Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Setting our Minds

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6).



Hallelujah! He has made a way for us to be released from both the eternal convicting aspect of the Law (which does not save but only informs) and the bondage of sin through His Son and His Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5).

I notice the active facet of this verse. They have set their minds. Paul means that Christians purposely intend setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. It doesn't happen by osmosis. In another epistle, Paul said:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).

The phrase 'set their minds' comes from the Greek word phronousin, the meaning from Strong's is defined,
5426 phronéō (from 5424 /phrḗn, "the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart," J. Thayer) – properly, regulate (moderate) from within, as inner-perspective (insight) shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. 5426 (phronéō) essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action (see J. Thayer). This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.
Again, I mention the intention. We have to purposely set our minds to know, then act. Christianity is a thinking religion. We are constantly transforming our mind into the mind of Christ, day by day, step by step, inch by inch...

To live by the Spirit we set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

John MacArthur on Romans 8:5, The Transforming Work of the Spirit, part 1
There is as clear a definition of the distinction between a believer and a non-believer as you will find anywhere. Believers set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Non-believers set their minds on the things of the flesh. That couldn't be more clear. Again, I remind you that this is a matter of behavior. Listen carefully. Behavior based on the word "walk" in verse 4, but behavior is a product of what? The mind. Thinking.

What are the things of the Spirit that we set our minds on? From the same sermon,
These people are in the realm of the Spirit and are drawn by the truest impulses in their heart to the Spirit. They submit to His direction. They concentrate their attention, purpose, desire on whatever is precious to the Holy Spirit. They love what He loves. They... That's what it means when it says, They...they seek the things of the Spirit."
Think on these things...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Sins in the heart

In our Bible Reading Plan today we read Matthew 5-7.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

Here's a bit of hiostory for you. President Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States. He was elected in November 1976 when I was almost 16. He served one term until I was 20 years old.

He was an active Christian, the first one I'd had any 'contact' with. In my personal life growing up, religion didn't play a role at all. I knew no Christians. Because Carter was a public figure, President, his beliefs were public and often passed before my eyes in TV interviews and newscasts as he was interviewed about them.

During Carter's campaign he was interviewed by a freelance writer for an article to be published in Playboy Magazine. Carter offered unprompted,
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times."
Time Magazine's opinion of the incident was put this way:
The decision to do an interview with Playboy magazine was possibly not the best call of President Carter's tenure. Yet, it was all going pretty well until he started talking about the Bible and adultery. Now, Carter's not actually admitting anything shocking. Most men would probably say, "Yep, been there." But presidents rarely (and for good reason) venture into the land of "too much information": Ideally, they should exist on a higher plane than the rest of us. It was an uncomfortable moment for America.
I agree with the secular view of offering too much unprompted information. We all want to dwell in a fiction of our leaders being above reproach. But since Carter said it, and I heard it, I was left with the problem of trying to figure out what it meant. Having no knowledge of the Bible, I was strenuously trying to reconcile my own knowledge of sin, which I called immorality. I didn't understand that sin came from a completely depraved heart. Being unsaved, I thought sin was a private matter, nobody's business. Adultery I well understood, having two parents who both indulged in it. It seemed wrong to me but I was too young to have any firm basis for saying so. However I believed that thoughts about adultery were one's own and thus a private matter.

I learned after salvation that God reads the heart and knows the intentions of man. Sin actually springs from the heart and mind. All sins, even the unacted-upon sins, even thoughts only, are just as damaging. But back then, it was perplexing to me that a man should feel ashamed of his 'normal' thoughts. As long as he didn't act on it, I thought he should be termed "a good man." I thought Carter was silly for saying anything about it.

The Matthew verse today shows me that I was the silly one. Carter might have made a political faux pas, but he was biblically correct. It's wrong to commit adultery in your thoughts. What a radical thought. It was to me then, and the reactions of the listeners of the sermon on the mount and others later thought so too. (Matthew 7:28-29; John 6:60). Guard your thought life.



Friday, January 19, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Howl in Isaiah

Our Bible Reading Plan for today is Isaiah 12-17. The cycle in the Prophets is one of promise of judgment, judgment, repentance, and restoration. Repeat. The judgment parts are rough. In the passage from chapter 13, in the KJV we read,

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. (Isaiah 13:6)

The promised judgment was coming soon, and it did. This chapter also looks ahead to the final judgment of Babylon in the Day of the LORD as seen in Revelation 18:2. Isaiah 12 was a comforting passage, a song of praise. Then in this chapter we get to the promise of destruction against that most unholy of cities: Babylon. I read once someone termed the Bible as a tale of Two Cities: Babylon and Jerusalem. They weren't far off.

Of course, what the cities represent is what it's all about. Unholiness of Babylon, the world and its systems, and the holiness of Jerusalem, where God has set His name and soon will dwell personally.

Having come to the Lord later in life, I vividly remember being inside the unholy world system and wondering why I felt uncertainty, restlessness, and fear at different times. The specter of death with the unknown beyond will definitely do that to you.

In the KJV the word 'howl' made me think of Allen Ginsberg's famous poem called Howl. Its imagery burns into one's mind with a sulfur strike white hotness emblazoned like a photo negative. It's an angry poem, raging against the darkness and essentially crying out "Why is it like this? Why?" The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 2:1, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? and Howl (as are so many poems) is just the pagan version of that scripture.

Ginsberg said some of the imagery in the poem came from a bad peyote trip he'd taken where he saw the apartment building he was staying in morphed into the face of a child-eating demon he later called Moloch.

In the Bible, there really is a child-eating demon-god named Moloch to whom the people sacrificed their children.

Romans 1:18 says that the unrighteous suppress the truth. They are aware of the truth, and despite pressing it down away from consciousness, at some level they connect with it. They detect its convicting tendrils creeping upward from the polluted recesses of their heart, only to be smashed down in howling rage. We see that in Ginsberg's Howl, and we see it in Yeats' poem The Second Coming, where Yeats used religious imagery to make his point.

Yeats hadn't taken a peyote button, but he was heavily involved in occult practices such as calling up demons and channeling and seances and the like. He sought visions, and he got them. So, similar to Ginsberg, the imagery in Yeats' vision tapped the well of dark truth suppressed deep within his soul. Not comprehending it, the pagans rage. Yeats' soul seethed and stormed, you can feel that his poem is a bellow into the gaping maw of black eternity, only to be silently swallowed by a dark and depraved infinite, and in the end, his pitiful howl making no more noise than an owl's winged whisper.

