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9/11/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Ezekiel  37 - 39

Ezekiel 37

The Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1     The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

I Will Be Their God; They Shall Be My People

15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Ezekiel 38

Prophecy Against Gog

Ezekiel 38:1     The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. 5 Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.

7 “Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. 8 After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. 9 You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.

10 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme 11 and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ 12 to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?’

14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? 15 You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. 16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

17 “Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, my wrath will be roused in my anger. 19 For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord GOD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. 23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 39

Ezekiel 39:1     “And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 2 And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. 4 You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord GOD. That is the day of which I have spoken.

9 “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, 10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord GOD.

11 “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. 12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord GOD. 14 They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make their search. 15 And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. 16 (Hamonah is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land.

17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD.

21 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

The LORD Will Restore Israel

25 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. 29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

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A Hopeful Offense

By John Starke 10/01/2012

     In my neighborhood, there are almost thirty Jewish synagogues. These congregations include Reformed, Orthodox, and Hasidic Judaism. And, of course, our city is full of secular Jews who have long left any traditional form of their faith. So, on any given Sunday, there is a possibility of having a small handful of folks who identify themselves with any of the above Jewish traditions present in our church service.

     Just as having divorced individuals present will affect the way you preach a sermon on marriage, having Jews in your service will affect the way you preach the gospel. In fact, it’s likely to make it more biblical.

     First of all, like those offended by Paul or Peter’s preaching, you will likely see people offended when you use their Scriptures to show that Jesus is the Messiah and true King of Israel.

     I don’t know how you get around that, but the Apostles seemed to expect it, so we should probably expect it as well. After all, the gospel is offensive. However, the Apostles give us examples that keep us from being more offensive than the gospel and help us make explicit what is the offense of the gospel.

     So, here are several points to help us in preaching to Jews the gospel from the Old Testament:

     Know the Old Testament Well

     There is no substitute for knowing the Old Testament. There are no shortcuts here either. In order to understand how the Apostles in the New Testament preached and how we should preach today, we must know the Old Testament. We need to know not only the stories but also how they organically relate to each other. What is the storyline of the Old Testament? What are the themes that run throughout the storyline (for example, Son of God, covenant, God’s presence, land, and so on)? Once you begin to see these things more clearly, you’ll also see the many unresolved tensions in the Old Testament that are just begging to be resolved in Jesus Christ.

     Follow Closely and Learn from the Apostles’ Examples in Acts

     Luke’s account of the early Apostolic ministry is hugely important. It’s the only substantial account of Apostolic sermons in which Christ is explicitly preached from the Old Testament. Here are three examples:

     Peter, after Pentecost, argued that David must have been talking about someone greater than himself when he said in Psalm 16:10, “You will not … let your holy one see corruption” (see Acts 2:25–40).

     Stephen, in front of the Sanhedrin, argued that throughout the history of Israel, the people had followed the pattern of rejecting God when He condescended toward, spoke to, and even dwelt with them. Their rejection of His Son was no different (Acts 7:1–53).

     Paul, in Antioch, showed that not only was Jesus an offspring of David, but His resurrection fulfilled all the hopes of David’s kingly line promised by God (Acts 13:16–41).

     These men weren’t using fanciful hermeneutical magic tricks to make Jesus appear wherever they wanted, but they showed that Jesus fulfilled the hopes and relieved the tensions of the Old Testament, which is the next point.

     Show How Jesus Fulfills the Hopes and Relieves the Tensions of the Old Testament

     The gospel of Jesus Christ fulfills every hope and relieves every tension in the Old Testament: the hope of the forgiveness of sins and the tensions of an inadequate priesthood; the hope of rest and the tensions of a people never at peace with their enemies; the promise of God dwelling with His people and the tension of a temple-less people.

     For example, remember God’s promise to David that he would always have a son on the throne. God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:14: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be to me a son.”

     As D. A. Carson has put it, either David would have one son on the throne, who would have another son on the throne, and on and on and on, forever and ever, amen; or, he would have one special Son, who would remain on the throne forever.

     If we look at this line of David, we sadly see that his descendants rebelled against God, following other nations and trusting in their false idols. (This was even true of Solomon, the son to whom David first passed on the kingship.) Soon after, the nations collapsed in on Israel, taking them off into slavery and exile, and no king sat on the throne. The promises of God looked to be all but broken. If you read the end of the Old Testament, you can almost hear the laboring cry: “We need a son.”

     Of course, the good news is that in Luke 3:22, we find one of whom God says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Actually, God says the same thing about anyone who submits to His reign and enters into His kingdom.

     Though offensive, for Jews—and for all of us — that’s the best news in the world.

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     John Starke is lead pastor of All Souls Church in New York City and an editor for The Gospel Coalition. Per Amazon | John Starke is the pastor of preaching at Apostles Church in New York City, New York. He is the coeditor (with Bruce Ware) of One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life. He is married to Jena and has three children.

How to Stay Christian in Seminary

By David Mathis 10/01/2012

     “The point is this.” I love it when Paul says that in 2 Corinthians 9:6. He makes sure he has our attention and tells it straight. Behind the reasoned prose and the rhetorical flourishes, here’s what he’s getting at—plain, simple, straightforward. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Beautifully direct.

     The same humble approach helps when we take up the topic of “staying Christian” in seminary. There is so much (good) advice to be given. There are many experiences to be relayed, warnings to be sounded, commendations to be issued, and commitments to highlight. There are particular truths to emphasize, and practicals to give it flesh.

     But when you boil it all down, what’s the point? Is there something that holds all the advice and recommendations together? When you tell it straight and cut through all the fluff, what’s at the heart of staying Christian in seminary?

     The point is this: Be a Christian in seminary. The key to staying Christian in seminary, and in every season and avenue of life, is being one.

     Perhaps the greatest danger the seminarian faces in each generation is the temptation to put some aspects of his Christianity “on hold” while he goes through this “season of preparation for ministry.” We are enticed to give ourselves a pass from everyday Christianity while we prepare to be an instrument (ironically) of everyday grace to others.

     Whether it’s the Tempter himself, sin in us, or just naiveté, the seminarian can begin to reason along these lines:

     I don’t need regular personal prayer and devotional Bible intake; I’m steeped in this stuff all the time.

     I don’t really need to get deeply connected with a local church, where I can be ministered to and minister to others; my seminary community will do just fine. Besides, this is a temporary season—no reason to put any roots down here.

     I don’t need to play the man at home while I’m in school; my wife can hold things together temporarily and be the buckstopper while I study.

     And so, the seminarian starts down the slope. He thinks that somehow his real-life Christianity can kick into gear once his real life starts on the other side of graduation. He subtly puts “on hold” his own daily pursuit of God’s ongoing grace and walking by faith in Jesus and His gospel so he can better ready himself to introduce others to the same normal Christian life he has so strategically neglected.

     Maybe it would help to hear that seminary is real life. All of life, cradle to grave, is real life in God’s economy. For the Christian, there are no interludes, no pauses, no “seasons” when the main things go on hold as we prepare for the next. There is no Christian summons to neglect securing your own oxygen mask so that you can get trained to help others with theirs. You will only suffocate in the process.

     How tragic it is when the zealous seminarian, inundated with assignments and captured by the drive to succeed academically, begins to disregard the very means of grace God used to cultivate his initial zeal for gospel ministry. The result is heartbreaking: seminary wrongly pursued begins to squelch the very zeal that led him there in the first place.

     How tragic it is when the zealous seminarian is inattentive in ministering first to his wife and kids because he’s in a season of “preparing for ministry.” The Apostle Paul wouldn’t be impressed.

     How tragic it is when we begin to be impressed with how much we’re learning, how much we know, and what a great gift we’ll be to the church after graduation. The Apostle would remind us: “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1–2).

     Chase the trail of “staying Christian” in seminary long enough, and you’ll realize it’s less about what a special season seminary is and more about what Christianity is in every season of life, in every age of church history, in every place on the planet. Staying Christian in seminary is about staying Christian in general.

      The way to stay Christian in the long run is to be a Christian every day.  It’s walking daily in light of God’s fascinating and extraordinary grace to us in the gospel. It’s being fully reliant on God’s Spirit, going deep in God’s Word, among God’s people. It’s keeping both eyes peeled for Jesus — not only in the Scriptures, but in every avenue of our existence. Fight pride. Serve your wife. Be eager to meet the needs of others, minister and be ministered to by fellow believers, and share the gospel and yourself with those who don’t know Him.

     There is no holding pattern for the Christian. God’s calling to seminary doesn’t trump — it complements — His calling for us, by His grace, to be the kind of husband, father, friend, and follower of Jesus daily that we hope our post-seminary formal ministry will one day produce.

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     David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is the husband of Megan, father of four, and his regular articles are available online at desiringGod.org/mathis.

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To be like Christ (Prayer)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     BLESSED art Thou, O God ; teach us Thy statutes! Because Thou art the infinitely blessed One, Thou canst impart blessing, and Thou art infinitely willing to do so, and therefore do we approach Thee with great confidence, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, whom Thou hast made blessed for evermore.

     Oh! hear Thou the voice of Thy servants this day, and according to Thine infinite love and wisdom answer Thou us ; according to Thy riches in glory, by Christ Jesus. First we would confess before Thee, O God, the sin we have committed, mourning over it. Touch each one's heart now with tenderness that everyone of us may lament that Thou shouldst even have a few things against us, if they be but few, for in the great love of our blessed Master He said to His churches, "Nevertheless, I have a few things against Thee." O Lord, if Thou hast so kept us by Thy grace that there have been but a few things against us, yet help us to bewail them much. O, Infinite Love, can we sin against Thee at all? How debased is our nature then! Forgive, sweet Saviour, forgive sins against Thy love and blood, against Thy wounds and death, and give us Thy Spirit, O Saviour, more fully, that we may live Thy life while we are here among the sons of men, for as Thou art, even so also are we in this world, and we wish the parallel to become more close and perfect every day!

     Forgive those who have never felt the guilt of sin, who are living in it, who are carnally minded, who are therefore dead. O, quicken by Thy divine Spirit ; take away the pleasure which they feel in sin ; deliver them from being the bond slaves of it. Alas ! we know the sorrow of sometimes being captured by it, but still we are not yet slaves. The Spirit, the life of God, in Jesus Christ, hath made us free from the law of sin and death. O, deliver others ; bring them up out of the horrible pit of sin. Deliver them from the death of their natures and save them by the Spirit of the living God, and apply the precious blood of Jesus to their hearts and consciences.

     And, Lord, hear us who are Thy children, in whom the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Hear us while we bring before Thee our daily struggles. Blessed be Thy name ; there are some sins which Thou hast helped us to overcome, and now they are trodden beneath our feet with many a tear that we ever should have been in bondage to them. And O ! there are rebellions within our nature still. We think that we are getting holy, and behold we discover that we are under the power of pride, that we are self-conceited about ourselves. Lord help us to master pride.

     And then when we try to be humble before Thee we find ourselves falling into inaction and supineness. Lord, slay sloth within us, and never let us find a pillow in the doctrines of grace for ease while yet a single sin remains. Besides, great God, the raging lusts of the flesh will sometimes pounce upon us like wild beasts. Help us to be very watchful lest by any means we be torn and rent by them. O keep us, we beseech Thee, Lord, for without Thy keeping we cannot keep ourselves.

     Alas! we are even sometimes subject to unbelief. If trials come which we expected not, or if the body grows faint, how liable we are to begin to doubt the faithful promise, and so to grieve the Holy Spirit. Lord, we cannot bear this ; we cannot bear this ; it is not enough for us that our garments are clean, and that we walk uprightly before men ; we long to walk before Thee in such a way that there will be nothing to grieve Thy Spirit, nothing to vex the tender love of our Beloved. O, come, Divine Spirit, and exercise Thy cleansing power upon it according to Thy promise, "I will cleanse Thy blood which I have not cleansed, saith the Lord, that dwelleth in Zion."

