1 Chronicles 18
David Defeats His Enemies1 Chronicles 18 1 After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Gath and its villages out of the hand of the Philistines.
2 And he defeated Moab, and the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute.
3 David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah-Hamath, as he went to set up his monument at the river Euphrates. 4 And David took from him 1,000 chariots, 7,000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses, but left enough for 100 chariots. 5 And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. 6 Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went. 7 And David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 And from Tibhath and from Cun, cities of Hadadezer, David took a large amount of bronze. With it Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the vessels of bronze.
9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, 10 he sent his son Hadoram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him; for Hadadezer had often been at war with Tou. And he sent all sorts of articles of gold, of silver, and of bronze. 11 These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he had carried off from all the nations, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and Amalek.
12 And Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, killed 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13 Then he put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.
David’s Administration14 So David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and equity to all his people. 15 And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests; and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.
1 Chronicles 19
The Ammonites Disgrace David’s Men1 Chronicles 19 1 Now after this Nahash the king of the Ammonites died, and his son reigned in his place. 2 And David said, “I will deal kindly with Hanun the son of Nahash, for his father dealt kindly with me.” So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites to Hanun to console him. 3 But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?” 4 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away; 5 and they departed. When David was told concerning the men, he sent messengers to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
6 When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent 1,000 talents of silver to hire chariots and horsemen from Mesopotamia, from Aram-maacah, and from Zobah. 7 They hired 32,000 chariots and the king of Maacah with his army, who came and encamped before Medeba. And the Ammonites were mustered from their cities and came to battle. 8 When David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the mighty men. 9 And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, and the kings who had come were by themselves in the open country.
Ammonites and Syrians Defeated10 When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. 11 The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and they were arrayed against the Ammonites. 12 And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” 14 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near before the Syrians for battle, and they fled before him. 15 And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, Joab’s brother, and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.
16 But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they sent messengers and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates, with Shophach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17 And when it was told to David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to them and drew up his forces against them. And when David set the battle in array against the Syrians, they fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death also Shophach the commander of their army. 19 And when the servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with David and became subject to him. So the Syrians were not willing to save the Ammonites anymore.
1 Chronicles 20
The Capture of Rabbah1 Chronicles 20 1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. And Joab struck down Rabbah and overthrew it. 2 And David took the crown of their king from his head. He found that it weighed a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone. And it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. 3 And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
Philistine Giants Killed4 And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. 5 And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 6 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. 7 And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, struck him down. 8 These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
1 Chronicles 21
David’s Census Brings Pestilence1 Chronicles 21 1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” 3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” 4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. 6 But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.
7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’ ” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Choose what you will: 12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 13 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
14 So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel fell. 15 And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.”
David Builds an Altar18 Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up at Gad’s word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD. 20 Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. 22 And David said to Ornan, “Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD—give it to me at its full price—that the plague may be averted from the people.” 23 Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” 24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 25 So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. 26 And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.
28 At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon, 30 but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
What I'm Reading
Wouldn’t a Loving God Make Sure Everyone Gets to Heaven?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/14/2017
The concept of Hell is daunting for many Christians. It’s not pleasant to think our unbelieving loved ones might spend eternity separated from God, regretting their decision forever. Several religious traditions seek to avoid the problem by offering a second chance to those who reject God’s gift of forgiveness. They envision a place where rebellious souls can, in the next life, reconsider their choice or earn their way toward heaven; the Catholic tradition offers “Purgatory” and Mormonism describes a “Spirit Prison”. Both seek to offer solutions to commonly asked questions: Wouldn’t a Loving God love all of His creation? Wouldn’t He make sure everyone goes to Heaven (regardless of what they might believe in this life)? A loving God would never limit Heaven to a select few and allow billions of people to suffer in Hell, would He?
Let’s consider, however, the nature of Heaven and the truth about humans. Heaven is the realm of God, and those who ultimately enter into Heaven will be united with God forever. While that sounds fantastic for some of us, it sounds ridiculous, boring or offensive to many who reject the existence of God (and resist God’s guidelines and obligations). If everyone will eventually end up in Heaven, it is inevitable and compulsory. This type of eternal destination seems contrary to the nature of God and the nature of human “free will”:
A Compulsory Heaven Would Eradicate “Free Will” | People who deny the existence of God relish the fact they have the freedom and ability to do so. Some of these same people, however, argue a loving God would make certain everyone goes to Heaven after they die. But this kind of “universalism” actually denies human “free will” altogether. If Heaven is the only destination awaiting us (based on the assumption all who die eventually end up there), it is truly compulsory. In this view of the afterlife, we have no choice about where we end up; everyone is united with God, like it or not. A compulsory Heaven rejects the importance of human liberty, the very thing those who deny God cherish the most. By offering (but not forcing) Heaven to those who freely choose to love the One who reigns there, God is actually honoring and respecting our “free will” universally. He is, in fact, treating us with the utmost respect and dignity; something we would expect if He is all-loving in the first place.
A Compulsory Heaven Would Embrace the “Unsuited” | In addition to this, a Heaven including anyone and everyone is counter intuitive and un-reasonable. Just think about it for a minute. Most of us would agree: A Holy place of eternal reward is simply not suited for people with a certain kind of character or certain kinds of desires. All of us can think of someone from history who (by our estimate) is unqualified for eternal reward. We may not all agree on who should or shouldn’t be included in such a place, but most of us would hesitate when considering people like Hitler (or perhaps lifelong unrepentant pedophiles with murderous desires) for eternal reward in Heaven. If there is a Heaven, it is surely unsuited for certain kinds of people, and even the most skeptical among us can find someone he or she would place in this category. A compulsory Heaven, including the most vile and dangerous people from history, is not likely what skeptics have in mind when they argue for an all-inclusive final destination.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Full of Grace and Truth
By N.T. Wright 12/25/2008
If I asked you where in John’s Gospel you would find a wedding scene, several of you would know the answer at once. Don’t worry; I am not going to use the excuse that this is Christmas Day to turn this august congregation into a glorified Sunday School, though actually Christmas Day of all days is a great time to celebrate childlikeness and some of you may perhaps have been enjoying doing so already. But the obvious wedding in St John is of course in chapter 2, the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus changes the water into wine. But I want to suggest to you this morning, as a matter of considerable importance for understanding our Christian pilgrimage and mission, that there is a wedding of equal if not greater significance in the famous passage we just heard, the extraordinary Prologue to John’s Gospel.
John’s Prologue, as again many of you will know, is like the great doorway to a great building. These eighteen verses, so apparently simple yet, like their primary Old Testament background in Genesis 1, so utterly profound, introduce us to the subject-matter of the whole gospel. For many generations and in many traditions they have been read as the Christmas morning gospel, because of their central and earth-shattering announcement: And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. That is the mystery which lies at the heart of Christian faith and life, mission and ministry, the mystery at which the other two great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam, completely balk: that the one true and living God should pour out his very self into created flesh, that the playwright should come on stage and take the leading part because nobody else can play it. And that God-in-human-flesh theme isn’t a flash in the pan, a one-off experiment which, having riskily been tried in Jesus himself, God quickly gave up. Part of the whole point of John’s Gospel is that when the Word made Flesh accomplishes his work of glory, love and passion, he pours out his own Spirit on his followers so that they, too, can become Words-become-Flesh. This, too, is stressed in the Prologue: as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, born not in the normal way but with a new birth from God. We can watch it happening immediately after the resurrection, when Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to tell the eleven ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father.’ Christmas, in other words, isn’t supposed to be just a truth about Jesus. It’s supposed to be, in utter dependence on Jesus, a truth about us. Christmas isn’t a spectator sport. It’s an invitation. And, yes, it’s a wedding invitation.
So where is the wedding in John’s prologue? Back to Sunday School again, this time with a guess-the-text puzzle. I said that Genesis 1 was the primary Old Testament background for John’s prologue; but what are the other major Old Testament passages that John is echoing? Hands go up in this imaginary classroom: yes, Proverbs 8, God’s wisdom through which the world was created – very good; Isaiah 55, with the Word like rain and snow coming down from above and accomplishing God’s work through the ministry of the Servant: yes, excellent; Ben-Sirach 24 – well, yes, not exactly the Old Testament but very important. But what about Psalm 85?
Think about it with John in mind. ‘Grace and Truth are met together; justice and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs up from the ground; and justice looks down from heaven.’ And suddenly that little phrase in John’s prologue, ‘grace and truth’, so easy to say that it just slips down almost unnoticed, like the second glass of ginger wine, stands out in three dimensions and demands that we pay attention to it. My friends, Christmas is in one sense all about a birth, but in another sense it is about a wedding: the marriage of grace and truth, which is in fact the marriage of heaven and earth. The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace; for the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. When John repeats something in this way, he wants us to pay it close attention.
It’s all too easy, reading a phrase like ‘grace and truth’, to suppose that these abstract nouns denote two of the many miscellaneous good things which are given to us in Jesus Christ, along (that is) with justice, peace, salvation, wisdom and a host of others. And in a sense that’s true. But with Psalm 85 in the background – and I’ll say more about that in a moment – a new possibility opens up, which means that among the mysterious envelopes under the Christmas tree we discover an invitation to this wedding.
