Joel 1Joel 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:
An Invasion of Locusts
2 Hear this, you elders;
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your fathers?
3 Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation.
4 What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep,
and wail, all you drinkers of wine,
because of the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation has come up against my land,
powerful and beyond number;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vine
and splintered my fig tree;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches are made white.
8 Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth
for the bridegroom of her youth.
9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
from the house of the LORD.
The priests mourn,
the ministers of the LORD.
10 The fields are destroyed,
the ground mourns,
because the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up,
the oil languishes.
11 Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil;
wail, O vinedressers,
for the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest of the field has perished.
12 The vine dries up;
the fig tree languishes.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple,
all the trees of the field are dried up,
and gladness dries up
from the children of man.
A Call to Repentance
13 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;
wail, O ministers of the altar.
Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
Because grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.
14 Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the LORD your God,
and cry out to the LORD.
15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the LORD is near,
and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
16 Is not the food cut off
before our eyes,
joy and gladness
from the house of our God?
17 The seed shrivels under the clods;
the storehouses are desolate;
the granaries are torn down
because the grain has dried up.
18 How the beasts groan!
The herds of cattle are perplexed
because there is no pasture for them;
even the flocks of sheep suffer.
19 To you, O LORD, I call.
For fire has devoured
the pastures of the wilderness,
and flame has burned
all the trees of the field.
20 Even the beasts of the field pant for you
because the water brooks are dried up,
and fire has devoured
the pastures of the wilderness.
The Day of the LORD
Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.
3 Fire devours before them,
and behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them,
but behind them a desolate wilderness,
and nothing escapes them.
4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses,
and like war horses they run.
5 As with the rumbling of chariots,
they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
drawn up for battle.
6 Before them peoples are in anguish;
all faces grow pale.
7 Like warriors they charge;
like soldiers they scale the wall.
They march each on his way;
they do not swerve from their paths.
8 They do not jostle one another;
each marches in his path;
they burst through the weapons
and are not halted.
9 They leap upon the city,
they run upon the walls,
they climb up into the houses,
they enter through the windows like a thief.
10 The earth quakes before them;
the heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
11 The LORD utters his voice
before his army,
for his camp is exceedingly great;
he who executes his word is powerful.
For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome;
who can endure it?
Return to the LORD
12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O LORD,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’ ”
The LORD Had Pity
18 Then the LORD became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
19 The LORD answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.
20 “I will remove the northerner far from you,
and drive him into a parched and desolate land,
his vanguard into the eastern sea,
and his rear guard into the western sea;
the stench and foul smell of him will rise,
for he has done great things.
21 “Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
22 Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
23 “Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.
24 “The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
The LORD Will Pour Out His Spirit
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
The LORD Judges the NationsJoel 3:1 “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, 3 and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.
4 “What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. 5 For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. 6 You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border. 7 Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on your own head. 8 I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away, for the LORD has spoken.”
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
Consecrate for war;
stir up the mighty men.
Let all the men of war draw near;
let them come up.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
11 Hasten and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
12 Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow,
for their evil is great.
14 Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
16 The LORD roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.
The Glorious Future of Judah
17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain.
And Jerusalem shall be holy,
and strangers shall never again pass through it.
18 “And in that day
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and the hills shall flow with milk,
and all the streambeds of Judah
shall flow with water;
and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD
and water the Valley of Shittim.
19 “Egypt shall become a desolation
and Edom a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the people of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
20 But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem to all generations.
21 I will avenge their blood,
blood I have not avenged,
for the LORD dwells in Zion.”
What I'm Reading
Who Created God?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/20/2017
Richard Dawkins, the famous English evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist, revived an objection related to God’s existence in his book, The God Delusion. In the fourth chapter (Why There Almost Certainly Is No God), Dawkins wrote, “…the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable.” In essence, Dawkins offered a restatement of the classic question, “Who created God?” On its face, this seems to be a reasonable question. Christians, after all, claim God created everything we see in our universe (all space, time and matter); He is the cause of our caused cosmos. Skeptics fail to see this as a satisfactory explanation, however, because it seems to beg the question, “If God, created the universe, who (or what) created God?”
Part of the problem lies in the nature of the question itself. If I were to ask you, “What sound does silence make?” you’d start to appreciate the problem. This latter question is nonsensical because silence is “soundless”; silence is, by definition, “the lack of sound”. There’s something equally irrational about the question, “Who created God?” God is, by definition, eternal and uncreated. It is, therefore, illogical to ask, “Who created the uncreated Being we call God?” And, if you really think about it, the existence of an uncreated “first cause” is not altogether unreasonable:
It’s Reasonable to Believe The Universe Was Caused | Famed astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “The Cosmos is everything that ever was, is and will be.” If this is true, we are living in an infinitely old, uncaused universe that requires no first cause to explain its existence. But there are good scientific and philosophical reasons to believe the universe did, in fact, begin to exist. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the expansion of the universe, the Radiation Echo, and the problem of Infinite Regress cumulatively point to a universe with a beginning. In the classic formulation of the Kalam cosmological argument: (1) whatever begins to exist has a cause, (2) the universe began to exist, therefore, (3) it is reasonable to believe the universe has a cause.
It’s Reasonable to Accept the Existence of An Uncaused “First Cause” | This “first cause” of the universe accounts for the beginning of all space, time and matter. It must, therefore, be non-spatial, a temporal and immaterial. Even more importantly, the first cause must be uncaused. If this was not true, the cause of the universe would not be the “first” cause at all. Theists and atheists alike are looking for the uncaused, first cause of the cosmos in order to avoid the irrational problem of an infinite regress of past causes and effects. It is, therefore, reasonable to accept the existence of an uncaused, first cause.
It’s Reasonable to Believe God Is the Uncaused, “First Cause” | Rationality dictates the ultimate cause of the universe, (even if it isn’t God), must have certain characteristics. In addition to being non-spatial, a temporal, immaterial and eternal (uncaused), it must also be powerful enough to bring everything into existence from nothing. Finally, there is good reason to believe the cause of the universe is personal. Impersonal forces cannot cause (or refuse to cause) at will. The minute an impersonal force exists, its effect is experienced. When the impersonal force of gravity is introduced into an environment, for example, its effect (the gravitational attraction) is felt immediately. If the cause of the universe is simply an impersonal force, its effect (the beginning of the universe) would occur simultaneous with its existence. In other words, the cause of the universe would only be as old as the universe itself. Yet we accept the reasonable existence of an uncaused first cause (one that is not finite like the universe it caused). For this reason, a personal force, capable of willing the beginning of the universe, is the best explanation for the first cause of the cosmos. This cause can be reasonably described as non-spatial, a temporal, immaterial, eternal, all-powerful and personal: descriptive characteristics commonly reserved for the Being we identify as God.
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.
Who Knows the Moral Value of a Fetus? Well, I Do.
By Jennifer Hartline 9/17/2017
I lost a baby this week.
I was pregnant. A stunning, surprising, totally unexpected pregnancy. These things just don’t happen at my age, they said. That time in my life was ending, they said. I’m too old for this. The statistics were grim and the odds were not in our favor, they said. This little baby had the cards stacked against him from the start.
And yet … God gave us a new life. And we rejoiced in the gift.
I dreamt of little fingers and toes and that heavenly, intoxicating scent of a new baby’s head. I could already feel the warmth of a soft little body snuggling into my arms. These are the irresistible hopes that make the crushing nausea of early pregnancy worth enduring.
There was a beautiful, flickering little heartbeat. A miracle in the making, hidden away in darkness, yet flashing right there on the screen. Here I am! I’m alive!
The Simple Truth That Can End Abortion
By Michael Brown 9/13/2017
A radio host in Detroit told me he was shocked one day when a caller referred to his child as a “carbon unit.” Yes, a carbon unit. That’s how a dad talked about his own kid.
This is not much different than referring to a baby in the womb as a “mass of cells” or comparing it to a tumor that needs to be removed.
This is the very mentality that underlies the pro-abortion movement. That a child in the womb, growing, developing, moving and kicking, looking more and more like mom or dad (or both) by the day, is not a human being. It is a thing, an appendage to be expelled if not wanted. As expressed by pro-abortion feminist Florence Thomas (speaking of her abortion in France in the mid-1960s), she felt “a relief. An immense relief. This tumor went away, disappeared. I could go back to living.”
If the fetus is nothing more than a mass of cells, a tumor, then the baby (or even the adult) is nothing more than a carbon unit.
NARAL Upset by People “Humanizing Fetuses” | In keeping with this mentality, NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League), took strong exception to a silly Doritos commercial during Super Bowl 50 (2016). In the commercial a pregnant woman gets an ultrasound with her husband present. He mindlessly munches Doritos — to his wife’s consternation. Then he dangles one near her belly. We’re led to assume that the baby made a premature exit from the womb, eager to grab that Doritos chip.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Dr. Michael Brown Books:
- 1 Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living
- 2 Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- 3 The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah
- 4 In the Line of Fire: 70 Articles from the Front Lines of the Culture Wars
- 5 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
- 6 Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide
- 7 Our Hands Are Stained with Blood
- 8 Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire
- 9 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1
- 10 A Queer Thing Happened To America: And what a long, strange trip it's been
- 11 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3
- 12 Go And Sin No More: A Call To Holiness
- 13 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections Vol. 2
- 14 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: New Testament Objections (Vol. 4)
- 15 Whatever Happened to the Power of God?/It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 16 The Grace Controversy: Answers to 12 Common Questions
- 17 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices
- 18 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:Traditional Jewish Objections Vol 5
- 19 Israel's Divine Healer
- 20 Whatever Happened to the Power of God
- 21 A Time For Holy Fire: Preparing the Way for Divine Visitation
- 22 How Saved Are We?