     O that everything might help us towards purity, for we crave after it ; we mind the things of the Spirit, and there is groaning within us to be utterly delivered from the things of the flesh, that we may in spirit, soul, and body, be a cleansed temple fit for the indwelling of the Holy One of Israel. Lord help us, we pray Thee, in our daily life, to be as Christ was. If we are men of sorrows, may there be that lustre about our sorrow which there was about His in patience and holy submission to the Divine law. If we are men of activity may our activity be like His, for he "went about doing good." May we seek in all ways the good of our fellow-men and the glory of our God.

     We wish that the zeal of Thine house would eat us up ; that we should be full of sacred warmth that our lips were touched with the live coal so that there be fire in us perpetually flaming and burning, and ourselves a living sacrifice unto God. Bless us, we pray Thee, as to our example and influence. May it always be of a salutary kind ; may there be sweetness and light about us which all must be obliged to perceive. Not for our honour would we crave this, but that our light may so shine before men that they may "see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven." The Lord grant us this !

     We beseech Thee, bless the unconverted among us ; bring them in, dear Saviour, bring them in. Help the living among us to compel them to come in that Thy house may be filled ; may something of a sacred compulsion be used that they may not be left outside to starve in the highways and hedges, but be brought in to the Gospel feast.

     The Lord bless our country at this time. Wilt Thou be gracious unto those who have the helm of affairs that in the midst of great difficulty they may be wisely and graciously directed. God bless the Sovereign with every mercy, and let all that are in authority share the Divine favour. Bless other countries, too, for whom we do most earnestly pray, especially for our brethren in Christ across the Atlantic, blessing and praising Thee that we have so many there that are not only of our own kin by nationality, but also kin in Christ. God bless them and those in the Southern seas. The Lord bless the Church of Christ there, nor do Thou fail to remember the struggling ones on the Continent of Europe, and all the missionaries that are labouring in the foreign field.

     O, Saviour, let Thy kingdom come. When will this earth be delivered from the incubus of superstition and of infidelity? O that Thou wouldst hear creation's groans and come quickly. O Thou great Deliverer, joy of the earth art Thou, the expected of the tribes of Israel still ; come, we beseech Thee, Thou absent love, Thou dear unknown. Thou fairest of ten thousand fair ; come a second time to earth and to the sons of men, and specially to Thy Bride, the Church. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

By John Walvoord (1990)

Jesus’ Claim of Equality with the Father, the Right to Judge, and the Ability to Give Eternal Life

     John 5:16–29. Because Jesus had healed the invalid at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him (vv.  2–16 ). Because Jesus claimed God as His Father, the Jews persecuted Him all the more because they regarded this as a statement that He was equal to the Father (vv.  17–18).

     In His exposition on His union with the Father, He declared that the Father loves Him (v.  20 ), that He has the power to raise the dead even as the Father does (v.  21 ), and that the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son (vv.  22–23 ). Accordingly, he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father (v.  23 ).

     This led Jesus to declare, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (v.  24 ).

     Expanding further on His ability to save, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (vv.  25–29 ).

     The broad prophecies revealed by the Savior here predict, first of all, the salvation of individuals who hear the facts about Christ and as a result of believing will live eternally. Just as Jesus has life in Himself from the Father, so He has authority to judge as the Son of man (v.  26 ). For further confirmation of Christ’s ability, Jesus called attention to the fact that those in the grave, referring to those who have died physically, will someday hear His voice and come out of the grave with the result that they will be judged concerning their life on earth, whether good or bad (vv.  28–29 ). In asserting this fact of judgment, Christ Jesus was not teaching that all the resurrections will occur at the same time, as other Scriptures make clear that there will be a series of resurrections, and the wicked will not be judged until all the righteous are raised.

     In these predictions and assertions, the apostle John recorded one fact after another supporting his belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the only Savior who can give eternal life.

The Coming of a False Christ

     John 5:41–44. John amassed additional proofs that Jesus is all that He claimed to be by summarizing the testimony of John the Baptist (vv.  33–35 ), the evidence from the miraculous works which Jesus had performed (v.  36 ), the testimony of God the Father who had spoken from heaven concerning Jesus (vv.  37–38 ), and the Scriptures (vv.  39–40 ).

     In the light of these many evidences, unbelief in Jesus is unreasonable and is caused by a lack of love for God (vv.  41–42 ). Jesus then predicted that while He had come in His Father’s name they had rejected Him, and later they will accept a false christ (v.  43 ). He summarized it by saying that their unbelief will lead them to accept the praise of men but not to make an effort to gain the praise of God (v.  44 ).

Jesus as the Bread of Life

     John 6:30–59. The crowds followed Jesus after He had fed the five thousand (vv.  5–11 ). Jesus accused them, however, of following Him because He furnished them bread, not because they wanted eternal life (vv.  26–27 ). In contemplating the miracle of Christ, Jews had also recalled that their forefathers had manna from heaven, which was more miraculous than the one instance of Christ’s feeding them (vv.  30–31 ). Jesus did not deny that Moses gave them bread from heaven but stated, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vv.  32–33 ).

     When they declared that they wanted this bread, Jesus expanded on the fact of being the Bread of Life: “I am the bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v.  35 ).

     The Jews, however, found fault because Jesus said He was the Bread from heaven (v.  41 ). They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” (v.  42 ). Jesus went on to explain to them that He was not talking about physical manna or physical bread; He was talking about Himself. Their forefathers had eaten the manna and died. The one who eats of the Bread from heaven will live forever (vv.  50–51 ). The Jews did not understand, however, that when Christ spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (v.  53 ), He was not talking about literally eating His flesh and blood but rather partaking of Christ by faith (vv.  53–57 ). Jesus asserted, “Our forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever” (v.  58 ). The Jews had difficulty understanding Jesus because they lacked faith in Him to begin with and were not ready for the assertions that exalted Jesus Christ as Savior and God.

The Necessity of the Father Enabling Men to Believe

     John 6:60–65. The Jews were not able to accept Christ’s teaching and were offended by it, so Jesus asked, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” (vv.  61–62 ). He closed His discussion by reminding them once again, as He had earlier, that apart from enablement of the Father, no one would believe in the Son (v.  65 ).

Jesus’ Prediction that He Will Leave Them but Will Send the Spirit

     John 7:33–39. As the people were puzzled that Jesus had not been arrested, guards were sent from the temple to take Him into custody (vv.  26, 30–32 ). Jesus told the guards sent to arrest Him, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come” (vv.  33–34 ).

     John recorded Jesus’ prediction of the coming of the Holy Spirit: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (vv.  37–39 ). In His prediction Jesus anticipated the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit filling the disciples.

Jesus as the Light of the World

     John 8:12–20. Jesus announced, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (v.  12 ). When challenged by the Pharisees concerning this witness, Jesus pointed out that a matter was verified by two witnesses (v.  17 ). As Jesus testifies, so the Father also testifies, fulfilling the requirement of the two witnesses. Though Jesus is the Light of the world, the Pharisees did not receive the Light, and Jesus told them, “You do not know me or my Father.... If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (v.  19 ).

John 7:53–8:1–11 is not found in some of the most ancient manuscripts. Augustine declares that it was stricken from many copies of the sacred story because of a prudish fear that it might teach immorality! But the immediate context (vs.  12–46 ), beginning with Christ’s declaration, “I am the light of the world,” seems clearly to have its occasion in the conviction wrought in the hearts of the Pharisees as recorded in verse  9; as, also, it explains the peculiar virulence of the Pharisees’ words (v.  41 ).     C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1125.
Jesus’ Prediction that the Pharisees Will Die in Their Sins and Where Jesus Was Going They Could Not Come

      John 8:21–30. Jesus again announced that He would leave them but that the Pharisees would not come to Him because they will die in their sins (vv.  21–24 ). Jesus also declared that when He was lifted up — that is, crucified — His claim to be able to forgive sins would be supported (v.  28; cf.  Num. 21:6–9; John 3:14).

Numbers 21:6–9 (ESV) 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Jesus Greater than Abraham

     John 8:48–50. In debating with the Jews whether they were legitimate sons of Abraham, Jesus called attention to their unbelief, which indicated that they were not true children of Abraham, though related to him physically. In the course of the argument, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (v.  51 ). This caused the Jews to challenge Him whether He was greater than Abraham (v.  53 ). In reply, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (v.  56 ).

     When the Jews asked Him how this could be because he was not that old, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth ... before Abraham was born, I am!” (v.  58 ). The Jews rightly viewed this as claiming to be God, and though they picked up stones to stone Him, Jesus was protected from them (v.  59 ). Throughout the passage what Jesus was asserting was that those who were true spiritual descendants of Abraham would recognize Jesus also for what He is.

The Contrast between Natural Sight and Spiritual Sight

     John 9:39–41. In the aftermath of Jesus’ healing the one who was born blind (vv.  1–38 ), Jesus made the pronouncement, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (v.  39 ). When the Pharisees asked whether they also were blind, Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (v.  41 ). Though the healing of the man who was naturally blind was a great miracle, it was also an evidence of the power of God that those who were once blind spiritually can see and that those who claim they can see spiritually often are blind.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd

     John 10:5–18. In expanding the fact that Jesus was the Good Shepherd and that His sheep would follow Him, Jesus stated, “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (v.  5 ). When the disciples did not understand this, Jesus enlarged the explanation by declaring, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (vv.  7–10 ). Jesus was declaring that He is the only Savior and that those who are saved through Him will not only have life but will have pasture and God’s care. They will have life and have life to the full (v.  10 ).

     In expanding the declaration that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v.  11 ). In contrast to false shepherds who flee when the wolf comes and abandons the sheep (vv.  12–13 ), Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep” (vv.  14–15 ). As a Good Shepherd in dying on the cross, Jesus died for His sheep.

     In proclaiming that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus added, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (v.  16 ). In this prophecy Jesus was anticipating the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, where the wall of partition between would be broken down and they would be one in Christ and be one flock and have one Shepherd.

     Jesus then enlarged on His sacrifice of His life, declaring, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (vv.  17–18 ). In making this assertion, Jesus was anticipating His death on the cross when He would lay down His life for the sheep. In the case of Jesus, however, He not only had the power to lay down His life, but He had the power to take it up again — something that had never been true of any previous person raised from the dead. This was to be the supreme proof of His deity, which His disciples recognized. As a study of Christ’s resurrection demonstrates, Jesus was not simply restored to the life He had before His death but was given a new body, the pattern of the resurrection body of the saints that they will receive at the time of the resurrection or rapture.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

Worship as a Body

By Bob Kauflin 11/01/2012

     The psalmist declares, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122:1;). Worldly distractions, bad theology, or indwelling sin can cause us to lose sight of why we should be glad about meeting together on the Lord’s Day. We might even start to think private devotions are an adequate substitute for, if not superior to, gathering with the church.

     Of course, both private and corporate worship are vital to our relationship with God. But there are reasons the writer of Hebrews admonishes us not to follow “the habit of some” by neglecting to meet together (Heb. 10:25). Here are eight of them:

     Obedience to God’s Word

     While Hebrews 10:25 directly states that we must not neglect meeting together, Paul’s repeated use of the phrase “when you come together” in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 indicates that the Corinthians were assembling regularly. He often refers to the church in so-and-so’s house, and we can assume he did not mean the “church” as a physical structure but rather the people who regularly met in that house.

     The Spirit Working Through Others

     We should be able to encourage ourselves in the Lord through Bible study, prayer, and worship in song. But God ordains strengthening to come through others as well. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). No one has every gift. God cannot build me up through gifts like preaching, encouragement, compassion, leadership, and faith unless I’m actually there to experience those gifts.

     Serving in Action and Attitude

     When I sing to God, pray, or read Scripture alone, I bless myself. When I do those things with others, I can be a means of God’s varied grace to them (1 Peter 4:10). My countenance and enthusiastic engagement, as well as the deployment of my spiritual gifts, are all ways I can point people to the worthiness of the God we worship. Colossians 3:16 tells us that singing is one of the ways we teach and admonish each other. That requires doing more than singing along to my iPod.

     Manifestations of God’s Presence

     In the middle of adjusting the Corinthians’ love affair with certain spiritual gifts, Paul notes how these gifts can alert an unbeliever to God’s presence. David Peterson writes, “1 Cor. 14:24–25 suggests that God is present in a distinctive way in the Christian meeting through his word and the operation of his Spirit” (Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship, 196). Without making experiential encounters with God our primary goal, we should expect God to make us more aware of His presence with us when we meet together.