In the Isaiah passage today, the LORD promises destruction upon Babylon. Their near future and their far future contain the coming of the LORD in wrath for their unrighteous deeds. He is telling them in advance, 'Howl, for your destruction is sure!' This is the end which the pagans rail against. It is the end that all the unrighteous suppress in wickedness, but still lay coiled nasty to spring up and swallow souls whole. Howl, you Babylonians. Wail, you pagans, because justice, knife sharp and cleanly pure, will separate you from this earth with a flick.




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Comparing the language and imagery used in various poems. Click to enlarge.





Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Eliphaz v. Job

Our Bible reading today brings us to Job 5-6

Eliphaz rebukes Job
Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. ...
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.

Hear, and know it for your good
(Job 5:17, 27)

Job's physical misery was extreme, his wife was tempting him, and now Job had to deal with his friend's insensitive advice. Oy. With friends like Eliphaz, who needs enemies?

In the Bible Gateway list of All Named Men of the Bible, (they also have lists of unnamed men, and the same for women, it's a handy list!) they describe Eliphaz thus:
Teman was noted for its wisdom and this Temanite descendant was a law unto himself. His name means "refined gold" but his fine gold was that of self-glory and of self-opinion from which he would not budge. As a wise man he gloried in his wisdom, and represented the orthodox wisdom of his day. This wise man from the East declared that God was just and did not dispense happiness or misery in a despot fashion, committing people to what He deemed best.
In his first speech (Job 4, 5), Eliphaz begins by informing Job of all his affliction, namely, sin. Approaching Job in a courteous yet cold manner, Eliphaz seeks to prove that all calamity is judgment upon sin. The crux of his argument is: "Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" (Job 4:7).
Eliphaz was so sure Job had sinned and so sure he knew God and His plan well enough to rebuke Job for Job's invisible sins.

I think it's a skill to be sure about what you believe, yet teachable. We should be settled in our convictions, but pliable as we add wisdom and understanding as we grow in sanctification.

Here is an example: Theologian RC Sproul, who was recently called home to heaven, for most of his career believed in an old-earth. After more study, changed his mind and believed in a literal 6-day, young earth in the end. (source).

Sadly Eliphaz was too dogmatic. He would not countenance the fact that there might be something he did not know. He was sure of his philosophical construct: that God did not penalize the righteous. Suffering comes from personal sin, either overt or hidden. But there was something Eliphaz did not know: the conversation God had initiated with Satan about Job's piety.

Here, David Clines (recommended as best Job Commentary) weighs in:
Eliphaz here announces the premise on which the whole speech depends: if Job is suffering (and he is) and God has nothing to gain or lose personally from Job (and he hasn't) and God is just (and he is), then Job is suffering for his sins. And is he is suffering much (as he is), it follows that he has offended much. And if there is no evidence of Job's sins, then all his sins must be secret and observable ones. However what undermines Eliphaz's logic is something he does not know, but we readers know; that God indeed has much to gain (or lose) from Job's behavior; for Job is a test case for the gratuitousness of piety. If Job does not remain pious when all his blessings have been taken away, it proves humans serve God for the sake of the rewards and it shows religion up as a self-seeking practice of humans.
Eliphaz relied on the strength of his logic, rather than the frailty of human knowledge in the face of God's higher wisdom.

True wisdom remains in God only. Whether we veer from settled conviction to extreme dogmatism, through it all we should maintain a teachable spirit. By Chapter 22, Eliphaz was blatantly calling for Job to repent of his evil wickedness (Job 22:21-23) because Eliphaz was sure Job had sinned.

Job did not heatedly rebut. He humbly expressed his longing to maintain fellowship with God so he could experience God's love and goodness and hear from him the meaning of all his suffering. (John MacArthur Study Bible).

Who had the more teachable spirit?

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, (Proverbs 1:5)




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are we supposed to feel God's presence?

Some ladies who teach the Bible claim to have had special feelings of a tangible presence of God. Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, Beth Moore, author of lots of books, and other women, claim to feel God. They report a warm mist, a force entering them, a tingle and so on.

The question often arises, if I don't feel God, am I doing something wrong?

No.

You might sense God as you commune with Him in prayer or the Word, but maybe you don't. Feeling physical sensations are not a requirement for communion with the Lord. Most people do not feel a tangible presence of God at any time. Here, we look to Job. He expresses that in fact God feels far from Him but still Job will commune with God via treasuring the words of His mouth more than even the food that keeps Job alive.


Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
(Job 23: 8-12)

Be encouraged. Leave the warm mists, forcible compelling, tingles and other sensations to the ladies who claim such things. More than likely they are not even sensations from God. Be satisfied as Job was, with the words of God's mouth. It's enough, isn't it? More than enough.




Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Reading the introductions

The Bible Reading Plan for today is to read Psalm 6-8. I've resolved of late to read the introductions of the passages and not skip them. Also, to read the endings and read the notes, like these in the Psalms I'm about to discuss. If all scripture is profitable, then I shouldn't skip the intros, conclusions, lists of names, genealogies, or musical directions, lol.

Often David or the other Psalmist would make notes to the musicians who were going to play the songs, like this that begins Psalm 6-

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Of course, once I read the note and see something like 'Sheminith', I got curious. Like, what is a Sheminith?

I read in Easton's Bible Dictionary about Sheminith:
That the Hebrew of shemini is an ordinal number, eight. The Easton's Bible Dictionary says sheminith is Eight; octave, a musical term, supposed to denote the lowest note sung by men's voices (1 Chronicles 15:21; Psalm 6; 12, title).
Nobody really knows for sure. Other Bible dictionaries defined it slightly differently, but along the same lines. Some said, 'we dunno, the word has passed out of use and understanding.' I'ts still interesting to look these things up, though.

Psalm 7 is a Shiggaion. Easton's Bible Dictionary defines Shiggaion,
From the verb shagah, "to reel about through drink," occurs in the title of Psalm 7. The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.
Psalm 8 is "according to The Gittith: A stringed instrument of music."
This word is found in the titles of Psalm 8, 81, 84. In these places the LXX. render the word by "on the wine-fats." The Targum explains by "on the harp which David brought from Gath." It is the only stringed instrument named in the titles of the Psalms. Easton's Bible Dictionary
 Well, that was about as clear as mud.

I do know that once we're in heaven, we'll likely be singing. (Revelation 5:9). Will we be singing these Psalms in heaven, properly as David originally wrote them, (According to sheminith, a Shiggaion, or with The Gittith?). I hope so. Wouldn't it be nice if we did!

Meanwhile I resolve not to skip the intros, conclusions, lists, or notations. All scripture is profitable... I don't always understand how scripture profits me, but I trust that it does.

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Further reading

I always enjoy Phil Johnson's knowledge of the Psalms and his clear delivery in explaining them.

Here is a page of Phil preaching the Psalms, including one we are to read today, Psalm 8. Interestingly, Phil introduces his sermon by explaining what can be known about the mysterious term 'according to the Gitteth'.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The power of crafty words

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1)

We are introduced to satan early and his introduction contained an extremely negative assertion about his character. He's crafty.

