Daily Archives: March 11, 2020

Handwashing and Coronavirus; Good, but Not Good Enough | Gentle Reformation

Like other churches, our congregation is taking precautionary steps to guard against the spread of COVID-19, and we will continue to monitor the situation. Among other changes, our greeters will not be shaking hands, we will temporarily alter regular practices regarding the Lord’s Supper and the collection of tithes and offerings, we encourage high-risk members to remain home and participate in the worship service via livestream, and we ask those with any sickness to remain home as a kindness to others. Of course, we also ask members to vigilantly WASH YOUR HANDS!

Wash your hands. It’s a simple, common-sense practice and a good disease-preventative for yourself and others. As we lather-up, God gives us a wonderful opportunity to meditate, especially in the present crisis, on our greatest need. How so?

Coronavirus has ended the lives of many around the globe. It will likely take many more lives; we can slow the spread of such diseases by washing our hands. But the death rate remains 100% for everyone, eventually, of one cause or another. We die because of our spiritual uncleanness; we die because of our sin. That’s why our time in front of the wash basin should point our minds to eternity. 

Long ago, Job reflected on the handwashing techniques his mother had presumably taught him when he said,

If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me (Job 9:30-31). 

In context, Job was asking “How can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2). Job knew that handwashing, even with lye, would not make him innocent or keep him from death.

Not even the effort to be a morally good neighbor by diligent handwashing will earn us points for heaven. No, the blood of Jesus, alone, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

So take a moment at the sink as you lather and scrub to confess your sins to the Lord in your own heart, and to confess afresh Jesus Christ as your only Savior. Teach your children these eternal truths as well, even as you remind them over and over to wash their hands. Parents can be irresponsible by not teaching their children to wash their hands well; others may be affected and infected as a result. But parents are most irresponsible who do not teach their children of the need for cleansing from sin.

We wash our hands to boldly step back out into the world around us. Handwashing also serves as reminder to move forward confidently in the midst of calamity. We must act wisely, and we must keep a right perspective. Jesus promised seasons of pestilence in this age, but we are not to be terrified. Rather, we are to endure (Luke 21:9-18). Christians are by nature, in Jesus Christ, more than conquerors. We must teach our children this great truth as well when we wash our hands. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Thus, we live every day to him.

Wash your hands well, and get back to whatever work of service the Lord has called you to next. Coronavirus, like every plague or pestilence on the earth, is a call for the confident endurance of the saints who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

— Read on gentlereformation.com/2020/03/11/hand-washing-and-coronavirus-good-but-not-good-enough/

Brace For The Greatest Depression Ever Seen by Early 2021 | Zero Hedge

Veteran trend forecaster, Gerald Celente, sees $2,000 gold and onset of Greatest Depression by early 2021.

Article Image

Get as strong as you can physically, emotionally and spiritually to survive the coming crisis.

Discussed in this interview:

02:32 Top trend for 2020: New world disorder
08:01 Closing of gold window in 1971
14:33 The endgame of the dishonest money system
15:48 Beneficiaries of the monetary methadone
19:12 The great gold robbery of 1933
22:06 Gold bull run
27:12 The first shots of World War III has been fired
32:26 Prepare now to survive the coming depression

Nasdaq Futures Limit-Down, Crude Crashes After Trump Announces EU Travel Ban | Zero Hedge

Dow futures are down over 1000 points… S&P futures near limit down… WTI down 6%…

Shortly after President Trump began his address to the nation, enacting a full travel ban from European nations for the next 30 days, the markets started to get upset.

  • S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow futures fall 4-4.5%

  • Both Brent and WTI futures down more than 6%

  • Nikkei 225 drops 4.5%, Australia’s benchmark slumped 5% to confirm bear market status

  • Main China stock indexes all fall at least 1%

  • Kospi, Hang Seng, Taiex slide 3% or more

  • Treasury 10-year yields decline 14 bps to 0.73%

  • AUD/USD falls 0.3%, EUR/USD jumps 0.4%

  • Malaysia, Korea, Philippine currencies all retreat 0.5%; Mexican peso tumbles more than 1%