According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright. Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.
An Ordinary Girl of Extraordinary Faith
By Simonetta Carr 9/01/2013
As sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey stood on the scaffold on a gray winter morning, she looked calmly out over the crowd of spectators. Then, mustering the strength she had asked God to provide, she spoke with such a poise and conviction that even her executioners were moved.
After a brief and customary admission of guilt (all those condemned to death had to admit to the justice of their punishment), Jane emphasized what mattered to her more than anything in the world. “I pray you all, good Christian people,” she said, “to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.” She confessed some past sins, particularly love of self and the world, thanked God for His mercy, then asked for prayer, but was careful to add, “while I am alive,” thereby pointing out the futility of the Roman Catholic belief in prayer for the dead.
Jane had ruled England for less than two weeks, during one of the most turbulent times of its history. Young King Edward VI had just died of a pulmonary illness, leaving unconfirmed orders for the installment of Jane to the throne. Taking advantage of strong popular support, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s firstborn, swiftly gathered her forces to claim her rights to the crown. Jane was arrested, confined to a section of the Tower of London, tried, and found guilty of treason. Initially, Mary seemed bent on showing mercy. That was until Jane’s father was caught as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. At that point, Jane became too great a risk to Mary’s reign. As long as she was alive, someone could try to free her and set her up again as queen. Her death sentence was sealed.
We know relatively little of Jane’s life until Edward’s death and the enactment of his will, but she emerges as a typical teenager from the few documents available. Her early letters reflect a simple desire to move away from home and a pleasing demonstration of literary skill. Her often romanticized complaint that her parents didn’t appreciate her love for higher studies sounds, in reality, like a teenager’s attempt to elicit sympathy at a time of personal frustration. Even her teacher, John Aylmer, had serious concerns when she started to display a seemingly vain interest in fashion and music.
Strangely, it’s in this ordinariness that we may find the greatest encouragement for ourselves and our children. When this very normal young girl had to face sudden humiliation, imprisonment, and eventually death, the Scriptures and theology she had consistently and almost inconspicuously learned, day after day, as a young girl—mostly in church, school, and family devotions—took prominence in her life.
Her theological training stands out particularly in her account of a three-day discussion with John Feckenham, an abbot sent by Queen Mary to persuade Jane to accept the Roman Catholic faith. Utterly convinced that “faith only saveth,” Jane confidently and passionately dismantled Feckenham’s arguments regarding the mass by pointing out that Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all on the cross and that He was offering an ordinary piece of bread while present in body with the disciples when He said, “This is my body” (Luke 22:19).
Her familiarity with Scriptures is also obvious in the letters she wrote during her imprisonment, particularly one to Thomas Harding, her former chaplain, who had renounced his faith in the gospel. In just one paragraph of that boldly explicit message, she very naturally quoted about eleven Bible verses.
Finally, her last letter to her younger sister Katherine echoes the words of comfort and instruction Jane must have heard in her younger years: “Desire, sister, to understand the law of the Lord your God. Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life, and then enjoy the life that Christ has gained for you by His death. Don’t think that just because you are now young, your life will be long, because young and old die as God wills…. Deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord. Repent of your sins, and yet don’t despair. Be strong in faith, and yet don’t presume. With St. Paul, desire to die and to be with Christ, with whom, even in death, there is life.”
Jane inscribed the same phrase that she wrote to her sister—“Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life” — in the dedication of her book of prayers that she left to her jailer. In her last days, her death as a Christian was the only thing that mattered, and she embraced that task with diligence and devotion.
It’s sometimes easy to see ourselves or our children as the younger Jane — attending almost routinely or even distractedly to the means of grace and the study of God’s Word, seeing little fruit—but Jane’s life is an encouragement to persevere. If we are grounded in the gospel and sound theology, trials will not catch us unprepared. They will strengthen the faith that “comes from hearing,” while “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion” (Rom. 10:17; Phil. 1:6).
- Michelangelo for Kids: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
- Cleopatra and Ancient Egypt for Kids: Her Life and World, with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
- Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata (Chosen Daughters)
- Renee of France (Bitesize Biographies)
- Jonathan Edwards (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Augustine of Hippo (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Athanasius (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Martin Luther - Christian Biographies for Young Readers
- Marie Durand - Christian Biographies for Young Readers
- Anselm of Canterbury (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Lady Jane Grey (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- John Owen (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata (Chosen Daughters)
- John Calvin (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Irenaeus (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
- Peter Martyr Vermigli (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
A Sure Hope for the Future
By R.C. Sproul 9/01/2013
I’ve spoken at more conferences than I can remember, and one of the highlights of these events is the book signing wherein attendees visit with the conference speakers and the speakers sign their books. These signings are a privilege because they give the speaker a glimpse at the impact his words have had on people. I’ve talked to seminarians, grandmothers, businessmen, and just about anyone else you can think of during these signings. On occasion, children have even given me pictures that they drew for me.
As enjoyable as these signings can be, there’s one phenomenon I haven’t been able to get used to fully, and that’s the request to sign one book that I didn’t write—the Bible. I’m happy to do it, however, and often the people who want me to sign their Bible ask me for my life’s verse. The first time someone asked me for such a verse, I was perplexed. “What’s a life verse?” I asked, never having heard of this tradition whereby people pick one verse from the Bible to base their lives upon. In any case, I chose Romans 12:12 the first time I was asked to provide a life verse during a book signing. This verse features one of Paul’s great summaries of the Christian life: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
When I think of what it means to be patient in tribulation, to be constant in prayer, and to find joy in our hope that lies ahead, I think of one person who embodies that triad of virtues more than almost anyone else in history. I’m talking about the most famous patient man of all time—Job. If ever a man was called upon to hang on to his faith and his devotion to God in the midst of travail, it was Job.
I’m sure we all know Job’s story well. It opens with a little glimpse into heaven. Satan challenged God and asserted with a perverse kind of glee that humanity had rebelled against its Creator and no longer stood on His side. The Lord responded by putting forth Job as an example of one man who still loved and served Him. But Satan countered that Job served God only because of what he could get from such service, so the Lord put Job to the test to show the Accuser that he was wrong. What happened was that Satan attacked Job more violently than he did anyone else in the history of the world except for Jesus.
To make matters worse, Job then had to deal with three “friends” who told him that he suffered because of his own sin. But Job patiently and repeatedly asserted his innocence, demanding to know the reasons for his suffering since he was a righteous man who hadn’t done anything to deserve such pain.
Job wasn’t patient in the sense that he had a plastic smile on his face and whistled through all of his misery and affliction. Instead, Job was patient in the sense that he did two things: he hung on and he refused to curse God. Job definitely complained—loudly—and he challenged God, asking Him many questions. But unlike his “friends,” Job always spoke rightly about God (Job 42:8). Moreover, in the midst of all his suffering, Job made what I believe is one of the most heroic statements a human being ever uttered. In the midst of abject misery he cried out, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).
Scripture says the just shall live by faith, which doesn’t mean believing something when you’re not sure if it’s true. It means that the just shall live by trusting God. Paul distills the essence of the Christian life when he says, “Rejoice in your hope,” since our joy is vested in the future that God promises for His people. Our joy as strangers and sojourners in this valley of tears is that God has prepared a place for us—a better world that will be consummated at Christ’s return.
Paul’s use of the word hope isn’t the way we use the term today to refer to things that are uncertain. He and the other biblical authors talk about hope that is certain, hope that cannot fail, and hope that will never disappoint or embarrass you (Rom. 5:5). The New Testament calls hope the anchor of the soul (Heb. 6:13–20). Why? What is it that makes it certain? The answer is God’s sure promises and the demonstration of His faithfulness in the history of Israel, in the lives of the Apostles, and, most clearly, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Job had very little joy, but there was still a part of his spirit that rejoiced in the midst of his tribulation. Elsewhere he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and I will see Him standing on that day.” He knew that there is One who would vindicate his prayers, who would restore him some day. The exact details of the vindication he had in mind is up for speculation, for he lived long before the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. But we do know that Job was certain of one thing, namely, that God would not allow his pain, suffering, and affliction to be the last chapter. Job groaned in the present, but he never lost his confidence in the future.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
When Pigs Fly
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/01/2013
We Protestants tend to have something of a love/hate relationship with Thomas Aquinas. On the one hand, as Protestants, at least we who are Reformed, we value theological brilliance. We admire deeply the mind of Thomas, perhaps even dreaming that had he lived in our day, he surely would have been one of us. On the other hand, as Protestants we, well, protest. That is to say, that brilliant mind was likewise noticed and put to use by Rome. Thomas was a brilliant theologian for the Church of Rome. Brilliant we love — Church of Rome, not so much.
We could spend some time arguing about how good or how bad Thomas’ theology was. Decades ago in these very pages, the equally brilliant Dr. John Gerstner, at my request, argued that Thomas’ theology was essentially Protestant. Perhaps so. I love and admire the man (or rather men, for the same principle applies to our good Dr. Gerstner) for an altogether better reason. It is because we are a proud people that we rejoice in brilliant minds. What truly commends Thomas, however, was not his brilliant mind but his humble heart.