Satan is an angel. He is an unholy angel, as opposed to Gabriel or Michael who are holy angels. If you look at the angels' activity you see just how powerful and intelligent they are. They administer judgment. (e.g. Revelation 8:6-13). They give the Law. (Acts 7:53, Hebrews 2:2, Galatians 3:19). They give the Gospel to the whole earth at once. (Revelation 14:6). They stand on the sun. (Revelation 19:7). They hold back the wind. (Revelation 7:1).

They're powerful.

We'll come back to that in a moment.

I'm enjoying the buzz around a couple of movies just out. Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill's early days as England's Prime Minister. He was leading the United Kingdom through tough times as WWII rages on the continent and is about to hit home for Britain. Much of the focus of the movie is on Churchill's oratory. It's a movie largely without action and is tightly confined to the bunker tunnels and small rooms below the city. Churchill made several famous speeches which roused the populace, enabled changed minds and hearts to make decisions, and cemented the nation in unity to face the evil force that was soon to come upon them. It's a movie about speeches.

Another movie just out is called The Post. It depicts the editor Ben Bradlee and owner/publisher Katherine Graham of the Washington Post during the critical years of the decisions about whether to release the Pentagon Papers, and leading up to their coverage of the Watergate Break-in, which eventually led to the downfall and resignation of American President Richard Nixon. It's a movie about words.

Words, whether written or spoken have power. Where would we be without Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Lincoln's Gettysburg address, Kennedy's 'to the moon and back', Reagan's 'tear down this wall'? We remember Chief Joseph's surrender speech, 'I will fight no more forever.' Lou Gehrig's farewell to baseball 'luckiest man alive' speech. President Reagan reassuring a shocked nation after the space shuttle Challenger exploded and the astronauts having 'slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

Look at the impact of President Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chats:
Fireside chats is the term used to describe a series of 28 evening radio addresses given by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1944. Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans about the promulgation of the Emergency Banking Act in response to the banking crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the course of World War II. On radio, he was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was a great communicator on radio, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency. Their introduction was later described as a "revolutionary experiment with a nascent media platform".
I'm brought back to the early chapters of Genesis. The serpent. What was his mode of attack? Did he hold Eve hostage and force her to eat the fruit? Did he call for his legions of followers to surround them and attack? No. He did it with words. Satan attacks with words.

We should not pay attention to satan.

Of course we don't pay attention to satan, you say. Of course not, silly! But we do. We come across a false teacher and we listen. We rationalize that we have the power to 'eat the meat and spit out the bones'. We wail, 'But he/she helped me so much!' Of course false teachers are skilled at oratory. They can make fine speeches. They use words well. They're crafty!

False doctrine is sin because false doctrine doesn't originate from God. (John 7:16, Titus 1:2). God hates false doctrine. (Revelation 2:15). Several of the letters in the New Testament were written to address errors of false doctrine (Galatians 1:6–9; Colossians 2:20–23; Titus 1:10–11). Take false doctrine seriously. Why? Its words will affect you.

Why do we know that speeches, movies, newspapers, and advertising affect us, but mistakenly think that listening to false doctrine won't?

The Bible says that those who listen to false teachers are heaping these teachers up so they can 'suit their own passions.' (2 Timothy 4:3). Don't indulge your passions by falling into satan's crafty trap of words.



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Further reading

Challies: The Five Tests of False Doctrine

Michelle Lesley: Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on your Own

Got Questions: How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet?

Art of Manliness: Resurrecting the Lost Art of Oratory



Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The LORD hardened their heart and killed them all

For it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20).

The Bible Reading Plan passage for today is Joshua 11-15. I read and re-read this verse from chapter 11. It's a hard passage. It's Old Testament passages like these where God gets his stern and tyrant reputation.

The John MacArthur Study Bible helps here:
God turned the Canannites' hearts to fight in order that Israel might be his judging instrument to destroy them. They were willfully guilty of rejecting the true God with consequent great wickedness, and were as fit to remain in the land as vomit spewed out of the mouth (Leviticus 18:24-25).
Individual and national sin is a serious offense against God. RC Sproul called it cosmic treason. And for all that, God is patient. He waited 400 years for the Amorites' sin to come to full measure. (Genesis 15:16). He gave the false prophetess Jezebel who was teaching his children sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols time to repent. (Revelation 2:21). Whether it is an individual person or a national sin, He is patient. It is said in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is the same God. He is immutable, unchangeable, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

His patience and willingness to give time to repent does not mean that he will forget His promise to deal with sin. Sin is a crime and all crimes have punishments. For the Canaanites, that day eventually came, and they were judged for their cosmic treason.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3).


Monday, January 15, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Flood recedes

This chapter 8 of the first book of the Bible, can be thought of as "Judgment and Grace" as pastor S. Lewis Johnson put it in his sermon. It is no surprise that Noah and his family worshiped and sacrificed upon emerging from the ark.
Not only was the ark and Noah and their experience, a revelation of judgment, it was also a beautiful display of grace. And therefore it is not surprising that the first thing that Noah and his family did after they emerged from the ark is to offer the sacrifices of the burnt offerings. ~S. Lewis Johnson
I was struck by the leaf in the dove's beak.

When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down. (Genesis 8:11).

In the previous verse 10, Noah sent out the bird but the waters were still upon the earth, and she found no place to put her foot. Noah waited the 7 days, and sent the bird out again. She returned this time, and with a freshly plucked leaf in her beak. Johnson said that olive trees tended to grow in the valleys, not the mountain tops, so the leaf indicated that the waters had indeed gone down from top to bottom.

In the space of a week, not only had the waters gone down but life had grown very quickly! Olive trees are extremely hearty and can survive most anything, so maybe this tree was a survivor of the flood. It's amazing that life had sprung up so quickly after a global devastation such as this.

I believe that we will see such a rapid restoration after the devastating 7-year period of the Great Tribulation. The LORD is not going to renew the earth until after the period of the 1000-year kingdom has concluded. After that, He will melt the earth and then renew it because He will have administered judgment upon all the resurrected dead and sent them - and satan and his demons - to the outer darkness. Death will be no more. The earth with its graves and dead animals and cursed ground will be melted and the earth renewed completely so that death and sin will no longer even be present upon it.

But the Tribulation will take its toll on the earth. It is the uncreation if you will, the islands will have fled away and the mountains crumbled down and the grass and trees burned up and so on. (Revelation 6-16). Then the Lord Jesus will return and put a stop to the rebellion at Armageddon, (Revelation 19:19-21), save his remnant at Petra (Isaiah 63:1), and land on top of the newly split Mt of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

Saved mortals will make it through the Tribulation alive to see this, and will enter the 1000-year kingdom. The earth will repopulate quickly and lives will grow long again. The earth refreshes itself rapidly so as to sustain the mortals alive and dwelling and being born and generations ensuing. (Isaiah 65:20).

