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9/03/2019     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     Ezekiel 16 - 17

Ezekiel 16

The LORD’s Faithless Bride

Ezekiel 16:1 Again the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.

6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.

15 “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. 16 You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. 17 You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. 18 And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. 19 Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord GOD. 20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? 22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.

23 “And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), 24 you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. 25 At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring. 26 You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. 27 Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. 29 You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.

30 “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.

35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD: 36 Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39 And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord GOD. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?

44 “Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. 51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

53 “I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. 56 Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become an object of reproach for the daughters of Syria and all those around her, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you. 58 You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the LORD.

The LORD’s Everlasting Covenant

59 “For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60 yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 17

Parable of Two Eagles and a Vine

Ezekiel 17:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel; 3 say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar. 4 He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants. 5 Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig, 6 and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.

7 “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it. 8 It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.

9 “Say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. 10 Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it—wither away on the bed where it sprouted?”

11 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Say now to the rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took her king and her princes and brought them to him to Babylon. 13 And he took one of the royal offspring and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath (the chief men of the land he had taken away), 14 that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and keep his covenant that it might stand. 15 But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?

16 “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die. 17 Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. 18 He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. 20 I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. 21 And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken.”

22 Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

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What I'm Reading

Why Doesn’t God Reform People Rather Than Punish Them in Hell?

By J. Warner Wallace 8/31/2017

     Some struggle to understand how a loving God could create a place like Hell. Others, while understanding and accepting the relationship between mercy and justice, freedom and consequence, victory and punishment, still imagine a better way. If God is all-loving, why doesn’t He simply “reform” people rather than allow them to continue in their sin and eventually punish them in Hell? Even human prison systems understand the value of reform; isn’t a God who punishes his children in Hell a sadistic and vengeful God?

     We expect that a loving God would care enough about us to offer a chance to change rather than simply punish us vindictively for something we’ve done in the past. As it turns out, God (as he is described in the Bible) understands the difference between discipline and punishment, and He is incredibly patient with us, allowing us an entire lifetime to change our minds and reform our lives. This is easier to understand when we think carefully about the definitions of “discipline” and “punishment”:

     Discipline Looks Forward | All of us understand the occasional necessity of disciplining our children. When we discipline, we are motivated by love rather than vengeance. We hope to change the future behavior of our kids by nudging them in a new direction with a little discomfort. God also loves His children in this way and allows them the opportunity to reform under his discipline. This takes place during our mortal lifetime; God disciplines those He loves in this life because He is concerned with eternity. Discipline, by its very definition, is “forward-looking” and must therefore occur in this world with an eye toward our eternal destiny:

     Hebrews 12:9-11 | Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

     Punishment Looks Backward | There are times as a parent, however, when our loving efforts to discipline and reform are unsuccessful; our kids are sometimes rebellious to the point of exhaustion. In these times, our love requires us to deliver on our repeated warnings. Our loving sense of justice requires us to be firm, even when it hurts us to do so. Our other children are watching us as well, and our future acts of mercy will be meaningless if we fail to act justly on wrongdoing. In times like these, we have no alternative but to punish acts that have occurred in the past. Punishment need not be vindictive or vengeful. It is simply the sad but deserving consequence awaiting those who are unwilling to be reformed in this life.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

The Work of the Cross

By Mike Robinson 7/19/2017

     And he [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

     He planted His cross in the midst of the mad and roaring current of selfishness, aggravated to malignity, and uttered from it the mighty cry of expiring love. And the waters heard Him, and from that moment they began to be refluent about His cross. From that moment, a current deeper and broader and mightier began to set heavenward; and it will continue to be deeper and broader and mightier till its glad waters shall encompass the earth, and toss themselves as the ocean. And not alone did earth hear the cry. It pierced the regions of immensity. Heaven heard it, and hell heard it, and the remotest star shall hear it, testifying to the love of God in His unspeakable gift, and to the supremacy of that blessedness of giving which could be reached only through death—the death of the cross (Mark Hopkins).

     Christ on the Cross was more saturated in fury and judgment than blood and sweat. Jesus was hounded and pounded more by God’s wrath in making propitiation than by crossbeam, nail, and mallet. Christ was crucified, killed, and executed; God’s holy justice flung on Jesus by what John Murray termed “The holy revulsion of God’s being against which is the contradiction of His holiness.” God’s wrath was stockpiled and then poured out on Jesus at the Cross. All the sin and wickedness reserved, as it added up and was stacked up, and then poured out on Jesus. Thus God’s judgment for our sin was put away. We deserved wrath and judgment, but God hurled it on Jesus in our place.

     Edwards mused, “And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for” (Jonathan Edwards). Jesus died to expiate our sins and propitiate the wrath of God. Thank you Lord!

     The consequence of the Cross is forgiveness. The Cross is the remedy for the infection of sin. Jesus hung on the Cross to remove sin and rinse the sin syndrome from our soul inasmuch as the blood of Christ paid the debt, propitiated wrath, and rinsed believers clean.

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     CAA author Mike A. Robinson utilizes recent research in Christian apologetics, philosophy, and biblical truth as he provides books that make an impact on average people. These high-impact works train you to evangelize atheists, cult members, false religionists and agnostics. The deep intellectual truths that modern and ancient Christian scholars and philosophers have produced are formatted in simple and easy-to-follow steps. This fresh approach makes it real and assists you to be an effective witness in your personal evangelism to the followers of Richard Dawkins, Joseph Smith, the Watchtower, Buddha, Islam, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, other anti-theists and cultists.

Mike Robinson Books:

The Absence of Contradictory Evidence for Moses and the Exodus

By Mike Robinson 6/15/2017

     Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen (Exodus 14:21-23).

     "It must be initially stated that Moses was in a position to write the Pentateuch. He was educated in the royal court of Egypt, which was highly advanced academically. He had firsthand knowledge of the geography of Egypt and the Sinai, with plenty of time—forty years in wandering and forty more years beyond that—to compose his work. At the same time that Moses lived, there were uneducated slaves working in the Egyptian turquoise mines writing on the walls, thus demonstrating the extent of writing in Moses’ day (Josh McDowell)."

     There is no archaeological evidence that controverts the historicity of the Exodus. Many more excavations of the Sinai need to be completed—uncovering items and textual evidence concealed by sand for 3,000 years is a formidable endeavor.

     "If you remember that the sufficiency of Scripture is a sufficiency of divine words, that will help us to understand the role of extrabiblical data, both in ethics and theology. People sometimes misunderstand the doctrine of sufficiency by thinking that it excludes the use of any extrabiblical information… (John Frame)."

     Christianity Today offered compelling evidence for the events surrounding the story of the Exodus: “While … most skeptical scholars agree that the Israelites were in Canaan by the year 1208 B.C. This date was set a century ago with the discovery of the Merneptah Stele. This seven-foot high, black granite stone contains a victory hymn of Pharaoh Merneptah, which proclaims, ‘The Canaan is plundered with every hardship … and … Israel is laid waste, his seed is no more.’ Not surprisingly, the minimalists downplay its significance, claiming it simply refers to an insignificant early nomadic tribe—a proto-Israel, if you will. But the undeniable fact is that a pharaoh considered Israel's defeat worth inscribing on stone, and that a people called Israel lived in Canaan by that time. Just as fascinating are pictorial carvings on a temple wall in Luxor, Egypt, which Egyptologist Frank Yurco believes depict the destruction of Ashkelon, Gezer, Yano'am, and the Israelites mentioned in the Merneptah Stele.” Even though tons of sand and time are in the way, fascinating evidence has been unearthed concerning the Exodus out of Egypt.

Click here to go to source

     CAA author Mike A. Robinson utilizes recent research in Christian apologetics, philosophy, and biblical truth as he provides books that make an impact on average people. These high-impact works train you to evangelize atheists, cult members, false religionists and agnostics. The deep intellectual truths that modern and ancient Christian scholars and philosophers have produced are formatted in simple and easy-to-follow steps. This fresh approach makes it real and assists you to be an effective witness in your personal evangelism to the followers of Richard Dawkins, Joseph Smith, the Watchtower, Buddha, Islam, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, other anti-theists and cultists.