Dow futures are down over 1000 points…

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is down over 350 points…

Nasdaq futures are limit down…

S&P is close to its 2,601 limit down…

And for the cash open tomorrow:

  • 7% limit down (RTH only) : 2546.50

  • 13% limit down (RTH only) : 2382.00

  • 20% limit down (RTH only) : 2190.00

10Y Treasury yields are down 15bps…

The Euro is strengthening against the dollar…

WTI Crude is collapsing, hitting a $30 handle

European Stoxx 50 futures are down 7.3%

It appears Trump did not offer enough detail and immediacy to appease the market’s need for funds to stop the collapse. Additionally, the uncertainty over the impact on European supply chains is also weighing on markets.

The market is now demanding 90bps of rate-cuts for next week’s FOMC…

Chris Martenson and John Rubino explain why the virus is the catalyst not the cause of the crash…

For years, Peak Prosperity has been raising a loud warning of the ‘Everything Bubble’ that the world’s central banks have blown in global asset prices.

Over that time, we’ve debated with hundreds of economic experts on what will be the trigger to “pop” this mania.

Well, now we’re finding out.

The economic damage being wrought worldwide by the coronavirus is the black swan the system never saw coming. Trade is being strangled, and the necessary productivity needed to support that massive increase in global debt that has been taken on over the past decade is just not there.

Bankruptcies are set to ripple across industries like wildfire. Mass layoffs will return with a vengeance. For certain industries — like travel, hospitality, and the shale oil drillers — this will be an extinction-level event for many players.

As ugly as the swift -20% drop in markets from from February’s highs has been, this is just the start of the reckoning, folks.

Additionally, As El-Erian notes, the NBA suspension is really bring the fear home…

— Read on www.zerohedge.com/markets/stocks-bond-yields-are-crashing-after-trump-announces-eu-travel-ban

Coronavirus doesn’t care about your feelings — Triablogue

As Ben Shapiro is wont to say: facts don’t care about your feelings. So here are some facts. Granted, even the “facts” in this case could be debated, but at least it’s a starting point for reasonable debate and discussion.

Here’s an interesting image:

1. The above is an image from emergency physician Mel Herbert at the University of Southern California (USC), which by the way was the basis for the tv series Code Black. Anyway the image was only posted a few moments ago in a livestream involving emergency medicine physicians associated with EM:RAP.

2. The image compares the mortality rate of this current coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19) with other coronaviruses (i.e. MERS and SARS) as well as with the seasonal flu and the common cold.

3. In sum, the COVID-19 mortality rate seems to be between 2%-4%, while MERS was at a very high 34%, SARS at 10%, the seasonal flu at 0.1%, and the common cold near 0%.

4. Keep in mind, however, that the mortality rate for COVID-19 is likely unreliable.

5. For comparison, the Spanish flu mortality rate was approximately 3% to 5%, depending whether the Spanish flu killed 50 million to 100 million people.

Now here’s another image to consider:

1. This image was presented by emergency physician David Talan at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was presented in the same livestream as the previous image.

2. This image shows how extensive (or not) testing has been for COVID-19.

3. The salient point to note is that South Korea has done extensive testing in comparison to other nations. Especially via their 10-minute drive-through testing centers (which other places around the world are starting to implement too, e.g., UCSF). Trace, test, and treat.

4. In addition, Talan as well as other medical and health care experts note that the mortality rate for S. Korea is around 0.6%.

5. The number of new coronavirus cases in S. Korea seems to be significantly dropping.

6. To my knowledge, S. Korea has not had to implement city-wide lockdowns like Italy has.

What does all this mean?

1. The fact that S. Korea has done extensive testing for the coronavirus likely means their numbers are more reliable than places that haven’t done extensive testing.

2. If so, S. Korea might be a reliable indicator of where the mortality rate ultimately falls. If so, then it’s possible the 0.6% mortality rate might be closer to how the coronavirus will ultimately play out. Rather than, say, the 3%-5% mortality rates for the Spanish flu.

3. S. Korea may prove to be a role model for how to deal with the coronavirus. (Likewise other nations like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.) But that’s only if other nations can do what S. Korea is doing.

