Daily Archives: March 10, 2019

March 10 Amazing Grace

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:1–10

Key Verse: Ephesians 2:13

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

It is little wonder that the hymn “Amazing Grace” is sung so resoundingly in churches across the world. Its vivid imagery reminds us of the preeminence of grace and its indispensable role in our salvation and sanctification. But what makes grace so amazing?

God’s grace is amazing because it is free. No currency exists that can ever purchase grace. We are usually suspicious of anything free, but God’s offer is without any hidden strings. He bore the cost for our sins (therefore, it is not cheap grace) so that He could extend it freely to any man on the basis of faith—not intellect, status, or prestige.

God’s grace is amazing because it is limitless. His grace can never be exhausted. Regardless of the vileness or number of our sins, God’s grace is always sufficient. It can never be depleted; it can never be measured. He always gives His grace in fullness.

God’s grace is amazing because it is always applicable. Do you need wisdom? God’s grace provides it through His Word. Do you need strength or guidance? God’s grace sustains you by His Spirit. Do you need security? God’s grace supplies it through His sovereignty.

The amazing grace of God! Full and free! Without measure! Pertinent for your every need!

It’s free! It’s limitless! It is applicable to my every need today! O Lord, thank You for Your amazing grace. I praise You that it flows full and free in my life.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 73). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March 10 Open Your Heart to God

Scripture reading: Luke 2:25–40

Key verses: Luke 2:36–38

There was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty–four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Anna’s husband died when she was quite young. They had been married only seven years before death took his life. Alone she took up the mantle of prayer and devoted herself to seeking God for the coming of the Messiah (Luke 2:37).

How many of us would have done this? There’s no mention of worrying about her state of widowhood or how her needs would be provided. No record of anger over being left without her husband, her friend, and her beloved at such an early age. These elements are especially important when we look at her life in the context of Judaism.

Most women were married and had children. To be barren was a disgrace, but not for Anna. Her devotion was solely to the Lord. Day and night, her heart’s desire was to seek audience with almighty God through prayer. Times of fasting gave her a spiritual sensitivity that few experience.

When Christ came to earth, one of the first places He went was to the temple. Even as a baby, Jesus was God. He had heard this woman’s fervent petition, and with His birth God answered her call.

Prayer transports us into the presence of God. Anna did not concern herself with the talk and gossip of her day. She was focused on the coming of the Messiah. Have you made the decision to open your heart only to God?

Lord, I focus my attention upon You right now as I kneel in Your presence. I open my heart to You.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 73). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

How to Understand Reprobation, the Rejection of the Gospel, and the Sovereignty of God — Reformation Charlotte

Many professing evangelicals, perhaps even most (I think so), claim that the decision for belief or unbelief is made by the hearer of the Gospel, through his own independent, sovereign decision-making process. Every person is equally able to believe the word preached, or to reject it. Where that idea originates, other than the obvious spiritual explanation (Genesis 3:15), has always eluded me. Doesn’t calling oneself an “evangelical” include the belief in sola scriptura?

The reason I ask that is that such a major spiritual doctrine is asserted without biblical support. Not that its supporters don’t claim biblical support, of course. But show me a case which does not boil down to either a supposed requirement that God must respect “free will” (another extra-biblical doctrine), or to some supposed moral requirement that a choice necessarily implies the natural and equal ability to choose either option. Either way, the reasons aren’t biblical but based on a humanistic presupposition. God is not bound by humanistic presuppositions. Just sayin’!

However, beyond the extra-biblical reasoning on which this choice doctrine is based, there is plenty of biblical evidence to the contrary. And here I refer not even to something that an Apostle wrote, but to words from the mouth of Jesus Himself. Surely no evangelical can question the final authority thereof!

In His final week of life, when He was performing ministry in Jerusalem, the earthly capital of the historical biblical faith, Jesus faced some Jews who were unsure of His messianic office. Most Jews still held to the erroneous view that the Messiah would be a political figure who would drive out the Romans and reestablish the Davidic kingdom. We are told, “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him” (John 12:37). If the passage stopped here, the average American Christian would claim that He had simply failed persuade the free will of these people to believe.

However, the passage continues, giving the inerrant, divinely-inspired explanation, which is very different.

[This ooccurred] so that the word spoken by the Prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore, they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them’

(John 12:38-40)

Thus, the Holy Spirit tells us, through the Apostle John, what our eyes and minds could not otherwise have understood: the unbelief of these people was because God had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. He had made them unable to believe!

There is no respect for free will here. There is no sovereignty in the choices of men. Rather, there is a choice given to men, in which their natures were made able only to answer with unbelief.

via How to Understand Reprobation, the Rejection of the Gospel, and the Sovereignty of God — Reformation Charlotte

Meeting with the President and VP to discuss Israel, Iran, North Korea and the future of peace. I told him I was once a Never Trumper. I also told him I’m deeply grateful for many of the actions he’s taken in office & pray for him daily.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

POTUS-Joel-VP-OvalOffice-March72019(Washington, D.C.) — Last Thursday, I was humbled to be invited to the White House for four hours of meetings regarding the upcoming rollout of the President’s Middle East Peace Plan, as well as the threats posed to the U.S., Israel and our allies by the rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea.

  • The morning began with a “listening session” with Jason Greenblatt, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, and a group of high-profile American Evangelical leaders. Greenblatt is one of the chief architects of the Mideast peace plan with Jared Kushner and David Friedman. While I’m not at liberty to share what Greenblatt told us, I was encouraged by the conversation and by the Administration’s desire to answer Evangelicals’ questions and address our concerns. (see this article, “White House working to reassure Evangelicals on Middle East peace plan,”for more.)
  • Next, I had a private…

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March 10 The World Is Not Winning

Scripture reading: Romans 8

Key verse: Romans 8:37

In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

As you go about your daily routine, do you sometimes feel as though the world is winning? From the irritations and conflicts of your personal circumstances to bad news in the marketplace and the media, it’s easy to become discouraged and focused on the negative.

The victory over sin and death that Christ won on the Cross can seem remote from daily application. But the truth remains: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5 nasb).

You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:37). Does this mean that you will feel successful in every encounter and conflict? No. God may allow you to go through times when His truth working within you is obscured to another’s eyes. He may need to do more work in the other person’s heart before he is ready to listen. God is taking care of the consequences; your job is to trust Him for the outcome.

Ultimately the victory is yours in the Lord. In the meantime, you can cling to this promise: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (Ps. 37:5–6 niv).

Thank You, Lord, that I can trust the outcome to You. Victory is mine through You.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 73). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

U.S. Support for Israel in Decline

Israeli flag superimposed on U.S. flagThe latest nationwide poll shows that American support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians is lower than it has been in a decade – while backing for Israel’s militant Arab neighbors stands at an 18-year high.

Results released from the Gallup poll on Wednesday indicate that even though roughly three times as many Americans favor Israel than the Palestinians, support for the Jewish State in the United States is on the decline.