That heart is brought front and center in one legendary story about Thomas during his student days. The story begins with Thomas entering a classroom. The professor is not yet there, but most of the students are. They are all, however, by the window, craning their necks with excitement. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. “Thomas, come quickly,” the students respond, “there are pigs — FLYING!” Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter dies down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, “I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.”
We can, if we are imbued with the spirit of the age, mock such a trusting attitude. We can scorn such credulity. We can even baptize our cynicism with supporting biblical texts. “Come on now, Thomas. Don’t you know we’re to be harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents?” (Matt. 10:16).
Or, we can see it for what it is — an expression of that godly character which made Thomas a great man. We can see it as that which we should be most zealous to emulate in his life.
Another great and brilliant man of God taught me this when I was a young student. I was a sophomore in high school and deeply and profoundly sophomoric. That is, I thought myself wise, and invested time and energy in cultivating that image. I dressed in black. I listened to ponderous lyrics from esoteric rock bands. I wrote morbid poetry about walls and masks and worms. My father gave me in one fell swoop a rebuke and a challenge. He said to me, “Son, the cheapest way to develop the reputation as an intellectual is to adopt the posture of a cynic.”
What I want is not a reputation as either an intellectual or a cynic. What I want is a reputation for following our Lord Jesus. What I want is a simplicity that cares not a whit about reputation at all. What I want is a guilelessness in my own heart that is so grounded that I expect nothing but guilelessness in my fellow believers. What I want is not to be known as a great theologian and a great man of God, but to be known by God as a humble child of His. All of which means, in short, that what I want is to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.
In the end, our battles for reputation are battles to build and to expand our own kingdoms. We want to be the smartest guy in the room. Then we want to be the smartest guy in the church. Then we want to be the smartest guy we know. We want to be king of Smart-avia. Even if we don’t worry about what we will eat, or what we will wear, as those to whom Jesus spoke did, we do worry about what people will think, or worse—that they won’t think of us at all.
The world tells us this is how our life will have meaning. This is how we can have significance. The world tells us that pigs are ever and always earthbound. But Jesus calls us to believe Him. He tells us that if we will seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then we will receive all we could ever want or need. He tells us that if we will delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. The question isn’t whether we are smart enough to understand what He has said. The question is whether we are humble enough to submit to what He has said.
I suspect that when Thomas went on to his reward, he did not cast before the Lord that crown that was his reputation for theological and apologetic brilliance. I suspect that he threw that out long before He got there. Instead the crown he cast before that glassy sea was something valuable, the glory of his humility.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The New Monasticism
By George Grant 9/01/2013
By the thirteenth century, the West’s idealistic wars against a fearsome Islamic threat had failed ignobly; its stagnating economy had cast a pall of depression across the once prosperous and thriving land; its national and political leaders reveled in pomp, circumstance, and internecine rivalry while their subjects cowered in poverty, fear, and injustice; and the church’s spiritual authority was marred by the flaming vices of perversity, carnality, and avarice. No wonder, then, that even the most pious men tended to press into brash, adventurous superstition or retreat into timid, monkish isolation.
Sound familiar? It should. High medievalism, for all its obvious differences, is so like our present circumstances that historian Margaret Tuchman’s famous description, “A Distant Mirror,” may be more apt than ever. Indeed, the rise of a “New Monastic Movement” among young, urban, evangelical hipsters in recent days is a reminder to us that we are not so different from our barely remembered ancestors as we might suppose. But as understandable as this impulse to run for cover in this time of uncertainty, distrust, and crumbling cultural stability might be, it is hardly a Scriptural response.
G.K. Chesterton once asserted that our world is simultaneously an ogre’s castle that must be stormed and a cottage where one might return after a long day’s labor. Life in this poor fallen world, he said, is both a battle and a refuge; it is at the same time a dangerous enterprise and a restful repose. In other words, he recognized that the world we live in, work in, and serve in is fraught with paradox—which of course, is a supremely biblical idea.
We know, for instance, that the world is only a temporary dwelling place. It is “passing away” (1 John 2:17), and we are here but for a little while as aliens and sojourners (Acts 7:6). Because we are a part “of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), our true “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Our affections are naturally “set … on things that are above” (Col. 3:2).
In addition, the world is filled with dangers, toils, and snares (Jer. 18:22). In tandem with the flesh and the devil, it makes war on the saints (John 15:18). “All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father” (1 John 2:16). The world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because “the cares of the world choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt. 8:22).
Thankfully, Christ overcame the world (John 16:33) and chose us “out of the world” (15:19). Thus, we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), but neither are we to “love the world” (1 John 2:15) because Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). Though we once walked “following the course of this world” (Eph. 2:2), now we are to keep ourselves “unstained from the world” (James 1:27). Indeed, “friendship with the world is enmity with God” so that whoever is a friend of the world is the enemy of God (4:4). Thus, warnings against worldliness, carnal-mindedness, and earthly attachments dominate biblical ethics.
But then, that is the problem, isn’t it? We must continue to live in the world. We must be “in” it but not be “of” it. And that is no easy feat. As John Calvin wrote, “Nothing is more difficult than to forsake all carnal thoughts, to subdue and renounce our false appetites, and to devote ourselves to God and our brethren, and to live the life of angels in a world of corruption.”
To make matters even more complex, we not only have to live in this fallen world, but we have to work in it (1 Thess. 4:11), serve in it (Luke 22:26), and minister in it (2 Tim. 4:5). We have been appointed ambassadors to it (2 Cor. 5:20), priests for it (1 Peter 2:9), and witnesses in it (Matt. 24:14). We even have to go to the uttermost parts of it (Acts 1:8), offering “a good confession” of the eternal life to which we were called (1 Tim. 6:12).
The reason for this seemingly contradictory state of affairs — enmity with the world on the one hand, responsibility to it on the other — is simply that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). Though the world is “in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and knows neither God nor the children of God (1 Cor. 1:21), God is in Christ “reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). He is the “Savior of the world” (4:42). He is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). Indeed, He was made “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Through Christ, “all things are being reconciled” (Col. 1:20), so that finally “the kingdom of the world [shall] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15).
A genuinely integrated Christian view regarding life and work must be cognizant of both perspectives regarding the world—and treat them with equal weight. It must be engaged in the world. It must be unengaged in worldliness. It must somehow correlate spiritual concerns with temporal concerns. It must coalesce heavenly hope and landed life. It must coordinate heartfelt faith and down-to-earth practice.
The only way we can do that is to bring our faith right into the thick of our mess of a world. As appealing as a retreat into some monastic sanctuary might seem to us during these wearying days in which we live, it is hardly a biblical alternative. And while there are innumerable commendable aspects of the “New Monastic Movement”—including concern for justice issues, care for the poor, sacrificial stewardship, and covenant community—its high ideals are best pursued as we engage the world, as we “go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [he has] commanded [us]” (Matt. 28:19–20).
George Grant Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 104O LORD My God, You Are Very Great
27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
By Alvin Reid 9/01/2013
Jimmy arrived at my house promptly at 8 a.m. to take me to the airport. He has often done this for me. Jimmy and his wife, Natalie, head overseas later this year as missionaries. He has been in a small group that I lead; he and Natalie also lead a small group at our local church.
But Jimmy was doing more than giving me a ride to the airport. This trip demonstrates the primary approach I take toward mentoring. I rarely ever go on a driving trip alone, and I virtually never drive to the airport by myself. Whenever I can, in the normal course of life, I involve someone I am mentoring. Talking about life and godliness in this context gives life to a mentoring relationship. I call this informal mentoring.
Examine the life of Christ in the Gospels and notice His approach: Jesus spoke to multitudes. He fed thousands. He taught many. He sent out seventy to witness, but He changed the world with only twelve. Even more than that, He poured Himself especially into three: Peter, James, and John.
The greatest impact I have made as a teacher and a minister has been not through preaching to crowds or teaching classes, as vital as those are. It has been those individuals who have walked with me beyond the classroom or small group in normal, everyday life, talking about ministry and theology to be sure, but talking as well about living life for Christ.
I believe in formal mentoring, and I regularly meet with one man or a few men to invest in them. At the very least, informal mentoring can be added to more formal approaches, and in my opinion is the superior mode, for it is the approach Jesus used.
Study the Gospels to see how Jesus mentored the twelve. They saw his heart for the lost (Matt. 9:35-38). He put them in situations that challenged them to think (asking them who He was in Matt. 16; the Transfiguration in Matt. 17). He defended them before the Pharisees (chap. 15). He gave them assignments such as spreading the good news and, ultimately, the Great Commission. These and scores of other examples came through the course of their daily life together.
The best learning comes not from simply listening to a mentor but from seeing truth lived out in the mentor’s life. In this way, informal mentoring offers several advantages:
Informal mentoring allows the person you mentor to see you as you live life, and vice versa. We can all put on a front in a scheduled, weekly meeting, but are less likely to do so as we conduct our normal lives daily.