Mike Robinson Books:

Calvin On Christ's Cry Of Abandon

By Steven Wedgeworth 7/31/2017

     Pastor Tim Keller has posted a follow-up to the ideas and concepts that Mark Jones highlighted a few days ago concerning Christ’s cry of abandon from the cross. There’s a lot that could be said, but so far it’s simply worth nothing that it is a very good conversation that opens up lots of avenues for further discussion. In his most recent post, Pastor Keller cites Calvin for explanation and context, and he embraces many important distinctions. As I was reading along, I decided to cross-reference Calvin and ended up going down a fun sort of rabbit hole. As it turns out, Calvin wrote quite a lot on this particular topic. It’s fascinating. Calvin treats the whole matter with biblical integrity and careful attention to dogmatic theology, and the whole excursion serves a sort of theological education.

     In what follows, I would like to give this all more exposure. I will list Calvin’s most significant statements on Christ’s cry of despair on the Cross and give a brief commentary on each, noticing his comment affirmations, denials, and emphases. I may not have found every relevant passage in Calvin’s writings, but I have tried to catalog the major ones. If readers find others, they may feel free to pass them along.

     1538 Catechism Of The Church Of Geneva

     John Hesselink has published an edition of the catechism Calvin wrote in 1538. This was a summary form of the first edition of his Institutes, and it served as the city confession of faith for a time. It can now be found in Hesselink’s Calvin’s First Catechism: A Commentary (Louisville: WJK, 1997). The 20th chapter of that catechism explains the Apostles’ Creed, a creed which Calvin says “contains nothing merely human but has been assembled from very sure testimonies of Scripture.” When Calvin gets to the part of the creed that says Christ “descended into hell,” he makes these remarks:

     It is said that he descended into hell. This means that he had been afflicted by God, and felt the dread and severity of divine judgment, in order to intercede with God’s wrath and make satisfaction to his justice in our name, thus paying our debts and lifting our penalties, not for his own iniquity (which never existed) but for ours.

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     Steven Wedgeworth, can't find any bio info.

6 Misconceptions About the New Testament

By Leah Baugh 7/31/2017

     1. The Gospels give contradictory accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. | Ask any detective or journalist and they will tell you that eyewitness accounts of the same event are never exactly alike. We have an overwhelming amount of redundancy between the four Gospels, more overlap than dissimilarity. When there are differences, they are minor and do not significantly change the basic account. If anything, it would be more suspicious if everyone told exactly the same details, as if they had collaborated beforehand to get their story straight.

     2. Paul and Jesus teach different things. | People argue that since the Gospels are full of Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of God while Paul’s focus seems to be on justification, Paul must be teaching something Jesus never taught nor intended to teach. Revelation throughout the Bible unfolds in an organic step-by-step way, rather than all at once. Christ inaugurated what the apostles built upon through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, a concept may be present despite the lack of specific vocabulary naming the concept. Christ clearly indicated that salvation could only come through him (Jn. 3:16-17Jn. 14:6) despite never using the word “justification.” Likewise, Paul also taught that Christians who trust in Christ have an eternal inheritance, are called sons of God, and will be resurrected when Christ returns. All these things are elements of the kingdom Christ also taught.

     3. James and Paul teach two different salvations. | Throughout his epistles, Paul emphasizes over and over again justification by faith alone. This is especially clear in Romans and Galatians. The book of James would seem to teach a contradictory salvation of faith plus works (Jm. 2:14-17). However, the book of James never denies faith is necessary for salvation. Its focus on works is to show that live faith, like a live tree, blossoms and bears fruit. Faith that is dead does not bear good fruit and so proves itself to be worthless. This is not denying justification by faith but simply showing that justification and sanctification are connected, albeit in a strict order. Justification always comes first as an act of God while sanctification comes afterward as an ongoing work of God.

     4. Christianity is a primitive religion that the apostles made up to fit the needs of the community. | The argument goes that Christianity is no longer suited to the modern world, that the apostles supposedly edited, adapted, and transformed Jesus to fit the needs of their community. However, this is very unlikely. The apostles wrote their Gospels not long after Jesus ascended and at a time when there were still many people alive who had known Jesus, been healed by Jesus, and heard Jesus’ teachings. Luke mentions Cleopas (Lk. 24) as someone who can confirm that Luke was reporting truthfully. If anyone had doubts that the apostles were changing Jesus’ teachings, they could have gone to plenty of people and compared the two. It is highly unlikely the apostles would have changed Jesus’ theology while there were still people who could say they were lying.

     5. The Bible must have errors because of all the variants among the manuscripts. | The similarities between the core teachings of the New Testament manuscripts far outweigh the dissimilarities. Additionally, the differences are so minor that they do not change the meaning of the theology in any significant ways. This is remarkable given the fact that manuscripts were tediously copied by hand. For instance, many of the variations are copying mistakes that leave out a word like “and” or “but” or mix up the order of two words like “Jesus Christ” copied to “Christ Jesus.”

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     Leah Baugh grew up in Southern California where she rode horses and helped out with the family garden. She studied chemistry in college before turning to theology and receiving a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. She enjoys traveling, making soap, playing music, writing fiction, and spending time with friends. Her greatest desire is that people from all nations would come to know Jesus and grow in their understanding of his Word.

The Doctrine of Perseverance The Earnest Pursuit of Assurance

By John Piper 4/17/1988

     Suppose that you are a gymnast. You’re doing a floor exercise in competition and have made a good beginning. You are in the middle of your routine and suddenly find a strange weariness coming over you. You start to get a little wobbly in your arms and legs.

     You set yourself up for a series of back handsprings that is supposed to come to a climax in a double back flip with a full twist. As you turn and begin your handsprings, the weakness causes a terrible uncertainty to come into your mind. You hit your last handspring to try to get the height you need for the double back flip. Your elbows buckle very slightly. And as you leave the ground the strangest thing happens. Everything goes into slow motion. You seem to be moving just an inch per second. And as you ascend and begin to tuck, you hear a voice from the side of the mat. And you recognize it as the voice of your coach.

     What I am picturing here is the church of the Hebrews to whom this letter was written. They are the gymnast in this picture, and the writer of Hebrews is their coach. As he writes today’s text he is catching them in midair. If they can hear him and respond, they will land on their feet, complete the routine, and perhaps get a good score, say, 8.5 or 9.1. But if they don’t hear him, their uncertainty and weariness may cause them to give out half way through the flip, come down on their head, and break their neck. The text might also be catching you in midair this morning. If so, I hope you listen carefully to the coach so that you land on your feet and finish the life of faith and obedience God has called you to.

     The Progress and Problem of the Church in Hebrews | Let me show you where I get this idea of his catching them in midair. Consider, first of all, Hebrews 6:10: “God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake [lit., in his name] in serving the saints, as you still do.

     Now, from that verse, it looks as though this church is doing all right, doesn’t it? They have done works of love, they have done them in the name of God — that is, in reliance on him and for his glory — they have served the saints, and still are serving them. This is why I said the gymnastic routine of their life had a good beginning and even going into this handspring looks like about a 9.1. Only the sharpest judges and a good coach can detect the problem at this point. What problem?

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John Piper Books:

“Super Hanc Petram”: Matt. 16.18 In Hilary Of Poitiers

By E.J. Hutchinson 7/21/2017

     It is well known (at least, I think it is) that a prominent strand of the exegesis of Matt. 16.18 (“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” ESV) makes the “rock” not Peter himself, nor the apostles in general, nor even the apostolic office as such, but rather Peter’s confession of faith (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” v. 16). It is found, for example, in John Chrysostom. It is also found in Hilary of Poitier’s On the Trinity.

     Thus in On the Trinity 6.36 Hilary, in an argument that Christ is the Son of God by nature and not by adoption, writes: 1

     "A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only and not in nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles. If this be a mere title, to which adoption is His only claim; if He be not the Son in virtue of having proceeded forth from God, whence, I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar-Jona confessed to Him, You are the Christ, the Son of the living GodMatthew 16:16? Because He shared with all mankind the power of being born as one of the sons of God through the sacrament of regeneration? If Christ be the Son of God only in this titular way, what was the revelation made to Peter, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven? What praise could he deserve for making a declaration which was universally applicable? What credit was due to Him for stating a fact of general knowledge? If He be Son by adoption, wherein lay the blessedness of Peter’s confession, which offered a tribute to the Son to which, in that case, He had no more title than any member of the company of saints? The Apostle’s faith penetrates into a region closed to human reasoning. He had, no doubt, often heard, He that receives you receives Me, and He that receives Me receives Him that sent Me. Matthew 10:40 Hence he knew well that Christ had been sent; he had heard Him, Whom he knew to have been sent, making the declaration, All things are delivered unto Me of the Father, and no one knows the Son but the Father, neither knows any one the Father save the Son. What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names of ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ were novel to him; he had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before:— You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had avowed Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle’s faith had recognised in Him the presence of the Divine nature. Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, You are the Christ, and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God.And so his words You are declare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father’s utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess You are the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, You are, is the believer’s welcome to the truth. And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the Divine name; was it not rather the Divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honour, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No; it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed."