“The majority of Americans remain partial toward Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 59 percent saying they sympathize more with the Israelis, whereas 21 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians,” the Gallup poll report revealed. “While still widespread, sympathy toward Israel is down from 64 percent in 2018 and marks the lowest percentage favoring Israel since 2009.”

Anti-Semitic movement in U.S. working?

In addition to American support for Israel being on the decline, Palestinian support is higher than its been in nearly two decades – an indication that the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement sweeping university campuses across the U.S. might be working.

“Meanwhile, the 21 percent sympathizing more with the Palestinians – statistically unchanged from a year ago – is the highest by one point in Gallup’s trend since 2001,” Gallup divulged regarding Israel’s longstanding skirmish with its militant occupying Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

Anti-Semitism amongst Democrats appears to be high of late – especially with Muslim Democrats such as Somali refugee Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) clearly siding with the Palestinians over the Jewish State while making remarks directed against supporters of Israel.

“The 2019 poll was conducted Feb. 1–10, prior to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks questioning U.S. support for Israel and suggesting that some supporters of Israel are pushing for ‘allegiance to a foreign country,” the Gallup report pointed out. “Omar’s statements have sparked a firestorm, with some in Congress calling for her to be censured or removed from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while others, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have come to her defense.”

Even though Israel support from Republicans hit a high last year, the number of those with an allegiance to the GOP who sympathize with the Jewish State has declined over the past year.

“The percentage of Republicans saying they sympathize more with Israel in the conflict fell from an all-time high of 87 percent in 2018 to 76 percent today,” Gallup reported. “Last year’s reading was taken as the Donald Trump administration was preparing to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – a change that highlighted Trump’s strong support of Israel.”

The drop in support for Israel was less significant among those from the other major party – and virtually the same with independents.

“The percentage of Democrats siding more with Israel fell less sharply, from 49 percent to 43 percent,” Gallup’s Lydia Saad informed. “The views of political independents are unchanged.”

Despite the modest decline in Israeli support from Democrats, the party’s sentiment for the Middle East’s sole democracy is lower than it has been in nearly a decade and a half.

“However, Democrats’ sympathy for the Jewish State approaches the lowest level since 2005,” CBN News reported from the poll results. “Support for Israel within both major parties is also influenced by how conservative or liberal party members are.”

Less Dems supporting Israel

While there has been a slight decline in Republican support for Israel of late, Democrats’ shift away from Israel over the past several years has become more prominent, as more and more from the blue party are siding with the Palestinians.

“In terms of recent changes, however, most of the decline in net sympathy for Israel has occurred among liberal Democrats – from +17 in 2013–2016 to +3 in 2017–2019,” Saad added. “What this means is that nearly as many liberal Democrats now sympathize more with the Palestinians (38 percent) as with the Israelis (41 percent), with the rest favoring neither side – or unsure.”

Regardless of the fluctuations, it was found that the closer Americans are to the political right, the more disposed they are toward the Israelis.

“[I]t’s clear that conservative Republicans have long been the most partial to Israel in the conflict – given their consistently high net-sympathy ratings,” Saad explained. “Moderate/liberal Republicans have the second-highest net-sympathy for Israel, followed by moderate/conservative Democrats, while liberal Democrats have the lowest net sympathy for Israel. Apart from the rank order, the gaps in net sympathy for Israel between the groups have been widening, with sympathy for Israel increasing among both Republican groups and decreasing among both Democratic groups.”

When Americans’ overall views toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority were surveyed on a four-part scale from “very favorable” to “very unfavorable,” results have been reported as relatively unchanged over the past several years.

“Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults view Israel very or mostly favorably – down from 74 percent last year, but within the 66 percent to 72 percent range seen between 2010 and 2017,” Gallup disclosed from its annual polls. “Twenty-one percent view the Palestinian Authority favorably – identical to last year and similar to the finding most years since 2010.”

Global view of Israel plummeting

According to a BBC poll administered last year to 22 nations, Israel is among the most disliked countries in the world.

“Israel is extremely unpopular worldwide,” Vox.com reported last May. “In one BBC poll of 22 countries, Israel was the fourth-most-disliked nation – behind only Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.”

Even though most nations support Israel’s right to exist, a majority of countries surveyed side with the Palestinians in the ongoing struggle.

“Non-Muslim countries recognize Israel’s legitimacy and maintain diplomatic relations with it, but most are critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and ongoing occupation of the West Bank,” Vox.com’s Zack Beauchamp explained. “Global public opinion at present is generally more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, creating real concern among Israelis that an international boycott movement, called BDS, could pick up some support.”

More than eight out of 10 nations consider Israel to be a legitimate country.

“Eighty-three percent of the world’s countries – and almost every country that isn’t Arab or Muslim majority – recognizes Israel,” Beauchamp noted.

The dispute over Israel’s West Bank settlements is a major reason many Palestinian advocates give for their anti-Israel stance.

“It’s clear that West Bank settlements are a key cause of Israel’s poor global standing,” Beauchamp continued. “Most of the world believes that Israel’s continued control of the West Bank is an unlawful military occupation, and that settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. Though this view is supported by most legal scholars, Israel and pro-Israel conservatives dispute it. They argue that the West Bank isn’t occupied, and even if it were, the Fourth Geneva convention only prohibits ‘forcible’ population transfers – not voluntary settlement.”

For nearly 15 years, BDS activists have been selling the Palestinian victimization narrative to generate hatred for Israel.

“The BDS movement – which coalesced in 2005 – aims to capitalize on international anger with Israel,” Beauchamp stressed. “The movement’s strategy is to create costs to Israel’s Palestinian policy through boycotts of Israeli goods and institutions, divestment from Israeli companies, and sanctions on the nation itself – hence the name BDS.”

There are four major goals of the BDS movement – with the ultimate objective being the elimination of Israel from the face of the Earth.

“BDS plans to continue boycotting Israel until 1) all of the settlements are dismantled, 2) they believe Palestinians have been given equal rights inside Israel’s borders, and 3) Palestinians refugees are granted the ‘right of return,’ which means to return to the land and homes they used to inhabit in what is now Israel,” Beauchamp outlined. “That last goal has led BDS’s critics to label it a stealth movement to [4] destroy Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.”

Source: U.S. Support for Israel in Decline

Was Stalin an atheist? Is atheism or communism responsible for mass murders?


I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Let’s take a look at what Josef Stalin did during his rule of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Library of Congress offers this in their “Soviet Archives exhibit”:

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.

The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. By 1939 only about 500 of over…

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UK’s Socialized Healthcare (NHS) Satisfaction Hits An 11-Year Low | Zero Hedge

9% of physician posts are vacant making that a disastrous and deadly shortfall of nearly 11,500 doctors. The NHS is also short 42,000 nurses…

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

The National Health Services, the United Kingdom’s socialized “Medicare for all” government-run single-payer healthcare is not faring too well.  The satisfaction rate is now at an 11-year low as people die waiting days for care in corridors and those wait times reach historically high levels.