Informal mentoring allows direct application in a specific context. When I speak at a university, I take students interested in collegiate ministry. I let them critique my message, evaluate the host ministry, and talk about how the gospel could impact that campus. I do the same with student ministry or at leadership conferences. I recently saw a young man who earned his PhD with me. As a student, he helped me serve my wife by planting flowers, something he had never done. We talked theology as we planted that day. He recalled that event, telling me he had just made a beautiful flowerbed for his family. Our mentoring should be theological and spiritual; we should also tie such mentoring to life.
Informal mentoring allows us to invest in others without adding more time to our calendar. When I do yard work, I involve mentees; I take them to run errands. We evangelize together. They help me with writing projects. I even let them drive me around in my car.
Informal mentoring allows us to see those whom we mentor in everyday life settings and observe how they respond. It’s hard while sitting in a weekly small group to see how a young man responds when things don’t go as planned. How does he treat the server in the restaurant? How does he speak of others in authority? How does he respond both to encouragement and rebuke? How does he apply the gospel to his life?
Informal mentoring offers excellent opportunities for defining moments. I have seen a young man process an important life concept in conversation during a two-hour drive far more often than in a more formal setting.
If you are not already doing so, think about someone you want to mentor. Ask yourself what things you currently do that would allow you to involve these protégés: running errands, cleaning your office, working on a project, or doing yard work, for instance. Think of normal activities where you could invite someone to walk with you. Adjust your lifestyle to include other people in these activities. And as you spend time together, talk about life and godliness, about theology and its application. And encourage those whom you mentor to do the same. After all, one vital aspect of the Apostolic witness was the Apostles’ proximity to Christ Jesus, as seen in Acts 4:13: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (emphasis mine).
An Eternal Perspective: An Interview with Randy Alcorn
By Randy Alcorn 9/01/2013
Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian, and how did you receive the call to ministry?
Randy Alcorn: I grew up without Christ and without the church. When I was in high school, I attended a church to see a girl I’d met. But God can use even our wrong motives for his right purposes. (In fact, that girl became my wife years later.) After a few months of attending, I was reading the Bible regularly. One day I realized I believed what it said about Jesus. I dropped to my knees, confessed my sins, and gave my life to Christ. I have never once regretted it.
By the time I’d known the Lord two years, I knew I wanted to go to Bible college and seminary to study God’s Word. At first, I wanted to be a missionary, but then we started a church that I was asked to help pastor. I was a pastor until 1990, and I’m still part of the same church. I love it and I’m grateful.
TT: Please describe the events that led to your earning only minimum wage and giving away 100 percent of your book royalties.
RA: In 1990 I was a pastor of a large church. I was also on the board of a crisis pregnancy center, and we’d opened our home to a pregnant teenager and helped place her child for adoption. My burden for the unborn grew, and I participated in peaceful, nonviolent rescues at abortion clinics. For this I was arrested and sent to jail. An abortion clinic won a court judgment against a group of us, and I discovered that my church was about to receive a writ of garnishment for my wages. To prevent the church from either having to pay the clinic or defy a court order, I resigned.
I’d already divested myself of book royalties. Fortunately, our family had been living on only a portion of my church salary, and we’d just made our final house payment. Another court judgment followed, involving another abortion clinic. They were awarded the largest judgment ever against a group of peaceful protestors: $8.2 million.
By all appearances our lives had taken a devastating turn, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to us. What they intended for evil, God intended for good. We began a nonprofit organization, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM). The only way I could avoid garnishment was to make no more than minimum wage. (I was also given some modest benefits, and my wife made a part-time secretary’s salary.) Royalties from my books go directly to EPM, which gives 100 percent of them to worthy Christian organizations as well as to help facilitate the giving away of my books to people all over the world. By God’s grace, we’ve given away more than $6 million to date.
TT: Given your experience suffering the legal consequences for protesting abortion, can you give us some advice on dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity?
RA: Jesus said, “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation.
I’m grateful that there are organizations working to protect the rights of Christians. But I’m concerned that we shouldn’t view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked.
The fact is, while the gospel is good news, it is also insulting. Many people don’t like being called sinners and told they deserve to go to hell. Peter said, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
If our eyes are on anyone but Jesus, we’re not going to have the stamina to put up with criticism or outright hostility. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). Jesus is the Audience of One. We will stand before his judgment seat, no one else’s. We should long to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What other people think won’t matter.
TT: What are two or three simple, practical ways that Christians can combat abortion in the course of their “ordinary” day-to-day lives?
RA: First, pray regularly for pro-life ministries, churches, mothers, and babies. If the darkness of child-killing is to be overcome, it will require spiritual warfare, fought with humble and persistent prayer (Eph. 6:10–20).
(Eph 6:10–20) 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ESV
Second, we can all give regular visibility to the issue of abortion in conversations and in places such as blogs and social media. Scripture says to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Prov. 31:8–9). It’s vitally important that we approach subjects such as abortion in a Christlike manner, full of grace and truth (see John 1:14).
Third, spearhead a pro-life ministry in your church, or find one in your area (visit www.care-net.org) and consider donating time, money, equipment, clothes, and professional skills.
If you’d like more ideas of ways to help the unborn and their mothers, I share a list on our site (www.epm.org/helpunborn).
TT: Aside from the lawsuit, has there been a defining moment in your ministry?
RA: As a young pastor, my mom was dying, and every day I would read to her the last two chapters of Revelation. Though I never heard it spoken about in my Bible college or seminary, I found compelling this picture of a resurrected world where people with real bodies will live in a redeemed culture forever centered on Christ. I began to look forward to seeing again in the new world my mother and my friends who had died. That was thirty years ago, and I have studied and written about heaven and the importance of an eternal perspective ever since.
TT: You write both fiction and non-fiction. What are the unique challenges in writing for each genre?
RA: Fiction and nonfiction are very different, of course, but certain things carry over—the need for painstaking research, engaging development, and clear language.
For me, the toughest part about being a writer is working on the big books, the ones that take a couple of years, such as Money, Possessions & Eternity and If God Is Good. I have a list of most of Alcorn's books on my book page. Click here. ) In writing my book Heaven, I had some very discouraging times where I stayed up half the night working and asked, “Lord, is this going to make a difference?” It’s something you have to accept by faith, trusting that a measurable result will come. Every time somebody writes to say their life was changed reading that book, I thank God for empowering me to persevere.
When it comes to writing fiction, there’s a big debate about the degree to which explicitly spiritual content can be part of the story. Spiritual searching and matters of faith are a very real part of many people’s lives, and when they’re not, they should be. So, while sermons don’t work in novels, spiritual realities can be artfully woven into a credible storyline. But you have to earn the right by doing it skillfully.
TT: What authors and works would you read and re-read if you had a six-month sabbatical dedicated to nothing but reading? Why?
RA: I have a list of most of Tozer's and C.S. Lewis books on my book page. Click here. ) A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Francis Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent, John Piper’s Desiring God, Jerry Bridges’ The Joy of Fearing God, John Piper and Jerry Bridges books also listed on Books page. and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, plus the full set of Spurgeon’s sermons. These are all books that have had a profound influence on my life.
TT: One focus of your ministry has been to encourage Christians to live with their hearts set on heaven. How can Christians develop this eternal perspective on their lives in the here and now?
RA: Many people imagine that we will remain disembodied spirits in the afterlife and that heaven won’t be a tangible, earthly place. They mistake the intermediate heaven, where we go when we die, for the eternal heaven, where we’ll live with Christ and each other as resurrected beings on a resurrected earth.
Often our ideas of heaven are based more on Platonism and Eastern mysticism than biblical Christianity, which is centered in the anticipation of God’s ultimate redemptive purpose—resurrected people living on a resurrected earth with the resurrected Jesus. There are Christians who would die rather than deny the resurrection, but they don’t understand what it means.
TT: Is it possible for Christians to be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good”? Why or why not?
RA: Many of us are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly or earthly good. As C.S. Lewis observed, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. … It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Randy Alcorn Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Knowing who you are in Christ
(Sept 20) Bob Gass
(Is 43:1) 43 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ESV
We hear about people being released from prison after serving time for a crime they didn’t commit. It was a case of mistaken identity. Identifying someone means having the ability to recognise and say exactly who they are. Satan wants you to identify with who people say you are, versus who God says you are. And unless you know who you are in God’s eyes, Satan will hammer you with feelings of condemnation and unworthiness. God’s grace and unconditional love for you is the only secure foundation on which to base your salvation and self-worth. Today He says to you: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ Jesus identified with God’s opinion only: ‘I know where I came from and where I am going’ (John 8:14 AMP). People said terrible things about Jesus, yet here’s what God said about Him: ‘The stone…the builders rejected has become the…cornerstone’ (Psalm 118:22 NKJV). Sometimes we’re so busy telling people what to do that we neglect to tell them who they are. Knowing who you are in Christ gives you confidence to hold your head high. You are ‘complete’ because of your relationship to Christ (see Colossians 2:10). God sees you clothed in Christ’s righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Once you accept that, you stop feeling like you constantly fall short. When you have money in the bank and you need to withdraw it, you don’t feel pressured because you know it’s in an account with your name on it. Likewise, you don’t have to struggle for other people’s approval when you know you’re loved and accepted by God.