     On what foundation is the church, for Hilary, built? On the foundation the confession of the revealed mystery that Christ the Savior is truly God, not by participation or by adoption, but by nature. This truth is revealed by God; it is believed on in the heart and confessed with the mouth by man–and thus there is a church.

     1 I was directed to this passage by E.P. Meijering, Melanchthon and Patristic Thought: The Doctrines of Christ and Grace, the Trinity and the Creation, p. 90; Melanchthon refers to this passage in De potestate Papae (CR 3, col. 277).

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     E. J. Hutchinson | Associate Professor of Classics, Hillsdale College. Director, Collegiate Scholars Program (formerly Honors Program), Hillsdale College | 33 East College Street | Kendall 211 | Hillsdale, MI 49242

     Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA. Ph.D., Classics, 2009. | Dissertation: “Quid facit cum evangeliis Maro?: The Cultural Background of Sedulius' Intertextual Argument with Vergil in the Paschale carmen.”

     Affiliated Fellow, American Academy in Rome, 2005-2006, Classical Summer School, American Academy in Rome, 2004, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA. M.A., Classics, 2004, Thesis: “Exegesis and Exclusion: Concepts of Lex in the Apotheosis of Prudentius.”

     Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI. B.A. summa cum laude, Classics (Departmental Honors), 2002.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 97

The LORD Reigns

1 The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
7 All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O LORD.
9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

ESV Study Bible

Sinners in a Fishbowl

By Barnabas Piper 7/01/2012

     Being a pastor’s kid (PK) is the only life I know. I was born one, and though I am no longer a child, I am still a PK. The greatest advantages and blessings in my life are products or bi-products of being a PK. Those blessings are not what I am setting out to describe, however. I am out to set forth the unique struggles PKs face.

     Pastors’ kids have a reputation. We are the rebellious ones. We are the contrarians and the problem children. We are hell-raisers and hypocrites. Not all of us, mind you, but the shoe definitely fits for many. (I, for one, have been each of these and more.) This reputation is so common it’s become a joke. “Oh, you’re a PK? That just makes so much sense.” Hardy har har.

     I can’t give a comprehensive psychospiritual analysis of why PKs are so often messed up, but there are contributing factors that need conscientious care. There are circumstances that do make life uniquely challenging for the children of church leaders, and the church itself often unwittingly and carelessly contributes to these.

     PKs live in a fishbowl, or at least it feels that way. Everyone in the church knows the names and faces of the pastor’s children. There is never the safety of anonymity. Details of our lives are known by people we recognize only from the church directory. Big church or small church, the same holds true. And while this isn’t inherently harmful or problematic, the fact remains that fishbowls are for fish, not people. It is mighty hard to live a life surrounded by people knowing your every move, romantic interest, misbehavior, athletic triumph (or failure), college choice, and seemingly every other personal detail.

     This fishbowl experience magnifies the already elephantine expectations that PKs feel. With people watching every move, what room is there for a mistake? There can be no missteps, no dalliances, no failings. In short, there can be no humanity. See, PKs are no different than anyone else. We sin. We fail. But there is no being normal when everyone is watching.

     Pastors are to be models of the Christian life to their congregations. They are to set a standard for a Christlike life. This is part of the job, the mission. The spouses of pastors are called to the same mission and come arm-in-arm. But the kids? They have no say in the matter. They couldn’t possibly know that they too would be expected to be the model of Christian faith and obedience. But that’s reality. That’s just life when you are born into the home of a pastor.

     I do not envy those Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, and small group leaders who have to (get to?) shepherd PKs spiritually. Because of the expectations, real or imagined, of holiness and biblical fluency that PKs feel, there are two temptations that roil within our hearts, sometimes taking turn, sometimes both at once.

     The first is that of hypocrisy. This PK has the right answer for every question, the right verse for every occasion, the right theology for each perplexing dilemma, the best argument to defeat any opponent, the right everything for every situation. He is a farce. His heart is dead. But nobody would know that because the veneer is so shiny and perfect and seamless. The hypocrites, at least the skilled ones, are so adept at staying in character that they can even answer questions aimed at peeling back the veneer. There is no spiritual waterway this PK cannot navigate. And yet he is utterly lost.

     I have been this farce, and it is rubbish. It can be penetrated by nothing but the Holy Spirit from the outside or the explosion of pent-up sin from the inside.

     The other temptation is that of outright rejection. This is no worse than hypocrisy; it’s just more obvious. This PK hates the fish bowl but can’t escape it, so he simply gives the metaphorical finger to all those watching. He rejects God, the church, the life, and the standard of his parents. It’s all just too much, or too little. It infuriates him. It all seems farcical and hollow to him. Nothing is left to this PK but fight or flight.

     The thing that cannot be forgotten in all this is that PKs aren’t different from anyone else. We are just sinners under the microscope. It isn’t a different gospel that is needed. It’s not a different Jesus. It’s just a real gospel and a real Jesus. See, when every day of our lives is doused in a deluge of Jesus/gospel/Bible talk from our earliest memories, it is so easy for it all to become rote or rubbish to us. Satan’s greatest weapon against church kids is familiarity, and the contempt it breeds. So we need our families, biological and Christological, to show us the gospel.

     Pray for your PKs. They face the see-saw battle between prideful hypocrisy and resentful rejection. Pastors wage a spiritual war, and too often their kids are either the weapons in the devil’s hands or the casualties. Love your PKs with a genuine care. Raise them up. Encourage them. They didn’t ask for their place in life, and it can be a hard one. Remind them of God’s perfect goodness, sovereignty, and wisdom. Just not in clichés; they’ve heard those all before.

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     Barnabas Piper is brand manager for Ministry Grid, a speaker, and son of Dr. John Piper. He is author of The Pastor’s Kid and Help My Unbelief.

Faith of Our Founders: An Interview with Tom Ascol

By Tom Ascol 7/01/2012

     Tabletalk: How did you first hear the call to ministry, and how long have you been a pastor?

     Tom Ascol: I was sixteen years old when I first sensed God calling me to pastoral ministry. It was through the preaching of a guest preacher during a “youth revival” at my home church, South Park Baptist in Beaumont, Texas. Though I had grown up in the church, I had a very jaded view of pastors, so I thought God was playing a cruel joke on me. After several months of prayer, reflection, and counsel, our pastor asked me to preach for the church. Afterward, on November 7, 1973, the church licensed me to the gospel ministry.

     I accepted a call to pastor Rock Prairie Baptist Church in College Station, Texas, on October 31, 1978. I have served two churches since, including Grace Baptist in Cape Coral, Florida, where I have been ministering since 1986.

     TT: Why does Founders Ministries exist, and how does it serve the church?

     TA: Founders exists to encourage the recovery of the gospel and the biblical reformation of local churches. The ministry was begun in a prayer meeting that was held November 13, 1982, in a hotel room in Euless, Texas. Those were the early days of the “Conservative Resurgence” within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). While that movement received a great deal of attention in denominational and even national media, another recovery movement was quiet ly beginning to emerge. God was beginning to awaken a few Southern Baptists to the biblical teachings on sovereign grace. Seven men—all Southern Baptists who had come to this “new” understanding— met to consider what could be done to encourage this movement. After hours of prayer, singing, reading Scripture, and talking, we decided to host a conference where the teaching would be based on the doctrines of grace.

     From that initial effort, Founders has sought to serve the church further by publishing a theological journal and books, encouraging pastoral fraternals and regional conferences, providing online resources (founders.org), developing an online study center, providing pastoral counsel and internships, encouraging international, crosscultural mission work, and, most recently, launching a church-planting network (PLNTD.com).

     TT: Do you find that most Southern Baptists are unaware of their Calvinistic roots? Why?

     TA: Yes, though less so now than thirty years ago. The Southern Baptist Convention was deeply affected by pragmatism beginning in the middle of the twentieth century. That led to a de-emphasis on doctrine and a reinterpretation of our history. Statistical analysis became the primary tool by which success was determined. Generations of pastors and educators received their seminary training within this ethos and became desensitized to the centrality of doctrine in sorting out the nature of the Christian life as well as the nature and mission of the church. Added to this was the limited access to primary sources. Prior to the democratization of information afforded by the digital revolution, the educational gatekeepers filtered most of the historical information that made its way to the churches and, inevitably, neglected the doctrinal roots of the SBC. So, for example, Southern Baptists heard much about Lottie Moon’s self less, sacrificial service as a missionary in China but nothing about the fact that she used the Shorter Catechism to evangelize Chinese children or that she reined in her deep affection for C.H. Toy and rebuffed his marriage proposal because she judged his theology defective. Another example: the fact that 293 delegates met in Augusta, Georgia, in 1845 to found the SBC was widely taught, but what was not taught is the fact that each one of those delegates came from churches or associations that held to the decidedly Calvinistic Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.