- 23 Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation
- 24 Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change
- 25 What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Jewish Beliefs, Practices, and History
- 26 From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival
- 27 Revolution: Jesus' Call to Change the World
- 28 Let No One Deceive You
- 29 Revolution!: The Call to Holy War
- 30 It's Time to Rock the Boat
- 31 The End of the American Gospel Enterprise
- 32 Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (2014-01-07)
- 33 The Revival Answer Book
Not Hearers Only
By Harry Reeder 10/1/2013
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22–24).
Obviously, a pastor’s heart desire for the flock is that none are “deceived” but all are “gospel-blessed” by not only receiving freely the saving grace of Christ but experiencing increasingly the transforming grace of Christ, out of love to Christ, from a desire to exalt Christ through the life-changing preaching of God’s Word.
I want to provide three pastoral exhortations to help us to move from being “hearers of the Word” only to being effective “doers of the Word” purposefully. Beforehand, however, let’s establish two essential presuppositions that lie behind these exhortation:
Presupposition 1: The public and searching expository preaching of God’s Word is the divinely ordained and designed primary means of grace and growth. It is not the exclusive means, but I would affirm it as the primary means without hesitation. This is why the Apostle Paul declares, “For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel” and “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
Presupposition 2: The believer’s relationship with God’s Word before and after it is preached is the single most important factor in becoming a “doer” and not a “hearer only” of the Word. Paul affirms this in Acts 17:11 as he profiles the noble-minded believing Jews in Berea by identifying two characteristics. First, “they received the word with all eagerness,” meaning that they intentionally prioritized the faithful exposition of God’s Word. Secondly, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” meaning that they had a daily commitment to personally and intentionally study the Scriptures while reflecting upon what had been preached to them. So on the one hand, they were teachable since they longed to learn profoundly from an intentional exposure to a faithful pulpit ministry. On the other hand, they were also discerning, as demonstrated by a prioritized, habitual study of God’s Word.
Both elements are crucial. We could not grow without being teachable since we cannot do what we do not know. The Christian life is not lived by human imagination or intuition but by divine revelation. In being teachable the Bereans were not gullible; they refused to be misled by preachers who were not handling the Scriptures accurately. This practice was not born of a critical spirit but from a desire to learn rightly since Christians cannot do rightly until they know rightly.
Now that we’ve established our presuppositions, here are my three practical pastoral suggestions to help you become both a better “hearer” and a better “doer” of God’s Word.
First, establish a sacred time, a sacred place, and an intentional practice for the daily study of God’s Word. I suggest the morning so that you can reserve the evening for family worship and Bible reading. Assign Saturdays for personal and family reading of the passages of Scripture to be preached on the Lord’s Day. Our forbearers called this “Sabbath Eve preparation.” This is one reason I recommend Tabletalk. By design it leaves the weekend open from the regular daily studies, allowing an opportunity to secure from your church the texts for the Lord’s Day worship. Consider redeeming the time on the way to corporate worship by having one family member read the text again and then another pray for the service, your family’s participation, and the success of God’s Word. This has been an unbelievably helpful family practice for us.
Second, on the Lord’s Day afternoon or evening, consider and discuss what was preached and its life implications both personally and as a family. We enjoyed doing this after the Lord’s Day evening worship as our family partook of our traditional Sunday night popcorn and pizza.
Third, since “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17), establish a “band of brothers/sisters” to share what God has been teaching you and its implications for your life. This allows you to develop an intimate and transparent, same-gender small group designed to encourage, pray, and hold “one another” accountable as Christ-followers who desire to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18). Also, I have found the use of a personal journal to be an invaluable asset for continual reflection upon what the Lord is teaching me and how He is challenging my heart and life. To paraphrase the words of a faithful Puritan divine, I have become convinced that reading makes a thoughtful man; listening makes a learning man; writing makes an exact man.
One final thought. A believer’s motivations to be a “hearer” and “doer” of God’s Word are multiple, not the least of which is “if you love me [who first loved us], you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). While we don’t “do” God’s Word to be saved, we long to “do” God’s Word to exalt our Savior because we are saved.
May our Lord bless you to be both an intentional “hearer” and “doer” of God’s Word as you “long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
How Then Should We Love?
By Kelly Kapic 10/01/2013
Has it ever struck you how strange it sounds to be commanded to love? Say you are a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan and someone told you to love the Dallas Cowboys. This would not sound like a joyful invitation, but rather a cruel joke. How can I love what I do not even like?
Scripture does not merely invite us to love God and neighbor; we are commanded to do so. And this is where it gets a bit tricky. How can we be commanded to love? Sometimes in reaction to our culture, which often confuses love with sappy sentimentality, Christians are tempted to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. We say things such as “love is not a feeling—it is a commitment.” While I am sympathetic with the concerns of well- meaning Christians, I have to admit that concept of love is depressing if it exhausts one’s definition of love. Commitment is vital, certainly, but is that really all we mean by love? I am happy if my wife is committed to me, but I sure hope she feels something good, too. Marriages based on contractual obligation alone and not nourished by the waters of affection, tenderness, and grace lead us to the cool of winter, not the warmth of spring.
So how does the commandment to love God and neighbor move beyond mere obligation to being not only a duty but also a delight? Here is the short answer: He loved us first. That changes everything.
In 1 John, we find ourselves caught in the beautiful and complex web of God’s love and commandments. John reaches a crescendo late in his letter when he declares, “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). This idea is not introduced here, but it is presupposed throughout all that came before. The statement only makes explicit what was previously implicit. Earlier John announced, “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (3:23). Simply put, the commandment is twofold: first, believe in the name, and second, love others. There is a reason belief and love go together for John.
To believe “in the name” is not mere cognitive movement, not simply a set of facts agreed upon. To believe in the Sent One is to begin to understand the Sender—God so loved that He sent his Son (4:10). And the love of the Father is what grounds our adoption as sons and daughters (3:1), a promise sealed upon us by His Spirit. To believe in the name is to understand the divine humiliation: the Son condescends, dwells among us, and as the sympathetic High Priest, He experiences the realities of our brokenness and takes to Himself the judgment of the cross. To believe in the name is coming to the point where we realize that He came not because we were so admirable, but because we were so needy. He came out of the overflow of the triune God’s love — a love toward us.
How can we love others? Because He first loved us. And because He continues to love us. God’s love is a powerful liberator. It frees us from the trap of self-absorption and opens us to the other. Love gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to extend to our God and neighbor. Love is brave, truthful, and generous. Love loves. But when we try to love without first being soaked in divine love — the love of the name — we easily turn “love” into something ugly. Our endeavors can get twisted into manipulation, consumption, and idolatry. Christian love can never grow out of mere willpower; it must always find its source and strength in God.
So what does love look like? “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (4:18–19). This is why for John, anyone who is motivated by fear or “hates his brother” is undermining the gospel. To hate your brother or sister, to be a fearmonger, points not to impressive conviction but to a malnourished soul that tries to feast on the carcasses of others. The one who fears and hates may say he “loves” God, but everything points to the absence of the Spirit in him. If there is no love, how could God’s Spirit be present? “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (4:21).
When our gaze is drawn to Christ, the fruits of the gospel begin to manifest themselves in our lives. Believing in the name, we are freed from fear by the love of the Father who sent His Son for us. Resting in the name, we are secure in the finished work of Christ. Empowered in the name, we are set free by the Spirit to spread the love of God. We love not merely because we are told to but because God’s love has made us alive and free. We love, because He first loved us. That is the heart of the gospel.
Kapic earned a Ph.D. in systematic and historical theology at King's College, University of London (United Kingdom), an M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and a BA in philosophy and history from Wheaton College.
In addition to his books, Kapic has also published articles in various journals, such as the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Conversations in Religion and Theology, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Quarterly and Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care. Two samples of Kapic's work in contemporary theology are: "The Son's Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity," IJST and "Trajectories of a Trinitarian Eschatology," in Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology, edited by Paul Louis Metzger, cm. New York: T & T Clark International, 2005. He serves on the Board of Editorial Consultants for the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, as well as a contributing editor for Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture.
- A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology
- Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering
- Communion with the Triune God
- Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition (Ivp Pocket Reference)
- God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity
- Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction
- Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice
- Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn't the American Dream
- Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen
- Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition
- The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics
- A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology by Kelly M. Kapic (2012-08-03)
- The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
- The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 105Tell of All His Wondrous Works
105 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
Dragons and Holiness
By Tony Reinke 10/01/2013
The incredible imaginative power of the human mind connects us. If I mention standing ankle deep in the ocean, many of you can picture this image (and maybe feel the dizziness as you watch the water rush past your feet and back). Or if I mention the feeling of floating free under water in a swimming pool with eyes open, many of you know this feeling, too. Or if I mention the muffled silence that blankets a neighborhood in a thick snowstorm, you can probably imagine it. Thousands of other scenarios we can enjoy together. This is the work of our imagination.