     God’s Voice Through Preaching

     Technology now enables us to hear sermons we missed or messages from churches we don’t even attend. But when the church gathers expectantly in one place at one time to hear God’s Word proclaimed, it is a unique event. God Himself addresses us as His people. The Spirit works in our hearts to convict, comfort, illumine, and exhort. We hear God’s voice through a human mouthpiece and are changed.

     Demonstrating Unity in the Gospel

     Being one in Christ is more than meeting regularly in the same room, but it is not less. Singing songs, reciting creeds, and reading Scripture together are ways of declaring to myself and others that I am part of a holy temple, not just a random brick or a loose stone (Eph. 2:19–22). “Christian proclamation might make the gospel audible, but Christians living together in local congregations make the gospel visible (see John 13:34–35)” (The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (9Marks), p. xi).

     Dying to Self

     Let’s face it—it’s easier to worship God alone than with others. Church meetings introduce many aggravations, such as insufficient parking, people taking my seat, obnoxious voices, songs I don’t prefer, and people with problems. But this makes such meetings ideal opportunities for cultivating the humble attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:1–5) and dying to ourselves.

     Foretastes of Heaven

     Want to know what heaven is going to be like? Go to church. The singing may not be as stellar, the numbers might be drastically reduced, and the people might all come from the same ethnicity. But Hebrews 12 says we have already come to “the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22–24). Jesus has brought us near to the Father through His finished atoning work on Calvary. We can draw near with boldness to the throne of grace with His people (Heb. 10:19–22). That’s heaven.

     So, the next time you’re tempted to think cutting out on a Sunday meeting will not hurt, remember what you will be missing. And thank God you have both the privilege and freedom to enjoy corporate worship with the body of Christ each week.

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     Per Amazon | After receiving a piano performance degree from Temple University in 1976, Bob traveled for eight years with the contemporary Christian group GLAD as a songwriter, speaker, and arranger. He continued to write and arrange for the group until 2010, and was a major contributor to The A Capella Project (1988). In 1984, he left GLAD to pursue active involvement in a local church associated with Sovereign Grace Ministries. In the early 90s, he helped to plant what is now CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was featured on the Integrity's Hosanna! CD, Chosen Treasure. In 1997, after 12 years of pastoring, Bob moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he led corporate worship at Covenant Life Church and became the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. Through conferences, seminars, and his blog, Worship Matters (www.worshipmatters.com), he seeks to equip pastors, musicians, and songwriters in the theology and practice of congregational worship. He also oversees the production of Sovereign Grace albums. He currently is involved in another church plant in Louisville, KY, led by CJ Mahaney. Bob and his wife, Julie, were married in 1976. They are blessed with six children and an ever growing number of grandchildren.

Bob Kauflin Books:

God’s Provision for the Weary Pilgrim

By Chris Larson 11/01/2012

     The distractions of the world and the temptations of the Devil would be enough to derail almost any pilgrim on their journey to heaven. But add to these the manifold frailties of our sinful flesh, and this triumvirate of Christian foes would seem to rule out any hope of reaching the Celestial City. Devotion and zeal can fade with every bend in the road until we are lost and alone. Despair and anxiety set in.

     Such have been the struggles of all pilgrims. Because of the One who sets us on our pilgrimage, we leave the delusional comforts of our sin-loving-selves. It was by faith that we obeyed when we were called to go out to a new home, desiring a better country, willing to be strangers and exiles (Heb. 11:8, 13–16). We are sidetracked saints though. Our path to heaven is not straight, as we still cling too tightly to the things that are passing away. Unholy passions tear us in ways that wound us and others. Yet God, in His sustaining grace, provides for the weary pilgrim.

     The journey up the difficult hills in our life is made bearable by the respite provided in that beautiful house, the church. This is no ordinary building built with brick and mortar. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), a stable and safe shelter for the burdened and broken sinner. It is a building made of living stones on top of the foundation laid by the prophets and apostles, with Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:9–11; 1 Pet. 2:5; Eph. 2:20). And unlike the earthly temple, which was destroyed, the church is being built into an everlasting holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21).

     But it is a tired attack by the enemies of our Lord to point out the failures of the church and her leaders. Of course the church falls short, composed as it is of sinners like you and me. Herein the wonders of our sovereign Father are displayed.   Today, 9/4/2018, things look pretty bleak for Christians as we move closer and closer to being a stench to the world as we try to live in the world. So I love this next comment. Our God is the God of great reversals. Amen.  He is the God of great reversals, and He uses sinful people like us to accomplish His saving purposes. The church proclaims and makes manifest the reign of her Lord; the church prays for His kingdom to come and creation quivers in anticipation.

     To the church are given the very words of life proclaimed by faithful shepherds (1 Pet. 4:11; Rom. 10:14). Beauty from this new life blossoms in a diversity of gifts in the church (1 Cor. 12:4–7; Rom. 12:4–8), all with the aim of causing us to grow in Christlikeness (Eph. 1:23; Phil. 2:5).

     The diversity of gifts within the church are on display in organizations like Ligonier Ministries. Christian education-oriented schools, publishers, and broadcasters can all be effective outreach efforts that naturally flow from the teaching of the Word of God by approved ministers and teachers within the church. The message of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and the provision of a Savior is never dated.

     Our voice joins with the historical band of brothers who have been called out of darkness into light. It is the light of God’s Word that we shine on unbelief wherever it is found, be it in the culture or in the church itself. We want to see hearts and wills conquered so that Christians are equipped to effect change in every sphere because God puts the Christian pilgrim into a unique family, vocation, and nation, and He expects him to grow in holiness, even as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:13–16).

     When they work rightly, ministries such as ours propagate biblical Christianity to the church throughout the world. When they miss their mark, they distract God’s people into unfruitful endeavors. And when they utterly fail, they show themselves never to have been a true part of the church. Like the false teachers, they were not of us in the first place (1 John 2:19).

     In Bunyan’s allegory, the Christian pilgrim meets with many who spur him toward righteousness in his journey. Each one has a variety of gifts that encourage and equip the pilgrim to progress, and each one is named for his characteristic virtue: Good-Will, Help, Charity, Discretion, Piety, Prudence, Faithful, Hopeful.

     This is exactly what we’ve seen in church history, isn’t it? The Lord has raised up many within his church throughout the millennia to encourage the body of saints to become more like their head, Jesus Christ, “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15–16). They go by different names: Stephen, Paul, Peter, Polycarp, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Hus, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, Hodge, Spurgeon, Machen, your pastor and mine. In each generation, leaders in the church brought the Bible to God’s people.

     Pray for your pastor and pray for organizations such as Ligonier that we would be found faithful in our generation to serve the weary pilgrim on his journey home.

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     Chris Larson is president and CEO of Ligonier Ministries. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisLarson.

The Coming of the Kingdom part 21

By Dr. Andrew Woods 11/27/2013

Evangelical Confusion

Because today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the Messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. In this series, the biblical teaching on the kingdom has been surveyed from  Genesis to  Revelation. We have noted thus far that what the Old Testament predicts concerning an earthly kingdom was offered to Israel during Christ's First Advent. Yet, the nation rejected this kingdom offer leading to the kingdom's postponement. Therefore, what the Scripture predicts concerning the kingdom will not be fulfilled until the kingdom offer is one day re-extended to and accepted by Israel during the Tribulation. In the interim, the kingdom is future as God now pursues an interim program that includes the church.

     In addition, we began scrutinizing a series of texts that "kingdom now" theologians routinely employ in order to argue that the kingdom is a present, spiritual reality. The goal in doing so is to show that none of these passages, when rightly understood, teach a present, spiritual form of the kingdom. We began with the use of such alleged "kingdom now" texts in the life of Christ. Such texts include "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:5-7 ), "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness"Matt. 6:33 ), "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence"Matt. 11:12 ), and "the kingdom of God has come upon you"Matt. 12:28 ). We now begin an extended analysis of  Luke 17:20-21, which represents a key proof text utilized by "kingdom now" theologians seeking to scripturally prove a spiritually present manifestation of the kingdom.

 Luke 17:21 Gr. entos = “in the midst.” It could not be said of a self-righteous, Christ-rejecting Pharisee, that the kingdom of God, as to its spiritual content, was within him. Our Lord’s whole answer, designedly enigmatic to the Pharisees (cf.  Mt. 13:10–13 ), has a dispensational meaning. The kingdom in its outward form, as covenanted to David ( 2 Sam. 7:8–17 ) and described by the prophets ( Zech. 12:8, note), had been rejected by the Jews; so that, during this present age, it would not “come with observation” (lit. “outward show”) but in the hearts of men (cf.  Lk. 19:11, 12; Acts 1:6–8, note;  Rom. 14:17 ). Meantime, the kingdom was actually “in the midst” of the Pharisees in the persons of the King and His disciples. Ultimately the kingdom of heaven will come, with outward show.     C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1100.
The Kingdom Is In Your Midst

Another statement made by Christ conceivably arguing that the kingdom has already come in spiritual form is found in  Luke 17:20-21. These verses say,

 "Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.'"

Like  Matt 12:28, this statement is also interpreted by "kingdom now" theologians to indicate that Christ began a spiritual form of the Messianic kingdom at His First Advent. In fact, passages such as  Matthew 12:28 and  Luke 17:20-21 are critical to the "kingdom now" theology of the emergent church. Gibbs and Bolger explain:

"How did Emerging churches come to emphasize the Gospel of the Kingdom? It began with a shift from the Epistles to the Gospels as a way to understand Jesus more profoundly." [1]

Of  Luke 17:20-21, E.R. Craven similarly notes,

"This passage, probably, by the advocates of the prevalent theory of the Basileia, is regarded as their most important proof-text, both as to its nature and present establishment." [2]

However, to the "kingdom now" use of these verses, several responses can be given.

First, it is appropriate to dispute the all too common rendering that says, "the kingdom of God is within you." This rendering could not be correct since in context Christ was addressing the Pharisees. How could the kingdom be within the satanically empowered Pharisees ( John 8:44 )? These were the very individuals plotting to murder Christ at the very time that these words were uttered. Furthermore, the Scripture always portrays people entering the kingdom ( Matt. 5:20; 23:13; John 3:5 ) rather than the kingdom entering them. Besides, does Christ perfectly reign in the hearts of the believer today? If so, why are there consistent commands given in the New Testament epistles against grieving ( Eph. 4:30 ) and quenching the Holy Spirit ( 1 Thess. 5:19 )? The mere existence of these prohibitions implies that believers today have the capacity to commit these sins and consequently inhibit the reigning influence of Christ in their hearts. In addition, this frequent rendering converts the kingdom into a spiritual reality only. However, as has been developed throughout this series, a terrestrial, geo-political element is always included in the Old Testament's presentation of the kingdom. Such an abrupt change from understanding the kingdom as encompassing this physical reality to solely a spiritual reality is tantamount to hermeneutically changing horses in midstream. Why would Christ, or any of the New Testament writers for that matter, introduce such a radical transition without any in-depth commentary explaining that such a transition was underway.

Also, if  Luke 17:20-21 evidences the fact that Jesus set up a present, spiritual form of the kingdom during His First Advent, then why is His earthly ministry subsequent to these verses characterized by perpetual promises of a future, earthly kingdom? For example, in  Matthew 19:28, Christ promised His disciples,

"Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

In  Matthew 26:29, He similarly told His disciples,

"But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom."

Even Christ's closest companions understood His teaching as conveying a future, earthly kingdom. Not only did the disciples believe that Christ was going to restore the kingdom to Israel ( Acts 1:6 ), but the mother of James and John also requested that her sons be given places of prominence with the earthly kingdom's establishment ( Matt. 20:20-21 ). Because the request in  Matthew 20 and the inquiry of  Acts 1 both transpired late in Christ's ministry, it is unlikely that the disciples had a mistaken understanding of the kingdom at this point. Also, the penitent thief on the cross obviously saw the kingdom as a future reality when he exclaimed, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" ( Luke 23:42 ). Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy disciple of Christ in whose tomb Christ was eventually buried, also understood Christ as teaching a future kingdom.  Mark 15:43 says,

"Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus"

Second, "kingdom now" theologians rely upon the present tense expression "is in your midst" ( Luke 17:21 ) to argue for a present form of the Messianic kingdom. However, this verse need not teach "kingdom now" theology. To the Jewish mind king and kingdom went together like horse and carriage. It was unfathomable for them to have a king without the presence of the kingdom. Note the following passages that link king and kingdom.  Isaiah 9:6-7 says,

"For to 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 greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."