     Today, with the easy access to primary historical sources through republications and trustworthy websites that make available such documents, anyone who has a computer, Internet access, and thirty minutes can easily discover that the cradle in which the SBC was rocked is evangelical Calvinism.

     TT: Can you tell us a story wherein giving someone a historical overview of Calvinism in the SBC encouraged them to consider Reformed theology?

     TA: There are numerous instances of seminary students and pastors who, upon discovering the doctrinal roots of the SBC, have been led then to evaluate those doctrines biblically. I remember one pastor who, two years after calling me a heretic (among other things) because of my Calvinistic views, wrote to ask for forgiveness because the Lord had convicted him, through reading some of the historical resources Founders provided, to engage in a fresh study of these doctrines from the Bible. He discovered what many have—that if what our forefathers believed about salvation was true then, it is true today because truth does not change.

     TT: How can Reformed believers demonstrate that their primary reason for holding to Calvinism is Scripture and not tradition?

     TA: By faithfully, carefully, and consistently expounding Scripture. If the doctrines of grace are biblical, a right understanding of the Bible will demonstrate that. History is a great discipline and should be studied by God’s people—especially by pastors. But history can never trump the Word of God. Scripture and Scripture alone is the final authority in determining what we are to believe regarding salvation. Exegesis is the Calvinist’s best friend. If a person can more easily demonstrate what he believes from historical documents than from Scripture, then his faith needs to be significantly matured and disciplined through careful exegesis of the biblical text.

     TT: Some people say that you should not preach the doctrines of grace because they may lead to church splits. What is your response?

     TA: If we avoid preaching those things that might lead to church splits, then our canon of preachable texts will be very small. Pastors are called to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), and we should follow Paul’s example and “not shrink from declaring … anything that [is] profitable” including “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 27). Granted, any doctrine can be preached in an offensive way, and that should never be done. But preachers are not editors of God’s Word; we are heralds, stewards of the message that has been entrusted to us. We are not responsible for the content of God’s Word but for the faithful, accurate exposition of it. So I would encourage every pastor to preach as a man who will one day stand before God to give an account of how accurately he taught the Word and leave the consequences and results to the Lord.

     TT: What two or three responsibilities do Reformed believers have to their church leaders if their leaders do not embrace Reformed theology?

     TA: Reformed believers are not free to ignore the Bible at any point just because their church leaders do not share their Reformed theology. The admonitions in Hebrews 13:17 (and other, similar verses) still apply: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” If a person finds himself in a church where he cannot heed this admonition, then he needs to find another church. The exception would be any occasion in which leaders have deviated from the church’s confession. Then appropriate steps should be followed as outlined in 1 Timothy 5:19–21 and, hopefully, in the church’s guiding documents.

     TT: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to congregants who are sitting under the leadership of a young pastor?

     TA: Patiently, lovingly, humbly, prayerfully, verbally, practically, and repeatedly encourage him. He faces a daunting task, and the church can in many ways help mold the pastor for greater usefulness.

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     Tom Ascol is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., having served there since 1986. He is executive director of Founders Ministries, an organization committed to reformation and revival in local churches, and editor of the quarterly theological publication Founders Journal. Rev. Ascol regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries in addition to authoring the Founders Blog and writing for Examiner. He has contributed to many books and is the editor of Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry. You can follow him on Twitter @TomAscol.

  • A Broken Hallelujah
  • Evangelism: Dirty Word?
  • Faith Found

#1 Don Mews  
Atlantic School of Theology


#2 Karen Pitt   
Atlantic School of Theology


#3 Vivien Hannon   
Atlantic School of Theology


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.” This is how the Treaty of Paris began, which ended the eight-year long American Revolutionary War. The Treaty continued: “It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the heart of… Prince George the Third… to forget all past misunderstandings… between the two countries…” The Treaty was signed this day by the American leaders Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, the second President, and John Jay, the first Chief Justice, and ends with the phrase: “Done at Paris, this third day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

It takes a world with trouble in it
to train people for their high calling
as children of God
and to carve on the soul
the profile of Christ.
--- James S. Stewart

One's own religion is after all
a matter between oneself and one's Maker
and no one else's.
--- Mohandas Gandhi

Night is a time of rigor,
but also of mercy.
There are truths which one can see only when it’s dark.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Teibele and her demon

“What is mind?” — He replied, “No matter.” — “What is matter?”…“Never mind.”
--- John Gerstner

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 4.

     The Idumeans Being Sent For By The Zealots, Came Immediately To Jerusalem; And When They Were Excluded Out Of The City, They Lay All Night There. Jesus One Of The High Priests Makes A Speech To Them; And Simon The Idumean Makes A Reply To It.

     1. Now, by this crafty speech, John made the zealots afraid; yet durst he not directly name what foreign assistance he meant, but in a covert way only intimated at the Idumeans. But now, that he might particularly irritate the leaders of the zealots, he calumniated Ananus, that he was about a piece of barbarity, and did in a special manner threaten them. These leaders were Eleazar, the son of Simon, who seemed the most plausible man of them all, both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon, and Zacharias, the son of Phalek; both of whom derived their families from the priests. Now when these two men had heard, not only the common threatenings which belonged to them all, but those peculiarly leveled against themselves; and besides, how Artanus and his party, in order to secure their own dominion, had invited the Romans to come to them, for that also was part of John's lie; they hesitated a great while what they should do, considering the shortness of the time by which they were straitened; because the people were prepared to attack them very soon, and because the suddenness of the plot laid against them had almost cut off all their hopes of getting any foreign assistance; for they might be under the height of their afflictions before any of their confederates could be informed of it. However, it was resolved to call in the Idumeans; so they wrote a short letter to this effect: That Ananus had imposed on the people, and was betraying their metropolis to the Romans; that they themselves had revolted from the rest, and were in custody in the temple, on account of the preservation of their liberty; that there was but a small time left wherein they might hope for their deliverance; and that unless they would come immediately to their assistance, they should themselves be soon in the power of Artanus, and the city would be in the power of the Romans. They also charged the messengers to tell many more circumstances to the rulers of the Idumeans. Now there were two active men proposed for the carrying this message, and such as were able to speak, and to persuade them that things were in this posture, and, what was a qualification still more necessary than the former, they were very swift of foot; for they knew well enough that these would immediately comply with their desires, as being ever a tumultuous and disorderly nation, always on the watch upon every motion, delighting in mutations; and upon your flattering them ever so little, and petitioning them, they soon take their arms, and put themselves into motion, and make haste to a battle, as if it were to a feast. There was indeed occasion for quick despatch in the carrying of this message, in which point the messengers were no way defective. Both their names were Ananias; and they soon came to the rulers of the Idumeans.

     2. Now these rulers were greatly surprised at the contents of the letter, and at what those that came with it further told them; whereupon they ran about the nation like madmen, and made proclamation that the people should come to war; so a multitude was suddenly got together, sooner indeed than the time appointed in the proclamation, and every body caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis; and twenty thousand of them were put into battle-array, and came to Jerusalem, under four commanders, John, and Jacob the son of Sosas; and besides these were Simon, the son of Cathlas, and Phineas, the son of Clusothus.