Jesus is the Great Gardener and He will quickly refresh the earth at the end of time after the Tribulation Judgment as He did after the Flood Judgment.

This should help us ponder His omnipotence.
Matt 28:18 -- "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Rev.1:8; John 17:2; Eph. I:20-22. Here is power over three realms: First, all power on earth: over disease (Luke 4:38-41); death (John 11); nature, water into wine (John 2); tempest (Matt.8). Second, all power in hell: over demons (Luke 4:35, 36, 41); evil angels (Eph.6). Third, all power in heaven: (Eph.1:20-22). Finally, power over all things: (Heb.2:8; 1:3; Matt.28:18). Source

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Lavish Love

In our Bible Reading plan today we are progressing through Romans. We are to read today chapters 5-6. Romans, a book that a famous pastor had said he thought is the greatest philosophical treatise of any kind ever written down anywhere. (Sorry, I forget which pastor said it). Romans certainly is demanding, and the thoughts I have about the first few chapters, especially the interplay between the Law & Grace, are immature and unformed. I dare not offer anything of my own because I don't think it would be of value.

But except for this: Romans 5:5

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I love the visual picture here, God's love is a liquid poured out, gushing, lavishly splashing into our hearts. And that love is the Holy Spirit Himself, who is God. He is said to be almost the forgotten member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is introduced in this epistle. And here in Romans he is shown to be a full member of the Triune God and a token of God's love for His people lavishly given to us.

Before salvation: Enmity. War. Rebellion. Struggle. Uncertainty.
After salvation: PEACE

Preacher S. Lewis Johnson said of this passage-
So the apostle’s argument is this. We were enemies. When we were enemies, when we hated God, when we did not want him to minister to us, he came to us, and through the alluring power of the Holy Spirit, he wrought within us, in his own mysterious way, a change of our wills, a change of our disposition, so that the thing that we did not want we ultimately came to want. We, who hated him, by the work of the Holy Spirit, were reconciled as the Holy Spirit brought to us the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As he says, "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son."
The Holy Spirit's part in this is that He draws us to Jesus, and He dwells in our hearts to sanctify us, each one of us, throughout our post-salvation lives. What joy.

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Further reading

John MacArthur, article The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

GotQuestions: What does the Holy Spirit do?

Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is too small to make a huge difference

There are a great number of young ladies who are in college, or who have just finished college, or are just starting work-life, marriage, or children. They're starting out. As a 56-year-old woman myself, (thirty years older than most of them!), I keep forgetting that they have grown up in the faith under a completely different paradigm than many other women of my age. They have seen years and even decades of forward-living women in the faith (most of them false) who claim that a woman can (only) make a difference in the world if she is stamping out the global sex trade ... or setting up social justice programs in Africa ... or speaking to mega-audiences and selling buckets of popular studies and books ... or being a global voice challenging pastors, men, and God for our seeming lack of impactful opportunities and therefore our alleged inability to make a difference. The world presents these female Christian lifestyles as normal. They're not.

Of course there is nothing wrong with speaking to large audiences of women or writing books or helping the poor in Africa or giving aid to victims of the sex trade. The difficulty is that these attitudes and endeavors have become so endemic that many young women coming up think that unless you're doing "A Big Thing," then God isn't pleased with your measly attempts for His name. Or, that you have no hope of making an impact for His name at all.

First of all, the women I linked to above are considered false teachers. Their stepping out into the world to stridently proclaim and stride and strut is not the Godly way of woman anyway.

God planted you where you are. If you are sensing a call to missions, then definitely follow that call after deliberation with elders and prayer. But for the vast majority of us women, our Christian lives will be solely contained in one geographic and unremarkable location, doing a menial-to-barely interesting job, perhaps marrying, and then perhaps having children. No globetrotting, sex-slave stamping, social justice righting, adoring audiences for us. We live obscure lives with little reach.

But wait. That's not true. We might not have a great reach, but the Gospel goes out from every direction from every corner of the world, from women just like you and me. That Gospel turned the world upside down, and it still turns hearts upside down - and inside out. It still changes lives. It still makes a tremendous impact. Everywhere, even in Nowheresville.

Here are three examples:

Christian mothers:
"[I]n 1 Timothy 2:15, where Paul says, "[Women] shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety." For most women, their greatest impact on society comes from raising godly children. If a women is godly and if God chooses to give her children whom she raises in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, she will have a profound influence on a new generation. Men may have the outward, overt leadership, but women have just as great an influence."
Where would we be without Mrs Spurgeon, Charles' mom. Monica, (actual spelling, Monnica) St Augustine's mom- who prayed for her wayward son for years. Widow Anna Maria Moon raising 7 children on her own, Lottie's mother. And so on! It's not complicated. Raise the children.

What if you're not a mother? Some women aren't. Some women never become mothers. What then? Can we ladies make a difference for the Lord? Oh, yes!

John Bunyan wrote in his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness; and had perished therein, had not God, in mercy, showed me more of my state of nature. 
But upon a day, the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work on my calling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God. Being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matters of religion. 
Now I may say, I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach, for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.
And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world... 
At this I felt my own heart began to shake, as mistrusting my condition to be naught; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth did never enter into my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the Word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart
Four women having a Godly conversation in a doorway ... became part of the conversion story of the man who wrote the most lasting and beloved Christian work in history. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress has never been out of print. Think of what an influence that book has had on millions of people in the last 400 years! Never underestimate the impact a Gospel-driven public conversation can have. It's not complicated. Talk about the biblical Jesus with love and passion.

But what if you're not a wife, not a mother, and you work in a menial, out of the way job? Can you as a woman have an impact there? Yes! In 1-2 Thessalonians by Gregory K. Beale we read-
One well-known theologian recounts how the diligent work of a so-called ordinary office worker led to his conversion. An executive at a London corporation would often pass by an office where several typists worked before the computer era. The executive noted that one particular woman was more diligent in the way she typed, working faster and taking fewer breaks than the others. After a few weeks, he asked a friend at work why she was so unusually industrious. The friend responded, "Oh, that's Mildred. She is a Christian." The executive pondered this and after a few more weeks asked the typist herself why she worked in such an indefatigable manner. She responded, "I'm a Christian, and I serve Christ. I work heartily for Him, no merely for my human boss." The conversation led to the executive investigating the faith further and eventually becoming a Christian. A few years later, he was speaking at his church about his conversation, and someone in the church became a Christian through his address. The person has now became a prominent theologian and enjoys talking about the typist as an illustration of the faith of Christians as it is expressed through "ordinary" work in every walk of life is vital for the witness of the Gospel"
There is nothing too menial. Is what you're doing more menial than Christ leaving glory as King and living and working as an obscure carpenter for thirty years? Is what you're doing (or me) more menial than Jesus washing the disciples' feet? Paul was a brilliant, learned, famous lawyer, but post conversion he was an itinerant tentmaker. Our ordinary, menial, mundane work can be a glorious witness of the Gospel when it's joyfully and properly expressed through whatever work we have been called to do. It's not complicated. Work hard and display a strong ethic.