4. All that said, there might be significant differences between S. Korea and other nations like us (e.g. different health demographics). That could mean even if we do what S. Korea is doing, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will have the same outcomes. At the same time, this isn’t to suggest we should not be doing what S. Korea is doing either.

5. At the end of the day, only time will tell how bad the coronavirus is. As the saying goes, hope for the best, plan for the worst.

via Coronavirus doesn’t care about your feelings — Triablogue

The Beatitudes, the Essence of a Genuine Disciple

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of…

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March 11th The D. L. Moody Year Book

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.—Exodus 18:21.

ISN’T it extraordinary that Jethro, the man of the desert, should have given this advice to Moses? How did he learn to beware of covetousness? We honor men to-day if they are wealthy and covetous. We elect them to office in church and state. We often say that they will make better treasurers because we know them to be covetous. But in God’s sight a covetous man is as vile and black as any thief or drunkard. David said: “The wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” I am afraid that many who profess to have put away wickedness also speak well of the covetous.[1]

 

[1] Moody, D. L. (1900). The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. (E. M. Fitt, Ed.) (p. 53). East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore.

March—11 The Poor Man’s Evening Portion

Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem.—Song 6:4.

And what was Tirzah? One of the cities in the lot of Manasseh, (Joshua 12:6, 24,) and no doubt, as Judea was the glory of all lands, Tirzah, which was a part of it, was lovely. And the comeliness of that highly-favoured spot, Jerusalem, is celebrated in the sacred song: “In the mountain of his holiness,” saith the psalmist, “beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion.” (Psalm 48:1, 2.) And is Christ’s Church, in her Lord’s eye, thus beautiful? Yes! He himself saith she is: and, by consequence, every individual member of her is so, which constitutes her one body. Pause, my soul, over this account, and let thine evening meditation dwell upon the pleasing subject. Thou art mourning continually over thine infirmities; thou feelest what Paul felt, and thou groanest under the same burden as he groaned under: and, indeed, the consciousness of indwelling sin is enough to make the souls of the redeemed go softly all their days. But while thus conscious that in thyself thou hast nothing that is lovely, do not overlook the loveliness which the righteousness of Christ, justifying his people, imparts to all their persons. Zion is said to be the perfection of beauty; and so she is in the eyes of God our Father, being the body of Christ, and made so in his beauty. What Jesus is in God’s sight, such must be his people. For Christ, as head of his Church, is the fulness that filleth all in all. If, my soul, thou wert looking for any thing in thyself that was amiable or beautiful to recommend thee to Jesus, or to justify thee before God, then, indeed, thou mightst exclaim with the prophet: “Wo is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5.) But if Jesus hath touched thy lips, and taken away thine iniquity, and thy sin is purged, then art thou all fair in him, and accepted by God the Father in him, the beloved; and Jesus saith to thee, and of thee, “Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem.” See to it, henceforth, that thou art never losing sight of thy oneness with Christ, and the loveliness that thou art deriving from Christ. And while thou art daily lamenting that a soul united to Jesus should still carry about such a body of sin and death as thou dost, which harasseth and afflicteth thy soul, yet never, never forget that thou art now looking up to the throne of grace for acceptance as thou art in Jesus, and not as thou art in thyself; and comfort thyself with this pleasing consideration, that ere long thou wilt be openly presented before a throne of glory, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish before him in love.”[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Evening Portion (A New Edition, pp. 75–76). Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle.