Daniel 7:13-14 similarly explains,

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."

Note also  Luke 1:26-27, 32

"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David."

E.R. Craven further explains this king and kingdom connection to the Jewish mind:

Now, remembering the close connection in the Jewish mind between the establishment of the Basileia, and the glorious coming of the Son of Man — a connection established by the prophecy of  Daniel 7:13, 14 ), and not previously rebuked but approved by Jesus ( Luke 9:26, 27 ) — let anyone hypothesize as the meaning of...with the signs of a gradual approach, and of...in the midst of, and read the entire passage, vers.  20-30. [3]

All of this to say, that the kingdom was very much in the midst of the nation ( Luke 17:21 ) at Christ's First Advent since the king was present.

However, the offer of the kingdom framework, which has been discussed in prior articles, [4] is sufficient for handling these verses in the same way it is capable of handling  Matthew 12:28. Christ's presence manifested kingdom realities that could also have become tangible for the nation had they fulfilled their obligation of enthroning their king ( Deut. 17:15 ). In other words, the presence of the kingdom in Christ could not become a reality for all because of the nation's rejection of the kingdom offer. Grammarian Max Zerwick notes how this interpretation represents an acceptable rendering of the present tense expression "is in your midst":

In view of the fact that Christ was addressing the Pharisees modern exegetes generally prefer to translate "among" but this meaning is elsewhere unknown. Secular and patristic evidence has been adduced (by C.H. Roberts) for an extension of the meaning "within", viz. in your hands (ref. that for which one is responsible), in your power of choice (cf "it lies with you"), i.e. from the human side the K is yours if you choose it, if you will it. [5]
Continue Reading (Part 22 on Sept 12 web page)

[1] Paul Smith, New Evangelicalism: The New World Order
[2] E.R. Craven, "Excursus on the Basileia," in Revelation of John, (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96.
[3] Ibid., 97.
[4] See parts five, six, and nineteen in this series for an explanation of this idea.
[5] Max Zerwick, Grammatical Analysis Of The Greek New Testament - Unabridged, Revised Edition In One Volume

     Dr. Andrew Woods Books

Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.

Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 102

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
102 A Prayer Of One Afflicted, When He Is Faint And Pours Out His Complaint Before The Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

ESV Study Bible

Soli Deo Gloria

By John Piper 11/01/2012

     We use the phrase glory of God so often that it tends to lose its biblical force. But this glory, like the sun, is no less blazing— and no less beneficialc—cbecause people ignore it. Yet, God hates to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (Ps. 50:22). So let’s focus again on the glory of God. What is God’s glory, and how important is it?

     What Is the Glory of God?

     The glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. That is, it is the infinite worth of God made manifest. Notice how Isaiah shifts from “holy” to “glory”: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory.

     The basic meaning of holy is “separated from the common.” Thus, the holiness of God is His infinite “separation” from all that is common. It is what makes Him the infinite “one of a kind” — like the rarest and most perfect diamond in the world — only there are no other diamond - gods. God’s uniqueness as the only God — His “Godness” — makes Him infinitely valuable, or holy.

     In speaking of God’s glory, the Bible assumes that this infinite value has entered creation. It has, as it were, shined. God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness, the out-streaming of His infinite value. And when it streams out, it is seen as beautiful and great. It has both infinite quality and magnitude. So, we may define God’s glory as the beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.

     I say “manifold perfections” because specific aspects of God’s being are said to have glory. For example, we read of “the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6) and “the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). God Himself is glorious because He is the perfect unity of all His manifold and glorious perfections.

     But this definition must be qualified. The Bible also speaks of God’s glory before it is revealed in creation. For example, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). So I would suggest a definition something like this: God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.

     I am aware that words are poor pointers here. I have replaced one inadequate word — glory — with two inadequate words — beauty and greatness. But God has revealed Himself to us in words like “the glory of God.” Therefore, they are not meaningless.

     We must constantly remind ourselves that we are speaking of a glory that is ultimately beyond any comparison in creation. “The glory of God” is how we designate the infinite beauty and the infinite greatness of the Person who was before anything else. This beauty and greatness exist without origin, without comparison, without analogy, without being judged by any external criterion. God’s glory is the all-defining, absolutely original standard of greatness and beauty. All created greatness and beauty comes from it and points to it, but such things do not comprehensively or adequately reproduce it.

     “The glory of God” is a way to say that there is an objective, absolute reality to which all human wonder, awe, veneration, praise, honor, acclaim, and worship is pointing. We were made to find our deepest pleasure in admiring the infinitely admirable — the glory of God. This glory is not the psychological projection of unsatisfied human longing onto reality. On the contrary, inconsolable human longing is evidence that we were made for God’s glory.

     How Central Is the Glory of God?

     The glory of God is the goal of all things (1 Cor. 10:31; Isa. 43:6–7). The great mission of the church is to declare God’s glory among the nations. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Ps. 96:1–3; Ezek. 39:21; Isa. 66:18–19).

     What Is Our Hope?

     Our ultimate hope is to see God’s glory. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). God will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). He will “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:23). Jesus, in all His person and work, is the incarnation and ultimate revelation of the glory of God (John 17:24; Heb. 1:3).

     Moreover, we will not only see God’s glory, but we will also, in some sense, share in His glory. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).  Hope that is really known and treasured has a decisive effect on our present values, choices, and actions.

     Treasuring the Glory of God

     Get to know the glory of God. Study the glory of God, the glory of Christ. Study your soul. Know the glories that you are seduced by and why you treasure glories that are not God’s glory.

     Study your own soul to know how to make the glories of the world collapse like Dagon in pitiful pieces on the floor of the world’s temples (1 Sam. 5:4). Hunger to see and share in more of the glory of Christ, the image of God.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books  |  Go to Books Page

The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 26:18)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

September 11
Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’    ESV

     This was the charge given by the glorified Lord to Paul at his ordination to the Christian ministry on the Damascus road. There he tells us he was made a minister and a witness of these things. He was commissioned to carry to the nations an offer of forgiveness and of title to a place in the inheritance of those who were set apart to God through faith in Christ. How blessed it is to enter into the reality of all this. God sees each believer as not only pardoned but freed from every possible charge. Ours is an eternal forgiveness. And we share in a sanctification that is perfect and complete. The heart goes out to God in adoring love and worship as one enters into some realization of this grace wherein we stand.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee;
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified;
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show
By my love, how much I owe.
--- Robert Murray McCheyne

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

20 Years Ago, I Wonder

By ?? - ??

September 11

     I am not a prophet or a scholar, but I believe all the Bible. I found the following interesting to say the least.

     On the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen Islamic terrorists hijacked four American passenger planes. Three of the planes were used to carry out successful attacks against both the World Trade Centers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field after the terrorists’ plans were foiled by heroic passengers. The combined attacks killed 2,977 people along with the hijackers. It was a tragedy that rocked our nation and the world.

     Could this horrific, modern time event have been foretold by  Zephaniah the prophet over 2,500 years prior?      See Sept 27 web page

     Zephaniah was a prophet around 625 B.C. Some call him the “royal prophet” because he was of the bloodline of David who had been the second anointed King of Israel. He wrote his prophesies during the reign of King Josiah, who was the last righteous king the kingdom of Judah would have.

     Zephaniah 1:10 says,  “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.

     In the time period that this verse was written, the fish gates were main entrances to the trade markets of the Judean society. These were the center of all the trade and business that was conducted in the city.

     Both the North and the South Trade Center Towers were the hub of the financial district of New York City and were visual examples of our nation’s economic strength and prosperity.;

     Could the "noise of a cry from the fish gate", which was known as the center of economic dealings at the time of the prophesy, be referring to Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower, a modern day hub of economic activity? "A howling from the second" could be referring to Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower and "a crashing from the hills" could be referencing Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania.

     Zephaniah 1:15-16 “ That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and gloominess, a day of clouds and a thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.” The day the towers fell, they created mast clouds of dust that covered as far as six blocks. It was literally and figuratively a dark day.

     The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense which is a figurative “fence” protecting America from danger.

     The events of 9/11 did not just have immediate effects but also long term ones that we are still dealing with today.  After 20 years we just fled from Afghanistan.

     September 11, 2001 set events in motion that ultimately culminated in an economic recession and the crash of the housing market in 2007-2009.

     This collapse triggering the government bail out which contributed largely to our nation’s current debt of over 19 TRILLION dollars.      No idea what our debt is today, but since Biden is a globalist the goal is to destroy our nation so our debt will continue to soar.

Zephaniah 1:13 “Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.”

     In conclusion, while there are not specific references naming the World Trade Centers and the events of 9/11, there are many parallels and symbolisms that seem to match and describe the events that happened that day and the days that followed.  Zephaniah’s prophesies were for the Israelites and every one of his God-given prophesies did come to pass for them. However, sometimes biblical prophesies have a current and future foretelling. Could these verses in Zephaniah be one of those examples? Could they be referring to both the eventual destruction of the nation of Israel as it existed in  Zephaniah’s time, as well as the beginning of the destruction of America?       We are well on our way to ceasing to be a nation. How can a country be a nation with no borders? It was a long time ago and I do not remember where I got this original article.

  • Contentment
  • Giving a Hand
  • Ethical Consumerism

#1 Jennifer Marshall  
Gordon College


#2 Stan Gaede   
Gordon College


#3 Ellis Jones   
Gordon College


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The date, September 11, 1777. The Continental Congress was being forced to evacuate Philadelphia, as the British had just won the Battle of Brandywine, forcing Washington’s 10,000 troops to retreat. In this desperate situation, Congress was made aware that there was a shortage of Bibles due to the interruption of trade with the King’s printers. Congress voted to import Bibles from Scotland or Holland into different parts of the Union, stating: “The use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great… it was resolved accordingly to direct said Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 copies of the Bible.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

If I discover within myself a desire
which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation
is that I was made for another world.
--- C.S. Lewis

One prays for life,
life means free choice
and freedom is mystery.
If one knew the truth
how could there be freedom.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer

Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think... It is wounding work, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving... Where there is grafting there will always be a cutting, the graft must be let in with a wound; to stick it onto the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back or there will be no sap from root to branch. And this, I say, must be done by a wound, by a cut.
--- John Bunyan

Believe God's love and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your rock is Christ, and it is not the rock that ebbs and flows but the sea.
--- Samuel Rutherford

... from here, there and everywhere

Today is 9/11
     Have you forgotten?

     “This is a war between good and evil”. We heard those words within hours of the attack on America. The country stood united, and there was no doubt that the wickedness of what had been done had pierced the conscience of the vast majority of people. Journalists and politicians were driven to tears. Something that defied reason had taken place. Sadness, like a cloud, enveloped our emotions.

     And then we began to hear and see reactions from around the world. While most grieved at the horror, the camera showed others dancing in the streets. ( How quickly this was removed from television, but I remember seeing it. What kind of power is able to remove this from all media? If you Google it you will not find it. No one has uploaded a clip to YouTube or other Video streaming sites. It is Amazing. When those of us who saw it ourselves die off it will be as if it never happened. Now this is power, and it resides behind, inside the bastions of chrome and glass in America. ) To them, the destruction was a feast for the eyes, and they distributed sweets to celebrate this disorienting blow to Americas tranquility. It was but a few days before the words broke from one reporters lips, “One man's terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”

     How do we make sense of all this? Politics took over center stage, and suddenly it seemed as though this was payback time for us. The politicization of morality is not a new thing; it has always been a safe haven for any kind of act or behavior. If I am able to find political justification for anything I think or do, my thoughts or actions can be deemed morally right.