     3. Now this exit of the messengers was not known either to Ananus or to the guards, but the approach of the Idumeans was known to him; for as he knew of it before they came, he ordered the gates to be shut against them, and that the walls should be guarded. Yet did not he by any means think of fighting against them, but, before they came to blows, to try what persuasions would do. Accordingly, Jesus, the eldest of the high priests next to Artanus, stood upon the tower that was over against them, and said thus: "Many troubles indeed, and those of various kinds, have fallen upon this city, yet in none of them have I so much wondered at her fortune as now, when you are come to assist wicked men, and this after a manner very extraordinary; for I see that you are come to support the vilest of men against us, and this with so great alacrity, as you could hardly put on the like, in case our metropolis had called you to her assistance against barbarians. And if I had perceived that your army was composed of men like unto those who invited them, I had not deemed your attempt so absurd; for nothing does so much cement the minds of men together as the alliance there is between their manners. But now for these men who have invited you, if you were to examine them one by one, every one of them would be found to have deserved ten thousand deaths; for the very rascality and offscouring of the whole country, who have spent in debauchery their own substance, and, by way of trial beforehand, have madly plundered the neighboring villages and cities, in the upshot of all, have privately run together into this holy city. They are robbers, who by their prodigious wickedness have profaned this most sacred floor, and who are to be now seen drinking themselves drunk in the sanctuary, and expending the spoils of those whom they have slaughtered upon their unsatiable bellies. As for the multitude that is with you, one may see them so decently adorned in their armor, as it would become them to be had their metropolis called them to her assistance against foreigners. What can a man call this procedure of yours but the sport of fortune, when he sees a whole nation coming to protect a sink of wicked wretches? I have for a good while been in doubt what it could possibly be that should move you to do this so suddenly; because certainly you would not take on your armor on the behalf of robbers, and against a people of kin to you, without some very great cause for your so doing. But we have an item that the Romans are pretended, and that we are supposed to be going to betray this city to them; for some of your men have lately made a clamor about those matters, and have said they are come to set their metropolis free. Now we cannot but admire at these wretches in their devising such a lie as this against us; for they knew there was no other way to irritate against us men that were naturally desirous of liberty, and on that account the best disposed to fight against foreign enemies, but by framing a tale as if we were going to betray that most desirable thing, liberty. But you ought to consider what sort of people they are that raise this calumny, and against what sort of people that calumny is raised, and to gather the truth of things, not by fictitious speeches, but out of the actions of both parties; for what occasion is there for us to sell ourselves to the Romans, while it was in our power not to have revolted from them at the first, or when we had once revolted, to have returned under their dominion again, and this while the neighboring countries were not yet laid waste? whereas it is not an easy thing to be reconciled to the Romans, if we were desirous of it, now they have subdued Galilee, and are thereby become proud and insolent; and to endeavor to please them at the time when they are so near us, would bring such a reproach upon us as were worse than death. As for myself, indeed, I should have preferred peace with them before death; but now we have once made war upon them, and fought with them, I prefer death, with reputation, before living in captivity under them. But further, whether do they pretend that we, who are the rulers of the people, have sent thus privately to the Romans, or hath it been done by the common suffrages of the people? If it be ourselves only that have done it, let them name those friends of ours that have been sent, as our servants, to manage this treachery. Hath any one been caught as he went out on this errand, or seized upon as he came back? Are they in possession of our letters? How could we be concealed from such a vast number of our fellow citizens, among whom we are conversant every hour, while what is done privately in the country is, it seems, known by the zealots, who are but few in number, and under confinement also, and are not able to come out of the temple into the city. Is this the first time that they are become sensible how they ought to be punished for their insolent actions? For while these men were free from the fear they are now under, there was no suspicion raised that any of us were traitors. But if they lay this charge against the people, this must have been done at a public consultation, and not one of the people must have dissented from the rest of the assembly; in which case the public fame of this matter would have come to you sooner than any particular indication. But how could that be? Must there not then have been ambassadors sent to confirm the agreements? And let them tell us who this ambassador was that was ordained for that purpose. But this is no other than a pretense of such men as are loath to die, and are laboring to escape those punishments that hang over them; for if fate had determined that this city was to be betrayed into its enemies' hands, no other than these men that accuse us falsely could have the impudence to do it, there being no wickedness wanting to complete their impudent practices but this only, that they become traitors. And now you Idumeans are come hither already with your arms, it is your duty, in the first place, to be assisting to your metropolis, and to join with us in cutting off those tyrants that have infringed the rules of our regular tribunals, that have trampled upon our laws, and made their swords the arbitrators of right and wrong; for they have seized upon men of great eminence, and under no accusation, as they stood in the midst of the market-place, and tortured them with putting them into bonds, and, without bearing to hear what they had to say, or what supplications they made, they destroyed them. You may, if you please, come into the city, though not in the way of war, and take a view of the marks still remaining of what I now say, and may see the houses that have been depopulated by their rapacious hands, with those wives and families that are in black, mourning for their slaughtered relations; as also you may hear their groans and lamentations all the city over; for there is nobody but hath tasted of the incursions of these profane wretches, who have proceeded to that degree of madness, as not only to have transferred their impudent robberies out of the country, and the remote cities, into this city, the very face and head of the whole nation, but out of the city into the temple also; for that is now made their receptacle and refuge, and the fountain-head whence their preparations are made against us. And this place, which is adored by the habitable world, and honored by such as only know it by report, as far as the ends of the earth, is trampled upon by these wild beasts born among ourselves. They now triumph in the desperate condition they are already in, when they hear that one people is going to fight against another people, and one city against another city, and that your nation hath gotten an army together against its own bowels. Instead of which procedure, it were highly fit and reasonable, as I said before, for you to join with us in cutting off these wretches, and in particular to be revenged on them for putting this very cheat upon you; I mean, for having the impudence to invite you to assist them, of whom they ought to have stood in fear, as ready to punish them. But if you have some regard to these men's invitation of you, yet may you lay aside your arms, and come into the city under the notion of our kindred, and take upon you a middle name between that of auxiliaries and of enemies, and so become judges in this case. However, consider what these men will gain by being called into judgment before you, for such undeniable and such flagrant crimes, who would not vouchsafe to hear such as had no accusations laid against them to speak a word for themselves. However, let them gain this advantage by your coming. But still, if you will neither take our part in that indignation we have at these men, nor judge between us, the third thing I have to propose is this, that you let us both alone, and neither insult upon our calamities, nor abide with these plotters against their metropolis; for though you should have ever so great a suspicion that some of us have discoursed with the Romans, it is in your power to watch the passages into the city; and in case any thing that we have been accused of is brought to light, then to come and defend your metropolis, and to inflict punishment on those that are found guilty; for the enemy cannot prevent you who are so near to the city. But if, after all, none of these proposals seem acceptable and moderate, do not you wonder that the gates are shut against you, while you bear your arms about you."

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

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:5-6
     by D.H. Stern

5     A wise man is strong;
     yes, a man of knowledge grows in strength.
6     For with clever strategy you wage your war,
     and victory comes from having many advisers.

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

                The waters of satisfaction scattered

     … nevertheless he would not drink thereof but poured it out unto the Lord. --- 2 Samuel 23:16.

     What has been like water from the well of Bethlehem to you recently—love, friendship, spiritual blessing? Then at the peril of your soul, you take it to satisfy yourself. If you do, you cannot pour it out before the Lord. You can never sanctify to God that with which you long to satisfy yourself. If you satisfy yourself with a blessing from God, it will corrupt you; you must sacrifice it, pour it out, do with it what common sense says is an absurd waste.

     How am I to pour out unto the Lord natural love or spiritual blessing? In one way only—in the determination of my mind. There are certain acts of other people which one could never accept if one did not know God, because it is not within human power to repay them. But immediately I say—‘This is too great and worthy for me, it is not meant for a human being at all, I must pour it out unto the Lord’; then these things pour out in rivers of living water all around. Until I do pour these things out before the Lord, they endanger those I love as well as myself because they will turn to lust. We can be lustful in things which are not sordid and vile. Love has to get to its transfiguration point of being poured out unto the Lord.

     If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you clutched it for yourself; whereas if you had poured it out unto the Lord, you would have been the sweetest person out of heaven. 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.

My Utmost for His Highest
The Journey (Poetry for Supper)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                The Journey (Poetry for Supper)

And if you go up that way, you will meet with
     a man,
Leading a horse, whose eyes declare:
There is no God. Take no notice.
There will be other roads and other men
With the same creed, whose lips yet utter
Friendlier greeting, men who have learned
To pack a little of the sun's light
In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting
For your hand. But do not linger.
A smile is payment; the road runs on
With many turnings towards the tall
Tree to which the believer is nailed.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     We have been taught “It is better to give than to receive.” This chapter of Midrash seems to put a new spin on this axiom: One who gives also receives. If we return to the example of Moses and the elders, we realize that if Moses had not acted as the intermediary for the elders, God would have had no reason to visit Moses. Thus, not only was Moses not diminished by the experience; he actually benefited from it. By helping the elders, not only was his “candle” not diminished, but its life was actually extended by contact with the divine.

     We can compare the Midrash’s example to the experience of helping a less fortunate person. It may be better to give than to receive in a philosophical sense, but giving often also enhances the giver. By visiting a shut-in, helping a homeless person, or befriending an outcast of society, we rekindle the flickering spirit—not only in the other’s soul but in our own as well. The other is enriched, while we are not diminished.