(Jn 8:14) Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. ESV
(Ps 118:22) 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. ESV
(Col 2:10) 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ESV
(2 Co 5:21) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ESV
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
He helped write the Bill of Rights in the first session of Congress. He was a Representative of Massachusetts and participated in ratification of the Constitution. He was offered the presidency of Harvard, but declined due to ill health. His name was Fisher Ames. In an article published this day, September 20, 1789, in the Palladium magazine, Fisher Ames wrote: “We have a dangerous trend beginning to take place in our education… putting… books into the hands of children containing fables…. [and] spending less time in the classroom on the Bible…The Bible states the great moral lessons better than any other manmade book.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
CHAPTER I / The Inwardness of Prayer
It is difficult and even formidable thing to write on prayer, and one fears to touch the Ark. Perhaps no one ought to undertake it unless he has spent more toil in the practice of prayer than on its principle. But perhaps also the effort to look into its principle may be graciously regarded by Him who ever liveth to make intercession as itself a prayer to know better how to pray. All progress in prayer is an answer to prayer—our own or another’s. And all true prayer promotes its own progress and increases our power to pray.
The worst sin is prayerlessness. Overt sin, or crime, or the glaring inconsistencies which often surprise us in Christian people are the effect of this, or its punishment. We are left by God for lack of seeking Him. The history of the saints shows often that their lapses were the fruit and nemesis of slackness or neglect in prayer. Their life, at seasons, also tended to become inhuman by their spiritual solitude. They left men, and were left by men, because they did not in their contemplation find God; they found but the thought or the atmosphere of God. Only living prayer keeps loneliness humane. It is the great producer of sympathy. Trusting the God of Christ, and transacting with Him, we come into tune with men. Our egoism retires before the coming of God, and into the clearance there comes with our Father our brother. We realize man as he is in God and for God, his Lover. When God fills our heart He makes more room for man than the humanist heart can find. Prayer is an act, indeed the act, of fellowship. We cannot truly pray even for ourselves without passing beyond ourselves and our individual experience. If we should begin with these the nature of prayer carries us beyond them, both to God and to man. Even private prayer is common prayer—the more so, possibly, as it retires from being public prayer.
Not to want to pray, then, is the sin behind sin. And it ends in not being able to pray. That is its punishment—spiritual dumbness, or at least aphasia, and starvation. We do not take our spiritual food, and so we falter, dwindle, and die. “In the sweat of your brow ye shall eat your bread.” That has been said to be true both of physical and spiritual labour. It is true both of the life of bread and of the bread of life.
Prayer brings with it, as food does, a new sense of power and health. We are driven to it by hunger, and, having eaten, we are refreshed and strengthened for the battle which even our physical life involves. For heart and flesh cry out for the living God. God’s gift is free; it is, therefore, a gift to our freedom, i.e. renewal to our moral strength, to what makes men of us. Without this gift always renewed, our very freedom can enslave us. The life of every organism is but the constant victory of a higher energy, constantly fed, over lower and more elementary forces. Prayer is the assimilation of a holy God’s moral strength.
We must work for this living. To feed the soul we must toil at prayer. And what a labour it is! “He prayed in an agony.” We must pray even to tears if need be. Our cooperation with God is our receptivity; but it is an active, a laborious receptivity, an importunity that drains our strength away if it do not tap the sources of the Strength Eternal. We work, we slave, at receiving. To him that hath this laborious expectancy it shall be given. Prayer is the powerful appropriation of power, of divine power. It is therefore creative.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Grace is the nourisher of optimism.
"It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace"
Grace is the secret energy of a fortified will.
--- John Henry Jowett
If you are always taking blessings to yourself
and never learn to pour out anything unto the Lord,
other people do not get their horizon enlarged
… through you.
--- Oswald Chambers
What is true religion? It is not the religion which contains most truth in the theological sense of the word. It is not the religion most truly thought out, not that which most closely fits with thought. It is religion which comes to itself most powerfully in prayer. It is the religion in which the soul becomes very sure of God and itself in prayer. Prayer contains the very heart and height of truth, …
--- P. T. Forsyth
Soul of Prayer
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Titus Marched To Jerusalem, And How He Was In Danger As He Was Taking A View Of The City Of The Place Also Where He Pitched His Camp
1. Now, as Titus was upon his march into the enemy's country, the auxiliaries that were sent by the kings marched first, having all the other auxiliaries with them; after whom followed those that were to prepare the roads and measure out the camp; then came the commander's baggage, and after that the other soldiers, who were completely armed to support them; then came Titus himself, having with him another select body; and then came the pikemen; after whom came the horse belonging to that legion. All these came before the engines; and after these engines came the tribunes and the leaders of the cohorts, with their select bodies; after these came the ensigns, with the eagle; and before those ensigns came the trumpeters belonging to them; next these came the main body of the army in their ranks, every rank being six deep; the servants belonging to every legion came after these; and before these last their baggage; the mercenaries came last, and those that guarded them brought up the rear. Now Titus, according to the Roman usage, went in the front of the army after a decent manner, and marched through Samaria to Gophna, a city that had been formerly taken by his father, and was then garrisoned by Roman soldiers; and when he had lodged there one night, he marched on in the Morning; and when he had gone as far as a day's march, he pitched his camp at that valley which the Jews, in their own tongue, call "the Valley of Thorns," near a certain village called Gabaothsath, which signifies "the Hill of Saul," being distant from Jerusalem about thirty furlongs.6 There it was that he chose out six hundred select horsemen, and went to take a view of the city, to observe what strength it was of, and how courageous the Jews were; whether, when they saw him, and before they came to a direct battle, they would be affrighted and submit; for he had been informed what was really true, that the people who were fallen under the power of the seditious and the robbers were greatly desirous of peace; but being too weak to rise up against the rest, they lay still.
2. Now, so long as he rode along the straight road which led to the wall of the city, nobody appeared out of the gates; but when he went out of that road, and declined towards the tower Psephinus, and led the band of horsemen obliquely, an immense number of the Jews leaped out suddenly at the towers called the "Women's Towers," through that gate which was over against the monuments of queen Helena, and intercepted his horse; and standing directly opposite to those that still ran along the road, hindered them from joining those that had declined out of it. They intercepted Titus also, with a few other. Now it was here impossible for him to go forward, because all the places had trenches dug in them from the wall, to preserve the gardens round about, and were full of gardens obliquely situated, and of many hedges; and to return back to his own men, he saw it was also impossible, by reason of the multitude of the enemies that lay between them; many of whom did not so much as know that the king was in any danger, but supposed him still among them. So he perceived that his preservation must be wholly owing to his own courage, and turned his horse about, and cried out aloud to those that were about him to follow him, and ran with violence into the midst of his enemies, in order to force his way through them to his own men. And hence we may principally learn, that both the success of wars, and the dangers that kings 7 are in, are under the providence of God; for while such a number of darts were thrown at Titus, when he had neither his head-piece on, nor his breastplate, [for, as I told you, he went out not to fight, but to view the city,] none of them touched his body, but went aside without hurting him; as if all of them missed him on purpose, and only made a noise as they passed by him. So he diverted those perpetually with his sword that came on his side, and overturned many of those that directly met him, and made his horse ride over those that were overthrown. The enemy indeed made a shout at the boldness of Caesar, and exhorted one another to rush upon him. Yet did these against whom he marched fly away, and go off from him in great numbers; while those that were in the same danger with him kept up close to him, though they were wounded both on their backs and on their sides; for they had each of them but this one hope of escaping, if they could assist Titus in opening himself a way, that he might not be encompassed round by his enemies before he got away from them. Now there were two of those that were with him, but at some distance; the one of which the enemy compassed round, and slew him with their darts, and his horse also; but the other they slew as he leaped down from his horse, and carried off his horse with them. But Titus escaped with the rest, and came safe to the camp. So this success of the Jews' first attack raised their minds, and gave them an ill-grounded hope; and this short inclination of fortune, on their side, made them very courageous for the future.
3. But now, as soon as that legion that had been at Emmaus was joined to Caesar at night, he removed thence, when it was day, and came to a place called Seopus; from whence the city began already to be seen, and a plain view might be taken of the great temple. Accordingly, this place, on the north quarter of the city, and joining thereto, was a plain, and very properly named Scopus, [the prospect,] and was no more than seven furlongs distant from it. And here it was that Titus ordered a camp to be fortified for two legions that were to be together; but ordered another camp to be fortified, at three furlongs farther distance behind them, for the fifth legion; for he thought that, by marching in the night, they might be tired, and might deserve to be covered from the enemy, and with less fear might fortify themselves; and as these were now beginning to build, the tenth legion, who came through Jericho, was already come to the place, where a certain party of armed men had formerly lain, to guard that pass into the city, and had been taken before by Vespasian. These legions had orders to encamp at the distance of six furlongs from Jerusalem, at the mount called the Mount of Olives 8 which lies over against the city on the east side, and is parted from it by a deep valley, interposed between them, which is named Cedron.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
for if you eat too much of it, you may throw it up;
17 so don’t visit your neighbor too much,
or he may get his fill of you and come to hate you.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
The divine rule of life
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. --- Matthew 5:48.