March 11, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

16 Clearly building on the thought of the previous verse, with its mention of sins, prayer, and healing, the author transitions to exhort those in the Christian communities to mutual confession of sins and prayer. The use of “Therefore” (oun) followed by two present imperative verbs facilitates the transition. The first exhortation is to “confess your sins to each other.” Ropes, 309, understands the confession to be by the sick persons, who then are prayed for by the well, resulting in physical healing, but James seems to move from the specific situation of a seriously sick person in v. 15 to the general principle concerning the need for mutual confession and prayer in v. 16. On this interpretation, it is difficult to see the confession as preventative (as with Davids, 195), since the healing follows sickness in the verse, but the connection between sin in a community and physical illness seems clear nonetheless. Confession, a public acknowledgment of one’s guilt, may be by an individual or as a community, and in many cases in biblical literature, confession is connected to physical healing or some general form of salvation (Davids, 195–96; Johnson, 334). Johnson especially has shown the connection between physical healing and social restoration. This dynamic is prominent in the ministry of Jesus (e.g., Lk 5:17; 6:18–19) and reiterated in Acts (4:22, 30; 28:27; see Johnson, 335). Thus James, dealing with communities in which there was a good bit of social strife, points to vital Christian remedies for fractured relationships—open confession of sin and mutual prayer, which are actions that promote transparency, support, and unity. Consequently, the exhortations to confession and prayer are followed by “so that” (hopōs), a marker showing the purpose for something, and that purpose in the present case is expressed as “you may be healed.” The healing in mind is physical but points to a deeper spiritual healing of sin and broken relationships.

Whereas the first part of v. 16 consists of exhortations, the second makes a theological assertion concerning the effectiveness of prayer. In this case, the NASB reflects more accurately than the NIV the structure of the Greek text: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” First, the prayer under discussion is that of a righteous person. In 1:5–8 and 4:3–4, James has already noted that a sinful lifestyle hinders prayer, and he now expresses the flip side of that fact. In 5:17–18, he follows by offering Elijah as a prime example of such a person. Second, the prayer is “effective” (energeō, GK 1919), expressed with an adjectival participle meaning “to work,” “to be active,” or “to be operative.” Thus the prayer in mind is prayer put into action, or made operative. Finally, this prayer is able to “accomplish much.” James uses a verb (ischyō, GK 2710) that connotes having the resources or power to bring something about, and what prayer is able to accomplish is “much.”[1]


16 Some think vv. 16–18 are meant to be quite disjunct from 14 and 15, and are concerned not with illness but with miscellaneous neighbors’ quarrels and offenses. We cannot believe that after vv. 14 and 15 a stylist like James would here have invited misunderstanding by using “heal” in any but its medical sense. The well-documented association of sickness, sin, and confession in Jewish thought and ministrations seems to us to confirm (against, e.g., Dibelius; see Mitton, pp. 202ff.) the unity of the whole passage in question (vv. 13–18, esp. 14–18, including the connective oun, “therefore,” found at the beginning of v. 16 in all the great manuscripts, though missing in a few others). But our case does not stand or fall on that reading: we hold that exactly as 5:12 belongs to the whole passage 5:7–12, so there is no break between vv. 15 and 16. Confession and prayer were already implicit in Jewish thought of the sickbed; and the elaborate passage from “The prayer of a righteous man is very powerful in its operation” to the end of v. 18 is climactic not merely to the first ten or eleven words of v. 16 but to the whole passage, certainly from the beginning of v. 14.

In the ancient mind sin and sickness went together, and so confession of sin was necessary if prayer for the sick was to be effective. The confession is to be not only to the elders (or other ministers) but to one another, that is, probably to those they have wronged. But the OT speaks much of the necessity of confession for those who are well, as a private or as a public or national act of repentance, and the rabbis developed quite elaborate formulas for the purpose. The texts cited by the authorities show how the sick man’s visitors, the Jewish “guild for visiting the sick,”75 swept his room, reminded him to make a will, prayed for him, and habitually exhorted him to confess his sins in the belief that he would be cured: “Great is the power of repentance.… It brings healing.” The NT Church, as is shown by 1 John 1:9 and this passage in James, continued the practice: its subsequent history we need not here explore.

On the Greek words rendered “is very powerful in its operation,” Mayor thinks (p. 173) that the interpretation of De Wette and Alford, “the prayer of a righteous man avails much in its working,” is “irrefragably correct,” giving the sense that is apt, necessary, and lucid. Westcott saw that the word energoumenē is middle, not passive, and got it so translated in RV, “availeth much in its working”; but, with the notable exception of Ropes (pp. 309f.), critics have not generally accepted his view. The word does not here signify fervor (as in KJV, “the effectual fervent prayer”).79 Ps. 29:4 shows the Hebrew idiom: the voice of Yahweh “is with power” (where KJV, RV, and RSV quite correctly say, “is powerful”; cf. the Anglican Prayer Book Version, “is mighty in operation”). We join the participle and main verb in 5:16 in a way not unusual in Greek, as in, for example, “I have sinned in betraying” (Matt. 27:4).