     If we return to the biblical story of Moses and the elders, we remember that the original impetus for God’s empowering seventy elders was a threat to Moses’ leadership. By “lighting a fire” in these elders, Moses actually helped his own cause. When we are enthusiastic, others join us. When we care, others benefit. But more often than not, the real beneficiary is the one who gives, for kindling a flame in another is often the surest method of keeping the flame alive in ourselves.

     ANOTHER D’RASH / There’s a Yiddish proverb that tells us, “If it didn’t cost money to give to tzedakah (charity), the world would be filled with tzadikim (righteous people).” But it does cost money to give to tzedakah. And for most people, material resources are limited. Even if we are moved to give, we lack the means to do all that needs to be done.

     It’s nice to think we can kindle another flame and lose nothing of our own fire. But most giving isn’t about sharing an endless resource; it’s about transferring a limited blessing from one person to another. As long as we’re speaking in fire metaphors, let’s not forget the name that contemporary society gives to what happens when you give too much of yourself: burnout.

     How do we reconcile these two very different perspectives on giving? Perhaps it is as simple as recognizing that there are two very different kinds of giving. Eliasaph son of Deuel gave a gift of two hundred shekels worth of silver in the form of a bowl and a basin, a material possession, transferred from the tribe of Gad to the Tabernacle. Moses gave a gift of his experience, his wisdom, and his spirit to the seventy elders, a spiritual possession, shared with the seventy, and at the same time, maintained by Moses.

     Perhaps the Yiddish proverb is to remind us of the reality of the material world in which we live. And perhaps the Midrashic proverb is to remind us of the possibility of the spiritual world we might also inhabit.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 3

     In my Father’s house are many rooms. --- John 14:2.

     The disciples seemed sorrowful at the news of Christ’s going away, but Christ comforts them that in his Father’s house where he was going there was room for them too. (Selected RS Thomas of Jonathan Edwards ) When the disciples perceived that Christ was going away, they expressed a desire to go with him. Peter asked him where he went, that he might follow. Christ told him that he could not follow him now, but that he would follow him afterwards. But Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?”
(John 13:37). Christ signifies that he was going home to his Father’s house, and he encourages the disciples that they will be with him there in due time, in that there was a room provided not only for them, but for all that would ever believe in him to the end of the world, and though he went before, he only went to prepare a place for those who would follow.

     Yes, there is room in this house of God for great numbers, for all people who are or ever will be: “Sir,… what you ordered has been done, but there is still room”
(Luke 14:22).

      It is not with the heavenly temple as it often is with houses of public worship in this world, that they fill up and become too small and scanty for those that would meet in them, so that there is not convenient room for all. The disciples demonstrated a great desire to be where Christ was, and Christ therefore, to encourage them that it would be as they desired, tells them that in his Father’s house where he was going were many rooms, that is, room enough for them.

     There is mercy enough in God to admit an innumerable multitude into heaven. There is mercy enough for all, and there is merit enough in Christ to purchase heavenly happiness for millions of millions, for all the human race that ever were, are, or will be. And there is a sufficiency in the fountain of heaven’s happiness to supply and fill and satisfy all, and there is in all respects enough for the happiness of all.
--- Jonathan Edwards

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Gregory the Great  September 3

     None of us are all good, and few of us are all bad. We often struggle with decisions, sometimes finding our well-intended efforts producing unfortunate results. Thus with Gregory. Born in Rome about 500 years after Christ, his family provided wealth and rank, and he became mayor of Rome at 33. After his father’s death, Gregory gave his inheritance to the church and the poor, turned his mansion into a monastery, and became a monk.

     He was consecrated as Pope Gregory I on September 3, 590, and did much good. He had been burdened for the evangelization of England since seeing blond, blue-eyed British boys being sold in the Roman slave markets. “They are Anglos,” he reportedly said. “Let them become angels.” He sent Augustin to evangelize the British Isles.

     Gregory also appointed wise and competent men as church leaders, and he fought apostasy. He encouraged the Visigoths to turn from heresy to orthodox doctrine. He wrote evangelistic tracts to barbarian tribes, and upheld biblical morality. He prepared a training manual for clergy. He wrote liturgy and popularized the Gregorian chant.

     But Gregory also established the dogmas of purgatory and the Mass. He encouraged the worship of relics (the remains of deceased Christians), and popularized unlikely legends about the saints. He glorified the past and held tradition equal with Scripture. He drew wild, allegorical lessons from the pages of the Bible. And he claimed universal jurisdiction over Christendom.

     With Western Europe in chaos and the Roman Empire shattered, Gregory assumed broad civil control. He ruled most of Italy. He raised an army and defeated the Lombards. He negotiated treaties to avoid Rome’s destruction. He ransomed captured individuals. He collected taxes and supplied food and services to the poor. He, in effect, turned the church into the state.

     In so doing, Gregory became the father of the medieval papacy—with all the good and bad that that entailed.

     Jesus answered, “My kingdom doesn’t belong to this world. … I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.”
--- John 18:36,37b.

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

          Morning - September 3

     “Thou whom my soul loveth.” --- Song of Solomon 1:7.

     It is well to be able, without any “if” or “but,” to say of the Lord Jesus—“Thou whom my soul loveth.” Many can only say of Jesus that they hope they love him; they trust they love him; but only a poor and shallow experience will be content to stay here. No one ought to give any rest to his spirit till he feels quite sure about a matter of such vital importance. We ought not to be satisfied with a superficial hope that Jesus loves us, and with a bare trust that we love him. The old saints did not generally speak with “buts,” and “ifs,” and “hopes,” and “trusts,” but they spoke positively and plainly. “I know whom I have believed,” saith Paul. “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” saith Job. Get positive knowledge of your love of Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can speak of your interest in him as a reality, which you have made sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit, and his seal upon your soul by faith.

     True love to Christ is in every case the Holy Spirit’s work, and must be wrought in the heart by him. He is the efficient cause of it; but the logical reason why we love Jesus lies in himself. Why do we love Jesus? Because he first loved us. Why do we love Jesus? Because he “gave himself for us.” We have life through his death; we have peace through his blood. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. Why do we love Jesus? Because of the excellency of his person. We are filled with a sense of his beauty! an admiration of his charms! a consciousness of his infinite perfection! His greatness, goodness, and loveliness, in one resplendent ray, combine to enchant the soul till it is so ravished that it exclaims, “Yea, he is altogether lovely.” Blessed love this—a love which binds the heart with chains more soft than silk, and yet more firm than adamant!

          Evening - September 3

     "The Lord trieth the righteous.”
--- Psalm 11:5.

     All events are under the control of Providence; consequently all the trials of our outward life are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array, clad in their iron armour, and armed with weapons of war. All providences are doors to trial. Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptations: trials lurk on all roads. Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers. Yet no shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth. The trials which come from God are sent to prove and strengthen our graces, and so at once to illustrate the power of divine grace, to test the genuineness of our virtues, and to add to their energy. Our Lord in his infinite wisdom and superabundant love, sets so high a value upon his people’s faith that he will not screen them from those trials by which faith is strengthened. You would never have possessed the precious faith which now supports you if the trial of your faith had not been like unto fire. You are a tree that never would have rooted so well if the wind had not rocked you to and fro, and made you take firm hold upon the precious truths of the covenant grace. Worldly ease is a great foe to faith; it loosens the joints of holy valour, and snaps the sinews of sacred courage. The balloon never rises until the cords are cut; affliction doth this sharp service for believing souls. While the wheat sleeps comfortably in the husk it is useless to man, it must be threshed out of its resting place before its value can be known. Thus it is well that Jehovah trieth the righteous, for it causeth them to grow rich towards God.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 3


     John Newton, 1725–1807

     Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. Psalm 48:1, 2, 3 KJV)

     Of the many hymn texts by the noted English clergyman, John Newton, this one is generally considered to be one of his finest and most joyous. In the Old Testament, the city of Zion was the place where God dwelt among His people. It was a haven of refuge, a treasured place. In our New Testament age, Zion refers to the church, a community of God’s people, a living and dynamic organism. Newton’s hymn refers to God’s strong protection of His people, His promise to supply their needs, and His presence to lead His own by the cloud and fire as He did the Israelites of old.

     With all its shortcomings and faults, the local church is still God’s means of meeting the needs of mankind. As Christians, we are to promote the church, supporting it with enthusiasm and finding our spiritual strength and fellowship in it. Then as members of Christ’s universal church, we are commanded to be His worthy representatives to the entire world. We must be actively involved in ministering the “streams of living waters” which “never fail from age to age.”

