --- Hebrews 2:18.
It is a common-place thought, and yet it tastes like nectar to the weary heart—Jesus was tempted as I am. You have heard that truth many times: have you grasped it? He was tempted to the very same sins into which we fall. Do not dissociate Jesus from our common manhood. It is a dark room which you are going through, but Jesus went through it before. It is a sharp fight which you are waging, but Jesus has stood foot to foot with the same enemy. Let us be of good cheer, Christ has borne the load before us, and the blood-stained footsteps of the King of glory may be seen along the road which we traverse at this hour. There is something sweeter yet—Jesus was tempted, but Jesus never sinned. Then, my soul, it is not needful for thee to sin, for Jesus was a man, and if one man endured these temptations and sinned not, then in his power his members may also cease from sin. Some beginners in the divine life think that they cannot be tempted without sinning, but they mistake; there is no sin in being tempted, but there is sin in yielding to temptation. Herein is comfort for the sorely tempted ones. There is still more to encourage them if they reflect that the Lord Jesus, though tempted, gloriously triumphed, and as he overcame, so surely shall his followers also, for Jesus is the representative man for his people; the Head has triumphed, and the members share in the victory. Fears are needless, for Christ is with us, armed for our defence. Our place of safety is the bosom of the Saviour. Perhaps we are tempted just now, in order to drive us nearer to him. Blessed be any wind that blows us into the port of our Saviour’s love! Happy wounds, which make us seek the beloved Physician. Ye tempted ones, come to your tempted Saviour, for he can be touched with a feeling of your infirmities, and will succour every tried and tempted one.
YE SERVANTS OF GOD, YOUR MASTER PROCLAIM
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
… salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. (Revelation 7:10)
The proclamation of the Gospel requires a devoted, zealous spirit. The real purpose of this proclamation is to affect a personal conversion in the hearer, and this experience implies a radical change of lifestyle. The Bible speaks of this change as becoming a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It involves the convert in at least three new and conscious relationships: To Christ, to the church, and to the world. Conversion means nothing if it does not result in a change from self-centered living to devotion to God and a life of sacrificial service for Him.
Charles Wesley wrote this text in 1744, a year of unusually severe persecution for the Wesleys and their followers. During this trying year the Wesleys wrote several hymn pamphlets titled Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution. One of these booklets included “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.” The text was based on Psalm 93:1–4 and Revelation 7:9–12. The purpose of this text was to encourage their persecuted followers to concentrate on the One “whose kingdom is glorious—who rules over all.” As is generally true, Christians flourish best for God during times of persecution. This was certainly true of the Wesleys and the early Methodists. “God is on the throne; therefore let us cry aloud, and honor His Son and our Savior” became the battlecry. And the more severe the opposition, the stronger became their proclamation of the Gospel.
May our proclamation, too, always focus on Jesus Christ as the Savior, Lord, and Master of life and eternity. May we not become side-tracked with our own ideas, pet themes, or personal experiences.
Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, and publish abroad His wonderful name; the name all victorious of Jesus extol: His kingdom is glorious; He rules over all.
“Salvation to God who sits on the throne,” let all cry aloud and honor the Son; the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.
Then let us adore and give Him His right—all glory and pow’r, and wisdom and might, all honor and blessing, with angels above, and thanks never ceasing, and infinite love.
For Today: Psalm 93:1–4; 96:1–10; Mark 10:43, 45; Revelation 7:9–12
Ask God to keep your spirit consistently zealous for Him. Carry this musical reminder with you ---