     We are all tempted to justify our proclivities with political arguments. On the one hand, those of us who are privileged to live in democracies have convinced ourselves that morality is purely a private matter, and we allow no one to invade that territory. Sit in on the lectures of some intellectual arguing from the liberal side of any issue and it becomes clear that relativism is the guide writ large on our cultural belief. We hear it said that there is no such thing as an absolute and that each one must decide his or her moral lifestyle. Anyone who holds to absolutes is mocked and derided.

     On the other hand, demagogues such as Osama bin Laden believe that morality is a totally public matter, interwoven with religion, and that their followers are doing the world a favor by ridding it of any culture that privatizes religion and morality. I can just picture bin Ladens diatribes as he speaks to his suicide squads. Every word must drip with conviction that their mission is necessary to “save the world.” Anything and everything is justified by his ultimate goal of killing those who stand in the way of the greater good of a totalitarian religion.

     Yet, if we pierce the armor of both extremes, we find very quickly what lies beneath. The relativist who argues for the absence of absolutes smuggles absolutes into his arguments all the time, while shouting loudly that all morality is private belief. Alan Dershowitz, professor at Harvard Law School, spares no vitriol in his pronouncements that there are no absolutes and that thats the way it is. “I do not know what is right,” he contends. It all sounds very honest and real, until he points his finger at his audience and says, “And you know what? Neither do you.” So it is not just that he does not know what is right. It is also that he knows the impossibility of knowing what is right so well that he is absolutely certain that nobody else can know what is right either. There is his absolute. One need only observe his tirades and his views on numerous issues, including his vociferous defense of O. J. Simpson during his murder trial, to see how relativism works itself into society’s ethics.

     Then you go to the other extreme. On the night before Mohammed Atta and his band of murderers brought the world to a screaming halt with their suicide mission to “rid the world of American values/’ these specimens of “moral rectitude” were parked in nude dance clubs, in search of the services of a prostitute. What hypocrisy littered their moral pronouncements! Lies, deceit, sensuality, illegal acts, fake passports, mass murder— all in defense of absolutes.

     In the face of such duplicity, how do we recognize right and wrong? In the rubble of human failure and destruction, how do we connect with a helping hand to rescue us from falsehood?

Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 8.

     How Vespasian Upon Hearing Of Some Commotions In Gall, 12 Made Haste To Finish The Jewish War. A Description Of Jericho, And Of The Great Plain; With An Account Besides Of The Lake Asphaltites.

     1. In the mean time, an account came that there were commotions in Gall, and that Vindex, together with the men of power in that country, had revolted from Nero; which affair is more accurately described elsewhere. This report, thus related to Vespasian, excited him to go on briskly with the war; for he foresaw already the civil wars which were coming upon them, nay, that the very government was in danger; and he thought, if he could first reduce the eastern parts of the empire to peace, he should make the fears for Italy the lighter; while therefore the winter was his hinderance [from going into the field], he put garrisons into the villages and smaller cities for their security; he put decurions also into the villages, and centurions into the cities: he besides this rebuilt many of the cities that had been laid waste; but at the beginning of the spring he took the greatest part of his army, and led it from Cesarea to Antipatris, where he spent two days in settling the affairs of that city, and then, on the third day, he marched on, laying waste and burning all the neighboring villages. And when he had laid waste all the places about the toparchy of Thamnas, he passed on to Lydda and Jamnia; and when both these cities had come over to him, he placed a great many of those that had come over to him [from other places] as inhabitants therein, and then came to Emmaus, where he seized upon the passage which led thence to their metropolis, and fortified his camp, and leaving the fifth legion therein, he came to the toparchy of Bethletephon. He then destroyed that place, and the neighboring places, by fire, and fortified, at proper places, the strong holds all about Idumea; and when he had seized upon two villages, which were in the very midst of Idumea, Betaris and Caphartobas, he slew above ten thousand of the people, and carried into captivity above a thousand, and drove away the rest of the multitude, and placed no small part of his own forces in them, who overran and laid waste the whole mountainous country; while he, with the rest of his forces, returned to Emmaus, whence he came down through the country of Samaria, and hard by the city, by others called Neapolis, [or Sichem,] but by the people of that country Mabortha, to Corea, where he pitched his camp, on the second day of the month Desius [Sivan]; and on the day following he came to Jericho; on which day Trajan, one of his commanders, joined him with the forces he brought out of Perea, all the places beyond Jordan being subdued already.

     2. Hereupon a great multitude prevented their approach, and came out of Jericho, and fled to those mountainous parts that lay over against Jerusalem, while that part which was left behind was in a great measure destroyed; they also found the city desolate. It is situated in a plain; but a naked and barren mountain, of a very great length, hangs over it, which extends itself to the land about Scythopolis northward, but as far as the country of Sodom, and the utmost limits of the lake Asphaltites, southward. This mountain is all of it very uneven and uninhabited, by reason of its barrenness: there is an opposite mountain that is situated over against it, on the other side of Jordan; this last begins at Julias, and the northern quarters, and extends itself southward as far as Somorrhon, 13 which is the bounds of Petra, in Arabia. In this ridge of mountains there is one called the Iron Mountain, that runs in length as far as Moab. Now the region that lies in the middle between these ridges of mountains is called the Great Plain; it reaches from the village Ginnabris, as far as the lake Asphaltites; its length is two hundred and thirty furlongs, and its breadth a hundred and twenty, and it is divided in the midst by Jordan. It hath two lakes in it, that of Asphaltites, and that of Tiberias, whose natures are opposite to each other; for the former is salt and unfruitful, but that of Tiberias is sweet and fruitful. This plain is much burnt up in summer time, and, by reason of the extraordinary heat, contains a very unwholesome air; it is all destitute of water excepting the river Jordan, which water of Jordan is the occasion why those plantations of palm trees that are near its banks are more flourishing, and much more fruitful, as are those that are remote from it not so flourishing, or fruitful.

     3. Notwithstanding which, there is a fountain by Jericho, that runs plentifully, and is very fit for watering the ground; it arises near the old city, which Joshua, the son of Naue, the general of the Hebrews, took the first of all the cities of the land of Canaan, by right of war. The report is, that this fountain, at the beginning, caused not only the blasting of the earth and the trees, but of the children born of women, and that it was entirely of a sickly and corruptive nature to all things whatsoever; but that it was made gentle, and very wholesome and fruitful, by the prophet Elisha. This prophet was familiar with Elijah, and was his successor, who, when he once was the guest of the people at Jericho, and the men of the place had treated him very kindly, he both made them amends as well as the country, by a lasting favor; for he went out of the city to this fountain, and threw into the current an earthen vessel full of salt; after which he stretched out his righteous hand unto heaven, and, pouring out a mild drink-offering, he made this supplication, That the current might be mollified, and that the veins of fresh water might be opened; that God also would bring into the place a more temperate and fertile air for the current, and would bestow upon the people of that country plenty of the fruits of the earth, and a succession of children; and that this prolific water might never fail them, while they continued to be righteous. To these prayers Elisha 14 joined proper operations of his hands, after a skillful manner, and changed the fountain; and that water, which had been the occasion of barrenness and famine before, from that time did supply a numerous posterity, and afforded great abundance to the country. Accordingly, the power of it is so great in watering the ground, that if it do but once touch a country, it affords a sweeter nourishment than other waters do, when they lie so long upon them, till they are satiated with them. For which reason, the advantage gained from other waters, when they flow in great plenty, is but small, while that of this water is great when it flows even in little quantities. Accordingly, it waters a larger space of ground than any other waters do, and passes along a plain of seventy furlongs long, and twenty broad; wherein it affords nourishment to those most excellent gardens that are thick set with trees. There are in it many sorts of palm trees that are watered by it, different from each other in taste and name; the better sort of them, when they are pressed, yield an excellent kind of honey, not much inferior in sweetness to other honey. This country withal produces honey from bees; it also bears that balsam which is the most precious of all the fruits in that place, cypress trees also, and those that bear myrobalanum; so that he who should pronounce this place to be divine would not be mistaken, wherein is such plenty of trees produced as are very rare, and of the must excellent sort. And indeed, if we speak of those other fruits, it will not be easy to light on any climate in the habitable earth that can well be compared to it, what is here sown comes up in such clusters; the cause of which seems to me to be the warmth of the air, and the fertility of the waters; the warmth calling forth the sprouts, and making them spread, and the moisture making every one of them take root firmly, and supplying that virtue which it stands in need of in summer time. Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it; and if the water be drawn up before sun-rising, and after that exposed to the air, it becomes exceeding cold, and becomes of a nature quite contrary to the ambient air; as in winter again it becomes warm; and if you go into it, it appears very gentle. The ambient air is here also of so good a temperature, that the people of the country are clothed in linen-only, even when snow covers the rest of Judea. This place is one hundred and fifty furlongs from Jerusalem, and sixty from Jordan. The country, as far as Jerusalem, is desert and stony; but that as far as Jordan and the lake Asphaltites lies lower indeed, though it be equally desert and barren. But so much shall suffice to have said about Jericho, and of the great happiness of its situation.

     4. The nature of the lake Asphaltites is also worth describing. It is, as I have said already, bitter and unfruitful. It is so light [or thick] that it bears up the heaviest things that are thrown into it; nor is it easy for any one to make things sink therein to the bottom, if he had a mind so to do. Accordingly, when Vespasian went to see it, he commanded that some who could not swim should have their hands tied behind them, and be thrown into the deep, when it so happened that they all swam as if a wind had forced them upwards. Moreover, the change of the color of this lake is wonderful, for it changes its appearance thrice every day; and as the rays of the sun fall differently upon it, the light is variously reflected. However, it casts up black clods of bitumen in many parts of it; these swim at the top of the water, and resemble both in shape and bigness headless bulls; and when the laborers that belong to the lake come to it, and catch hold of it as it hangs together, they draw it into their ships; but when the ship is full, it is not easy to cut off the rest, for it is so tenacious as to make the ship hang upon its clods till they set it loose with the menstrual blood of women, and with urine, to which alone it yields. This bitumen is not only useful for the caulking of ships, but for the cure of men's bodies; accordingly, it is mixed in a great many medicines. The length of this lake is five hundred and eighty furlongs, where it is extended as far as Zoar in Arabia; and its breadth is a hundred and fifty. The country of Sodom borders upon it. It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how, for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that Divine fire, and the traces [or shadows] of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes growing in their fruits; which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten, but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes. And thus what is related of this land of Sodom hath these marks of credibility which our very sight affords us.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:19-20
     by D.H. Stern

19     Don’t get upset because of evildoers;
     don’t be envious of the wicked.
20     For the evil person has no future—
     the lamp of the wicked will go out.

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

                Missionary munitions

     Ministering as Opportunity Surrounds us. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. --- John 13:14.

     Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectly God’s in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us. The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.

     The things that Jesus did were of the most menial and commonplace order, and this is an indication that it takes all God’s power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.

     “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Watch the kind of people God brings around you, and you will be humiliated to find that this is His way of revealing to you the kind of person you have been to Him. Now, He says, exhibit to that one exactly what I have shown to you.

     ‘Oh,’ you say, ‘I will do all that when I get out into the foreign field.’ To talk in this way is like trying to produce the munitions of war in the trenches—you will be killed while you are doing it.

     We have to go the ‘second mile’ with God. Some of us get played out in the first ten yards, because God compels us to go where we cannot see the way, and we say—‘I will wait till I get nearer the big crisis.’ If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.

My Utmost for His Highest
The Maker (Tares)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                The Maker (Tares)

So he said then: I will make the poem,
  I will make it now. He took pencil,
  The mind's cartridge, and blank paper,
  And drilled his thoughts to the slow beat

Of the blood's drum; and there it formed
  On the white surface and went marching
  Onward through time, while the spent cities
  And dry hearts smoked in its wake.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     We might remember the ’60s comedian Flip Wilson whose character was often causing mischief, claiming, “The devil made me do it!” It’s not my fault when I do wrong. Some outside force, Satan, the devil, made me do it.

     In ancient Jewish sources, Satan sometimes appears as an actual personality, the chief being who opposes God. The word Satan means “adversary,” that which obstructs, and it has come to symbolize the sum total of the evil forces in the world. Few still believe in Satan as an actual personality—the evil opponent of God—or a force—the symbolic power of evil in the world.