We work for a human boss, but ultimately we labor for Jesus. Therefore as is said in the Traeger and Gilbert book The Gospel at Work, one of the key themes of The Gospel at Work is that "who you work for is more important than what you do."

Ladies, you can make Jesus' name known in whatever sphere you dwell and whatever stage of life you're in. Our work ethic and our Godly conversations will be noticed. In heaven we might be surprised at all the things we said and did that we didn't know influenced some person who saw the Christ-likeness in us. No sphere is too small and no job is too menial. You can make a difference.

Eugène Boudin - Washerwomen by the River

Laveuses sur la rivière (Washerwomen on the river) is an early Lumière brother film produced in 1897. This film depicts women washing clothing along the riverbank.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A short word

Have you polished, adjusted, and thanked God today for your spiritual armor? We should be armed and ready, from head to toe, and praising the Lord for His generosity in protecting us from the demons and from the evil one himself! If we are on guard, rooted in His word, and seeking His face, we can always spot the real from the imitation, the Godly miracle from the demonic copy, the truth from a lying sign. It is a skill that needs honing, and we will need it more than ever as each day progresses. Be ready and sharpen that sword: read your Bible today!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A move of the holy spirit & Christian emotionalists

We hear a lot about the big moves of the Holy Spirit. We see Youtube clips of young millennials falling to the floor, or standing with arms upstretched in front of smoke filled stages, pulsing lights, glitter, laughing and sobbing. Afterward they smile tiredly, saying "The Holy Spirit really moved!" Or, "The Holy Spirit really showed up!"

As an aside, I dislike that phrase, 'The Holy Spirit showed up.' It's crass. It's akin to attending a funeral and saying to the bereaved, "So your wife croaked, eh?' The Holy Spirit doesn't 'show up.' He isn't hailing a taxi running late, throwing a scarf around his neck while jumping out of the cab and huffing into the church. The Spirit doesn't 'show up'. The Holy Spirit governs the universe.

To the main point regarding big moves of the Spirit. Successive years of successive generations of younger church-goers have twisted Hebrews 11:1's statement of what faith is:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Into -

Now faith is the substance of things we've come to tangibly possess, the evidence of things seen and experienced.

Spurgeon had something to say about these "Christian emotionalists" in Sermon 898, A Word with Those Who Wait for Signs and Wonders,
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign... (Luke 11:29-30)
There are some, and these are generally the most uneducated, who expect to experience remarkable dreams or to behold singular visions. Others we have met with, who suppose that in order to being saved they must feel some very peculiar physical sensation. Now you must not look for this. You must not put physical contortions or sensations as a test before the Lord, and say you will not believe in Him otherwise. 
You seek what is quite unnecessary. What do you want a sign for? You want, you say, a token of God's love. What token of God's love to you can ever be wanted, now that He has given His only-begotten Son, first to live on earth, and then to die in pains extreme, the just for the unjust, "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"! I blush for you, that you should ask any token of God's love while Jesus Christ is before you... 
I must tell you what is more, you are acting the part of an idolater. What does an idolater do? He says, "I cannot believe in an unseen God; I must have a golden calf or an image, that I can see with my eyes and touch with my hand." You say just the same. You cannot believe God's naked word, you demand something you can feel, something you can see. Sheer idolatry.
You might feel an overwhelming sense of joy, or peace, or well-being, or love for Jesus at times. These emotional times can occur when prayer is answered, providence is seen, worship is genuine, or Bible reading has deepened your view of the Savior. Strong emotion is good and appropriate. But to rely on such moments as proof of the Spirit's presence casts a vain hope upon the shores of the Rock which stands above all. Your sure faith is in Him and His word that reveals Him.

Depending on signs is seeking a golden calf of experience over faith.

If you're looking for a move of the Spirit, a miracle, sign, or wonder, there are many that we can name which exalt Jesus. Unsaved men are helpless and unable to come to God unless the Spirit draws them. (John 6:44). He saves by grace. Any new believer is a miracle, because they cannot save themselves. Sanctification is a miracle of God, because only by the Spirit can we resist sin and grow in His likeness. Providence is a miracle of God because He sustains the universe by the power of His word every minute, and He ordains every event that happens to all 8 billion people on earth at every second.

Stop looking for glitter dust falling from the ceiling, for personal prophecies, and visible signs when we already have the redemptive, sanctifying, providential work of the Lord occurring all over the world every second.

I'll leave John MacArthur with the last word-
For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise. ... I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Eliphaz claimed to have been given a word

Our Bible Reading today brings us to Job 3-4. The speeches have begun. Job's friend Eliphaz reproves Job for insisting on his innocence. To bolster his argument, Eliphaz claims to have had a vision or dream coincidentally on just this topic, coincidentally just recently. (Job 4:12-16).

In relating this information, the words Eliphaz chooses to use are interesting. He said, "Now a word was brought to me stealthily; my ear received the whisper of it." Barnes' Notes explains word, secretly, and little-
And mine ear received a little thereof - Dr. Good translates this, "And mine ear received a whisper along with it." Noyes, "And mine ear caught a whisper thereof." The Vulgate, "And my ear received secretly the pulsations of its whisper" - venas susurri ejus. The word rendered "a little," שׁמץ shemets, occurs only here and in Job 26:14, where it is also rendered little. It means, according to Gesenius, a transient sound rapidly uttered and swiftly passing away. Symm. ψιθυρισμός psithurismos - a whisper. According to Castell, it means a sound confused and feeble, such as one receives when a man is speaking in a hurried manner, and when he cannot catch all that is said. This is probably the sense here. Eliphaz means to say that he did not get all that might have been said in the vision. It occurred in such circumstances, and what was said was delivered in such a manner, that he did not hear it all distinctly. (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
Some say Eliphaz did not really have a revelation from God, that he was simply using this claim to bolster his argument. Others say he truly did have a revelation, that it was truly from God. Here are two stances, yea and nay.