     John Newton, the convicted slave trader and sea captain, never stopped praising God for His “sure repose”— “whose Word cannot be broken”—who formed us “for His own abode.”

•     Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God; He whose word cannot be broken formed thee for His own abode: On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, thou mayst smile at all thy foes.
•     See, the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters and all fear of want remove: Who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst to assuage? Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver, never fails from age to age.
•     Round each habitation hov’ring, see the cloud and fire appear for a glory and a cov’ring, showing that the Lord is near! Glorious things of Thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God; He whose word cannot be broken formed thee for His own abode.

     For Today: Psalm 87:3; Isaiah 33:20, 21; Matthew 16:18; Romans 12:5

     Be thankful for your local church and what it means in your life. Ask for God’s special blessing on your pastor, the board members, and your fellow church members. Allow this hymn to help ---

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


     Prop. VI. The service and worship the gospel settles is spiritual, and the performance of it more spiritual. Spirituality is the genius of the gospel, as carnality was of the law; the gospel is therefore called spirit; we are abstracted from the employments of sense, and brought nearer to a heavenly state. The Jews had angels’ bread poured upon them; we have angels’ service prescribed to us, the praises of God, communion with God in spirit, through his Son Jesus Christ, and stronger foundations for spiritual affections. It is called a “reasonable service;” it is suited to a rational nature, though it finds no friendship from the corruption of reason. It prescribes a service fit for the reasonable faculties of the soul, and advanceth them while it employs them. The word reasonable may be translated “word-service,” as well as reasonable service;  an evangelical service, in opposition to a law service. All evangelical service is reasonable, and all truly reasonable service is evangelical. 

     The matter of the worship is spiritual; it consists in love of God, faith in God, recourse to his goodness, meditation on him, and communion with him. It lays aside the ceremonial, spiritualizeth the moral. The commands that concerned our duty to God, as well as those that concerned our duty to our neighbor, were reduced by Christ to their spiritual intention. The motives are spiritual; it is a state of more grace, as well as of more truth, supported by spiritual promises, beaming out in spiritual privileges; heaven comes down in it to earth, to spiritualize earth for heaven. The manner of worship is more spiritual; higher flights of the soul, stronger ardors of affection, sincerer aims at his glory; mists are removed from our minds, clogs from the soul, more of love than fear; faith in Christ kindles the affections, and works by them. The assistances to spiritual worship are greater. The Spirit doth not drop, but is plentifully poured out. It doth not light sometimes upon, but dwells in the heart. Christ suited the gospel to a spiritual heart, and the Spirit changeth the carnal heart to make it fit for a spiritual gospel. He blows upon the garden, and causes the spices to flow forth; and often makes the soul in worship like the chariots of Aminadab, in a quick and nimble motion. Our blessed Lord and Saviour, by his oath, discovered to us the nature of God; and after his ascension sent his Spirit to fit us for the worship of God, and converse with him. One  spiritual evangelical believing breath  is more delightful to God than millions of altars made up of the richest pearls, and smoking with the costliest oblations, because it is spiritual; and a mite of spirit is of more worth than the greatest weight of flesh: one holy angel is more excellent than a whole world of mere bodies.

     Prop. VII. Yet the worship of God with our bodies is not to be rejected upon the account that God requires a spiritual worship. Though we must perform the weightier duties of the law, yet we are not to omit and leave undone the lighter precepts, since both the magnalia and minutula legis, the greater and the lesser duties of the law, have the stamp of divine authority upon them. As God under the ceremonial law did not command the worship of the body and the observation of outward rites without the engagement of the spirit, so neitlier doth he command that of the spirit without the peculiar attendance of the body. The Schwelksendians   I could not find Schwelksendians??  denied bodily worship; and the indecent postures of many in public attendance intimate no great care either of composing their bodies or spirits. A morally discomposed body intimates a tainted heart. Our bodies as well as our spirits are to be presented to God. Our bodies in lieu of the sacrifices of beasts, as in the Judaical institutions; body for the whole man; a living sacrifice, not to be slain, as the beasts were, but living a new life, in a holy posture, with crucified affections. This is the inference the apostle makes of the privileges of justification, adoption, co-heirship with Christ, which he before discoursed of; privileges conferred upon the person, and not upon a part of man.

     1. Bodily worship is due to God. He hath a right to an adoration by our bodies, as they are his by creation; his right is not diminished, but increased, by the blessing of redemption: (1 Cor. 6:20) “For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and your spirits, which are God’s.” The body, as well as the spirit, is redeemed, since our Saviour suffered crucifixion in his body, as well as agonies in his soul. Body is not taken here for the whole man, as it may be in Rom 12; but for the material part of our nature, it being distinguished from the spirit. If we are to render to God an obedience with our bodies, we are to render him such acts of worship with our bodies as they are capable of. As God is the Father of spirits, so he is the God of all flesh; therefore the flesh he hath framed of the earth, as well as the noble portion he hath breathed into us, cannot be denied him without a palpable injustice. The service of the body we must not deny to God, unless we will deny him to be the author of it, and the exercise of his providential care about it. The mercies of God are renewed every day upon our bodies as well as our souls, and, therefore, they ought to express a fealty to God for his bounty everyday. “Both are from God; both should be for God. Man consists of body and soul; the service of man is the service of both. The body is to be sanctified as well as the soul; and, therefore, to be offered to God as well as the soul. Both are to be glorified, both are to glorify. As our Saviour’s divinity was manifested in his body, so should our spirituality in ours. To give God the service of the body and not of the soul, is hypocrisy; to give God the service of the spirit and not of the body, is sacrilege; to give him neither, atheism.” If the only part of man that is visible were exempted from the service of Goa, there could be no visible testimonies of piety given upon any occasion. Since not a moiety of man, but the whole is God’s creature, he ought to pay a homage with the whole, and not only with a moiety of himself.

     2. Worship in societies is due to God, but this cannot be without some bodily expressions. The law of nature doth as much direct men to combine together in public societies for the acknowledgment of God, as in civil communities for self-preservation and order; and a notice of a society for religion is more ancient than the mention of civil associations for politic government (Gen. 4:26): “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord,” viz., in the time of Seth. No question but Adam had worshipped God before, as well as Abel, and a family religion had been preserved; but, as mankind increased in distinct families, they knit together in companies to solemnize the worship of God. Hence, as some think, those that incorporated together for such ends, were called the “sons of God;” sons by profession, though not sons by adoption; as those of Corinth were saints by profession, though in such a corrupted church they could not be all so by regeneration; yet saints, as being of a Christian society, and calling upon the name of Christ, that is, worshipping God in Christ, though they might not be all saints in spirit and practice. So Cain and Abel met together to worship (Gen. 4:3) “at the end of the days,” at a set time. God settled a public worship among the Jews, instituted synagogues for their convening together, whence called the “synagogues of God.” The Sabhath was instituted to acknowledge God a common benefactor. Public worship keeps up the memorials of God in a world prone to atheism, and a sense of God in a heart prone to forgetfulness. The angels sung in company, not singly, at the birth of Christ, and praised God not only with a simple elevation of their spiritual nature, but audibly, by forming a voice in the air. Affections are more lively, spirits more raised in public than private; God will credit his own ordinance. Fire increaseth by laying together many coals on one place; so is devotion inflamed by the union of many hearts, and by a joint presence; nor can the approach of the last day of judgment, or particular judgments upon a nation, give a writ of ease from such assemblies. (Heb. 10:25): “Not forsaking the assembling ourselves together; but so much the more as you see the day approaching.” Whether it be understood of the day of judgment, or the day of the Jewish destruction and the Christian persecution, the apostle uses it as an argument to quicken them to the observance, not to encourage them to a neglect. Since, therefore, natural light informs us, and divine institution commands us, publicly to acknowledge ourselves the servants of God, it implies the service of the body. Such acknowledgments cannot be without visible testimonies, and outward exercises of devotion, as well as inward affections. This promotes God’s honor, checks others’ profaneness, allures men to the same expressions of duty; and though there may be hypocrisy and an outward garb without an inward frame, yet better a moiety of worship than none at all; better acknowledge God’s right in one than disown it in both.