     Thus, while the phrase “The devil made me do it” may have been funny in its time, few of us would say that we do wrong because some demon or force compelled us to sin. Quite the contrary: “Satan dances with him until he finishes the sin” seems to imply that the sinner is first dancing, enjoying the good feeling of sin. Only then does the devil join in the celebration.

     In psychological terms, we would say, “My id, the internal seat of pleasure, found wrongdoing rewarding. My superego, that part of the personality which restrains my actions, was not strong enough to overcome the powerfully pleasurable feeling that ensued once I started misbehaving.” Therefore, Satan is less a force outside of us than a sense inside of us—the self-deceptive feeling that allows us to keep sinning and enjoying it.

     Once we start down the path of doing wrong, it can be very hard to change. Our actions, as immoral and illegal as they may be, can also be quite rewarding and pleasing. This is a twofold reminder: to avoid wrongdoing in the first place so that Satan/the id has less to dance with, and to steer ourselves back to the right path as soon as we discover ourselves veering. In so doing, we will deny the Satan inside the chance to dance with us and to convince us that our misdeeds are a cause for celebration.


     In cartoons, a character struggling with a moral dilemma is often depicted as having two little figures on his shoulders, whispering into his ears—an angel on the one side, a devil on the other. “Satan” might be the name that the Rabbis gave to that devilish figure, or that inner voice, which eggs us on to do the wrong thing.

     But Satan isn’t always perched on our shoulder or speaking to us from inside the heart. Satan can also appear before us, in the guise of another person, someone we may even recognize, someone who may even be a friend.

     A couple of friends are at the mall, checking out the music store. Steve whispers to Howie, “They don’t have one of those electronic sensors at the door. And there’s no security guard. Slip this CD into your coat pocket and walk right out of the store. It’ll be a piece of cake. Nobody will ever know!” Howie is excited by the challenge of getting away with it, but he’s also afraid of what his parents will do if he gets caught. Mostly, he doesn’t want Steve to think he’s afraid. “Come on, let’s do it!” Watch Satan do his little dance.

     At a party on a Saturday night, Lauren’s got a bottle of beer in her left hand and something hidden in her closed right one. “Melissa! Look what I got for us! It cost me thirty dollars a pill, one for you, and one for me. Here take it. Swallow it down with this beer. You won’t believe how this will make you feel!” Melissa is worried. “Is it safe?” “Of course it’s safe. I’ve done it a couple of times, and it was unbelievable. About half the people at the party are doing it. Stop worrying. It’ll be fine!” Watch Satan do her little dance.

     A bunch of kids sit around in a car after midnight thinking of things to do. “Hey, why don’t we drive over to the high school and toss some rocks at the third-floor windows? One point for distance, two points for accuracy. Whaddya say?” “I don’t know … Don’t the cops drive in and out of there to check for vandals?” “We’ll leave the car around the corner and we’ll cut through the bushes by the basketball court.” “What if they have a security camera on the building?” “We can pull our T-shirts over our faces. They’ll never be able to identify us! Come on! It’ll be a blast!” Watch the Satans do their little dance.

     And what about when Satan asks us to dance?

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 11

     Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. --- Romans 11:20.

     Did the disciples forsake Christ, though they had such strong resolutions never to do it? (Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)) Then we see that self-confidence is a sin too likely to the best of people. They little thought their hearts would have proved so cowardly when they were tried. “Even if all fall away,” said Peter, “I will not” (Mark 14:29). Good man; he resolved honestly, but he did not know what a feather he would be in the wind of temptation, if God once left him to his own fears.

     Little reason have the best of saints to depend on their inherent grace, let their stock be as large as it will. Every merit without the prop of divine preservation is but a weight that tends to a fall. What becomes of the stream if the fountain supply it not? The best people will show themselves but human if God leave them. He who has set them up must also keep them. It is safer to be a humble worm than a proud angel. Adam had more favorable opportunity to maintain his station than any of you. For though he were left to the liberty of his own will and though he was created upright and had no inherent corruption to endanger him, yet he fell.

     And shall we be self-confident, after such instances of human frailty! “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid,” when you have considered well the examples of Noah, Lot, David, and Hezekiah, men famous and renowned in their generations who all fell by temptations, and when you would think they had never been better provided to cope with them. Lot fell soon after the Lord had thrust him out of Sodom and his eyes had seen hell, as it were, rained on them out of heaven; Noah, immediately after God’s wonderful preservation of him in the ark when he saw a world of men and women perishing in the floods for their sins; David, after the Lord had settled the kingdom on him, which for sin he took from Saul, and given him rest in his house. Hezekiah was just up from a great sickness in which the Lord wrought a wonderful salvation for him. Did such people and at such times, when one would think no temptations should have prevailed, fall, and fall so dishonorably? Then, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). O do not be arrogant, but be afraid.
--- John Flavel

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Spunk  September 11

     Isaac Watts faced criticism when he began writing hymns, for it was believed only Psalms should be sung in worship. But the little songwriter had inherited spunk from his grandfather and father.

     Grandfather Thomas Watts, commander of a British warship, was attacked once by a tiger in India. Running into the river, he turned to see the tiger swimming after him. He faced the creature, gripped its head, and forced it under water until it drowned.

     Isaac senior fought a different kind of tiger—persecution. He rejected the state Church of England and joined British Nonconformists. That was considered treasonous, and he was thrown into Southampton Jail, a huge, gloomy place where Dissenters languished in iron shackles. He emerged from prison in time to marry Sarah Tauton on September 11, 1673, but the new couple was under constant watch. The stress caused Sarah to prematurely give birth to a weak, stunted baby, Isaac junior. Within weeks, the senior Watts was jailed again. He found comfort in his pocket Bible, but his wife worried endlessly. Every day she crept to the prison, sat on a stone outside, nursed her baby, and wept.

     Watts was released at last, and a few years passed. One Morning young Isaac “tittered” during family prayers. His father sternly demanded an explanation. “Because,” said the spunky boy, pointing to a bell rope, “I saw a mouse running up that; and the thought came into my mind, There was a mouse for want of stairs / Ran up a rope to say his prayers.” Isaac Senior, unimpressed, reached for the rod. The boy fell to his knees, begging and crying, “Oh father, father, pity take / And I will no more verses make.” But he did make more verses.

     When sometime later he grumbled about the music in his church, his father told him to write his own songs if he thought he could do better than King David. So he wrote Joy to the World, O God Our Help in Ages Past, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and 600 others.

     He became the father of English hymns.

With thankful hearts,
     sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
Whatever you say or do
     should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.
--- Colossians 3:16b,17a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 11

     "Be ye separate." --- 2 Corinthians 6:17.

     The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world. He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life. To him, “to live,” should be “Christ.” Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory. You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal. You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith,” and good works. You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing Psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world. Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of his presence, delighting in communion with him, and seeking to know his will, you will prove that you are of heavenly race. And you should be separate from the world in your actions. If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake. You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity. Remember, O Christian, that thou art a son of the King of kings. Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world. Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in his beauty—let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets—let not those hearts be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

     Then rise my soul! and soar away,
     Above the thoughtless crowd;
     Above the pleasures of the gay,
     And splendours of the proud;
     Up where eternal beauties bloom,
     And pleasures all divine;
     Where wealth, that never can consume,
     And endless glories shine.

          Evening - September 11

     “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies.”
--- Psalms 5:8.

     Very bitter is the enmity of the world against the people of Christ. Men will forgive a thousand faults in others, but they will magnify the most trivial offence in the followers of Jesus. Instead of vainly regretting this, let us turn it to account, and since so many are watching for our halting, let this be a special motive for walking very carefully before God. If we live carelessly, the lynx-eyed world will soon see it, and with its hundred tongues, it will spread the story, exaggerated and emblazoned by the zeal of slander. They will shout triumphantly. “Aha! So would we have it! See how these Christians act! They are hypocrites to a man.” Thus will much damage be done to the cause of Christ, and much insult offered to his name. The cross of Christ is in itself an offence to the world; let us take heed that we add no offence of our own. It is “to the Jews a stumblingblock”: let us mind that we put no stumblingblocks where there are enough already. “To the Greeks it is foolishness”: let us not add our folly to give point to the scorn with which the worldly-wise deride the Gospel. How jealous should we be of ourselves! How rigid with our consciences! In the presence of adversaries who will misrepresent our best deeds, and impugn our motives where they cannot censure our actions, how circumspect should we be! Pilgrims travel as suspected persons through Vanity Fair. Not only are we under surveillance, but there are more spies than we know of. The espionage is everywhere, at home and abroad. If we fall into the enemies’ hands we may sooner expect generosity from a wolf, or mercy from a fiend, than anything like patience with our infirmities from men who spice their infidelity towards God with scandals against his people. O Lord, lead us ever, lest our enemies trip us up!

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 11


     Charles Wesley, 1707–1788

     Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. --- Psalm 150:6

     Soon after their graduation from Oxford University, John and Charles Wesley decided to sail to America, the new world, to try to minister to the rough colonists under General Oglethorpe in Georgia and to evangelize the Indians. The Wesleys soon became disillusioned with the situation there, however, and after a short time returned to England.

     As they crossed the Atlantic, John and Charles were much impressed by a group of devout Moravians, who seemed to have such spiritual depth and vitality as well as genuine missionary zeal. After returning to London, the Wesleys met with a group of Moravians in the Aldersgate Hall. Here in May, 1738, both brothers had a spiritual “heart-warming experience,” realizing that even though they had been so zealous in religious activity, neither had ever personally known God’s forgiveness or real joy. From that time on their ministry displayed a new dimension of spiritual power.

     “O for a Thousand Tongues” was written by Charles in 1749 on the 11th anniversary of his Aldersgate conversion experience. It was inspired by a chance remark of an influential Moravian leader named Peter Bohler, who expressed his spiritual joy in this way: “Oh, Brother Wesley, the Lord has done so much for my life. Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ Jesus with every one of them!”

     These words of personal testimony by Charles Wesley have provided a moving vehicle of worship for God’s people for more than two centuries:

     O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.
     My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread thru all the earth abroad the honors of Thy name.
     Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease, ’tis music in the sinner’s ears; ’tis life and health and peace.
     He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin; He sets the pris’ner free. His blood can make the foulest clean … His blood availed for me.
     Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ; ye blind, behold your Savior come and leap ye lame, for joy.
     Glory to God and praise and love be ever, ever giv’n by saints below and saints above … the Church in earth and heav’n.

     For Today: Psalm 96:1–4; 103:1–4; 145:2, 3; Romans 14:17

     Let this hymn be the desire of your heart as you sing this message ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     II. . Consideration by way of motive. To have our spirits off from God in worship is a bad sign: it was not so in innocence. The heart of Adam could cleave to God: the law of God was engraven upon him, he could apply himself to the fulfilling of it without any twinkling. There was no folly and vanity in his mind, no independency in his thoughts, no duty was his burden; for there was in him a proneness to, and a delight in, all the duties of worship. It is the fall hath distempered us; and the more unwieldiness there is in our sphits, the more carnal our affections are in worship, the more evidence there is of the strength of that revolted state.

     1. It argues much corruption in the heart. As by the eructations of the stomach, we may judge of the windiness and foulness of it; so, by the inordinate motions of our minds and hearts, we may judge of the weakness of its complexion. A strength of sin is evidenced by the eruptions and ebullitions of it in worship, when they are more sudden, numerous, and vigorous than the motions of grace. When the heart is apt, like tinder, to catch fire from Satan, it is a sign of much combustible matter suitable to his temptation. Were not corruption strong, the soul could ’not turn so easily from God when it is in his presence, and hath an advantageous opportunity to create a fear and awe of God in it. Such base fruit could not sprout up so suddenly, were there not much sap and juice in the root of sin. What communion with a living root can be evidenced without exercises of an inward life? That spirit, which is a well of living waters in a gracious heart, will be especially springing up when it is before God.