Argument that Eliphaz really had the revelation and that it was from God:
Some indeed have thought that this was a mere fiction of Eliphaz, and not a real vision; yea, some have gone so far as to pronounce it a diabolical one, but without any just foundation; for there is nothing in the manner or matter of it but what is agreeable to a divine vision or to a revelation from God; besides, though Eliphaz was a mistaken man in the case of Job, yet was a good man, as may be concluded from the acceptance of a sacrifice for him by the Lord, which was offered for him by Job, according to the order of God, and therefore could never be guilty of such an imposture; nor does Job ever charge him with any falsehood in this matter, who doubtless would have been able to have traversed and exposed him; (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Argument that Eliphaz really did not have the revelation and/or that it was not from God:
Apparently the words Eliphaz claimed he heard in his dream are given in these verses. For three reasons it is doubtful that the words were a revelation from God:
(a) “a word” (v. 12), not “a word of the LORD,” came to Eliphaz; 
(b) the word came “secretly” (i.e., in an elusive manner, v. 12); and 
c) the message seemed to picture God as unconcerned about man (vv. 17–21). Zuck, R. B. (1985). Job. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures 
Personally, I tend to the latter, that Eliphaz did not receive a revelation from God. The above 3 evidences are pretty compelling to me. Does God mumble? No, He does not. But one cannot be dogmatic. In the end, it doesn't matter, because the words are recorded and there they shall remain.

However, a caution for us today. We know the canon is closed. God is not speaking now, except through His Son, the word (Hebrews 1:1-2). However, plenty of people who claim to be elders or teachers, august persons as Eliphaz truly was, say they have a received a word, or even a "fresh word" which they use cravenly to bolster their arguments.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". (Galatians 6:7, KJV). If you use God as a cover to imbue some sort of status or honor or importance to your words, you will reap a whirlwind which will rain down upon you. God spoke to people frequently in the former days, and Eliphaz's claim of direct revelation went unremarked by Job. But as Hebrews shows us, today is another matter. Be careful.






Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Our tender God?

Our Bible Reading Plan today brings us to Psalm 3-5. I was struck by this scene-

O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
"There is no salvation for him in God." Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
(Psalm 3:1-4)

David is running from Absalom, his son, who wanted to kill David. How heartbreaking when your own child seeks to murder you! Absalom had undermined David and sought to usurp David from the throne and take it over. At a tipping point, David feared for his life and fled Jerusalem. He composed this Psalm.

David was dejected and depressed. He was surrounded by enemies which were Absalom's allies. David couldn't trust anyone. But David had God. David notes that he has God's protection as a shield, His glory, and His tenderness.

God's tenderness?

David has enough of a relationship with Jehovah that David could express it in terms this intimate- God cares for each of His people so much that He veritably lifts our head. He lifts us out of our despondency. God- the lifter of my head.
the one who lifts up my head: A lifted head signaled confidence and pride (27:6), while a lowered head signaled defeat and disgrace (Judg 8:28). Barry, J. D.,  Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 3:3).
When we're despondent and depressed, our head is down. Our shoulders slump. Our countenance is low. In Genesis 4:5b when God rejected Cain's offering, it says,

So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast


What the verse made me think of is when a toddler is upset and crying and sad. You go to them and you wrap them in your arms, and you want to talk to them, but they're looking down or away. You take your hand and cup their chin and you raise their face to yours. We are a lifter of heads to our children,and so, God is lifter of heads to His children- us.

He is tender. Matthew Henry explains how God lifts our head:
Joy and deliverance: "Thou art the lifter up of my head; thou wilt lift up my head out of my troubles, and restore me to my dignity again, in due time; or, at least, thou wilt lift up my head under my troubles, so that I shall not droop nor be discouraged, nor shall my spirits fail."
If, in the worst of times, God’s people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for good to them, they will own it is God that is the lifter up of their head, that gives them both cause to rejoice and hearts to rejoice.  ~Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume.






Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: And the walls fell flat?



Our Bible Reading for today is Joshua 6-10. It's the famous scene where Joshua and his army are commanded to march around the city of Jericho for six days. On the 7th day they were to march around it 7 times, shout, and the LORD would make the walls fall flat.

The walls were about 7 feet high, with a ditch around that, and atop a steep incline. The wall was actually a double wall. Towers were built into the walls, and anyone attempting to climb the hill and attack would be at a severe disadvantage.

It must have been unnerving for the Jericho-ites to see the Israelite army marching around and around day after day, the tension heightening, the strangeness of the scene increasing their apprehension. It was a good lesson for the Israelite army too. Obedience in the face of a strange command. Its fulfillment promised blessing, though, and would be a tremendous miracle.

And it was!


Some people say that such a thing could not physically happen. Others say that archaeology does not confirm what the Bible says, that Jericho never even had a wall. In both cases, these are not a problem for the Bible believer. We believe God, therefore we believe what He says in His inspired word. The walls fell flat? Yes, the walls fell flat. Praise God for His mighty and mysterious ways.

Joshua 6:21 says that all the people and animals in Jericho were then killed by the sword. (Except Rahab and her brethren). It's always rough to read something like that. But the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says-
It should be remembered that the Canaanites were incorrigible idolaters, addicted to the most horrible vices, and that the righteous judgment of God might sweep them away by the sword, as well as by famine or pestilence. There was mercy mingled with judgment in employing the sword as the instrument of punishing the guilty Canaanites, for while it was directed against one place, time was afforded for others to repent.
God is good, He is gracious, and He is merciful. He is also righteous judge, and if idolaters refuse to repent, and continue idolizing the devoted things, then their sin will be paid with death. Joshua's march shows that obedience brings blessing.

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Further Reading

Answers in Genesis: The Walls of Jericho

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bible reading Plan thoughts: The First Mourning

Our Bible Reading Plan for today includes a text from Genesis 4.  The first murder- Cain killed his brother Abel. Yesterday we read that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" and this has been true of all humans ever born or made, including Adam and Eve, with the sole exception of Jesus. The wages of sin is death.

Shortly after the Fall, we see all the sins begin to rear their head; lying, blame, guilt, jealousy, rebellion, and murder. Cain did not fear God. He argued with God and was irreverent with him. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Soon after, he killed his brother.

A scene which is not in the Bible but must have happened, was depicted in the painting called The First Mourning (Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel); oil on canvas 1888 by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Here it is:


God had said when He told the First Parents not to eat of the fruit that on the day they eat of it they shall surely die. They did die, spiritually. Their physical death took place many years later. Adam lived over 900 years. That is a long time to remember. Eve, the mother of all the living, was now the mother of the first to die.

When they discovered the body of their son lying lifeless on the ground, they must have mourned. They knew what death was, since God had killed an animal and given them its skins to wear for clothing. They must have killed animals in order to eat, since having been thrown out of the Garden. Abel was a keeper of sheep. Their death was graciously staved off, but their son! O, their son! Their original sin comes back to haunt them in a devastating way. I wrote about this scene in 2014:

We know both of them were familiar with death. Their spiritual life died the moment they disobeyed ("surely you won't die" the serpent lied in Genesis 3:4). The two humans who had never seen blood before grew to know it intimately once they sinned.