The British Social Attitudes poll of nearly 3,000 people found 53% of in England, Scotland, and Wales were satisfied with services last year, according to a report by theBBC.  That is a three percentage point drop since 2017 and the lowest level since 2007. A peak of 70% was seen in 2010.

Record long wait times and a lack of staff are going to be the result of a government-run program of any kind, which is why it’s so deadly when governments take over that segment of a person’s life.

The United Kingdom’s horror stories should dissuade Americans from accepting any form of single-payer.  National Health Service, which celebrated its 70th anniversary on July 5, is imploding rapidly, according to Forbes.

The NHS has struggled to fully staff its hospitals and clinics since its inception in 1948. But today, the shortages are growing worse. 9% of physician posts are vacant making that a disastrous and deadly shortfall of nearly 11,500 doctors.  The NHS is also short 42,000 nurses. In the second quarter alone, nurse vacancies increased by 17%. Meanwhile, in the United States, nearly all states will have a surplus of nurses by 2030. Doctors and nurses simply don’t want to work for the state, which makes their lives far too difficult and their job far too intense for the money.

And it really isn’t that surprising that people don’t want to work as nurses in Great Britain; it’s a stressful job, with long hours and terrible working conditions – all implemented by the authoritarian government control. Some NHS nurses are taking positions at supermarkets because stacking shelves comes with better hours, benefits, and pay, according to a report in the London Economic. Imagine that; a private job is much superior to a government job. –SHTFPlan

Ruth Robertson, from the King’s Fund, said the issues identified by the public were “long-standing” problems that the government had not yet managed to deal with.  Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs always wanted to provide the best care they could, so it was “disappointing” to see the drop. “We know that general practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures and while GPs are working incredibly hard to combat these, we understand that many patients are still waiting too long to see their doctor – something we find just as frustrating,” she added.

While the satisfaction with NHS is low, it isn’t as low as it has been historically, but it could continue to drop rapidly as people who need care continue to suffer while waiting. The solution? Of course, the government will throw more money at the NHShoping that the horrific conditions they created will evaporate in the face of the almighty pound.

— Read on www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-08/uks-socialized-healthcare-nhs-satisfaction-hits-11-year-low

Bruce Ohr’s Testimony Contradicts Testimony Provided By Rosenstein And Simpson | Zero Hedge

It also reveals that many questions are still left unanswered…

Authored by Sara Carter,

Department of Justice senior official Bruce Ohr’s testimony contradicts testimony given by other senior government officials and key witnesses who testified before Congress regarding the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and alleged collusion with the Russian government, according to the full transcripts released Friday.

Ohr’s 268-page testimony, released by Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, reveals inconsistency and contradiction in testimony given by Glenn Simpson, founder of embattled research firm Fusion GPS and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is set to leave his post sometime this month.

It also reveals that many questions are still left unanswered.

The Contradictions and The Revelations 

1. Glenn Simpson suggests in his testimony to the Senate that he never spoke to anyone at the FBI about Christopher Steele, the former British spy he hired to investigate the Trump campaign during the election. However, Ohr suggests otherwise telling former Rep.Trey Gowdy under questioning “As I recall, and this is after checking with my notes, Mr. Simpson and I spoke in August of 2016. I met with him, and he provided some information on possible intermediaries between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.”

2. In another instance, Simpson’s testimony also contradicts notes taken by Ohr after a meeting they had in December, 2016. Unverified allegations were decimated among the media that the Trump campaign had a computer server that was linked to a Russian bank in Moscow: Alpha Bank. Simpson suggested to the Senate that he knew very little about the Trump -Alpha Bank server story and couldn’t provide information. But Bruce Ohr’s own handwritten notes state that when he met with Simpson in December 2016, Simpson was concerned over the Alpha Bank story in the New York Times. “The New York Times story on Oct. 31 downplaying the connection between Alfa servers and the Trump campaign was incorrect. There was communication and it wasn’t spam,” stated Ohr’s notes. This suggests that Simpson was well aware of the story, which was believed by congressional investigators to have started from his research firm.

3. Ohr testified to lawmakers that Simpson provided information to federal officials that was false regarding Cleta Mitchell, a well-known Republican campaign finance lawyer, and information regarding the National Rifle Association. Sean Davis, with the Federalist pointed this out in a tweet today. Read one of those stories here.

4. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would not answer questions to lawmakers during testimony about when he learned that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS. Just check this out from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s interview with Judge Jeanine on Fox News.

“Rod Rosenstein won’t tell us when he first learned that Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS,” said Gaetz, in August, 2018.

“So I want to know from Bruce Ohr, when did he tell his colleagues at the Department of Justice that in violation of law that required him to disclose his wife’s occupation his sources of income. He did not do that. So when did all of the other people at the Department of Justice find this out because Rod Rosenstein, I’ve asked him twice in open hearing and he will not give an answer. I think there’s a real smoking gun there.”

However, in Ohr’s testimony he says he told the FBI about his wife’s role at Fusion GPS but only divulged his role to one person at the DOJ: Rosenstein. At the time, Rosenstein was overseeing the Trump-Russia probe, and had taken the information from Ohr and gave it to the FBI. Just read The Hill’s John Solomon full story here for the full background on Ohr’s testimony. I highlighted an important date below: remember Rosenstein wouldn’t answer lawmakers questions as to when he knew about Nellie Ohr. It also appears he failed to tell lawmakers about the information he delivered to the FBI.

Ohr stated in his testimony: “What I had said, I think, to Mr. Rosenstein in October of 2017 was that my wife was working for Fusion GPS… The dossier, as I understand it, is the collection of reports that Chris Steele has prepared for Fusion GPS.”

Ohr added: “My wife had separately done research on certain Russian people and companies or whatever that she had provided to Fusion GPS…But I don’t believe her information is reflected in the Chris Steele reports. They were two different chunks of information heading into Fusion GPS.”

5. Ohr also told lawmakers in his testimony that the former British spy, Christopher Steele was being paid by the FBI at the same time he was getting paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. However, there was another player paying Steele and it was a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska, a tycoon connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had well known animus toward his former friend Paul Manafort.

Rep. Mark Meadows asked Ohr during testimony “Did Chris Steele get paid by the Department of Justice?

Ohr’s response: “My understanding is that for a time he was a source for the FBI, a paid source.

In the testimony Ohr also revealed that Steele had told him details about his work with Deripaska saying Deripaska’s attorney Paul Hauser “had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with” Deripaska. Ohr said Manafort “had stolen a large amount of money from” the Russian Oligarch and that Hauser was “trying to gather information that would show that.”
— Read on www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-09/bruce-ohrs-testimony-contradicts-testimony-provided-rosenstein-and-simpson

March 10, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

To Prevent Shallow Selfishness

That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (12:16–17)

Perhaps the saddest and most godless person in Scripture outside of Judas is Esau. On the surface, their acts against God do not seem as wicked as those of many brutal and heartless pagans. But the Bible strongly condemns them. They had great light. They had every possible opportunity, as much as any person in their times, of knowing and following God. They knew His word, had heard His promises, had seen His miracles, and had had fellowship with His people; yet with determined willfulness they turned their backs on God and the things of God.