DISCOURSE VII - ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE
IV. Use. First, of information.
1. Christ hath a divine nature. As eternity and immutability, two incommunicable properties of the divine nature, are ascribed to Christ, so also is this of omnipresence or immensity (John 3:13:) “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.” Not which was, but which is. He comes from heaven by incarnation, and remains in heaven by his divinity. He was, while he spake to Nicodemus, locally on earth, in regard of his humanity; but in heaven according to his deity, as well as upon earth in the union of his divine and human nature. He descended upon earth, but he left not heaven; he was in the world before he came in the flesh (John 1:10): “He was in the world, and the world was made by him.” He was in the world, as the “light that enlightens every man that comes into the world.” In the world as God, before he was in the world as man. He was then in the world as man, while he discoursed with Nicodemus; yet so, that he was also in heaven as God. No creature but is bounded in place, either circumscribed as body, or determined as spirit to be in one space, so as not to be in another at the same time; to leave a place where they were, and possess a place where they were not. But Christ is so on earth, that at the same time he is in heaven; he is therefore infinite. To be in heaven and earth at the same moment of time, is a property solely belonging to the Deity, wherein no creature can be a partner with him. He was in the word before he came to the world, and “the world was made by him” (John 1:10). His coming was not as the coming of angels, that leave heaven, and begin to be on earth, where they were not before; but such a presence as can be ascribed only to God, who fills heaven and earth. Again, if all things were made by him, then he was present with all things which were made; for where there is a presence of power, there is also a presence of essence, and therefore he is still present; for the right and power of conservation follows the power of creation. And, according to this divine nature, he promiseth his presence with his church (Matt. 18:20): “There am I in the midst of them:” and (Matt. 28:20), “I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,” i. e. by his divinity: for he had before told them (Matt. 26:11), that they were not to have him alway with them, i. e. according to his humanity; but in his Divine nature he is present with, and walks in the midst of, the golden candlesticks. If we understand it of a presence by his Spirit in the midst of the church, doth it invalidate his essential presence? No; he is no less than the Spirit whom he sends; and therefore as little confined as the Spirit is, who dwells in every believer: and this may also be inferred from John 10:30: “My father and I are one;” not one by consent, though that be included, but one in power: for he speaks not of their consent, but of their joint power in keeping his people. Where there is a unity of essence, there is a unity of presence.
2. here is a confirmation of the spiritual nature of God. If he were an infinite body, he could not fill heaven and earth, but with the exclusion of all creatures. Two bodies cannot be in the same space; they may be near one another, but not in any of the same points together. A body bounded he hath not, for that would destroy his immensity; he could not then fill heaven and earth, because a body cannot be at one and the same time in two different spaces; but God doth not fill heaven at one time, and the earth at another, but both at the same time. Besides a limited body cannot be said to fill the whole earth, but one particular space in the earth at a time. A body may fill the earth with its virtue, as the sun, but not with its substance. Nothing can be everywhere with a corporeal weight and mass; but God being infinite, is not tied to any part of the world, but penetrates all, and equally acts by his infinite power in all.
3. Here is an argument for providence. His presence is mentioned in the text, in order to his government of the affairs of the world. Is he everywhere, to be unconcerned with everything? Before the world had a being, God was present with himself; since the world hath a being, he is present with his creatures, to exercise his wisdom in the ordering, as he did his power in the production of them. As the knowledge of God is not a bare contemplation of a thing, so his presence is not a bare inspection into a thing. Were it an idle careless presence, it were a presence to no purpose, which cannot be imagined of God. Infinite power. goodness, and wisdom, being everywhere present with his essence, are never without their exercise. He never manifests any of his perfections, but the manifestation is full of some indulgence and benefit to his creatures. It cannot be supposed God should neglect those things, wherewith he is constantly present in a way of efficiency and operation. He is not everywhere without acting everywhere. “Wherever his essence is, there is a power and virtue worthy of God everywhere dispensed.” He governs by his presence what he made by his power; and is present as an agent with all his works. His power and essence are together, to preserve them while he pleases, as his power and his essence were together, to create them when he saw good to do it. Every creature hath a stamp of God, and his presence is necessary to keep the impression standing upon the creature. As all things are his works, they are the objects of his cares; and the wisdom he employed in framing them will not suffer him to be careless of them. His presence with them engageth him in honor not to be a negligent Governor. His immensity fits him for government; and where there is a fitness, there is an exercise of government, where there are objects for the exercise of it. He is worthy to have the universal rule of the world; he can be present in all places of his empire; there is nothing can be done by any of his subjects, but in his sight. As his eternity renders him King alway, so his immensity renders him King everywhere. If he were only present in heaven, it might occasion a suspicion that he minded only the things of heaven, and had no concern for things below that vast body; but if he be present here, his presence hath a tendency to the government of those things with which he is present. We are all in him as fish in the sea; and he bears all creatures in the womb of his providence, and the arms of his goodness. It is most certain that his presence with his people is far from being an idle one; for when he promises to be with them, he adds some special cordial, as, “I will be with thee, and bless thee” (Gen. 26:3.) “I am with thee, and I will strengthen thee” (Jer. 15:20.) “I will help thee, I will uphold thee” (Isa. 41:10, 14.) Infinite goodness will never countenance a negligent presence.