The imagination is a necessary component for reading fiction books, nonfiction books, and, of course, for reading the Bible. God’s book engages our imaginations by the parables of Jesus, the poetry of the Psalms, the adages of the Proverbs, and, of course, the apocalyptic language of the prophets. But what makes human imagination even more incredible is how we experience in our minds things we did not, have not, or cannot experience ourselves. The book of Revelation is one example.
In Revelation, we read about the Son of Man dressed in a robe, with a voice like the great falls, and a two-edged sword for a tongue, with a face bright as the sun. Then we see a throne in heaven, surrounded by a rainbow of brilliant color, with lightning and thunder pealing off the throne. On each side of the throne are six-winged angelic creatures in flight, ceaselessly singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8). Bowls are filled with the prayers of the saints. And a Lamb stands as though it had been slain, whose blood makes white.
Can you see all this in your imagination?
Then behold the dragons, full of power and rage. A red dragon with seven heads is followed by another beast that has a nasty scar on one of its seven heads and a mouth full of blasphemies calling forth for idolatrous worship on earth. And then there’s another beast that speaks like a dragon, with the power to command fire from heaven. Finally, there’s a scarlet beast on whom rides a woman, the mother of all prostitutes and sexual sin, carrying a cup of sexual immorality.
Late in the story, one breaks in on a white horse. The rider’s name is Faithful and True, and the Word of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He makes war. Under His crown blaze eyes like a furnace. His robe drips with blood, and from His mouth He bears a sword to strike down beasts and rebels. He treads the winepress of God’s fury. The images of Christ permeate the book.
So why all this imagery?
Imagination is what one theologian calls “the power of synoptic vision” (Vanhoozer). It allows us to order the world, and to see things collected together as opposed to the fragmented way we typically perceive the world. Dragons embody evil. He who is called Faithful and True embodies holiness and justice. Revelation engages our imaginations until we see reality through radical images, images that push us past the dominant worldly ideologies we simply assume and naturally ingest daily just like the air we breathe.
The images in Revelation expose us to the world again, but they stun us in new and shocking ways. They break into our imaginations (sometimes with violence), but they also give to us new and alien ways of looking at the world that enable us to transcend our loud cultural environment. This cultural transcendence is possible because God has given us imaginations. Revelation works to purge and refurbish those imaginations, providing us with a profoundly fresh theological angle on the world that we have grown comfortable with. Here in Revelation, our imaginations are engaged to see the evil in this world, not as a scattered random acts of evil, but as a collective whole. By collecting the evil, we see the superiority of Christ over all. And we see that all victories of Christ over evil are tied directly to his death.
How do we respond to such imaginative literature? We read and heed. This is called forth at the beginning and end of the book (1:3; 22:7). Through the imagination, we are called to wake up and to put off lukewarmness. Revelation invites us to see ultimate reality through our imaginations in breathtaking, earth-scorching, mind-stretching, sin-defeating, dragon-slaying, Christ-centered, God-glorifying images intended to change the way we think, act, and speak.
Irrespective of the literal meaning of these imaginative dramas in Revelation, and irrespective of their literal timing and prophetic fulfillment, they remind us in stark images that the times are too evil and time is too short for us to slumber lazily. Our imaginations are stretched, awakened, and shocked from spiritual lethargy. Such is the life-altering power of imaginative imagery for those perceptive readers who understand our desperate need to see dragons.
Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.Tony Reinke Books:
The Fear of the Lord
By Ray Ortlund 10/01/2013
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). If that is so, and it is, then the fear of the Lord is never to be feared. This fear is not a barrier to growth but a breakthrough to growth and eternal fulfillment. But the word fear needs clarification, doesn’t it? After all, doesn’t the Bible say, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)? Yes. So, there must be two kinds of fear.
One kind of fear is the fear that shrinks from the Lord in dread, that cowers from Him and turns away from Him in terror, as if He were our problem. That kind of fear is pagan, not Christian. It has nothing to do with glorifying and enjoying God. It is suspicion and resentment toward God. The gospel does not create this fear in our hearts. The gospel shows us the glory of God’s grace in Christ, and lifts us up, assured and fearless, to face life boldly as men and women of eternal destiny.
If you are not in Christ, you fear the Lord in all the wrong ways, and you don’t fear Him enough. The Bible tells you that you are facing “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:27). If you are not in Christ, you are God’s adversary, headed toward judgment, and you fully deserve it. But He is freely offering you Christ as your shelter.
You need shelter for many reasons. Here’s just one: without Christ, you are all you have. Arthur Allen Leff of Yale Law School, a brilliant unbeliever, put it bluntly: “It looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that, if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us ‘good,’ and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should.” If you are not in Christ, you are all you have. That is something to fear. But Christ is a shelter for people who are in deeper trouble than they even know. Turn to Him. Turn to Him now. He will receive you.
Here is the other kind of fear: “The fear of the Lord [as] the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). This is a new attitude of openness to God, created by His love. If you are in Christ, His perfect love is casting out your fear of judgment. The Bible says, “Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19). The punishment fell on our Substitute at the cross. We have received Him with the empty hands of faith. We are under God’s love now. The gospel frees us from the fear that God will, in the end, condemn us anyway. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38–39).
We believe that, and we love Him.
So, we fear the Lord in a new way. We fear that we might grieve the One who loves us so. This wholesome fear, the Bible says, is a teachable humility (Prov. 15:33). It is total openness to doing God’s will (Gen. 22:12). It is repentance, turning away from evil (Job 28:28). It translates into simple, practical obedience to God’s Word.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Eccl. 12:13).
The fear of the Lord is another way of describing trust in the Lord. But the word fear adds connotations of reverence and awe. The fear of the Lord is the opposite of a glib shallowness. This humility doesn’t mind total dependence on the Lord. In fact, the fear of the Lord is psychologically compatible with “the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). It is a new sense of reality with the living God (Acts 2:43; 5:11; 19:17), rescuing us from a merely theoretical faith. This fear is sweet, keeping us close to the Lord.
The fear of the Lord gains in appeal as we agree with C.S. Lewis that “in God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.” If we think we can live a single day of our lives without staying low before the Lord, yielding to His superior wisdom and drawing upon His endless provision moment by moment, we are deceiving ourselves, no matter how brilliant we may be.
But as soon as we accept that we are not the measure but the measured, we are not the givers but the recipients, and that Jesus Christ is the universe’s greatest expert in all things human, we embark on a wonderful new journey. We are free to grow and change.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of this wisdom.
Books by Ray Ortlund
The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)
Proverbs: Wisdom That Works
Isaiah (Redesign): God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word)
Supernatural Living for Natural People: The Life-giving message of Romans 8
God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today
A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans
Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/01/2013
The Sermon on the Mount is tough to swallow all at once. Though what we have recorded for us in Matthew 5–7 is significantly shorter than the sermons most of us are used to, it is on the other hand rather more rich than what we are used to. It is chock full of what could be discreet, independent units worthy of a lifetime of study — the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, the exposition of the law of God, our calling to be salt and light. While I have not yet reached a full lifetime of considering this sermon, I have now for ten years, every month, explored in this column what it means to seek first the kingdom of God.
Month by month, we return not just to the call to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, but we look at what distracts us from this call — our fears, our worries. Take one step back from “seek ye first” and you find “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (6:25). Take another step back, though, and we find why we need to be told this over and over: “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (v. 21).
I’m afraid that we tend to think we can learn what our heart values most by looking at what makes us most happy. Or, I fear that we are happy to delude ourselves about what matters most to us. The truth of the matter is that we learn what our heart most values by learning what we fear. Our treasure is what we fear losing, and I fear that we fear losing our treasure. We are lovers of money.
Five years ago, in a matter of days, the stock market took its deepest hit since 1928. “Too big to fail” banks were rescued, merged. “Too big to fail” industries were propped up by “stimulus.” And many of us lost far too much sleep. The headlines are now filled with new stories of government run amok, but we still remember from time to time our economic bad news — trillion - dollar deficits, upside - down houses, abiding unemployment. We still fret.
No one likes bad economic news. There is more than enough sin and foolishness in Washington to derail the engine of prosperity. Bad economic news, however, is not all the news printed that should cause us fits. How many of us, I wonder, spend as much time and energy worrying about the destruction of the unborn as we do the destruction of the economy? I know they are related — economic hardship makes abortion seem more tempting. If we were honest, however, I suspect we’d have to admit that our ultimate concern is not the babies, but rather our bank accounts.
Those babies who survive their mothers’ wombs — do we worry more about their souls or our finances? Studies by George Barna and USA Today suggest that 75 percent of all Christian children leave the church after high school. Is this, however, what we talk about around the water-cooler?
When we get in the car and turn on the radio, are we listening to talk radio that talks about eternal souls, or talk radio that talks about Federal Reserve Notes, dollars and cents? Are we more concerned with paper dollars shrinking into nothingness before our very eyes, or for the souls that will last forever in torment?
Were I to poll the evangelical church and ask this question, “Which is more important, the eternal state of the souls of your children, or your financial position?” chances are we’d have a radically lopsided poll. If, however, I were to construct a worry meter, and attach it to the hearts of those evangelicals, what would it show us?