Esau not only was immoral, but was godless. He had no ethics or faith, no scruples or reverence. He had no regard for the good, the truthful, the divine. He was totally worldly, totally secular, totally profane. Christians are to be vigilant that no persons such as Esau contaminate Christ’s Body. See to it … that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau.

Jacob, Esau’s brother, was not a model of ethics or integrity, but he genuinely valued the things of God. The birthright was precious to him, though he tried to procure it by devious means. He basically trusted God and relied on God; his brother disregarded God and trusted only in himself.

When Esau finally woke up to some extent and realized what he had forsaken, he made a half-hearted attempt to retrieve it. Just because he sought for it with tears does not indicate sincerity or true remorse. He found no place for repentance. He bitterly regretted, but he did not repent. He selfishly wanted God’s blessings, but he did not want God. He had fully apostatized, and was forever outside the pale of God’s grace. He went on “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth,” and there no longer remained any sacrifice to cover his sins (Heb. 10:26).

We must be vigilant so that no one turns from the truth, becomes bitter, or follows the course of selfish Esau, who wanted God’s blessing desperately—but not on God’s terms (cf. Mark 10:17–22).[1]

A Call to Holiness

Hebrews 12:14–17

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

Of all the young men and women who tragically died in the assault on Columbine High School in April 1999, none has touched the lives of more people than Cassie Bernall. Cassie has been rightly described as a martyr; that is, as one who died for her Christian faith. She perished in her high school library when one of the two young murderers put his automatic rifle to her head and asked, “Do you believe in God?” Some think Cassie might have been praying, thereby drawing their attention and prompting the question. But the issue was not one of mere theological speculation. When they asked, “Do you believe in God?” they were challenging her willingness to die for Christ. With the rifle muzzle pressed against her forehead, the young woman pondered her response.

Cassie answered loudly and clearly, for another teenager, crouched under a desk twenty-five feet away, heard her distinct reply. He later recalled: “One of them asked her if she believed in God. She paused, like she didn’t know what she was going to answer, and then she said yes. She must have been scared, but her voice didn’t sound shaky. It was strong.” She said yes, and with that the young killer pulled the trigger, and Cassie Bernall entered an eternal reward with the God she acknowledged in the face of death.

Cassie Bernall is famous for dying for Christ, but what is perhaps less well known is that in the months prior to her death she had been living for Christ. Two years earlier, in fact, Cassie had been much like the two angry youths who later shot her: caught up in the teen underworld of Gothic darkness with its trappings of disturbed music, wild rage, and flirtation with suicide. She had committed her soul to Satan in a dark ritual; she and a friend were plotting the murder of a teacher they despised and wrote letters seriously discussing the idea of killing her parents. When they found these letters, her parents dramatically intervened, among other ways by sending her to a nearby church’s youth group. Cassie stuck out among the Christian kids, both by her dress and her demeanor, and attended unwillingly. But after finally making a Christian friend, Cassie was dramatically converted to Christ at a youth retreat. God brought the gospel of his love and forgiveness and power for life into her heart. Cassie returned home and exclaimed, “Mom, I’ve changed.”

After two years of living for Christ, this young woman was willing to die for Christ. Her mother writes, “The real issue raised by Cassie’s death is not what she said to her killers, but what it was that enabled her to face them as she did.… Cassie didn’t just die on April 20, but died daily over the previous two years.” By faith she had been giving her life over to Christ, and that is how this young Christian was able to face death on his behalf.

A Holy Calling

This is the way the writer of Hebrews was thinking in this passage. If there was one concern on his mind, it was that his Christian readers stand firm when the day of testing came, perhaps as suddenly as it came to Cassie Bernall. The whole letter makes clear that he expected suffering and persecution in their immediate future. This was part of his message when he exhorted them to look to Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (12:2). In Hebrews 12:4 the author pointed out that they “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood,” which clearly implied that they might soon face that same kind of trial.

Hebrews 12 begins with the race that Christians are to run, shedding every hindrance and fleeing sin so as to endure to the end with our eyes fixed on Christ (vv. 1–3). Verses 4–13 then speak of God’s discipline as he trains his children for a harvest of righteousness.

Verse 14 continues this discourse, giving the specific guidance Christians need. This straightforward instruction is what a young believer like Cassie Bernall especially requires in order to know how to live as a Christian. But it is also something more seasoned believers need to recall. It consists of an exhortation to pursue two specific aims: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness.” The first of these has to do with our relationship with other people, and the second with our relationship with God.

Christians are commanded to live peacefully with the people around them, to be peacemakers in the world. This is what our Lord Jesus emphasized when he taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). This is something Paul stressed in his Letter to the Romans: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).

This is what all of us must pursue in Christ’s name: “Strive for peace with everyone.” This is a sustained and determined pursuit; as one hunts prey, so Christians are to seek after peace. We should think of this peace in broad terms, as the effect of the gospel upon society as it is transmitted through our lives. Psalm 34:14 puts it this way: “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

The Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee tells a story that illustrates our calling to peace. A Christian who had a rice field on a hill had to hand-work a pump to bring water up from the irrigation stream that ran at the base of the hill. Beneath him was a neighbor who made a hole in the dividing wall so that when the Christian tried to pump water into his field it drained down into the neighbor’s. The Christian became understandably frustrated at this repeated theft. Consulting his Christian friends he asked, “What shall I do? I have tried to be patient and not retaliate. Isn’t it right for me to confront him?” The Christians prayed, and then one of them noted that as Christians they surely had a duty to seek more than justice for themselves, but to live in such a way as to be a blessing to others.

Armed with this advice, the Christian pursued a different strategy. The next day he went out and first pumped water into his neighbor’s fields and then went on to do the additional labor for watering his own fields. Before long, this procedure brought the neighbor out to ask why the Christian would act in this way, and as a result of the relationship that ensued the neighbor became a Christian himself.

That is the kind of attitude our passage exhorts, that which puts peace with our neighbors and being a blessing to others ahead of our own rights and prerogatives. The apostle Peter argued this way: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.… When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21, 23).

The Christian life is not only focused on our relations with other people, but it also has a vertical dimension: our relationship with God. Therefore, the writer adds, “Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (v. 14). The Greek word translated “holiness” is elsewhere rendered “sanctification,” that process by which Christians are freed from the power of sin and transformed into godliness. Sanctification is God’s work in us, but one in which we are active by faith. Holiness means “set apart”: set apart from the sinful world and to God for his pleasure and service.