4. The omniscience of God is inferred from hence. If God be present everywhere, he must needs know what is done everywhere. It is for this end he proclaims himself a God filling heaven and earth, in the text, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? I have heard what the prophets say, that prophesy lies in my name: if I fill heaven and earth, the most secret thing cannot be hid from my sight.” An intelligent being cannot be everywhere present, and more intimate in everything, than it can be in itself; but he must know what is done without, what is thought within. Nothing can be obscure to Him who is in every part of the world, in every part of his creatures. Not a thought can start up but in his sight, who is present in the souls and minds of everything. How easy is it with him, to whose essence the world is but a point, to know and observe everything done in this world, as any of us can know what is done in one point of place where we are present! If light were an understanding being, it would behold and know everything done where it diffuseth itself. God is light (as light in a crystal glass all within it, all without it), and is not ignorant of what is done within and without; no ignorance can be fastened upon him who hath an universal presence. Hence, by the way, we may take notice of the wonderful patience of God, who bears with so many provocations; not from a principal of ignorance, for he bears with sins that are committed near him in his sight, sins that he sees, and cannot but see.
5. Hence may be inferred the incomprehensibility of God. He that fills heaven and earth cannot be contained in anything; he fills the understandings of men, the understandings of angels, but is comprehended by neither; it is a rashness to think to find out any bounds of God; there is no measuring of an infinite Being; if it were to be measured it were not infinite; but because it is infinite, it is not to be measured. God sits above the cherubims (Ezek. 10:1), above the fulness, above the brightness, not only of a human, but a created understanding. Nothing is more present than God, yet nothing more hid; he is light, and yet obscurity; his perfections are visible, yet unsearchable; we know there is an infinite God, but it surpasseth the compass of our minds; we know there is no number so great, but another may be added to it; but no man can put it in practice, without losing himself in a maze of figures. What is the reason we comprehend not many, nay, most things in the world? partly from the excellency of the object, and partly from the imperfection of our understandings. How can we then comprehend God, who exceeds all, and is exceeded by none; contains all, and is contained by none; is above our understanding, as well as above our sense? as considered in himself infinite; as considered in comparison with our understandings, incomprehensible; who can, with his eye, measure the breadth, length and depth of the sea, and at one cast, view every dimension of the heavens? God is greater, and we cannot know him (Job 3:26); he fills the understanding as he fills heaven and earth; yet is above the understanding as he is above heaven and earth. He is known by faith, enjoyed by love, but comprehended by no mind. God is not contained in that one syllable, God; by it we apprehend an excellent and unlimited nature; himself only understands himself, and can unveil himself.
6. How wonderful is God, and how nothing are creatures! “Ascribe the greatness to our God” (Deut. 33:3); he is admirable in the consideration of his power, in the extent of his understanding, and no less wonderful in the immensity of his essence that, as Austin saith, he is in the world, yet not confined to it; he is out of the world, yet not debarred from it; he is above the world, yet not elevated by it; he is below the world, yet not depressed by it; he is above all, equalled by none; he is in all, not because he needs them, but they stand in need of him; this, as well as eternity, makes a vast disproportion between God and the creature: the creature is bounded by a little space, and no space is so great as to bound the Creator. By this we may take a prospect of our own nothingness: as in the consideration of God’s holiness we are minded of our own impurity; and in the thoughts of his wisdom have a view of our own folly; and in the meditation of his power, have a sense of our weakness; so his immensity should make us, according to our own nature, appear little in our own eyes. What little, little, little things are we to God! less than an atom in the beams of the sun; poor drops to a God that fills heaven and earth, and yet dare we to strut against him, and dash ourselves against a rock? If the consideration of ourselves in comparison with others, be apt to puff us up, the consideration of ourselves in comparison with God, will be sufficient to pull us down. If we consider him in the greatness of his essence, there is but little more proportion between him and us, than between being and not being, than between a drop and the ocean. How should we never think of God without a holy admiration of his greatness, and a deep sense of our own littleness! and as the angels cover their faces before him, with what awe should creeping worms come into his sight! and since God fills heaven and earth with his presence, we should fill heaven and earth with his glory; for this end he created angels to praise him in heaven, and men to worship him on earth, that the places he fills with his presence may be filled with his praise: we should be swallowed up in admiration of the immensity of God, as men are at the first sight of the sea, when they behold a mass of waters, without beholding the bounds and immense depth of it.
7. How much is this attribute of God forgotten or contemned! We pretend to believe him to be present everywhere, and yet many live as if he were present nowhere.