Again, the two, our money and our children, may be connected. We excuse our money worries by asserting our concern is for their inheritance. But why, then, are we so much less concerned about the spiritual inheritance we give them? Our treasure is where our fear is.
Which is why, of course, Jesus directs us to love, to cherish, to treasure that which can never be taken away. When we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are not merely pursuing the more valuable as opposed to the less valuable. Rather, we are also pursuing what we cannot lose, as opposed to what we cannot hope to keep . When we seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, when we teach them the way they should go when they are young so that they will not turn from it when they are old (Prov. 22:6), we are not just investing in eternity, but we are investing in that which cannot be lost. When we plant the seed of the Word, we know it will not — because it cannot — return to Him void.
There is a simple and wise trick to get us over our worries. We need only to ask ourselves, “In a thousand years, will this really matter?” With respect to our children, the answer is always “Yes. For thousands of thousands of thousands of years it will matter.” Invest in eternity. Invest in your children.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul 10/01/2013
Dr. John Gerstner, my esteemed mentor, certainly had a way of getting my attention and helping me to think more clearly. I still remember when I told him that I thought the problem of evil is irresolvable. Having noted that the best apologists and theologians in church history haven’t answered all the questions raised by the existence of evil in this world, I told him that no one would ever solve the problem on this side of eternity. He turned and rebuked me. “How do you know the problem of evil will never be solved?” he asked. “Perhaps you or another thinker are the one God has appointed to solve this issue.”
With all due respect to Dr. Gerstner, I think he overestimated his students. I haven’t changed my opinion on the problem of evil since that conversation. In the many years I’ve taught philosophy, apologetics, and theology, and in the many conversations I’ve had with hurting people, a full answer to the problem of evil remains elusive. If anything, recent events make the problem seem more acute. In the past year alone, we’ve dealt with terrorists bombing the Boston Marathon as well as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Hurricane Sandy killed nearly 300 people in the Northeastern United States. We could also mention the hundreds of thousands who died in tsunamis in 2004 and 2011. The list is almost endless.
Putting a human face on evil can make it more understandable — it’s no surprise that evil people do evil things. Nature’s violence can be more troubling. How do we deal with natural disasters that do not respect persons but rather indiscriminately claim the lives of the elderly, infants, and the handicapped along with able-bodied children and adults? “How,” many people — even many Christians — ask, “could a good God allow such things to happen?”
There’s been no shortage of speculation in the attempt to answer these questions. Well-meaning individuals have suggested countless theodicies — attempts at justifying and vindicating God for the presence of evil in the world. In his eighteenth-century book Theodicy, philosopher Gottfried Leibniz tried to explain evil by suggesting that we live in the “best of all possible worlds.” Other thinkers have said evil is necessary to make us virtuous people or to preserve the reality of free will. Such answers fail to satisfy, and they usually sacrifice the sovereignty of God in the process.
I don’t think God has revealed to us a full and final answer to the problem of evil and suffering. However, that doesn’t mean that He’s been silent on the issue. Scripture does give us some helpful guidelines:
First, evil is not an illusion — it’s all too real. Some religions teach that evil is unreal, but the Bible never minimizes the truth of misery and pain. Moreover, the biblical characters show us that a stoic detachment from evil is not the right response. They tear their clothing, offer up lamentations to God, and cry real tears. Our Savior Himself walked the Via Dolorosa as the Man of Sorrows who knew our grief.
Second, God is not capricious or arbitrary. He does not act irrationally, nor does He show or permit violence purposelessly. That doesn’t mean we always know why a particular evil occurs at a given place or time. Because we don’t know all the reasons behind each particular evil, we can’t make facile connections between guilt and disaster, between a person’s sin and the evil that befalls him. Texts including the book of Job and John 9 keep us from universally declaring that pain is a specific punishment for specific sin. That means that when inexplicable disasters occur, we must say with Martin Luther, “Let God be God.” Job’s cry that “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) was not a superficial display of piety or a denial of pain. Instead, Job bit his lip and clenched his stomach as he remained faithful in the middle of tragedy and unmitigated suffering. Job knew who God was, and he refused to curse Him.
Third, this isn’t the best of all possible worlds. This world is fallen. Suffering is here only because sin has marred an otherwise good creation. Of course, that doesn’t mean all suffering is tied to a particular sin or that we can draw a one-to-one correlation between the degree of a person’s sin and the degree of his suffering. However, suffering belongs to the full complex of sin that people visit upon this world. As long as creation suffers from the violence of men, it returns this violence. The Bible tells us that creation gets angry with its human masters and exploiters. Instead of stewarding the earth wisely and replenishing it, we exploit and pollute it. Until Christ returns with the new heavens and earth, we’ll deal with tempests, earthquakes, and floods. Until then, we’ll yearn for a renewed creation.
Finally, evil is not ultimate. Christianity never denies the horror of evil, but neither does it regard evil as having any power above or equal to God. Scripture’s final word on evil is triumph. Creation groans as it awaits its final redemption, but this groaning is not futile. Over all creation stands the resurrected Christ — Christus Victor — who has triumphed over the powers of evil and will make all things new.
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
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Understanding Satan’s role (1)
(Sept 21) Bob Gass
(1 Jn 4:4) 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. ESV
Satan is a fallen angel who wasn’t satisfied to worship God; he wanted to occupy His throne. Angels, like humans, were made to serve and worship God. And they were given free will; otherwise, how could they worship? But Satan said, ‘I will make myself like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:14 NIV 2011 Edition). That got him evicted from heaven: ‘You are brought down…to the depths of the pit’ (Isaiah 14:15 NIV 2011 Edition). And Satan hasn’t changed. He’s as self-centred now as he was then, and he’s just as limited now as he was then. Even when his heart was good, he was inferior to God. God knows everything; angels only know what He reveals. God is everywhere; angels can only be in one place. God is all-powerful; angels are only as powerful as God allows them to be. So, Satan is still subservient to God. And every time he tries to advance his cause, he ends up advancing God’s cause. In The Serpent of Paradise, pastor and author Erwin Lutzer writes: ‘Satan has different roles to play, depending on God’s counsel and purposes… We must bear in mind that he does have frightful powers, but knowing that those can only be exercised under God’s discretion and pleasure, gives us hope. Satan is simply not free to wreak havoc on people at will.’ Satan doesn’t want you to know that; he’d rather you be deceived into thinking of him as an independent force with unlimited power. But he’s not. And he’d rather you’d never read these words: ‘God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil.’
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this day, September 21, 1924, America’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, addressed the Holy Name Society in Washington, D.C. He stated: “The worst evil that could be inflicted upon the youth… would be to leave them without restraint… at the mercy of their own uncontrolled inclinations. Under such conditions education would be impossible, and all orderly development… hopeless. I do not need to picture the result.” President Coolidge concluded: “It seems… perfectly plain that… the right to equality, liberty and property… have for their foundation reverence for God. If we could imagine that swept away… our American government could not long survive.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
CHAPTER I / The Inwardness of Prayer
Prayer is not mere wishing. It is asking—with a will. Our will goes into it. It is energy. Orare est laborare. We turn to an active Giver; therefore we go into action. For we could not pray without knowing and meeting Him in kind. If God has a controversy with Israel, Israel must wrestle with God. Moreover, He is the Giver not only of the answer, but first of the prayer itself. His gift provokes ours. He beseeches us, which makes us beseech Him. And what we ask for chiefly is the power to ask more and to ask better. We pray for more prayer. The true “gift of prayer” is God’s grace before it is our facility.
Thus prayer is, for us, paradoxically, both a gift and a conquest, a grace and a duty. But does that not mean, is it not a special case of the truth, that all duty is a gift, every call on us a blessing, and that the task we often find a burden is really a boon? When we look up from under it it is a load, but those who look down to it from God’s side see it as a blessing. It is like great wings—they increase the weight but also the flight. If we have no duty to do God has shut Himself from us. To be denied duty is to be denied God. No cross no Christ. “When pain ends gain ends too.”
We are so egoistically engrossed about God’s giving of the answer that we forget His gift of the prayer itself. But it is not a question simply of willing to pray, but of accepting and using as God’s will the gift and the power to pray. In every act of prayer we have already begun to do God’s will, for which above all things we pray. The prayer within all prayer is “Thy will be done.” And has that petition not a special significance here? “My prayer is Thy Will. Thou didst create it in me. It is Thine more than mine. Perfect Thine own will”—all that is the paraphrase, from this viewpoint, of “Hear my prayer.” “The will to pray,” we say, “is Thy will. Let that be done both in my petition and in Thy perfecting of it.” The petition is half God’s will. It is God’s will inchoate. “Thy will” (in my prayer) “be done (in Thy answer). It is Thine both to will and to do. Thy will be done in heaven—in the answer, as it is done upon earth—in the asking.”
Prayer has its great end when it lifts us to be more conscious and more sure of the gift than the need, of the grace than the sin. As petition rises out of need or sin, in our first prayer it comes first; but it may fall into a subordinate place when, at the end and height of our worship, we are filled with the fullness of God. “In that day ye shall ask Me nothing.” Inward sorrow is fulfilled in the prayer of petition; inward joy in the prayer of thanksgiving. And this thought helps to deal with the question as to the hearing of prayer, and especially its answer. Or rather as to the place and kind of answer. We shall come one day to a heaven where we shall gratefully know that God’s great refusals were sometimes the true answers to our truest prayer. Our soul is fulfilled if our petition is not.