This is not an option for the believer, but as Paul puts it, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19). Christian salvation is not caused by our holiness, but it necessitates our holiness, for this is God’s very purpose in saving us, that we might “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Holiness is necessary for us to be saved. It is not necessary as a condition of our acceptance with God, since we are justified by faith in Christ alone, apart from works. But it is necessary as a consequence of our acceptance with God, so much so that the apostle James mocks the idea of being saved by a faith that fails to produce good works. “Faith by itself,” he writes, “if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Holiness has been a major emphasis of the writer of Hebrews. Christ was perfected as our Savior so that he might perfect us to enter the fullness of the salvation God has provided. Hebrews 10:14 says, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Christ’s sacrificial death has imputed to us his own perfect righteousness, and also entered us onto the path of increasing holiness; these two always go together. James M. Boice writes: “Real Christianity leads [a believer] to Jesus Christ. And that means that the Holy Spirit comes to live within the Christian, giving the person a new nature, creating love for God and a desire to obey him, and providing the ability to do what God requires. In other words, the gospel leads to an internal transformation.”

It is the advance of this progressive work that Christians are zealously to seek in this life. Therefore, although we are to be a blessing to the world, a source of peace to those around us so far as we are able, it is never by compromising with the world, or by becoming worldly. Indeed, Christians are the most good to the world when we are least like the world: when we are godly, when we have light to bring into the dark realm of sin. Our striving after peace and holiness go together.

Of course, this is a struggle for sinners like us, which is why the text exhorts us to “make every effort” (v. 14 niv). Paul speaks in similar terms: “Not that I have already … been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12–14). This is how a Christian pursues holiness, longing more to reflect God’s character and to see the death of sin in our hearts by the power of his grace.

For a teenager like Cassie Bernall, that meant learning to think differently from other kids at school: not to think in terms of popularity or image or to put herself first. Instead, she was called to live out her love for God and his love for people, to think about how God would have her act in various situations, and to be willing to go out of her way for the sake of someone else. It is not much different for any of us; young and old, we are all called to “strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness.”

Three Dangers to Christians

The writer of Hebrews goes on to list three threats to Christians, both individually and corporately. The first is found in verse 15: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” This is the writer’s overarching concern, that someone might fall behind or drop out of the race.

The writer has expressed this concern about apostasy a number of times in Hebrews, that there would be people among his readers who under trial would deny Christ and fall away. In chapter 2 he wrote of believers “drifting away” from faith on the current of worldly unbelief. Chapter 3 warned of sin’s deceitfulness, which hardens the heart so that people “fall away from the living God” (v. 12). In chapter 6 he wrote of people who had gone far enough into Christianity to have been enlightened by it, to have “tasted the heavenly gift,” and even to have experienced the power of God’s Spirit among the people of God. It is possible to fit even that description and yet have only a superficial commitment to Christ so that you fail to persevere. Chapter 10 then exhorted, “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised” (v. 36). Now, in this fifth exhortation against apostasy, the writer of Hebrews returns to the same theme, describing it as missing or falling back from the grace of God.

This reminds us that while the Bible teaches that all true Christians are secure in God’s saving work—we are “kept by God’s power” (1 Peter 1:5)—the Bible also teaches that the reality of our faith is proved by our perseverance to the end. A true Christian will persevere, however he may stumble, just as Paul assures us in Philippians 1:6 that God will complete a work that is truly begun by him. Psalm 37 speaks of God’s care for his true child: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand” (Ps. 37:23–24).

If you are weak, this should comfort you; as Jesus said of his true sheep, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). But if your Christian life is superficial, perhaps you should be concerned, for this makes clear that there are many who make a profession of faith in Christ yet fall back from God’s grace, especially when the going gets tough.

Verse 15 includes an antidote for this first danger, namely, the pastoral care of Christians for each other: “See to it,” the author writes, “that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” He means that the Hebrew Christians are to actively beware of this danger, no doubt especially as they are facing tribulation. One of the early Greek commentators, Theophylact, puts it in terms of a band of travelers engaged in a journey and notes that they must periodically make sure that everyone is still there. “Has anyone fallen out?” he asks. “Has anyone been left behind while the others have pressed on?”

The Greek word for “see to it” is episkopeō, from which comes episkopos, one of the main New Testament words for an elder or minister. The writer is not restricting this duty to officers in the church, but surely this is one of a minister’s principal duties: to check up on the flock, to make sure all are coming along, and especially to take note of any who have disappeared. In our passage, this obligation, which especially applies to ministers and elders, is given generally to all Christians. We are to seek out those who seem to have fallen back or turned away, to inquire about their struggle, to exhort and encourage them in the truth of the gospel, and in that way we are used by God for the perseverance of those who are his own.

Verse 15 notes a second danger. See to it, he adds, “that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” This is an allusion to Deuteronomy 29:18, where Moses said, “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.” The danger is that a group might arise in the church to promote unbiblical teaching and practices.

Such a root is not merely bitter in that it tastes bad, but it is deadly poison that brings spiritual death. It causes trouble and defiles—that is, it excludes people from God’s presence, so that the concern, again, is about apostasy, this time because of heresy in the church. This is why today we need oversight when it comes to teaching and practice, lest bitter roots grow in our midst and cause the fall of some in our ranks. Paul began his letter of instruction to Timothy with just this concern, to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,” and to beware of those who “promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Tim. 1:3–4).

Verse 16 brings a third warning, against sensual and godless patterns that cause people to turn away from the eternal to the worldly: “See to it … that no one is sexually immoral or unholy.” These two terms describe a profane attitude about life, namely, that which is sensual and earth-bound, that which pursues carnal cravings of all sorts, sexual and otherwise, rather than spiritual blessing. This attitude is all around us today; indeed, our nation’s economy is practically built upon these twin pillars of worldliness: the sensual and the godless.

One prime example of this mindset, as well as a good warning against it, comes from the life of Esau, the elder son of the patriarch Isaac and the brother of Jacob. Esau was sensually oriented, which is why he took pagan wives and thus grieved his godly parents. But the grossest example of his sensuality came with his willingness to trade his birthright—the covenant of salvation with the Lord—for a bowl of stew. This is what Hebrews 12:16 highlights, that he “sold his birthright for a single meal,” a dreadful act of folly recorded in Genesis 25:29–34. Genesis says that “Esau despised his birthright”—that is, his covenant relationship with God. Surely that is the height of disdain for the things of God, and yet it is a choice that is repeated by the hour in our own time. Our job as Christians, says the writer of Hebrews, is to make sure that this kind of secular attitude finds no place in the church, and that every believer is warned against it.

Hebrews 12:17 tells us why Esau’s sensual frame of mind is so greatly to be avoided: “Afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” This refers to Esau’s predicament when, years later, the covenant blessing he had despised was actually given to Jacob instead of him. Genesis 27 records that Esau regretted having given away something so valuable. He wasn’t sorry for his sin or depraved attitude, but only for its consequence. But he was unable to undo what he had done, and in the same way people with a sensual and godless attitude today are unable to undo their many foolish choices, however many tears they shed. How many people even blame God for not helping them, when they have first rejected him in favor of the world, a world that turns out not to live up to its glittering promises. See to it, we are commanded, that this attitude and its terrible toll of tears do not find a place in the Christian community.