Our Lord’s exhortation in these verses is to be generous in our behaviour to all men. In the spiritual life beware of walking according to natural affinities. Everyone has natural affinities; some people we like and others we do not like. We must never let those likes and dislikes rule in our Christian life. “If we walk in the light as God is in the light,” God will give us communion with people for whom we have no natural affinity.
The Example Our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even of a good Christian, but of God Himself. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”—show to the other man what God has shown to you; and God will give us ample opportunities in actual life to prove whether we are perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. To be a disciple means that we deliberately identify ourselves with God’s interests in other people. “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, …”
The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but Godlikeness: If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit Divine characteristics in your life, not good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian is that the supernatural is made natural in him by the grace of God, and the experience of this works out in the practical details of life, not in times of communion with God. When we come in contact with things that create a buzz, we find to our amazement that we have power to keep wonderfully poised in the centre of it all.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Face (Pieta)
When I close my eyes, I can see it,
That bare hill with the man ploughing,
Corrugating that brown roof
Under a hard sky. Under him is the farm,
Anchored in its grass harbour;
And below that the valley
Sheltering its few folk,
With the school and the inn and the church,
The beginning, middle and end
Of their slow journey above ground.
He is never absent, but like a slave
Answers to the mind's bidding,
Endlessly ploughing, as though autumn
Were the one season he knew.
Sometimes he pauses to look down
To the grey farmhouse, but no signals
Cheer him; there is no applause
For his long wrestling with the angel
Of no name. I can see his eye
That expects nothing, that has the rain's
Colourlessness. His hands are broken
But not his spirit. He is like bark
Weathering on the tree of his kind.
He will go on; that much is certain.
Beneath him tenancies of the fields
Will change; machinery turn
All to noise. But on the walls
Of the mind's gallery that face
With the hills framing it will hang
Unglorified, but stern like the soil.
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 3:25–27 / “… Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.” But the Lord was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me. The Lord said to me, “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again! Go up to the summit of Pisgah and gaze about, to the west, the north, the south, and the east. Look at it well, for you shall not go across yonder Jordan.…”
MIDRASH TEXT/ Deuteronomy Rabbah 2, 9 / For you shall not go across yonder Jordan. The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, “If you are buried here, near them, then because of your virtue they will come with you.” Rabbi Levi said, “To what can this be compared? To a person who lost his small change in a dark place. He said, ‘If I say “Bring me a light so I can gather my small change,” no one would pay attention to me.’ He took a gold coin and threw it among them [the small change] and began to call out, saying, ‘Bring me a light! I had a gold coin and it fell here.’ They brought him a light. What did he do? Once he took the gold coin, he said to them, ‘I beg of you; wait for me so I can gather the small change.’ And he gathered them. By virtue of the gold, the small change was gathered. So too, the Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, ‘If you are buried near them in the desert, they will come because of your virtue and you will come at their head, as it says,
“He chose for himself the best, For there is the portion of the revered chieftain, Where the heads of the people come.” ’ ”
--- (Deuteronomy 33:21). CONTEXT
In the Book of Numbers, Moses was punished by God for striking the rock that would bring forth water for the Israelites, instead of speaking to it:
“Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”
--- (Numbers 20:12).
Now, in the Book of Deuteronomy, shortly before his death, Moses is told by God to view the land of Israel from a mountaintop. The earlier punishment is affirmed: Moses can see it from afar; he cannot enter it. “For you shall not go across yonder Jordan.”
The reader is touched by this human tragedy. Moses labored for forty years for one goal: to bring his people into their land. And now, just on the verge of success, he is denied seeing that mission come to completion. The reader is also likely to be troubled by the harshness of the punishment. For one small mistake—hitting a rock, instead of talking to it—the reward of a lifetime of work is canceled out for Moses. He will die and be buried, alone, on a mountain in the desert. This does not seem to be the way it should end for the greatest of our leaders.
Perhaps that is why the Midrash writes a new ending to the story. Moses is no longer the flawed leader who is punished for his sins and shortcomings. Instead, he is the “gold coin” who is used by God to save the “small change,” the Israelites, lost in the darkness. At some point in the future, the Rabbis believed, the dead will be resurrected. The entire generation of Israelites, whom Moses brought out of Egypt and who died over the course of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, will live again. They will again require a leader to bring them from the desert into the land of Israel. Moses will be that leader. His mission will ultimately be accomplished. And he himself will, at long last, reach the promised land. “If you are buried near them in the desert, they will come because of your virtue and you will come at their head.” This tragic figure (unable to bring the slaves—or himself—into Israel) will become the heroic leader who remained behind with those who died in the desert so he could bring them to ultimate redemption at the “end of days.”
A prooftext for this revisionist history is found at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses delivers a farewell blessing to the twelve tribes, the children of those slaves he had brought out of Egypt and who now would enter the land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua. The verse quoted by the Rabbis actually comes in the blessing that Moses gives to the tribe Gad. It may originally have referred to that tribe’s request for the land east of the Jordan river and Gad’s promise to lead the Israelites into battle against the Canaanites. The verse—
He chose for himself the best,
For there is the portion of the revered chieftain,
Where the heads of the people come …
—in its P’shat or contextual meaning was understood to mean
He [the tribe of Gad] chose for himself the best [plot of land,
east of the Jordan river],
For there [east of Jordan] is the [burial] portion of the
revered chieftain [Moses],
Where the heads of the people [the tribe of Gad] come
[to lead the way into battle].
But as the Rabbis reread this poetic line in a midrashic light, they saw it as referring to Moses and his ultimate destiny:
He [Moses] chose for himself the best [plot of land, as a burial place], For there [east of Jordan] is the [burial] portion of the revered chieftain [Moses], Where [Moses will come one day to lead] the heads of the people [into the promised land].
For the transgression of my people he was stricken.
--- Isaiah 53:8.
When you are completely terror stricken in conscience, you must be on your guard that your sins do not thus remain in your conscience and nothing but pure doubt certainly come out of it. ( The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther Based on the Kaiser Chronological: Edition, With References to the Erlangen and Walch Editions, Vol. 11 (Classic Reprint) )
Then cast your sins from yourself on Christ. Believe that your sins are his wounds and sufferings, that he carries them and makes satisfaction for them, as Saint Peter says in his first epistle: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (2:24). On these and like passages you must rely with all your weight, and so much the more the harder your conscience martyrs you. For if you do not take this course but miss the opportunity of stilling your heart, then you will never secure peace and must finally despair in doubt. For if we deal with our sins in our consciences and let them continue in us and be cherished in our hearts, they become much too strong for us to manage, and they will live forever. But when we see that they are laid on Christ and he has triumphed over them by his resurrection, and we believe it, then they are dead and have become as nothing. Thus Saint Paul speaks, in Romans 4:25, that Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification; that is, by his resurrection he makes us righteous and free from all sin, even if we believe differently.
Now if you are not able to believe, then you should pray to God for faith. For this is a matter in the hands of God that is entirely free and is also bestowed alike at times knowingly, at times secretly.
Look on Christ’s sufferings no longer, for they have already done their work and terrified you, but press through all difficulties and see how full of love is his heart toward you—love that compelled him to bear the heavy load of your conscience and your sin. Thus will your heart be loving and sweet toward him and the assurance of your faith be strengthened. Then ascend higher through the heart of Christ to the heart of God, and see that Christ would not have been able to love you if God had not willed it. Be thus drawn to the Father through Christ. That means to know God aright, if we understand him by his goodness and love, there our faith and confidence can then stand unmovable. A person is truly thus born anew in God.
--- Martin Luther
Ten More Days
Her name, Pandita Pamabai, though unfamiliar to many today, is etched in glory. Her father was a Brahmin priest who, at age 44, married a 9-year-old girl. Wanting to educate her, he took her to a remote forest in southern India, built a house, and, having removed all distractions, taught her all he knew. Here in 1858, Pandita was born. Her father determined to give her, too, an education; and by the time she was 12, Pandita had memorized 18,000 Sanskrit verses and had become fluent in various languages.
But the little family encountered mounting debts, then hunger. Pandita’s father “held me tightly in his arms, and stroking my head and cheeks, told me he loved me, how he had taught me to do right, and never to depart from the way of righteousness.”
Then he died of starvation, followed by her mother. Pandita set off across India, sleeping in the open, suffering from cold, eating berries. She began doubting her father’s idols; and finally in Calcutta, she learned of Jesus Christ.
Educated women were novelties in India, and Pandita began lecturing here and there, seeking to raise the standard of life for women. Traveling to England and America, she embraced Christ and was baptized. She studied mathematics and medicine in Western universities; and she sought financial support for a home for child-widows in India. In the late 1880s she returned to India and opened the Mukti (Salvation) Mission. It was thronged by hundreds of desperate girls. She and her workers dug wells, planted trees, tilled the land, and preached the Gospel. Hundreds were converted. Thousands were rescued from starvation. She established schools to educate her girls. Then a church was built with these lines inscribed on the foundation: Praise the Lord. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of Hosts. That Rock was Christ. September 20, 1899.
Her last years were spent translating the Bible into Marathi. She had almost completed the task when she fell ill. She prayed for ten more days in which to complete her work; and ten days later, on April 5, 1922, she died, having just finished the last page.