This aphoristic form, without any connective, typical of James’s style, pithily expresses the effectiveness of prayer. “Prayer,” declared P. T. Forsyth, “is not mere wishing. It is asking—with a will.… It is energy. Orare est laborare. We turn to an active Giver; therefore we go into action.” Prayer is an act of faith (Jas. 1:6), and so energoumenē is apt enough for a “principle” or “power” from above at work. See further Excursus I, pp. 205ff.[2]


Confession of Sin (5:16)

It is easy to misunderstand the command to confess sins to one another. James cannot intend meetings where people confess any and every sin to each other. This is the only Bible verse that says, “Confess your sins to each other,” so the rest of Scripture must guide our thinking. Here are some salient biblical principles:

  1. The offender confesses to the one offended, whether to a human or to God.
  2. We confess secret sins to God, since sins such as anger, envy, or lust offend him, even if they never lead to action. It is highly unlikely that we will accomplish anything constructive by telling someone, “I envied you,” or “I lusted after you.”
  3. We confess private sins privately to the one or the few we offended. We confess public sins (which offend many) publicly. For example, if a leader propounds heresy, deceives his people, or misuses public funds, public confession is apt.

The confession James recommends must fit category three. Once a sick and sinning believer repents, fellowship is restored (James assumes that the offended party will be ready to forgive). Then the whole body of Christ can pray effectively for healing.

James expects those prayers to be effective, for “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16). Elders are responsible to set an example of personal righteousness, yet James 5:16 expects the whole church to pray. Every saint—everyone who is righteous by faith—prays.

Still, the efficacy of a prayer lies in the grace and power of God, not the goodness and merit of the petitioner. (The request “Pastor, please pray for me” may reveal a defective concept of prayer.) The prayers of the righteous have power, yet God gives us that righteousness by faith and by the Holy Spirit.[3]


5:16 / James summarizes his teaching on healing in two sentences. First, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. Confession of sin is important for healing. Pastors experienced in the Christian healing ministry repeatedly witness to times when the confession of a resentment, a grudge, or an unforgiven injury has lead to physical healing with or without further prayer. But James is generalizing beyond the individual healing situation, for now it is not “to the elders” but to each other that confession is made. The picture is that of a church gathering and the confession of sin to the assembled group. The mutual public confession (supplemented by private confession where public confession would not be appropriate) lays the basis for public prayer, in which people freed from all grudges and resentments, and reconciled through confession and forgiveness, pray for healing for each other. In this kind of atmosphere, the services of the elders at the bedside will rarely be needed.

Second, the prayer of a righteous [person] is powerful and effective. The righteous person is not sinlessly perfect, but is the person who has confessed any known sin and who adheres to the moral standards of the Christian community. With a clear conscience and in unity with God, this person prays a prayer that is powerful and effective. The Greek adds a difficult expression that probably means “when it reaches God and he answers it” (lit. “when it works”). Prayer is not itself powerful; it is not magic. But its power is unlimited in that the child of God calls on a Father of unlimited goodness and ability.[4]


5:16 confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The scope now broadens to a more general principle: communal confession and communal prayer bring healing. This broadening will continue in 5:17–18, so perhaps we are to see James indicating that elders praying for the sick, including confession, is a specialized and more powerful form of general prayer for one another, which is a specialized form of prayer in general. Higher-profile or more-difficult cases of sickness may require the higher level of authority invested in the elders, but communal prayer and confession can still be effective in other cases.[5]


Power of Prayer

5:16

Confession of sin and praying for one another are vital ingredients of the healing ministry in the Christian community. When sin is removed, the power of prayer becomes evident in its amazing effectiveness.

16a. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

In this text we note three essential verbs: confess, pray, and heal.

  • “Confess.” James says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other.” With the adverb therefore, he links this sentence to the preceding verse where he writes of sickness, sin, and forgiveness. James uses the adverb to refer to the previous verse, to provide a basis for the succeeding sentence, and to stress the necessity of confessing sin.