These are real dangers facing us today, as always. First is the general concern that some will fall away; second is the threat of heresy within the church; and third is the danger of sensual godlessness, a threat we must take very seriously, especially with our young people and others who are prone to being easily influenced by worldly values.

“Without Holiness No One Will See the Lord”

There is one statement that dominates this passage. The writer says we are to strive for holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). This is a verse that has caused many Christians to lose sleep, because they infer from it that salvation results from our moral attainment. If you are thinking that, let me remind you that no one is saved because of his or her own perfect holiness. We are not saved by our works, which are uniformly tainted by sin and thus are unacceptable to God, but rather by the perfect work of Jesus Christ. This is the great message of the Book of Hebrews, that Christ has made perfect what must be presented to God. He achieved the righteousness God demands and offers it to God on behalf of all who come through faith in him. Hebrews 7:26–27 says of Christ, “It was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.… He [sacrificed] once for all when he offered up himself.” What is more, Jesus was raised from the dead to show that God accepted his atonement for sin, and he now lives and reigns in heaven to ensure our perseverance. Hebrews 7:24–25 says, “But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Therefore, the point of Hebrews 12:14 is not that you must be saved by your own holiness, a teaching that can only drive you to despair. But the point of this statement is nonetheless quite direct and serious. It is about the necessity of sanctification for everyone who calls himself a Christian and seeks to be saved. What it says is true: “Without holiness—without sanctification—no one will see the Lord.” Jesus made this point in positive terms in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

In heaven Christians will see God; that is, we will have blessed communion with him by virtue of our perfect participation in his holy character. The apostle John writes of this in his first epistle and even intimates that it is seeing Christ in death that will finally eradicate any vestige of sin from us. “Beloved,” he writes, “we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts this in especially lovely terms, asking, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?” and answering, “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory” (Q/A 37). Having begun our holiness in this life, we will enjoy its perfection in the life to come, and we will gaze upon God in the beauty of holiness.

This being true, there are three ways in which Hebrews 12:14 exhorts us to a present pursuit of that holiness which alone enables us to see the Lord. First, we are exhorted to holiness because holiness is our preparation for heaven. The only ones who will be perfected in holiness then are those who are being perfected in holiness now, however slowly and with however much difficulty. J. C. Ryle argues this persuasively:

We must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place.… Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?

How better, then, to prepare for the eternal blessings of holiness forever in heaven than to seek holiness in our lives now.

Second, we must persevere in our faith if we want to be saved, and perseverance is not possible without holiness. This is why Hebrews 12:1 begins this section of teaching by telling us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (niv). If we do not strive against sin, we will be overcome and will not finish the race. In chapter 2 we are told that sin is a current that drags us out to sea; chapter 3 says our hearts are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Unless we do what this passage commands, therefore, making every effort not only to live in peace but also to be holy, we will not see the Lord because we will not persevere in the faith. As in the case of Esau, a secular and sensual mindset is one that goes on to despise the Lord and his blessings. People shun holiness because they love the world, and this love will keep them from heaven.

Third, and finally, we must press on in holiness because our present actions have eternal implications. This, too, is the lesson of Esau; his careless actions led to ultimate alienation from eternal riches in God. On the one hand, there is no sin that cannot be repented of, no attitude that cannot be nailed to the cross through faith in Christ. Cassie Bernall once offered her soul to Satan in earnest, yet finished her life professing faith in God to a gun-wielding killer. The point is not that sin cannot be repented of and forgiven, because it can be. The point is that we must pursue holiness because what we think and say and do now matters eternally. Paul writes, “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). It is often put this way: “Sow a thought and reap an action; sow an action and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a lifestyle; sow a lifestyle and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny.” That is the epitaph on many a ruined soul, and we must make every effort—all in the power of God’s grace received through faith in Christ—to advance in holiness, without which we shall never see the Lord.

This is something Cassie Bernall obviously came to realize. There is an epitaph on her life, and it is the title of the book her mother wrote to tell her story: She Said Yes. In that book her youth pastor wrote, “The world looks at Cassie’s ‘yes’ of April 20, but we need to look at the daily ‘yes’ she said day after day, month after month.” Cassie would surely have agreed, because shortly before her death she underlined a sentence in a book she was reading: “All of us should live life so as to be able to face eternity at any time.”

That is a message for each of us, not only because like her we may face death at any moment, but because this is what lies ahead for all who are in Christ. The life in store for us is a holy life. Therefore, let us make every effort to be holy, for it is with holiness that someday we will see our precious Lord, and it is with holiness that others can see him now in us.[2]

16. Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, &c. As he had before exhorted them to holiness, so now, that he might reclaim them from defilements opposed to it, he mentions a particular kind of defilement, and says, “Lest there be any fornicator.” But he immediately comes to what is general, and adds, “or a profane person;” for it is the term that is strictly contrary to holiness. The Lord calls us for this end, that he may make us holy unto obedience: this is done when we renounce the world; but any one who so delights in his own filth that he continually rolls in it, profanes himself. We may at the same time regard the profane as meaning generally all those who do not value God’s grace so much as to seek it and despise the world. But as men become profane in various ways, the more earnest we ought to strive lest an opening be left for Satan to defile us with his corruptions. And as there is no true religion without holiness, we ought to make progress continually in the fear of God, in the mortifying of the flesh, and in the whole practice of piety; for as we are profane until we separate from the world, so if we roll again in its filth we renounce holiness.

As Esau, &c. This example may be viewed as an exposition of the word profane; for when Esau set more value on one meal than on his birthright, he lost his blessing. Profane then are all they in whom the love of the world so reigns and prevails that they forget heaven: as is the case with those who are led away by ambition, or become fond of money or of wealth, or give themselves up to gluttony, or become entangled in any other pleasures; they allow in their thoughts and cares no place, or it may be the last place, to the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Most appropriate then is this example; for when the Lord designs to set forth the power of that love which he has for his people, he calls all those whom he has called to the hope of eternal life his first-born. Invaluable indeed is this honour with which he favours us; and all the wealth, all the conveniences, the honours and the pleasures of the world, and everything commonly deemed necessary for happiness, when compared with this honour, are of no more value than a morsel of meat. That we indeed set a high value on things which are nearly worth nothing, arises from this,—that depraved lust dazzles our eyes and thus blinds us. If therefore we would hold a place in God’s sanctuary, we must learn to despise morsels of meat of this kind, by which Satan is wont to catch the reprobate.[3]

16 The third “lest anyone” clause combines two different vices, namely, sexual immorality (lit., “a fornicator”) and godlessness (the word is the opposite of “holy” and is used of desecrated places and profane people). Since Esau, who is cited as an example, is not known in the OT (as he is in some later Jewish tradition) for sexual misbehavior (unless marrying two Hittite wives counts as such [Ge 26:34–35]), it is possible our author is here using pornos (“fornicator,” GK 4521) as a metaphor for idolatry, as the prophets often do; this would also fit the preceding allusion to Deuteronomy 29:18. Lane actually translates pornos here as “apostate.” But its literal sense would also be appropriate to a group the author will feel it necessary to warn against such sins again in 13:4.