I am the LORD All-Powerful. So don’t depend on your own power or strength, but on my Spirit.
--- Zechariah 4:6
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 20
"The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon." --- Judges 7:20.
Gideon ordered his men to do two things: covering up a torch in an earthen pitcher, he bade them, at an appointed signal, break the pitcher and let the light shine, and then sound with the trumpet, crying, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon! the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” This is precisely what all Christians must do. First, you must shine; break the pitcher which conceals your light; throw aside the bushel which has been hiding your candle, and shine. Let your light shine before men; let your good works be such, that when men look upon you, they shall know that you have been with Jesus. Then there must be the sound, the blowing of the trumpet. There must be active exertions for the ingathering of sinners by proclaiming Christ crucified. Take the Gospel to them; carry it to their door; put it in their way; do not suffer them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears. Remember that the true war-cry of the Church is Gideon’s watchword, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” God must do it, it is his own work. But we are not to be idle; instrumentality is to be used—“The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” If we only cry, “The sword of the Lord!” we shall be guilty of an idle presumption; and if we shout, “The sword of Gideon!” alone, we shall manifest idolatrous reliance on an arm of flesh: we must blend the two in practical harmony, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” We can do nothing of ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in his name determine to go out personally and serve with our flaming torch of holy example, and with our trumpet tones of earnest declaration and testimony, and God shall be with us, and Midian shall be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts shall reign for ever and ever.
Evening - September 20
“In the Evening withhold not thy hand.” --- Ecclesiastes 11:6.
In the Evening of the day opportunities are plentiful: men return from their labour, and the zealous soul-winner finds time to tell abroad the love of Jesus. Have I no Evening work for Jesus? If I have not, let me no longer withhold my hand from a service which requires abundant labour. Sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge; he who loiters may find his skirts crimson with the blood of souls. Jesus gave both his hands to the nails, how can I keep back one of mine from his blessed work? Night and day he toiled and prayed for me, how can I give a single hour to the pampering of my flesh with luxurious ease? Up, idle heart; stretch out thy hand to work, or uplift it to pray; heaven and hell are in earnest, let me be so, and this Evening sow good seed for the Lord my God.
The Evening of life has also its calls. Life is so short that a Morning of manhood’s vigour, and an Evening of decay, make the whole of it. To some it seems long, but a four-pence is a great sum of money to a poor man. Life is so brief that no man can afford to lose a day. It has been well said that if a great king should bring us a great heap of gold, and bid us take as much as we could count in a day, we should make a long day of it; we should begin early in the Morning, and in the Evening we should not withhold our hand; but to win souls is far nobler work, how is it that we so soon withdraw from it? Some are spared to a long Evening of green old age; if such be my case, let me use such talents as I still retain, and to the last hour serve my blessed and faithful Lord. By his grace I will die in harness, and lay down my charge only when I lay down my body. Age may instruct the young, cheer the faint, and encourage the desponding; if eventide has less of vigorous heat, it should have more of calm wisdom, therefore in the Evening I will not withhold my hand.
JESUS, THE VERY THOUGHT OF THEE
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091–1153
English Translation—Edward Caswall, 1814–1876
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1, 2)
This hymn text comes from the height of the Middle Ages, a period of history often scornfully called “The Dark Ages.” The spiritual and moral darkness of the church had reached a new blackness. The institution founded by Christ some 1,000 years prior was mainly degenerate and corrupt. The moral standards of many of its prominent leaders were characterized by disgrace and shame. Yet within this system of religious confusion, God laid it upon the heart of a dedicated monk to write a devotional poem about his Lord that has since become the text for one of the finest hymns in our hymnals. As was true then and now, God always has a remnant of true believers who maintain His eternal truths.
At an early age Bernard was known for his piety and scholarship. With his natural charms and talents, he had many opportunities open to him for a successful secular life. While still in his early 20’s, however, he chose the life of a monk at the monastery of Citeaux, France. Within three years Bernard’s forceful personality, talents, and leadership qualities were recognized, and he was asked to form other branches of this order throughout Europe. Within Bernard’s lifetime 162 other such orders were founded. One of these new monasteries was at Clairvaux, France, where Bernard was made its abbot or head. Here he remained until his death in 1153.
Jesus, the very thought of Thee with sweetness fills my breast; but sweeter far Thy face to see and in Thy presence rest.
Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame, nor can the mem’ry find a sweeter sound than Thy blest name, O Savior of mankind.
O hope of ev’ry contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, to those who fall how kind Thou art! how good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah, this nor tongue nor pen can show—the love of Jesus, what it is; none but His loved ones know.
Jesus, our only joy be Thou, as Thou our prize wilt be; Jesus, be Thou our glory now and thru eternity.
For Today: Psalm 66:2; 130:7; Jeremiah 17:7; Ephesians 3:19
Earnestly seek to be one of God’s faithful remnant—“salt” and “light”—keeping His truths alive for this generation to hear and believe.
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
Doctrine. God is unchangeable in his essence, nature, and perfections. Immutability and eternity are linked together; and, indeed, true eternity is true immutability; whence eternity is defined the possession of an immutable life. Yet immutability differs from eternity in our conception; immutability respects the essence or existence of a thing; eternity respects the duration of a being in that state, or rather, immutability is the state itself; eternity is the measure of that state. A thing is said to be changed, when it is otherwise now in regard of nature, state, will, or any quality than it was before; when either something is added to it, or taken from it; when it either loses or acquires. But now it is the essential property of God, not to have any accession to, or diminution of, his essence or attributes, but to remain entirely the same. He wants nothing; he loses nothing; but doth uniformly exist by himself, without any new nature, new thoughts, new will, new purpose, or new place. This unchangeableness of God was anciently represented by the figure of a cube, a piece of metal or wood framed four-square, when every side is exactly of the same equality; cast it which way you will, it will always be in the same posture, because it is equal to itself in all its dimensions. He was therefore said to be the centre of all things, and other things the circumference; the centre is never moved, while the circumference is; it remains immovable in the midst of the circle; “There is no variableness nor shadow of turning with him” (James 1:17). The moon hath her spots, so hath the sun; there is a mixture of light and darkness; it hath its changes; sometimes it is in the increase, sometimes in the wane; it is always either gaining or losing, and by the turnings and motions, either of the heavenly bodies or of the earth, it is in its eclipse, by the interposition of the earth between that and the sun. The sun also hath its diurnal and annual motion; it riseth and sets, and puts on a different face; it doth not always shine with the noon-day light; it is sometimes veiled with clouds and vapors; it is always going from one tropic to another, whereby it makes various shadows on the earth, and produceth the various seasons of the year; it is not always in our hemisphere, nor doth it always shine with an equal force and brightness in it. Such shadows and variations have no place in the eternal Father of Lights; he hath not the least spot or diminution of brightness; nothing can cloud him or eclipse him. For the better understanding this perfection of God, I shall premise three things.
1. The immutability of God is a perfection. Immutability considered in itself, without relation to other things, is not a perfection. It is the greatest misery and imperfection of the evil angels, that they are immutable in malice against God; but as God is infinite in essence, infinitely good, wise, holy; so it is a perfection necessary to his nature, that he should be immutably all this, all excellency, goodness, wisdom, immutably all that he is; without this he would be an imperfect Being. Are not the angels in heaven, who are confirmed in a holy and happy state, more perfect than when they were in a possibility of committing evil and becoming miserable? Are not the saints in heaven, whose wills by grace do unalterably cleave to God and goodness, more perfect than if they were as Adam in Paradise, capable of losing their felicity, as well as preserving it? We count a rock, in regard of its stability, more excellent than the dust of the ground, or a feather that is tossed about with every wind; is it not also the perfection of the body to have a constant tenor of health, and the glory of a man not to warp aside from what is just and right, by the persuasions of any temptations?
2. Immutability is a glory belonging to all the attributes of God. It is not a single perfection of the Divine nature, nor is it limited to particular objects thus and thus disposed. Mercy and justice have their distinct objects and distinct acts; mercy is conversant about a penitent, justice conversant about an obstinate sinner. In our notion and conception of the Divine perfections, his perfections are different: the wisdom of God is not his power, nor his power his holiness, but immutability is the centre wherein they all unite. There is not one perfection but may be said to be and truly is, immutable; none of them will appear so glorious without this beam, this sun of immutability, which renders them highly excellent without the least shadow of imperfection. How cloudy would his blessedness be if it were changeable! How dim his wisdom, if it might be obscured! How feeble his power, if it were capable to be sickly and languish! How would mercy lose much of its lustre, if it could change into wrath; and justice much of its dread, if it could be turned into mercy, while the object of justice remains unfit for mercy, and one that hath need of mercy continues only fit for the Divine fury! But unchangeableness is a thread that runs through the whole web; it is the enamel of all the rest; none of them without it could look with a triumphant aspect. His power is unchangeable: “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4). His mercy and his holiness endure forever: he never could, nor ever can, look upon iniquity (Hab. 1:13).