Unconfessed sin blocks the pathway of prayer to God and at the same time is a formidable obstacle in interpersonal relations. That means, confess your sins not only to God but also to the persons who have been injured by your sins. Ask them for forgiveness!

“Confession cleanses the soul.” That is a time-worn saying which does not lose its validity. Confession is a mark of repentance and a plea for forgiveness on the part of the sinner. When the sinner confesses his sin and asks for and receives remission, he experiences freedom from the burden of guilt.

To whom do we confess our sins? The text says “to each other.” James does not specify the church or the elders; rather, he speaks of mutual confession on a one-to-one basis within a circle of believers. He does not rule out that members of the church ought to confide in the pastor and elders (v. 14). Some sins concern all believers in the church and thus these sins ought to be confessed publicly. Other sins are private and need not be made known except to persons who are directly involved. Discretion and limitation, therefore, must guide the sinner who wishes to confess his personal sins. Curtis Vaughan makes this telling observation:

But whereas the Roman Catholics have interpreted confession too narrowly, many of us may be tempted to interpret it too broadly. Confession of all our sins to all the brethren is not necessarily enjoined by James’ statement. Confession is “the vomit of the soul” and can, if too generally and too indiscriminately made, do more harm than good.

  • “Pray.” The beauty of Christian fellowship comes to expression in the practice of mutual prayer after sins have been confessed and forgiven. The offender and the offended pray on behalf of each other; together they find spiritual strength and comfort in the Lord. In their prayers they visibly and audibly demonstrate reciprocity. The forgiven sinner prays for the spiritual welfare of his fellow believer, who in turn commends him to the mercies of God.
  • “Be healed.” James states the purpose for confessing sin and praying for each other by saying, “so that you may be healed.” He is purposely vague in this statement; that is, he fails to mention whether he means physical or spiritual healing, actual or possible healing, individual or corporate healing. What is certain, however, is that when believers confess their sins to each other and pray for one another, a healing process takes place. And that can be applied to any situation.

16b. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Who is this righteous man? We are inclined to look to spiritual giants, to the heroes of the faith, and to men and women of God. In our opinion they are the people who through prayer are able to move mountains. But James mentions no names, except that of Elijah with the qualification that he is “just like us” (v. 17). He means to say that any believer whose sins have been forgiven and who prays in faith is righteous. When he prays, his prayers are “powerful and effective.”

Both prayer and the answer to prayer are powerful and effective. The one does not cancel the other. That is, prayer offered in faith by a forgiven believer is a powerful and effective means to approach the throne of God. And, God “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6), for his answers to prayer are indeed powerful and effective.

Practical Considerations in 5:16

Scripture provides numerous examples of the power of prayer. Here are a few chosen at random:

Joshua prayed and the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12–13)

Elijah prayed and the widow’s son came back to life (1 Kings 17:19–22)

Elisha prayed and the Shunammite’s son was restored to life (2 Kings 4:32–35)

Hezekiah prayed and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slain (Isa. 37:21, 36)

The Jerusalem church prayed and Peter was released from prison (Acts 12:5–10)

Scripture portrays these people as ordinary men and women who sinned, sought forgiveness, prayed in faith, and received divine answers to prayer. In short, they are our kind of people.[6]


[1] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 271–272). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Adamson, J. B. (1976). The Epistle of James (pp. 198–200). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 199–200). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[4] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Samra, J. (2016). James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (pp. 84–85). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.

[6] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 178–180). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

March 11 Streams in the Desert

Now it came to pass after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now, therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people.” (Joshua 1:1, 2.)

SORROW came to you yesterday, and emptied your home. Your first impulse now is to give up, and sit down in despair amid the wrecks of your hopes. But you dare not do it. You are in the line of battle, and the crisis is at hand. To falter a moment would be to imperil some holy interest. Other lives would be harmed by your pausing, holy interests would suffer, should your hands be folded. You must not linger even to indulge your grief.