Esau’s “godlessness” is shown by his disregard for his God-given position as Isaac’s heir and thus the heir of God’s covenantal promises (Ge 25:29–34; note the concluding clause “So Esau despised his birthright”). More broadly, his willingness to give up his whole inheritance in return for a single meal illustrates the shortsightedness of those readers who might be tempted to give up their heavenly calling for the sake of temporary relief.[4]

12:16–17 / The reference in the preceding exhortation to the danger of “missing the grace of God” is now reinforced by the example of the unfortunate Esau. The community is to attempt to prevent anyone from becoming like him. Esau is described as godless (lit., “irreligious”) because he traded his inheritance rights (lit., “birthright”) as the oldest son for a meal of bread and pottage (Gen. 25:33f.). In this regard Esau is the antithesis of the paragons of faith in chapter 11. He trades off what is unseen and what lies in the future for immediate gratification in the present (cf. 11:25f.). He thus forfeited the inheritance that was his right as the first-born. Later Esau bitterly regretted his decision because when he wanted to inherit this (lit., “the”) blessing, he was rejected. For there was no going back on his decision; he could bring about no change of mind (lit., “he found no way of repentance”). Repentance was not a possibility although he sought it with tears (Gen. 27:30–40). This warning concerning Esau’s sad plight is reminiscent of the author’s warning to the readers in 6:4ff. (cf. 10:26f.) about the impossibility of repentance for those who abandon the faith. Esau found no way back from his decision; the readers must learn from this how serious apostasy is, and not count upon an easy return to Christianity in more convenient times.[5]

12:16–17. These verses show the bad effect of the bitter behavior we are warned to avoid. Esau is an example of a person who acted in an immoral, godless manner. Esau showed contempt for his religious heritage by selling his “inheritance rights” (see Gen. 25:33–34). The bartering of his privileges as the eldest son for a single meal was a senseless act, showing that Esau lacked any sense of spiritual values. He exemplifies anyone who values immediate gratification beyond spiritual heritage.

In Genesis 27:6–29 Jacob used trickery to win the patriarchal blessing from Isaac. When Esau later sought the blessing, Isaac knew that he could not reverse his actions. Esau wept when he recognized that he had squandered his birthright, but his tears were futile (Gen. 27:34). He became a memorable example of someone who failed to appropriate God’s grace by wasting his opportunity.

The New Testament emphasizes that spiritual repentance is possible for those who desire it. Esau’s tears appeared when he recognized that he had no chance to remedy his foolish actions. We are to realize that denying Christ is a serious act. We should never count on an easy route of return at a time of our own choosing. Just as Esau’s tears did not earn a return to God for him, a deliberate turning away from Christ will lead to ruin and sorrow.[6]

16. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

Third, the author tells the readers to avoid immorality. He uses the example of Esau and calls him a godless person. Esau was trained in the godly home of Isaac and Rebekah, but he deliberately chose to live a life that grieved his parents. He married two Canaanite women who were a source of grief to his parents (Gen. 26:35). Scripture does not condemn Esau for marrying these women and does not call him a fornicator. Instead the Bible reports that when Esau noticed his father’s grief, he married a daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham (Gen. 28:9).

How do we interpret the term immoral? Some commentators understand it literally and argue that Esau’s married life was tantamount to fornication. But Scripture fails to provide the evidence. Others understand the word immoral spiritually and say that Esau committed spiritual adultery. But Scripture teaches that spiritual adultery is committed by the nation Israel, not by individuals. And still others hold that Jewish tradition and legend affirm that Esau was a fornicator. However, we do well to rely on the information in Scripture, even though tradition has a value all its own.

The New International Version solves the problem by separating the two adjectives immoral and godless. The first adjective applies to the readers, for in the next chapter the writer repeats his admonition. Says he, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). The author describes Esau not as an immoral but as a godless person. The second adjective, then, applies to Esau who had no regard for God’s blessing and promise which he, as the first-born, would receive. He despised his birthright and displayed utter indifference to the spiritual promises God had given to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. He refused to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers, and thus his name is omitted from the list of the heroes of faith. His brother Jacob, however, is mentioned because he blessed Joseph’s sons and transmitted God’s promises to them.

What does the writer of Hebrews teach? Simply this: abstain from immorality and avoid godlessness.

17. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

In the conclusion of the passage the author reminds the readers of what they should learn from history.[7]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 407–408). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Phillips, R. D. (2006). Hebrews. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 553–563). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (pp. 326–327). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 174). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (p. 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 386–387). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Sunday’s Hymn: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus! — Rebecca Writes

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward,
To thy glorious rest above.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Spread his praise from shore to shore;
How he loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore;
How he watches o’er his loved ones,
Died to call them all his own;
How for them he intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev’ry love the best:
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
‘Tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to thee.

—Samuel Trevor Francis



Other hymns, worship songs, or quotes for this Sunday:

via Sunday’s Hymn: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus! — Rebecca Writes

March 10 Walking Through the Darkness with God

scripture reading: Psalm 139:7–12
key verse: Proverbs 4:18

The path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

The Canadian Home journal carried this exquisite poem on the treasures of darkness:

The shuttles of His purpose move to carry out His own design;

Seek not too soon to disapprove His work, nor yet assign;

Dark motives, when, with silent tread,

You view some somber fold;

For lo, within each darker thread

There twines a thread of gold.

Spin cheerfully,

Not tearfully,

He knows the way you plod;

Spin carefully,

Spin prayerfully,

But leave the thread with God.

God weaves the design of His purposes into your life like an intricate rug, even in times of darkness. Viewed in isolation, the stressful times appear ugly and somber. Yet intertwined with the whole of your existence, they take on new meaning and beauty.

As in all things for the believer, God uses bleak times to conform you to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. God will work your darkness—disease, loneliness, inferiority, pain, divorce—into His masterpiece as you place your times into His skillful hands (Ps. 31:15).