He is a rock in the righteousness of his ways, the truth of his word, the holiness of his proceedings, and the rectitude of his nature. All are expressed Deut 32:4): “He is a rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he.” All that we consider in God is unchangeable; for his essence and his properties are the same, and, therefore, what is necessarily belonging to the essence of God, belongs also to every perfection of the nature of God; none of them can receive any addition or diminution. From the unchangeableness of his nature, the apostle (James 1:17) infers the uncbangeableness of his holiness, and himself (in Mal. 3:6) the unchangeableness of his counsel.
3. Unchangeableness doth necessarily pertain to the nature of God. It is of the same necessity with the rectitude of his nature; he can no more be changeable in his essence than he can be unrighteous in his actions. God is a necessary Being; he is necessarily what he is, and, therefore, is unchangeably what he is. Mutability belongs to contingency. If any perfection of his nature could be separated from him, he would cease to be God. What did not possess the whole nature of God, could not have the essence of God; it is reciprocated with the nature of God. Whatsoever is immutable by nature is God; whatsoever is God is immutable by nature. Some creatures are immutable by his grace and power. God is holy, happy, wise, good, by his essence; angels and men are made holy, wise, happy, strong, and good, by qualities and graces. The holiness, happiness, and wisdom of saints and angels, as they had a beginning, so they are capable of increase and diminution, and of an end also; for their standing is not from themselves, or from the nature of created strength, holiness, or wisdom, which in themselves are apt to fail, and finally to decay; but from the stability and confirmation they have by the gift and grace of God. The heaven and earth shall be changed; and after that renewal and reparation they shall not be changed. Our bodies after the resurrection shall not be changed, but forever be “made conformable to the glorious body of Christ” (Phil. 3:21); but this is by the powerful grace of God: so that, indeed, those things may be said afterwards rather to be unchanged than unchangeable, because they are not so by nature, but by sovereign dispensation. As creatures have not necessary beings, so they have not necessary immutability. Necessity of being, and, therefore, immutability of being, belongs by nature only to God; otherwise, if there were any change in God, he would be sometimes what he was not, and would cease to be what he was, which is against the nature, and, indeed, against the natural notion of a Deity. Let us see then,
I. In what regards God is immutable. II. Prove that God is immutable. III. That this is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature. IV. Some propositions to clear the unchangeableness of God from anything that seems contrary to it. V. The use. I. In what respects God is unchangeable.
1. God is unchangeable in his essence. He is unalterably fixed in his being, so that not a particle of it can be lost from it, not a mite added to it. If a man continue in being as long as Methuselah, nine hundred and sixty-nine years; yet there is not a day, nay, an hour, wherein there is not some alteration in his substance. Though no substantial part is wanting, yet there is an addition to him by his food, a diminution of something by his labor; he is always making some acquisition, or suffering some loss: but in God there can be no alteration, by the accession of anything to make his substance greater or better, or by diminution to make it less or worse. He who hath not being from another, cannot but be always what he is: God is the first Being, an independent Being; he was not produced of himself, or of any other, but by nature always hath been, and, therefore, cannot by himself, or by any other, be changed from what he is in his own nature. That which is not may as well assume to itself a being, as he who hath and is all being, have the least change from what he is. Again, because he is a Spirit, he is not subject to those mutations which are found in corporeal and bodily natures; because he is an absolutely simple Spirit, not having the least particle of composition; he is not capable of those changes which may be in created spirits.
(1.) If his essence were mutable, God would not truly be; it could not be truly said by himself, “I Am that I Am” (Exod. 3:14), if he were such a thing or Being at this time, and a different Being at another time. Whatsoever is changed properly is not, because it doth not remain to be what it was; that which is changed was something, is something, and will be something. A being remains to that thing which is changed; yet though it may be said such a thing is, yet it may be also said such a thing is not, because it is not what it was in its first being; it is not now what it was, it is now what it was not; it is another thing than it was, it was another thing than it is; it will be another thing than what it is or was. It is, indeed, a being, but a different being from what it was before. But if God were changed, it could not be said of him that he is, but it might also be said of him that he is not; or if he were changeable, or could be changed, it might be said of him he is, but he will not be what he is; or he may not be what he is, but there will be or may be some difference in his being, and so God would not be “I Am that I Am;” for though he would not cease utterly to be, yet he would cease to be what he was before.
(2.) Again: if his essence were mutable, he could not be perfectly blessed, and fully rejoice in himself.
If he changed for the better, he could not have an infinite pleasure in what he was before the change, because he was not infinitely blessed; and the pleasure of that state could not be of a higher kind than the state itself, or, at least, the apprehension of a happiness in it. If he changed for the worse, he could not have a pleasure in it after the change; for according to the diminution of his state would be the decrease of his pleasure. His pleasure could not be infinite before the change, if he changed for the better; it could not be infinite after the change, if he changed for the worse. If he changed for the better, he would not have had an infinite goodness of being before; and not having an infinite goodness of being, he would have a finite goodness of being; for there is no medium between finite and infinite. Then, though the change were for the better, yet, being finite before, something would be still wanting to make him infinitely blessed; because being finite, he could not change to that which is infinite; for finite and infinite are extremes so distant, that they can never pass into one another; that is, that that which is finite should become infinite, or that which is infinite should become finite; so that supposing him mutable, his essence in no state of change could furnish him with an infinite peace and blessedness.
(3.) Again: if God’s essence be changed, he either increaseth or diminisheth. Whatsoever is changed, doth either gain by receiving something larger and greater than it had in itself before, or gains nothing by being changed. If the former, then it receives more than itself, more than it had in itself before. The Divine nature cannot be increased; for whatsoever receives anything than what it had in itself before, must necessarily receive it from another, because nothing can give to itself that which it hath not. But God cannot receive from another what he hath not already, because whatsoever other things possess is derived from him, and, therefore, contained in him, as the fountain contains the virtue in itself which it conveys to the streams; so that God cannot gain anything. If a thing that is changed gain nothing by that change, it loseth something of what it had before in itself; and this loss must be by itself or some other. God cannot receive any loss from anything in himself; he cannot will his own diminution, that is repugnant to every nature. He may as well will his own destruction as his own decrease: every decrease is a partial destruction. But it is impossible for God to die any kind of death, to have any resemblance of death, for he is immortal, and “only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), therefore impossible to be diminished in any particle of his essence; nor can he be diminished by anything in his own nature, because his infinite simplicity admits of nothing distinct from himself, or contrary to himself. All decreases come from something contrary to the nature of that thing which doth decrease. Whatsoever is made less than itself, was not truly unum, one and simple, because that which divides itself in separation was not the same in conjunction. Nor can he be diminished by any other without himself; because nothing is superior to God, nothing stronger than God which can oppress him. But whatsoever is changed is weaker than that which changeth it, and sinks under a power it cannot successfully resist; weakness belongs not to the Deity. Nor, lastly, can God change from a state wherein he is, to another state equal to the former, as men in some cases may do; for in passing from one state to another equal to it, something must be parted with which he had before, that some other thing may accrue to him as a recompense for that loss, to make him equal to what he was. This recompense then he had not before, though he had something equal to it. And in this case it could not be said by God “I Am that I Am,” but I am equal to what I was; for in this case there would be a diminution and increase which, as was showed, cannot be in God.
(4.) Again: God is of himself, from no other. Natures, which are made by God, may increase, because they began to be; they may decrease, because they were made of nothing, and so tend to nothing; the condition of their original leads them to defect, and the power of their Creator brings them to increase. But God hath no original; he hath no defect, because he was not made of nothing he hath no increase, because he had no beginning. He was before all things, and, therefore, depends upon no other thing which, by its own change, can bring any change upon him. That which is from itself cannot be changed, because it hath nothing before it, nothing more excellent than itself; but that which is from another as its first cause and chief good, may be changed by that which was its efficient cause and last end.
2. God is immutable in regard of knowledge. God hath known from all eternity all that which he can know, so that nothing is hid from him. He knows not at present any more than he hath known from eternity: and that which he knows now he always knows “All things are open and naked before him” (Heb. 4:13). A man is said to be changed in regard of knowledge, when he knows that now which he did not know before, or knows that to be false now which he thought true before, or has something for the object of his understanding now, which he had not before: But,
(1.) This would be repugnant to the wisdom and omniscience which belongs to the notions of a Deity. That cannot be God that is not infinitely wise; that cannot be infinitely wise that is either ignorant of, or mistaken in, his apprehension of any one thing. If God be changed in knowledge, it must be for want of wisdom; all change of this nature in creatures implies this defect preceding or accompanying it. Such a thought of God would have been unworthy of him that is “only wise,” that hath no mate for wisdom (1 Tim. 1:17); none wise beside himself. If he knew that thing this day which he knew not before, he would not be an “only wise” Being; for a being that did know everything at once might be conceived, and so a wiser being be apprehended by the mind of man. If God understood a thing at one time which he did not at another, he would be changed from ignorance to knowledge; as if he could not do that this day which he could do to-morrow, he would be changed from impotence to power. He could not be always omniscient, because there might be yet something still to come which he yet knows not, though he may know all things that are past. What way soever you suppose a change, you must suppose a present or a past ignorance; if he be changed in his knowledge for the perfection of his understanding, he was ignorant before; if his understanding be impaired by the change, he is ignorant after it.