A distinguished general related this pathetic incident of his own experience in time of war. The general’s son was a lieutenant of battery. An assault was in progress. The father was leading his division in a charge; as he pressed on in the field, suddenly his eye was caught by the sight of a dead battery-officer lying just before him. One glance showed him it was his own son. His fatherly impulse was to stop beside the loved form and give vent to his grief, but the duty of the moment demanded that he should press on in the charge; so, quickly snatching one hot kiss from the dead lips, he hastened away, leading his command in the assault.

Weeping inconsolably beside a grave can never give back love’s banished treasure, nor can any blessing come out of such sadness. Sorrow makes deep scars; it writes its record ineffaceably on the heart which suffers. We really never get over our great griefs; we are never altogether the same after we have passed through them as we were before. Yet there is a humanizing and fertilizing influence in sorrow which has been rightly accepted and. cheerfully borne. Indeed, they are poor who have never suffered, and have none of sorrow’s marks upon them. The joy set before us should shine upon our grief as the sun shines through the clouds, glorifying them. God has so ordered, that in pressing on in duty we shall find the truest, richest comfort for ourselves. Sitting down to brood over our sorrows, the darkness deepens about us and creeps into our heart, and our strength changes to weakness. But, if we turn away from the gloom, and take up the tasks and duties to which God calls us, the light will come again, and we shall grow stronger.

J. R. Miller.

Thou knowest that through our tears

Of hasty, selfish weeping

Comes surer sin, and for our petty fears

Of loss thou hast in keeping

A greater gain than all of which we dreamed;

Thou knowest that in grasping

The bright possessions which so precious seemed

We lose them; but if, clasping

Thy faithful hand, we tread with steadfast feet

The path of thy appointing,

There waits for us a treasury of sweet

Delight, royal anointing

With oil of gladness and of strength.

Helen Hunt Jackson.[1]

 

[1] Cowman, L. B. (1925). Streams in the Desert (pp. 78–79). Los Angeles, CA: The Oriental Missionary Society.

The World Attracted to the Church — Feeding on Christ

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once notably explained, “When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Nothing is more important for Christian leaders to come to terms with in our day than this truth. History teaches us that when the church has sought to be most like the world, it, in fact, had the least impact on the world. As Sinclair Ferguson explained, “If all the Christian church has to offer is a different version of what the world has to offer, then the Christian church––as it has done in the Western world in the last fifty years––falls into decrepitude.”1 Nevertheless, the question remains, “In what ways should the Christian church be different from the world?” Certainly no biblically faithful, gospel-focused church would ever insist on putting up unbiblical standards of separation in order to distinguish the church from the world. What, then, distinguishes the Christian church from the world? Consider the following:

1. An abiding commitment to the word of God.

The revelation of God in Scripture gives shape to everything that believers are to be and to do in the local church. God’s written word is our only rule of faith and practice. If we loosen our hold on the teaching of Scripture, anything and everything else will creep into our lives and assemblies. This means that the church is to be marked chiefly by a commitment to the sound teaching and preaching of Scripture. If there is anything that our churches are to be known for in the world it is this––that God’s people hold fast to the word of truth. After all, the church is “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Whenever Israel experienced reformation in the days of the kings, it was when God’s word was rediscovered and read among the people of God (2 Chronicles 29:1–31:21; 34:8–35:19). When the Apostle Paul wrote to the fledgling church in Thessalonica––in order to encourage them to continue to the faith–he took special note of the fact that God’s word was evident in their congregation. He said, “For…the word of the Lord sounded forth from you” (1 Thess. 1:8). When Jesus commended the church in Ephesus, He said, “you…have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Rev. 2:2). Nothing is more essential to church being distinct from the word than that the church holds fast to the whole counsel of God–in our personal lives, worship, and witness.

In his book We Become What We Worship, G.K. Beale explains how this ought to work itself out from the church into the life of believers. He writes,

“Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Bring every thought captive to the obedience [thinking] of Jesus Christ.” What part of our lives is unrelated to Christ? A friendship or dating relationship? Our marriage? Our relationship to our children? As families, are there regular times that we gather together to hear God’s Word and to pray together? Do we meet together with fellow Christians at weekly worship and sincerely participate? Negative answers to these questions can be indicators of whether or not we have an idolatrous stance.”2

Of course, the church’s commitment to Scripture must be in proportion to the truth of the gospel. Many, under pretense of principled zeal, have embraced a pharisaic reading of God’s word. All of God’s word leads to the Lord Jesus Christ and the grace of God in the gospel of Christ (John 5:46-47; Luke 24:27, 32, 45–47).