When we begin to pray we may catch and surprise ourselves in a position like this. We feel to be facing God from a position of independence. If He start from His end we do from ours. We are His vis-a-vis; He is ours. He is an object so far as we are concerned; and we are the like to Him. Of course, He is an object of worship. We do not start on equal terms, march up to Him, as it were, and put our case. We do more than approach Him erect, with courteous self-respect shining through our poverty. We bow down to Him. We worship. But still it is a voluntary, an independent, submission and tribute, so to say. It is a reverence which we make an offer. We present something which is ours to give. If we ask Him to give we feel that we begin the giving in our worship. We are outside each other; and we call, and He graciously comes.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
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, …
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921). | The Soul of Prayer
Do we not realize that the basic condition for a spiritual walk is to fear our self and its wisdom and to rely absolutely upon the Spirit?
--- Watchman Nee | The Spiritual Man
... from here, there and everywhere
by Ryan Nicholson
This summer, I had the privilege of taking my family to the great northwest. I grew up in Washington state, but moved to Southern California when I was a teenager. I now have three children of my own, Autumn 14, and my two-year old twins Connor and Heidi. My wife and I vacation just outside of Portland, Oregon every year to visit my parents, but this year we did a little more sightseeing than normal.
The day after we arrived in Portland, we headed to a little town called Leavenworth, Washington. I grew up not 30 minutes from there, and spent many a summer playing in the Icicle River that flow behind the quaint Bavarian-style village. Nestled in the mountains, Leavenworth is a picturesque town that I told my wife about on many occasions, and this was the summer my stories became a reality for the rest of my family.
We met up with some close family friends for dinner, and walked around the town, and the next day we headed off to the fabled Icicle River. The river that was so cold it would turn your feet into icicles upon entry. The river that held many of my childhood’s fondest memories. Memories of my parents, brothers, and our long lost dog, playing and being a family.
I was amazed how quickly the sights I saw over 20 years earlier became familiar, as if to have déjà vu with the exception I had family photos to prove this happened before. Following my parents down the winding, two-lane road, my wife by my side, and my children in the back, I was overjoyed to be able to share a part of my past with them. My father turned into an area with easy access to the river, we parked, and we all walked down to the water’s edge.
My two-year old son took an instant liking to throwing rocks; the bigger the better. Albeit, they didn’t go very far. My daughters wanted to test the stories and brave their feet into the waters. With an instant shiver, they jumped out, my wife and parents laughing. My wife ventured out only to find the stories and our children’s reactions were true – the water is that cold.
My mother had a blast playing with the kids, and my father did what he did best and took pictures. “When you’re old and gray like I am, you will appreciate looking back at these pictures and sharing them with your children and grandchildren.” He always said. “So, take lots of pictures.” He would add. But the greatest picture I ever took was not with a camera, or a smartphone, but with the opening and shutting of my eyes, as the river’s waters passed by and reflected me holding my son. It was similar to a picture I took what seems a lifetime ago, where I was in the foreground and my loving father behind me. My life had come full circle, and the same water that painted a picture of a loving father keeping watch over his sons, had just snapped another.
The gravity of the moment didn’t hit me till the trip back home. The river of time stops for no man. Our individual experience with this ever flowing river varies and shapes us. But it isn’t so much the river that shapes our lives, as it is the One who made the river. For storms will come, and the waters will rise, but the One who said, “be still and know that I am God” will always be there for those who acknowledge Him.
That day, the river didn’t reflect what had been, but what was. A loving family, smiled upon by an all mighty, all powerful God, who decided take a picture. I pray twenty years from now, I get another opportunity to take a picture just as sweet, and a second chance to look up into the heavens and say, “thank you Lord for all you have done!”
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now when hitherto the several parties in the city had been dashing one against another perpetually, this foreign war, now suddenly come upon them after a violent manner, put the first stop to their contentions one against another; and as the seditious now saw with astonishment the Romans pitching three several camps, they began to think of an awkward sort of concord, and said one to another, "What do we here, and what do we mean, when we suffer three fortified walls to be built to coop us in, that we shall not be able to breathe freely? while the enemy is securely building a kind of city in opposition to us, and while we sit still within our own walls, and become spectators only of what they are doing, with our hands idle, and our armor laid by, as if they were about somewhat that was for our good and advantage. We are, it seems, [so did they cry out,] only courageous against ourselves, while the Romans are likely to gain the city without bloodshed by our sedition." Thus did they encourage one another when they were gotten together, and took their armor immediately, and ran out upon the tenth legion, and fell upon the Romans with great eagerness, and with a prodigious shout, as they were fortifying their camp. These Romans were caught in different parties, and this in order to perform their several works, and on that account had in great measure laid aside their arms; for they thought the Jews would not have ventured to make a sally upon them; and had they been disposed so to do, they supposed their sedition would have distracted them. So they were put into disorder unexpectedly; when some of them left their works they were about, and immediately marched off, while many ran to their arms, but were smitten and slain before they could turn back upon the enemy. The Jews became still more and more in number, as encouraged by the good success of those that first made the attack; and while they had such good fortune, they seemed both to themselves and to the enemy to be many more than they really were. The disorderly way of their fighting at first put the Romans also to a stand, who had been constantly used to fight skillfully in good order, and with keeping their ranks, and obeying the orders that were given them; for which reason the Romans were caught unexpectedly, and were obliged to give way to the assaults that were made upon them. Now when these Romans were overtaken, and turned back upon the Jews, they put a stop to their career; yet when they did not take care enough of themselves through the vehemency of their pursuit, they were wounded by them; but as still more and more Jews sallied out of the city, the Romans were at length brought into confusion, and put to flight, and ran away from their camp. Nay, things looked as though the entire legion would have been in danger, unless Titus had been informed of the case they were in, and had sent them succors immediately. So he reproached them for their cowardice, and brought those back that were running away, and fell himself upon the Jews on their flank, with those select troops that were with him, and slew a considerable number, and wounded more of them, and put them all to flight, and made them run away hastily down the valley. Now as these Jews suffered greatly in the declivity of the valley, so when they were gotten over it, they turned about, and stood over against the Romans, having the valley between them, and there fought with them. Thus did they continue the fight till noon; but when it was already a little after noon, Titus set those that came to the assistance of the Romans with him, and those that belonged to the cohorts, to prevent the Jews from making any more sallies, and then sent the rest of the legion to the upper part of the mountain, to fortify their camp.
5. This march of the Romans seemed to the Jews to be a flight; and as the watchman who was placed upon the wall gave a signal by shaking his garment, there came out a fresh multitude of Jews, and that with such mighty violence, that one might compare it to the running of the most terrible wild beasts. To say the truth, none of those that opposed them could sustain the fury with which they made their attacks; but, as if they had been cast out of an engine, they brake the enemies' ranks to pieces, who were put to flight, and ran away to the mountain; none but Titus himself, and a few others with him, being left in the midst of the acclivity. Now these others, who were his friends, despised the danger they were in, and were ashamed to leave their general, earnestly exhorting him to give way to these Jews that are fond of dying, and not to run into such dangers before those that ought to stay before him; to consider what his fortune was, and not, by supplying the place of a common soldier, to venture to turn back upon the enemy so suddenly; and this because he was general in the war, and lord of the habitable earth, on whose preservation the public affairs do all depend. These persuasions Titus seemed not so much as to hear, but opposed those that ran upon him, and smote them on the face; and when he had forced them to go back, he slew them: he also fell upon great numbers as they marched down the hill, and thrust them forward; while those men were so amazed at his courage and his strength, that they could not fly directly to the city, but declined from him on both sides, and pressed after those that fled up the hill; yet did he still fall upon their flank, and put a stop to their fury. In the mean time, a disorder and a terror fell again upon those that were fortifying their camp at the top of the hill, upon their seeing those beneath them running away; insomuch that the whole legion was dispersed, while they thought that the sallies of the Jews upon them were plainly insupportable, and that Titus was himself put to flight; because they took it for granted, that, if he had staid, the rest would never have fled for it. Thus were they encompassed on every side by a kind of panic fear, and some dispersed themselves one way, and some another, till certain of them saw their general in the very midst of an action, and being under great concern for him, they loudly proclaimed the danger he was in to the entire legion; and now shame made them turn back, and they reproached one another that they did worse than run away, by deserting Caesar. So they used their utmost force against the Jews, and declining from the straight declivity, they drove them on heaps into the bottom of the valley. Then did the Jews turn about and fight them; but as they were themselves retiring, and now, because the Romans had the advantage of the ground, and were above the Jews, they drove them all into the valley. Titus also pressed upon those that were near him, and sent the legion again to fortify their camp; while he, and those that were with him before, opposed the enemy, and kept them from doing further mischief; insomuch that, if I may be allowed neither to add any thing out of flattery, nor to diminish any thing out of envy, but to speak the plain truth, Caesar did twice deliver that entire legion when it was in jeopardy, and gave them a quiet opportunity of fortifying their camp.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William WhistonThe War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
is a person who gives false testimony against a neighbor.