And then...the blood of their son. The Bible does not record the discovery of Abel's body, nor his burial (as far as I know). But perhaps the scene looked like the one above.

Oh, the searing pain of losing a son! A pain that would be replicated again and again through history as sin took its toll on a million mothers in epochs to come! A grief that the Father Himself would know soon enough!!

The first death was of a beloved son.

The last death was of a beloved Son.

Praise our Holy Savior for His death, for through Him we have life! Praise our Resurrected Savior for vanquishing sin!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Do you make notes in books? Here are a few thoughts


From Charles Spurgeon's Autobiography-

DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS - COLLECTIONS AUTOBIOGRAPHY DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS, by His Wife and His Private Secretary To the Students of the Words, Works and Ways of God

In addition to the letters manuscripts, photographs, and autographs of the authors, which Mr. Spurgeon preserved in his copies of their works, whenever he could obtain them, he also wrote his own name in many of the volumes, with an expression of his opinion of their contents. There are, perhaps, among his books, some hundreds of these inscriptions; many of them are autobiographical, and for that reason deserve a place in the present work. It is worthy of note that, while this chapter has been in course of preparation, the compilers have met with an interesting article by Mr. Andrew Lang, entitled “Scrawls on Books,” which shows that he approved of the custom which the Pastor so extensively observed.

Among other things, he wrote — "The practice of scribbling on fly-leaves and margins has many enemies. I confess that I am not among these purists. I like to see these footprints on the sands of literature, left by dead generations, and to learn from them something about previous owners of books, if it be but their names .... We should all write our names, at least; no more of us may ever reach posterity.... As a rule, tidy and self-respecting people do not even write their names on their fly-leaves; still less do they scribble marginalia. Collectors love a clean book, but a book scrawled on may have other merits."

Thackeray's countless caricatures add a delight to his old school-books; the comments of Scott are always to the purpose; but how few books once owned by great authors come into the general market! Where is Dr. Johnson’s library, which must bear traces of his buttered toast? Sir Mark Sykes used to record the date and place of purchase, with the price, — an excellent habit. These things are more personal than book-plates, which may be and are detached by collectors, and pasted into volumes. The selling value of a book may be lowered even by a written owner’s name; but many a book, otherwise worthless, is redeemed by an interesting note. Even the uninteresting notes gradually acquire an antiquarian value, if contemporary with the author. They represent the mind of a dead age. and perhaps the common scribbler is not unaware of this; otherwise, he is indeed without excuse. For the great owners of the past, certainly, we regret that they were so sparing in marginalia."

The first volume of the Autobiography, (page 254) proves that Mr. Spurgeon commenced, quite early in his, ministry, the practice which Mr. Lang commends, for the inscriptions in Dr. Gill's Commentary, there quoted, date back to 1852. In Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, is written — "This volume is one of my earliest friends; — needs no letter of commendation. — C. H. SPURGEON, 1852."

The following remarkable commendation is inserted on the fly-leaf of the first volume of A Compleat History and Mystery of the Old and New Testament, logically discussed and theologically improved, by Christopher Ness — "Reader, — Here is something worth all thy time, though thou read it all day long. Give eyes and heart a feast here. Here is goodly word painting and rich heart-breathing. — C. H. SPURGEON."

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I pray you find a similarly beloved book (in addition to the Bible), where you read it all day long, accept it as a feast, with good word painting and rich heart breathing. :)

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: All have sinned and fall short


(Bible Reading Plan for Sunday is Romans 3-4).

Romans 3:23 is a familiar verse to us. For all its familiarity, don't let it skim in and out of your mind as you read.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

All.

Even you.

Especially me.

Genesis 6:5 says that

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.


This verse doesn't stand for just that pre-deluge time. (antediluvian). It's for all time. As then, now people now live in a time of great wickedness, their hearts' every intention thinking evil, all the time. That is the natural state of unsaved man. For saved man, it's the natural state we resist against, with the aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

So, all have sinned and fallen short.

The Strong's definition for the word fallen short is:
5302 /hysteréō ("failing to fulfill a goal") means to be in lack and hence, unable to meet the need at hand because depleted ("all run out"). This state of lack (insufficiency, privation) naturally results when a person misses out on what is vital.
I grew up during the time when American stunt performer Evel Knieval was active. He was a guy in a Captain America-type suit who would line up a zillion semi-trucks and go really fast on a motorcycle and jump them. He was always jumping something. Of course, being a daredevil stunt performer, his feats had to become increasingly daring to keep his audience.

In 1974 he decided he wanted to jump the Snake River Canyon. This is a 1600 foot jump. A motorcycle can't jump that far so Knieval invented a 'sky-cycle.' His contraption was a bucket seat attached to a steam-powered thrust engine. Knieval attempted the jump in August 1974. He fell short. The parachute accidentally deployed and the sky-cycle was dragged by winds back to the launch site.


Sports Illustrated Photo

Sports Illustrated photo
We all fall short, all the time. If we think our Bible reading will get us into heaven, it won't. If we think our good deeds will get us in, they won't. If we think our donations and charity will get us in, they will not. God's glory is so far and so high, there is nothing we can do to arrive into His light and dwell there. Our sin prevents it. We are unrighteous.

Fortunately, Jesus came to live, die as the perfect sacrificial sacrifice for sin, and be resurrected. His cross bridges that gap. We don't have to strive, construct contraptions to get across, or worry if our own merits and good works are enough. Jesus is enough. If we are in Him, we will never fall short- because He didn't.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe
. (Romans 3:21-22)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Resources on Depression and the Christian

Depression is something Christians don't talk about much. Some are embarrassed by it, deeming it a weakness. Others believe that they are supposed to present a joyful countenance all the time, every day. Others adopt a plan of fake it till you make it.

So I was surprised and heartened to read Drew Dyck's heartfelt sharing of his own journey through a long-term depression which was also punctuated by panic attacks. Mr Dyck is an acquisitions editor at Moody Publishers and a senior editor at CTPastors.com. He's the author of Yawning at Tigers (2014) and Generation Ex: Christian (2010).

It's always risky when one is open about something that some parts of society stigmatize. He muses on some of that in his article, as he shares the lessons he'd learned. His article is here:

You Can Break Your Brain … And 4 Other Things I’ve learned from My Struggle with Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, suffered from depression? It seems strange that on the surface, this man who was a global success at preaching, writing, pastoring, founding colleges, orphanages, and married to a wonderful woman, could ever be depressed. But he was. There are numerous resources available recounting it, including many of his own writings, but this can get you started:

The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a physician and then a preacher. In 1960 he began preaching on depression in a lengthy sermon series which can be listened to here. The sermon series was also made into a book, "Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure". The Amazon blurb introducing the books states,

[Lloyd-Jones] carefully and compassionately analyzes an undeniable feature of modern society from which Christians have not escaped -- spiritual depression.