(1.) It is commonly forgotten, or not believed. All the extravagances of men may be traced to the forgetfulness of this attribute as their spring. The first speech Adam spake in paradise after his fall, testified his unbelief of this (Gen. 3:10; “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I hid myself;” his ear understood the voice of God, but his mind did not conclude the presence of God; he thought the trees could shelter him from Him whose eye was present in the minutest parts of the earth; he that thought after his sin, that he could hide himself from the presence of his justice, thought before that he could hide himself from the presence of his knowledge; and being deceived in the one, he would try what would be the fruit of the other. In both he forgets, if not denies, this attribute; either corrupt notions of God, or a slight belief of what in general men assent unto, gives birth to every sin. In all transgressions there is something of atheism; either denying the being of God, or a dash upon some perfection of God;—a not believing his holiness to hate it, his truth that threatens, his justice to punish it, and his presence to observe it. Though God be not afar off in his essence, he is “afar off in the apprehension of the sinner.” There is no wicked man, but if he be an atheist, he is a heretic; and to gratify his lust, will fancy himself to he out of the presence of his Judge. His reason tells him, God is present with him, his lust presseth him to embrace the season of sensual pleasure; he will forsake his reason, and prove a heretic, that he may be an undisturbed sinner; and sins doubly, both in the error of his mind, and the vileness of his practice; he will conceit God with those in Job, “veiled with thick clouds” (Job 22:14), and not able to pierce into the lower world, as if his presence and cares were confined to celestial things, and the earth were too low a sphere for his essence to reach, at least with any credit. It is forgotten by good men, when they fear too much the designs of their enemies; “Fear not, for I am with thee” (Isa. 43:5). If the presence of God be enough to strengthen against fear, then the prevailing of fear issues from our forgetfulness of it.
(2.) This attribute of God’s omnipresence is for the most part contemned. When men will commit that in the presence of God which they would be afraid or ashamed to do before the eye of man, men do not practice that modesty before God as before men. He that would restrain his tongue out of fear of men’s eye, will not restrain either tongue or hands out of fear of God’s. What is the language of this, but that God is not present with us, or his presence ought to be of less regard with us, and influence upon us, than that of a creature? Ask the thief why he dares to steal? will he not answer, “No eye sees him?” Ask the adulterer why he strips himself of his chastity, and invades the rights of another? will he not answer (Job 24:15), “No eye sees me?” He disguiseth himself to be unseen by man, but slights the all-seeing eye of God. If only a man know them, they are in terror of the shadow of death; they are planet-struck, but stand unshaken at the presence of God (Job 24:17). Is not this to account God as limited as man—as ignorant, as absenting, as if God were something less than those things which restrain us? ’Tis a debasing God below a creature. If we can forbear sin from an awe of the presence of man, to whom we are equal in regard of nature, or from the presence of a very mean man, to whom we are superior in regard of condition, and not forbear it because we are within the ken of God, we respect him not only as our inferior, but inferior to the meanest man or child of his creation, in whose sight we would not commit the like action: it is to represent him as a sleepy, negligent, or careless God; as though anything might be concealed from him, before whom the least fibres of the heart are anatomised and open, who sees as plainly midnight as noon-day sins (Heb. 4:13). Now this is a high aggravation of sin to break a king’s laws, in his sight, is more bold than to violate them behind his back; as it was Haman’s offence when he lay upon Esther’s bed, to force the queen before the king’s face. The least iniquity receives a high tincture from this; and no sin can be little that is an affront in the face of God, and casing the filth of the creature before the eyes of his holiness: as if a wife should commit adultery before her husband’s face, or a slave dishonor his master, and disobey his commands in his presence. And hath it not often been thus with us? have we not been disloyal to God in his sight, before his eyes, those pure eyes that cannot behold iniquity without anger and grief? (Isa. 65:12), “Ye did evil before my eyes.” Nathan chargeth this home upon David (2 Sam. 12:9), “Thou hast despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight;” and David, in his repentance, reflects upon himself for it (Psalm 51:4); “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” I observed not thy presence, I neglected thee while thy eye was upon me. And this consideration should sting our hearts in all our confessions of our crimes. Men will be afraid of the presence of others, whatsoever they think in their heart. How unworthily do we deal with God, in not giving him so much as an eye-service, which we do man!