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
And now, saith the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be His servant. --- Isaiah 49:5.
The first thing that happens after we have realized our election to God in Christ Jesus is the destruction of our prejudices and our parochial notions and our patriotisms; we are turned into servants of God’s own purpose. The whole human race was created to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever. Sin has switched the human race on to another tack, but it has not altered God’s purpose in the tiniest degree; and when we are born again we are brought into the realization of God’s great purpose for the human race, viz., I am created for God, He made me. This realization of the election of God is the most joyful realization on earth, and we have to learn to rely on the tremendous creative purpose of God. The first thing God will do with us is to “force thro’ the channels of a single heart” the interests of the whole world. The love of God, the very nature of God, is introduced into us, and the nature of Almighty God is focused in John 3:16—“God so loved the world …”
We have to maintain our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and not muddle it with our own intentions. If we do, God will have to crush our intentions on one side however much it may hurt. The purpose for which the missionary is created is that he may be God’s servant, one in whom God is glorified. When once we realize that through the salvation of Jesus Christ we are made perfectly fit for God, we shall understand why Jesus Christ is so ruthless in His demands. He demands absolute rectitude from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.
Beware lest you forget God’s purpose for your life.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
And one said, This man can sing;
Let's listen to him. But the other,
Dirt on his mind, said, No, let's
Queer him. And the first, being weak,
Consented. So the Thing came
Nearer him, and its breath caused
Him to retch, and none knew why.
But he rested for one long month,
And after began to sing
For gladness, and the Thing stood,
Letting him, for a year, for two;
Then put out its raw hand
And touched him, and the wound took
Over, and the nurses wiped off
The poetry from his cracked lips.
As we read through the Deuteronomy narrative, the death of Moses may seem more tragic to us than it did to the Rabbis. After all, he had led the Israelites for forty years: Why should Moses, of all people, not have the opportunity to cross the Jordan and lead his people, triumphant, into the Promised Land? How could the Rabbis envision Moses dying an easy and enviable death on the east bank of the Jordan?
This Midrash is a classic example of “Rabbinic revisionist history.” The Rabbis who authored the various midrashim took an event from the Bible (or even from post-biblical history) and “rewrote” it to fit their understanding of God, the Jewish people, and history. Thus, the Hanukkah story was transformed by the Rabbis from the way it appears in the Books of the Maccabees—a military victory of a band of Judeans over the Seleucid forces—to a religious triumph of “the few over the many.” In the Talmud, the Rabbis leave out any mention of the armies (or, it’s more accurate to say that they expunged the battle story, for it was by conscious omission), instead highlighting the tale of the miraculous jar of oil that lasted eight days, an account not even mentioned in the Books of the Maccabees.
In our day and age, we rework Jewish history as well. Many people see the birth of the modern state of Israel as compensation for the horrors of the Holocaust. To a certain degree, the impetus for a Jewish state was strengthened by the Shoah. However, we should not forget that the process of creating a homeland was well underway before the Holocaust. Still, to understand the tragedy of European Jewry as the prelude to a modern Israel is a religious statement not unlike that of the Rabbis. We find comfort and consolation in this “final chapter”: The state of Israel, and the people living there, become, in the words of the prophet Zechariah, “a brand plucked from the fire.” God promised us this in the prophet’s day; we have seen it come true in our day.
The challenge to thinking, feeling Jews would appear to be twofold. First, we must understand history dispassionately and not be swayed by sentimentality or religious fervor. Second, taking our cue from the Rabbis, we must “rework” history so as to find meaning and inspiration from the past. Doing one without the other is either overly simplistic or blindingly dogmatic. Striving to read history both dispassionately and creatively is the truly Jewish way.
In Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, candy manufacturer Willy Wonka hides five golden tickets underneath the wrappers of five candy bars, which are then distributed around the world. The lucky people who find the golden tickets will win a tour of Wonka’s top-secret facility.
“He’s brilliant!” cried Grandpa Joe. “He’s a magician! Just imagine what will happen now! The whole world will be searching for those Golden Tickets! Everyone will be buying Wonka’s candy bars in the hope of finding one! He’ll sell more than ever before!”
Wonka was on to one of the great marketing strategies of the modern world: You can sell your simple, ordinary product by enticing people with great “giveaways.” Corn flakes aren’t something to get excited about, but if there’s a prize in the box, pretty soon the cereal is going to fly off the shelf. There are dozens of brands of cola, and many people can’t tell the difference between one and the other. But if you can win a million dollars by finding the right message under the bottle cap, then it’s clear which brand will sell the most.
Rabbi Levi was not working for an advertising firm on Madison Avenue, and he was certainly not interested in selling cereal or soda pop. Though the parable was about small change, the principle involved was of great significance. The question really being addressed was: How do we get people to do things that they don’t necessarily want to do?
Being a keen observer of human behavior, Rabbi Levi knew that it didn’t matter if the issue in question was trivial or important. A person’s health, or even his life, could be on the line; if he doesn’t want to go to the doctor, then all the appeals to logic, or reason, or good sense would fall on deaf ears. Government officials could bemoan the fact that half of the electorate doesn’t even turn out to vote, and could try to increase that number with patriotic appeals or with predictions about the collapse of democracy; if people don’t want to vote, they won’t.
Rabbi Levi’s answer to this dilemma was that you have to offer people a “golden ticket.” You have to find a way to make it worth their while. This answer is, to be honest, a bit disappointing. But it is also realistic. It should be enough for a man to say, “Please help!… I’ve dropped some money … I need a flashlight …” But it isn’t; nobody pays attention. However, if it turns out that there’s a piece of gold somewhere in the alley, then a crowd of people will suddenly materialize. Maybe they think they’ll find the prize and get to keep it; at the very least, a search for gold makes for good entertainment. Sadly, it’s not enough to know right from wrong; we also have to figure out how best to get people to do what’s right.
That means that parents and teachers, bosses and leaders must learn to think a little like advertising executives, pushing a product.
For the transgression of my people he was stricken.
--- Isaiah 53:8.
When your heart is thus established in Christ and you are an enemy of sin—out of love and not out of fear of punishment—Christ’s sufferings should also be an example for your whole life, and you should meditate on them in a different way. ( 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) ) For until now we have considered Christ’s passion as a sacrament that works in us and we suffer; now we consider that we also work, namely thus: if a day of sorrow or sickness weighs you down, think how trifling that is compared with the thorns and nails of Christ. If you must do or leave undone what is distasteful to you, think how Christ was led here and there, bound and a captive. Does pride attack you? See how your Lord was mocked and disgraced with murderers. Do unchastity and lust thrust themselves against you? Think how bitter it was for Christ to have his tender flesh torn, pierced, and beaten again and again. Do hatred and envy war against you, or do you seek vengeance? Remember how Christ, with many tears and cries, prayed for you and all his enemies—he who indeed had more reason to seek revenge. If trouble or whatever adversity of body or soul afflict you, strengthen your heart and say, “Ah, why then shouldn’t I also suffer a little since my Lord sweat blood in the garden because of anxiety and grief?” That would be a lazy, disgraceful servant who would wish to lie in bed while the Lord was compelled to battle with the pangs of death.
See, you can thus find in Christ strength and comfort against all vice and bad habits. That is the right observance of Christ’s suffering, and that is the fruit of his suffering. And they are called true Christians who incorporate the life and name of Christ into their own lives, as Saint Paul says in Galatians 5:24: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” For Christ’s suffering must be dealt with not in words and a show but in our lives and in truth. Thus Hebrews 12:3: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”; and 1 Peter 4:1: “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.”
--- Martin Luther
Any One of Us
Young, athletic scholars often make the best missionaries, especially when, like John Coleridge Patteson, they abandon all for Christ. Patteson, great-nephew of poet Samuel T. Coleridge, was “finely educated” at Oxford where he excelled in sports, especially in rowing. Following graduation he became a curate of the Church of England and soon sailed to New Zealand to assist his missionary friend, Bishop George Selwyn.
Patteson conducted schools for Melanesian Christians, preached the Gospel, and translated the Scriptures. He spoke 23 dialects and translated the New Testament into local languages. In 1861 he was consecrated Bishop of Melanesia, and after 20 years, only 40 of the 800 natives on the chief island, Mota, remained unbaptized.
But European slave traders sullied the atmosphere by sailing among the islands, kidnapping native boys. In all, an estimated 70,000 young men were captured into servitude. Patteson fought the practice tooth and nail; but a fear of Europeans emerged among the islanders, and many held Patteson at arm’s length. Might he, too, be wanting their boys, not for the purposes of educating them, but for enslaving them?
On September 21, 1871 Patteson anchored alongside an island. He spoke to local schoolboys about Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He concluded, saying, “We are all Christians here on this ship. Any one of us might be asked to give up his life for God, just as Stephen was in the Bible. This might happen to any one of us, to you or to me. It might happen today.”
Patteson closed his Bible and went ashore. He was met by a barrage of arrows. Shortly, an unmanned canoe was found drifting in the water. It contained Patteson’s pierced body, covered by a palm with five knotted fronds, showing that Patteson’s life had been taken in exchange for five island boys who had been kidnapped. He was in his mid-forties. His death sparked such protest that South Pacific kidnapping was eventually ended; and his martyrdom inspired many young men who gave their lives to South Seas missionary work.