Help me spin the threads of my life cheerfully, not tearfully. Help me spin carefully and prayerfully—but leave the completed pattern to You, dear Lord.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

10 march (preached 30 march 1856) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Effectual calling

“When Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” Luke 19:5

suggested further reading: Ephesians 5:21–6:4

“I will come into thy house and give thee a blessing.” Oh! what affection there was in that! Poor sinner, my Master is a very affectionate Master. He will come into your house. What kind of a house have you got? A house that you have made miserable with your drunkenness—a house you have defiled with your impurity—a house you have defiled with your cursing and swearing—a house where you are carrying on an ill-trade that you would be glad to get rid of. Christ says, “I will come into thy house.” And I know some houses now that once were dens of sin, where Christ comes every morning; the husband and wife who once could quarrel and fight, bend their knees together in prayer. Christ comes there at dinner-time, when the workman comes home for his meals. Some of my hearers can scarce come for an hour to their meals but they must have a word of prayer and reading of the Scriptures. Christ comes to them. Where the walls were once plastered up with the lascivious song and idle picture, there is a Christian calendar in one place, there is a Bible on the chest of drawers; and though it is only one room they live in, if an angel should come in, and God should say, “What hast thou seen in that house?” he would say, “I have seen good furniture, for there is a Bible there; here and there a religious book; the filthy pictures are pulled down and burned; there are no cards in the man’s cupboard now; Christ has come into his house.” Oh! what a blessing that we have our household God as well as the Romans! Our God is a household God. He comes to live with his people; he loves the tents of Jacob.

for meditation: What a difference Christ makes to a household (Acts 16:31–34). How do you regard him? As an occasional visitor or Head of the house?

sermon no. 73[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 76). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

SSB Sunday Gathering – March 10, 2019 — Spiritual Sounding Board


Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

-by Kathi


Scripture is taken from the Book of Common Prayer, Readings for Lent, Year 1 and may be found here.

Psalm 115

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Deuteronomy 8: 1 -10

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land — a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

1 Corinthians 1: 17 – 31

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called,both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 3Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Mark 2: 18 – 22

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”



May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.


Feel free to join the discussion.

You can share your church struggles and concerns.

Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.

What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?

Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

Photo credit: Kathi

via SSB Sunday Gathering – March 10, 2019 — Spiritual Sounding Board

10 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Curbing Rebellion against God’s Deep Ways

O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:5

suggested further reading: Romans 11:33–36

God governs the world in a manner that we are often unable to comprehend. Were things under our own management, we would invert the order that God observes. Since that is not the case, we may perversely argue with God for not hastening sooner to help the righteous and to punish the wicked.

It strikes us in the highest degree inconsistent with the perfections of God that he should bear with the wicked when they rage against him, when they rush without restraint into the most daring acts of iniquity, and when they persecute at will the good and the innocent. It seems intolerable to us that God should subject his own people to the injustice and violence of the wicked while failing to check abounding falsehood, deceit, plunder, bloodshed, and every species of enormity. Why does he suffer his truth to be obscured and his holy name to be trampled under foot? Such is the greatness of the divine operation and the depth of divine counsel that cause the psalmist to break forth in admiration.

It is no doubt true that God has displayed incomprehensible depth of power and wisdom in the fabric of the universe; but what the psalmist especially has in view here is to check our tendency to murmur against God when he does not pursue our plan in his providential management. When his ways do not agree with the general ideas of men, we ought to contemplate them with reverence, remembering that God, to better try our obedience, has lifted his deep and mysterious judgments far above our conceptions.

for meditation: How easily our hearts rise up in rebellion and unbelief when God does not act as we think he should! This psalm is a wonderful corrective to that spirit. What steps can we take to remind ourselves who is Creator and who is creature when we contemplate God’s ways in the world?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 88). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

EChurch@Wartburg 3/10/19 — The Wartburg Watch

Wade Burleson Sermon: A mouth that speaks gently, not harshly

Backlit Cross

A Methodist prayer for the beginning of Lent.

Living God, we cry out for the renewal of life in your Church.
Cause your Church to become everything Jesus died and rose again to make her.
We appeal to your never-failing love.
Empower us to turn us from folly and toward the way of salvation.
Take us from dryness to a time of refreshing. Take us from ashes to fire.
And through a revived and Christ-focused Church,
may your glory dwell in our cities and throughout our land.
In Jesus we pray.


Church of England Lenten prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Scripture reading for Lent: Isaiah 58:1-12 NIV

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Wade Burleson: A Mouth that Speaks Gently, Not Harshly from Emmanuel Enid on Vimeo.


May the Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

via EChurch@Wartburg 3/10/19 —

March 10, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

107:8 This sentence is repeated in vv. 15, 21, 31. Salvation should result in testimony and praise (see note at 22:22–24). God’s wondrous works on behalf of Israel ultimately benefitted all humanity in Christ (Gn 12:3).[1]

[1] Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 914). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Not All the Blood of Beasts — The Thirsty Theologian

Not All the Blood of Beasts

imageNot all the blood of beasts
on Jewish altars slain
could give the guilty conscience peace
or wash away the stain.

But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb,
takes all our sins away;
a Sacrifice of nobler name
and richer blood than they.

My faith would lay her hand
on that dear head of Thine,
while like a penitent I stand,
and there confess my sin.

My soul looks back to see
the burden Thou didst bear
when hanging on the cursed tree;
I know my guilt was there.

Believing, we rejoice
to see the curse remove;
we bless the Lamb with cheerful voice
and sing His bleeding love.

Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017).


The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

via In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Not All the Blood of Beasts — The Thirsty Theologian

March 10 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

Exodus 21; Luke 24; Job 39; 2 Corinthians 9


the september 20 meditation in volume 1 worked its way through 2 Corinthians 9. Nevertheless I want to come back to that passage.

Paul’s carefully worded exhortation to the Christians in Corinth—to have ready for him the money they pledged to send to the poor in Jerusalem (chaps. 8–9)—need not be reviewed again. What I shall focus on for today’s meditation is how Paul’s exhortation about giving and money is tied to the Gospel.

In chapter 8 Paul invokes the example of Christ’s self-giving: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Here in chapter 9 Paul says that, if the Corinthians come through with their promised gift, people “will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity” (9:13, italics added). In any case Paul never lets Christians forget that all our giving is but a pale reflection of God’s “indescribable gift” (9:15), which of course lies at the heart of the Gospel.

So much of basic Christian ethics is tied in one way or another to the Gospel. When husbands need instruction on how to treat their wives, Paul does not introduce special marriage therapy or appeal to a mystical experience. Rather, he grounds conduct in the Gospel: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). If you are looking for maturity, beware of any “deeper life” approach that sidesteps the Gospel, for Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6–7). Of course, there is “deeper life” in the sense that Christians are exhorted to press on toward greater conformity to Christ Jesus and not to be satisfied with their present level of obedience (e.g., Phil. 3). But none of this is an appeal to something that leaves the Gospel behind or that adds something to the Gospel.

We must avoid the view that, while the Gospel provides a sort of escape ticket from judgment and hell, all the real life-transforming power comes from something else—an esoteric doctrine, a mystical experience, a therapeutic technique, a discipleship course. That is too narrow a view of the Gospel. Worse, it ends up relativizing and marginalizing the Gospel, stripping it of its power while it directs the attention of people away from the Gospel and toward something less helpful.[1]

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.