8. How terrible should the thoughts of this attribute be to sinners! How foolish is it, to imagine any hiding-place from the incomprehensible God, who fills and contains all things, and is present in every point of the world! When men have shut the door, and made all darkness within, to meditate or commit a crime, they cannot in the most intricate recesses be sheltered from the presence of God. If they could separate themselves from their own shadows, they could not avoid his company, or be obscured from his sight. Hypocrites cannot disguise their sentiments from him; he is in the most secret nook of their hearts. No thought is hid, no lust is secret, but the eye of God beholds this, and that, and the other. He is present with our heart when we imagine, with our hands when we act. We may exclude the sun from peeping into our solitudes, but not the eyes of God from beholding our actions. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and good” (Prov. 15:3). He lies in the depths of our souls, and sees afar off our designs before we have conceived them. He is in the greatest darkness, as well as the clearest light; in the closest thought of the mind, as well as the openest expressions. Nothing can be hid from him, no, not in the darkest cells or thickest walls. “He compasseth our path wherever we are” (Psalm 139:3), and “is acquainted with all our ways.” He is as much present with wicked men to observe their sins, as he is to detest them. Where he is present in his essence, he is present in his attributes: his holiness to hate, and his justice to punish, if he please to speak the word. It is strange men should not be mindful of this, when their very sins themselves might put them in mind of his presence. Whence hast thou the power to act? who preserves thy being, whereby thou art capable of committing that evil? Is it not his essential presence that sustains us, and his arm that supports us? and where can any man fly from his presence? Not the vast regions of heaven could shelter a sinning angel from his eye: how was Adam ferreted out of his hiding-places in paradise? Nor can we find the depths of the sea a sufficient covering to us. If we were with Jonah, closeted up in the belly of a whale; if we had the “wings of the morning,” as quick a motion as the light at the dawning of the day, that doth in an instant surprise and overpower the regions of darkness, and could pass to the utmost parts of the earth or hell, there we should find him, there his eye would be upon us, there would his hand lay hold of us, and lead us as a conqueror triumphing over a captive (Psalm 139:8–10). Nay, if we could leap out of the compass of heaven and earth, we should find as little reserves from him: he is without the world in those infinite spaces which the mind of man can imagine. In regard of his immensity, nothing in being can be distant from him, wheresoever it is.
Second, Use is for comfort. That God is present everywhere, is as much a comfort to a good man, as it is a terror to a wicked one, He is everywhere for his people, not only by a necessary perfection of his nature, but an immense diffusion of his goodness. He is in all creatures as their preserver: in the damned, as their terror; in his people, as their protector. He fills hell with his severity, heaven with his glory, his people with his grace. He is with his people as light in darkness, a fountain in a garden, as manna in the ark. God is in the world as a spring of preservation; in the church as his cabinet, his spring of grace and consolation. A man is present sometimes in his field, but more delightfully in his garden. A vine yard, as it hath more of cost, so more of care, and a watchful presence of the owner (Isa. 27:3); “I, the Lord, do keep it,” viz. his vineyard; “I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it; I will keep it night and day.” As there is a presence of essence, which is natural, so there is a presence of grace, which is federal: a presence by covenant; “I will not leave thee, I will be with thee.” This latter depends upon the former; for, take away the immensity of God, and you leave no foundation for his universal gracious presence with his people in all their emergencies, in all their hearts. And, therefore, where he is present in his essence, he cannot be absent in his grace, from them that fear him. It is from his filling heaven and earth he proves his knowledge of the designs of the false prophets; and from the same topic may as well be inferred the employment of his power and grace for his people.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | Learn what it means to be the salt of the earth as we continue in our study of Matthew.
S.A.L.T. | Matthew 5:13
s1-385 | 03-09-2008
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Synopsis | Learn about the beatitudes as we continue our through-the-Bible study in Matthew 5.
m1-398 | 03-12-2008
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Synopsis | Brett teaches in Matthew 5 how Christians are supposed to be lights in a dark world.
Light | Matthew 5:14-16
s1-386 | 03-16-2008
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Synopsis | As we study Matthew 5, learn how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law because He was the only one who could.
m1-399 | 03-19-2008
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Synopsis | Tonight we continue our study through Jesus’ sermon on the mount.
m1-400 | 03-26-2008
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Synopsis | As we study Matthew 6, we learn how the Bible teaches us to pray.
Playin’ at Prayin’
s1-387 | 03-30-2008
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Synopsis | Study in Matthew 6 what the Bible teaches about giving, prayer and fasting.
m1-401 | 04-02-2008
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Synopsis | Join us as we continue our through-the-Bible study. Matthew 6 speaks of treasures, worries and seeking the Lord.
s1-388 | 04-06-2008
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Matthew 5 - 6
Lecture 14 Ezk 29:1-32:32
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L15 Pt 5 Ezk 33:1-33
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L16 Ezk 34:1-31
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L17 Ezk 35:1-36:15
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L18 Ezk 36:16-38
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L19 Ezk 37:1-28
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L20 Pt 6 Ezk 38:1-39:29
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L21 Pt 7 Ezk 40:1-42:20
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The Nature of the Holy Spirit
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Unceasing Prayer in the Workplace
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Waiting on the Lord - Part 1
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Waiting on the Lord - Part 2
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6 Sermon On The Mount
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