As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Then he died.
--- Acts 7:59,60.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 21
"I will rejoice over them to do them good." --- Jeremiah 32:41.
How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in his saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God’s people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us. We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” As he looked upon the world he had made, he said, “It is very good”; but when he beheld those who are the purchase of Jesus’ blood, his own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer, but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy. Should not we utter our grateful response to such a marvellous declaration of his love, and sing, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation?”
Evening - September 21
“Gather not my soul with sinners.” --- Psalm 26:9.
Fear made David pray thus, for something whispered, “Perhaps, after all, thou mayst be gathered with the wicked.” That fear, although marred by unbelief, springs, in the main, from holy anxiety, arising from the recollection of past sin. Even the pardoned man will enquire, “What if at the end my sins should be remembered, and I should be left out of the catalogue of the saved?” He recollects his present unfruitfulness—so little grace, so little love, so little holiness, and looking forward to the future, he considers his weakness and the many temptations which beset him, and he fears that he may fall, and become a prey to the enemy. A sense of sin and present evil, and his prevailing corruptions, compel him to pray, in fear and trembling, “Gather not my soul with sinners.” Reader, if you have prayed this prayer, and if your character be rightly described in the Psalm from which it is taken, you need not be afraid that you shall be gathered with sinners. Have you the two virtues which David had—the outward walking in integrity, and the inward trusting in the Lord? Are you resting upon Christ’s sacrifice, and can you compass the altar of God with humble hope? If so, rest assured, with the wicked you never shall be gathered, for that calamity is impossible. The gathering at the judgment is like to like. “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” If, then, thou art like God’s people, thou shalt be with God’s people. You cannot be gathered with the wicked, for you are too dearly bought. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, you are his for ever, and where he is, there must his people be. You are loved too much to be cast away with reprobates. Shall one dear to Christ perish? Impossible! Hell cannot hold thee! Heaven claims thee! Trust in thy Surety and fear not!
MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE
Ray Palmer, 1808–1887
In whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:12 RSV)
“My Faith Looks Up to Thee” was written in 1832 by Ray Palmer, a 22-year-old school teacher. Several months after his graduation from Yale University and while still living with the family of the lady who directed the girls’ school where he taught, Palmer wrote the text for this hymn. He had experienced a very discouraging year in which he battled illness and loneliness.
The words for these stanzas were born out of my own soul with very little effort. I recall that I wrote the verses with tender emotion. There was not the slightest thought of writing for another eye, least of all writing a hymn for Christian worship. It is well-remembered that when writing the last line, “Oh, bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!” the thought of the whole work of redemption and salvation was involved in those words, and suggested the theme of eternal praises, and this brought me to a degree of emotion that brought abundant tears.
Two years later, while visiting in Boston, Palmer chanced to meet his friend, Lowell Mason, a well-known name in musical circles during this time. Upon seeing Ray Palmer’s text, Mason stated: “Palmer, you may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best-known to posterity as the author of ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’.” Lowell Mason composed a melody for this text, a tune which he called “Olivet” in reference to the hymn’s message. Soon the hymn appeared in its present form in a hymnal edited by Mason. And from that time on this musical expression has had an important place in nearly every hymnal that has been published:
My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine; now hear me when I pray, take all my sin away; O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire; as Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee pure, warm and changeless be—a living fire!
While life’s dark maze I tread and griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide; bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away, nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life’s transient dream, when death’s cold sullen stream shall o’er me roll, Blest Savior, then, in love, fear and distrust remove—O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul.
For Today: Psalm 118:8, 9; Romans 1:17; 5:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 12:9
Reflect on this statement—Faith is simply learning to say “Amen” (so be it!) to God. Express your faith by singing ---
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
(2.) If God were changeable in his knowledge, it would make him unfit to be an object of trust to any rational creature. His revelations would want the due ground for entertainment, if his understanding were changeable; for that might be revealed as truth now which might prove false hereafter, and that as false now which hereafter might prove true; and so God would be an unfit object of obedience in regard of his precepts, and an unfit object of confidence in regard of his promises. For if he be changeable in knowledge he is defective in knowledge, and might promise that now which he would know afterwards was unfit to be promised, and, therefore, unfit to be performed. It would make him an incompetent object of dread, in regard of his threatenings; for he might threaten that now which he might know hereafter were not fit or just to be inflicted. A changeable mind and understanding cannot make a due and right judgment of things to be done, and things to be avoided; no wise man would judge it reasonable to trust a weak and flitting person. God must needs be unchangeable in his knowledge; but, as the schoolmen say, that, as the sun always shines, so God always knows; as the sun never ceaseth to shine, so God never ceaseth to know. Nothing can be hid from the vast compass of his understanding, no more than anything can shelter itself without the verge of his power. This farther appears in that,
1st. God knows by his own essence. He doth not know, as we do, by habits, qualities, species, whereby we may be mistaken at one time and rectified at another. He hath not an understanding distinct from his essence as we have, but being the most simple Being, his understanding is his essence; and as from the infiniteness of his essence we conclude the infiniteness of his understanding, so from the unchangeableness of his essence, we may justly conclude the unchangeableness of his knowledge. Since, therefore, God is without all composition, and his understanding is not distinct from his essence, what he knows, he knows by his essence, and there can then be no more mutability in his knowledge than there can be in his essence; and if there were any in that, he could not be God, because he would have the property of a creature. If his understanding then be his essence, his knowledge is as necessary, as unchangeable as his essence. As his essence eminently contains all perfections in itself, so his understanding comprehends all things past, present, and future, in itself. If his understanding and his essence were not one and the same, he were not simple, but compounded: if compounded, he would consist of parts; if he consisted of parts, he would not be an independent Being, and so would not be God.
2d. God knows all things by one intuitive act. As there is no succession in his being, so that he is one thing now and another thing hereafter; so there is no succession in his knowledge. He knows things that are successive, before their existence and succession, by one single act of intuition; by one cast of his eye all things future are present to him in regard of his eternity and omnipresence; so that though there is a change and variation in the things known, yet his knowledge of them and their several changes in nature is invariable and unalterable. As imagine a creature that could see with his eye at one glance the whole compass of the heavens, by sending out beams from his eye without receiving any species from them, he would see the whole heavens uniformly, this part now in the east, then in the west, without any change in his eye, for he sees every part and every motion together; and though that great body varies and whirls about, and is in continual agitation, his eye remains steadfast, suffers no change, beholds all their motions at once and by one glance. God knows all things from eternity, and, therefore, perpetually knows them; the reason is because the Divine knowledge is infinite, and therefore, comprehends all knowable truths at once. An eternal knowledge comprehends in itself all time, and beholds past and present in the same manner, and, therefore, his knowledge is immutable: by one simple knowledge he considers the infinite spaces of past and future.
3d. God’s knowledge and will is the cause of all things and their successions. There can be no pretence of any changeableness of knowledge in God; but in this case, before things come to pass, he knows that they will come to pass; after they are come to pass, he knows that they are past; and slide away. This would be something if the succession of things were the cause of the Divine knowledge, as it is of our knowledge; but on the contrary, the Divine knowledge and will is the cause of the succession of them: God doth not know creatures because they are; but they are because he knows them: “All his works were known to him from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). All his works were not known to him, if the events of all those works were not also known to him; if they were not known to him, how should he make them? he could not do anything ignorantly. He made them then after he knew them, and did not know them after he made them. His knowledge of them made a change in them; their existence made no change in his knowledge. He knew them when they were to be created, in the same manner that he knew them after they were created; before they were brought into act, as well as after they were brought into act; before they were made, they were, and were not; they were in the knowledge of God, when they were not in their own nature; God did not receive his knowledge from their existence, but his knowledge and will acted upon them to bring them into being.
4th. Therefore the distinction of past and future makes no change in the knowledge of God. When a thing is past, God hath no more distinct knowledge of it after it is past, than he had when it was to come; all things were all in their circumstances of past, present, and to come; seen by his understanding, as they were determined by his will. Besides, to know a day to be past or future, is only to know the state of that day in itself, and to know its relation to that which follows, and that which went before. This day wherein we are, if we consider it in the state wherein it was yesterday, it was to come, it was future; but if we consider it in that state wherein it will be to-morrow, we understand it as past. This in man cannot be said to be a different knowledge of the thing itself, but only of the circumstance attending a thing, and the different relation of it. As I see the sun this day, I know it was up yesterday, I know it will be up to- morrow; my knowledge of the sun is the same; if there be any change, it is in the sun, not in my knowledge; only I apply my knowledge to such particular circumstances. How much more must the knowledge of those things in God be unchangeable, who knows all those states, conditions, and circumstances, most perfectly from eternity; wherein there is no succession, no past or future, and therefore will know them forever! He always beholds the same thing; he sees, indeed, succession in things, and he sees a thing to be past which before was future. As from eternity he saw Adam as existing in such a time; in the first time he saw that he would be, in the following time he saw that he had been; but this he knew from eternity; this he knew in the same manner; though there was a variation in Adam, yet there was no variation in God’s knowledge of him, in all his states; though Adam was not present to himself, yet in all his states he was present to God’s eternity.