What robs Christians of the joy that is theirs? Why does faith's vitality drain away, leaving melancholy and anxiety it its place? In the sermons, Lloyd-Jones explores the cause and the cure.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Spiritual Depression series

David certainly had his own ups and downs. We read in Psalm 43:4,

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Mr Dyck says that prayer and Scripture were a tremendous source of comfort in the valley (especially the Psalms). It would be wrong and neglectful of me to leave off the Bible itself as a resource. Especially the Psalms.


Though the Bible is its own premier resource, Mr Dyck shares that the person suffering from depression "finds it hard to even muster the energy or concentration to engage deeply in spiritual practices." He advises asking others to pray for you when your depression sinks you too low to open His word.

Therefore we have the greatest resource of all: the Body of Christ in prayer and supplication, appealing to the Great Physician, Jesus, in prayer.

All these resources and more are available to you if you happen to be suffering from persistent panic, anxiety or depression.

Further reading:

Insufficient Help, Part 1: Grace To You's recounting of a depressed, suicidal young man seeking help from church counselors in addition to doctors and secular therapists, who eventually took his own life. The church was sued. Did the church offer insufficient help? Are Biblical counselors qualified to use the Bible in therapy?

Overwhelmed by Anxiety? A blog series on attacking the anxiety that is attacking you.


Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Women in the Genealogy

In our Bible Reading Plan we come to Matthew 1-2 today. Don't hate the genealogy. Don't skip the genealogy. Since we are told that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work, (2 Timothy 3:16-17), it means that the genealogies are also instructive. Here are a few thoughts that came to my mind as I read it.

1. Women are mentioned. In a society so patriarchal as to render the women invisible, the feminists say, here are some women added to the holiest of genealogies, the line of Christ.

2. The particular women mentioned by name. In Matthew 1:3, we read: "Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar" verse 5 has both: "Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab", verse "Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth", and verse 6b has "And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah".

These women are outcasts, as John MacArthur's commentary calls them. Tamar was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who dressed as a prostitute to trick Judah for various convoluted Old Testament reasons. As the Commentary concludes her story, "God's grace fell on all three of these undeserving persons, including a desperate and deceptive Gentile harlot."

Rahab was a Gentile and a professional prostitute. However, she feared God and protected the spies when they came to Jericho. As a result, God rained down grace by including her in the Messianic line, making her the mother of Boaz, King David's great-grandfather.

Ruth was also a Gentile. She was a Moabite and a former pagan, who had no legal right to marry an Israelite, but God's grace swept her into the family of Israel and into the Royal line through Boaz and she became David's grandmother.

3. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. Did you catch that? Bathsheba is mentioned, but not named. That jumped out at me.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and later, Mary are mentioned by name. Not this one. Of course we know she is Bathsheba, who bathed naked on the rooftop under the lascivious eyes of David. Incited, David contrived a way to put Bathsheba's husband Uriah at the front lines, David committed adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah was killed at the front lines, David took Bathsheba for his wife, and then the son from this illicit union died in infancy. Their second son was Solomon. But God's grace was sufficient to keep 'the wife of Uriah' in the royal line and she became ancestor to the Messiah.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is immeasurably more than a list of ancient names; it is even more than a list of Jesus' forebears. It is a beautiful testimony to God's grace  and to the ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners... If He has called sinners by grace to be His forefather,s should we be surprised when He calls them by grace to be his descendants? The King presented here is truly the King of grace! ~John MacArthur
Don't skip the genealogies. :)




Friday, January 5, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Isaiah, Israel, and that Vision

Today's reading is Isaiah 1-6. Reading the Prophets is tough on the heart. It's true that there are interpretive difficulties with reading them, because of the history. Sorting out which king and which nation and to whom God is speaking given the ancient names have gone by the wayside, can be demanding on the serious student.

Also, often in the Prophets there are interpretive difficulties given the nature of prophecy itself. There are different timings of the fulfillments of the prophecies. Some happened in the past. Some are dual-layer prophecies, like the Lord's first and second comings, or prophecies that have happened in the past and will happen in the future also. Some are prophecies solely for the future.

The interpretive difficulties usually can be resolved with prayer, study, and the aid of the Holy Spirit. It's a head thing. But the content of the prophecies, they are hard to read because of the mourning that goes along with them. Who can't but mourn when they read this from Isaiah 1:7-8,



Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

Don't just let the word lie on the page and be head knowledge-history. Apply the words to our life. At the present time of this writing, North Korea is said to be close to creating a nuclear bomb. North Korea has sworn to use their bomb on America. So what if God allows North Korea to be successful? What if America lies desolate, when NK sends a nuke or a dirty bomb or an EMP over Miami, New York, and LA? When those cities or others are burned with fire? When we are overthrown by foreigners? It could happen. It could absolutely happen.

The reason the LORD promised those things to Israel is because of what is said in Isaiah 1:4,

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

So the mourning is over our personal sin and our national sin of rejecting God. It's thinking of the terrified Israelites, living in a wasteland, carried off, or starving in a besieged city. It's recognizing His just perfection when punishing nations for their rebellion, even us. It's sad.

Then comes the magnificent vision in Chapter 6. What to make of the cherubim, the wings, the resounding praises of God's holiness. We swing from desolation and sin, punishment and despair, to the temple ringing with majesty and power!

When Isaiah saw this he fell down and said in Is 6:5,

Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

Job and Peter had the same reactions when they realized they were in the presence of the LORD. (Job 42:6, Luke 5:8). Other translations of the Isaiah verse say 'I am undone", "I am ruined" etc. The Hebrew word is "to be destroyed". There really is no describing how vast the distance between sinful man and God in His glory. Matthew Henry says,
All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness.
And yet, there is grace. He sent a Mediator to bridge that gap between us lowly sinful creatures and Him in His height and glory. The Prophetical Books follow the pattern of promise, sin, punishment, redemption. The books always end with hope. Indeed, as the Spurgeon devotional this morning is titled:

A Wonderful Guarantee
I will strengthen thee. (Isaiah 41:10)
The guarantee is that God will not leave or forsake us. If we mourn our personal and national sin, as Isaiah did, then we can turn and look upward through this glorious glimpse of chapter 6, of God on His throne, sovereignly ordaining all things coming together for the good of those who love him. In the beginning it was good. In the end it will be good.



Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Setting our Minds

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in th...