     2. It shows much affection to earthly things, and little to heavenly. There must needs be an inordinate affection to earthly things, when, upon every slight solicitation, we can part with God, and turn the back upon a service glorious for him and advantageous for ourselves, to wed our hearts to some idle fancy that signifies nothing. How can we be said to entertain God in our affections, when we give him not the precedency in our understandings, but let every trifle jostle the sense of God out of our minds? Were our hearts fully determined to spiritual things, such vanities could not seat themselves in our understandings, and divide our spirits from God. Were our hearts balanced with a love to God, the world could never steal our hearts so much from his worship, but his worship would draw our hearts to it. It shows abase neutrality in the greatest concernments; a halting between God and Baal; a contrariety between affection and conscience, when natural conscience presses a man to duties of worship, and his other affections pull him back, draw him to carnal objects, and make him slight that whereby he may honor God. God argues the profaneness of the Jews’ hearts from the wickedness they brought into his house, and acted there (Jer. 23:11): “Yea, in my house,” that is, my worship, “I found their wickedness,” saith the Lord. Carnality in worship is a kind of an idolatrous frame; when the heart is renewed, idols are cast to the moles and the bats (Isa. 2:20).

     3. It shows much hypocrisy to have our spirits off from God. The mouth speaks, and the carriage pretends what the heart doth not think; there is a dissent of the heart from the pretence of the body. Instability is a sure sign of hypocrisy. Double thoughts argue a double heart. The wicked are compared to chaff (Psalm 1:4), for the uncertain and various motions of their minds, by the least wind of fancy. The least motion of a carnal object diverts the spirit from God, as the scent of carrion doth the raven from the fight it was set upon. The people of God are called God’s spouse, and God calls himself their husband; whereby is noted the most intimate union of the soul with God; and that there ought to be the highest love and affection to him, and faithfulness in his worship; but when the heart doth start from him in worship, it is a sign of the unsteadfastness of it with God, and a disrelish of any communion with him; it is, as God complains of the Israelites, a going a whoring after our own imaginations. As grace respects God as the object of worship, so it looks most upon God in approaching to him. Where there is a likeness and love, there is a desire of converse and intimacy; if there be no spiritual entwining about God in our worship, it is a sign there is no likeness to him, no true sense of him, no renewed image of God in us; every living image will move strongly to join itself with its original copy, and be glad, with Jacob, to sit steadily in those chariots that shall convey him to his beloved Joseph.

     III. Consider the danger of a carnal worship.

     1. We lose the comfort of worship. The soul is a great gainer when it offers a spiritual worship, and as great a loser when it is unfaithful with God. Treachery and perfidiousness hinder commerce among men; so doth hypocrisy in its own nature communion with God. God never promised anything to the carcass, but to the spirit of worship. God hath no obligation upon him, by any word of his, to reward us with himself, when we perform it not to himself; when we give an outside worship, we have only the outside of an ordinance; we can expect no kernel, when we give God only the shell:  he that only licks the outside of the glass, can never be refreshed with the rich cordial enclosed within. A cold and lazy formality will make God to withdraw the light of his countenance, and not shine with any delightful communications upon our souls; but if we come before him with a liveliness of affections, and steadiness of heart, he will draw the veil, and cause his glory to display itself before us. An humble praying Christian, and a warm, affectionate Christian in worship, will soon find a God who is delighted with such frames, and cannot long withhold himself from the soul. When our hearts are inflamed with love to him in worship, it is a preparation to some act of love on his part, whereby he intends further to gratify us. When John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, that is, in spiritual employment, and meditation, and other duties, he had that great revelation of what should happen to the church in all ages (Rev. 1:10); his being in the Spirit, intimates his ordinary course on that day, and not any extraordinary act in him, though it was followed with an extraordinary discovery of God to him; when he was thus engaged, “he heard a voice behind him.” God doth not require of us spirituality in worship to advantage himself, but that we might be prepared to be advantaged by him. If we have a clear and well-disposed eye, it is not a benefit to the sun, but fits us to receive benefits from his beams. Worship is an act that perfects our own souls; they are then most widened by spiritual frames, to receive the influence of divine blessings, as an eye most opened receives the fruit of the sun’s light better than the eye that is shut. The communications of God are more or less, according as our spiritual frames are more or less in our worship; God will not give his blessings to unsuitable hearts. What a nasty vessel is a carnal heart for a spiritual communication! The chief end of every duty enjoined by God, is to have communion with him; and therefore it is called a drawing near to God; it is impossible, therefore, that the outward part of any duty can answer the end of God in his institution. It is not a bodily appearance or gesture whereby men can have communion with God, but by the impressions of the heart upon God; without this, all the rich streams of grace will run beside us, and the growth of the soul be hindered and impaired. A “diligent hand makes rich,” saith the wise man; a diligent heart in spiritual worship, brings in rich incomes to the humble and spiritual soul.

     2. It renders the worship not only unacceptable, but abominable to God. It makes our gold to become dross, it soils our duties, and bespots our souls. A carnal and unsteady frame shows an indifferency of spirit at best; and lukewarmness is as ungrateful to God, as heavy and nauseous meat is to the stomach; he “spews them out of his mouth” (Rev. 3:16). As our gracious God Both overlook infirmities where intentions are good, and endeavors serious and strong; so he loathes the services where the frames are stark naught (Psalm 66:118): “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer.” Lukewarm and indifferent services stink in the nostrils of God. The heart seems to loathe God when it starts from him upon every occasion, when it is unwilling to employ itself about, and stick close to him: and can God be pleased with such a frame? The more of the heart and spirit is in any service, the more real goodness there is in it, and the more savory it is to God; the less of the heart and spirit, the less of goodness, and the more nauseous to God, who loves righteousness and “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6). And therefore infinite goodness and holiness cannot but hate worship presented to him with deceitful, carnal, and flitting affections; they must be more nauseous to God, than a putrefied carcass can be to man; they are the profanings of that which should be the habitation of the Spirit; they make the spirit, the seat of duty, a filthy dunghill; and are as loathsome to God, as money-changers in the temple were to our Saviour. We see the evil of carnal frames, and the necessity and benefit of spiritual frames: for further help in this last, let us practise these following directions:

     1. Keep up spiritual frames out of worship. To avoid low affections, we must keep our hearts as much as we can in a settled elevation. If we admit unworthy dispositions at one time, we shall not easily be rid of them in another; as he that would not be bitten with gnats in the night, must keep his windows shut in the day: when they are once entered, it is not easy to expel them; in which respect, one adviseth to be such out of worship as we would be in worship. If we mix spiritual affections with our worldly employments, worldly affections will not mingle themselves so easily with our heavenly engagements. If our hearts be spiritual in our outward calling, they will scarce be carnal in our religious service. If “we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). A spiritual walk in the day will hinder carnal lustings in worship. The fire was to be kept alive upon the altar, when sacrifices were not offered, from morning till night, from night till morning, as well as in the very time of sacrifice. A spiritual life and vigor out of worship would render it at its season sweet and easy, and preserve a spontaneity and preparedness to it, and make it both natural and pleasant to us. Anything that doth unhinge and discompose our spirits, is inconsistent with religious services, which are to be performed with the greatest sedateness and gravity. All irregular passions disturb the serenity of the spirit, and open the door for Satan: saith the apostle (Eph. 4:26, 27), “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give place to the devil.” Where wrath breaks the lock, the devil will quickly be over the threshold; and though they be allayed, yet they leave the heart sometime after, like the sea rolling and swelling after the storm is ceased. Mixture with ill company leaves a tincture upon us in worship. Ephraim’s allying himself with the Gentiles, bred an indifferency in religion (Hos. 7:8): “Ephraim hath mixed himself with the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned:” it will make our hearts, and consequently our services, half dough, as well as half baked; these and the like, make the Holy Spirit withdraw himself, and then the soul is like a windbound vessel, and can make no way. When the sun departs from us, it carries its beams away with it; then “doth darkness spread itself over the earth, and the beasts of the forests creep out” (Psalm 104:20). When the Spirit withdraws awhile frorn a good man, it carries away (though not habitual, yet) much of the exciting and assisting grace; and then carnal dispositions perk up themselves from the bosom of natural corruption. To be spiritual in worship, we must bar the door at other times against that which is contrary to it; as he that would not be infected with a contagious disease, carries some preservative about with him, and inures himself to good scents. To this end, be much in secret ejaculations to God; these are the purest flights of the soul, that have more of fervor and less of carnality; they preserve a liveliness in the spirit, and make it more fit to perform solemn stated worship with greater freedom and activity; a constant use of this would make our whole lives, lives of worship.  As frequent sinful acts strengthen habits of sin, so frequent religious acts strengthen habits of grace.

     2. Excite and exercise particularly a love to God, and dependence on him. Love is a commanding affection, a uniting grace; it draws all the faculties of the soul to one centre. The soul that loves God, when it hath to do with him, is bound to the beloved object; it can mind nothing else during such impressions. When the affection is set to the worship of God, everything the soul hath will be bestowed upon it; as David’s disposition was to the temple (1 Chron. 29:3). Carnal frames, like the fowls, will be lighting upon the sacrifice, but not when it is inflamed; though the scent of the flesh invite them, yet the heat of the fire drives them to their distance. A flaming love will singe the flies that endeavor to interrupt and disturb us. The happiness of heaven consists in a full attraction of the soul to God, by his glorious influence upon it; there will be such a diffusion of his goodness throughout the souls of the blessed, as will unite the affections perfectly to him; these affections which are scattered here, will be there gathered into one flame, moving to him, and centering in him: therefore, the more of a heavenly frame possesses our affections here, the more settled and uniform will our hearts be in all their motions to God, and operations about him. Excite a dependence on him: (Prov. 16:3) “Commit thy works to the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Let us go out in God’s strength, and not in our own; vain is the help of man in anything, and vain is the help of the heart. It is through God only we can do valiantly in spiritual concerns as well as temporal; the want of this makes but slight impressions upon the spirit.

     3. Nourish right conceptions of the majesty of God in your minds. Let us consider that we are drawing to God, the most amiable object, the best of beings, wcrthy of infinite honor, and highly meriting the highest affections we can give; a God that made the world by a word, that upholds the great frame of heaven and earth; a Majesty above the conceptions of angels; who uses not his power to strike us to our deserved punishment, but his love and bounty to allure us; a God that gave all the creatures to serve us, and can, in a trice, make them as much our enemies as he hath now made them our servants. Let us view him in his greatness, and in his goodness, that our hearts may have a true value of the worship of so great a majesty, and count it the most worthy employment with all diligence to attend upon him.  When we have a fear of God, it will make our worship serious; when we have a joy in God, it will make our worship durable.  Our affections will be raised when we represent God in the most reverential, endearing, and obliging circumstances. We honor the majesty of God, when we consider him with due reverence according to the greatness and perfection of his works, and in this reverence of his majesty doth worship chiefly consist. Low thoughts of God will make low frames in us before him.  If we thought God an infinite glorious Spirit, how would our hearts be lower than our knees in his presence!  How humbly, how believingly pleading is the Psalmist, when he considers God to be without comparison in the heavens; to whom none of the sons of the mighty can be likened; when there was none like to him in strength and faithfulness round about (Psalm 89:8–8). We should have also deep impressions of the omniscience of God, and remember we have to deal with a God that searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, to whom the most secret temper is as visible as the loudest words are audible; that though man judges by outward expressions, God judges by inward affections.  As the law of God regulates the inward frames of the heart, so the eye of God pitches upon the inward intentions of the soul.  If God were visibly present with us, should we not approach to him with strong affections, summon our spirits to attend upon him, behave ourselves modestly before him? Let us consider he is as really present with us, as if he were visible to us; let us, therefore, preserve a strong sense of the presence of God. No man, but one out of his wits, when he were in the presence of a prince, and making a speech to him, would break off at every period, and run after the catching of butterflies. Remember in all worship you are before the Lord, to whom all things are open and naked.

     4. Let us take heed of inordinate desires after the world. As the world steals away a man’s heart from the word, so it doth from all other worship; “It chokes the word” (Matt. 13:27); it stifles all the spiritual breathings after God in every duty; the edge of the soul is bunted by it, and made too dull for such sublime exercises. The apostle’s rule in prayer, when he joins “sobriety with watching unto prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7), is of concern in all worship, sobriety in the pursuit and use of all worldly things. A man drunk with worldly fumes cannot watch, cannot be heavenly, affectionate, spiritual in service. There is a magnetic force in the earth to hinder our flights to heaven. Birds, when they take their first flights from the earth, have more flutterings of their wings, than when they are mounted further in the air, and got more without the sphere of the earth’s attractiveness: the motion of their wings is more steady, that you can perceive them stir; they move like a ship with a full gale. The word is a clog upon the soul, and a bar to spiritual frames; it is as hard to elevate the heart to God in the midst of a hurry of worldly affairs, as it is difficult to meditate when we are near a great noise of waters falling from a precipice, or in the midst of a volley of muskets. Thick clayey affections bemire the heart, and make it unfit for such high flights it is to take in worship; therefore,  get your hearts clear from worldly thoughts and desires, if you would be more spiritual in worship.