5th. Consider, that the knowledge of God, in regard of the manner of it, as well as the objects, is incomprehensible to a finite creature. So that though we cannot arrive to a full understanding of the manner of God’s knowledge, yet we must conceive so of it, as to remove all imperfection from him in it. And since it is an imperfection to be changeable, we must remove that from God; the knowledge of God about things past, present and future, must be inconceivably above ours: “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:6). There is no number of it; it can no more be calculated or drawn into an account by us, than infinite spaces, which have no bounds and limits, can be measured by us. We can no more arrive, even in heaven, to a comprehensive understanding of the manner of his knowledge, than of the infinite glory of his essence; we may as well comprehend one as the other. This we must conclude, that God being not a body, doth not see one thing with eyes, and another thing with mind, as we do; but being a spirit, he sees and knows only with mind, and his mind is himself, and is as unchangeable as himself; and therefore as he is not now another thing than what he was, so he knows not anything now in another manner than as he knew it from eternity; he sees all things in the glass of his own essence; as, therefore, the glass doth not vary, so neither doth his vision.
3. God is unchangeable in regard of his will and purpose. A change in his purpose is, when a man determines to do that now which before he determined not to do, or to do the contrary; when a man hates that thing which he loved, or begins to love that which he before hated; when the will is changed, a man begins to will that which he willed not before, and ceaseth to will that which he willed before. But whatsoever God hath decreed, is immutable; whatsoever God hath promised, shall be accomplished: “The word that goes forth of his mouth shall not return to him void, but it shall accomplish that which he pleaseth” (Isa. 55:11); whatsoever “he purposeth, he will do” (Isa. 46:11; Num. 23:19); his decrees are therefore called “mountains of brass” (Zech. 6:1): brass, as having substance and solidity; mountains, as being immovable, not only by any creature, but by himself; because they stand upon the basis of infallible wisdom, and are supported by uncontrollable power. From this immutability of his will, published to man, there could be no release from the severity of the law, without satisfaction made by the death of a Mediator, since it was the unalterable will of God, that death should be the wages of sin; and from this immutable will it was, that the length of time, from the first promise of the Redeemer to his mission, and the daily provocations of men, altered not his purpose for the accomplishment of it in the fulness of that time he had resolved upon; nor did the wickedness of former ages hinder the addition of several promises as buttresses to the first. To make this out, consider,
(1.) The will of God is the same with his essence. If God had a will distinct from his essence, he would not be the most simple Being. God hath not a faculty of will distinct from himself; as his understanding is nothing else but Deus intelligens, God understanding; so his will is nothing else but Deus volens, God willing; being, therefore, the essence of God; though it is considered, according to our weakness, as a faculty, it is as his understanding and wisdom, eternal and immutable; and can no more be changed than his essence. The immutability of the Divine counsel depends upon that of his essence; he is the Lord Jehovah, therefore he is true to his word (Mal.3:6; Isa. 43:13): “Yea, before the day I am he, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” He is the same, immutable in his essence, therefore irresistible in his power.
(2.) There is a concurrence of God’s will and understanding in everything. As his knowledge is eternal, so is his purpose. Things created had not been known to be, had not God resolved them to be the act of his will; the existence of anything supposeth an act of his will. Again, as God knows all things by one simple vision of his understanding, so he wills all things by one act of volition; therefore the purpose of God in the Seripture is not expressed by counsels in the plural number, but counsel; showing that all the purposes of God are not various, but as one will, branching itself out into many acts towards the creature; but all knit in one root, all links of one chain. Whatsoever is eternal is immutable; as his knowledge is eternal, and therefore immutable, so is his will; he wills or nills nothing to be in time, but what he willed and nilled from eternity; if he willed in time that to be that he willed not from eternity, then he would know that in time which he knew not from eternity; for God knows nothing future, but as his will orders it to be future, and in time to be brought into being.
(3.) There can be no reason for any change in the will of God. When men change in their minds, it must be for want of foresight; because they could not foresee all the rubs and bars which might suddenly offer themselves; which if they had foreseen, they would not have taken such measures: hence men often will that which they afterwards wish they had not willed when they come to understand it clearer, and see that to be injurious to them which they thought to be good for them; or else the change proceeds from a natural instability without any just cause, and an easiness to be drawn into that which is unrighteous; or else it proceeds from a want of power, when men take new counsels, because they are invincibly hindered from executing the old. But none of those can be in God. 1st. It cannot be for want of foresight. What can be wanting to an infinite understanding? How can any unknown event defeat his purpose, since nothing happens in the world but what he wills to effect, or wills to permit; and therefore all future events are present with him? Besides, it doth not consist with God’s wisdom to resolve anything, but upon the highest reason; and what is the highest and infinite reason, cannot but be unalterable in itself; for there can be no reason and wisdom higher than the highest. All God’s purposes are not bare acts of will, but acts of counsel. “He works all things according to the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11): and he doth not say so much that his will, as that “his counsel shall stand” (Isa. 46:10). It stands, because it is counsel; and the immutability of a promise is called the “immutability of his counsel” (Heb. 6:1?), as being introduced and settled by the most perfect wisdom, and therefore to be carried on to a full and complete execution; his purpose, then, cannot be changed for want of foresight; for this would be a charge of weakness.
2d. Nor can it proceed from a natural instability of his will, or an easiness to be drawn to that which is unrighteous. If his will should not adhere to his counsel, it is because it is not fit to be followed, or because it will not follow it; if not fit to be followed, it is a reflection upon his wisdom; if it be established, and he will not follow it, there is a contrariety in God, as there is in a fallen creature, will against wisdom. That cannot be in God which he hates in a creature, viz. the disorder of faculties, and being out of their due place. The righteousness of God is like a “great mountain” (Psalm 36:6). The rectitude of his nature is as immovable in itself, as all the mountains in the world are by the strength of man. “He is not as a man, that he should repent or lie” (Num. 23:19); who often changes, out of a perversity of will, as well as want of wisdom to foresee, or want of ability to perform. His eternal purpose must either be righteous or unrighteous; if righteous and holy, he would become unholy by the change; if not righteous nor holy, then he was unrighteous before the change; which way soever it falls, it would reflect upon the righteousness of God, which is a blasphemous imagination. If God did change his purpose, it must be either for the better,—then the counsel of God was bad before; or for the worse, —then he was not wise and good before.
3d. Nor can it be for want of strength. Who hath power to control him? Not all the combined devices and endeavors of men can make the counsel of God to totter (Prov. 19:21): “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand;” that, and that only shall stand. Man hath a power to devise and imagine, but no power to effect and execute of himself. God wants no more power to effect what he will, than he wants understanding to know what is fit. Well, then, since God wanted not wisdom to frame his decrees, nor holiness to regulate them, nor power to effect them, what should make him change them? since there can be no reason superior to his, no event unforeseen by him, no holiness comparable to his, no unrighteousness found in him, no power equal to his, to put a rub in his way.
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | As we continue our study through Joel, we learn about restoration. Consider what happens when we repent, re-gather and rejoice..
The Road to Restoration | Joel 2:25
s1-359 | 08-12-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | In our study of Joel 1-2, we read of locusts and The Day of the Lord.
m1-371 | 08-15-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | The Bible speaks of a time known as “The Day of the Lord“ when Christ will rule in His millennial kingdom. In our study through Joel, we learn what will happen in this time, and what it means for us today..
The Day of the Lord - Part I | Joel 2:28-32
s1-360 | 08-19-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | In concluding the book of Joel, we read about a great restoration. Study with us three valleys and their role over time..
m1-372 | 08-22-2007
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Joel 1 - 3
Dialectical Inquiry in Aristotle
De Anima I
Arthur Madigan | Catholic University
Heidegger - Philosophy of Freedom
Holger Zabrowski | Catholic University
Heidegger - Existence and facticity
Walter Brogan | Catholic University
William McNeill | Catholic University
Heidegger - Truth of Being
Richard Capodianco | Catholic University
Heidegger - Technological Globalization
& Indigenous Localization
Theodore Kidiel | Catholic University
Heidegger's Poetic Measure
Charles Bambach | Catholic University
Heidegger - Kant's Transcendental Philosophy
Rudolf Makkreel | Catholic University
Heidegger on Plato: Truth and Myth
Rudolf Bernet | Catholic University
Richard Polt | Catholic University
Foundations of Religious Liberty
Darrell Bock & Kelly Shackelford |
Dallas Theological Seminary
Drew Dickens |
Dallas Theological Seminary
The Prophet Joel
David Talley | Biola University
Obadiah and Joel 1
Obadiah and Joel 2
Prophets, Session 17 -- Joel
Dr. Marv Wilson | Dr. Ted Hildebrandt
Prophets, Session 18 -- Joel Part 2
Dr. Marv Wilson | Dr. Ted Hildebrandt
Prophets, Session 19, Joel Part 3, Obadiah
Dr. Marv Wilson | Dr. Ted Hildebrandt
Lecture 29, Joel
Dr. Gary Yates | Dr. Ted Hildebrandt
Something Needs To Change 9-18-19
David Platt | Radical
How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law?
Don Carson | 06-08-2019
Together For The Gospel
Ben Shin | Biola University
Interpretation and Context of Scripture
Ben Shin | Biola University
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