2. An increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

The gospel produces conformity to the image of Christ. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). This means that the church is to reflect the holiness, character, and beauty of Christlikeness. Sadly, many who affirm this principle have truncated views of Christ. Some mistakenly reduce Jesus down to a soft, tolerant, community organizer. Others erroneously represent Jesus as a hard, intolerant law-enforcement officer. Biblical revelation teaches that Jesus is himself holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. At the same time, the gospels reveal that Jesus is gentle and lowly, full of love and compassion for sinners–one who ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. He never abandoned a zeal for holiness in the name of mission. Neither did he set aside His meek and gentle character under a pretense for holiness. In the same way ‪the church is to be increasingly marked by holiness and compassion, not by compromise and harshness. If the church faithfully lives out the Christian life in the word, it’s leaders and members will pursue holiness and resist compromise while expressing compassion without exhibiting harshness.‬

Conformity to the image of Christ fundamentally means thinking Christ’s thoughts after Him in order to become like Him. G.K. Beale writes, “When we are too committed to the world and its way of thinking, then it molds and forms us according to its image and likeness, so that we reflect it and its way of thinking even more…All of us are imitators, and there is no neutrality. We should disabuse ourselves of the notion that we can be spiritually neutral. We are either being conformed to an idol of the world or to God Some might think that it is possible to exist in a mode of spiritual neutrality in their Christian lives.”3

When the church is conformed to the image of Christ, the world––though she mocks and derides the people of God––will inevitably be attracted to the message of the church. Sinners came to the feet of the Savior–not because He encouraged them in their sin, or because He made them feel accepted as they were. Sinners came to the Savior because there was something profoundly different about His life and His words. So it will be as the people of God are conformed more the image of Christ.

3. An unwavering rejection of evil.

Of course, the pursuit of holiness involves the rejection of evil. When the prophets rebuked OT Israel, they often charge the church with embracing evil and rejecting good. The Lord confronted His people through Isaiah, saying, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20). And in Jeremiah, the Lord says, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). Jesus personally confronted evil that was being tolerated by some in the church in Thyatira, when He said,

“I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:19–23).

The church will necessarily be different from the world when she denunciates–in word and practices–the evil that the world tolerates. This does not mean that the church is called by God to self-righteously rail against the evil around it. Isaiah confessed, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5). When the Apostle Paul set out the depraved condition of humanity, he included himself, saying, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh…” (Eph. 2:3).

The world will hate the church for its rejection of evil, as Jesus told His disciples, “The world…hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil (John 7:7). In like manner, He taught them, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Still, the church will be most effective in the world when she rejects evil because God is calling men and women, boys and girls away from evil and into the forgiving and loving arms of the Savior.

4. An untiring promotion of good.

The Scriptures are replete with admonitions to do good. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:16) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ((Matt. 5:45). The Apostle Paul exhorted the members of the church in Galatia with the following admonition, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Likewise, he charged members of the church in Thessalonica with the following words: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thess. 5:15). The church should be zealous to promote good to those within her assemblies and to those outside. The church will be most attractive to the world when she embodies what the world is unable to embody. The Spirit of God produces the good fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” in the lives of believers (Gal. 5:22–23). Though the world may have its feeble attempts at temporal philanthropic and humanitarian improvements; the people of God ought to embody true and lasting good from the One who is Himself goodness.

The church has always existed in a volatile state. Whether it is the fear of persecution, the insatiable desire for acceptance, the quest for affluence and comfort, the censoriousness of self-righteousness, or the general complacency of distraction, the church is constantly threatened to move away from a sincere devotion to Christ and the ministry He has entrusted to her in the world. The church will only truly be attractive to the world when she is different from the world–namely, when she is what she is supposed to be in the world for the glory of Christ.

1 An except from Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–28.

2. G.K. Beale We Become What We Worship (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008) p. 310

3. Ibid., p 309

via The World Attracted to the Church — Feeding on Christ