     5. Let us be deeply sensible of our present wants, and the supplies we may meet with in worship. Cold affections to the things we would have will grow cooler; weakness of desire for the communications in worship, will freeze our hearts at the time of worship, and make way for vain and foolish diversions. A beggar that is ready to perish, and knows he is next door to ruin, will not slightly and dully beg an alms, and will not be diverted from his importunity by every slight call, or the moving of an atom in the air. Is it pardon we would have? let us apprehend the blackness of sin, with the aggravations of it as it respects God; let us be deeply sensible of the want of pardon and worth of mercy, and get your affections into such a frame as a condemned man would do; let us consider, that as  we are now at the throne of God’s grace, we shall shortly be at the bar of God’s justice;  and if the soul should be forlorn there, how fixedly and earnestly would it plead for mercy! Let us endeavor to stir up the same affections now, which we have seen some dying men have, and which we suppose despairing souls would have done at God’s tribunal.

     We must be sensible that the life or death of our souls depends upon worship. Would we not be ashamed to be ridiculous in our carriage while we are eating; and shall we not be ashamed to be cold or garish before God, when the salvation of our souls, as well as the honor of God, is concerned? If we did see the heaps of sins, the eternity of punishment due to them; if we did see an angry and offended Judge; if we did see the riches of mercy, the glorious outgoings of God in the sanctuary, the blessed doles he gives out to men when they spiritually attend upon him, both the one and the other would make us perform our duties humbly, sincerely, earnestly, and affectionately, and wait upon him with our whole souls, to have  misery averted, and mercy bestowed.  Let our sense of this be encouraged by the consideration of our Saviour presenting his merits; with what affection doth he present his merits, his blood shed upon the cross, now in heaven? And shall our hearts be cold and frozen, flitting and unsteady, when his affections are so much concerned? Christ doth not present any man’s case and duties without a sense of his wants; and shall we have none of our own? Let me add this; let us affect our hearts with a sense of what supplies we have met with in former worship; the delightful remembrance of what converse we have had with God in former worship would spiritualize our hearts for the present worship. Had Peter had a view of Christ’s glory in the mount fresh in his thoughts, he would not so easily have turned his back upon his Master, nor would the Israelites have been at leisure for their idolatry, had they preserved the sense of the majesty of God discovered in his late thunders from Mount Sinai.

     6. If anything intrudes that may choke the worship, cast it speedily out. We cannot hinder Satan and our own corruption from presenting coolers to us, but we may hinder the success of them; we cannot hinder the gnats from buzzing about us when we are in our business, but we may prevent them from settling upon us. A man that is running on a considerable errand, will shun all unnecessary discourse, that may make him forget or loiter in his business. What though there may be something offered that is good in itself, yet if it hath a tendency to despoil God of his honor, and ourselves of the spiritual intentness in worship, send it away. Those that weed a field of corn, examine not the nature and particular virtues of the weeds, but consider only how they choke the corn, to which the native juice of the soil is designed.

     Consider what you are about; and if anything interpose that may divert you, or cool your affections in your present worship, cast it out.

     7. As to private worship, let us lay hold of the most melting opportunities and frames. When we find our hearts in a more than ordinary spiritual frame, let us look upon it as a call from God to attend him; such impressions and notions are God’s voice, inviting us into communion with him in some particular act of worship, and promising us some success in it. When the Psalmist had a secret motion to “seek God’s face” (Psalm 27:8), and complied with it, the issue is the encouragement of his heart, which breaks out into an exhortation to others to be of good courage, and wait on the Lord (v. 13, 14): “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” One blow will do more on the iron when it is hot, than a hundred when it is cold; melted metals may be stamped with any impression; but, once hardened, will with difficulty be brought into the figure we intend.

     8. Let us examine ourselves at the end of every act of worship, and chide ourselves for any carnality we perceive in them. Let us take a review of them, and examine the reason, why art thou so low and carnal, O my soul? as David did of his disquietedness (Psalm 42:6): “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?” If any unworthy frames have surprised us in worship, let us seek them out after worship; call them to the bar; make an exact scrutiny into the causes of them, that we may prevent their incursions another time; let our pulses beat quick by way of anger and indignation against them; this would be a repairing what hath been amiss; otherwise they may grow, and clog an afterworship more than they did a former. Daily examination is an antidote against the temptations of the following day, and constant examination of ourselves after duty is a preservative against vain encroachments in following duties; and upon the finding them out, let us apply the blood of Christ by faith for our cure, and draw strength from the death of Christ for the conquest of them, and let us also be humbled for them. God lifts up the humble; when we are humbled for our carnal frames in one duty, we shall find ourselves by the grace of God more elevated in the next.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CXLVII. — ANOTHER thunder-bolt is this — The apostle saith, that the righteousness of God is manifested and avails, “unto all and upon all them that believe” in Christ: and that, “there is no difference.” (Rom. iii. 21-22). —

     Here again, he divides in the clearest words, the whole race of men into two distinct divisions. To the believing he gives the righteousness of God, but takes it from the unbelieving. Now, no one, I suppose, will be madman enough to doubt, whether or not the power or endeavour of “Free-will” be a something that is not faith in Christ Jesus. Paul then denies that any thing which is not this faith, is righteous before God. And if it be not righteous before God, it must be sin. For there is with God no medium between righteousness and sin, which can be as it were a neuter — neither righteousness nor sin. Otherwise the whole argument of Paul would amount to nothing: for it proceeds wholly upon this distinct division — that whatever is done and carried on by men, must be in the sight of God, either righteousness or sin: righteousness, if done in faith; sin, if faith be wanting. With men, indeed, things pass thus. — All cases in which men, in their intercourse with each other, neither owe any thing as a due, nor do any thing as a free benefit, are called medium and neuter. But here the ungodly man sins against God, whether he eat, or whether he drink, or whatever he do; because, he abuses the creature of God by his ungodliness and perpetual ingratitude, and does not, at any one moment, give glory to God from his heart.

     Sect. CXLVIII. — THIS also, is no powerless thunder-bolt where the apostle says, “All have sinned and are without the glory of God: for there is no difference.” (Rom. iii. 23).

     What, I pray you, could be spoken more clearly? Produce one of your “Free-will” workmen, and say to me — does this man, sin in this his endeavour? If he does not sin, why does not Paul except him? Why does he include him also without difference? Surely he that saith “all,” excepts no one in any place, at any time, in any work or endeavour. If therefore you except any man, for any kind of devoted desire or work, — you make Paul a liar; because he includes that “Free-will” — workman or striver, among all the rest, and in all that he saith concerning them; whereas, Paul should have had some respect for this person, and not have numbered him among the general herd of sinners!

     There is also that part, where he saith, that they are “without the glory of God.”

     You may understand “the glory of God” here two ways, actively and passively. For Paul writes thus from his frequent use of Hebraisms. “The glory of God,” understood actively, is that glory by which God glories in us; understood passively, it is that glory by which we glory in God. But it seems to me proper, to understand it now, passively. So, “the faith of Christ,” is, according to the Latin, the faith which Christ has; but, according to the Hebrew, “the faith of Christ,” is the faith which we have in Christ. So, also, “the righteousness of God,” signifies, according to the Latin, the righteousness which God has; but according to the Hebrews, it signifies the righteousness which we have from God and before God. Thus also “the glory of God,” we understand according to the Latin, not according to the Hebrew; and receive it as signifying, the glory which we have from God and before God; which may be called, our glory in God. And that man glories in God who knows, to a certainty, that God has a favour unto him, and deigns to look upon him with kind regard; and that, whatever he does pleases God, and what does not please him, is borne with by Him and pardoned.

     If therefore, the endeavour or desire of “Free-will” be not sin, but good before God, it can certainly glory; and in that glorying, say with confidence, — This pleases God, God favours this, God looks upon and accepts this, or at least, bears with it and pardons it. For this is the glorying of the faithful in God: and they that have not this, are rather confounded before God. But Paul here denies that these men have this; saying, that they are all entirely without this glory.

     This also experience itself proves. — Put the question to all the exercisers of “Free-will” to a man, and see if you can shew me one, who can honestly, and from his heart, say of any one of his devoted efforts and endeavours, — This pleases God! If you can bring forward a single one, I am ready to acknowledge myself overthrown, and to cede to you the palm. But I know there is not one to be found. And if this glory be wanting, so that the conscience dares not say, to a certainty, and with confidence, — this pleases God, it is certain that it does not please God. For as a man believes, so it is unto him: because, he does not, to a certainty, believe that he pleases God; which, nevertheless, it is necessary to believe; for to doubt of the favour of God, is the very sin itself of unbelief; because, He will have it believed with the most assuring faith that He is favourable. Therefore, I have convinced them upon the testimony of their own conscience, that “Free-will,” being “without the glory of God,” is, with all its powers, its devoted strivings and endeavours, perpetually under the guilt of the sin of unbelief.

     And what will the advocates of “Free-will” say to that which follows, “being justified freely by His grace?” (Rom. iii. 24). What is the meaning of the word “freely?” What is the meaning of “by His grace?” How will merit, and endeavour, accord with freely-given righteousness? But, perhaps, they will here say — that they attribute to “Free-will” a very little indeed, and that which is by no means the ‘merit of worthiness’ (meritum condignum!) These, however, are mere empty words: for all that is sought for in the defence of “Free-will,” is to make place for merit. This is manifest: for the Diatribe has, throughout, argued and expostulated thus,

     - “If there be no freedom of will, how can there be place for merit? And if there be no place for merit, how can there be place for reward? To whom will the reward be assigned, if justification be without merit?

     Paul here gives you an answer. — That there is no such thing as merit at all; but that all who are justified are justified “freely;” that this is ascribed to no one but to the grace of God. — And when this righteousness is given, the kingdom and life eternal are given with it! Where is your endeavouring now? Where is your devoted effort? Where are your works? Where are your merits of “Free-will?” Where is the profit of them all put together? You cannot here make, as a pretence, ‘obscurity and ambiguity:’ the facts and the works are most clear and most plain. But be it so, that they attribute to “Free-will” a very little indeed, yet they teach us that by that very little we can attain unto righteousness and grace. Nor do they solve that question, Why does God justify one and leave another? in any other way, than by asserting the freedom of the will, and saying, Because, the one endeavours and the other does not: and God regards the one for his endeavouring, and despises the other for his not endeavouring; lest, if he did otherwise, He should appear to be unjust.

     And notwithstanding all their pretence, both by their tongue and pen, that they do not profess to attain unto grace by ‘the merit of worthiness’ (meritum condignum) nor call it the merit of worthiness, yet they only mock us with a term, and hold fast their tenet all the while. For what is the amount of their pretence that they do not call it ‘the merit of worthiness,’ if nevertheless they assign unto it all that belongs to the merit of worthiness? — saying, that he in the sight of God attains unto grace who endeavours, and he who does not endeavour, does not attain unto it? Is this not plainly making it to be the merit of worthiness? Is it not making God a respecter of works, of merits, and of persons to say that one man is devoid of grace from his own fault, because he did not endeavour after it, but that another, because he did endeavour after it, has attained unto grace, unto which he would not have attained, if he had not endeavoured after it? If this be not ‘the merit of worthiness,’ then I should like to be informed what it is that is called ‘the merit of worthiness.’

     In this way you may play a game of mockery upon all words; and say, it is not indeed the merit of worthiness, but is in effect the same as the ‘merit of worthiness.’ — The thorn is not a bad tree, but is in effect the same as a bad tree! — The fig is not a good tree, but is in effect the same as a good tree! — The Diatribe is not, indeed, impious, but says and does nothing but what is impious!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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