     3. Jesus Christ, the most spiritual worshipper, worshipped God with his body. He prayed orally, and kneed, “Father, if it be thy will,” &c. He blessed with his mouth, “Father, I thank thee.” He lifted up his eyes as well as elevated his spirit, when he praised his Father for mercy received, or begged for the blessings his disciples wanted. The strength of the spirit must have vent at the outward members. The holy men of God have employed the body in significant expressions of worship; Abraham in falling on his face, Paul in kneeling, employing their tongues, lifting up their hands. Though Jacob was bed-rid, yet he would not worship God without some devout expression of reverence; it is in one place “leaning upon his staff” in another, “bowing himself upon his bed’s head.” The reason of the diversity is in the Hebrew word, which, without vowels, may be read mittah, a bed, or matteh, a staff; however, both signify a testimony of adoration by a reverent gesture of the body. Indeed, in angels and separated souls, a worship is performed purely by the spirit; but while the soul is in conjunction with the body, it can hardly perform a serious act of worship without some tincture upon the outward man and reverential composure of the body.   Makes me think of Isaiah 6 where the angel wings covered their face, two, (worship), their feet, two, (worship) and with the remaining two they flew. (service)  Fire cannot be in the clothes but it will be felt by the members, nor flames be pent up in the soul without bursting out in the body. The heart can no more restrain itself from breaking out, than Joseph could inclose his affections without expressing them in tears to his brethren. “We believe, and therefore speak.”

     To conclude: God hath appointed some parts of worship which cannot be performed without the body, as sacraments; we have need of them because we are not wholly spiritual and incorporeal creatures. The religion which consists in externals only is not for an intellectual nature; a worship purely intellectual is too sublime for a nature allied to sense, and depending much upon it. The christian mode of worship is proportioned to both; it makes the sense to assist the mind, and elevates the spirit above the sense. Bodily worship helps the spiritual: the members of the body reflect back upon the heart, the voice bars distractions, the tongue sets the heart on fire in good as well as in evil. It is as much against the light of nature to serve God without external significations, as to serve him only with them without the intention of the mind. As the invisible God declares himself to men by visible works and signs, so should we declare our invisible frames by visible expressions. God hath given us a soul and body in conjunction; and we are to serve him in the same manner he hath framed us.

     II. The second thing I am to show is, what spiritual worship is. In general, the whole spirit is to be employed; the name of God is not sanctified but by the engagement of our souls. Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God and actual thoughts of his majesty; recognizing him as the supreme Lord and Governor of the world, which is natural knowledge; beholding the glory of his attributes in the Redeemer, which is evangelical knowledge. This is the sole act of the spirit of man. The same reason is for all our worship as for our thanksgiving. This must be done with understanding: (Psalm 47:7) “Sing ye praise with understanding;” with a knowledge and sense of his greatness, goodness, and wisdom. It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverences his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraceth his goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object, and pitcheth all his affections upon him.  We must worship God understandingly; it is not else a reasonable service. The nature of God and the law of God abhor a blind offering; we must worship. him heartily, else we offer him a dead sacrifice. A reasonable service is that wherein the mind doth truly act something with God. All spiritual acts must be acts of reason, otherwise they are not human acts, because they want that principle which is constitutive of man, and doth difference him from other creatures. Acts done only by sense are the acts of a brute; acts done by reason are the acts of a man.  That which is only an act of sense cannot be an act of religion. The sense, without the conduct of reason, is not the subject of religious acts; for then beasts were capable of religion as well as men. There cannot be religion where there is not reason; and there cannot be the exercise of religion where there is not an exercise of the rational faculties; nothing can be a christian act that is not a human act. Besides, all worship must be for some end; the worship of God must be for God. It is by the exercise of our rational faculties that we only can intend an end. An ignorant and carnal worship is a brutish worship. Particularly,

     1. Spiritual worship is a worship from a spiritual nature. Not only physically spiritual, so our souls are in their frame; but morally spiritual, by a renewing principle. The heart must be first cast into the mould of the gospel, before it can perform a worship required by the gospel. Adam living in Paradise might perform a spiritual worship; but Adam fallen from his rectitude could not, we, being heirs of his nature, are heirs of his impotence.  Restoration to a spiritual life must precede any act of spiritual worship.  As no work can be good, so no worship can be spiritual, till we are created in Christ. Christ is our life. As no natural action can be performed without life in the root or heart, so no spiritual act without Christ in the soul. Our being in Christ is as necessary to every spiritual act as the union of our soul with our body is necessary to natural action. Nothing can exceed the limits of its nature; for then it should exceed itself in acting, and do that which it hath no principle to do. A beast cannot act like a man, without partaking of the nature of a man; nor a man act like an angel, without partaking of the angelical nature. How can we perform spiritual acts without a spiritual principle? Whatsoever worship proceeds from the corrupted nature, cannot deserve the title of spiritual worship, because it springs not from a spiritual habit. If those that are evil cannot speak good things, those that are carnal cannot offer a spiritual service. Poison is the fruit of a viper’s nature (Matt. 12:34): “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” As the root is, so is the fruit. If the soul be habitually carnal, the worship cannot be actually spiritual. There may be an intention of spirit, but there is no spiritual principle as a root of that intention.  A heart may be sensibly united with a duty, when it is not spiritually united with Christ in it.  Carnal motives and carnal ends may fix the mind in an act of worship, as the sense of some pressing affliction may enlarge a man’s mind in prayer. Whatsoever is agreeable to the nature of God must have a stamp of Christ upon it; a stamp of his grace in performance, as well as of his mediation in the acceptance. The apostle lived not, but Christ lived in him; the soul worships not, but Christ in him. Not that Christ performs the act of worship, but enables us spiritually to worship, after he enables us spiritually to live.  As God counts not any soul living but in Christ, so he counts not any a spiritual worshipper but in Christ.  The goodness and fatness of the fruit come from the fatness of the olive wherein we are engrafted. We must find healing in Christ’s wings, before God can find spirituality in our services. All worship issuing from a dead nature is but a dead service. A living action cannot be performed, without being knit to a living root.

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect: CXXXVII. — WITH this conclusion both the thing itself and experience agree. For shew me one of the whole race of mankind, be he the most holy and most just of all men, into whose mind it ever came, that the way unto righteousness and salvation, was to believe in Him who is both God and man, who died for the sins of men and rose again, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, that He might still that wrath of God the Father which Paul here says is revealed from heaven?

     Look at the most eminent philosophers! What ideas had they of God! What have they left behind them in their writings concerning the wrath to come! Look at the Jews instructed by so many wonders and so many successive Prophets! What did they think of this way of righteousness? They not only did not receive it, but so hated it, that no nation under heaven has more atrociously persecuted Christ, unto this day. And who would dare to say, that in so great a people, there was not one who cultivated “Free-will,” and endeavoured with all its power? How comes it to pass, then, that they all endeavour in the directly opposite, and that that which was the most excellent in the most excellent men, not only did not follow this way of righteousness, not only did not know it, but even thrust it from them with the greatest hatred, and wished to away with it when it was published and revealed? So much so, that Paul saith, this way was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness.” (1 Cor. i. 23.).

     Since, therefore, Paul speaks of the Jews and Gentiles without difference, and since it is certain that the Jews and Gentiles comprehend the principal nations under heaven, it is hence certain, that “Free-will” is nothing else than the greatest enemy to righteousness and the salvation of man: for it is impossible, but that there must have been some among the Jews and Gentile Greeks who wrought and endeavoured with all the powers of “Free-will;” and yet, by all that endeavouring, did nothing but carry on a war against grace.

     Do you therefore now come forward and say, what “Free-will” can endeavour towards good, when goodness and righteousness themselves are a “stumbling-block” unto it, and “foolishness.” Nor can you say that this applies to some and not to all. Paul speaks of all without difference, where he says, “to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness:” nor does he except any but believers. “To us, (saith he,) who are called, and saints, it is the power of God and wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. i. 24)). He does not say to some Gentiles, to some Jews; but plainly, to the Gentiles and to the Jews, who are “not of us.” Thus, by a manifest division, separating the believing from the unbelieving, and leaving no medium whatever. And we are now speaking of Gentiles as working without grace: to whom Paul saith, the righteousness of God is “foolishness,” and they abhor it. — This is that meritorious endeavour of “Free-will” towards good!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Ezekiel 16 - 17
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | We read in the Bible, God wants us to keep our promises. In this study, we see an example of a king who failed to do so, and we learn Ezekiel prophesies the fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 17 - 18
m1-341 | 12-20-2006

Only audio available | click here

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Ezekiel 16 - 17

Faithful Witness and the Sabbath
Rob Elford |
Atlantic School of Theology

Psalms, L25 Messianic Psalms, 16, Part 2
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Greg Keller Last Lecture
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